G.R. No. 186001 October 2, 2009
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
On June 23, 2000 the public prosecutor accused petitioner Antonio Cabador before the RTC of Quezon City of murder. On February 13, 2006, after presenting only five witnesses over five years of intermittent trial, the RTC required the prosecution to make a written or formal offer of its documentary evidence within 15 days from notice. But the public prosecutor asked for three extensions of time. Still, the prosecution did not make the required written offer.
On August 1, 2006 petitioner Cabador filed a motion to dismiss the case, complaining of a turtle-paced proceeding in the case since his arrest and detention in 2001 and invoking his right to a speedy trial. Further, he claimed that in the circumstances, the trial court could not consider any evidence against him that had not been formally offered. He also pointed out that the prosecution witnesses did not have knowledge of his alleged part in the crime charged.
On August 31, 2006, the RTC issued an Order treating petitioner Cabador’s motion to dismiss as a demurrer to evidence. And, since he filed his motion without leave of court, the RTC declared him to have waived his right to present evidence in his defense. The trial court deemed the case submitted for decision. Cabador questioned the RTCs actions before the CA. The latter denied his petition and affirmed the lower courts actions. Petitioner seek the help of Supreme Court via a petition for review on certiorari.
Whether or not petitioner Cabadors motion to dismiss before the trial court was in fact a demurrer to evidence.
Supreme Court finds that petitioner Cabador filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of violation of his right to speedy trial, not a demurrer to evidence. In criminal cases, a motion to dismiss may be filed on the ground of denial of the accused’s right to speedy trial. This denial is characterized by unreasonable, vexatious, and oppressive delays without fault of the accused, or by unjustified postponements that unreasonably prolonged the trial.
It can be said that petitioner Cabador took pains to point out how trial in the case had painfully dragged on for years. The gaps between proceedings were long, with hearings often postponed because of the prosecutors absence. This was further compounded, Cabador said, by the prosecutions repeated motions for extension of time to file its formal offer and its failure to file it within such time. Cabador then invoked his right to speedy trial. But the RTC and the CA simply chose to ignore these extensive averments and altogether treated Cabadors motion as a demurrer to evidence.
The fact is that Cabador did not even bother to do what is so fundamental in any demurrer and the prosecution was not yet deemed to have rested its case on that date. He did not state what evidence the prosecution had presented against him to show in what respects such evidence failed to meet the elements of the crime charged. His so-called demurrer did not touch on any particular testimony of even one witness. He cited no documentary exhibit. Thus, the petitioner’s motion to dismiss cannot be treated as a demurrer to evidence.