Sunteți pe pagina 1din 60

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 218396, February 10, 2016

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NESTOR ROXAS Y CASTRO,1 Accused-


Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

This case is a classic illustration of the time-honored principle in criminal law that while the
prosecution has the burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the burden is
shifted to the accused when he admits the commission of the crime but interposes self-defense to
justify his act.

For review is the July 31, 2014 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05508
which affirmed in toto the February 13, 2012 Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pallocan
West, Batangas City, Branch 3, convicting Nestor Roxas y Castro (accused-appellant) of the crime of
murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The Facts

In an Information4 dated November 27, 1995, Nestor Roxas y Castro was charged with the crime of
murder committed as follows: C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

"That on or about October 25, 1995 at around 8:30 o'clock in the evening at Brgy. Dela Paz Proper,
Batangas City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, while armed with a knife, with intent to kill and with the qualifying circumstance of treachery
or evident premeditation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and
stab with said deadly weapon, suddenly and without warning, one Severino Manalo y Atienza, while
the latter was unarmed and completely defenseless, thereby hitting him at the different parts of his
body, which directly caused the victim's death.

CONTRARY TO LAW."
A warrant of arrest was issued on December 7, 1995 for the arrest of the accused-appellant. Because
the accused-appellant could not be apprehended by the police, the case was archived on February 10,
1997. It was only on September 18, 2010 that the accused-appellant was arrested by virtue of an
alias wan-ant of arrest issued by the RTC. As a result, the case was revived.

Upon arraignment, the accused-appellant, duly assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crime
charged.5 After pre-trial was terminated, trial on the merits ensued.

Based on the testimonies of eyewitness Vicente Dimalibot (Vicente); Police Inspector Danilo Magtibay
(P/Insp. Magtibay) and SPO4 Nelio Lopez (SPO4 Lopez), the police investigators in the case against
accused-appellant; Serapio Manalo (Serapio), brother of the victim; and Dr. Ma. Josefina Arguelles (Dr.
Arguelles), the physician who conducted the post mortem examination of the victim's cadaver, the
facts as found by the trial court and established by the prosecution are as follows:

In the evening of October 25, 1995, Severino Manalo (Severino/victim) and Vicente were talking to
each other in front of the house of Alfredo Asi (Alfredo). Then, Vicente saw the accused-appellant
approach Severino from behind and suddenly stab the latter thrice with a white sharp bladed weapon.
The three successive stab blows landed on Severino's back, his stomach and on his side. Vicente
testified that Severino was caught off guard when he was stabbed by the accused-appellant as the
victim was facing the former while they were talking. Immediately after Severino was stabbed, the
accused-appellant fled from the place of the incident. For fear that he might also be attacked, Vicente
scampered away to a safer distance until he reached his place where he called for help. Vicente,
together with some people, returned to the crime scene where they found Severino sprawled on the
ground already dead.

After receiving the report on the stabbing incident, P/Insp. Magtibay and SPO4 Lopez arrived at the
crime scene and conducted an investigation. They took pictures of the crime scene and the body of the
victim.6 Vicente volunteered to the responding officers that he witnessed the accused-appellant stab
the victim three times with a bladed weapon. Acting on this information, the police officers looked for
the accused-appellant at his house as well as the residence of his relatives but he was nowhere to be
found.7chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Serapio testified that the victim was his brother and that he learned of his brother's death from
Vicente. He witnessed the police investigators take pictures of the crime scene, make measurements
of the cadaver and note the wounds inflicted on the body of the victim. 8 He admitted that he was the
one who went to the police station to file the complaint against the accused-appellant.

Per the post mortem examination on the victim's cadaver performed by Dr. Arguelles, the cause of
death was massive hemorrhage secondary to multiple stab wounds. 9 Dr. Arguelles also signed the
victim's Certificate of Death which was formally offered in evidence by the prosecution in the trial
court.10chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

The following is the defense's version of the incident:

For his part, the accused-appellant invoked self-defense. The accused-appellant recalled that at
around 6:00 o'clock in the evening of October 25, 1995, he was on the road in front of his house
located in Barangay Dela Paz Proper, Batangas City when Severino, Vicente and Alfredo arrived.
Without warning, Severino punched the accused-appellant, hitting him on the lower eyelid portion. 11In
reaction, the accused-appellant uttered the following words to Severino: "Huwag pare bakit mo ako
sinuntok wala naman akong ginagawang masama sa iyo" to which the latter replied: "Uubusin ko
kayong mag-anak."12 The accused-appellant again asked Severino why he was behaving that way as
he had done nothing wrong to him. Severino's answer was to pull a knife, and poke it at the accused-
appellant. This prompted the accused-appellant to grab the knife and while they grappled for its
possession, both Severino and the accused-appellant fell and rolled on the ground. It was only when
he stood up that the accused-appellant noticed that he sustained stab wounds on his left hand and
saw Severino lying on the ground.13 The accused-appellant claimed that while all these were
happening, Vicente and Alfredo were just looking and laughing at them as if they were drunk. Fearing
retaliation from the family of Severino, the accused-appellant immediately proceeded to his sister's
place in San Pascual, Batangas and later escaped to Bicol. The accused-appellant went into hiding for
fifteen (15) years and was apprehended only on September 18, 2010. 14 chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The RTC's Ruling

After trial, the RTC convicted the accused-appellant. The dispositive portion of its decision reads: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, after a careful and circumspect evaluation of the evidence on hand, the Court finds
accused NESTOR ROXAS Y CASTOR15GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and
this Court hereby sentences herein accused to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA.

Accordingly, he is likewise ordered to pay the offended party the following amounts, to wit:

(a) Php 50,000.00 Civil Indemnity to the heirs of the victim;


(b) Php 50,000.00 Moral Damages; and
(c) Php 30,000.00 Exemplary Damages

SO ORDERED.16 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The RTC gave full credence to the positive and categorical declaration of Vicente identifying the
accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. Similarly, the trial court believed that the
testimonies of the other prosecution witnesses corroborated Vicente's declaration. On the other hand,
the RTC rejected the accused-appellant's theory of self-defense for failure to show unlawful aggression
on the part of the victim. Moreover, the trial court declared that the killing was attended by treachery
as the attack made on the victim was sudden, unexpected and unforeseen. chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary
The CA's Ruling

On appeal, the CA affirmed in toto the RTC Decision. The CA agreed with the trial court's finding that
the absence of the essential element of unlawful aggression negates the accused-appellant's claim of
self-defense. The C A also sustained the finding of treachery by the trial court. Further, the appellate
court ruled that the accused-appellant's self-serving testimony must fail when weighed against the
positive, straightforward and overwhelming evidence of the prosecution. The CA noted the flight of the
accused-appellant from the place of the incident and construed the same as indicative of his guilt.

Hence, this appeal. chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

The Issues

The two issues to be resolved by this Court are: (1) whether the court a quo gravely erred in
convicting the accused-appellant of murder despite his plea of self-defense; and (2) whether the
court a quo gravely err in appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery. chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

The Court's Ruling

The Court affirms the conviction of the accused-appellant.

Basic is the rule that in every criminal case, the burden of proving the guilt of the accused falls upon
the prosecution which has the duty of establishing all the essential elements of the crime. 17 However,
in cases where the accused interposes the justifying circumstance of self-defense, this prosecutorial
burden is shifted to the accused who himself must prove all the indispensable ingredients of such
defense, to wit: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the
means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person
defending himself.18 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The presence or absence of these essential elements deals with factual matters which are best left to
the discretion of the trial court to ascertain. As the Court has repeatedly emphasized in many cases,
the trial court is in a better position to determine the credibility of witnesses having heard and
observed firsthand their behavior and manner of testifying during trial. 19 Thus, the reviewing court is
generally bound by the trial court's findings where no substantial reason exists that would justify a
reversal of the assessments and conclusions drawn by the latter.20 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Following a meticulous review of the records of the instant case, the Court sees no compelling reason
to deviate from this well-settled rule. Confronted with two conflicting versions, the Court is convinced
that the trial court was correct in giving great weight and respect to Vicente's testimony detailing who,
when, where and how the crime was committed in this case. As such, the Court agrees with the trial
court's ruling that there was no unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. This can be gleaned
from Vicente's vivid narration of the stabbing incident during the direct-examination conducted by
Prosecutor Bien Patulay, viz.: C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

xxxx

Q: Do you know a person name Severino Manalo?


A: Yes, sir.

