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G.R. No.

172829

July 18, 2012

ROSA H. FENEQUITO, CORAZON E. HERNANDEZ, and LAURO H.


RODRIGUEZ, Petitioners,
vs.
BERNARDO VERGARA, JR., Respondent.
DECISION

On March 9, 2006, the CA rendered its presently assailed


Resolution8 dismissing the petition.
The CA ruled that the Decision of the RTC is interlocutory in nature and, thus,
is not appealable.
Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but the CA denied it in its
Resolution9 dated May 22, 2006.

PERALTA, J.:

Hence, the instant petition based on the following grounds:

Assailed in the present petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court are the Resolutions1dated March 9, 2006 and May 22, 2006 of
the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 29648. The CA Resolution of
March 9, 2006 dismissed petitioners' petition for review, while the CA
Resolution dated May 22, 2006 denied petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration.

The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in outrightly dismissing the Petition for
Review on the ground that the remedy availed of by petitioners is improper.

The present petition arose from a criminal complaint for falsification of public
documents filed by herein respondent against herein petitioners with the Office
of the City Prosecutor of Manila.

In their first assigned error, petitioners contend that the Decision of the RTC is
final as it disposes with finality the issue of whether the MeTC erred in granting
their Motion to Dismiss.

On February 11, 2004, an Information for falsification of public documents was


filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Manila by the Assistant City
Prosecutor of Manila against herein petitioners.2

The Court does not agree.

On April 23, 2004, herein petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss the Case Based
on Absence of Probable Cause.3
After respondent's Comment/Opposition4 was filed, the MeTC issued an
Order5 dated July 9, 2004 dismissing the case on the ground of lack of
probable cause.
Aggrieved, respondent, with the express conformity of the public prosecutor,
appealed the case to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila. 6
On July 21, 2005, the RTC rendered judgment setting aside the July 9, 2004
Order of the MeTC and directing the said court to proceed to trial. 7
Petitioners then elevated the case to the CA via a petition for review.

Strict enforcement of the Rules may be suspended whenever the purposes of


justice so require.10

The Court notes at the outset that one of the grounds relied upon by the CA in
dismissing petitioners' petition for review is the latter's failure to submit copies
of pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent to the petition filed, as
required under Section 2,11 Rule 42 of the Rules of Court. While petitioners
filed a Motion for Reconsideration, they, however, failed to comply with these
requirements. Worse, they did not even mention anything about it in the said
Motion. Section 3, Rule 42 of the same Rules provides:
Sec. 3. Effect of failure to comply with requirements. The failure of the
petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the
payment of the docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of
service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should
accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.
Moreover, it is a settled rule that the right to appeal is neither a natural right nor
a part of due process; it is merely a statutory privilege, and may be exercised
only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law.12 An appeal

being a purely statutory right, an appealing party must strictly comply with the
requisites laid down in the Rules of Court.13 Deviations from the Rules cannot
be tolerated.14 The rationale for this strict attitude is not difficult to appreciate
as the Rules are designed to facilitate the orderly disposition of appealed
cases.15 In an age where courts are bedeviled by clogged dockets, the Rules
need to be followed by appellants with greater fidelity.16 Their observance
cannot be left to the whims and caprices of appellants. 17 In the instant case,
petitioners had all the opportunity to comply with the Rules. Nonetheless, they
remained obstinate in their non-observance even when they sought
reconsideration of the ruling of the CA dismissing their petition. Such obstinacy
is incongruous with their late plea for liberality in construing the Rules.
On the above basis alone, the Court finds that the instant petition is
dismissible.
Even if the Court bends its Rules to allow the present petition, the Court still
finds no cogent reason to depart from the assailed ruling of the CA.
The factual and legal situations in the present case are essentially on all fours
with those involved in Basa v. People.18 In the said case, the accused were
charged with swindling and falsification of public documents. Subsequently, the
accused filed a Joint Motion to Quash on the ground that the facts charged in
each Information do not constitute an offense. Thereafter, the MeTC issued an
order in favor of the accused and, accordingly, quashed the Informations. The
private complainant, with the conformity of the public prosecutor, filed a motion
for reconsideration but the MeTC denied it. On appeal, the RTC reversed the
order of the MeTC and directed the continuation of the proceedings. The
accused then filed a petition for review with the CA. In its assailed decision, the
CA dismissed the petition on the ground that the remedy of appeal from the
RTC decision is improper, because the said decision is actually interlocutory in
nature.
In affirming the ruling of the CA, this Court held that:
Petitioners erroneously assumed that the RTC Decision is final and
appealable, when in fact it is interlocutory. Thus, they filed a petition for review
with the Court of Appeals under Section 3 (b), Rule 122 of the Revised Rules
of Criminal Procedure, which provides:x x x x

(b) The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by the Regional Trial
Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction shall be by petition for review
under Rule 42.x x x x
Section 1, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, states:
Sec. 1. How appeal taken; time for filing. A party desiring to appeal from a
decision of the Regional Trial Court rendered in the exercise of its appellate
jurisdiction, may file a verified petition for review with the Court of Appeals, x x
x.
The above provisions contemplate of an appeal from a final decision or order
of the RTC in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction.
Thus, the remedy of appeal under Rule 42 resorted to by petitioners is
improper. To repeat, the RTC Decision is not final, but interlocutory in
nature.
A final order is one that which disposes of the whole subject matter or
terminates a particular proceeding or action, leaving nothing to be done but to
enforce by execution what has been determined. Upon the other hand, an
order is interlocutory if it does not dispose of a case completely, but leaves
something more to be done upon its merits.
Tested against the above criterion, the RTC Decision is beyond cavil
interlocutory in nature. It is essentially a denial of petitioners' motion to
quash because it leaves something more to be done x x x, i.e ., the
continuation of the criminal proceedings until the guilt or innocence of
the accused is determined. Specifically, the MeTC has yet to arraign the
petitioners, then proceed to trial and finally render the proper judgment.
It is axiomatic that an order denying a motion to quash on the ground that the
allegations in the Informations do not constitute an offense cannot be
challenged by an appeal. This Court generally frowns upon this remedial
measure as regards interlocutory orders. The evident reason for such rule is to
avoid multiplicity of appeals in a single action. To tolerate the practice of
allowing appeals from interlocutory orders would not only delay the
administration of justice but also would unduly burden the courts. 19 (Emphases
supplied)

In the present case, the assailed Decision of the RTC set aside the Order of
the MeTC and directed the court a quo to proceed to trial by allowing the
prosecution to present its evidence. Hence, it is clear that the RTC Decision is
interlocutory as it did not dispose of the case completely, but left something
more to be done on its merits.
In their second assigned error, petitioners claim that assuming for the sake of
argument that the remedy they availed of is not proper, the facts of the case
would readily show that there exist just and compelling reasons to warrant the
relaxation of the rules in the interest of substantial justice.
Petitioners contend that the PNP Crime Laboratory Questioned Document
Report, submitted as evidence by respondent to the prosecutor's office,
showed that the findings therein are not conclusive and, thus, insufficient to
support a finding of probable cause.

does not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure
a conviction. It is enough that it is believed that the act or omission complained
of constitutes the offense charged.
A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more
likely than not, a crime has been committed by the suspects. It need not be
based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, not on evidence establishing
guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and definitely not on evidence establishing
absolute certainty of guilt. In determining probable cause, the average man
weighs facts and circumstances without resorting to the calibrations of the
rules of evidence of which he has no technical knowledge. He relies on
common sense. What is determined is whether there is sufficient ground to
engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that the
accused is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial. It does not
require an inquiry as to whether there is sufficient evidence to secure a
conviction.23

The Court is not persuaded.


It is clear from a perusal of the cited PNP Crime Laboratory Questioned
Document Report No. 048-03 that the document examiner found that the
signatures appearing in the questioned Deed of Sale as compared to the
standard signatures "reveal divergences in the manner of execution and stroke
structure [which is] an indication that they WERE NOT WRITTEN BY ONE
AND THE SAME PERSON."20 The Court agrees with the prosecutor's
pronouncement in its Resolution21 dated September 22, 2003, that although
the findings of the PNP Crime Laboratory were qualified by the statement
contained in the Report that "no definite conclusion can be rendered due to the
fact that questioned signatures are photocopies wherein minute details are not
clearly manifested," the fact that an expert witness already found that the
questioned signatures were not written by one and the same person already
creates probable cause to indict petitioners for the crime of falsification of
public document.
In Reyes v. Pearlbank Securities, Inc.,22 this Court held:
Probable cause, for the purpose of filing a criminal information, has been
defined as such facts as are sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that a
crime has been committed and that respondent is probably guilty thereof. The
term does not mean "actual and positive cause" nor does it import absolute
certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Probable cause

In the instant case, the Court finds no justification to depart from the ruling of
the RTC that the offense charged was committed and that herein petitioners
are probably guilty thereof.
With respect to respondent's legal personality to appeal the July 9, 2004 Order
of the MeTC, suffice it to say that the appeal filed with the RTC was made with
the express conformity of the public prosecutor who handles the case.
It is wrong for petitioners to argue that it is the OSG which has authority to file
an appeal with the RTC.1wphi1 Section 35 (l), Chapter 12, Title III of Book IV
of Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of
1987, mandates the OSG to represent "the Government in the Supreme Court
and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings." On the other hand,
Section 11 of Presidential Decree No. 1275, entitled "Reorganizing the
Prosecution Staff of the Department of Justice and the Offices of the Provincial
and City Fiscals, Regionalizing the Prosecution Service, and Creating the
National Prosecution Service," which was the law in force at the time the
appeal was filed, provides that the provincial or the city fiscal (now referred to
as prosecutor) "shall have charge of the prosecution of all crimes,
misdemeanors and violations of city or municipal ordinances in the courts of
such province or city and shall therein discharge all the duties incident
to the institution of criminal prosecutions."24 In consonance with the abovequoted provision, it has been held by this Court that the fiscal represents the

People of the Philippines in the prosecution of offenses before the trial


courts at the metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts, municipal circuit
trial courts and the regional trial courts.25 Since the appeal, in the instant
case was made with the RTC of Manila, it is clear that the City Prosecutor or
his assistant (in this case, the Assistant City Prosecutor) had authority to file
the same.
Moreover, petitioners' reliance on Presidential Decree No. 911 is misplaced, as
the cited provision refers only to cases where the assistant fiscal or state
prosecutor's power to file an information or dismiss a case is predicated or
conditioned upon the prior authority or approval of the provincial or city fiscal or
the Chief State Prosecutor. There is nothing in the said law which provides that
in cases of appeal an Assistant City Prosecutor or a State Prosecutor may file
the same only upon prior authority or approval of the City Prosecutor or the
Chief State Prosecutor. Stated differently, unless otherwise ordered, an
Assistant City Prosecutor or a State Prosecutor may file an appeal with the
RTC, questioning the dismissal by the MeTC of a case for lack of probable
cause, even without prior authority or approval of the City Prosecutor or the
Chief State Prosecutor.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The Resolutions of the Court of
Appeals, dated March 9, 2006 and May 22, 2006 in CA-G.R. CR No. 29648,
are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 181021

December 10, 2012

BURGUNDY REALTY CORPORATION, Petitioner,


vs.
JOSEFA "JING" C. REYES and SECRETARY RAUL GONZALEZ of the
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,Respondents.
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
For resolution of this Court is the Petition for Review on Certiorari, dated
February 13, 2008, of petitioner Burgundy Realty Corporation, seeking to

annul and set aside the Decision 1 and Resolution of the Court of Appeals
(CA), dated September 14, 2007 and December 20, 2007, respectively.
The facts follow.
Private respondent Josefa "Jing" C. Reyes (Reyes), sometime in 1996, offered
her services to petitioner as the latter's real estate agent in buying parcels of
land in Calamba, Laguna, which are to be developed into a golf course. She
informed petitioner that more or less ten (10) lot owners are her clients who
were willing to sell their properties. Convinced of her representations,
petitioner released the amount of P23,423,327.50 in her favor to be used in
buying those parcels of land. Reyes, instead of buying those parcels of land,
converted and misappropriated the money given by petitioner to her personal
use and benefit. Petitioner sent a formal demand for Reyes to return the
amount of P23,423,327.50, to no avail despite her receipt of the said demand.
As such, petitioner filed a complaint for the crime of Estafa against Reyes
before the Assistant City Prosecutor's Office of Makati City.
Reyes, while admitting that she acted as a real estate agent for petitioner,
denied having converted or misappropriated the involved amount of money.
She claimed that the said amount was used solely for the intended purpose
and that it was petitioner who requested her services in procuring the lots.
According to her, it was upon the petitioner's prodding that she was
constrained to contact her friends who were also into the real estate business,
including one named Mateo Elejorde. She alleged that prior to the venture,
Mateo Elejorde submitted to her copies of certificates of title, vicinity plans,
cadastral maps and other identifying marks covering the properties being
offered for sale and that after validating and confirming the prices as well as
the terms and conditions attendant to the projected sale, petitioner instructed
her to proceed with the release of the funds. Thus, she paid down payments to
the landowners during the months of February, March, July, August,
September and October of 1996. Reyes also insisted that petitioner knew that
the initial or down payment for each lot represented only 50% of the purchase
price such that the remaining balance had to be paid within a period of thirty
(30) days from the date of receipt of the initial payment. She added that she
reminded petitioner, after several months, about the matter of unpaid balances
still owing to the lot owners, but due to lack of funds and non-infusion of
additional capital from other investors, petitioner failed to pay the landowners
of their remaining unpaid balances. Meanwhile, Reyes received information
that her sub-broker Mateo Elejorde had been depositing the involved money

entrusted to him under his personal account. On March 28, 2000, through a
board resolution, petitioner allegedly authorized Reyes to institute, proceed,
pursue and continue with whatever criminal or civil action against Mateo
Elejorde, or such person to whom she may have delivered or entrusted the
money she had received in trust from the firm, for the purpose of recovering
such money. Thus, Reyes filed a complaint for the crime of estafa against
Mateo Elejorde before the City Prosecutor's Office of Makati City docketed as
I.S. No. 98-B-5916-22, and on March 30, 2001, Mateo Elejorde was indicted
for estafa.

On September 22, 2006, Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez issued a


Resolution5 granting the petition for review of Reyes, the fallo of which reads:

After a preliminary investigation was conducted against Reyes, the Assistant


Prosecutor of Makati City issued a Resolution2 dated April 27, 2005, the
dispositive portion of which reads:

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but was denied by the Secretary
of Justice in a Resolution dated December 14, 2006. Eventually, petitioner filed
a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with the CA. The
latter, however, affirmed the questioned Resolutions of the Secretary of
Justice. The dispositive portion of the Decision dated September 14, 2007
reads:

In view thereof, it is most respectfully recommended that respondent be


indicted of the crime of Estafa defined and penalized under the Revised Penal
Code. It could not be said that she has violated the provision of PD 1689 for it
was not shown that the money allegedly given to her were funds solicited from
the public. Let the attached information be approved for filing in court. Bail
recommendation at Php40,000.00.3
Thereafter, an Information for the crime of Estafa under Article 315, par. 1 (b)
of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) was filed against Reyes and raffled before
the RTC, Branch 149, Makati City.
Undeterred, Reyes filed a petition for review before the Department of Justice
(DOJ), but it was dismissed by the Secretary of Justice through State
Prosecutor Jovencito Zuo on June 1, 2006.
Aggrieved, Reyes filed a motion for reconsideration, and in a Resolution 4 dated
July 20, 2006, the said motion was granted. The decretal text of the resolution
reads:
Finding the grounds relied upon in the motion to be meritorious and in the
interest of justice, our Resolution of June 1, 2006 is hereby RECONSIDERED
and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the petition for review filed by respondentappellant Josefa Reyes is hereby given due course and will be reviewed on
the merits and the corresponding resolution will be issued in due time.
SO ORDERED.

WHEREFORE, the assailed resolution is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.


The City Prosecutor of Makati City is directed to cause the withdrawal of the
information for estafa filed in court against respondent Josefa "Jing" C. Reyes
and to report the action taken within five (5) days from receipt hereof.
SO ORDERED.6

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Resolutions, dated 22


September 2006 and 14 December 2006[,] both rendered by public
respondent Secretary of Justice, are hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.7
Its motion for reconsideration having been denied by the CA in a Resolution
dated December 20, 2007, petitioner filed the present petition and the following
are the assigned errors:
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT FINDING
THAT THE DOJ SECRETARY, RAUL GONZALEZ, CAPRICIOUSLY,
ARBITRARILY AND WHIMSICALLY DISREGARDED THE EVIDENCE
ON RECORD SHOWING THE [EXISTENCE] OF PROBABLE CAUSE
AGAINST PRIVATE RESPONDENT FOR ESTAFA UNDER ARTICLE
315 1(b) OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE.
II
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN NOT FINDING
BUT INSTEAD CONCURRED IN WITH THE DOJ SECRETARY,

RAUL GONZALEZ, WHO BY GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION


AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION HELD
THAT NOT ALL OF THE ELEMENTS OF ESTAFA UNDER ARTICLE
315 1 (b), PARTICULARLY THE ELEMENT OF MISAPPROPRIATION,
WERE NOT SUFFICIENTLY ESTABLISHED IN THIS CASE.
III
THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT FINDING
THAT THE DOJ SECRETARY, RAUL GONZALEZ, ACTED WITH
GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN ACCEPTING AS TRUTH WHAT
WERE MATTERS OF DEFENSE BY PRIVATE RESPONDENT IN
HER COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN PROVEN
AT THE TRIAL ON THE MERITS.8
The petition is meritorious.
It is not disputed that decisions or resolutions of prosecutors are subject to
appeal to the Secretary of Justice who, under the Revised Administrative
Code,9 exercises the power of direct control and supervision over said
prosecutors; and who may thus affirm, nullify, reverse or modify their rulings.
Review as an act of supervision and control by the justice secretary over the
fiscals and prosecutors finds basis in the doctrine of exhaustion of
administrative remedies which holds that mistakes, abuses or negligence
committed in the initial steps of an administrative activity or by an
administrative agency should be corrected by higher administrative authorities,
and not directly by courts.10
In the present case, after review and reconsideration, the Secretary of Justice
reversed the investigating prosecutor's finding of probable cause that all the
elements of the crime of estafa are present. Estafa, under Article 315 (1) (b) of
the Revised Penal Code, is committed by
ART. 315. Swindling (estafa). Any person who shall defraud another by any
of the means mentioned hereinbelow:
xxxx
1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely:

(a) x x x
(b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another,
money, goods, or any other personal property 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,
even though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a
bond; or by denying having received such money, goods, or other
property; x x x
The elements are:
1) that money, goods or other personal property be 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 demand made by the offended party on the offender.11
The essence of estafa under Article 315, par. 1 (b) is the appropriation or
conversion of money or property received to the prejudice of the owner. The
words "convert" and "misappropriate" connote an act of using or disposing of
another's property as if it were one's own, or of devoting it to a purpose or use
different from that agreed upon. To misappropriate for one's own use includes
not only conversion to one's personal advantage, but also every attempt to
dispose of the property of another without right. 12
In reversing the finding of probable cause that the crime of estafa has been
committed, the Secretary of Justice reasoned out that, [the] theory of
conversion or misappropriation is difficult to sustain and that under the crime of
estafa with grave abuse of confidence, the presumption is that the thing has
been devoted to a purpose or is different from that for which it was intended
but did not take place in this case.1wphi1 The CA, in sustaining the
questioned resolutions of the Secretary of Justice, ruled that the element of

misappropriation or conversion is wanting. It further ratiocinated that the


demand for the return of the thing delivered in trust and the failure of the
accused to account for it, are circumstantial evidence of misappropriation,
however, the said presumption is rebuttable and if the accused is able to
satisfactorily explain his failure to produce the thing delivered in trust, he may
not be held liable for estafa.1wphi1
It must be remembered that the finding of probable cause was made after
conducting a preliminary investigation. A preliminary investigation constitutes a
realistic judicial appraisal of the merits of a case.13 Its purpose is to determine
whether (a) a crime has been committed; and (b) whether there is a probable
cause to believe that the accused is guilty thereof.14
This Court need not overemphasize that in a preliminary investigation, the
public prosecutor merely determines whether there is probable cause or
sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been
committed, and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be
held for trial. It does not call for the application of rules and standards of proof
that a judgment of conviction requires after trial on the merits. 15 The
complainant need not present at this stage proof beyond reasonable doubt. 16 A
preliminary investigation does not require a full and exhaustive presentation of
the parties' evidence.17 Precisely, there is a trial to allow the reception of
evidence for both parties to substantiate their respective claims. 18
A review of the records would show that the investigating prosecutor was
correct in finding the existence of all the elements of the crime of estafa. Reyes
did not dispute that she received in trust the amount of P23,423,327.50 from
petitioner as proven by the checks and vouchers to be used in purchasing the
parcels of land. Petitioner wrote a demand letter for Reyes to return the same
amount but was not heeded. Hence, the failure of Reyes to deliver the titles or
to return the entrusted money, despite demand and the duty to do so,
constituted prima facieevidence of misappropriation. The words convert and
misappropriate connote the act of using or disposing of another's property as if
it were one's own, or of devoting it to a purpose or use different from that
agreed upon.19To misappropriate for one's own use includes not only
conversion to one's personal advantage, but also every attempt to dispose of
the property of another without right.20 In proving the element of conversion or
misappropriation, a legal presumption of misappropriation arises when the
accused fails to deliver the proceeds of the sale or to return the items to be
sold and fails to give an account of their whereabouts. 21 Thus, the mere

presumption of misappropriation or conversion is enough to conclude that a


probable cause exists for the indictment of Reyes for Estafa. As to whether the
presumption can be rebutted by Reyes is already a matter of defense that can
be best presented or offered during a full-blown trial.
To reiterate, probable cause has been defined as the existence of such facts
and circumstances as would excite the belief in a reasonable mind, acting on
the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was
guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted.22 Probable cause is a
reasonable ground of presumption that a matter is, or may be, well founded on
such a state of facts in the mind of the prosecutor as would lead a person of
ordinary caution and prudence to believe, or entertain an honest or strong
suspicion, that a thing is so.23 The term does not mean "actual or positive
cause" nor does it import absolute certainty.24 It is merely based on
opinion and reasonable belief.25 Thus, a finding of probable cause does
not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure
a conviction.26 It is enough that it is believed that the act or omission
complained of constitutes the offense charged.27
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present Petition is
hereby GRANTED and, accordingly, the Decision and Resolution of the Court
of Appeals, dated September 14, 2007 and December 20, 2007, respectively,
are herebyREVERSED and SET ASIDE. Consequently, the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 149, Makati City, where the Information was filed against private
respondent Josefa "Jing" C. Reyes, is hereby DIRECTED to proceed with her
arraignment.
SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. MTJ-12-1804


July 30, 2012
(Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 09-2179-MTJ)
CITY PROSECUTOR ARMANDO P. ABANADO, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE ABRAHAM A. BA YONA, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in
Cities, Branch 7, Bacolod City,Respondent.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
The case now before this Court sprang from Criminal Case No. 09-03-164 7 4,
entitled People of the Philippines v. Cresencio Palo, Sr.1 On March 24, 2009,
complainant City Prosecutor Armando P. Abanado filed the Information 2in the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Bacolod City, which was eventually raffled to
Branch 7 thereof presided by respondent Judge Abraham A. Bayona.
On April 13, 2009, respondent issued the following order in Criminal Case No.
09-03-16474 in connection with the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the
accused therein:
Pursuant to Section 6, paragraph (a) in relation to paragraph b, Rule 112 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Office of the City Prosecutor of
Bacolod City is hereby ordered to present additional evidence, relevant
records and documents to enable this Court to evaluate and determine the
existence of probable cause, to wit:
1. Copy of the Memorandum of Preliminary Investigation;
2. Resolution of the Investigating Prosecutor on Record, Prosecutor
Dennis S. Jarder Jarder Resolution;
3. Memorandum of the transfer of case assignment from designated
Investigating Prosecutor to the City Prosecutor; and
4. Exhibit to the Court, the copies of all documents submitted by the
complainant and the respondents therein for comparison,
authentication and completeness of the photocopies attached to the
information.

