criminal law

Bongalon vs People (G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013)

Bongalon vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013

Facts: The Prosecution showed that on May 11, 2002, Jayson Dela Cruz (Jayson) and Roldan, his older brother, both minors, joined the evening procession for the Santo Niño at Oro Site in Legazpi City; that when the procession passed in front of the petitioner’s house, the latter’s daughter Mary Ann Rose, also a minor, threw stones at Jayson and called him “sissy”; that the petitioner confronted Jayson and Roldan and called them names like “strangers” and “animals”; that the petitioner struck Jayson at the back with his hand, and slapped Jayson on the face; that the petitioner then went to the brothers’ house and challenged Rolando dela Cruz, their father, to a fight, but Rolando did not come out of the house to take on the petitioner; that Rolando later brought Jayson to the Legazpi City Police Station and reported the incident; that Jayson also underwent medical treatment at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital; that the doctors who examined Jayson issued two medical certificates attesting that Jayson suffered the following contusions, to wit: (1) contusion .5 x 2.5 scapular area, left; and (2) +1×1 cm. contusion left zygomatic area and contusion .5 x 2.33 cm. scapular area, left. On his part, the petitioner denied having physically abused or maltreated Jayson. He explained that he only talked with Jayson and Roldan after Mary Ann Rose and Cherrylyn, his minor daughters, had told him about Jayson and Roldan’s throwing stones at them and about Jayson’s burning Cherrylyn’s hair. He denied shouting invectives at and challenging Rolando to a fight, insisting that he only told Rolando to restrain his sons from harming his daughters. To corroborate the petitioner’s testimony, Mary Ann Rose testified that her father did not hit or slap but only confronted Jayson, asking why Jayson had called her daughters “Kimi” and why he had burned Cherrlyn’s hair. Mary Ann Rose denied throwing stones at Jayson and calling him a “sissy.” She insisted that it was instead Jayson who had pelted her with stones during the procession. She described the petitioner as a loving and protective father.

Issues: Whether or not the proper remedy of the petitioner is via a petition for certiorari.

Whether or not petitioner is liable for child abuse.

Held: No. The special civil action for certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. As observed in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al. “the special civil action for certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction and not errors of judgment. The raison d’etre for the rule is when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprived it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. In such a scenario, the administration of justice would not survive. Hence, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision–not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision–the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. The proper recourse of the aggrieved party from a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Section 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development. – (a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.  x x x x

Child abuse, the crime charged, is defined by Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610, as follows:

Section 3. Definition of terms. – x x x x (b) “Child Abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following: (1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; (2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being; (3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or (4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

The records did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to debase the “intrinsic worth and dignity” of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson to have been done at the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at the hands of Jayson and Roldan. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was so essential in the crime of child abuse.

People vs PO2 Valdez (G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs PO2 Valdez
G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013

Facts: The two accused were tried for three counts of murder by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 86, in Quezon City. On January 20, 2005, after trial, the RTC convicted them as charged, prescribed on each of them the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count, and ordered them to pay to the heirs of each victim P93,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages. The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the RTC on July 18, 2006, subject to the modification that each of the accused pay to the heirs of each victim P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus costs of suit. The two accused then came to the Court on final appeal, but on May 9, 2007, Edwin Valdez filed a motion to withdraw appeal, which the Court granted on October 10, 2007, thereby deeming Edwin’s appeal closed and terminated. On January 18, 2012, the Court promulgated its judgment on the appeal of PO2 Eduardo Valdez, finding him guilty of three counts of homicide, instead of three counts of murder, and meting on him for each count of homicide the indeterminate sentence of 10 years of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years of reclusion temporal as maximum. Subsequently, Edwin sent to the Court Administrator a self- explanatory letter dated March 12, 2012, where he pleaded for the application to him of the judgment promulgated on January 18, 2012 on the ground that the judgment would be beneficial to him as an accused.

Issue: Whether or not the judgement by the appellate court downgrading the penalty of Edwin’s co-accused is applicable to him.

Held: Yes. On his part, Edwin cannot be barred from seeking the application to him of the downgrading of the crimes committed (and the resultant lighter penalties) despite the finality of his convictions for three counts of murder due to his withdrawal of his appeal. The downgrading of the crimes committed would definitely be favorable to him. Worth pointing out is that to deny to him the benefit of the lessened criminal responsibilities would be highly unfair, considering that this Court had found the two accused to have acted in concert in their deadly assault against the victims, warranting their equal liabiliy under the principle of conspiracy.