Q: Do you know where is he now?


A: He is already dead, sir.
Q: Do you know the reason of his death?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What was the cause of his death?


A: He was stabbed, sir.

Q: By whom?
A: By Nestor Roxas, sir.

Q: Is this Nestor Roxas present in court today?


A: Yes, sir.

Q: Can you kindly point to him?


A: There he is, sir. (Witness pointing to a person seated on the bench for
the accused and when asked his name identified himself as Nestor
Roxas).

Q: You said that Severino Manalo was stabbed by Nestor Roxas, do you
recall when was that?
A: October 25, 1995, sir.

Q: Why do you know that Nestor Roxas stabbed Severino Manalo on


October 25, 1995?
A: Because we were talking with each other in front of the house of Alfredo
Asi, sir.

Q: To whom were you talking to?


A: To Severino Manalo, sir.

Q: On October 25, 1995, do you remember where you were?


A: In front of the house of Alfredo Asi, sir.

xxxx

Q: While you were talking to this Severino Manalo in front of the house of
Alfredo Asi, what happened?
A: I noticed Nestor Roxas approach[ed] Severino Manalo and suddenly
st[a]bbed him, sir.

Q: What was the position of Severino Manalo in relation to Nestor Roxas


when he was suddenly st[a]bbed by Nestor Roxas?
A: We were talking with each other and he was standing, sir.

xxxx

Q: Who was he facing when he was talking to you?


A: He was facing me, sir.

Q: How about Nestor Roxas, where did he come from?


A: As what I saw, he came from the back, sir.

Q: Whose back?
A: At the back of Severino Manalo, sir.

Q: And you said also that you saw him stab [bed] Severino Manalo?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What weapon did he use in stabbing Severino Manalo?


A: What I saw is a white sharp weapon, sir.
Q: Do you know how many stab blows was done by Nestor Roxas on the
body of Severino Manalo?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: How many?
A: Three, sir.

Q: Did you see at first where Severino was hit by the first stab blow?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: In what part of the body was he hit?


A: The first was at the back, the second was at the stomach and the third
was on his side, sir.

Q: Between the first and the second blow, did you recall the interval?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What was the interval?


A: I cannot recall because what I saw, it was delivered in succession, sir.

Q: When Severino Manalo was stabbed by Nestor Roxas, do you know if this
Severino Manalo was aware that he was about to be stabbed by Nestor
Roxas?
A: No, sir.

Q: Why?
A: Because he was facing me, sir.

xxxx.21
In sharp contrast, the accused-appellant fails to establish the requisites of self-defense. Only the
accused-appellant himself testified regarding his allegation that the incident started with a sudden
punch thrown at him by the victim. No other witnesses were presented by the defense to bolster their
theory of self-defense. Aside from being uncorroborated, the trial court observed that the version of
the accused-appellant is doubtful. This much can be gathered from the foregoing RTC Decision: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

"Obviously, the Court is not convinced that accused had successfully pointed out the unlawful
aggression effected by the victim when he claimed that he was suddenly boxed by Manalo when they
met and that he even cautioned him and asked the reason why he did that to him, but a knife was
poked by Manalo. Accused would have this Court to believe, that the aggression was initially
committed by Manalo and that accused was under the belief that Manalo will stab him so he was
forced to defend himself by grappling for the possession of the knife from Manalo and in course of it,
he unintentionally stabbed him trice and that without knowing that Manalo was hit, accused left the
place. To the mind of the court, this is not the kind of evidence that will substantiate the claim of self-
defense. Accused failed to present any evidence that would at least give a semblance of truth to his
narration of the incident. He claimed that he was also hit but he failed to show any medical certificate
or other evidence that would prove that he indeed was injured. Moreover, the Court can see its way
clear in saying that Manalo's action of pointing the knife to him if true was at best, only an attempt to
attack him and that the same does not pose a danger to accused's life." 22 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Consequently, weighed against the unshaken, straightforward and positive declaration of eyewitness
Vicente that the victim was suddenly stabbed thrice without any provocation, the self-serving,
uncorroborated and doubtful accused-appellant's claim of self-defense deserves no consideration.

After taking into account the location and the number of stab wounds sustained by the victim, the
accused-appellant's claim of self-defense further crumbles. To reiterate, the first stab blow hit
Severino's back jibing with Vicente's assertion that the former was stabbed from behind. Then, when
the victim was totally caught by surprise with the initial attack, the second and third stab blows were
delivered. Additionally, the number of wounds suffered by Severino invalidates the accused-appellant's
allegation that he was only defending himself for the number of wounds inflicted are rather
demonstrative of deliberate and criminal intent to end the life of the victim. 23 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Likewise weakening accused-appellant's contention that he acted in self-defense was his behavior
immediately after the incident. In the case at bar, the accused-appellant himself admitted that upon
seeing the victim lying on the ground, he boarded a jeep to go to his sister's place in San Pascual,
Batangas before moving to Bicol where he hid from the authorities for several years. The accused-
appellant's flight negates his plea of self-defense and indicates his guilt. 24
chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Having settled that the accused-appellant is not entitled to the justifying circumstance of self-defense,
the next issue to be resolved is whether treachery attended the commission of the crime.

Treachery exists when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means,
methods or forms in its execution which tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without
risk to himself arising from any defense which the offended party might make. 25 cralawred

At this point, it bears to emphasize that the stabbing was not preceded by any argument between the
victim and the accused-appellant. So, when the accused-appellant surreptitiously approached the
victim from behind, the latter had no inkling nor reason to believe that his life was in danger.

On account of the fact that Severino was just casually conversing with Vicente at that time, his
defenses were down. Naturally, Severino was too stunned by the suddenness of the first stab blow at
his back. As a result, the victim could no longer recover from the initial attack and the other two stab
blows inflicted made it more difficult for Severino to defend himself or retaliate. This is precisely the
essence of treachery wherein the attack must be deliberate and without warning, done in a swift and
unexpected manner, affording the hapless, unarmed and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or
escape.26 Further, the strategy employed by the accused-appellant in carrying out the attack
guaranteed that he will not be exposed to any risk which may arise from the defense the victim might
make.27 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

All told, the Court finds that the trial court and appellate courts committed no reversible error in
appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery in the present case.

Penalty and Pecuniary Liability


Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code,28 as amended, the penalty for the crime of murder
qualified by treachery is reclusion perpetua to death. Since there were no aggravating or mitigating
circumstances that attended the commission of the crime, the penalty of reclusion perpetua is
imposed on the accused-appellant in accordance with Article 63, paragraph 2 of the same
Code.29Therefore, the Court affirms the penalty imposed by the RTC and the CA.

With respect to the award of damages, while the Court sustains the grant of civil indemnity, moral
damages and exemplary damages to the heirs of the victim by the trial and appellate courts, the Court
finds it necessary to modify the amounts of civil indemnity and moral damages.

Prevailing jurisprudence pegs civil indemnity and moral damages in the amount of P75,000.00 each.
As such, the civil indemnity and moral damages awarded by the RTC and the CA in the amount of
P50,000.00 are both increased to P75,000.00. Civil indemnity and moral damages are automatically
awarded to the victim's heirs in murder and homicide cases upon proof of the fact of death of the
victim.30 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

The exemplary damages of P30,000.00 awarded by the RTC and CA is maintained as it conforms to
the latest rulings of the Court. Given the presence of treachery which qualified the killing of the victim
to murder, the award of exemplary damages is justified.

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals Decision dated July 31, 2014 in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05508, finding
accused-appellant, Nestor Roxas y Castro, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder, is
hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. Accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim, Severino Manalo, the amounts of P75,000.00
as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibrary

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Mendoza, and Reyes, JJ., concur. cralawlawlibrary

Endnotes:

1
A perusal of the trial court's records reveals that except for the dispositive portion of the RTC
Decision, the accused-appellant's name is stated as Nestor Roxas y Castro. The name Nestor Roxas y
Castor first appeared in the said portion which was apparently carried over when the case was
elevated to the CA.

2
Rollo, pp. 2-10; penned by CA Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan and concurred in by Associate
Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. and Marlene Gonzales-Sison.