Compliance is required within five (5) days from receipt of this Order.3
On April 29, 2009, the Office of the City Prosecutor submitted a copy of the
Memorandum of Preliminary Investigation and informed respondent that the
documents submitted by the parties for preliminary investigation were already
appended to the complaint, thus, taking care of items 1, 2, and 4 required by
the April 13, 2009 Order.
With respect to item 3 thereof, complainant, in a letter also dated April 29,
2009, explained that there was no memorandum of transfer of the case from
the investigating prosecutor, Assistant City Prosecutor (ACP) Dennis S. Jarder,
to him.4 In his aforementioned letter, complainant discussed that the case was
initially handled by ACP Jarder who found no probable cause against
Cresencio Palo, Sr., accused in Criminal Case No. 09-03-16474. However,
complainant, upon review pursuant to Section 4, Rule 112 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure,5found otherwise; that is, there was probable
cause against Palo. Thus, complainant disapproved ACP Jarders Resolution
and filed the Information in court.6
Respondent was nonetheless dissatisfied with the explanation of the Office of
the City Prosecutor. In an Order dated May 5, 2009, 7 respondent stated that
the Jarder Resolution (dismissing the complaint) was part and parcel of the
official records of the case and, for this reason, must form part of the records
of the preliminary investigation. He further stated that because there was a
conflict between Jarders and complainants resolutions, those documents
were necessary in the evaluation and appreciation of the evidence to establish
probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Palo.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, complainant is hereby
ordered to complete the records of this case by producing in Court this official
and public document (Resolution of the Investigating Prosecutor Dennis S.
Jarder), required by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Court.
Compliance is required within five (5) days from receipt hereof. Fail not under
the pain of Contempt.8
On May 11, 2009, in view of the foregoing order, the Office of the City
Prosecutor again sent a letter9 explaining the impossibility of submitting the
Jarder Resolution to the court. The letter stated that the Jarder Resolution was
no longer part of the records of the case as it was disapproved by complainant
and it attached a letter of Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuo which reads:

This refers to your letter dated April 18, 2008. For your information, all
resolutions prepared by an Investigating Prosecutor after preliminary
investigation shall form part of the record of the case. But if they have been
disapproved by the Provincial/City Prosecutor, the same shall not be released
to the parties and/or their counsels. Thus, only resolutions approved by the
Provincial/City Prosecutor for promulgation and release to the parties shall be
made known to the parties and/or their counsel.10
Respondent did not accept the explanations made by the Office of the City
Prosecutor and insisted instead that the Jarder Resolution should form part of
the records of the case. Thus, in an Order11 dated May 14, 2009, he required
complainant to explain within five days from the receipt thereof why he should
not be cited for contempt under Section 3, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court. 12
Complainant received the aforementioned order on May 15, 2009 and
requested for a ten-day extension to comply with it. 13
In an Order14 dated May 19, 2009, respondent denied the request of a ten-day
extension and set the hearing for the contempt charges on May 26, 2009. He
likewise ordered the Clerk of Court to issue a subpoena duces tecum ad
testificandum to ACP Jarder directing him to testify on the existence of his
resolution dismissing the case against Palo and to Office of the City
Prosecutors Records Officer Myrna Vaegas to bring the entire record of the
preliminary investigation of the Palo case.
Aggrieved, complainant immediately filed a motion for inhibition 15 against
respondent on May 20, 2009 claiming:
4. That Complainant is now in a quandary because despite the fact
that the production of the disapproved resolution is not required under
Circular Resolution No. 12 for purposes of issuance of warrant of
arrest, the Court is very much interested in its production and adding
insult to injury in foisting to cite in contempt the City Prosecutor for its
non-production.
5. That the issuance of said order is capricious and whimsical and
issued with grave abuse of discretion. Because as it appears now, the
presiding judge is very much interested in the outcome of this case,
thereby showing bias and prejudice against the prosecution. 16

Complainant likewise filed a petition for certiorari with a prayer for the issuance
of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to restrain respondent from
proceeding17 with the May 26, 2009 hearing of the contempt proceedings.
Complainants prayer for a TRO was granted in an Order dated May 25, 2009
by Presiding Judge Pepito B. Gellada of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 53,
Bacolod City.
In an Order18 dated June 15, 2009, Judge Gellada granted the petition for
certiorari (Gellada Order) holding that:
When a city or provincial prosecutor reverses the investigating assisting city or
provincial prosecutor, the resolution finding probable cause replaces the
recommendation of the investigating prosecutor recommending the dismissal
of the case. The result would be that the resolution of dismissal no longer
forms an integral part of the records of the case. It is no longer required that
the complaint or entire records of the case during the preliminary investigation
be submitted to and be examined by the judge.
The rationale behind this practice is that the rules do not intend to unduly
burden trial judges by requiring them to go over the complete records of the
cases all the time for the purpose of determining probable cause for the sole
purpose of issuing a warrant of arrest against the accused. "What is required,
rather, is that the judge must have sufficient supporting documents (such as
the complaint, affidavits, counter-affidavits, sworn statements of witnesses or
transcripts of stenographic notes, if any) upon which to make his independent
judgment or, at the very least, upon which to verify the findings of the
prosecutor as to the existence of probable cause. x x x. 19(Emphases supplied.)
The records thereafter make no mention of what happened in Criminal Case
No. 09-03-16474.
On July 10, 2009, complainant executed the present administrative complaint
and the same was received by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on
August 20, 2009.20 Complainant alleged therein that respondent was guilty of
gross ignorance of the law or procedure,21 gross misconduct,22 and violation of
Supreme Court Circular No. 12 dated June 30, 1987. 23 He essentially asserted
that respondent unduly burdened himself by obsessing over the production of
the records of the preliminary investigation, especially the Jarder Resolution.

Respondent, in his Comment with Counter-Complaint for Disbarment of


Prosecutor Abanado,24 essentially reiterated the importance of the Jarder
Resolution in deciding whether to issue a warrant of arrest in Criminal Case
No. 09-03-16474. He stated that the document was "material and relevant in
the proper conduct of preliminary investigation and the neutral, objective and
circumspect appreciation of the Judge of the evidence x x x for a proper and
just determination whether probable cause exist[s] or not for the possible
issuance of a warrant of arrest."25 As for respondents countercharge, he
claimed complainant should be disbarred for (a) filing a malicious and
unfounded administrative complaint; (b) disrespect and disobedience to judicial
authority; (c) violation of the sanctity of public records; (d) infidelity in the
custody of documents; and (e) misconduct and insubordination. 26

Circular No. 12 dated June 30, 1987 for requiring the Office of the City
Prosecutor to submit the Jarder Resolution to the court despite the reversal
thereof.

In a Reply27 dated October 8, 2009, complainant vehemently denied


respondents charges against him and claimed that they were merely meant to
discourage him from pursuing his just and valid administrative complaint.

J. PREPARATION OF THE RESOLUTION

On February 2, 2011, the OCA submitted its report and recommendation. 28 It


noted the June 15, 2009 Gellada Order which held that the resolution of the
city or provincial prosecutor finding probable cause replaces the
recommendation of the investigating prosecutor. In such case, the resolution
recommending the dismissal is superseded, and no longer forms an integral
part of the records of the case and it need not be annexed to the information
filed in court. Thus, the OCA held that complainant cannot be held guilty of
contempt. Nevertheless, because there was no showing that respondent was
motivated by bad faith and settled is the rule that the acts of a judge in his
judicial capacity are not subject to the disciplinary action, it recommended that:

If the investigating prosecutor does not find sufficient basis for the prosecution
of the respondent, he shall prepare the resolution recommending the dismissal
of the complaint.

(a) The administrative complaint against [respondent] be REDOCKETED as a regular administrative case; and,
(b) [Respondent] be REPRIMANDED with STERN WARNING that a
repetition of the same or similar offenses will be dealt with more
severely.29
We adopt the factual findings of the OCA but find reason not to impose the
recommended penalty of reprimand on respondent.
We are tasked to determine whether respondent was administratively liable for
gross ignorance of the law, gross misconduct and violation of Supreme Court

The conduct of a preliminary investigation is primarily an executive


function.30 Thus, the courts must consider the rules of procedure of the
Department of Justice in conducting preliminary investigations whenever the
actions of a public prosecutor is put in question. An examination of the 2008
Revised Manual for Prosecutors of the Department of Justice-National
Prosecution Service31 (DOJ-NPS Manual), therefore, is necessary.
The pertinent provisions of the DOJ-NPS Manual are as follows:

1. When There is Lack of Probable Cause

xxxx
3. Form of the Resolution and Number of Copies
The resolution shall be written in the official language, personally and directly
prepared and signed by the investigating prosecutor. It shall be prepared in as
many copies as there are parties, plus five (5) additional copies.
xxxx
e. Contents of the Body of the Resolution
In general, the body of [the] resolution should contain:
1. a brief summary of the facts of the case;
2. a concise statement of the issues involved;
3. applicable laws and jurisprudence; and

4. the findings, including an enumeration of all the documentary


evidence submitted by the parties and recommendations of the
investigating prosecutor.
All material details that should be found in the information prepared by the
Investigating Prosecutor shall be stated in the resolution.

L. ACTION OF THE CHIEF STATE/REGIONAL STATE/PROVINCIAL OR CITY


PROSECUTOR ON THE RECOMMENDATORY RESOLUTION
The Chief State/Regional State/Provincial or City Prosecutor concerned shall
act on all resolutions within a period of thirty (30) days from receipt thereof,
extendible for another thirty (30) days in cases involving complex issues and/or
heavy workload of the head of office, by either:

xxxx
xxxx
K. TRANSMITTAL OF THE RECOMMENDATORY RESOLUTION AND
INFORMATION TOGETHER WITH THE COMPLETE RECORD OF THE
CASE
The investigating prosecutor shall forward his recommendation and
Information, together with the complete records of the case, to the Chief State/
Regional State/ Provincial/City Prosecutor concerned within five (5) days from
the date of his resolution.
xxxx

3. reversing the recommendation of the investigating prosecutor, in which


case, the Chief State/Regional State/Provincial or City Prosecutor a. may file
the corresponding Information in court (except the Regional State Prosecutor);
or
b. direct any other state prosecutor or assistant prosecutor, as the case may
be, to do so.
In both instances, there is no more need for the head of office concerned to
conduct another preliminary investigation. (Emphases supplied.)

3. Documents to be Attached to the Information


An information that is filed in court shall, as far as practicable, be accompanied
by a copy of the resolution of the investigating prosecutor, the complainants
affidavit, the sworn statements of the prosecutions witnesses, the
respondents counter-affidavit and the sworn statements of his witnesses and
such other evidence as may have been taken into account in arriving at a
determination of the existence of probable cause.

Based on the foregoing, the guidelines for the documentation of a resolution by


an investigating prosecutor, who after conducting preliminary investigation,
finds no probable cause and recommends a dismissal of the criminal
complaint, can be summed as follows:
(1) the investigating prosecutor prepares a resolution recommending
the dismissal and containing the following:

4. Confidentiality of Resolutions

a. summary of the facts of the case;

All resolutions prepared by an investigating prosecutor after preliminary


investigation, whether his recommendation be for the filing or dismissal of the
case, shall be held in strict confidence and shall not be made known to the
parties, their counsels and/or to any unauthorized person until the same shall
have been finally acted upon by the Chief State/Regional State/Provincial/City
Prosecutor or his duly authorized assistant and approved for promulgation and
release to the parties.

b. concise statement of the issues therein; and

xxxx

c. his findings and recommendations.


(2) within five days from the date of his resolution, the investigating
fiscal shall forward his resolution to the provincial, city or chief state
prosecutor, as the case may be, for review;

(3) if the resolution of the investigating prosecutor is reversed by the


provincial, city or chief state prosecutor, the latter may file the
information himself or direct another assistant prosecutor or state
prosecutor to do so;

did not appear to be motivated by bad faith. Indeed, the rules of procedure in
the prosecution office were not clear as to whether or not an investigating
prosecutors resolution of dismissal that had been reversed by the city
prosecutor should still form part of the records.

(4) the resolution of the investigating prosecutor shall be strictly


confidential and may not be released to the parties, their counsels
and/or any other unauthorized person until the same shall have been
finally acted upon by the provincial, city or chief state prosecutor or his
duly authorized assistant and approved for promulgation and release
to the parties; and

Neither did respondents action amount to gross misconduct.1wphi1 Gross


misconduct presupposes evidence of grave irregularity in the performance of
duty.33 In the case at bar, respondents act of requiring complainant to explain
why he should not be cited in contempt for his failure to submit the Jarder
Resolution in court was in accordance with established rules of procedure.
Furthermore, complainant did not abuse his contempt power as he did not
pursue the proceedings in view of the May 29, 2009 and June 15, 2009
Gellada orders.34 Lastly, as previously discussed, respondent issued those
orders in good faith as he honestly believed that they were necessary in the
fair and just issuance of the warrant of arrest in Criminal Case No. 09-0316474.

(5) that the resolution of the investigating prosecutor, the complainant's


affidavit, the sworn statements of the prosecution's witnesses, the
respondent's counter-affidavit and the sworn statements of his
witnesses and such other evidence, as far as practicable, shall be
attached to the information.
We find that there is nothing in the DOJ-NPS Manual requiring the removal of
a resolution by an investigating prosecutor recommending the dismissal of a
criminal complaint after it was reversed by the provincial, city or chief state
prosecutor.
Nonetheless, we also note that attaching such a resolution to an information
filed in court is optional under the aforementioned manual. The DOJ-NPS
Manual states that the resolution of the investigating prosecutor should be
attached to the information only "as far as practicable." Thus, such attachment
is not mandatory or required under the rules.

As far as the disbarment charges against complainant are concerned, under


the Rules of Court, complaints for disbarment against a lawyer are ordinarily
referred to an investigator who shall look into the allegations contained
therein.35 However, in the interest of expediency and convenience, as the
matters necessary for the complete disposition of the counter-complaint are
found in the records of the instant case, we dispose of the same here. We find
no merit in the countercharges. It appears from the records that complainants
non-submission of the Jarder Resolution was motivated by his honest belief
that his action was in accord with the procedures in the prosecution office. It
likewise cannot be said that the filing of the present administrative case
against Judge Bayona was tainted with improper motive or bad faith.

In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that respondent erred in insisting on
the production of the Jarder Resolution when all other pertinent documents
regarding the preliminary investigation have been submitted to his court, and in
going so far as to motu proprio initiating a proceeding for contempt against
complainant.

ACCORDINGLY, the complaint against Judge Abraham A. Bayona of the


Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Bacolod City, Branch 7 is DISMISSED.

However, not every judicial error is tantamount to ignorance of the law and if it
was committed in good faith, the judge need not be subjected to administrative
sanction.32 While complainant admitted that he erred in insisting on the
production of the Jarder Resolution despite the provisions of the DOJ-NPS
Manual, such error cannot be categorized as gross ignorance of the law as he

SO ORDERED.

The counter-complaint against City Prosecutor Armando P. Abanado is


likewise DISMISSED.

HEIRS OF THE LATE NESTOR


TRIA,
Petitioners,

G.R. No. 175887


Present:
CARPIO MORALES, J.,
Chairperson,
BRION,
BERSAMIN,
VILLARAMA, JR., and
SERENO, JJ.

- versus -

ATTY. EPIFANIA OBIAS,


Respondent.

Promulgated:

November 24, 2010


x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules
of Civil Procedure, as amended, seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision [1] dated
August 14, 2006 and Resolution[2] dated December 11, 2006 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 86210. The CA denied the petition for mandamus/certiorari
filed by the petitioners which assailed the Order [3] dated March 24, 2004 of the Office
of the President (OP) dismissing the murder charge against the respondent.
The factual antecedents are as follows:
On May 22, 1998, at around 10:00 oclock in the morning at the Pili Airport in
Camarines Sur, Engr. Nestor Tria, Regional Director of the Department of Public
Works and Highways (DPWH), Region V and concurrently Officer-In-Charge of the
2nd Engineering District of Camarines Sur, was shot by a gunman while waiting to
board his flight to Manila. He was brought to a hospital but died the following day
from the lone gunshot wound on his nape. Subsequently, the incident was investigated
by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
On July 31, 1998, NBI Regional Director Alejandro R. Tenerife, Chairman of Task
Force Tria, recommended to the Provincial Prosecutor of Camarines Sur the
indictment of Roberto Obet Aclan y Gulpo, Juanito Totoy Ona y Masalonga and Atty.
Epifania Fanny Gonzales-Obias, for the murder of Engr. Tria.

On the basis of statements given by twenty-six (26) individuals, autopsy and


ballistic examination reports, and relevant documents gathered, [4] the NBI submitted its
findings, as follows:
Our investigation disclosed that about two weeks before the incident
ACLAN and ONA had been conducting an almost daily stakeout at
the DPWH 2nd Engineering District of Camarines Sur in Sta.
Elena, Iriga City where Regional Director TRIA was holding office
from time to time as District Engineer in concurrent
capacity. Alternately ACLAN and ONA would ask the security guard
on duty if Director TRIA had already arrived and the usual days and
time of his coming to the office. At noontime or early afternoon,
after waiting vainly for TRIAs arrival, the duo would leave, riding
tandem on a red motorcycle. During their surveillance it was ONA
who frequently sat on the couch at the lobby of
the Engineering Building while ACLAN was waiting near their
motorcycle at the parking space. At times ONA would approach
ACLAN to whisper a message and the latter would relay the
message to someone else through a hand-held radio. There were also
some instances when ACLAN would wait at the lobby while ONA
was staying near the parked motorcycle. At one instance an
employee had noticed a gun tucked on the waistline of ACLAN.
Around 8:00 oclock in the morning of May 22, 1998, ACLAN and
ONA were spotted in their usual places at the 2 nd Engineering
District in IrigaCity. ONA was wearing a loose, yellow long sleeved
shirt, maong pants and a pair of sneakers; ACLAN was in a white
and gray striped shirt and a pair of maong pants. Shortly before 9:00
a.m. on that day, THEO RUBEN CANEBA, a DPWH employee and
newly elected Municipal Councilor of Buhi, Camarines Sur,
arrived. He was warmly greeted and congratulated by his former coemployees outside the engineering building. It was at this point
when CANEBA noticed a man about 54 in height, sturdy, with semicurly hair, wearing a white and gray-striped shirt with maong pants
and about 40 years old. The man (later identified through his
photograph as ROBERTO ACLAN) was looking intensely at him
and was shifting position from left to right to get a better view of
him. Obviously, ACLAN was trying to figure out whether CANEBA
was Director TRIA. After about 20 minutes, Administrative Officer
JOSE PECUNDO announced to those who had some documents for
signature of Director TRIA to proceed to Pili Airport where TRIA
would sign them before leaving for Manila. Upon hearing this,
ACLAN and ONA left hurriedly on board a red motorcycle. No
sooner had ACLAN and ONA left that CANEBA cautioned the
guards to be extra alert because he had some sense of foreboding
about that man (referring to ACLAN).

Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on that day, Director TRIA arrived at the
Airport. After signing some documents at the parking lot he
proceeded towards the pre-departure area on the second floor of the
airport building. ONA, who was waiting on the stairway,
immediately followed TRIA as the latter was going up the stairs. As
TRIA was approaching the pre-departure area he was met by Atty.
[E]PIFANIA OBIAS who shook his hands and started conversing
with him. It was at this juncture that a gunshot rang out and TRIA
dropped like a log on the floor, bleeding profusely from a gunshot
wound at the back of his head. As a commotion ensued, ONA was
seen running down the stairway while tucking a gun on his
waistline.Even before ONA could come out of the doorway, ACLAN
was already outside the building, pointing a handgun at everybody
obviously to discourage any attempt of pursuit while swiftly
stepping backward to where their motorcycle was parked. He then
fired shots at an army man who tried to chase ONA. The army man,
who was then unarmed, sought cover behind a parked van. ACLAN
and ONA then boarded a red motorcycle and sped away. Director
TRIA died from a lone gunshot wound on his nape at
the Mother Seton Hospital in Naga City the following day.
Atty. EPIFANIA OBIAS, on the other hand, admitted that she was
with ROBERTO OBET ACLAN in the early morning of May 22,
1998; that at about 7:00 a.m. on that day she went to the residence of
Director TRIA at Liboton, Naga City, had a brief talk with the latter
and left immediately.She also volunteered the information that
ROBERTO ACLAN was not the gunman who had fired the fatal
shot at Director TRIA. She was also the last person seen talking with
Director TRIA when the latter was gunned down. A practicing
lawyer, Atty. OBIAS also engages herself in real estate business on
the side. In 1997 she had brokered a sale of real estate between and
among spouses PRUDENCIO and LORETA JEREMIAS, as
Vendors, and Spouses NESTOR and PURA TRIA, as Vendees, over
a .9165 hectare of land in Balatas, Naga City. It was Atty. OBIAS
who received, for and in behalf of the vendors, the full payment of
P2.8 Million of the sale from the TRIAs with the agreement that
Atty. OBIAS would take care of all legal processes and
documentations until the Deed of Absolute Sale is delivered to the
TRIA family. After the death of TRIA, the surviving spouse and
heirs made several attempts to contact Atty. OBIAS to demand
immediate delivery of the deed of sale, but the latter deliberately
avoided the TRIA family and, despite verbal and written demands,
she failed and refused, as she still fails and refuses, to fulfill her legal
obligation to the TRIA family. At one instance, a representative of
the TRIA family had chanced upon Atty. OBIAS at her residence and
demanded of her to deliver the deed of sale to the TRIA family

immediately. But Atty. OBIAS replied that Director TRIA had


already disposed of the property before his death, a claim that can no
longer be disputed by Director TRIA as his lips had already been
sealed forever, except for the fact that neither the surviving spouse
nor anyone of the heirs had given any consent to the purported
subsequent sale.
During the lifetime of Director TRIA, Atty. OBIAS was one of the
frequent visitors of the TRIA family and had been known to the
family members as a friend and a close associate of Director
TRIA. Yet, she never attended the wake of Director TRIA nor made
any gesture of sympathy or condolence to the TRIA family up to the
present time.[5]
During the preliminary investigation conducted by the Office of the Provincial
Prosecutor, respondent filed her Counter-Affidavit denying that she was in anyway
involved with the killing of Engr. Tria. Respondent admitted that Engr. Tria was a
longtime friend and that she went to his residence at about 7:30 oclock in the morning
of May 22, 1998. Since Engr. Tria had many visitors at that time, they just agreed to see
each other at the airport later. Respondent denied having admitted to NBI Supervising
Agent (SA) Atty. Manuel Eduarte that she was with Aclan then, and neither did she
volunteer the information that Aclan was not the triggerman. Respondent submitted the
sworn statement of Edgar Awa, one of those witnesses interviewed by the NBI, who
declared that Aclan and Ona were at the Iriga City DPWH Office in the morning of May
22, 1998 at 8:00 oclock in the morning. Such is also corroborated by the sworn statement
of another NBI witness, Theo Ruben Caneba, who declared that when he arrived at the
DPWH Iriga office at about 8:30 oclock in the morning of May 22, 1998, he noticed the
presence of Aclan who was supposedly eyeing him intensely, and that after it was
announced that those who have some transactions with Engr. Tria should just proceed to
the airport, Caneba saw Aclan with a companion later identified as Ona, immediately left
the compound in a motorcycle.[6]
Respondent likewise denied that she met Engr. Tria as the latter was approaching the
pre-departure area of the airport and that she supposedly shook his hands. The truth is
that when she and Engr. Tria met at the airport, the latter took her by the arm and led
her to a place where they talked. Respondent asserted that from the totality of evidence
gathered by the NBI, it has not established prima facie the existence of conspiracy as
to implicate her in the death of Engr. Tria.[7]
On July 2, 1999, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Camarines Sur
issued a resolution[8] directing the filing of an information for murder against Aclan
and Ona but dismissing the case for insufficiency of evidence as against herein
respondent, Atty. Epifania Obias.

