Case Brief: Agullo vs. Sandiganbayan

G.R. No. 132926       July 20, 2001

ELVIRA AGULLO, petitioner,
vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

 

FACTS:

On September 30,1988 Elvira was Charge of malversation germinated from an audit conducted on 14 July 1986 by Ignacio Gerez, Auditing Examiner III, as a result of which a P26,404.26 cash shortage was discovered on petitioner’s accountability. In the course of the pre-trial, petitioner Agullo conceded the fact of audit and admitted the findings in the Report of Cash Examination and the facts set forth in the Letter of Demand. In effect, she admitted the fact of shortage in the amount stated in the Information. Notwithstanding, petitioner  Agullo, at all stages of the criminal indictment, persistently professed her innocence of the charge and categorically denied having malversed or converted the public funds in question for her own personal use or benefit. With petitioner’s admission of the fact of cash shortage, the prosecution then rested its case For its part, the defense, in its bid to overturn the presumption of malversation and shatter the prima facie evidenceof conversion, offered the testimony of the following witnesses: petitioner Elvira Agullo; Rene Briones Austero, Cashier III of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Region VIII; and Engracia Camposano-Camaoy, Barangay Captain of Hinabuyan, Dagame, Leyte. Striking down the defense as “incredible and without basis,” the Sandiganbayan rendered its assailed decision, convicting petitioner  Agullo of the crime of malversation of public funds, ratiocinating principally that “no evidence has been presented linking the loss of the government funds with the alleged sudden heart attack of the accused (herein petitioner).”

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Sandiganbayan disregarded or overlooked certain evidence of substance for the crime of malversation.

 

HELD:

The Supreme Court ruled that the Sandiganbayan undoubtedly disregarded or overlooked certain evidence of substance which, to a large extent, bear considerable weight in the adjudication of petitioner’s guilt or the affirmation of her constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Upon thorough scrutiny of the evidence adduced by both prosecution and defense, we hold that petitioner Agullo has satisfactorily overcome and rebutted by competent proof, the prima facie evidence of conversion so as to exonerate her from the charge of malversation. To this end, petitioner presented evidence that satisfactorily prove that not a single centavo of the missing funds was used for her own personal benefit or gain. Notably, the Sandiganbayan, in convicting petitioner, obviously relied more on the flaws and deficiencies in the evidence presented by the defense, not on the strength and merit of the prosecution’s evidence This course of action is impermissible for the evidence of the prosecution clearly cannot sustain a conviction “in an unprejudiced mind. “The constitutional presumption of innocence is not an empty platitude meant only to embellish the Bill of Rights. Its purpose is to balance the scales in what would otherwise be an uneven contest between the lone individual pitted against the People of the Philippines and all the resources at their command. Its inexorable mandate is that, for all the authority and influence of the prosecution, the accused must be acquitted and set free if his guilt cannot be proved beyond the whisper of doubt.”

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Case Brief: Cañal vs. People

G.R. No. 163181     October 19, 2005

BONIFACIO L. CAÑAL, SR., Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

FACTS:

Emelinda, Daylinda’s witness, declared that while she was outside the courthouse she saw Bonifacio and clearly overheard him say in Filipino: “Why should you be afraid of Daylinda’s witnesses, they are all  nincompoops. Daylinda is a thief!  She has been long eking out a living as a thief.” A number of persons outside the courthouse also heard the utterances of Bonifacio.

The MCTC found the accused guilty of the crime grave oral defamation.

On appeal, the RTC rendered judgment affirming the decision of the MCTC.

The case was elevated to the CA via petition for review, and the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC’s decision. Hence, this petition to the SC.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the CA gravely erred in sustaining his conviction of the crime of grave oral defamation.

 

HELD:

The petition is denied for lack of merit. However, the Court finds that the penalty imposed on the petitioner is erroneous.  The penalty imposed by Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, for grave oral defamation is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period which has a duration of from four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months.