3
Records pp. 84-98; penned by Judge Ruben A. Galvez.

4
Id. at 1.

5
Id. at 18.

6
TSN, March 28, 2011, pp. 10-11; Testimony of SPO4 Nelio Lopez.

7
Id. at 7.

8
TSN, January 31, 2011, pp. 6-8; Testimony of Serapio Manalo.

9
Records, p. 63.

10
Id. at 66.

11
TSN, August 2, 2011, p. 6; Testimony of Nestor Roxas y Castro.
12
Id. at 5-6.

13
Id. at 7.

14
Id. at 15.

15
Supra note 1.

16
Records, p. 98.

Sierra v. People, 609 Phil. 446 (2009).


17

People v. Herrera, 422 Phil. 830, 850 (2001).


18

People v. Requiz, 376 Phil. 750, 755 (1999).


19

People v. Resuma, 570 Phil. 313, 322-323 (2008).


20

21
TSN, December 7, 2010, pp. 4-9; Testimony of Vicente Dimalibot.

22
Records, pp. 94-95.

People v. Pacantara, 431 Phil. 496, 508 (2002).


23

People v. Pansensoy, 437 Phil. 499 (2002).


24

People v. Torres, Sr., 671 Phil. 482, 491 (2011).


25

People v. Borreros, 366 Phil. 360, 372-373 (1999).


26

People v. Estrada, 654 Phil. 467 (2011).


27

28
Art. 248. Murder. - Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246 shall kill another,
shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua, to death if committed with any
of the following attendant circumstances:

1. With treachery, xxxx.

29
Art. 63. Rules for the qpplicalion of indivisible penalties. - xxxx.

xxxx

2. When there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed,
the lesser penalty shall be applied.

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 188694, February 12, 2014

RICARDO L. ATIENZA AND ALFREDO A. CASTRO, Petitioners, v. PEOPLE OF THE


PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PERLASBERNABE, J.:
Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari1 is the Decision2 dated November 28, 2008 of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CAG.R. CR. No. 30650 which affirmed the Decision 3 dated June 8, 2006 of the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 21 (RTC) in Criminal Case Nos. 01197425 and 01197426,
finding petitioners Ricardo L. Atienza (Atienza) and Alfredo A. Castro (Castro) guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crimes of Robbery and Falsification of Public Document.

The Facts

Atienza and Castro (petitioners) are employees of the CA, particularly assigned to its Budget Division
and holding the positions of Budget Officer I and Utility Worker I,4 respectively, at the time material to
this case.

On March 20, 1995, at about past noon,5 Juanito Atibula (Atibula), Records Officer I and Custodian of
the CA Original Decisions in the CA Reporters Division, who was invited by Castro to attend Atienzas
birthday party somewhere along Bocobo Street, Ermita, Manila. At the party, Atienza introduced
Atibula to a certain Dario and asked him to assist the latter in searching for the CA decision 6 in the
case entitled Mateo Fernando v. Heirs of D. Tuason, Inc.7 (Fernando), docketed as CAG.R. No.
36808R.8 cralawlawlibrary

Thereafter, Atibula returned to the office followed a few minutes later by Dario and searched for
the aforementioned decision which was found compiled in Volume 260 of the CA Original Decisions. As
Dario was scanning through the said volume, Atibula observed that he was comparing its pages 9to the
discolored papers he was holding. 10 Dario likewise scanned Volumes 265 and 267,11 and placed check
marks on the papers he was holding. 12

On March 24, 1995, after office hours, Atibula saw Dario outside the CA compound along Maria Orosa
Street.13 As they walked side by side towards the jeepney stop, Dario requested Atibula to insert a
Decision dated September 26, 1968 in one of the volumes of the CA Original Decisions. However,
Atibula refused and immediately left.14

On April 21, 1995, Atienza offered Atibula the amount of P50,000.00 in exchange for Volume
260,15which the latter turned down. Atienza then ridiculed him saying, duwag ka, pera na nga ito
ayaw mo pa, to which Atibula retorted, ikaw ang duwag dahil nagpapakita ka ng kabuktutan.
Disturbed by the situation, Atibula reported the incident to Atty. Arnel Macapagal 16 (Atty. Macapagal),
the Assistant Chief of the CA Reporters Division, who then instructed him (Atibula) to hide Volumes
260, 265 and 26717 in a safe place.18

On May 9, 1995, Atibula discovered that Volume 26619 covering the period from January 28 to
February 12, 1969 was missing20 and, hence, immediately reported the same to Atty. Macapagal. Two
days after the discovery of the loss, Atibula encountered Atienza near the canteen, 21 shouting
[p]utang ina mo, Juaning, pinahirapan mo kami!22

On May 18, 1995, a certain Nelson de Castro, Clerk IV detailed at the CA Reporters Division, 23handed
to Atibula a bag containing a giftwrapped package which turned out to be the missing Volume 266.
He claimed that it was Castro who asked him to deliver the said package to Atibula. 24

Having been notified of Volume 266s return, Atty. Macapagal then directed Atibula to ascertain who
borrowed the volume. Records, however, disclosed no one. 25 Separately, Atibula compared the
contents of Volume 266 with the index of the decisions and noticed that there were two new
documents inserted therein,26 namely: (a) a Resolution27 dated February 11, 1969 (subject resolution),
ostensibly penned by Associate Justice Juan P. Enriquez (Justice Enriquez) and concurred in by
Associate Justices Magno S. Gatmaitan and Edilberto Soriano, recalling and setting aside the Entry of
Judgment earlier issued in the Fernando case; and (b) a Decision28 dated April 16, 1970 (subject
decision), also ostensibly penned by Justice Enriquez and concurred in by Associate Justices Jesus Y.
Perez and Jose M. Mendoza, amending the original decision dated September 26, 1968 in the
aforementioned case. Consequently, Atibula reported his findings to Atty. Macapagal who, in turn,
informed Atty. Gemma Leticia F. Tablate (Atty. Tablate), then Chief of the CA Reporters Division, of the
same. They tried to verify the genuineness, authenticity and existence of the subject resolution and
decision, and found that the compilation of the duplicate original decisions/resolutions of Justice
Enriquez did not bear the said promulgations. Atty. Tablate reported the incident to then CA Presiding
Justice Nathanael P. De Pano, Jr.29 who immediately requested the National Bureau of Investigation
(NBI) to conduct an investigation on the matter.30

Laboratory analysis and comparative examination of the subject resolution and decision 31 as well as of
a decision in another case found in pages 906 to 922 of Volume 266 of the CA Original Decisions were
conducted by the NBI.32 As a result, it issued its Questioned Documents Report No. 937
1295,33 finding that: (a) Volume 266 had indeed been altered;34 and (b) the signatures of the CA
Justices in the subject resolution and decision (questioned signatures) and their standard/sample
signatures were not written by one and the same person,35 leading to the conclusion that the
questioned signatures were forgeries.36

Meanwhile, sometime in the second week of July 1995, an inspection of the airconditioning units at
the office of the CA Reporters Division was conducted, whereby it was discovered that the improvised
angle bar supporting the air conditioning unit at the right most end from the main door was corroded
with rust and the portion of the wall holding the same was broken (may bakbak na).37 NBI Agents,
Atty. Daniel D. Daganzo38 (Atty. Daganzo) and Norman R. Decampong39 then conducted an ocular
inspection of the premises, and, in the course thereof, interviewed several personnel of the CA
Maintenance Division. Said investigation yielded the following findings: (a) there were no signs of
forcible entry;40 (b) the perpetrators gained entry to the office of the CA Reporters Division by
passing through the hole on the concrete wall after removing the air conditioning unit 41located on the
right most [sic] end from the main door;42 (c) there was conspiracy to commit the crime of
Falsification of Public Document between Atienza and Dario in view of their concerted efforts through
previous or simultaneous acts and deeds;43 and (d) Castro assisted Atienza and Dario to profit from
the effects of the crime by returning safely the missing volume to the [CA Reporters
Division].44 Consequently, a criminal complaint was filed by the NBI and the FactFinding and
Intelligence Bureau of the Office of the Ombudsman against Atienza, Castro, and Dario before the
Evaluation and Preliminary Investigation Bureau of the OMB, docketed as OMB0972054, 45charging
them for the following crimes: (a) Falsification of Public Document; (b) violation of Section 3(a)46 of
Republic Act No. (RA) 3019,47 as amended; and (c) violation of Section 848 of RA 6713.49

After investigation, the charges involving the pertinent provisions of RAs 3019 and 6713 were
dismissed for insufficiency of evidence,50 but it was contrarily determined that there existed probable
cause to charge Atienza, Castro, and Dario 51 for the crimes of Robbery under Article 299(a)(1) 52 of the
Revised Penal Code53 (RPC), as amended, and of Falsification of Public Document under Article
172(1)54 in relation to Article 171(6)55 of the same code. Thus, the corresponding
Informations,56respectively docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 01197425 and 01197426, were filed
before the RTC. Petitioners posted bail57 and, thereafter, pleaded not guilty 58 to the charges during
their arraignment, while Dario remained at large.