Petitioners appealed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) assailing the Provincial


Prosecutors order to dismiss the charge against respondent. [9] On January 25, 2000,
then Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas issued a Resolution [10] modifying the July 2,
1999 resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor and directing the latter to include
respondent in the information for murder filed against Aclan and Ona.
The DOJ agreed with the contention of petitioners that there is interlocking
circumstantial evidence sufficient to show that respondent conspired with Aclan and
Ona in the killing of Engr. Tria. It cited the following circumstances: (1) Despite
respondents admission regarding her friendship and close association with Engr. Tria,
her visit at his house early morning of the same day, and her presence at the airport
where she met Engr. Tria and was the person last seen with him, respondent never
lifted a finger to help Engr. Tria when he was gunned down and neither did she
volunteer to help in the investigation of Engr. Trias murder nor visit the grieving
family to give her account of the fatal shooting of Engr. Tria, which behavior negates
her claim of innocence; (2) In the sworn statement of NBI SA Manuel Eduarte, he
declared that respondent admitted to him that she and Aclan were together when she
went to the residence of Engr. Tria at 7:30 in the morning of May 22, 1998 and that
while she later denied such admission and explained that Aclan could not have been
with her as the latter was at the DPWH Regional office at about 8:00 a.m., such does not
render impossible the fact of Aclans presence at the residence of Engr. Tria considering
that the time given was mere approximation by respondent not to mention the possibility
that Aclan could have easily gotten to the DPWH office after coming from the house of
Engr. Tria using the same motorcycle which Aclan used as get-away vehicle at the
airport; (3) SA Eduartes statement cannot be simply disregarded as he had no ill motive
to impute upon respondent the said admission; and (4) The double sale of the property
wherein the Tria spouses already paid P2.8 million to respondent who brokered the sale,
only to sell it to another buyer for P3.3 million, without turning over to the Tria family
the deed of sale and her failure to attend to the registration of the land in the name of the
Tria spouses this strongly establishes the fact that respondent had the strongest motive to
have Engr. Tria murdered by Aclan and Ona who were obviously guns for hire. Also
mentioned was the respondents representation of Aclan as the latters defense lawyer in a
frustrated murder case which was dismissed. Such client-lawyer relationship could have
spawned respondents ascendancy over Aclan.[11]
The DOJ was thus convinced that the sequence of events and respondents
conduct before, during and after the killing of Engr. Tria undeniably points to her
complicity with Aclan and Ona. Moreover, it pointed out that respondents defense
consisted merely of denial which cannot prevail over the positive allegations of
witnesses showing her complicity with the gunmen in the perpetration of the crime.[12]
Respondent along with Aclan and Ona filed a motion for reconsideration of
the DOJs January 25, 2000 resolution.[13] On February 18, 2000, Justice Secretary
Artemio G. Tuquero issued a directive to State Prosecutor Josefino A. Subia who was
the Acting Provincial Prosecutor of Camarines Sur, to defer, until further orders, the

filing of the information for the inclusion of respondent, in order not to render moot
the resolution of the motion for reconsideration of the January 25, 2000 resolution.[14]
On September 17, 2001, then Justice Secretary Hernando B. Perez issued a
resolution denying respondents motion for reconsideration.[15]
In the meantime, the information charging Aclan and Ona has already been
filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pili, Camarines Sur. Upon request
however, the venue was transferred to the RTC Quezon City by resolution of this
Court in A.M. No. 00-3145-RTC.[16]
Sometime in October 2001, the prosecution filed with the RTC Quezon City a
Motion to Admit Amended Information to include respondent as one of the accused for
the murder of Tria.[17]
On October 8, 2001, respondent filed a Notice of Appeal with the DOJ under
the provisions of Administrative Order No. 18, series of 1987. [18] In a letter dated
December 3, 2001 addressed to respondents counsel, the DOJ denied respondents
notice of appeal on the ground that pursuant to Memorandum Circular No. 1266 dated
November 4, 1983, as amended by Memorandum Circular No. 58 dated June 30, 1993,
appeals to the OP where the penalty prescribed for the offense charged is reclusion
perpetua to death, shall be taken by petition for review. [19] Respondent filed a motion
for reconsideration of the denial of her notice of appeal.[20]
It appears that on January 28, 2002, the RTC Quezon City issued an order
admitting the amended information which includes respondent. The latter then filed
with the RTC a Motion for Reconsideration with Prayer for the Suspension of the
Issuance of a Warrant of Arrest dated February 28, 2002, a copy of which was
furnished to the Legal Office of the OP on March 6, 2002.[21]
On February 6, 2002, the DOJ denied respondents motion for reconsideration
stating that the proper procedure is the filing of an appeal or petition for review with the
OP and not before the DOJ. Hence, the case was considered closed and terminated.
[22]
However, the DOJ directed the Provincial Prosecutor to forward the records of the
case to the OP in compliance with the Order dated October 18, 2001 of Deputy
Executive Secretary Jose Tale.[23] It turned out that respondent filed on October 1, 2001 a
notice of appeal before the OP (O.P. Case No. 01-J-118).[24]
On June 27, 2003, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Waldo Q. Flores
adopted the findings of facts and conclusions of law in the appealed Resolutions
dated January 25, 2000 and September 17, 2001 of the DOJ, and affirmed the same.
[25]
Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration on September 17, 2003.
[26]
On December 3, 2003, respondent filed a Supplemental Pleading and Submission of
Newly Discovered Evidence.[27]

In his Order dated March 24, 2004, Presidential Assistant Manuel C. Domingo granted
respondents motion for reconsideration and reversed the DOJ resolutions. It was held
that mere close relationship without any corroborative evidence showing intent to
perpetrate the crime is not enough probable cause. The conclusion that respondent was
the only one interested in the death of Engr. Tria because of the double sale from
which respondent supposedly wanted to get away from her obligation to the Tria
spouses, was based merely on the opinion of SA Eduarte. Also, since Mrs. Pura Tria
admitted she knew of the said transaction, she could very well file a civil case for
collection such that even with the death of Engr. Tria, respondent will not be able to
evade her obligation. As to the presence of both Aclan and respondent at the house of
Engr. Tria early morning before the incident took place, the same was not sufficiently
established, as shown by the affidavit of Felix Calayag. The OP thus concluded there
was no interlocking circumstantial evidence of respondents acts before, during and
after the killing of Engr. Tria that would establish conspiracy among Aclan, Ona and
respondent to commit the crime.Accordingly, the case against respondent was
dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.[28]
[29]

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by the OP in its
Order[30] dated June 10, 2004. Before the CA, petitioners filed a petition for
mandamus/certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
On August 14, 2006, the CA rendered the assailed Decision denying the petition. On
the issue of the alleged grave abuse committed by the OP in modifying the findings of
the DOJ instead of ordering the Secretary of Justice to reopen/review the case in
accordance with Memorandum Circular No. 58, the CA held that it was not mandatory
for the OP to do so. As for the evaluation of factual matters and credence to be
accorded to the testimonies of respondent and her witnesses, the CA declared that
these are not proper grounds in a petition for certiorari which is confined only to the
correction of errors of jurisdiction. Neither will mandamus lie to compel the
performance of a discretionary duty in view of the failure of petitioners to show a clear
and certain right to justify the grant of relief.[31]
Their motion for reconsideration having been denied by the CA, petitioners are now
before us contending that the CA manifestly overlooked relevant facts which, if
properly considered, would justify a different conclusion. They maintain that the CA
decision is contrary to law and established jurisprudence.
Petitioners argue that since the preliminary investigation and review of the resolution
finding probable cause have already been terminated years before respondents appeal
to the OP -- more so with the earlier denial of the said appeal for failing to raise any
new issue not raised before the DOJ -- the alleged new affidavits should have been
referred to the DOJ for reinvestigation. As to the affidavits of Calayag and Jennis
Nidea, said witnesses have not been confronted by the petitioners in violation of the
latters right to due process. Thus, the CA decision affirmed the OPs dismissal of the

case against respondent at the level of the DOJ without referral to the said office and
without consideration of the pendency of the case at RTC of Quezon City, Branch
76. Lacking such authority on appeal to appreciate newly submitted affidavits of
Calayag and Nidea, Presidential Assistant Manuel C. Domingo arrogated unto himself
the judicial task of analyzing the said documents without confrontation of the
witnesses by the other party. Further, the CA overlooked the fact that such affidavits
submitted by respondent as newly discovered evidence was merely a ploy in order for
her appeal to qualify as raising new and material issues which were supposedly not
raised before the DOJ.[32]
Petitioners further argue that the CA should not have affirmed the OPs dismissal of the
murder charge against the respondent pursuant toCrespo v. Mogul[33] that once an
information has been filed in court, any disposition of the case as to its dismissal or the
conviction or acquittal of the accused rests in the sound discretion of the court.
On the procedural issue raised by the petitioners, we hold that the OP did not err in
taking cognizance of the appeal of respondent, and that the CA likewise had
jurisdiction to pass upon the issue of probable cause in a petition challenging the OPs
ruling.

Memorandum Circular No. 58[34] provides:


xxxx
No appeal from or petition for review of
decisions/orders/resolutions of the Secretary of Justice on
preliminary investigations of criminal cases shall be entertained by
the Office of the President, except those involving offenses
punishable by reclusion perpetua to death wherein new and
material issues are raised which were not previously presented
before the Department of Justice and were not ruled upon in the
subject decision/order/resolution, in which case the President may
order the Secretary of Justice to reopen/review the
case, provided, that, the prescription of the offense is not due to lapse
within six (6) months from notice of the questioned
resolution/order/decision, and provided further,that, the appeal or
petition for review is filed within thirty (30) days from such notice.
Henceforth, if an appeal or petition for review does not
clearly fall within the jurisdiction of the Office of the President, as
set forth in the immediately preceding paragraph, it shall be
dismissed outright and no order shall be issued requiring the
payment of the appeal fee, the submission of appeal

brief/memorandum or the elevation of the records to the Office of


the President from the Department of Justice.
If it is not readily apparent from the appeal or petition for
review that the case is within the jurisdiction of the Office of the
President, the appellant/petitioner shall be ordered to prove the
necessary jurisdictional facts, under penalty of outright dismissal of
the appeal or petition, and no order to pay the appeal fee or to submit
appeal brief/memorandum or to elevate the records of the case to the
Office of the President shall be issued unless and until the
jurisdictional requirements shall have been satisfactorily established
by the appellant/petitioner.
x x x x (Emphasis supplied.)
The offense for which respondent was charged is punishable by reclusion perpetua to
death, which is clearly within the jurisdiction of the OP in accordance with
Memorandum Circular No. 58. Respondents appeal was initially dismissed when
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Waldo Q. Flores issued the Resolution dated June
27, 2003 affirming in toto the appealed resolutions of the Secretary of Justice and
adopting the latters findings and conclusions. However, subsequent to her filing of a
motion for reconsideration of the said June 27, 2003 Resolution, respondent filed a
Supplemental Pleading and Submission of Newly Discovered Evidence. The
arguments of respondent in support of her motion for reconsideration were duly
considered by the OP in reexamining the appealed resolutions. As the word may in the
second paragraph of Memorandum Circular No. 58 signifies, it is not mandatory for
the President to order the DOJ to reopen or review respondents case even if it raised
new and material issues allegedly not yet passed upon by the DOJ. Hence, the OP
acted well within its authority in reexamining the merits of respondents appeal in
resolving the motion for reconsideration.
In arguing that the CA gravely abused its discretion when it affirmed the OPs dismissal
of the murder charge against respondent, petitioner invoked our ruling in Crespo v.
Mogul that any disposition of the case rests on the sound discretion of the court once
an information has been filed with it.
A refinement of petitioners understanding of the Crespo ruling is in
order. In Crespo, we ruled that after the information has already been filed in court, the
courts permission must be secured should the fiscal find it proper that reinvestigation
be made. Thereafter, the court shall consider and act upon the findings and
recommendations of the fiscal.
In Ledesma v. Court of Appeals,[35] we clarified that the justice secretary is not
precluded from exercising his power of review over the investigating prosecutor even

after the information has already been filed in court. However, the justice secretarys
subsequent resolution withdrawing the information or dismissing the case does not
cause the court to lose jurisdiction over the case. In fact, the court is duty-bound to
exercise judicial discretion and its own independent judgment in assessing the merits
of the resulting motion to dismiss filed by the prosecution, to wit:
When confronted with a motion to withdraw an information
on the ground of lack of probable cause based on a resolution of the
secretary of justice, the bounded duty of the trial court is to make an
independent assessment of the merits of such motion. Having
acquired jurisdiction over the case, the trial court is not bound by
such resolution but is required to evaluate it before proceeding
further with the trial. While the secretarys ruling is persuasive, it is
not binding on courts. A trial court, however, commits reversible
error or even grave abuse of discretion if it refuses/neglects to
evaluate such recommendation and simply insists on proceeding
with the trial on the mere pretext of having already acquired
jurisdiction over the criminal action. (Underscoring supplied.)
Further, it is well within the courts sound discretion to suspend arraignment to await
the result of the justice secretarys review of the correctness of the filing of the criminal
information.[36] There are exceptional cases, such as in Dimatulac v. Villon[37] wherein
we have suggested that it would have been wiser for the court to await the justice
secretarys resolution before proceeding with the case to avert a miscarriage of
justice. Evidently however, this is not a hard and fast rule, for the court has complete
control over the case before it.
Petitioners argument that the non-referral by the OP to the DOJ of the appeal or motion
for reconsideration filed by the respondent had deprived them of the opportunity to
confront and cross-examine the witnesses on those affidavits belatedly submitted by
the respondent is likewise untenable. Under the procedure for preliminary
investigation provided in Section 3, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, as amended,[38] in case the investigating prosecutor conducts a hearing
where there are facts and issues to be clarified from a party or witness, [t]he parties can
be present at the hearing but without the right to examine or cross-examine. They may,
however, submit to the investigating officer questions which may be asked to the party
or witness concerned.[39] Hence, the non-referral by the OP to the DOJ of the motion
for reconsideration of respondent, in the exercise of its discretion, did not violate
petitioners right to due process.
In resolving the issue of whether the CA gravely abused its discretion in affirming the
OPs reversal of the ruling of the Secretary of Justice, it is necessary to determine
whether probable cause exists to charge the respondent for conspiracy in the murder of
Engr. Tria.

A prosecutor, by the nature of his office, is under no compulsion to file a particular


criminal information where he is not convinced that he has evidence to prop up its
averments, or that the evidence at hand points to a different conclusion. The decision
whether or not to dismiss the criminal complaint against respondent is necessarily
dependent on the sound discretion of the investigating prosecutor and ultimately, that
of the Secretary of Justice.[40]
The findings of the prosecutor with respect to the existence or non-existence
of probable cause is subject to the power of review by the DOJ. Indeed, the Secretary
of Justice may reverse or modify the resolution of the prosecutor, after which he shall
direct the prosecutor concerned either to file the corresponding information without
conducting another preliminary investigation, or to dismiss or move for dismissal of
the complaint or information with notice to the parties. [41] Ordinarily, the determination
of probable cause is not lodged with this Court. Its duty in an appropriate case is
confined to the issue of whether the executive or judicial determination, as the case
may be, of probable cause was done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with abuse
of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction.
However, this Court may ultimately resolve the existence or non-existence of
probable cause by examining the records of the preliminary investigation when
necessary for the orderly administration of justice, [42] or to avoid oppression or
multiplicity of actions.[43]
In reversing the DOJs finding of probable cause, the OP found merit in the
argument of the respondent that the DOJs finding that she was with Aclan when she
went to the residence of Engr. Tria early in the morning of May 22, 1998, was not
sufficiently established. The OP gave more weight to the affidavit [44] of Calayag
(attached to respondents supplemental pleading on motion for reconsideration) -stating that Aclan was not around when they and respondent, among other visitors,
were at Engr. Trias house at that time -- than that account given by SA Eduarte which
was uncorroborated. As to the double sale allegedly committed by the respondent from
which the latters strong motive to liquidate Engr. Tria was inferred, the OP found this
as a mere expression of opinion by the investigators considering that Engr. Trias
widow, Mrs. Pura Tria, categorically admitted her knowledge of the said
transaction. Neither was the OP persuaded by the NBIs kiss of death theory since it is
but a customary way of greeting a friend to shake hands and hence it cannot imply that
respondent utilized this as a signal or identification for the gunman to shoot Engr.
Tria. Respondents alleged indifference immediately after Engr. Tria was gunned down
while conversing with her, was also negated by the affidavit of an employee of
Philippine Air Lines based at the Pili Airport, stating that right after the incident took
place he saw respondent in the radio room in shock and was being given water by
another person.

Considering the totality of evidence, the OP was convinced there was nothing
suspicious or abnormal in respondents behavior before, during and after the fatal
shooting of Engr. Tria as to engender a well-founded belief of her complicity with the
killing of Engr. Tria, thus:
The act of Obias in failing to help the deceased when the
latter was shot should not be taken against her. In a tragic moment
such as the incident, it is safe to assume that one could be overtaken
by shock, grief or fear especially if the one involved is an
acquaintance or a friend, leaving the former unable to act or think
properly. Obias could have been overtaken by shock or grief making
her body unable to function or think properly.
Moreover, the act of Obias in failing to contact or to visit the
family of the deceased during the wake of the latter should not be
taken against her. With rumors circulating that she is a possible
primary suspect over the death of Engr. Tria, and to avoid any
unnecessary confrontation with the family of the latter, whose
emotions could be uncontrollable or animated by anger or revenge,
Obias act in keeping her silence and distance is permissive.
The behavior of Obias before, during and after the incident
should not be taken against her. It is worthy to note that Obias was
confronted with extraordinary situations or circumstances wherein a
definite or common behavior could not be easily formulated or
determined. Ones behavior or act during said extraordinary
situations should not prejudice the actor if the latter failed to act or
behave in such a manner acceptable to all or which, upon reflection
afterwards, could be deemed the more appropriate, common or
acceptable reaction.
Obias actions could be presumed common or acceptable
considering the attendant circumstances surrounding the same, and
they do not evince or show any malice or intent whatsoever.[45]
The relevant portion of SA Eduartes affidavit reads:
3. That our first meeting was on or about 10:00 AM of May
25, 1998 at our office. She was accompanied by a certain RODEL
who was introduced as her Office Assistant. On said meeting she
verbally admitted the fact that she was the last person conversing
with Dir. Tria when shot at the airport on or about 10:20 AM of May
22, 1998; that the shooting took place even before her first step after
their short talk, but she could not identify the assailant/s because she
had blacked out or became senseless because of fear;

4. That our second meeting was on or about 11:20


AM of May 28, 1998 at our office and she was alone then. That she
stood pat on her claim that she was overwhelmed with fear and
became oblivious of her surroundings after the gunshot that hit Dir
TRIA. When asked about the veracity of the information that she
was seen at TRIAs residence at Molave St., Liboton, Naga City,
Atty. Obias admitted that she was indeed at the residence of Director
TRIA at around 7:30 AM of May 22, 1998, claiming her visit as
official matter, she being the lawyer of the victim in some cases;
5. That finally we met on or about 5:00 PM of June 1, 1998
at the restaurant of Villa Caceres Hotel, Magsaysay Avenue, Naga
City, upon arrangement made by our former Assistant Regional
Director FRANCISCO FRANK OBIAS of NBI (now retired) and
father-in-law of Atty. FANNY OBIAS; That said meeting
materialized when on the morning of the said date, Atty. FRANK
OBIAS visited me at the office asking why her daughter-in-law
FANNY was being implicated in the case of TRIA. Verbally, he
said, FANNY had admitted to him that our suspect ROBERTO
OBET ACLAN was with her at the residence of TRIA at
about 7:30 AM on 22 May 1998, but he (Aclan) was not the
triggerman. During this meeting, ATTY. FRANK OBIAS was also
around. Atty. FANNY OBIAS said she was worried because two (2)
men who introduced themselves as NBI Agents visited her mother at
Godofredo Reyes, Sr., (GRS) Ragay, Camarines Sur, telling the latter
that she, (FANNY) was being tagged as the finger (identifier of the
victim to the assailant) in the case of TRIA. This matter causes
anxiety to her mother, she said. On said meeting, she admitted
OBET ACLAN was with her at the residence of TRIA on or about
7:30 AM on May 22, 1998, and further, that OBET ACLAN was
actually at the Pili Airport on that morning but insisted that
ROBERTO OBET ACLAN was not the triggerman; x x x.
[46]
(Emphasis supplied.)
In its Comment filed before the CA, the Solicitor General argued that the
alleged interlocking circumstantial evidence is pure speculation. To render even a
preliminary finding of culpability based thereon does not sit well with the cherished
right to be presumed innocent under Section 14 (2), Article III of the 1987
Constitution. Moreover, the case for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merit
and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of evidence for the defense.
[47]

Petitioners, however, maintain that the records are replete with abundant
proof of respondents complicity in the murder of Engr. Tria. They cite the following
circumstances showing the existence of probable cause against the respondent: (1) In a

radio interview in Naga City sometime in August 1998, respondent admitted that Aclan
is her relative and that she is close to the family of Ona; (2) Respondent was present at
the residence of Engr. Tria in the morning of May 22, 1998 between 7:00 to 7:30 a.m.
with passengers in her vehicle waiting outside, and when later she was invited by the
NBI as possible witness considering that she was the last person seen talking to Engr.
Tria before the latter was gunned down at the airport, respondent admitted to SA
Eduarte that Aclan was with her that morning at the residence of Engr. Tria; (3) The
pre-arranged signal provided by respondent was in the form of a handshake while Ona
was at the stairway observing the two, and thereupon Ona waited for the right moment
to shoot Engr. Tria from behind; (4) Respondent despite having claimed to be a friend
of the Tria family, just left the scene of the crime without asking for help to render
assistance to her fallen friend; instead, she just boarded the plane as if no astounding
event took place before her very eyes which snuffed the life of her longtime clientfriend; and (5) In a conduct unbecoming of Filipinos, respondent never bothered to see
the grieving family of Engr. Tria at anytime during the wake, burial or thereafter, and
neither did she give them any account of what she saw during the shooting incident,
which does not constitute normal behavior.
Probable cause is defined as the existence of such facts and circumstances as
would excite the belief in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of
the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was
prosecuted.[48] It is a reasonable ground of presumption that a matter is, or may be, wellfounded, such a state of facts in the mind of the prosecutor as would lead a person of
ordinary caution and prudence to believe, or entertain an honest or strong suspicion, that
a thing is so. The term does not mean actual and positive cause nor does it import
absolute certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief.[49] A finding of
probable cause merely binds over the suspect to stand trial; it is not a pronouncement of
guilt.[50]
On the other hand, conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an
agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. [51] Direct
proof of previous agreement to commit a crime is not necessary. Conspiracy may be
shown through circumstantial evidence, deduced from the mode and manner in which
the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused themselves when
such lead to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and community of interest. [52]
We reverse the OPs ruling that the totality of evidence failed to establish
a prima facie case against the respondent as a conspirator in the killing of Engr. Tria.
To begin with, whether or not respondent actually conspired with Aclan and
Ona need not be fully resolved during the preliminary investigation. The absence or
presence of conspiracy is factual in nature and involves evidentiary matters. The same
is better left ventilated before the trial court during trial, where the parties can adduce
evidence to prove or disprove its presence.[53]