It must be remembered that every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.  And malice may be inferred from the style and tone of publication subject to certain exceptions which are not present. Indeed, calling Daylinda a thief is defamation against her character and reputation sufficient to cause her embarrassment and social humiliation. Daylinda testified to the feelings of shame and humiliation she suffered as a result of the incident complained of.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the CA is AFFIRMED WITH the MODIFICATION on his SENTENCE terms.

Case Brief: Dela Cruz vs. People

G.R. No. 150439,     July 29, 2005
AMELITA DELA CRUZ, petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

Facts:
An information was filed against petitioner Dela Cruz for defrauding the Great Mandarin Villa Seafoods Village Inc and Hock Wan Restaurant Corporation. The corporations alleged that Dela Cruz was working as a payroll clerk of said corporation. She received from the said corporation a total sum of P471,166.11 representing the excess amount paid to the employees of said corporations as salaries, and failed to turn over the said excess; that, after possessing such amount, she went into hiding, and refused to return the same. It was the duty of the accused to compute the payroll based on the time card, request the treasurer for the issuance and encashment of the corresponding checks, placed the money on the pay slip and afterwards distribute the same to the employees.
Petitioner, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty of the crime charged. She contested that the amount she has always received was the exact amount for the salary of the employees every 15th and 30th of the month, which she computed beforehand and submitted to the treasurer thereafter. The treasurer has always given the exact amount to her, but she does not know the amount actually withdrawn by the former. She also alleged that there was no excess money in the first place, and that there were no complaints of short payments or reports of overpayment; and that the reason why she failed to report to work afterwards was because her brother-in-law died and she became ill.
The lower courts held that, applying the provisions of Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, particularly, that with the trust given to her, she really defrauded her employer by over-computing the payroll and converting or misappropriating the excess (amount) to her own personal use to the prejudice and damage of the private complainants; that she alone was entrusted with the money for the payroll and had complete access to it; that she had to erase the data in the computer to destroy the evidence against her; that she conveniently disappeared from the scene at the time of the discovery of the anomaly, and; she maintained a lifestyle beyond her financial means.
Petitioner claimed that the lower courts erred in their decisions on the grounds that the evidence presented is not sufficient to convict her beyond reasonable doubt.

Issue:
Whether or not petitioner Dela Cruz committed the crime of estafa.

Held:
No, petitioner Dela Cruz did not commit the crime.
Accused-petitioner was charged with the crime of estafa through misappropriation or conversion as defined in and penalized under Article 315, paragraph 1(b), of the Revised Penal Code. The elements of the said crime are: 1) that money, goods or other personal property is received by the offender in trust, or on commission or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of, or to return, the same; 2) that there be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender or denial on his part of such receipt; 3) that such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and 4) that there is a demand made by the offended party on the offender.
The lower courts relied heavily on circumstantial evidence to convict the accused-petitioner. Under the Rules of Court, the requirements for circumstantial facts to be able to withstand the tribulation of a conviction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, are: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
After thoroughly reviewing the records of this case and weighing the testimonial evidence on the scale of creditworthiness and materiality, however, SC found that circumstantial evidence present in the case at bar are grossly insufficient to sustain a conviction. Petitioner had no hand in the actual issuance of the checks, and, more importantly, with the withdrawal of the money from the bank. Her only participation revolved around the computation of the payroll and the actual distribution of the salaries to the employees of the restaurants. While it was the accused-petitioner who computed the payroll of the employees, nevertheless, she was not the only person who had access to the money; that she was not the only computer-literate in their office as her general manager usually verifies the diskettes containing the payroll information; that if indeed she was culpable, she should have left long rather than reporting back to work for two more payroll periods after the alleged fraud,
In totality, only the checks and acknowledged payroll slips were presented to show the culpability of the accused-petitioner, and, sadly, said documentary evidence were the only basis for the theory that there was an over-computation of the payrolls.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals is RECONSIDERED and SET ASIDE. The questioned decision is hereby REVERSED. Accused-petitioner Amelita dela Cruz is ACQUITTED of the crime of estafa defined under Article 315, paragraph 1(b), of the Revised Penal Code on the ground of reasonable doubt.