In his defense, Atienza denied having anything to do with the questioned incidents 59 as he was not
even summoned by the CA Clerk of Court or the Chief of the Reporters Division, 60 and became aware
of the incident only when he and Castro were subpoenaed by the NBI Special Investigators. 61Further,
he gave the alibi that he was out of the office 4 days a week during the months of April to June
1995,62 reporting only on Fridays,63 since he had to perform his duties as Budget Officer I of the CA
Budget Division and Liaison Officer to the Department of Budget and Management, the Committee on
Appropriation of the Congress, Committee on Appropriation of the lower house, and the Committee on
Finance of the Senate and the GSIS.

On the other hand, Castro did not endeavor to refute the allegations in the Informations filed against
him and the other accused.64

The RTC Ruling

After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered a Decision65 on June 8, 2006, finding petitioners guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of Robbery under Article 299(a)(1) of the RPC and Falsification
of Public Document under Article 172(1) in relation to Article 171(6) of the RPC, and sentenced them
to each suffer: (a) the indeterminate penalty of six (6) months and one (1) day, as minimum, to two
(2) years and four (4) months of prision correccional, as maximum, for the first crime; and (b) the
penalty of six (6) months and one (1) day, as minimum, to six (6) years of prision correccional, as
maximum, and a fine of P5,000.00 for the second crime.

In convicting petitioners, the RTC found that the evidence x x x of the prosecution is replete with
situations and/or events to prove [petitioners] guilt,66 namely: (a) Atienza requested Atibula to take
out Volumes 260, 265 and 267 of the CA Original Decisions from the CA Reporters Division, which the
latter rejected despite offer of remuneration; (b) Volume 266 was subsequently discovered to be
missing; (c) access to the missing volume appears to have been acquired by entering through an
opening in the premises of the CAs Reporters Division because the air conditioning unit occupying the
space thereat was taken out for repair earlier; (d) Castro returned Volume 266 after its loss;67(e)
Volume 266 bore badges of tampering evidenced by the noncontinuity of the front and the back
cover flaps x x x and the pages of the book/volume differences in the cutting marks on the sides of
the volume and the presence of artificial aging on [its] sides; 68 and (f) two (2) new documents which
materially amended the original decision and resolution in the Fernando case were inserted in the said
volume.69 The RTC further added that the manner by which petitioners committed the felonious acts
reveals a community of criminal design, and thereby held that conspiracy exists. 70

Aggrieved, petitioners appealed their conviction to the CA.

The CA Ruling

In a Decision71 dated November 28, 2008, the CA affirmed the RTCs judgment of conviction in toto. It
held that while there is no direct evidence showing that the petitioners committed the crimes charged,
the testimonies of Atibula and NBI Agent Atty. Daganzo with respect to what had transpired before
and after Volume 266 was taken from its shelf, when viewed together with the other circumstances in
the case, constitute circumstantial evidence which sufficiently point to the guilt of petitioners. 72 In
addition, it found that Atienzas defenses were selfserving negative evidence which cannot outweigh
the circumstantial evidence clearly establishing his participation, 73 adding too that while there was no
proof of previous agreement between petitioners to unlawfully take Volume 266 out of the office of the
CA Reporters Division and falsify the subject documents, their conspiracy may be inferred from the
fact that Castro was in possession of the missing Volume 266 which was eventually discovered to have
been falsified.74

Undaunted, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration 75 which was, however, denied in a
Resolution76 dated July 7, 2009, hence, the instant petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The essential issue for the Courts resolution is whether or not petitioners conviction for the crimes of
Robbery and Falsification of Public Document should be upheld on account of the circumstantial
evidence in this case proving their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The Courts Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

Circumstantial evidence consists of proof of collateral facts and circumstances from which the main
fact in issue may be inferred based on reason and common experience. 77 It is sufficient for conviction
if: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are
proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond
reasonable doubt. To uphold a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, it is essential that the
circumstantial evidence presented must constitute an unbroken chain which leads one to a fair and
reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused, to the exclusion of the others, as the guilty person.
Stated differently, the test to determine whether or not the circumstantial evidence on record is
sufficient to convict the accused is that the series of circumstances duly proven must be consistent
with each other and that each and every circumstance must be consistent with the accuseds guilt and
inconsistent with his innocence.78
Applying these principles to the facts that appear on record, the Court finds that no sufficient
circumstantial evidence was presented in this case to establish the elements of Robbery under Article
299(a)(1)79 of the RPC and Falsification of Public Documents under Article 172(1) in relation to Article
171(6)80 of the same code, or of petitioners supposed conspiracy therefor. To this end, the Court
examines the participation of and evidence against each petitioner and forthwith explains its reasons
for reaching the foregoing conclusions.

A. The Participation of and Evidence Against Castro

Notwithstanding Castros failure to refute the charges against him, the Court finds no evidence to link
him to the commission of the crimes of Robbery and Falsification of Public Document, contrary to the
conclusions reached by the RTC and concurred in by the CA. To begin with, it is essential to note that
Castros purported possession and eventual return of Volume 266 was only premised upon the
statement of one Nelson de Castro (Nelson), i.e., the Sinumpaang Salaysay81 dated August 9, 1995,
who averred that on May 18, 1995, at around 11:50 in the morning, Castro told him to pass by his
office and there handed him a bag which, as it turned out, contained the missing Volume 266, viz.:82
Noong Mayo 18, 1995 bandang 11:50 ng tanghali ay tumawag sa telepono si ALFREDO CASTRO, ng
Budget Division, at sinabihan ako na dumaan sa kanyang opisina dahil mayroon daw siyang ibibigay
para sa opisina namin. Pumunta po naman ako kaagad kay ALFREDO CASTRO sa opisina at iniabot sa
akin ang isang bag na malaki kulay parang pink at may laman at sinabihan pa niya ako na buksan ko
na lang daw ang bag pagdating sa opisina. Pagdating ko sa opisina ay tinawag ko si Mr. ATIBULA at
doon ay binuksan naming dalawa ang bag. Nakita ko sa loob ang isang bagay na nakabalot sa isang
gift wrap at ng buksan namin o alisin ang gift wrap ay ang Original Decisions, Volume 266 na
nawawala mga ilang linggo na ang nakakaraan.
Nelson was not, however, presented before the RTC during trial, hence, was not subjected to any in
court examination. It is settled that while affidavits may be considered as public documents if they are
acknowledged before a notary public (here, a public officer authorized to administer oaths), they are
still classified as hearsay evidence unless the affiants themselves are placed on the witness stand to
testify thereon and the adverse party is accorded the opportunity to crossexamine them. 83 With the
prosecutions failure to present Nelson to affirm his statement that Castro caused the return of Volume
266,84 the prosecutions evidence on the matter should be treated as hearsay and, thus, inadmissible
to establish the truth or falsity of the relevant claims. Consequently, there exists no sufficient
circumstantial evidence to prove Castros guilt.

B. The Participation of and Evidence Against Atienza

In similar regard, the prosecutions evidence on the circumstances in this case do not sufficiently
establish Atienzas guilt for the crimes of Robbery and Falsification of Public Document.

While records show that Atienza was positively identified by Atibula as having attempted to bribe him
to take out Volume 260 of the CA Original Decisions from the Reporters Division, 85 the fact is that
the alleged intercalation actually occurred in a different document, that is Volume 266. The
discrepancy of accounts on the very subject matter of the crimes charged dilutes the strength of the
evidence required to produce a conviction. At best, the bribery attempt may be deemed as a
demonstration of interest on the part of Atienza over said subject matter and in this regard,
constitutes proof of motive. However, it is wellestablished that mere proof of motive, no matter how
strong, is not sufficient to support a conviction, most especially if there is no other reliable evidence
from which it may reasonably be deduced that the accused was the malefactor.86

In fact, even if Atienzas bribery attempt is taken together with the other circumstance couched as a
relevant link by the prosecution in this case i.e., his averred encounter with Atibula, on May 11,
1995, or two (2) days after the discovery of the loss of Volume 266, wherein the latter uttered
[p]utang ina mo, Juaning, pinahirapan mo kami87 the Court still finds the evidence to be lacking.
This allegation, even if proven as true, does not indicate that Atienza howsoever affirmed the taking or
even the falsification of Volume 266. Clearly, the utterance was made by Atibula who did not bother to
state Atienzas response thereto or any other subsequent action connected therewith so as to bolster a
finding of guilt. Neither can this circumstance be properly linked to the act of Castro inviting Atibula to
Atienzas party. It would be a stretch to conclude that this mere invitation, without any other proof of
Castros participation, was instrumental or, at the very least, reasonably connected to Atienza and his
own alleged participation in the abovestated crimes.