Preliminary investigation is executive in character. It does not contemplate a


judicial function. It is essentially an inquisitorial proceeding, and often, the only means
of ascertaining who may be reasonably charged with a crime.[54] Prosecutors control
and direct the prosecution of criminal offenses, including the conduct of preliminary
investigation, subject to review by the Secretary of Justice. The duty of the Court in
appropriate cases is merely to determine whether the executive determination was
done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Resolutions
of the Secretary of Justice are not subject to review unless made with grave
abuse. [55]
After a careful evaluation of the entire evidence on record, we find no such grave
abuse when the Secretary of Justice found probable cause to charge the respondent
with murder in conspiracy with Aclan and Ona. The following facts and circumstances
established during preliminary investigation were sufficient basis to incite reasonable
belief in respondents guilt: (a) Motive - respondent had credible reason to have Engr.
Tria killed because of the impending criminal prosecution for estafa from her double
sale of his lot prior to his death, judging from the strong interest of Engr. Trias family
to run after said property and/or proceeds of the second sale to a third
party; (b) Access -respondent was close to Engr. Trias family and familiar with his
work schedule, daily routine and other transactions which could facilitate in the
commission of the crime eventually carried out by a hired gunmen, one of whom
(Aclan) she and her father categorically admitted being in her company while she
visited Engr. Tria hours before the latter was fatally shot at the airport; (c) Suspicious
Behavior --respondent while declaring such close personal relationship with Engr. Tria
and even his family, failed to give any satisfactory explanation why she reacted
indifferently to the violent killing of her friend while they conversed and shook hands
at the airport. Indeed, a relative or a friend would not just stand by and walk away
from the place as if nothing happened, as what she did, nor refuse to volunteer
information that would help the authorities investigating the crime, considering that
she is a vital eyewitness. Not even a call for help to the people to bring her friend
quickly to the hospital. She would not even dare go near Engr. Trias body to check if
the latter was still alive.
All the foregoing circumstances, in our mind, and from the point of view of
an ordinary person, lead to a reasonable inference of respondents probable
participation in the well-planned assassination of Engr. Tria. We therefore hold that the
OP in reversing the DOJ Secretarys ruling, and the CA in affirming the same, both
committed grave abuse of discretion. Clearly, the OP and CA arbitrarily disregarded
facts on record which established probable cause against the respondent.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is


hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated August 14, 2006 and Resolution
dated December 11, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 86210
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The January 25, 2000 Resolution of then Justice
Secretary Serafin Cuevas modifying the July 2, 1999 resolution of the Provincial
Prosecutor of Camarines Sur and directing the latter to include respondent in the
information for murder filed against Aclan and Ona is hereby REINSTATED and
UPHELD.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. MTJ-07-1666


September 5, 2012
(Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 05-1761-MTJ)
GERLIE M. UY and MA. CONSOLACION T. BASCUG, Complainants,
vs.
JUDGE ERWIN B. JAVELLANA, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT, LA
CASTELLANA, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL,Respondent.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
This administrative case arose from a verified complaint1 for "gross ignorance
of the law and procedures, gross incompetence, neglect of duty, conduct
improper and unbecoming of a judge, grave misconduct and others," filed by
Public Attorneys Gerlie2 M. Uy (Uy) and Ma. Consolacion T. Bascug (Bascug)
of the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), La Carlotta District, against Presiding
Judge Erwin3 B. Javellana (Javellana) of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), La
Castellana, Negros Occidental.
Public Attorneys Uy and Bascug alleged the following in their complaint:
First, Judge Javellana was grossly ignorant of the Revised Rule on Summary
Procedure. Public Attorneys Uy and Bascug cited several occasions as
examples: (a) In Crim. Case No. 04-097, entitled People v. Cornelio, for
Malicious Mischief, Judge Javellana issued a warrant of arrest after the filing of
said case despite Section 16 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure; (b)
In Crim. Case No. 04-075, entitled People v. Celeste, et al., for Trespass to
Dwelling, Judge Javellana did not grant the motion to dismiss for noncompliance with the Lupon requirement under Sections 18 and 19(a) of the
Revised Rule on Summary Procedure, insisting that said motion was a
prohibited pleading; (c) Also in People v. Celeste, et al., Judge Javellana
refused to dismiss outright the complaint even when the same was patently
without basis or merit, as the affidavits of therein complainant and her
witnesses were all hearsay evidence; and (d) In Crim. Case No. 02-056,
entitled People v. Lopez, et al., for Malicious Mischief, Judge Javellana did not
apply the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure and, instead, conducted a
preliminary examination and preliminary investigation in accordance with the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, then set the case for arraignment and
pre-trial, despite confirming that therein complainant and her witnesses had no

personal knowledge of the material facts alleged in their affidavits, which


should have been a ground for dismissal of said case.Second, Judge
Javellana gave the impression that he was a co-agent in a surety company
with a certain Leilani "Lani" Manunag (Manunag). Judge Javellana had
conveyed to the public on several occasions that Manunag was in a special
position to influence him in granting provisional liberty to the accused. 4In
different cases, Judge Javellana (a) instructed the wife of an accused to file
the Motion to Reduce Bond prepared by the PAO with Manunag, leading the
wife to believe that Manunag was a court personnel, hence, said Motion was
never filed with the MTC and, instead of the cash bond the accused intended
to post, the accused was released on a surety bond issued by Manunags
company for which the accused still had to pay premium; 5 (b) reduced the bail
from P 40,000.00 to P 30,000.00, consistent with the reduced bail amount
Manunag instructed the representative of the accused to seek, not
to P 10,000.00 as prayed for by the PAO in the Motion for Reduction of Bail or
to P 20,000.00 as recommended by the Chief of Police;6 (c) did not warn
Manunag against getting involved in court processes as she was engaged in
surety insurance and did not even question a counter-affidavit of an accused
prepared by "Lani;"7 (d) instructed the relatives of the accused to go to
Manunag who knew how to "process" an affidavit of desistance, and when said
relatives did approach Manunag, the latter charged them fees; 8 (e) did not set
the Motion to Reduce Bail for hearing but granted the same because it was
filed by "the intimate friend of judge who is an agent of surety" and took
cognizance of the amount of premium for the surety bond in determining the
amount of bail;9 (f) denied the Motion to Extend Time to File Counter-Affidavit
for violation of the three-day notice rule, but granted the Motion to Reduce Bail
facilitated by Manunag even when it was filed in violation of the same
rule;10 and (g) issued warrants of arrest under questionable circumstances,
more particularly described in the immediately succeeding paragraph, in which
cases, the bail bonds of the accused were facilitated by Manunag.
Third, Judge Javellana violated Section 6(b), Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure and issued warrants of arrest without propounding
searching questions to the complainants and their witnesses to determine the
necessity of placing the accused under immediate custody. As a result, Judge
Javellana issued warrants of arrest even when the accused had already
voluntarily surrendered or when a warrantless arrest had been effected.
Fourth, Judge Javellana failed to observe the constitutional rights of the
accused as stated in Section 12(1), Article III of the Constitution. Judge

Javellana set Crim. Case No. 03-097, entitled People v. Bautista, 11 for
preliminary investigation even when the accused had no counsel, and
proceeded with said investigation without informing the accused of his rights to
remain silent and to have a counsel.
Fifth, Judge Javellana was habitually tardy. The subpoena in Civil Case No.
05-001, entitled Villanueva v. Regalado,12 only stated that the hearing would be
"in the morning," without indicating the time. Judge Javellana failed to arrive for
the pre-trial of the case set in the morning of April 14, 2005. Judge Javellana
was still a no-show when the pre-trial was reset in the morning of April 15,
2005 and May 3, 2005. Finally, anticipating Judge Javellanas tardiness, the
pre-trial was rescheduled at 1:30 in the afternoon of another date.
Sixth, Judge Javellana whimsically or inconsistently implemented laws and
rules depending on stature of the parties, persons accompanying the parties,
lawyers of the parties, and his personal relations with the parties/lawyers.
Judge Javellana, in several cases,13 denied or refused to receive Motions for
Extension of Time to File Counter-Affidavits signed only by the accused, yet in
other cases,14 granted such motions. In another case,15Judge Javellana denied
the Motion to Extend Time to File Counter-Affidavit for violation of the threeday notice rule, but granted the Motion to Reduce Bail, which was in violation
of the same rule. Judge Javellanas inconsistent and irregular ruling could be
due to the fact that the former motion was filed by Public Attorney Bascug, with
whom Judge Javellana had an axe to grind, while the latter motion was
facilitated by Manunag.
Seventh, Judge Javellana also adopted the mantra that the "litigants are made
for the courts" instead of "courts for the litigants." In Crim. Case No. 03-104,
entitled People v. Fermin, the accused, assisted by Public Attorney Uy,
pleaded guilty to the crime of attempted homicide. The accused filed a
Petition/Application for Probation, prepared by the PAO but signed only by the
accused. Judge Javellana refused to accept said Petition/Application and
required the father of the accused to return the Petition/Application all the way
from the MTC in La Castellana to the PAO in La Carlota, despite the great
distance between these two cities. The PAO already adopted the practice of
preparing the motions for extension of time to file counter-affidavit, motions for
release of minor, or applications for probation, but letting the accused
themselves or their parents (in case the accused were minors) sign the
motions/applications, thus, enabling the PAO to serve as many clients as
possible despite the lack of lawyers. Such practice is not prohibited

considering that under Rule 138, Section 34 of the Rules of Court, a party may
conduct his litigation in a municipal court "in person, with an aid of an agent or
friend appointed by him for the purpose or with aid of an attorney." 16
Eighth, Judge Javellana did not observe the proper procedure in airing his
complaints against public attorneys. Judge Javellana rebuked the public
attorneys in the Orders he issued. In one such Order,17 Judge Javellana
misleadingly stated that Public Attorney Uy "has already expressed her desire
not to attend todays hearing," when Public Attorney Uy actually waived her
personal appearance at said hearing as she had to attend the hearing of a
criminal case at the MTC of Pontevedra. In another Order,18 Judge Javellana
reported, prior to confirmation, that the PAO lawyer refused to prepare the
motion for extension of time to file counter-affidavit, thus, prompting the
accused to hire a special counsel. Additionally, Judge Javellana improperly
filed his complaints against the public attorneys appearing before his court with
the Department of Justice or the District Public Attorney (DPA) of Bacolod City,
instead of the appropriate authorities, namely, the DPA of La Carlota City or the
PAO Regional Director. Moreover, Judge Javellana had required Public
Attorney Bascug to explain why she allowed the accused in Crim. Case No.
03-090, entitled People v. Earnshaw, to sign the Motion for Extension of Time
to File Counter-Affidavits, even when she was the one who prepared said
Motion. Judge Javellana did not verify first whether it was indeed Public
Attorney Bascug who prepared the Motion in question, thus, violating her right
to due process. Also, Judge Javellana was already encroaching upon the
domain of the PAO. It is the concern of the PAO and not the court "as to how
the Public Attorneys Office will be managed, specifically, what policies to use
in the acceptance of cases brought to its Office, how one could avail of its legal
services, at what point in time one is considered a client of said Office x x x ." 19
Lastly, to support their complaint, Public Attorneys Uy and Bascug attached a
hand-written note20 relating the observations of an anonymous member of
Judge Javellanas staff, viz:
Page One
1. Honorable Judge reports to duty at past 11:00 A.M. and hurriedly
conducts preliminary investigations or preliminary examinations after
making party litigants wait from 8:00 A.M. until 11:00 A.M. There had
been occasions when litigants became impatient for waiting for several

hours for the Judges arrival and would leave the court. Judge then
would forego the examination.

Bascug was ordered to explain. Other motions had been denied for
not meeting the 3-day rule but others were granted.

2. Judge spends more time conversing in cafeterias than stay in the


court. Litigants who are in a hurry to go home would bring the affidavits
to the cafeteria for Judges signature.

6. Motion to Reduce Bail received by court on January 7, 2004 was


not set for hearing but was ordered granted because it was filed by the
intimate friend of the judge who is an agent of Surety. This did not
meet the 3-day rule CC 03-108 Pp. vs. Lowell Panaguiton for
"Homicide."

3. Most of the time, in Court, in front of litigants as audience and even


while solemnizing civil marriage Judge would keep repeating these
remarks:
I am a criminal lawyer.
I did not come from the DAR or the COMELEC.

Page Three
1. Criminal Case No. 03-102- Julius Villanueva "Frustrated
Homicide" Urgent Motion to Stay Transfer to Provincial Jail Filed 1/21/2004 was not heard but order was issued January
21, 2004 also.

I am an intelligent Judge.
I am the counsel of the famous Gargar-Lumangyao and
Spider
Hunter cases and I have caused the execution of Col. Torres.
I am not under the Mayor or the Chief of Police.
and other remarks as if he is the only intelligent, credible and
qualified judge in the whole world.
4. Judge tolerates the negligence of duty of his court utility worker.
Said utility worker never reports to open or close the court; he never
cleans the courtroom; most of the time he stays in his Karaoke bar
which is some few meters away from the MTC of La Castellana. As a
matter of fact the MTC of La Castellana is the dirtiest of all the
courtrooms in the whole province.
Page Two
5. Motion for Extension of Time to File Counter Affidavit in CC 03-090Pp. vs. Efraim Earnshaw made by Atty. Bascug was denied by Judge
on the ground that it was the accused who signed the Motion and Atty.

2. Criminal Case No. 03-090- Efraim Earnshaw "Less Serious


Physical Injuries" January 26, 2004 - Scheduled for
arraignment but upon order of Judge on affidavit of Desistance
of Melanie Pabon and Motion to Dismiss was filed and case
dismissed.
3. Deonaldo Lopez Case - Motion for Extension of Time to File
Counter Affidavit dated 10-3-02 was signed by accused
namely Deonaldo Lopez, Jojo Balansag, Junnel Jorge, and
Bernie Bello - granted by judge.21
Based on the foregoing, Public Attorneys Uy and Bascug prayed that Judge
Javellana be removed from the MTC of La Castellana.
In his Comment22 on the complaint against him, Judge Javellana discounted
the allegations of Public Attorneys Uy and Bascug as "baseless, untruthful,
intrigues, malicious and a harassment tending to intimidate him," and
countered as follows:
First, Judge Javellana asserted that he was not grossly ignorant of the rules of
procedure and explained his actions in particular cases: (a) In People v.
Cornelio, Judge Javellana issued a warrant of arrest for the two accused
charged with Malicious Mischief in the exercise of his judicial discretion, and
the necessity of holding the accused in detention became evident when it was

revealed during trial that the same accused were wanted for Attempted
Homicide in Crim. Case No. 04-096; (b) In People v. Celeste, et al., Judge
Javellana insisted that referral of the dispute (involving an alleged Trespass to
Dwelling) to the Lupong Tagapamayapa was not a jurisdictional requirement
and the Motion to Dismiss on said ground was a prohibited pleading under the
Revised Rule on Summary Procedure; (c) Still in People v. Celeste, et al.,
Judge Javellana refused to dismiss outright the complaint as prayed for by
Public Attorney Uy as the Judge had to accord due process to the complainant
in said case; and (d) In People v. Lopez, et al. another case for Malicious
Mischief, Judge Javellana reiterated that a motion to dismiss is a prohibited
pleading under the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure and added that he
could not dismiss the case outright since the prosecution has not yet fully
presented its evidence.
Second, Judge Javellana denied acting as the co-agent of Manunag. Manunag
was an Authorized Surety Bond Agent of Commonwealth Insurance and Surety
Bond Company, a bonding company duly accredited by the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA). The relationship between Judge Javellana and Manunag
was "purely on official business." That Manunag influenced Judge Javellana in
fixing the amount of bail in several cases was a malicious and deliberate lie,
based on mere speculation and suspicion. Judge Javellana had consistently
granted the reduction of the amount of bail to only 75%, and not as low as
25%, of the amount stated in Department Circular No. 89 dated August 29,
2000 of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Judge Javellana even chided Public
Attorneys Uy and Bascug that as officers of the court, said public attorneys
were duty bound not to demand outrageous reduction of bail. In addition,
Judge Javellana could not warn Manunag to stay away from "the processes
(sic) premises in the Court" because "everybody are allowed to attend Court
proceedings unless otherwise the attendance of the public is
prohibited."23 Judge Javellana likewise stated that he could not interfere with
the processing of surety insurance and bond for such was a private matter
between the insurance and bonding company and its authorized agents.
Referring to case records, Judge Javellana pointed out that he only granted
the motions to reduce bail that complied with the three-day notice rule.
Third, Judge Javellana claimed to have conducted preliminary examination,
asking the complainants and their witnesses searching questions, before
issuing warrants of arrest. According to Judge Javellana, he would sign the
official form of the warrant of arrest right after the preliminary examination. In
some cases, Judge Javellana was not aware that the accused had already

voluntarily surrendered or was already taken into custody by virtue of a


warrantless arrest because police officers did not timely inform the court of
such fact.
Fourth, Judge Javellana did not violate the constitutional rights of the accused
in People v. Bautista. Judge Javellana argued that while a judge can ask
clarificatory questions during the preliminary investigation, a preliminary
investigation is mandatory only when the law imposes the penalty of
imprisonment of at least four years, two months, and one day. Judge Javellana
further averred that he always advised litigants to secure the services of a
counsel or that of a public attorney from the PAO. However, even when the
public attorney failed or refused to appear before the court, Judge Javellana
still proceeded with his clarificatory questions since there was yet no full blown
trial for which the accused already needed the services of a competent lawyer.
Fifth, Judge Javellana explained his failure to arrive for the pre-trial in
Villanueva v. Regalado scheduled on April 14, 2005. Judge Javellana averred
that he had been suffering from diabetes, as evinced by his medical records
from the Supreme Court Health and Welfare Plan, and on said date, his blood
sugar rose to 300, which caused him to be lethargic, weak, and drowsy.
Sixth, Judge Javellana repudiated the allegation that he applied the law and
ruled whimsically and inconsistently. Judge Javellana asserted that he "applied
the law and the rules according to what he believes is fair, just and equitable in
the exercise of his judicial discretion."24 Judge Javellana never favored
Manunag and in all criminal cases involving homicide, he had granted the
reduction of bail toP 30,000.00 (75% of the recommended bail of P 40,000.00).
Seventh, Judge Javellana admitted not accepting petitions, applications, and
motions prepared by the PAO but signed only by the accused, asseverating
that public attorneys should affix their signatures and state their Roll of
Attorneys number in every pleading they file in court. Judge Javellana asked
that "if all courts admits (sic) any pleading filed by any litigant then what will
happen to the practice of law?"25
Eighth, Judge Javellana emphasized that government lawyers, such as Public
Attorneys Uy and Bascug, are paid with peoples money, so they should be
sincere and dedicated to their work and, whenever possible, go the extra mile
to serve poor litigants. Thus, Judge Javellana reported Public Attorneys Uy

and Bascug to higher PAO officials to guide said public attorneys and not to
interfere with the performance of their functions.

suffering from a "Losing Litigants Syndrome" and "Prosecution Complex," and


was influencing Public Attorney Uy, a neophyte lawyer.

And ninth, Judge Javellana identified the member of his staff who wrote the
note containing more allegations against him as Mr. Ray D. Pineda (Pineda),
Process Server. Judge Javellana described Pineda as "very abnormal,
eccentric and queer in his relationship with his fellow staff as shown by his
quarrelsome attitude and fond of inciting litigants to criticize the Clerk of Court
and other personnel and most of all his loyalty to the Official of the Municipality
rather than to this Court x x x."26 Judge Javellana clarified that he often
mentioned the Gargar-Lumangyao Kidnapping with Double Murder Case and
the Spider Hunters Multiple Murder and Multiple Frustrated Murder Case not to
boast but to relay the impression that he meant business as Presiding Judge.
These cases were dubbed as the "Case of the Century" by then Executive
Judge Bernardo Ponferrada of the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City (who
later became Deputy Court Administrator) because the same involved big time
personalities. Judge Javellana mentioned the said cases even when
solemnizing marriages because he would then be reading the Holy Scriptures
and he had to highlight that he survived the trials and threats to his life
because of the Holy Bible. Judge Javellana also did not have a Court Aide who
owned a Karaoke Bar whose negligence the judge was tolerating. Pineda was
just "jealous" because he was not designated by Judge Javellana as Acting
Docket Clerk in lieu of Mr. Vee Caballero who was already on terminal leave
prior to retirement. Judge Javellana further narrated that he had reprimanded
Pineda several times, even in open court. In one of these instances, it was
because Pineda submitted a falsified information sheet to the Supreme Court
Personnel Division, stating therein that he had never been charged with a
criminal offense, when in truth, he was previously charged with "Physical
Injury." Judge Javellana advised Pineda to rectify the latters records by
executing an affidavit to be submitted to the Supreme Court Personnel
Division, but Pineda did not heed the same.

Consequently, Judge Javellana sought the dismissal of the instant complaint


against him.

In the end, Judge Javellana stressed that the charges against him were
baseless and malicious; and the acts being complained of involved judicial
discretion and, thus, judicial in nature and not the proper subject of an
administrative complaint. Judge Javellana hinted about a conspiracy between
the Municipal Mayor, on one hand, and Public Attorneys Uy and Bascug, on
the other. The Municipal Mayor was purportedly angry at Judge Javellana
because the latter caused the arrest of and heard the cases against the
formers supporters and employees; while Public Attorney Bascug was

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), in its report 27 dated January 2,
2006, found Judge Javellana liable for gross ignorance of the law or procedure
when he did not apply the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure in cases
appropriately covered by said Rule; and (2) gross misconduct when he got
involved in business relations with Manunag, implemented the law
inconsistently, and mentioned his accomplishments for publicity. The OCA thus
recommended that:
1. The instant administrative complaint be REDOCKETED as a regular
administrative matter; and
2. Judge Edwin B. Javellana, MTC, La Castellana, Negros Occidental
be SUSPENDED from office without salary and other benefits for three
(3) months with a STERN WARNING that repetition of the same or
similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.28
In a Resolution29 dated February 5, 2007, the Court re-docketed the complaint
as a regular administrative matter and required parties to manifest their
willingness to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings filed.
On separate dates,30 the parties manifested their willingness to submit the
case for resolution based on the pleadings already filed.
We agree with the findings and conclusions of the OCA, except for the penalty
imposed.
I
Gross Ignorance of the Law
The Revised Rule of Summary Procedure shall govern the following criminal
cases:

SECTION 1. Scope. This Rule shall govern the summary procedure in the
Metropolitan Trial Courts, the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, the Municipal
Trial Courts, and the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in the following cases falling
within their jurisdiction.