Case Brief: People v Baron

G.R. No. 185209  June 28, 2010

People of the Philippines

vs

RENE BARON et. al.

Facts:
At about 9 o’clock in the evening of June 28, 1995 at Hda. Sta. Ana, Brgy. Burgos, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, Philippines, the accused Rene Baron, Rey Villatima, and alias “Dedong” bargo, conspiring, confederating and helping one another with evident premeditation and treachery and with intent to kill, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault, attack and stab to death one Juanito Berallo in order to rob, steal and take away the latter’s sidecar and motorcycle, wallet, and wristwatch; and inflicted multiple stabbed wounds which directly caused the victim’s death.
Appellant, Rene Baron, denied any participation in the crime. He claimed that on June 28, 1995, at around 7 o’clock in the evening, he bought rice and other necessities for his family and proceeded to the public transport terminal to get a ride home where he chanced upon the deceased and his two passengers who insisted that he came along for the trip. During said trip, the two passengers announced a hold-up and thereafter tied the driver’s hands and dragged him towards the sugarcane fields while Baron stayed in the tricycle. Baron was then accompanied by the two passengers back to his house where he and his wife were threatened at gunpoint not to report the incident to the authorities.
On February 12, 2002, the trial court rendered a Decision finding the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of robbery with homicide.
Before the appellate court, appellant alleged that the trial court erred in finding him guilty as charged and in not appreciating in his favor the exempting circumstance of irresistible force and/or uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury. However, the same was disregarded by the CA holding that all the requisites for said circumstances were lacking.

Issue:
Is the appellant entitled to the exempting circumstances of irresistible force and/or uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury?

Held:
No. The appellant’s attempt to evade criminal liability by insisting that he acted under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury fails to impress. To avail of this exempting circumstance, the evidence must establish: (1) the existence of an uncontrollable fear; (2) that the fear must be real and imminent; and (3) the fear of an injury is greater than or at least equal to that committed. A threat of future injury is insufficient. The compulsion must be of such a character as to leave no opportunity for the accused to escape.
The Court found nothing in the records to substantiate appellant’s insistence that he was under duress from his co-accused in participating in the crime. In fact, the evidence was to the contrary. Villatima and Bargo dragged the victim towards the sugarcane field and left the appellant inside the tricycle that was parked by the roadside. While all alone, he had every opportunity to escape since he was no longer subjected to a real, imminent or reasonable fear. Surprisingly, he opted to wait for his co-accused to return and even rode with them to Kabankalan, Negros Occidental to hide the victim’s motorcycle in the house of Villatima’s aunt.
The appellant had other opportunities to escape since he traveled with his co-accused for more than 10 hours and passed several transportation terminals. However, he never tried to escape or at least request for assistance from the people around him. From the series of proven circumstantial evidence, the inescapable and natural conclusion was the three accused were in conspiracy with one another to kill the victim and cart away the motorcycle.

Case Brief: Tiu v Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 162370     April 21, 2009

DAVID TIU

v. 

COURT OF APPEALS 

Facts:

The case stemmed from a criminal charge for slight physical injuries filed by Edgardo Postanes (Postanes) against Remigio Pasion (Pasion). On the other hand, David Tiu (Tiu) filed a criminal charge for grave threats against Postanes. Upon motion of Pasion, the two criminal cases were consolidated and jointly heard before the MeTC of Pasay City.

After trial, MeTC rendered judgment dismissing both charges on ground of insufficiency of evidence.

Tiu filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by the MeTC. Afterwards, Tiu, through his counsel, filed a petition for certiorari with the RTC of Pasay City. The RTC of Pasay City rendered a decision declaring void the judgment of the MeTC and ordered the case to be remanded in the MeTC. Postanes moved for reconsideration, which was denied by the RTC.