In this relation, it may not be amiss to debunk the claim that petitioners conspired in this case. While
direct proof is not essential to establish conspiracy as it may be inferred from the collective acts of the
accused before, during and after the commission of the crime which point to a joint purpose, design,
concerted action, and community of interests, 88 records are, however, bereft of any showing as to how
the particular acts of petitioners figured into the common design of taking out the subject volume and
inserting the falsified documents therein. Hence, the prosecutions theory of conspiracy does not
deserve any merit.

All told, the prosecution has failed to show that the circumstances invoked constitute an unbroken
chain of events which lead to a fair and reasonable conclusion that petitioners are, to the exclusion of
the others, indeed the culprits. As such, their conviction, tested under the threshold of proof beyond
reasonable doubt, was not warranted. To be sure, proof beyond reasonable doubt is the degree of
proof that, after investigation of the whole record, produces moral certainty in an unprejudiced mind
of the accuseds culpability.89 Such moral certainty is, however, lacking in this case due to the
insufficiency of the circumstantial evidence presented.

C. Jurisdictional Defect: Falsification Case

Also, it bears mentioning that the RTC did not have jurisdiction to take cognizance of Criminal Case
No. 01197426 (i.e., the falsification case) since Falsification of Public Document under Article
172(1)90 of the RPC, which is punishable by prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods
(or imprisonment for 2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 6 years 91 ) and a fine of not more than
P5,000.00, falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts
and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts pursuant to Section 32(2) 92 of Batas Pambansa Bilang
129,93otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, as amended by RA 7691. 94 While
petitioners raised this jurisdictional defect95 for the first time in the present petition, they are not
precluded from questioning the same. Indeed, jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred only by
the Constitution or the law and cannot be acquired through a waiver or enlarged by the omission of
the parties or conferred by the acquiescence of the court. The rule is wellsettled that lack of
jurisdiction over the subject matter may be raised at any stage of the proceedings. Hence,
questions of jurisdiction may be cognizable even if raised for the first time on appeal. 96

D. A Final Word

The Constitution mandates that an accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven
beyond reasonable doubt. The burden lies on the prosecution to overcome such presumption of
innocence, failing which, the presumption of innocence prevails and the accused should be
acquitted.97 This, despite the fact that his innocence may be doubted, for a criminal conviction rests on
the strength of the evidence of the prosecution and not on the weakness or even absence of defense.
If the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is
consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence
does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction, as in this case.
Courts should be guided by the principle that it would be better to set free ten men who might be
probably guilty of the crime charged than to convict one innocent man for a crime he did not
commit.98 Accordingly, there being no circumstantial evidence sufficient to support a conviction, the
Court hereby acquits petitioners, without prejudice, however, to any subsequent finding on their
administrative liability in connection with the incidents in this case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated November 28, 2008 of the Court of
Appeals in CAG.R. CR. No. 30650 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioners Ricardo L. Atienza and
Alfredo A. Castro are hereby ACQUITTED of the crimes of Robbery and Falsification of Public
Document on the ground of reasonable doubt, without prejudice to any subsequent finding on their
administrative liability in connection with the incidents in this case. The bail bonds posted for their
provisional liberty are consequently cancelled and released. C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

SO ORDERED.
Carpio, J., (Chairperson), Brion, Del Castillo, and Perez, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:

Rollo, pp. 838.


1

2
Id. at 4261. Penned by Associate Justice Isaias Dicdican, with Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez,
Jr. and Marlene GonzalesSison, concurring.

3
Id. at 8497. Penned by Judge Amor A. Reyes.

4
See Information in Criminal Case Nos. 01197425 and 01197426; records, pp. 3 and 6.

5
Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), December 3, 2002, p. 15.

6
TSN, December 2, 2002, pp. 57.

Rollo, p. 45.
7

8
Records, p. 669.

9
TSN, December 2, 2002, pp. 78.

10
Sinumpaang Salaysay dated August 9, 1995 executed by Juanito Atibula (Atibulas Sinumpaang
Salaysay), records, p. 320.

11
TSN, December 3, 2002, p. 18.

12
Atibulas Sinumpaang Salaysay, records, p. 320.

13
TSN, December 3, 2002, pp. 1314.

14
Rollo, p. 46; see also Atibulas Sinumpaang Salaysay, records, pp. 320321.

15
TSN, December 3, 2002, pp. 1920.

16
TSN, December 2, 2002, pp. 1213.

17
TSN, December 3, 2002, p. 21.

18
Atibulas Sinumpaang Salaysay, records, p. 321.

19
Id. at 22.

20
Letters dated May 22, 1995 and June 21, 1995 of Atty. Gemma Leticia F. Tablate (Letters dated May
22, 1995 and June 21, 1995), records, pp. 336 and 667.

21
Atibulas Sinumpaang Salaysay, id. at 321.

22
TSN, December 2, 2002, p. 14.

23
Letters dated May 22, 1995 and June 21, 1995, records, pp. 336 and 667.

24
TSN, December 2, 2002, pp. 1314.

25
Atibulas Sinumpaang Salaysay, records, p. 321.
26
Letters dated May 22, 1995 and June 21, 1995, id. at 336 and 667.

27
266 CA Original Decisions 906907.

28
Id. at 908915.

29
Letters dated May 22, 1995 and June 21, 1995, records, pp. 336337 and 667668.

30
Letter dated June 26, 1995, id. at 669670.

31
Id. at 329.

32
TSN, August 12, 2002, pp. 4143.

33
Records, pp. 329334.

34
Id. at 329.

35
Id. at 333.

36
TSN, August 12, 2002, pp. 5661.

37
Sinumpaang Salaysay dated April 29, 1997 executed by Cielito Salud; records, p. 510.

38
TSN, October 15, 2002, p. 1.

39
See Final Report dated May 23, 1997, records, p. 557.

40
Id. at 551.

41
Id. at 554.

42
Id. at 551.

43
Id. at 555.

44
Id. at 556.

Rollo, p. 65.
45

46
Section 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. In addition to acts or omissions of public officers
already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer
and are hereby declared to be unlawful: chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

(a) Persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation
of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the
official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such
violation or offense.

xxx
47
Entitled the ANTIGRAFT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT.

48
Relative to petitioners failure to file their respective sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net
Worth and Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections covering the years 1989 to
1994, as required under Section 8 of RA 6713; rollo, p. 71.

49
Entitled AN ACT ESTABLISHING A CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC
OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES, TO UPHOLD THE TIMEHONORED PRINCIPLE OF PUBLIC OFFICE BEING
A PUBLIC TRUST, GRANTING INCENTIVES AND REWARDS FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE, ENUMERATING
PROHIBITED ACTS AND TRANSACTIONS AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF AND
FOR OTHER PURPOSES; otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public
Officials and Employees.

Rollo, p. 82.
50

See Resolution dated August 9, 2001 penned by Graft Investigation Officer I Francisco Alan L.
51

Molina, Id. at 6583.

52
Art. 299. Robbery in an inhabited house or public building or edifice devoted to worship. Any
armed person who shall commit robbery in an inhabited house or public building or edifice devoted to
religious worship, shall be punished by reclusion temporal, if the value of the property taken shall
exceed 250 pesos, and if:

(a) The malefactors shall enter the house or building in which the robbery was committed, by any of
the following means:

1. Through an opening not intended for entrance or egress;

xxx

53
Act No. 3815, as amended, entitled AN ACT REVISING THE PENAL CODE AND OTHER PENAL LAWS.

54
Art. 172. Falsification by private individual and use of falsified documents. The penalty of prision
correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P5,000 pesos shall be
imposed upon:

1. Any private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding
article in any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial
document; and

xxx

55
Art. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee or notary or ecclesiastic minister. The penalty
of prision mayor and a fine not to exceed P5,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any public officer,
employee, or notary who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by
committing any of the following acts:

xxx

6. Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;

xxx

56
Records, pp. 24 and 57, respectively.

57
Id. at 55 and 69.

58
See Order dated March 13, 2002, id. at 113.

59
TSN, June 1, 2004, p. 14.

60
Id. at 10 & 15.

61
Id. at 4.

62
Id. at 34; rollo, p. 48.

63
TSN, June 1, 2004, p. 14
Rollo, p. 58.
64

65
Id. at 8497.

66
Id. at 94.

67
Id. at 9495.

68
Id. at 95.

69
Id. at 94.

70
Id. at 9697.

71
Id. at 4261.

72
Id. at 57.

73
Id. at 58.

74
Id. at 59.

75
CA rollo, pp. 249256.

Rollo, pp. 6263.