1. By prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the


value of the damage caused exceeds 1,000 pesos;
2. By arresto mayor, if such value does not exceed the abovementioned amount but is over 200 pesos; and

xxxx
B. Criminal Cases:
(1) Violations of traffic laws, rules and regulations;

3. By arresto menor, if such value does not exceed 200 pesos.


(Emphasis ours.)
All other cases of malicious mischief shall be governed by Article 329 of the
same Code, which reads:

(2) Violations of the rental law;


(3) Violations of municipal or city ordinances;
(4) Violations of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (Bouncing Checks Law).
(5) All other criminal cases where the penalty prescribed by law for the
offense charged is imprisonment not exceeding six months, or a fine
not exceeding one thousand pesos (P 1,000.00), or both, irrespective
of other imposable penalties, accessory or otherwise, or of the civil
liability arising therefrom: Provided, however, That in offenses
involving damage to property through criminal negligence, this Rule
shall govern where the imposable fine does not exceed ten thousand
pesos (P 10,000.00). (Emphasis supplied.)
The cases People v. Cornelio31 and People v. Lopez, et al.32 pending before
Judge Javellana were both for malicious mischief.
The crime of malicious mischief is committed by any person who deliberately
causes damage to the property of another through means not constituting
arson.33 There are special cases of malicious mischief which are specifically
covered by Article 328 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:
ART. 328. Special cases of malicious mischief. Any person who shall cause
damage to obstruct the performance of public functions, or using any
poisonous or corrosive substance; or spreading any infection or contagion
among cattle; or who causes damage to the property of the National Museum
or National Library, or to any archive or registry, waterworks, road, promenade,
or any other thing used in common by the public, shall be punished:

ART. 329. Other mischiefs. The mischiefs not included in the next preceding
article shall be punished:
1. By arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods, if the value
of the damage caused exceeds 1,000 pesos;
2. By arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if such value
is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 1,000 pesos; and
3. By arresto menor or fine of not less than the value of the damage
caused and not more than 200 pesos, if the amount involved does not
exceed 200 pesos or cannot be estimated. (Emphasis ours.)
Without any showing that the accused in People v. Cornelio and People v.
Lopez, et al. were charged with the special cases of malicious mischief
particularly described in Article 328 of the Revised Penal Code, then Article
329 of the same Code should be applied. If the amounts of the alleged
damage to property in People v. Cornelio and People v. Lopez, et
al., P 6,000.0034 and P 3,000.00,35 respectively, are proven, the appropriate
penalty for the accused would be arresto mayor in its medium and maximum
periods which under Article 329(a) of the Revised Penal Code, would be
imprisonment for two (2) months and one (1) day to six (6) months. Clearly,
these two cases should be governed by the Revised Rule on Summary
Procedure.
Judge Javellanas issuance of a Warrant of Arrest for the accused in People v.
Cornelio is in violation of Section 16 of the Revised Rule on Summary
Procedure, categorically stating that "the court shall not order the arrest of the

accused except for failure to appear whenever required." Judge Javellana


never claimed that the accused failed to appear at any hearing. His justification
that the accused was wanted for the crime of attempted homicide, being tried
in another case, Crim. Case No. 04-096, is totally unacceptable and further
indicative of his ignorance of law. People v. Cornelio, pending before Judge
Javellanas court as Crim. Case No. 04-097, is for malicious mischief, and is
distinct and separate from Crim. Case No. 04-096, which is for attempted
homicide, although both cases involved the same accused. Proceedings in
one case, such as the issuance of a warrant of arrest, should not be extended
or made applicable to the other.
In People v. Lopez, et al., Judge Javellana conducted a preliminary
investigation even when it was not required or justified. 36
The Revised Rule on Summary Procedure does not provide for a preliminary
investigation prior to the filing of a criminal case under said Rule. A criminal
case within the scope of the Rule shall be commenced in the following
manner:
SEC. 11. How commenced. The filing of criminal cases falling within the
scope of this Rule shall be either by complaint or by information; Provided,
however, That in Metropolitan Manila and in Chartered Cities, such cases shall
be commenced only by information, except when the offense cannot be
prosecuted de oficio.
The complaint or information shall be accompanied by the affidavits of the
complainant and of his witnesses in such number of copies as there are
accused plus two (2) copies for the courts files. If this requirement is not
complied with within five (5) days from date of filing, the case may be
dismissed.
SEC. 12. Duty of Court.
(a) If commenced by complaint. On the basis of the complaint and
the affidavits and other evidence accompanying the same, the court
may dismiss the case outright for being patently without basis or merit
and order the release of the accused if in custody.
(b) If commenced by information. When the case is commenced by
information, or is not dismissed pursuant to the next preceding

paragraph, the court shall issue an order which, together with copies
of the affidavits and other evidence submitted by the prosecution, shall
require the accused to submit his counter-affidavit and the affidavits of
his witnesses as well as any evidence in his behalf, serving copies
thereof on the complainant or prosecutor not later than ten (10) days
from receipt of said order. The prosecution may file reply affidavits
within ten (10) days after receipt of the counter-affidavits of the
defense.
SEC. 13. Arraignment and trial. Should the court, upon a consideration of the
complaint or information and the affidavits submitted by both parties, find no
cause or ground to hold the accused for trial, it shall order the dismissal of the
case; otherwise, the court shall set the case for arraignment and trial.
If the accused is in custody for the crime charged, he shall be immediately
arraigned and if he enters a plea of guilty, he shall forthwith be sentenced.
Section 1, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure only requires
that a preliminary investigation be conducted before the filing of a complaint or
information for an offense where the penalty prescribed by law is at least four
(4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day without regard to the fine. As has
been previously established herein, the maximum penalty imposable for
malicious mischief in People v. Lopez, et al. is just six (6) months.
Judge Javellana did not provide any reason as to why he needed to conduct a
preliminary investigation in People v. Lopez, et al. We stress that the Revised
Rule on Summary Procedure was precisely adopted to promote a more
expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases, and to enforce the
constitutional rights of litigants to the speedy disposition of cases. 37
Judge Javellana cannot be allowed to arbitrarily conduct proceedings beyond
those specifically laid down by the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure,
thereby lengthening or delaying the resolution of the case, and defeating the
express purpose of said Rule.
We further agree with the OCA that Judge Javellana committed a blatant error
in denying the Motion to Dismiss filed by the accused in People v. Celeste, et
al. and in insisting that said Motion was a prohibited pleading, even though the
case was never previously referred to the Lupong

Tagapamayapa as required by Sections 18 and 19(a) of the Revised Rule on


Summary Procedure.
The pertinent provisions of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure read:
Sec. 18. Referral to Lupon. Cases requiring referral to the Lupon for
conciliation under the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1508 where there
is no showing of compliance with such requirement, shall be dismissed without
prejudice, and may be revived only after such requirement shall have been
complied with. This provision shall not apply to criminal cases where the
accused was arrested without a warrant.
Sec. 19. Prohibited pleadings and motions. The following pleadings,
motions, or petitions shall not be allowed in the cases covered by this Rule:
(a) Motion to dismiss the complaint or to quash the complaint or information
except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or failure to
comply with the preceding section. (Emphases ours.)
We see no ambiguity in the aforequoted provisions. A case which has not been
previously referred to the Lupong Tagapamayapa shall be dismissed without
prejudice. A motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to comply with the
Lupon requirement is an exception to the pleadings prohibited by the Revised
Rule on Summary Procedure. Given the express provisions of the Revised
Rule on Summary Procedure, we find irrelevant Judge Javellanas argument
that referral to the Lupon is not a jurisdictional requirement. The following facts
are undisputed: People v. Celeste, et al. was not referred to the Lupon, and the
accused filed a Motion to Dismiss based on this ground. Judge Javellana
should have allowed and granted the Motion to Dismiss (albeit without
prejudice) filed by the accused in People v. Celeste, et al.
The Revised Rule on Summary Procedure has been in effect since November
15, 1991. It finds application in a substantial number of civil and criminal cases
pending before Judge Javellanas court. Judge Javellana cannot claim to be
unfamiliar with the same.
Every judge is required to observe the law. When the law is sufficiently basic, a
judge owes it to his office to simply apply it; and anything less than that would
be constitutive of gross ignorance of the law. In short, when the law is so
elementary, not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.38

In Agunday v. Judge Tresvalles,39 we called the attention of Judge Tresvalles to


Section 2 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure which states that a
"patently erroneous determination to avoid the application of the Revised Rule
on Summary Procedure is a ground for disciplinary action." We went on further
to interpret said provision as follows:
Although the said provision states that "patently erroneous determination to
avoid the application of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure is a ground
for disciplinary action," the provision cannot be read as applicable only where
the failure to apply the rule is deliberate or malicious. Otherwise, the policy of
the law to provide for the expeditious and summary disposition of cases
covered by it could easily be frustrated. Hence, requiring judges to make the
determination of the applicability of the rule on summary procedure upon the
filing of the case is the only guaranty that the policy of the law will be fully
realized. x x x.40 (Emphasis ours.)
Resultantly, Judge Javellana cannot invoke good faith or lack of deliberate or
malicious intent as a defense. His repeated failure to apply the Revised Rule
on Summary Procedure in cases so obviously covered by the same is
detrimental to the expedient and efficient administration of justice, for which we
hold him administratively liable.
As for Judge Javellanas refusal to dismiss People v. Lopez, et al. and People
v. Celeste, et al., however, we exonerate him of the administrative charges for
the same. Judge Javellana is correct that the appreciation of evidence is
already within his judicial discretion.41 Any alleged error he might have
committed in this regard is the proper subject of an appeal but not an
administrative complaint. We remind Judge Javellana though to adhere closely
to the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure in hearing and resolving said
cases.
II
Gross Misconduct
Judges are enjoined by the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine
Judiciary42 to act and behave, in and out of court, in a manner befitting their
office, to wit:
Canon 2
INTEGRITY

Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but
also to the personal demeanor of judges.

citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct
themselves in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.

SECTION 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above
reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.

xxxx

SECTION 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people's
faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must
also be seen to be done.

SECTION 8. Judges shall not use or lend the prestige of the judicial office to
advance their private interests, or those of a member of their family or of
anyone else, nor shall they convey or permit others to convey the impression
that anyone is in a special position improperly to influence them in the
performance of judicial duties.

xxxx
xxxx
Canon 3
IMPARTIALITY
Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies
not only to the decision itself but also to the process by which the decision is
made.

SECTION 14. Judges shall not knowingly permit court staff or others subject to
their influence, direction or authority, to ask for, or accept, any gift, bequest,
loan favor in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done in
connection with their duties or functions.
xxxx

SECTION 1. Judges shall perform their judicial duties without favor, bias or
prejudice.

Canon 5
EQUALITY

SECTION 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of
court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal
profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the judiciary.

Ensuring equality of treatment to all before the courts is essential to the due
performance of the judicial office.

xxxx

xxxx
Canon 4
PROPRIETY

Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of


all the activities of a judge.
SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety
in all of their activities.
SECTION 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept
personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary

SECTION 2. Judges shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words


or by conduct, manifest bias or prejudice towards any person or group on
irrelevant grounds.
xxxx
SECTION 2. Judges shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words
or conduct, manifest bias or prejudice towards any person or group on
irrelevant grounds.
SECTION 3. Judges shall carry out judicial duties with appropriate
consideration for all persons, such as the parties, witnesses, lawyers, court

staff and judicial colleagues, without differentiation on any irrelevant ground,


immaterial to the proper performance of such duties.
xxxx
Canon 6
COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE
Competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of judicial
office.
xxxx
SECTION 5. Judges shall perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of
reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness.
SECTION 6. Judges shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings
before the court and be patient, dignified and courteous in relation to litigants,
witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official
capacity. Judges shall require similar conduct of legal representatives, court
staff and others subject to their influence, direction or control.
Judge Javellana had violated the aforequoted canons/standards in several
instances.
Judge Javellana did not admit having a business relationship with Manunag,
contrary to the finding of the OCA. What Judge Javellana stated in his
Comment was that his relationship with Manunag was "purely on official
business," since Manunag was a duly authorized agent of a credited bonding
company. Nonetheless, Judge Javellana, by referring the accused who
appeared before his court directly to Manunag for processing of the bail bond
of said accused, gave the impression that he favored Manunag and
Manunags bonding company, as well as the reasonable suspicion that he
benefitted financially from such referrals. Judge Javellana should remember
that he must not only avoid impropriety, but the "appearance of impropriety" as
well.
Moreover, Judge Javellana was conspicuously inconsistent in Granting 43 or
denying44 motions for extension of time to file pleadings which were signed
only by the accused. Judge Javellana reasoned in his Comment that the PAO

lawyers who prepared the motions should have signed the same as counsels
for the accused, but this only explained Judge Javellanas denial of said
motions. It did not address why, in other cases, Judge Javellana had granted
similar motions signed only by the accused. Without any satisfactory basis for
the difference in his ruling on these motions, Judge Javellana had acted
arbitrarily to the prejudice of the PAO lawyers.
Judge Javellana himself admitted that he often mentioned his previous
accomplishments as counsel in big and controversial cases, claiming that he
only did so to impress upon the parties that he meant business and that he
relied greatly upon God to survive the trials and threats to his life. We are not
persuaded.
The previous Code of Judicial Conduct specifically warned the judges against
seeking publicity for personal vainglory.45 Vainglory, in its ordinary meaning,
refers to an individuals excessive or ostentatious pride especially in ones own
achievements.46 Even no longer explicitly stated in the New Code of Judicial
Conduct, judges are still proscribed from engaging in self-promotion and
indulging their vanity and pride by Canons 1 (on Integrity) and 2 (on Propriety)
of the New Code.
We have previously strongly reminded judges in that:
Canon 2, Rule 2.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct says in no uncertain terms
that "a judge should not seek publicity for personal vainglory." A parallel
proscription, this time for lawyers in general, is found in Rule 3.01 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility: "a lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any
false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair
statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services." This means
that lawyers and judges alike, being limited by the exacting standards of their
profession, cannot debase the same by acting as if ordinary merchants
hawking their wares. As succinctly put by a leading authority in legal and
judicial ethics, "(i)f lawyers are prohibited from x x x using or permitting the use
of any undignified or self-laudatory statement regarding their qualifications or
legal services (Rule 3.01, Code of Professional Responsibility), with more
reasons should judges be prohibited from seeking publicity for vanity or selfglorification. Judges are not actors or actresses or politicians, who thrive by
publicity.47

Judge Javellanas actuations as described above run counter to the mandate


that judges behave at all times in such a manner as to promote public
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.48 We cannot stress
enough that "judges are the visible representations of law and justice. They
ought to be embodiments of competence, integrity and independence. In
particular, municipal judges are frontline officers in the administration of justice.
It is therefore essential that they live up to the high standards demanded by
the Code of Judicial Conduct."49
For his violations of the New Code of Professional Conduct, Judge Javellana
committed gross misconduct. We have defined gross misconduct as a
"transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more
particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer." 50
There is no sufficient evidence to hold Judge Javellana administratively liable
for the other charges against him contained in the complaint. Yet, we call
Judge Javellanas attention to several matters pointed out by the OCA, that if
left unchecked, may again result in another administrative complaint against
the judge: (1) notices of hearing issued by Judge Javellanas court must state
the specific time, date, and place51; (2) in case Judge Javellana is unable to
attend a hearing for any reason, he must inform his Clerk of Court as soon as
possible so that the latter can already cancel the hearing and spare the
parties, counsels, and witnesses from waiting52; and (3) he must take care in
ascertaining the facts and according due process to the parties concerned
before levying charges of incompetence or indifference against the PAO
lawyers appearing before his court.53
III
Penalty
Gross ignorance of the law54 and gross misconduct constituting violations of
the Code of Judicial Conduct55 are classified as serious charges under Rule
140, Section 8 of the Revised Rules of Court, and penalized under Rule 140,
Section 11(a) of the same Rules by:
1) Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as
the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or
appointment to any public office, including government-owned or
controlled corporations. Provided, however, that the forfeiture of
benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;

2) Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more
than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or
3) A fine of more than P 20,000.00 but not exceeding P 40,000.00
The OCA recommended that Judge Javellana be suspended without salary
and benefits for three months.1vvph!1 Given the gravity and number of
violations committed by Judge Javellana, we deem it appropriate to impose
suspension without salary and benefits for a period of three months and one
day.
WHEREFORE, Judge Erwin B. Javellana is found GUILTY of gross ignorance
of the law and gross misconduct. He is SUSPENDED from office without
salary and other benefits for a period of three (3) months and one (1) day with
a STERN WARNING that the repetition of the same or similar acts in the future
shall be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this Decision be attached to his
records with this Court.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 143032. October 14, 2002]


PEOPLE
OF THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. SEGUNDINO
VALENCIA y BLANCA, JOHNNY TADENA y TORDA, and
DOMINGO DEROY, JR. y SAROCAM, accused-appellants.
DECISION
Per Curiam:
Accused-appellants Segundino Valencia y Blanca, Johnny Tadena y
Torda and Domingo Deroy, Jr. y Sarocam were charged and convicted by the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for violation of Section 15 of Republic Act
(R.A.) 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act, for unlawfully
selling or offering to sell 634.0 grams of Psuedophedrine Hydrochloride which
is a regulated drug. The trial court sentenced each of the accused to the
supreme penalty of death and to pay a fine of P500,000.00. Hence, the case is
now before us on automatic review.
It appears from the prosecution evidence that on September 22, 1998, a
confidential informant of the PNP Narcotics Group confided to the group that
he was able to negotiate the purchase of one kilo of drugs from a certain
Junior and Johnny. The information was passed to the operatives team leader,
Insp. Ramon Arsenal and then to their commanding officer, Supt. Arturo
Castillo. Supt. Castillo immediately formed a buy-bust operation team
composed of P/Insp. Arsenal, P/Insp. Beasa, SPO2 Estrada and SPO1 Facto.
SPO1 Larry Facto was designated as the poseur buyer. He was to buy the one
kilo of drugs for the agreed price of P800,000.00. SPO1 Facto was given ten
P100.00 bills which he used in preparing the boodle money.[1]
The team proceeded to the corner of Baler and Miller Streets in San
Francisco Del Monte, Quezon City. SPO1 Facto and the informant waited at
the corner of Baler and Miller Streets, while the other members of the team
stayed about ten meters away. At about 10:50 in the evening, a white
Mitsubishi Lancer with plate no. UET 384 arrived. The driver, Johnny Tadena,
called the informant. The informant, together with SPO1 Facto, approached
him. SPO1 Facto was introduced by the informant to Johnny Tadena as the
buyer. SPO1 Facto asked Tadena where the stuff was.The latter replied, Its
here. He told him not to worry because their boss, a certain Dodong

(Segundino Valencia), was present. SPO1 Facto saw three persons inside the
car. Valencia was seated beside the driver while their other companion,
Domingo Deroy, was at the backseat. Tadena then asked SPO1 Facto about
the money and the latter showed him a plastic bag containing the
money. When SPO1 Facto asked Tadena to show him the stuff, Valencia
ordered Deroy to hand him the bag containing the drugs. Deroy did as
instructed. Valencia then handed the stuff to SPO1 Facto in exchange for the
money. SPO1 Facto examined the content of the bag and when he saw the
white substance inside, he scratched his head to signal his companions that
the transaction had been consummated. SPO1 Facto then introduced himself
as a police officer and grabbed the car key from the ignition switch. SPO1
Facto arrested Johnny Tadena while his companions seized the other
accused. The three accused were brought to Camp Crame for investigation.
[2]
The substance was submitted for examination at the PNP Crime
Laboratory. It tested positive for psuedo-ephedrine, a regulated drug. [3]
The defense, on the other hand, alleged that in the evening of September
22, 1998, Johnny Tadena went to see Segundino Valencia in Caloocan City to
ask him if he knew anyone who would be interested in buying a 1995
Mitsubishi Lancer. Valencia was allegedly engaged in the business of buying
and selling used cars. On the way home, Valencia rode with Tadena to go to
Bago Bantay, Quezon City. As they were crossing an intersection along Iligan
Street, an Isuzu van suddenly blocked their way. The passengers of the van
who appeared to be police officers approached them. They took Valencias gun
which he bought from a police asset. The police brought Valencia and Tadena
to Camp Crame.Tadena was placed in a jail cell while Valencia was brought
before Col. Castillo. Col. Castillo showed Valencia a plastic bag and said that
he would use it as evidence against him. Valencia claimed that the police
mauled him and extorted from him the amount of P20,000.00. They also took
his necklace worth P5,000.00 and his wallet containing P1,200.00.
[4]
Meanwhile, Domingo Deroy claimed that in the evening of September 22,
1998, he was picked up by the police without any reason at the house of
Valencias parents.[5]
On September 24, 1998, Assistant City Prosecutor Danilo B. Vargas filed
the following information against the accused:
That on or about the 22nd day of September 1998 in Quezon City, Philippines, the said
accused, conspiring, confederating with and mutually helping one another, not having

been authorized by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any regulated
drug, did then and there wilfully and unlawfully sell or offer for sale 634.0 grams of
white crystalline substance containing Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride which is a
regulated drug.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[6]
Giving more weight to the testimony of the police officers who conducted
the buy-bust operation, the trial court convicted the accused of the crime
charged. It held that the denial and alibi of the accused were not sufficient to
overturn the prosecution evidence which established the guilt of the accused.
[7]
The dispositive portion of the decision read:
WHEREFORE, finding that the prosecution was able to establish the guilt of the
accused beyond reasonable doubt, the Court hereby sentences each of them (1) to
suffer the penalty of Death; (2) to pay a fine of P500,000.00; and (3) to pay the costs.

involved in the buy-bust operation have no motive to falsely testify against the
accused, the courts shall uphold the presumption that they have performed
their duties regularly.[10] The trial court in this case correctly upheld the
testimony of the prosecution witnesses, the police officers who conducted the
buy-bust operation. It did not err in applying the presumption of regularity in the
performance of duty by law enforcement agents. We laid down in the case
of People vs. Doria[11] the test in determining the credibility of the testimony of
police officers regarding the conduct of buy-bust operations. The Court said:
It is thus imperative that the presumption, juris tantum, of regularity in the
performance of official duty by law enforcement agents raised by the Solicitor General
be applied with studied restraint. The presumption should not by itself prevail over the
presumption of innocence and the constitutionally-protected rights of the individual. It
is the duty of courts to preserve the purity of their own temple from the prostitution of
the criminal law through lawless enforcement. Courts should not allow themselves to
be used as an instrument of abuse and injustice lest an innocent person be made to
suffer the unusually severe penalties for drug offenses.

SO ORDERED.[8]
In this appeal, accused-appellants raise the following errors:
1. The court a quo gravely erred in finding that the guilt of the
accused-appellants for the crime charged has been proven
beyond reasonable doubt.
2. The court a quo gravely erred in giving weight and credence to the
improbable testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution.
3. The court a quo gravely erred in finding that there was conspiracy
in the case at bar.[9]
The appeal is without merit.
Accused-appellants were caught in flagrante delicto in a buy-bust
operation. A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment whereby ways and
means are resorted to for the purpose of trapping and capturing the
lawbreakers in the execution of their criminal plan. Unless there is clear and
convincing evidence that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by
any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimony
on the operation deserves full faith and credit. When the police officers

We therefore stress that the objective test in buy-bust operations demands that the
details of the purported transaction must be clearly and adequately shown. This must
start from the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to
purchase, the promise or payment of the consideration until the consummation of the
sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. The manner by which the
initial contact was made, whether or not through an informant, the offer to purchase
the drug, the payment of the buy-bust money, and the delivery of the illegal drug,
whether to the informant alone or the police officer, must be the subject of strict
scrutiny by courts to insure that law-abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to
commit an offense. Criminals must be caught but not at all cost. At the same time,
however, examining the conduct of the police should not disable courts into ignoring
the accuseds predisposition to commit the crime. If there is overwhelming evidence of
habitual delinquency, recidivism or plain criminal proclivity, then this must also be
considered. Courts should look at all factors to determine the predisposition of an
accused to commit an offense in so far as they are relevant to determine the validity of
the defense of inducement.[12]
In the case at bar, SPO1 Facto, the poseur-buyer, gave the complete
details of how the transaction was conducted from beginning to end -- the
negotiation between the confidential agent and the drug dealers, the
preparation made by the buy-bust team before conducting the operation, when
the informant introduced him as the supposed buyer to the drug dealers, the

exchange of the stuff and the payment between the pushers and the poseur
buyer, and the arrest of said drug dealers. SPO1 Facto positively identified
accused-appellants as the drug dealers. His testimony went as follows:
xxx xxx xxx
Q: Can you recall, Mr. Witness, if you reported for duty on September 22,
1998?

