G.R. No. 149588 August 16, 2010
FRANCISCO R. LLAMAS and CARMELITA C. LLAMAS, Petitioners,
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, BRANCH 66 OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN MAKATI CITY and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
Petitioners are assailing the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City convicting them of the offense “Other Forms of Swindling” punishable under Article 316, paragraph 2, of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
The trial court found that the accused spouses, well-knowing that their parcel of land was mortgaged to the Bank, sold the said land to one Avila, falsely representing the same to be free from all liens and encumbrances whatsoever, and said Conrado P. Avila bought the aforementioned property. After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered its Decision, finding petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals, affirmed the decision of the trial court, and subsequently denied the motion for reconsideration of the petitioners.
Assailing the aforesaid issuances of the appellate court, petitioners filed before the Supreme Court, their petition for review. The Court, however,denied the same for petitioners failure to state the material dates. Since it subsequently denied petitioners motion for reconsideration, the judgment of conviction became final and executory. Thereafter, apprehension of the spouses ensued through a warrant and only Carmelita was arrested.
In 2001, petitioner Francisco moved for the lifting or recall of the warrant of arrest, raising for the first time the issue that the trial court had no jurisdiction over the offense charged. There being no action taken by the trial court on the said motion, petitioners instituted,the instant proceedings for the annulment of the trial and the appellate courts decisions.
In 2009 decision of the Court, it held that, following the ruling in People v. Bitanga, the remedy of annulment of judgment cannot be availed of in criminal cases. The Court likewise rejected petitioners contention that the trial court had no jurisdiction over the case. However, the petitioners still seek another recourse to the Court for the reversal of the 2009 Decision and, consequently, the annulment of their conviction by the trial court.
Whether the Llamas spouses may avail of the remedy of the annulment of judgment.
Yes. The spouses can avail of the annulment of judgment.
In People v. Bitanga, the Court explained that the remedy of annulment of judgment cannot be availed of in criminal cases.
In the interest of justice and for humanitarian reasons, the Court deems it necessary to re-examine this case. xxx This Court has, on occasion, suspended the application of technical rules of procedure where matters of life, liberty, honor or property, among other instances, are at stake. It has allowed some meritorious cases to proceed despite inherent procedural defects and lapses on the principle that rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. The strict and rigid application of rules that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must always be avoided. It is far better and more prudent for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case to attain the ends of justice, rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause grave injustice to the parties.
SC noted that the case was allowed to run its course as a petition for certiorari, such that in its April 12, 2004 Resolution, it said “Considering the allegations, issues and arguments adduced in the petition for review on certiorari x x x.”
Likewise, in its February 10, 2003 Resolution, SC said, “It appearing that Atty. Francisco R. Llamas, in his own behalf and as counsel for petitioners, has failed to file their reply to the Solicitor Generals comment on the petition for review on certiorari within the extended period x x x.””
Thus, the SC, at the first instance, had recognized that the petition, although captioned differently, was indeed one for certiorari.
Since SC resolved to treat the petition as one for certiorari, the doctrine in People v. Bitanga no longer finds application in this case.
(As to the criminal aspect of the case, the court acquitted the petitioners on the ground that their guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.)