76

People v. Ibaez, G.R. No. 191752, June 10, 2013, 698 SCRA 161, 176.
77

People v. Lamsen, G.R. No. 198338, February 20, 2013, 691 SCRA 498, 507.
78

79
To convict the accused for Robbery under Article 299(a)(1) of the RPC, the following elements must
be established:

(a) That the offender entered an inhabited place, public building, or edifice devoted to religious
worship;

(b) That the entrance was effected through an opening not intended for entrance or egress; and

(c) That once inside the building, the offender took personal property belonging to another with intent
to gain. (See Reyes, Luis B., The Revised Penal Code Criminal Law, Book Two, Articles 114367,
18th Ed., 2012, p. 704.)

80
The elements of Falsification of Public Documents by a Private Individual under Article 172(1) in
relation to Article 171 of the RPC are:

(a) That the offender is a private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage
of his official position;

(b) That he committed any of the acts of falsification enumerated in Article 171 of the RPC; and

(c) That the falsification was committed in a public, official or commercial document. (See Panuncio v.
People, G.R. No. 165678, July 17, 2009, 593 SCRA 180, 189190.)

Meanwhile, the elements of Falsification under Article 171(6) of the RPC are as follows:

(a) That there be an alteration (change) or intercalation (insertion) on a document;

(b) That it was made on a genuine document;


(c) That the alteration or intercalation has changed the meaning of the document; and

(d) That the changes made the document speak something false. (See Tan, Jr. v. Matsuura, G.R. Nos.
179003 and 195816, January 9, 2013, 688 SCRA 263, 280281.)

81
Records, pp. 323324.

82
Id. at 324.

83
See Republic v. MarcosManotoc, G. R. No. 171701, February 8, 2012, 665 SCRA 367, 388.

84
Records, p. 324.

85
TSN, December 3, 2002, pp. 2021.

People v. Comesario, 366 Phil. 62, 68 (1999).


86

87
TSN, December 2, 2002, p. 14.

People v. Lamsen, supra note 78, at 508.


88

People v. Bacus, G.R. No. 60388, November 21, 1991, 204 SCRA 81, 93.
89

Rollo, p. 3637.
90

91
See Reyes, Luis B., The Revised Penal Code Criminal Law, Book Two, Articles 114367, 18 th Ed.,
2012, p. 1081.

92
SEC. 32. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial
Courts in Criminal Cases. Except in cases falling within the exclusive original jurisdiction of Regional
Trial Court and of the Sandiganbayan, the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

xxx

(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over all offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6)
years irrespective of the amount of fine, and regardless of other imposable accessory or other
penalties, including the civil liability arising from such offenses or predicated thereon, irrespective of
kind, nature, value or amount thereof: Provided, however, That in offenses involving damage to
property through criminal negligence, they shall have exclusive original jurisdiction thereof.

93
Entitled AN ACT REORGANIZING THE JUDICIARY, APPROPRIATING FUND THEREFOR, AND FOR
OTHER PURPOSES.

94
Entitled AN ACT EXPANDING THE JURISDICTION OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURTS,
MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURTS, AND MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURTS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE
BATAS PAMBANSA BLG. 129, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE JUDICIARY REORGANIZATION ACT OF
1980.

Rollo, p. 36.
95

96
See Republic v. Bantigue Point Development Corporation, G. R. No. 162322, March 14, 2012, 668
SCRA 158, 163164.

People v. Alejandro, G.R. No. 176350, August 10, 2011, 655 SCRA 279, 287.
97

People v. Angus, Jr., G.R. No. 178778, August 3, 2010, 626 SCRA 503, 517518.
98
THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 191185, February 01, 2016

GUILBEMER FRANCO, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

The Constitution presumes a person innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The prosecution cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense's evidence for it
has the onus probandi in establishing the guilt of the accused - ei incumbit probatio qui elicit, non que
negat he who asserts, not he who denies, must prove. 1 chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Nature of the Case

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari2 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court where
petitioner Guilbemer Franco (Franco) assails the Decision 3 dated September 16, 2009 of the Court of
Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CR No. 31706, affirming the Decision 4 dated February 27, 2008 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 15, in Criminal Case No. 05-238613. The RTC convicted
Franco of the crime of Theft under an Information, which reads as follows: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

That on or about November 3, 2004, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent to gain and without the knowledge and consent of
the owner thereof, take, steal and carry away one (1) Nokia 3660 Model cellular phone worth Php
18,500.00 belonging to BENJAMIN JOSEPH NAKAMOTO Y ERGUIZA to the damage and prejudice
of the said owner in the aforesaid amount of Php 18,500.00, Philippine Currency.

Contrary to law.5chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

On September 5, 2005, Franco, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. 6 chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The Facts

The evidence for the prosecution established the following facts:

On November 3, 2004 at around 11:00 a.m., Benjamin Joseph Nakamoto (Nakamoto) went to work
out at the Body Shape Gym located at Malong Street, Tondo, Manila. After he finished working out, he
placed his Nokia 3660 cell phone worth PI8,500.00 on the altar where gym users usually put their
valuables and proceeded to the comfort room to change his clothes. After ten minutes, he returned to
get his cell phone, but it was already missing. Arnie Rosario (Rosario), who was also working out,
informed him that he saw Franco get a cap and a cell phone from the altar. Nakamoto requested
everyone not to leave the gym, but upon verification from the logbook, he found out that Franco had
left within the time that he was in the shower.7 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The gym's caretaker, Virgilio Ramos (Ramos), testified that he saw Franco in the gym but he was not
working out and was just going around the area. In fact, it was just Franco's second time at the gym.
Ramos even met him near the door and as Franco did not log out, he was the one who indicated it in
their logbook. When Nakamoto announced that his cell phone was missing and asked that nobody
leaves the place, he put an asterisk opposite the name of Franco in the logbook to indicate that he
was the only one who left the gym after the cell phone was declared lost. 8 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Nakamoto, together with Jeoffrey Masangkay, a police officer who was also working out at the gym,
tried to locate Franco within the gym's vicinity but they failed to find him. They proceeded to the
police station and while there, a report was received from another police officer that somebody saw
Franco along Coral Street, which is near the gym and that he was holding a cell phone. They went to
Coral Street but he was already gone. A vendor told them that he saw a person who was holding a cell
phone, which was then ringing and that the person was trying to shut it off. When they went to
Franco's house, they were initially not allowed to come in but were eventually let in by Franco's
mother. They talked to Franco who denied having taken the cell phone. 9 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Nakamoto then filed a complaint with the barangay but no settlement was arrived thereat; hence, a
criminal complaint for theft was filed against Franco before the City Prosecutor's Office of Manila,
docketed as I.S. No. 04K-25849.10 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

In his defense, Franco denied the charge, alleging that if Nakamoto had indeed lost his cell phone at
around 1:00 p.m., he and his witnesses could have confronted him as at that time, he was still at the
gym, having left only at around 2:45 p.m.11 He also admitted to have taken a cap and cell phone from
the altar but claimed these to be his.12 chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Ruling of the RTC

In its Decision dated February 27, 2008, The RTC convicted Franco of theft, the dispositive portion of
which reads: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, this Court finds [Franco], GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
of theft penalized in paragraph I of Article 309 in relation to Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code and
hereby imposes upon him the penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1)
day as minimum to seven (7) years and four (4) months as maximum and to pay the complainant Php
18,500.00.