A: Yes, maam.
Q: And what is the gender of this confidential agent?
A: A male, maam.
Q: What did he tell you, if any?

A: Yes, maam.

A: He told me that he was able to negotiate the one kilo drug deal to a
certain Junior and Johnny, maam.

Q: What time did you report?

Q: And upon receiving this information, what did you do?

A: Nine oclock in the morning, maam.

A: We informed our team leader, Police Inspector Ramon Arsenal the


information of our confidential agent, maam.

Q: Now, while you were on duty was there any specific assignment given to
you by your chief?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And what happened after giving that information to your team leader?
A: Our team leader Ramon Arsenal told our CO Col. Castillo about that
drug transaction.

Q: What was that assignment?


Q: What happened next, if any?
A: To conduct surveillance against drug traffic in Quezon City.
A: Inspector Arsenal formed a team to conduct buy bust operation.
Q: Was there any specific person whom you were supposed to conduct
surveillance on December 22 ... September 22, 1998?

Q: Was there any briefing?

A: Yes, maam. The group of a certain Johnny alias Paniki group.

A: There was a briefing in our office, maam.

Q: And who ordered you or instructed you to conduct the surveillance?

Q: What was taken up in that briefing?

A: Our team leader, Police Inspector Ramon Arsenal.

A: In the briefing, I would pose as poseur buyer.

Q: Now, how did you know the group of Paniqui would be the subject of
surveillance?

Q: And how much were you supposed to buy?


A: Eight Hundred Thousand Pesos per kilo, maam.

A: Through our confidential agent, maam.


Q: So, what else were taken up during the briefing?
Q: Were you able to talk to this confidential agent?

A: Inspector Arsenal furnished me ten (10) pieces of One Hundred Pesobill. Then I prepared the three bundles with numbers inside and make
it appear, parang tingnan mo P800,000.00, parang may boodle sa
loob.

A: Our confidential agent.


Q: How about the other members of the team where were they?
A: They were away from us at least 3 meters ... 10 meters, away from us.

Q: After that ... By the way who are the members of the team?
Q: Ten meters away from you?
A: P/Insp. Arsenal, P/Insp. Beasa, SPO2 Estrada, myself and others.
A: Yes, sir.
Q: You mentioned of a confidential informant, was he present during that
briefing?

Q: When this Mitsubishi Lancer arrived, what happened next?

A: Yes, maam.

A: The driver called for me and our CI, together with the CI.

Q: And after preparing the boodle money and 10 pieces of P100-bill, what
else happened?

Q: And then what happened?


A: The CI introduced me as buyer.

A: After I prepared the boodle on the night, we proceeded to the area.


Q: Where is this area?
A: Corner Baler and Miller Streets, San Francisco del Monte,
Quezon City.

Q: And then what happened after the CI introduced you to the occupants or
to the driver, what happened next?
A: After I was introduced as the buyer, I asked the driver where the stuff
was. The driver said, Its here and he also admonished me not to worry
because their boss is there, a certain Dodong, seated in front, in the
front seat beside the driver.

Q: Were you able to reach the area?


Q: How many occupants were there in that Mitsubishi Lancer?
A: Yes, sir.
A: Three persons, maam.
Q: What happened next if any?
Q: And where was the other one?
A: Around 10:30 p.m., 22 September 1998, minutes later, around 10:50,
pm., there was an automobile, Mitsubishi Lancer color white UET 384
arrived at the corner of Baler-Miller Streets.
Q: Where were you at that time when that Mitsubishi Lancer arrived?
A: I was at the corner of Baler and Miller Street.
Q: Who were with you at that time?

A: One at the back seat, maam.


Q: And when the driver told you that his boss was there, a certain Dodong,
what happened next?
A: He asked me where was the money, and I said, Its here, and while I was
holding the money which was placed inside a plastic wrap.

Q: What happened next?

A: I said, Arestado kayo and arrested the driver.

A: I told him to show me the stuff first because the money was with me.

Q: By the way, Mr. Witness, where were you at the time, while you were
talking with the driver?

Q: And what happened?


A: Beside the driver.
A: The man seated in the front seat called the man at the back and said
Dalhin mo dito, bigay mo dito. The person at the back seat handed the
green bag to the person seated in the front seat.

Q: There (sic) were still inside that car?


A: Yes, sir.

Q: And then what happened?


Q: And when you told the driver, you are arrested, what else happened?
A: And then he handed it to me sabay kaliwaan.
A: I got the key.
Q: Who handed to you the stuff?
Q: And then, after that?
A: The man beside the driver.
A: I said, Arestado kayo.
Q: And when it was handed to you, what did you do?
Q: After that what happened?
A: I gave the money, kaliwaan na. And then I quickly looked at the stuff and
I saw that there was white substance inside so right away I made the
pre-arranged signal.

A: My companions alighted from the Tamaraw FX and arrested his other


companions.

Q: What was that pre-arranged signal?

Q: And then what happened?

A: I scratched my head which means the deal was, the drug deal was
positive.

A: After that we brought them to Camp Crame, maam, for investigation.

Q: And when you scratched your head what did you do?
A: I introduced myself to the suspect as a police officer. And I grabbed the
key of the vehicle.

Q: If you will be able to see this driver again of that vehicle with whom you
had that transaction, will you be able to identify him?
A: Yes, maam.
Q: If he is inside the courtroom will you please point him to us?

Q: Where was the key at that time?


A: It was a(t) the ignition switch.
Q: And then what did you do?

A: That one is Johnny Tadena (the person pointed to by the witness by


tapping his shoulder when asked to identify himself gave his name as
Johnny Tadena).

Q: How about that man who handed to you that green bag containing the
white substance?
A: (Witness pointing to a man seated inside the courtroom who when asked
to identify himself gave his name as Segundino Valencia).
Q: How about the man seated at the back of the car who handed the green
bag to Mr. Segundino Valencia?
A: (Witness pointing to a man who when asked to identify himself gave his
name as Domingo Deroy)
xxx xxx xxx.
SPO1 Factos testimony withstood the rigorous cross-examination by the
defense counsel and was corroborated by SPO2 Estrada, also a member of
the buy-bust team.[13]
Accused-appellants contend that it is incredible that the alleged vendors
of the drugs would readily do business with the alleged poseur-buyer whom
they met only on September 22, 1998, considering that the transaction
involved the huge amount of P800,000.00. We are not impressed. It has been
shown that the appellants have previously negotiated with the confidential
agent. Prior to September 22, they have already closed the deal for the
purchase of drugs for the price of P800,000.00. Hence, it is not as if the
appellants were dealing with strangers. They knew the informant. When they
met with the poseur-buyer, the latter was accompanied by the informant who
introduced them to each other. Nonetheless, the Court has observed that drug
pushers sell their prohibited articles to any customer, be he a stranger or not,
in private as well as in public places, whether daytime or nighttime. Indeed,
drug pushers have become increasingly daring, dangerous and openly defiant
of the law. Hence, it is immaterial whether the vendor and the vendee are
familiar with each other. It is only necessary to prove the fact of agreement and
the acts constituting sale and delivery of the prohibited drugs. [14] These facts
have been sufficiently proved in this case.
Accused-appellants also argue that the prosecution has not shown by
clear and convincing evidence whether the sale was voluntary or whether this
was a case of instigation. The argument deserves scant consideration. A buybust operation is a form of entrapment which in recent years has been

accepted as a valid means of arresting violators of the Dangerous Drugs


Law. It is commonly employed by police officers as an effective way of
apprehending law offenders in the act of committing a crime. In a buy-bust
operation, the idea to commit a crime originates from the offender, without
anybody inducing or prodding him to commit the offense. Its opposite is
instigation or inducement, wherein the police or its agent lures the accused
into committing the offense in order to prosecute him. Instigation is deemed
contrary to public policy and considered an absolutory cause. [15] In this case,
accused-appellants, apparently, have, for some time, been engaged in drug
dealing. They were in fact the subject of a surveillance conducted by the
operatives of the PNP Narcotics Group. The police engaged the services of a
confidential informant to lead them to transact with them. The confidential
agent facilitated the meeting of accused-appellants and the poseur
buyer. Hence, it was not the police nor the confidential agent who induced
accused-appellants to commit a violation of the Dangerous Drugs Law. They
were already violating the law and the police only used the buy-bust operation
to apprehend them in the act of unlawfully selling drugs. This is certainly a
legitimate entrapment operation and not instigation.
Finally, accused-appellants alleged that the prosecution failed to prove
the existence of a conspiracy among the three accused, as it did not show a
common plan or design among them. Again, we find otherwise. There is
conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the
commission of a felony and decide to commit it.[16] The existence of a
conspiracy need not be proved by direct evidence because it may be inferred
from the parties conduct indicating a common understanding among
themselves with respect to the commission of the crime.Neither is it necessary
to show that two or more persons met together and entered into an explicit
agreement setting out the details of an unlawful scheme or object to be carried
out. It may be deduced from the mode or manner in which the crime was
perpetrated or from the acts of the accused showing a joint or common
purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest. [17] The
existence of a conspiracy among the three accused is very much apparent
from the narration of SPO1 Facto about how the transaction went. Upon the
arrival of the Mitsubishi Lancer bearing plate no. UET 384 at the corner of
Baler and Miller Streets, the driver, Tadena, called the informant and SPO1
Facto, the supposed buyer. Tadena asked SPO1 Facto about the
money. When SPO1 Facto asked for the stuff, Valencia, who was occupying
the front passenger seat, ordered Deroy, who was seated at the back of the
car, to hand him the bag containing the drugs. Valencia gave the bag to SPO1

Facto as the latter handed him the money. This demonstrates the concerted
effort of the three accused in drug dealing. Conspiracy among them is
obviously present in this case.
As regards the penalty, the Court agrees with the conclusions of the trial
court, thus:
Section 20, Article IV of R.A. 6425, as amended, provides that The penalties for
offense under x x x Sections 14, 14-A, 15, and 16 of Art. III of this Act shall be applied
if the dangerous drugs involved is in any of the following quantities: 8. In the case of
other dangerous drugs, the quantity which is far beyond therapeutic requirements, as
determined and promulgated by the DDB, after consultations/hearings conducted for
the purpose. In Section 15, the penalty is reclusion perpetuato death and a fine ranging
from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos. The crime is aggravated when
committed by any person or persons belonging to an organized or syndicated crime
group (Section 30, R.A. 7659; and People vs. Esparas, G.R. No. 120034, July 10,
1998). In such a case, the death penalty shall be imposed. An organized or syndicated
crime group has been defined as a group of two or more persons collaborating,
confederating or mutually helping one another for purposes of gain in the commission
of any crime. (Section 30, R.A. No. 7659; and People vs. Esparas, G.R. No. 120034,
July 10, 1998)
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City in Criminal Case No. Q98-78878 is AFFIRMED.[18]
In accordance with Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by
Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, upon finality of this decision, let the
records of these cases be forwarded to the Office of the President for possible
exercise of executive clemency.
SO ORDERED.

RODEL LUZ y ONG,


Petitioner,

G. R. No. 197788
Present:
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
BRION,
PEREZ,
SERENO, and
REYES, JJ.

- versus -

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,[1]


Respondent.

Promulgated:
February 29, 2012

sub-station since the place where he flagged down the accused is


almost in front of the said sub-station; that while he and SPO1
Rayford Brillante were issuing a citation ticket for violation of
municipal ordinance, he noticed that the accused was uneasy and
kept on getting something from his jacket; that he was alerted and
so, he told the accused to take out the contents of the pocket of his
jacket as the latter may have a weapon inside it; that the accused
obliged and slowly put out the contents of the pocket of his jacket
which was a nickel-like tin or metal container about two (2) to three
(3) inches in size, including two (2) cellphones, one (1) pair of
scissors and one (1) Swiss knife; that upon seeing the said container,
he asked the accused to open it; that after the accused opened the
container, he noticed a cartoon cover and something beneath it; and
that upon his instruction, the accused spilled out the contents of the
container on the table which turned out to be four (4) plastic sachets,
the two (2) of which were empty while the other two (2) contained
suspected shabu.[3]

x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
SERENO, J.:
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 seeking to set aside
the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision in CA-G.R. CR No. 32516 dated 18 February
2011[2] and Resolution dated 8 July 2011.

Statement of the Facts and of the Case


The facts, as found by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), which sustained the
version of the prosecution, are as follows:
PO2 Emmanuel L. Alteza, who was then assigned at the
Sub-Station 1 of the Naga City Police Station as a traffic enforcer,
substantially testified that on March 10, 2003 at around 3:00 oclock
in the morning, he saw the accused, who was coming from the
direction of Panganiban Drive and going to Diversion Road, Naga
City, driving a motorcycle without a helmet; that this prompted him
to flag down the accused for violating a municipal ordinance which
requires all motorcycle drivers to wear helmet (sic) while driving
said motor vehicle; that he invited the accused to come inside their

Arraigned on 2 July 2003, petitioner, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of


Not guilty to the charge of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. Pretrial was
terminated on 24 September 2003, after which, trial ensued.
During trial, Police Officer 3 (PO3) Emmanuel Alteza and a forensic chemist
testified for the prosecution. On the other hand, petitioner testified for himself and
raised the defense of planting of evidence and extortion.
In its 19 February 2009 Decision,[4] the RTC convicted petitioner of illegal
possession of dangerous drugs[5] committed on 10 March 2003. It found the
prosecution evidence sufficient to show that he had been lawfully arrested for a traffic
violation and then subjected to a valid search, which led to the discovery on his person
of two plastic sachets later found to contain shabu. The RTC also found his defense of
frame-up and extortion to be weak, self-serving and unsubstantiated. The dispositive
portion of its Decision held:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered, finding
accused RODEL LUZ y ONG GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for
the crime of violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165 and sentencing him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment ranging from twelve (12) years and (1) day, as
minimum, to thirteen (13) years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of
Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (300,000.00).

The subject shabu is hereby confiscated for turn over to the


Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for its proper disposition and
destruction in accordance with law.
SO ORDERED.[6]
Upon review, the CA affirmed the RTCs Decision.
On 12 September 2011, petitioner filed under Rule 45 the instant Petition for
Review on Certiorari dated 1 September 2011. In a Resolution dated 12 October 2011,
this Court required respondent to file a comment on the Petition. On 4 January 2012,
the latter filed its Comment dated 3 January 2012.
Petitioner raised the following grounds in support of his Petition:
(i)

THE SEARCH AND SEIZURE OF


ALLEGED SUBJECT SHABU IS INVALID.

THE

(ii)

THE PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY IN THE


PERFORMANCE OF DUTY OF THE POLICE
OFFICER CANNOT BE RELIED UPON IN THIS
CASE.

(iii)

THE INTEGRITY AND EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF


THE ALLEGED SUBJECT SPECIMEN HAS BEEN
COMPROMISED.

(iv)

THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER


WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND THE REASONABLE
DOUBT (sic).[7]

Petitioner claims that there was no lawful search and seizure, because there was no
lawful arrest. He claims that the finding that there was a lawful arrest was erroneous,
since he was not even issued a citation ticket or charged with violation of the city
ordinance. Even assuming there was a valid arrest, he claims that he had never
consented to the search conducted upon him.
On the other hand, finding that petitioner had been lawfully arrested, the RTC held
thus:

It is beyond dispute that the accused was flagged down and


apprehended in this case by Police Officers Alteza and Brillante for
violation of City Ordinance No. 98-012, an ordinance requiring the
use of crash helmet by motorcycle drivers and riders thereon in the
City of Naga and prescribing penalties for violation thereof. The
accused himself admitted that he was not wearing a helmet at the
time when he was flagged down by the said police officers, albeit he
had a helmet in his possession. Obviously, there is legal basis on the
part of the apprehending officers to flag down and arrest the accused
because the latter was actually committing a crime in their presence,
that is, a violation of City Ordinance No. 98-012. In other words, the
accused, being caught in flagrante delicto violating the said
Ordinance, he could therefore be lawfully stopped or arrested by the
apprehending officers. x x x.[8]
We find the Petition to be impressed with merit, but not for the particular reasons
alleged. In criminal cases, an appeal throws the entire case wide open for review and
the reviewing tribunal can correct errors, though unassigned in the appealed judgment,
or even reverse the trial courts decision based on grounds other than those that the
parties raised as errors.[9]
First, there was no valid arrest of petitioner. When he was flagged down for
committing a traffic violation, he was not, ipso facto and solely for this reason,
arrested.
Arrest is the taking of a person into custody in order that he or she may be
bound to answer for the commission of an offense. [10] It is effected by an actual
restraint of the person to be arrested or by that persons voluntary submission to the
custody of the one making the arrest. Neither the application of actual force, manual
touching of the body, or physical restraint, nor a formal declaration of arrest, is
required. It is enough that there be an intention on the part of one of the parties to
arrest the other, and that there be an intent on the part of the other to submit, under the
belief and impression that submission is necessary.[11]
Under R.A. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, the general
procedure for dealing with a traffic violation is not the arrest of the offender, but the
confiscation of the drivers license of the latter:
SECTION 29. Confiscation of Driver's License. Law
enforcement and peace officers of other agencies duly deputized by
the Director shall, in apprehending a driver for any violation of this
Act or any regulations issued pursuant thereto, or of local traffic
rules and regulations not contrary to any provisions of this Act,
confiscate the license of the driver concerned and issue a receipt

prescribed and issued by the Bureau therefor which shall authorize


the driver to operate a motor vehicle for a period not exceeding
seventy-two hours from the time and date of issue of said receipt.
The period so fixed in the receipt shall not be extended, and shall
become invalid thereafter. Failure of the driver to settle his case
within fifteen days from the date of apprehension will be a ground
for the suspension and/or revocation of his license.

Similarly, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Operations Manual [12] provides the
following procedure for flagging down vehicles during the conduct of checkpoints:
SECTION 7. Procedure in Flagging Down or Accosting
Vehicles While in Mobile Car. This rule is a general concept and will
not apply in hot pursuit operations. The mobile car crew shall
undertake the following, when applicable: x x x
m. If it concerns traffic violations, immediately issue a Traffic
Citation Ticket (TCT) or Traffic Violation Report (TVR).
Never indulge in prolonged, unnecessary conversation or
argument with the driver or any of the vehicles occupants;
At the time that he was waiting for PO3 Alteza to write his citation ticket,
petitioner could not be said to have been under arrest. There was no intention on the
part of PO3 Alteza to arrest him, deprive him of his liberty, or take him into custody.
Prior to the issuance of the ticket, the period during which petitioner was at the police
station may be characterized merely as waiting time. In fact, as found by the trial
court, PO3 Alteza himself testified that the only reason they went to the police substation was that petitioner had been flagged down almost in front of that place. Hence,
it was only for the sake of convenience that they were waiting there. There was no
intention to take petitioner into custody.
In Berkemer v. McCarty,[13] the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court discussed
at length whether the roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a routine
traffic stop should be considered custodial interrogation. The Court held that, such
questioning does not fall under custodial interrogation, nor can it be considered a
formal arrest, by virtue of the nature of the questioning, the expectations of the
motorist and the officer, and the length of time the procedure is conducted. It ruled as
follows:

It must be acknowledged at the outset that a traffic stop


significantly curtails the freedom of action of the driver and the
passengers, if any, of the detained vehicle. Under the law of most
States, it is a crime either to ignore a policemans signal to stop ones
car or, once having stopped, to drive away without permission. x x x
However, we decline to accord talismanic power to the
phrase in the Miranda opinion emphasized by respondent. Fidelity to
the doctrine announced in Miranda requires that it be enforced
strictly, but only in those types of situations in which the concerns
that powered the decision are implicated. Thus, we must decide
whether a traffic stop exerts upon a detained person pressures that
sufficiently impair his free exercise of his privilege against selfincrimination to require that he be warned of his constitutional
rights.
Two features of an ordinary traffic stop mitigate the danger
that a person questioned will be induced to speak where he would
not otherwise do so freely, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S., at
467. First, detention of a motorist pursuant to a traffic stop is
presumptively temporary and brief. The vast majority of roadside
detentions last only a few minutes. A motorists expectations, when
he sees a policemans light flashing behind him, are that he will be
obliged to spend a short period of time answering questions and
waiting while the officer checks his license and registration, that he
may then be given a citation, but that in the end he most likely will
be allowed to continue on his way. In this respect, questioning
incident to an ordinary traffic stop is quite different from
stationhouse interrogation, which frequently is prolonged, and in
which the detainee often is aware that questioning will continue until
he provides his interrogators the answers they seek. See id., at 451.
Second, circumstances associated with the typical traffic
stop are not such that the motorist feels completely at the mercy
of the police. To be sure, the aura of authority surrounding an armed,
uniformed officer and the knowledge that the officer has some
discretion in deciding whether to issue a citation, in combination,
exert some pressure on the detainee to respond to questions. But
other aspects of the situation substantially offset these forces.
Perhaps most importantly, the typical traffic stop is public, at least to
some degree. x x x
In both of these respects, the usual traffic stop is more
analogous to a so-called Terry stop, see Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1
(1968), than to a formal arrest. x x x The comparatively
nonthreatening character of detentions of this sort explains the

absence of any suggestion in our opinions that Terry stops are


subject to the dictates of Miranda. The similarly noncoercive aspect
of ordinary traffic stops prompts us to hold that persons temporarily
detained pursuant to such stops are not in custody for the purposes of
Miranda.
xxxxxxxxx
We are confident that the state of affairs projected by
respondent will not come to pass. It is settled that the safeguards
prescribed by Miranda become applicable as soon as a suspects
freedom of action is curtailed to a degree associated with formal
arrest. California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (per
curiam). If a motorist who has been detained pursuant to a traffic
stop thereafter is subjected to treatment that renders him in custody
for practical purposes, he will be entitled to the full panoply of
protections prescribed by Miranda. See Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.
S. 492, 495 (1977) (per curiam). (Emphasis supplied.)
The U.S. Court in Berkemer thus ruled that, since the motorist therein was only
subjected to modest questions while still at the scene of the traffic stop, he was not at
that moment placed under custody (such that he should have been apprised of
his Miranda rights), and neither can treatment of this sort be fairly characterized as the
functional equivalent of a formal arrest. Similarly, neither can petitioner here be
considered under arrest at the time that his traffic citation was being made.
It also appears that, according to City Ordinance No. 98-012, which was violated by
petitioner, the failure to wear a crash helmet while riding a motorcycle is penalized by
a fine only. Under the Rules of Court, a warrant of arrest need not be issued if the
information or charge was filed for an offense penalized by a fine only. It may be
stated as a corollary that neither can a warrantless arrest be made for such an offense.

This Court has held that at the time a person is arrested, it shall be the duty of
the arresting officer to inform the latter of the reason for the arrest and must show that
person the warrant of arrest, if any. Persons shall be informed of their constitutional
rights to remain silent and to counsel, and that any statement they might make could be
used against them.[14] It may also be noted that in this case, these constitutional
requirements were complied with by the police officers only after petitioner had been
arrested for illegal possession of dangerous drugs.
In Berkemer, the U.S. Court also noted that the Miranda warnings must also
be given to a person apprehended due to a traffic violation:
The purposes of the safeguards prescribed by Miranda are
to ensure that the police do not coerce or trick captive suspects into
confessing, to relieve the inherently compelling pressures generated
by the custodial setting itself, which work to undermine the
individuals will to resist, and as much as possible to free courts from
the task of scrutinizing individual cases to try to determine, after the
fact, whether particular confessions were voluntary. Those purposes
are implicated as much by in-custody questioning of persons
suspected of misdemeanors as they are by questioning of persons
suspected of felonies.

