Case Brief: Asistio v People

G.R. No. 200465     April 20, 2015

JOCELYN ASISTIO y CONSINO

v.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND MONICA NEALIGA

Facts:

Jocelyn Asistio y Consino was charged with violation of Section 46 of the Cooperative Code of the Philippines (Republic Act No. [RA] 6938).

The prosecution sought to prove that the accused had entered into an exclusive dealership agreement with Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., (Coca Cola) for the sale of softdrink products at the same school. The school principal then created an audit committee to look into the financial reports of the Cooperative. Based on the documents obtained from Coca-Cola, including the records of actual deliveries and sales, and the financial statements prepared by Asistio, the audit committee found that Asistio defrauded the Cooperative and its members for three (3) years. Despite requests for her to return to the Cooperative the amounts she had allegedly misappropriated, Asistio failed and refused to do so. Thus, the Cooperative issued a Board Resolution authorizing the filing of criminal charges against her.

Trial ensued and after the presentation and offer of evidence by the prosecution, Asistio moved to dismiss the case by way of Demurrer to Evidence with prior leave of court. She argued, among other matters, that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, does not have jurisdiction over the case, as the crime charged (Violation of Section 46 of RA 6938) does not carry with it a sanction for which she can be held criminally liable.

The RTC dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

Issue:

Whether or not the dismissal of the charge against the accused on demurrer to evidence amounts to an acquittal, hence, final and unappealable.

Held:

No. The dismissal of the charge by RTC does not amount to an acquittal.

The demurrer to evidence in criminal cases, such as the one at bar, is “filed after the prosecution had rested its case,” and when the same is granted, it calls “for an appreciation of the evidence adduced by the prosecution and its sufficiency to warrant conviction beyond reasonable doubt, resulting in a dismissal of the case on the merits, tantamount to an acquittal of the accused.” Such dismissal of a criminal case by the grant of demurrer to evidence may not be appealed, for to do so would be to place the accused in double jeopardy. The verdict being one of acquittal, the case ends there.

In this case, however, the RTC granted the demurrer to evidence and dismissed the case not for insufficiency of evidence, but for lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged. Notably, the RTC did not decide the case on the merits, let alone resolve the issue of Asistio’s guilt or innocence based on the evidence proffered by the prosecution. This being the case, the RTC Order of dismissal does not operate as an acquittal, hence, may still be subject to ordinary appeal under Rule 41 of the Rules of Court.

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