Postanes filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari (with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order), challenging the decision of the RTC. The Court of Appeals reversed the RTC Decision and affirmed the dismissal of the two cases. In annulling the RTC decision, the Court of Appeals held that the RTC has granted upon the State, through the extraordinary remedy of certiorari, the right to appeal the decision of acquittal which right the government does not have.

Issue:

Whether there was double jeopardy when Tiu filed a petition for certiorari questioning the acquittal of Postanes by the MeTC.

Held:

Yes. At the outset, the Court finds that the petition is defective since it was not filed by the Solicitor General. Instead, it was filed by Tiu, the private complainant, through his counsel.

Settled is the rule that only the Solicitor General may bring or defend actions on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, or represent the People or State in criminal proceedings before this Court and the Court of Appeals. Tiu, the offended party in the criminal case is without legal personality to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals before the Supreme Court. Nothing shows that the Office of the Solicitor General represents the People in this appeal before the Court. On this ground alone, the SC says the petition must fail.

However, the Court opts to resolve the question of double jeopardy.

The elements of double jeopardy are (1) the complaint or information was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction; (2) the court had jurisdiction; (3) the accused had been arraigned and had pleaded; and (4) the accused was convicted or acquitted or the case was dismissed without his express consent.

These elements are present here: (1) the Information filed in the criminal case against Postanes was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction; (2) the MeTC had jurisdiction over the criminal case (3) Postanes was arraigned and entered a non-guilty plea; and (4) the MeTC dismissed the Criminal Case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence amounting to an acquittal from which no appeal can be had. Clearly, for the court to grant the petition and order the MeTC to reconsider its decision, just what the RTC ordered the MeTC to do, is to transgress the Constitutional proscription not to put any person twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.

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.

Case Brief: Lumanog v People; Fortuna v People

LENIDO LUMANOG and AUGUSTO SANTOS

vs.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES;

CESAR FORTUNA

vs.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES;

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

vs.

CESAR FORTUNA, ET AL.

FACTS:

These cases were consolidated. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals convicting Lumanog, Santos, Fortuna and De Jesus of the crime of murder for the death of Col. Rolando Abadilla. Lumanog and Santos separately filed their motions for reconsideration seeking the reversal of their conviction. They assailed the weight and credence accorded to the identification of the accused by the lone eyewitness presented by the prosecution, security guard Freddie Alejo.

Fortuna submitted an Affidavit executed by a certain Orencio Jurado, Jr. who claimed to be one of the police officers initially assigned to investigate the case. Fortuna contended that said belated statement would certainly cast doubt on the procedures undertaken by the police authorities in the apprehension of the likely perpetrators.

ISSUE:

Whether or not introduction of additional evidence after the trial is valid to justify new trial

HELD:

No. Introduction of additional evidence after the trial is not valid to justify new trial.

Evidently, Fortuna seeks the introduction of additional evidence to support the defense argument that there was no positive identification of Abadilla’s killers. To justify a new trial or setting aside of the judgment of conviction on the basis of such evidence, it must be shown that the evidence was “newly discovered” pursuant to Section 2, Rule 121 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended. Evidence, to be considered newly discovered, must be one that could not, by the exercise of due diligence, have been discovered before the trial in the court below.

Movant failed to show that the defense exerted efforts during the trial to secure testimonies from police officers like Jurado, or other persons involved in the investigation, who questioned or objected to the apprehension of the accused in this case. Hence, the belatedly executed affidavit of Jurado does not qualify as newly discovered evidence that will justify re-opening of the trial and/or vacating the judgment. In any case, we have ruled that whatever flaw that may have initially attended the out-of-court identification of the accused, the same was cured when all the accused-appellants were positively identified by the prosecution eyewitness during the trial.