If it were true that petitioner was already deemed arrested when he was flagged down
for a traffic violation and while he waiting for his ticket, then there would have been
no need for him to be arrested for a second timeafter the police officers allegedly
discovered the drugsas he was already in their custody.
Second, there being no valid arrest, the warrantless search that resulted from it
was likewise illegal.

This ruling does not imply that there can be no arrest for a traffic violation. Certainly,
when there is an intent on the part of the police officer to deprive the motorist of
liberty, or to take the latter into custody, the former may be deemed to have arrested
the motorist. In this case, however, the officers issuance (or intent to issue) a traffic
citation ticket negates the possibility of an arrest for the same violation.

The following are the instances when a warrantless search is allowed: (i) a warrantless
search incidental to a lawful arrest; (ii) search of evidence in plain view; (iii) search of
a moving vehicle; (iv) consented warrantless search; (v) customs search; (vi) a stop
and frisk search; and (vii) exigent and emergency circumstances. [15] None of the abovementioned instances, especially a search incident to a lawful arrest, are applicable to
this case.

Even if one were to work under the assumption that petitioner was deemed
arrested upon being flagged down for a traffic violation and while awaiting the
issuance of his ticket, then the requirements for a valid arrest were not complied
with.

It must be noted that the evidence seized, although alleged to be inadvertently


discovered, was not in plain view. It was actually concealed inside a metal container
inside petitioners pocket. Clearly, the evidence was not immediately apparent.[16]

Neither was there a consented warrantless search. Consent to a search is not to be


lightly inferred, but shown by clear and convincing evidence. [17] It must be voluntary in
order to validate an otherwise illegal search; that is, the consent must be unequivocal,
specific, intelligently given and uncontaminated by any duress or coercion. While the
prosecution claims that petitioner acceded to the instruction of PO3 Alteza, this alleged
accession does not suffice to prove valid and intelligent consent. In fact, the RTC
found that petitioner was merely told to take out the contents of his pocket. [18]
Whether consent to the search was in fact voluntary is a question of fact to be
determined from the totality of all the circumstances. Relevant to this determination
are the following characteristics of the person giving consent and the environment in
which consent is given: (1) the age of the defendant; (2) whether the defendant was in
a public or a secluded location; (3) whether the defendant objected to the search or
passively looked on; (4) the education and intelligence of the defendant; (5) the
presence of coercive police procedures; (6) the defendants belief that no incriminating
evidence would be found; (7) the nature of the police questioning; (8) the environment
in which the questioning took place; and (9) the possibly vulnerable subjective state of
the person consenting. It is the State that has the burden of proving, by clear and
positive testimony, that the necessary consent was obtained, and was freely and
voluntarily given.[19] In this case, all that was alleged was that petitioner was alone at
the police station at three in the morning, accompanied by several police officers.
These circumstances weigh heavily against a finding of valid consent to a warrantless
search.
Neither does the search qualify under the stop and frisk rule. While the rule normally
applies when a police officer observes suspicious or unusual conduct, which may lead
him to believe that a criminal act may be afoot, the stop and frisk is merely a limited
protective search of outer clothing for weapons.[20]
In Knowles v. Iowa,[21] the U.S. Supreme Court held that when a police officer stops a
person for speeding and correspondingly issues a citation instead of arresting the latter,
this procedure does not authorize the officer to conduct a full search of the car. The
Court therein held that there was no justification for a full-blown search when the
officer does not arrest the motorist. Instead, police officers may only conduct minimal
intrusions, such as ordering the motorist to alight from the car or doing a patdown:
In Robinson, supra, we noted the two historical rationales
for the search incident to arrest exception: (1) the need to disarm the
suspect in order to take him into custody, and (2) the need to
preserve evidence for later use at trial. x x x But neither of these
underlying rationales for the search incident to arrest exception is
sufficient to justify the search in the present case.

We have recognized that the first rationaleofficer safetyis


both legitimate and weighty, x x x The threat to officer safety from
issuing a traffic citation, however, is a good deal less than in the case
of a custodial arrest. In Robinson, we stated that a custodial arrest
involves danger to an officer because of the extended exposure
which follows the taking of a suspect into custody and transporting
him to the police station. 414 U. S., at 234-235. We recognized that
[t]he danger to the police officer flows from the fact of the arrest,
and its attendant proximity, stress, and uncertainty, and not from the
grounds for arrest. Id., at 234, n. 5. A routine traffic stop, on the
other hand, is a relatively brief encounter and is more analogous
to a so-called Terry stop . . . than to a formal arrest. Berkemer v.
McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 439 (1984). See also Cupp v. Murphy, 412
U. S. 291, 296 (1973) (Where there is no formal arrest . . . a person
might well be less hostile to the police and less likely to take
conspicuous, immediate steps to destroy incriminating evidence).
This is not to say that the concern for officer safety is
absent in the case of a routine traffic stop. It plainly is not. See
Mimms, supra, at 110; Wilson, supra, at 413-414. But while the
concern for officer safety in this context may justify the minimal
additional intrusion of ordering a driver and passengers out of
the car, it does not by itself justify the often considerably greater
intrusion attending a full fieldtype search. Even without the
search authority Iowa urges, officers have other, independent bases
to search for weapons and protect themselves from danger. For
example, they may order out of a vehicle both the driver, Mimms,
supra, at 111, and any passengers, Wilson, supra, at 414; perform a
patdown of a driver and any passengers upon reasonable suspicion
that they may be armed and dangerous, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1
(1968); conduct a Terry patdown of the passenger compartment of a
vehicle upon reasonable suspicion that an occupant is dangerous and
may gain immediate control of a weapon, Michigan v. Long, 463 U.
S. 1032, 1049 (1983); and even conduct a full search of the
passenger compartment, including any containers therein, pursuant
to a custodial arrest, New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454, 460 (1981).
Nor has Iowa shown the second justification for the authority to
search incident to arrestthe need to discover and preserve evidence.
Once Knowles was stopped for speeding and issued a citation, all the
evidence necessary to prosecute that offense had been obtained. No
further evidence of excessive speed was going to be found either on
the person of the offender or in the passenger compartment of the
car. (Emphasis supplied.)

The foregoing considered, petitioner must be acquitted. While he may have failed to
object to the illegality of his arrest at the earliest opportunity, a waiver of an illegal
warrantless arrest does not, however, mean a waiver of the inadmissibility of evidence
seized during the illegal warrantless arrest.[22]
The Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. [23] Any
evidence obtained in violation of said right shall be inadmissible for any purpose in
any proceeding. While the power to search and seize may at times be necessary to the
public welfare, still it must be exercised and the law implemented without
contravening the constitutional rights of citizens, for the enforcement of no statute is of
sufficient importance to justify indifference to the basic principles of government. [24]
The subject items seized during the illegal arrest are inadmissible. [25] The
drugs are the very corpus delicti of the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs.
Thus, their inadmissibility precludes conviction and calls for the acquittal of the
accused.[26]
WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The 18 February 2011 Decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 32516 affirming the judgment of
conviction dated 19 February 2009 of the Regional Trial Court, 5 th Judicial Region,
Naga City, Branch 21, in Criminal Case No. RTC 2003-0087, is
hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE.
Petitioner
Rodel
Luz y Ong
is
hereby ACQUITTED and ordered immediately released from detention, unless his
continued confinement is warranted by some other cause or ground.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 180661

December 11, 2013

GEORGE ANTIQUERA y CODES, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
ABAD, J.:
This case is about a supposed warrantless arrest and a subsequent search
prompted by the police officers' chance sighting through an ajar door of the
accused engaged in pot session.
The Facts and the Case
On January 13, 2004 the second Assistant City Prosecutor of Pasay City
charged the accused George Codes Antiquera* and Corazon Olivenza Cruz
with illegal possession of paraphernalia for dangerous drugs 1 before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasay City in Criminal Case 04-0100CFM. 2 Since the accused Cruz jumped bail, the court tried her in absentia. 3
The prosecution evidence shows that at around 4:45 a.m. of February 11,
2004, PO1 Gregorio Recio, PO1 Laurence Cabutihan, P/Insp. Eric Ibon, PO1
Rodelio Rania, and two civilian operatives on board a patrol car and a tricycle
were conducting a police visibility patrol on David Street, Pasay City, when
they saw two unidentified men rush out of house number 107-C and
immediately boarded a jeep.
Suspecting that a crime had been committed, the police officers approached
the house from where the men came and peeked through the partially opened
door. PO1 Recio and PO1 Cabutihan saw accused Antiquera holding an
improvised tooter and a pink lighter. Beside him was his live-in partner, Cruz,
who was holding an aluminum foil and an improvised burner. They sat facing
each other at the living room. This prompted the police officers to enter the
house, introduce themselves, and arrest Antiquera and Cruz. 4
While inspecting the immediate surroundings, PO1 Cabutihan saw a wooden
jewelry box atop a table. It contained an improvised burner, wok, scissors, 10
small transparent plastic sachets with traces of white crystalline substance,

improvised scoop, and seven unused strips of aluminum foil. The police
officers confiscated all these and brought Antiquera and Cruz to the Drug
Enforcement Unit of the Philippine National Police in Pasay City for further
investigation and testing.5
A forensic chemical officer examined the confiscated drug paraphernalia and
found them positive for traces of methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu."6
Accused Antiquera gave a different story. He said that on the date and time in
question, he and Cruz were asleep in their house when he was roused by
knocking on the door. When he went to open it, three armed police officers
forced themselves into the house. One of them shoved him and said, "Dyan
ka lang, pusher ka." He was handcuffed and someone instructed two of the
officers to go to his room. The police later brought accused Antiquera and Cruz
to the police station and there informed them of the charges against them.
They were shown a box that the police said had been recovered from his
house.7
On July 30, 2004 the RTC rendered a Decision8 that found accused Antiquera
and Cruz guilty of the crime charged and sentenced them to a prison term
ranging from six months and one day to two years and four months, and to pay
a fine of P10,000.00 each and the costs of the suit.
The RTC said that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the
police caught accused Antiquera and Cruz in the act of using shabu and
having drug paraphernalia in their possession. Since no ill motive could be
attributed to PO1 Recio and PO1 Cabutihan, the court accorded full faith and
credit to their testimony and rejected the self-serving claim of Antiquera.
The trial court gave no weight to accused Antiqueras claim of illegal arrest,
given PO1 Recio and PO1 Cabutihans credible testimony that, prior to their
arrest, they saw Antiquera and Cruz in a pot session at their living room and in
possession of drug paraphernalia. The police officers were thus justified in
arresting the two without a warrant pursuant to Section 5, Rule 113 of the
Rules of Criminal Procedure.9
On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) rendered a Decision 10 on September 21,
2007 affirming in full the decision of the trial court. The accused moved for
reconsideration but the CA denied it.11 The accused is now before this Court
seeking acquittal.

The Issue Presented


The issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in finding accused
Antiquera guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of drug
paraphernalia based on the evidence of the police officers that they saw him
and Cruz in the act of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Ruling of the Court
The prosecutions theory, upheld by both the RTC and the CA, is that it was a
case of valid warrantless arrest in that the police officers saw accused
Antiquera and Cruz through the door of their house, in the act of having a pot
session. That valid warrantless arrest gave the officers the right as well to
search the living room for objects relating to the crime and thus seize the
paraphernalia they found there.
The prosecution contends that, since the seized paraphernalia tested positive
for shabu, they were no doubt used for smoking, consuming, administering,
injecting, ingesting, or introducing dangerous drug into the body in violation of
Section 12 of Republic Act 9165. That the accused tested negative
for shabu, said the prosecution, had no bearing on the crime charged which
was for illegal possession of drug paraphernalia, not for illegal use of
dangerous drugs. The prosecution added that even assuming that the arrest of
the accused was irregular, he is already considered to have waived his right to
question the validity of his arrest when he voluntarily submitted himself to the
courts jurisdiction by entering a plea of not guilty.12

was to give chase to the jeep that the two fleeing men boarded, given that the
officers were in a patrol car and a tricycle. Running after the fleeing suspects
was the more urgent task but the officers instead gave priority to the house
even when they heard no cry for help from it.
2. Admittedly, the police officers did not notice anything amiss going on in the
house from the street where they stood. Indeed, even as they peeked through
its partially opened door, they saw no activity that warranted their entering it.
Thus, PO1 Cabutihan testified:
THE COURT:
Q By the way, Mr. Cabutihan, when you followed your companion towards
the open door, how was the door open? Was it totally open, or was it partially
open?
A It was partially open Your Honor.
Q By how much, 1/3, 1/2? Only by less than one (1) foot?
A More or less 4 to 6 inches, Your Honor.
Q So how were you able to know, to see the interior of the house if the
door was only open by 6 inches? Or did you have to push the door?
A We pushed the door, Your Honor.

Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a
"peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person
when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually
committing, or is attempting to commit an offense." This is an arrest in
flagrante delicto.13 The overt act constituting the crime is done in the presence
or within the view of the arresting officer.14

Q Were you allowed to just go towards the door of the house, push its door
and peeped inside it, as a police officer?

But the circumstances here do not make out a case of arrest made in flagrante
delicto.

Q Are you not allowed to Are you not required to get a search warrant
before you can search the interior of the house?

1. The police officers claim that they were alerted when they saw two
unidentified men suddenly rush out of 107 David Street, Pasay City. Since they
suspected that a crime had been committed, the natural thing for them to do

A Yes, Your Honor.

xxxx

A Kasi po naghinala po kami baka may

Q What do you mean by yes? Would you first obtain a search warrant before
searching the interior of the house?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q So why did you not a [sic] secure a search warrant first before you tried to
investigate the house, considering your admission that you suspected that
there was something wrong inside the house?
A Because we saw them that they were engaged in pot session, Your Honor.
Q But before you saw them, you just had to push the door wide open to
peep through its opening because you did not know what was happening
inside?
A Yes, Your Honor.15 (Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, no crime was plainly exposed to the view of the arresting officers that
authorized the arrest of accused Antiquera without warrant under the abovementioned rule. Considering that his arrest was illegal, the search and seizure
that resulted from it was likewise illegal.16 Consequently, the various drug
paraphernalia that the police officers allegedly found in the house and seized
are inadmissible, having proceeded from an invalid search and seizure. Since
the confiscated drug paraphernalia is the very corpus delicti of the crime
charged, the Court has no choice but to acquit the accused. 17
One final note. The failure of the accused to object to the irregularity of his
arrest by itself is not enough to sustain his conviction. A waiver of an illegal
warrantless arrest does not carry with it a waiver of the inadmissibility of
evidence seized during the illegal warrantless arrest.18
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated
September 21, 2007 and Resolution dated November 16, 2007 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR 28937 and ACQUITS the accused George
Antiquera y Codes of the crime of which he is charged for lack of evidence
sufficient to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.1wphi1 The Court
further ORDERS the cancellation and release of the bail bond he posted for
his provisional liberty.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 200304

January 15, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
DONALD VASQUEZ y SANDIGAN @ "DON," Accused-Appellant,
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
The case before this Court is an appeal from the Decision 1 dated May 31, 2011
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 04201. Said decision affirmed
with modification the Joint Decision2 dated August 6 2009 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 41, in Criminal Case Nos. 98-164174 and 98164175, which convicted the appellant Donald Vasquez y Sandigan of the
crimes of illegal sale and illegal possession of regulated drugs under Sections
15 and 16 Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, otherwise known
as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972.
Criminal Case No. 98-164174 stemmed from a charge of violation of Section
15 Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended,3 which was allegedly
committed as follows:
That on or about April 3, 1998 in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused not having been authorized by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport
or distribute any regulated drug, did then and there [willfully], unlawfully and
knowingly sell or offer for sale, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute 45.46
grams, 44.27 grams, 45.34 grams, 51.45 grams, 41.32 grams and 20.14
grams or with a total weight of TWO HUNDRED FORTY-SEVEN POINT
NINETY-EIGHT (247.98) grams contained in six (6) transparent plastic sachets
of white crystalline substance known as "Shabu" containing methamphetamine
hydrochloride, which is a regulated drug.4
Criminal Case No. 98-164175, on the other hand, arose from an alleged
violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as
amended,5 which was said to be committed in this manner:
That on or about April 3, 1998 in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused without being authorized by law to possess or use any regulated
drug, did then and there [willfully], unlawfully and knowingly have in his
possession and under his custody and control 1.61 grams, 0.58 grams, 0.29
grams, 0.09 [grams], 0.10 grams, 0.17 grams, 0.21 grams, 0.24 grams, 0.12
grams, 0.06 grams, 0.04 grams, [0].51 grams or all with a total weight of four
point zero three grams of white crystalline substance contained in twelve (12)

transparent plastic sachets known as "SHABU" containing methamphetamine


hydrochloride, a regulated drug, without the corresponding license or
prescription thereof.6
Initially, Criminal Case No. 98-164175 was raffled to the RTC of Manila,
Branch 23. Upon motion7 of the appellant, however, said case was allowed to
be consolidated with Criminal Case No. 98-164174 in the RTC of Manila,
Branch 41.8 On arraignment, the appellant pleaded not guilty to both
charges.9 The pre-trial conference of the cases was held on July 27, 1998, but
the same was terminated without the parties entering into any stipulation of
facts.10
During the trial of the cases, the prosecution presented the testimonies of the
following witnesses: (1) Police Inspector (P/Insp.) Jean Fajardo, 11 (2) P/Insp.
Marilyn Dequito,12 and (3) Police Officer (PO) 2 Christian
Trambulo.13Thereafter, the defense presented in court the testimonies of: (1)
the appellant Donald Vasquez y Sandigan,14 (2) Angelina Arejado,15 and (3)
Anatolia Caredo.16
The Prosecutions Case
The prosecutions version of the events was primarily drawn from the
testimonies of P/Insp. Fajardo and PO2 Trambulo.
P/Insp. Fajardo testified that in the morning of April 1, 1998, a confidential
informant went to their office and reported that a certain Donald Vasquez was
engaged in illegal drug activity. This alias Don supposedly claimed that he was
an employee of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). According to the
informant, alias Don promised him a good commission if he (the informant)
would present a potential buyer of drugs. P/Insp. Fajardo relayed the
information to Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) Pepito Domantay, the
commanding officer of their office. P/Insp. Fajardo was then instructed to form
a team and conduct a possible buy-bust against alias Don. She formed a team
on the same day, which consisted of herself, PO2 Trambulo, PO1 Agravante,
PO1 Pedrosa, PO1 Sisteno, and PO1 De la Rosa. P/Insp. Fajardo was the
team leader. With the help of the informant, she was able to set up a meeting
with alias Don. The meeting was to be held at around 9:00 p.m. on that day at
Cindys Restaurant located in Welcome Rotonda. She was only supposed to
meet alias Don that night but she decided to bring the team along for security
reasons.17
At about 9:00 p.m. on even date, P/Insp. Fajardo and her team went to the
meeting place with the informant. The members of her team positioned
themselves strategically inside the restaurant. The informant introduced

P/Insp. Fajardo to alias Don as the buyer of shabu. She asked alias Don if he
was indeed an employee of the NBI and he replied in the affirmative. They
agreed to close the deal wherein she would buy 250 grams of shabu
forP250,000.00. They also agreed to meet the following day at Cindys
Restaurant around 10:00 to 11:00 p.m.18
In the evening of April 2, 1998, P/Insp. Fajardo and her team went back to
Cindys Restaurant. Alias Don was already waiting for her outside the
establishment when she arrived. He asked for the money and she replied that
she had the money with her. She brought five genuine P500.00 bills, which
were inserted on top of five bundles of play money to make it appear that she
had P250,000.00 with her. After she showed the money to alias Don, he
suggested that they go to a more secure place. They agreed for the sale to
take place at around 1:30 to 2:00 a.m. on April 3, 1998 in front of alias Dons
apartment at 765 Valdez St., Sampaloc, Manila. The team proceeded to the
Western Police District (WPD) Station along U.N. Avenue for coordination.
Afterwards, the team held their final briefing before they proceeded to the
target area. They agreed that the pre-arranged signal was for P/Insp. Fajardo
to scratch her hair, which would signify that the deal had been consummated
and the rest of the team would rush up to the scene. The team then travelled
to the address given by alias Don.19
When the team arrived at the target area around 1:15 a.m. on April 3, 1998,
the two vehicles they used were parked along the corner of the street. P/Insp.
Fajardo and the informant walked towards the apartment of alias Don and
stood in front of the apartment gate. Around 1:45 a.m., alias Don came out of
the apartment with a male companion. Alias Don demanded to see the money,
but P/Insp. Fajardo told him that she wanted to see the drugs first. Alias Don
gave her the big brown envelope he was carrying and she checked the
contents thereof. Inside she found a plastic sachet, about 10x8 inches in size,
which contained white crystalline substance. After checking the contents of the
envelope, she assumed that the same was indeed shabu. She then gave the
buy-bust money to alias Don and scratched her hair to signal the rest of the
team to rush to the scene. P/Insp. Fajardo identified herself as a narcotics
agent. The two suspects tried to flee but PO2 Trambulo was able to stop them
from doing so. P/Insp. Fajardo took custody of the shabu. When she asked
alias Don if the latter had authority to possess or sell shabu, he replied in the
negative. P/Insp. Fajardo put her initials "JSF" on the genuine P500.00 bills
below the name of Benigno Aquino. After the arrest of the two suspects, the
buy-bust team brought them to the police station. The suspects rights were
read to them and they were subsequently booked.20
P/Insp. Fajardo said that she found out that alias Don was in fact the appellant
Donald Vasquez. She learned of his name when he brought out his NBI ID
while he was being booked. P/Insp. Fajardo also learned that the name of the
appellants companion was Reynaldo Siscar, who was also arrested and

brought to the police station. P/Insp. Fajardo explained that after she gave the
buy-bust money to the appellant, the latter handed the same to Siscar who
was present the entire time the sale was being consummated. Upon receiving
the buy-bust money placed inside a green plastic bag, Siscar looked at the
contents thereof and uttered "okey na to." P/Insp. Fajardo marked the drug
specimen and brought the same to the Crime Laboratory. She was
accompanied there by PO2 Trambulo and PO1 Agravante. She handed over
the drug specimen to PO1 Agravante who then turned it over to P/Insp.
Taduran, the forensic chemist on duty. The police officers previously weighed
the drug specimen. Thereafter, the personnel at the crime laboratory weighed
the specimen again. P/Insp. Fajardo and her team waited for the results of the
laboratory examination.21
P/Insp. Fajardo further testified that the six plastic bags of shabu seized during
the buy-bust operation were actually contained in a self-sealing plastic
envelope placed inside a brown envelope. When the brown envelope was
confiscated from the appellant, she put her initials "JSF" therein and signed it.
She noticed that there were markings on the envelope that read "DD-93-1303
re Antonio Roxas y Sunga" but she did not bother to check out what they were
for or who made them. When she interrogated the appellant about the brown
envelope, she found out that the same was submitted as evidence to the NBI
Crime Laboratory. She also learned that the appellant worked as a Laboratory
Aide at the NBI Crime Laboratory. She identified in court the six plastic sachets
of drugs that her team recovered, which sachets she also initialed and signed.
P/Insp. Fajardo also stated that after the appellant was arrested, PO2
Trambulo conducted a body search on the two suspects. The search yielded
12 more plastic sachets of drugs from the appellant. The 12 sachets were
varied in sizes and were contained in a white envelope. P/Insp. Fajardo placed
her initials and signature on the envelope. As to the 12 sachets, the same were
initialed by P/Insp. Fajardo and signed by PO2 Trambulo. 22
The testimony of PO2 Trambulo corroborated that of P/Insp. Fajardos. PO2
Trambulo testified that in the morning of April 1, 1998, a confidential informant
reported to them about the illegal drug activities of alias Don. P/Supt.
Domantay then tasked P/Insp. Fajardo to form a buy-bust team. P/Insp.
Fajardo was able to set up a meeting with alias Don at Cindys Restaurant in
Welcome Rotonda, Quezon City. At that meeting, PO2 Trambulo saw P/Insp.
Fajardo talk to alias Don. P/Insp. Fajardo later told the members of the team
that she convinced alias Don that she was a good buyer of shabu and the
latter demanded a second meeting to see the money. After the initial meeting,
P/Insp. Fajardo briefed P/Supt. Domantay about what happened. PO2
Trambulo stated that on April 2, 1998, P/Insp. Fajardo was furnished with five
genuine P500.00 bills together with the boodle play money. P/Insp. Fajardo
placed her initials in the genuine bills below the name "Benigno Aquino, Jr."
Afterwards, the team left the office. When they arrived at Cindys Restaurant
past 10:00 p.m., alias Don was waiting outside. P/Insp. Fajardo showed the