We grant Edwin’s plea based on Section 11(a), Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, which relevantly provides:

Section 11. Effect of appeal by any of several accused. – (a) An appeal taken by one or more of several accused shall not affect those who did not appeal, except insofar as the judgment of the appellate court is favorable and applicable to the latter.

A literal interpretation of the phrase “did not appeal,” as espoused by private respondent, will not give justice to the purpose of the provision.

It should be read in its entirety and should not be myopically construed so as to defeat its reason, i.e., to benefit an accused who did not join in the appeal of his co-accused in case where the appellate judgment is favorable. In fact, several cases rendered by the Court applied the foregoing provision without regard as to the filing or non-filing of an appeal by a co- accused, so long as the judgment was favorable to him.

People vs Teodoro (G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs Teodoro
G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013

Facts: Two informations, both dated March 25, 1998, charged Teodoro with statutory rape. Based on the medical certificate, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Norte charged Teodoro with two counts of statutory rape through the informations. At his arraignment on August 17, 1998, Teodoro pleaded not guilty to the informations. Although he subsequently manifested a willingness to change the pleas to guilty, he balked when he was re-arraigned on December 23, 1998 by qualifying that he had only “fingered” AAA. Accordingly, the RTC reinstated his pleas of not guilty. During the trial, AAA and BBB testified for the Prosecution, but two years later recanted and turned hostile towards the Prosecution, now telling the RTC that Teodoro had only touched AAA’s vagina on the nights of December 18, 1997 and February 8, 1998.

Issue: Whether or not the recantation of the victim be considered in determining the penalty of the accused.

Held: No. The crimes charged were two counts of statutory rape. The elements of statutory rape are that: (a) the victim is a female under 12 years or is demented; and (b) the offender has carnal knowledge of the victim. Considering that the essence of statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a female without her consent, neither the use of force, threat or intimidation on the female, nor the female’s deprivation of reason or being otherwise unconscious, nor the employment on the female of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority is necessary to commit statutory rape. Full penile penetration of the female’s genitalia is not likewise required, because carnal knowledge is simply the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman.

In objective terms, carnal knowledge, the other essential element in consummated statutory rape, does not require full penile penetration of the female.  The Court has clarified in People v. Campuhan that the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge. All that is necessary to reach the consummated stage of rape is for the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act to come into contact with the lips of the pudendum of the victim.  This means that the rape is consummated once the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act touches either labia of the pudendum. As the Court has explained in People v. Bali-Balita, the touching that constitutes rape does not mean mere epidermal contact, or stroking or grazing of organs, or a slight brush or a scrape of the penis on the external layer of the victim’s vagina, or the mons pubis, but rather the erect penis touching the labias or sliding into the female genitalia. Accordingly, the conclusion that touching the labia majora or the labia minora of the pudendum constitutes consummated rape proceeds from the physical fact that the labias are physically situated beneath the mons pubis or the vaginal surface, such that for the penis to touch either of them is to attain some degree of penetration beneath the surface of the female genitalia. It is required, however, that this manner of touching of the labias must be sufficiently and convincingly established.

As a rule, recantation is viewed with disfavor firstly because the recantation of her testimony by a vital witness of the State like AAA is exceedingly unreliable, and secondly because there is always the possibility that such recantation may later be repudiated. Indeed, to disregard testimony solemnly given in court simply because the witness recants it ignores the possibility that intimidation or monetary considerations may have caused the recantation. Court proceedings, in which testimony upon oath or affirmation is required to be truthful under all circumstances, are trivialized by the recantation. The trial in which the recanted testimony was given is made a mockery, and the investigation is placed at the mercy of an unscrupulous witness. Before allowing the recantation, therefore, the court must not be too willing to accept it, but must test its value in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the party adversely affected to cross-examine the recanting witness both upon the substance of the recantation and the motivations for it. The recantation, like any other testimony, is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances, including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand. In that respect, the finding of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses is entitled to great weight on appeal unless cogent reasons necessitate its re-examination, the reason being that the trial court is in a better position to hear first-hand and observe the deportment, conduct and attitude of the witnesses.