SO ORDERED.13 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

The RTC did not find Franco's defense credible and ruled that his denial cannot be given evidentiary
value over the positive testimony of Rosario.14 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

Franco then appealed to the CA.15 chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Ruling of the CA

In affirming the RTC decision, the CA found the elements of theft to have been duly established. It
relied heavily on the "positive testimony" of Rosario who declared to have seen Franco take a cap and
a cell phone from the altar. The CA likewise gave credence to the testimony of Ramos who confirmed
that it was only Franco who left the gym immediately before Nakamoto announced that his cell phone
was missing. Ramos also presented the logbook and affirmed having put an asterisk opposite the
name "ELMER," which was entered by the accused upon logging in. The CA stated that taken together,
the foregoing circumstances are sufficient to support a moral conviction that Franco is guilty, and at
the same time, inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent. 16 The CA further ruled that the
RTC cannot be faulted for giving more weight to the testimony of Nakamoto 17 and
Rosario,18 considering that Franco failed to show that they were impelled by an ill or improper motive
to falsely testify against him.19 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

In his petition for review, Franco presented the following issues for resolution, to wit: C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

I.

WHETHER THE HONORABLE [CA] ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE PROSECUTION
WITNESSES' INCONSISTENT AND IRRECONCILABLE TESTIMONIES. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

II.
WHETHER THE HONORABLE [CA] ERRED IN AFFIRMING [FRANCO'S] CONVICTION DESPITE THE FACT
THAT THE SAME WAS BASED ON FABRICATIONS AND PRESUMPTIONS. chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

III.

WHETHER. THE HONORABLE [CA] ERRED IN ACCEPTING THE VALUE OF THE ALLEGEDLY STOLEN
CELLULAR PHONE WITHOUT SUBSTANTIATING EVIDENCE.20 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Ruling of the Court

Preliminarily, the Court restates the rule that only errors of law and not of facts are reviewable by this
Court in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court. This rule
applies with greater force when the factual findings of the CA are in full agreement with that of the
RTC.21chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

The rule, however, is not ironclad. A departure therefrom may be warranted when it is established that
the RTC ignored, overlooked, misconstrued or misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances, which, if
considered, will change the outcome of the case. Considering that what is at stake here is liberty, the
Court has carefully reviewed the records of the case 22 and finds that Franco should be acquitted.

Failure of the prosecution to prove Franco's guilt beyond reasonable doubt

The burden of such proof rests with the prosecution, which must rely on the strength of its case rather
than on the weakness of the case for the defense. Proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that quantum of
proof sufficient to produce a moral certainty that would convince and satisfy the conscience of those
who act in judgment, is indispensable to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence. 23 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

In every criminal conviction, the prosecution is required to prove two things beyond reasonable
doubt: first, the fact of the commission of the crime charged, or the presence of all the elements of
the offense; and second, the fact that the accused was the perpetrator of the crime. 24 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, the essential elements of the crime of theft are: (1) the
taking of personal property; (2) the property belongs to another; (3) the taking away was done with
intent to gain; (4) the taking away was done without the consent of the owner; and (5) the taking
away is accomplished without violence or intimidation against person or force upon things. 25 cralawre d

The corpus delicti in theft has two elements, to wit: (1) that the property was lost by the owner; and
(2) that it was lost by felonious taking. 26 In this case, the crucial issue is whether the prosecution has
presented proof beyond reasonable doubt to establish the corpus delicti of the crime. In affirming
Franco's conviction, the CA ruled that the elements were established. Moreover, the RTC and the CA
apparently relied heavily on circumstantial evidence.

To sustain a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court
provides that the following requisites must concur: (1) there must be more than one circumstance to
convict; (2) the facts on which the inference of guilt is based must be proved; and (3) the combination
of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. With respect to
the third requisite, it is essential that the circumstantial evidence presented must constitute an
unbroken chain, which leads one to a fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused, to the
exclusion of others, as the guilty person.27chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses - Nakamoto, the complainant; Ramos, the gym's
caretaker; and Rosario, another gym user.

Their testimonies established the following circumstances: (1) Nakamoto placed his cell phone on the
altar,28 left and went to change his clothes, and alter ten minutes, returned to get his cell phone but
the same was already missing;29 (2) Rosario saw Franco get a cap and a cell phone from the same
place;30 and (3) Ramos saw Franco leave the gym at 1:15 p.m. and the latter failed to log out in the
logbook.31 The RTC and the CA wove these circumstances in order to arrive at the "positive
identification" of Franco as the perpetrator.32 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
A perusal of their testimonies, however, shows that certain facts have been overlooked by both courts.

For one, it was only Rosario who saw Franco get a cap and a cell phone from the altar. His lone
testimony, however, cannot be considered a positive identification of Franco as the perpetrator.33 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

In People v. Pondivida,34 the Court held: C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Positive identification pertains essentially to proof of identity and not per se to that of being an
eyewitness to the very act of commission of the crime. There are two types of positive identification. A
witness may identify a suspect or accused in a criminal case as the perpetrator of the crime as an
eyewitness to the very act of the commission of the crime. This constitutes direct evidence. There
may, however, be instances where, although a witness may not have actually seen the very act of
commission of a crime, he may still be able to positively identify a suspect or accused as the
perpetrator of a crime as for instance when the latter is the person or one of the persons last seen
with the victim immediately before and right after the commission of the crime. This is the second,
type of positive identification, which forms part of circumstantial evidence, which, when taken together
with other pieces of evidence constituting an unbroken chain, leads to only fair and reasonable
conclusion, which is that the accused is the author of the crime to the exclusion of all others. x x
x.35 (Emphasis omitted and underscoring ours)
Rosario's testimony definitely cannot fall under the first category of positive identification. While it may
support the conclusion that Franco took a cell phone from the altar, it does not establish with certainty
that what Franco feloniously took, assuming that he did, was Nakamoto's cell phone. Rosario merely
testified that Franco took "a cell phone." He stated: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Q: How did you know that the said cell phone was taken by the accused?
A: [W]e were then in a conversation when I asked him to spot or assist me
with the weights that I intended to carry. We were then situated in an
area very near the altar where his cap and cell phone were placed. After
assisting me, he went to the area and took the cell phone and the
cap at the same time.

Q: [W]ho were you talking [sic] at that time?


A: Guilbemer Franco.

Q: It was also [G]uilbemer Franco who helped or spot you in the work out?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And after assisting you, what did Franco do?


A: He took the cell phone of Mr. Nakamoto and his cap at the same time
and covered the cell phone by his cap and left the place.

Q: Where was that cell phone of the private complainant placed at that
time?
A: At the top of the altar where is [sic] cap is also located.

Q: How far was that altar from where you were working?
A: Only inches.

Q: It was directly in front of you?


A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did you do when the accused took the cap as well as the
cell phone of the private complainant?
A: None, sir. I thought the cap and cell phone was his.

Q: How did you know that the cell phone belongs to the private
complainant?
A: After Mr. Nakamoto came out from the shower, he went directly
to the altar to get his cell phone which was not there anymore
and asked us where his cell phone and I told him that I saw Mr.
Franco get a cell phone from that area.36 (Emphasis ours)
On cross-examination, Rosario also stated that he did not actually see Franco take Nakamoto's cell
phone37 but on re-direct, he clarified that he did not see the cell phone of Nakamoto because he
thought that the cell phone was owned by Franco. 38chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

What was firmly established by Rosarios testimony is that Franco took a cell phone from the altar. But
Franco even admitted such fact.39 What stands out from Rosario's testimony is that he was unable to
particularly describe at first instance what or whose cell phone Franco took from the altar. lie only
assumed that it was Nakamoto's at the time the latter announced that his cell phone was missing. This
was, in tact, observed by the RTC in the course of Rosario's testimony, thus: C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

COURT: What you actually saw was, [G]uilbemer Franco was taking his cap
together with the cell phone placed beside the cap but you do not
know that [the] cell phone was Bj's or Nakamoto's?
A: [Y]es, Your Honor.

COURT: You just presumed that the cell phone taken by Guilbemer
Franco was his?
A: Yes, Ma'am.40 (Emphasis ours)
Moreover, it must be noted that save for Nakamoto's statement that he placed his cell phone at the
altar, no one saw him actually place his cell phone there. This was confirmed by Rosario -
COURT:
Q: And on that day, you were able to see that Nakamoto on four incidents,
when he logged-in, during work-out and when he went inside the C.[R].?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Therefore, you did not see Nakamoto place his cell phone at the
Altar?
A: Yes, sir.41 (Emphasis ours)
Ramos, the gym caretaker, also testified that he did not see Franco take Nakamoto's cell phone and
only assumed that the cell phone on the altar was Nakamoto's, thus -
Q: And do you know who owns that cell phone put [sic] over the altar?
A: Benjamin Nakamoto.