boodle money to alias Don and after some time, they parted ways. P/Insp.
Fajardo later told the team that alias Don decided that the drug deal would
take place in front of alias Dons rented apartment on Valdez St., Sampaloc,
Manila. After an hour, the team went to Valdez St. to familiarize themselves
with the area. They then proceeded to the WPD station to coordinate their
operation. Thereafter, P/Insp. Fajardo conducted a final briefing wherein PO2
Trambulo was designated as the immediate back-up arresting officer. The
agreed pre-arranged signal was for P/Insp. Fajardo to scratch her hair to
indicate the consummation of the deal. PO2 Trambulo was to signal the same
to the other members of the team.23
The buy-bust team went to the target area at around 1:30 to 2:00 a.m. on April
3, 1998. P/Insp. Fajardo and the informant walked towards the direction of
alias Dons apartment, while PO2 Trambulo positioned himself near a parked
jeepney about 15 to 20 meters from the apartment gate. The rest of the team
parked their vehicles at the street perpendicular to Valdez St. Later, alias Don
went out of the gate with another person. PO2 Trambulo saw alias Don
gesturing to P/Insp. Fajardo as if asking for something but P/Insp. Fajardo
gestured that she wanted to see something first. Alias Don handed P/Insp.
Fajardo a big brown envelope, which the latter opened. P/Insp. Fajardo then
handed to alias Don a green plastic bag containing the buy-bust money and
gave the pre-arranged signal. When PO2 Trambulo saw this, he immediately
summoned the rest of the team and rushed to the suspects. He was able to
recover the buy-bust money from alias Dons male companion. Upon frisking
alias Don, PO2 Trambulo retrieved 12 pieces of plastic sachets of suspected
drugs. The same were placed inside a white envelope that was tucked inside
alias Dons waist. PO2 Trambulo marked each of the 12 sachets with his
initials "CVT" and the date. The police officers then informed the suspects of
their rights and they proceeded to the police headquarters in Fort Bonifacio. 24
As regards the brown envelope that alias Don handed to P/Insp. Fajardo, the
latter retained possession thereof. The envelope contained six pieces of plastic
bags of white crystalline substance. When they got back to their office, the
team reported the progress of their operation to P/Supt. Domantay. The
arrested suspects were booked and the required documentations were
prepared. Among such documents was the Request for Laboratory
Examination of the drug specimens seized. PO2 Trambulo said that he was
the one who brought the said request to the PNP Crime Laboratory, along with
the drug specimens.25
P/Insp. Marilyn Dequito, the forensic chemist, testified on the results of her
examination of the drug specimens seized in this case. She explained that
P/Insp. Macario Taduran, Jr. initially examined the drug specimens but the
latter was already assigned to another office. The results of the examination of
P/Insp. Taduran were laid down in Physical Science Report No. D-1071-98.
P/Insp. Dequito first studied the data contained in Physical Science Report No.

D-1071-98 and retrieved the same from their office. She entered that fact in
their logbook RD-17-98. She then weighed the drug specimens and examined
the white crystalline substance from each of the plastic sachets. She examined
first the specimens marked as "A-1," "A-2," "A-3," "A-4," "A-5" and "A-6."
P/Insp. Dequitos examination revealed that the white crystalline substances
were positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride.26She also examined the
contents of 12 heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets that also contained
crystalline substances. The 12 plastic sachets were marked "B-1" to "B-12."
The white crystalline powder inside the 12 plastic sachets also tested positive
for methamphetamine hydrochloride. P/Insp. Dequitos findings were contained
in Physical Science Report No. RD-17-98.27
The prosecution, thereafter, adduced the following object and documentary
evidence: (1) photocopies of the five original P500.00 bills28 used as buy-bust
money (Exhibits A-E); (2) Request for Laboratory Examination 29 dated April 3,
1998 (Exhibit F); (3) Initial Laboratory Report30 dated April 3, 1998, stating that
the specimen submitted for examination tested positive for
methylamphetamine hydrochloride (Exhibit G); (4) Court Order 31 dated
September 2, 1998 (Exhibit H); (5) Physical Sciences Report No. D-10719832 dated April 3, 1998 (Exhibit I); (6) Drug specimens A-1 to A-6 (Exhibits JO); (7) Big brown envelope (Exhibit P); (8) Small white envelope (Exhibit Q);
(9) Drug specimens B-1 to B-12 (Exhibits R-CC); (10) Physical Sciences
Report No. RD-17-9833 (Exhibit DD); (11) Joint Affidavit of Arrest34 (Exhibit EE);
(12) Play money (Exhibit FF); (13) Booking Sheet and Arrest Report 35 (Exhibit
GG); (14) Request for Medical Examination36 (Exhibit HH); (15) Medico Legal
Slip37 of Donald Vasquez (Exhibit II); and (16) Medico Legal Slip 38 of Reynaldo
Siscar (Exhibit JJ).
The Defenses Case
As expected, the defense belied the prosecutions version of events. The
appellants brief39 before the Court of Appeals provides a concise summary of
the defenses counter-statement of facts. According to the defense:
Donald Vasquez was a regular employee of the NBI, working as a Laboratory
Aide II at the NBI Forensics Chemistry Division. His duties at the time included
being a subpoena clerk, receiving chemistry cases as well as requests from
different police agencies to have their specimens examined by the chemist. He
also rendered day and night duties, and during regular office hours and in the
absence of the laboratory technician, he would weigh the specimens. As
subpoena clerk, he would receive subpoenas from the trial courts. When there
is no chemist, he would get a Special Order to testify, or bring the drug
specimens, to the courts.

On 1 April 1998, Donald Vasquez took his examination in Managerial Statistics


between 6:00 to 9:00 oclock p.m. Thereafter, he took a jeepney and alighted
at Stop and Shop at Quiapo. From there, he took a tricycle to his house,
arriving at 9:45 oclock that evening, where he saw Reynaldo Siscar and
Sonny San Diego, the latter a confidential informant of the narcotics agents.
On 3 April 1998, at 1:45 oclock in the morning, Donalds household help,
Anatolia Caredo, who had just arrived from Antipolo that time, was eating while
Donald was asleep. She heard a knock on the door. Reynaldo Siscar opened
the door and thereafter two (2) men entered, poking guns at Reynaldo. They
were followed by three (3) others. The door to Donalds room was kicked down
and they entered his room. Donald, hearing noise, woke up to see P./Insp.
Fajardo pointing a gun at him. He saw that there were six (6) policemen
searching his room, picking up what they could get. One of them opened a
cabinet and got drug specimens in [Donalds] possession in relation to his work
as a laboratory aide. The drugs came from two (2) cases and marked as DD93-1303 owned by Antonio Roxas, and DD-96-5392 owned by SPO4 Emiliano
Anonas. The drug specimen contained in the envelope marked as DD-93-1303
was intended for presentation on 3 April 1998. Aside from the drug specimens,
the policemen also took his jewelry, a VHS player, and his wallet
containing P2,530.00.
Angelina Arejado, Donalds neighbor, witnessed the policemen entering the
apartment and apprehending Donald and Reynaldo from the apartment
terrace.40 (Citations omitted.)
The defense then offered the following evidence: (1) NBI Disposition
Form41 dated April 3, 1998 (Exhibit 1); (2) Sworn Statement of Idabel Bernabe
Pagulayan42 (Exhibit 2); (3) Photocopy of the buy-bust money43 (Exhibit 3); (4)
List of Hearings44 attended by Donald Vasquez (Exhibit 4); (5) Authorization
Letter45 prepared by Acting Deputy Director Arturo A. Figueras dated March 27,
1998 (Exhibit 5); and (6) List of Evidence46 taken by Donald Vasquez from
1996-1998 (Exhibit 6).
The Decision of the RTC
On August 6, 2009, the RTC convicted the appellant of the crimes charged.
The RTC gave more credence to the prosecutions evidence given that the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty on the part of the
police officers was not overcome. The trial court held that the appellant did not
present any evidence that would show that the police officers in this case were
impelled by an evil motive to charge him of very serious crimes and falsely
testify against him. Also, the trial court noted that the volume of the shabu
involved in this case was considerable, i.e., 247.98 grams and 4.03 grams for
illegal sale and illegal possession, respectively. To the mind of the trial court,

such fact helped to dispel the possibility that the drug specimens seized were
merely planted by the police officers. Furthermore, the RTC ruled that the
positive testimonies of the police officers regarding the illegal drug peddling
activities of the appellant prevailed over the latters bare denials.
Assuming for the sake of argument that the appellant was merely framed up by
the police, the trial court pointed out that:
[T]he accused should have reported the said incident to the proper authorities,
or asked help from his Acting Chief [Idabel] Pagulayan from the NBI to testify
and identify in Court the xerox copy of the Disposition Form which she issued
to the accused and the Affidavit dated April 17, 1998 (xerox copy) executed by
her or from Mr. Arturo A. Figueras, Acting Deputy Director, Technical Services
of the NBI to testify and identify the Letter issued by the said Acting Deputy
Director in order to corroborate and strengthen his testimony that he was
indeed authorized to keep in his custody the said shabu to be presented or
turned over to the Court as evidence, and he should have filed the proper
charges against those police officers who were responsible for such act. But
the accused did not even bother to do the same. Further, the pieces of
evidence (Disposition Form, Affidavit of [Idabel] Pagulayan and Letter dated
March 27, 1998 issued by Acting Deputy Director) presented by the accused in
Court could not be given weight and credence considering that the said
persons were not presented in Court to identify the said documents and that
the prosecution has no opportunity to cross-examine the same, thus, it has no
probative value.47
The trial court, thus, decreed:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
1. In Crim. Case No. 98-164174, finding accused, DONALD VASQUEZ
y SANDIGAN @ "DON" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Violation of Sec. 15, Art. III in Relation to Sec.
2 (e), (f), (m), (o), Art. I of R.A. No. 6425 and hereby sentences him to
suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and a fine of P5,000,000.00;
and 2. In Crim. Case No. 98-164175, judgment is hereby rendered
finding the accused, DONALD VASQUEZ y SANDIGAN @ "DON"
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Violation of Sec. 16,
Art. III in Relation to Sec. 2 (e-2) Art. I of R.A. 6425 as Amended by
Batas Pambansa Bilang 179 and hereby sentences him to suffer the
penalty of SIX (6) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY to FOUR (4) YEARS
and a fine of FOUR THOUSAND (P4,000.00) PESOS.

The subject shabu (247.98 grams and 4.03 grams, respectively) are hereby
forfeited in favor of the government and the Branch Clerk of Court is hereby
directed to deliver and/or cause the delivery of the said shabu to the Philippine
Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), upon the finality of this Decision. 48
The Judgment of the Court of Appeals
On appeal,49 the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of the appellant. The
appellate court ruled that the prosecution sufficiently proved the elements of
the crimes of illegal sale and illegal possession of shabu. The testimony of
P/Insp. Fajardo on the conduct of the buy-bust operation was found to be clear
and categorical. As the appellant failed to adduce any evidence that tended to
prove any ill motive on the part of the police officers to falsely charge the
appellant, the Court of Appeals held that the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official duties on the part of the police officers had not been
controverted in this case.
The dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals decision stated:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DENIED.
The August 6, 2009 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 41 of the City
of Manila in Criminal Cases No. 98-164174-75, finding appellant Donald
Vasquez y Sandigan guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crimes of Violation
of Section 15 and Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425 is AFFIRMED
with the MODIFICATION that in Criminal Case No. 98-164175, appellant is
hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six months of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to two years, four months and one day of prision
correccional in its medium period, as maximum.50
The Ruling of the Court
The appellant appealed his case to this Court to once again impugn his
conviction on two grounds: (1) the purported illegality of the search and the
ensuing arrest done by the police officers and (2) his supposed authority to
possess the illegal drugs seized from him.51 He argues that the police officers
did not have a search warrant or a warrant of arrest at the time he was
arrested. This occurred despite the fact that the police officers allegedly had
ample time to secure a warrant of arrest against him. Inasmuch as his arrest
was illegal, the appellant avers that the evidence obtained as a result thereof
was inadmissible in court. As the corpus delicti of the crime was rendered
inadmissible, the appellant posits that his guilt was not proven beyond
reasonable doubt. Appellant further insists that he was able to prove that he
was authorized to keep the drug specimens in his custody, given that he was
an employee of the NBI Forensic Chemistry Laboratory who was tasked with
the duty to bring drug specimens in court.

After an assiduous review of the evidence adduced by both parties to this


case, we resolve to deny this appeal.
At the outset, the Court rules that the appellant can no longer assail the validity
of his arrest. We reiterated in People v. Tampis52 that "[a]ny objection, defect or
irregularity attending an arrest must be made before the accused enters his
plea on arraignment. Having failed to move for the quashing of the information
against them before their arraignment, appellants are now estopped from
questioning the legality of their arrest. Any irregularity was cured upon their
voluntary submission to the trial courts jurisdiction." 53 Be that as it may, the
fact of the matter is that the appellant was caught in flagrante delicto of selling
illegal drugs to an undercover police officer in a buy-bust operation. His arrest,
thus, falls within the ambit of Section 5(a), Rule 113 54 of the Revised Rules on
Criminal Procedure when an arrest made without warrant is deemed lawful.
Having established the validity of the warrantless arrest in this case, the Court
holds that the warrantless seizure of the illegal drugs from the appellant is
likewise valid. We held in People v. Cabugatan55 that:
This interdiction against warrantless searches and seizures, however, is not
absolute and such warrantless searches and seizures have long been deemed
permissible by jurisprudence in instances of (1) search of moving vehicles, (2)
seizure in plain view, (3) customs searches, (4) waiver or consented searches,
(5) stop and frisk situations (Terry search), and search incidental to a lawful
arrest. The last includes a valid warrantless arrest, for, while as a rule, an
arrest is considered legitimate [if] effected with a valid warrant of arrest, the
Rules of Court recognize permissible warrantless arrest, to wit: (1) arrest in
flagrante delicto, (2) arrest effected in hot pursuit, and (3) arrest of escaped
prisoners. (Citation omitted.)
Thus, the appellant cannot seek exculpation by invoking belatedly the invalidity
of his arrest and the subsequent search upon his person.
We now rule on the substantive matters.
To secure a conviction for the crime of illegal sale of regulated or prohibited
drugs, the following elements should be satisfactorily proven: (1) the identity of
the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of
the thing sold and the payment therefor.56 As held in People v. Chua Tan
Lee,57 in a prosecution of illegal sale of drugs, "what is material is proof that the
accused peddled illicit drugs, coupled with the presentation in court of the
corpus delicti." On the other hand, the elements of illegal possession of drugs
are: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to
be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the
accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug.58

In the case at bar, the testimonies of P/Insp. Fajardo and PO2 Trambulo
established that a buy-bust operation was legitimately carried out in the wee
hours of April 3, 1998 to entrap the appellant. P/Insp. Fajardo, the poseurbuyer, positively identified the appellant as the one who sold to her six plastic
bags of shabu that were contained in a big brown envelope for the price
of P250,000.00. She likewise identified the six plastic bags of shabu, which
contained the markings she placed thereon after the same were seized from
the appellant. When subjected to laboratory examination, the white crystalline
powder contained in the plastic bags tested positive for shabu. We find that
P/Insp. Fajardos testimony on the events that transpired during the conduct of
the buy-bust operation was detailed and straightforward. She was also
consistent and unwavering in her narration even in the face of the opposing
counsels cross-examination.
Apart from her description of the events that led to the exchange of the drug
specimens seized and the buy-bust money, P/Insp. Fajardo further testified as
to the recovery from the appellant of another 12 pieces of plastic sachets of
shabu. After the latter was arrested, P/Insp. Fajardo stated that PO2 Trambulo
conducted a body search on the appellant. This search resulted to the
confiscation of 12 more plastic sachets, the contents of which also tested
positive for shabu. The testimony of P/Insp. Fajardo was amply corroborated
by PO2 Trambulo, whose own account dovetailed the formers narration of
events. Both police officers also identified in court the twelve plastic sachets of
shabu that were confiscated from the appellant.
In People v. Ting Uy,59 the Court explains that "credence shall be given to the
narration of the incident by prosecution witnesses especially so when they are
police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular
manner, unless there be evidence to the contrary." In the instant case, the
appellant failed to ascribe, much less satisfactorily prove, any improper motive
on the part of the prosecution witnesses as to why they would falsely
incriminate him. The appellant himself even testified that, not only did he not
have any misunderstanding with P/Insp. Fajardo and PO2 Trambulo prior to
his arrest, he in fact did not know them at all.60 In the absence of evidence of
such ill motive, none is presumed to exist.61
The records of this case are also silent as to any measures undertaken by the
appellant to criminally or administratively charge the police officers herein for
falsely framing him up for selling and possessing illegal drugs. Such a move
would not have been a daunting task for the appellant under the
circumstances. Being a regular employee of the NBI, the appellant could have
easily sought the help of his immediate supervisors and/or the chief of his
office to extricate him from his predicament. Instead, what the appellant offered
in evidence were mere photocopies of documents that supposedly showed
that he was authorized to keep drug specimens in his custody. That the original
documents and the testimonies of the signatories thereof were not at all

presented in court did nothing to help the appellants case. To the mind of the
Court, the evidence offered by the appellant failed to persuade amid the
positive and categorical testimonies of the arresting officers that the appellant
was caught red-handed selling and possessing a considerable amount of
prohibited drugs on the night of the buy-bust operation.
It is apropos to reiterate here that where there is no showing that the trial court
overlooked or misinterpreted some material facts or that it gravely abused its
discretion, the Court will not disturb the trial courts assessment of the facts
and the credibility of the witnesses since the RTC was in a better position to
assess and weigh the evidence presented during trial. Settled too is the rule
that the factual findings of the appellate court sustaining those of the trial court
are binding on this Court, unless there is a clear showing that such findings are
tainted with arbitrariness, capriciousness or palpable error.62
On the basis of the foregoing, the Court is convinced that the prosecution was
able to establish the guilt of the appellant of the crimes charged.
The Penalties
Anent the proper imposable penalties, Section 15 and Section 16, Article III, in
relation to Section 20(3) of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Republic
Act No. 7659, state:
SEC. 15. Sale, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Transportation and
Distribution of Regulated Drugs. - The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death
and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos shall
be imposed upon any person who, unless authorized by law, shall sell,
dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any regulated drug. Notwithstanding
the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary, if the victim of the
offense is a minor, or should a regulated drug involved in any offense under
this Section be the proximate cause of the death of a victim thereof, the
maximum penalty herein provided shall be imposed. SEC. 16. Possession or
Use of Regulated Drugs. - The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death and a
fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos shall be
imposed upon any person who shall possess or use any regulated drug
without the corresponding license or prescription, subject to the provisions of
Section 20 hereof.
SEC. 20. Application of Penalties, Confiscation and Forfeiture of the Proceeds
or Instruments of the Crime. - The penalties for offenses under Sections 3, 4,
7, 8 and 9 of Article II and Sections 14, 14-A, 15 and 16 of Article III of this Act
shall be applied if the dangerous drugs involved is in any of the following
quantities:

1. 40 grams or more of opium;


2. 40 grams or more of morphine;
3. 200 grams or more of shabu or methylamphetamine hydrochloride;

Under Section 16, Article III of Rep. Act No. 6425, as amended, the imposable
penalty of possession of a regulated drug, less than 200 grams, in this case,
shabu, is prision correccional to reclusion perpetua. Based on the quantity of
the regulated drug subject of the offense, the imposable penalty shall be as
follows:
QUANTITY

4. 40 grams or more of heroin;

IMPOSABLE PENALTY

Less than one (1) gram to 49.25 grams

prision correccional

49.26 grams to 98.50 grams

prision mayor

6. 50 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil;

98.51 grams to 147.75 grams

reclusion temporal

7. 40 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrocholoride; or

147.76 grams to 199 grams

reclusion perpetua
(Emphases ours.)

5. 750 grams or more of Indian hemp or marijuana;

8. In the case of other dangerous drugs, the quantity of which is far


beyond therapeutic requirements, as determined and promulgated by
the Dangerous Drugs Board, after public consultations/hearings
conducted for the purpose.
Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the
penalty shall range from prision correccional to reclusion perpetua depending
upon the quantity. (Emphases supplied.)
In Criminal Case No. 98-164174 involving the crime of illegal sale of regulated
drugs, the appellant was found to have sold to the poseur-buyer in this case a
total of 247.98 grams of shabu, which amount is more than the minimum of
200 grams required by the law for the imposition of either reclusion perpetua
or, if there be aggravating circumstances, the death penalty.
Pertinently, Article 6363 of the Revised Penal Code mandates that when the law
prescribes a penalty composed of two indivisible penalties and there are
neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the
crime, the lesser penalty shall be applied.1wphi1 Thus, in this case,
considering that no mitigating or aggravating circumstances attended the
appellants violation of Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as
amended, the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the trial courts imposition of
reclusion perpetua. The P5,000,000.00 fine imposed by the RTC on the
appellant is also in accord with Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425,
as amended.
As to the charge of illegal possession of regulated drugs in Criminal Case No.
98-164175, the Court of Appeals properly invoked our ruling in People v.
Tira64 in determining the proper imposable penalty. Indeed, we held in Tira that:

Given that the additional 12 plastic sachets of shabu found in the possession
of the appellant amounted to 4.03 grams, the imposable penalty for the crime
is prision correccional. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, there being
no aggravating or mitigating circumstance in this case, the imposable penalty
on the appellant should be the indeterminate sentence of six months of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to four years and two months of prision correccional, as
maximum. The penalty imposed by the Court of Appeals, thus, falls within the
range of the proper imposable penalty. In Criminal Case No. 98-164175, no
fine is imposable considering that in Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, a
fine can be imposed as a conjunctive penalty only if the penalty is reclusion
perpetua to death.65
Incidentally, the Court notes that both parties in this case admitted that the
appellant was a regular employee of the NBI Forensics Chemistry Division.
Such fact, however, cannot be taken into consideration to increase the
penalties in this case to the maximum, in accordance with Section 24 of
Republic Act No. 6425, as amended.66Such a special aggravating
circumstance, i.e., one that which arises under special conditions to increase
the penalty for the offense to its maximum period, 67 was not alleged and
charged in the informations. Thus, the same was properly disregarded by the
lower courts.
All told, the Court finds no reason to overturn the conviction of the appellant.
WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals Decision dated May 31, 2011 in CA-G.R.
CR.-H.C. No. 04201 is AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.