Q: How do you know that it belongs to Benjamin Nakamoto?


A: He is the only one who brings a cell phone to the gym.

xxxx

Q: [D]id you actually see him take the cell phone of Nakamoto?
A: I did not see him take the [cell] phone but as soon as the cell phone was
lost, he was the only one who left the gym.42 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Neither can the prosecution's testimonial evidence fall under the second category of positive
identification, that is, Franco having been identified as the person or one of the persons last seen
immediately before and right after the commission of the theft. Records show that there were other
people in the gym before and after Nakamoto lost his cell phone. In fact, Nakamoto himself suspected
Rosario of having taken his cell phone, thus:
C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

ATTY. SANCHEZ:

Q: You said that you stayed inside the rest room for more or less 10
minutes?
A: [Y]es, sir.

Q: After 10 minutes, you don't know whether aside from Franco somebody
went out from the gym because you were inside the c.r.?
A: Yes. sir.

xxxx

Q: As a matter of fact, one of your witness[es] who went near the place
where your cell phone was placed was this Arnie Rosario?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And it was only the accused and [Rosario] who were near the place
where you said you placed the cell phone?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: You did not suspect [Rosario] to have taken the cell phone?
A: I also suspected, sir.43 (Emphasis ours)
Moreover, the prosecution witnesses confirmed that the altar is the usual spot where the gym users
place their valuables. According to Rosario:
C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

ATTY. SANCHEZ:
Q: And in that place, you said there was a Sto. Nino?
A: At the Altar.

Q: Those who work-out in that gym usually place their things [on
top of] the altar.
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Therefore, there were people who place their cell phones on top
[of] the Altar?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Aside from Nakamoto, other people place their things on top [of]
the Altar?
A: Yes, sir.44 (Emphasis ours)
The prosecution's evidence does not rule out the following possibilities: one, that what Franco took
was his own cell phone; two, even on the assumption that Franco stole a cell phone from the altar,
that what he feloniously took was Nakamoto's cell phone, considering the feet that at the time
Nakamoto was inside the changing room, other people may have placed their cell phone on the same
spot; and three, that some other person may have taken Nakamoto's cell phone.

It must be emphasized that "[c]ourts must judge the guilt or innocence of the accused based on facts
and not on mere conjectures, presumptions, or suspicions." 45 It is iniquitous to base Franco's guilt on
the presumptions of the prosecution's witnesses for the Court has, time and again, declared that if the
inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more interpretations, one of which being
consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other or others consistent with his guilt, then the
evidence in view of the constitutional presumption of innocence has not fulfilled the test of moral
certainty and is thus insufficient to support a conviction. 46 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Franco also asserts that the logbook from which his time in and time out at the gym was based was
not identified during the trial and was only produced after Ramos testified. 47 Ramos testified that when
Nakamoto announced that his cell phone was missing and asked that nobody leaves the place, he put
an asterisk opposite the name of Franco in the logbook to indicate that he was the only one who left
the gym after the cell phone was declared lost. 48
chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Under the Rules on Evidence, documents are either public or private. Private documents are those that
do not fall under any of the enumerations in Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. 49Section 20 of
the same Rule, in turn, provides that before any private document is received in evidence, its due
execution and authenticity must be proved either by anyone who saw the document executed or
written, or by evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker.50 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

In this case, the foregoing rule was not followed. The testimony of Ramos shows that the logbook,
indeed, was not identified and authenticated during the course of Ramos' testimony. At the time when
Ramos was testifying, he merely referred to the log in and log out time and the name of the person at
page 104 of the logbook that appears on line 22 of the entries for November 3, 2004. This was
photocopied and marked as Exhibit "C-1."51 Meanwhile, when Nakamoto was presented as rebuttal
witness, a page from the logbook was again marked as Exhibit "D." 52 The logbook or the particular
page referred to by Ramos was neither identified nor confirmed by him as the same logbook which he
used to log the ins and outs of the gym users, or that the writing and notations on said logbook was
his.

The prosecution contends, meanwhile, that the RTC's evaluation of the witnesses' credibility may no
longer be questioned at this stage.53 The Court is not unmindful of the rule that the assignment of
value and weight to the testimony of a witness is best left to the discretion of the RTC. But an
exception to that rule shall be applied in this ease where certain facts of substance and value, if
considered, may affect the result. 54 In Lejano v. People,55 the Court stated: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

A judge must keep an open mind. He must guard against slipping into hasty conclusion, often arising
from a desire to quickly finish the job of deciding a case. A positive declaration from a witness that he
saw the accused commit the crime should not automatically cancel out the accused's claim that he did
not do it. A lying witness can make as positive an identification as a truthful witness can. The lying
witness can also say as forthrightly and unequivocally, "He did it!" without blinking an eye. 56 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The facts and circumstances proven by the prosecution, taken together, are not sufficient to justify the
unequivocal conclusion that Franco feloniously took Nakamoto's cell phone. No other convincing
evidence was presented by the prosecution that would link him to the theft. 57 The fact Franco took a
cell phone from the altar does not necessarily point to the conclusion that it was Nakamoto's cell
phone that he took. In the appreciation of circumstantial evidence, the rule is that the
circumstances must be proved, and not themselves presumed. The circumstantial evidence
must exclude the possibility that some other person has committed the offense charged. 58 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Franco, therefore, cannot be convicted of the crime charged in this case. There is not enough evidence
to do so. As a rule, in order to support a conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence, all the
circumstances must be consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty. In this case, not all
the facts on which the inference of guilt is based were proved. The matter of what and whose cell
phone Franco took from the altar still remains uncertain. chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

Franco's defense of denial


The evidence of the prosecution must stand on its own weight and not rely on the weakness of the
defense.59 In this case, Franco did not deny that he was at the Body Shape Gym on November 3,
2004, at around 1:00 p.m. and left the place at around 2:45 p.m. 60 He did not even deny that he took
a cell phone from the altar together with his cap. What he denied is that he took Nakamoto's cell
phone and instead, claimed that what he took is his own cell phone. 61 Denial may be weak but courts
should not at once look at them with disfavor. There are situations where an accused may really have
no other defenses but denial, which, if established to be the truth, may tilt the scales of justice in his
favor, especially when the prosecution evidence itself is weak. 62 chanroble svirtuallawlibrary

While it is true that denial partakes of the nature of negative and self-serving evidence and is seldom
given weight in law,63 the Court admits an exception established by jurisprudence that the defense of
denial assumes: significance when the prosecution's evidence is such that it does not prove guilt
beyond reasonable doubt.64 The exception applies in the case at hand. The prosecution failed to
produce sufficient evidence to overturn the constitutional guarantee that Franco is presumed to be
innocent. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Value of the cell phone

It is also argued by Franco that the value of the cell phone must be duly proved with reasonable
degree of certainty. On the other hand, the people contended that there has been a judicial admission
of the same.65 This issue, however, is now moot and academic considering Franco's acquittal. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Conclusion

The circumstantial evidence proven by the prosecution in this case failed to pass the test of moral
certainty necessary to warrant Franco's conviction. Accusation is not synonymous with guilt. 66 Not only
that, where the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations or
interpretations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent
with his guilt, then the evidence does not meet or hurdle the test of moral certainty required for
conviction.67 chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated September 16,
2009 in CA-GR. CR No. 31706 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Guilbemer Franco
is ACQUITTED of the crime of Theft charged in Criminal Case No. 05-238613 because his guilt was
not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

No costs.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibrary

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Perez, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur. cralawlawlibrary

Endnotes:

People v. Masalihit, 360 Phil. 332, 343 (1998).


1

Rollo, pp. 10-30.


2

3
Penned by Associnte Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now a member of this Court), with Associate
Justices Amelita G. Tolentino and Stephen C. Cruz concurring; CA rollo, pp. 88-92.

4
Rendered by Presiding Judge Mercedes Posada-Lacap; records, pp. 62-66.

5
Id. at 1.

Rollo, p. 34.
6
7
Id. at 33-34.

8
Records, pp. 64-65.

9
Id. at 63-64.

10
Rollo, p. 34; TSN, February 8, 2006, pp. 14-15.

11
Records, p. 9.

12
TSN, January 29, 2007, p. 5.

13
Records, p. 66.

14
Id. at 65-66.

15
Id. at 70-71.

16
Rollo, pp. 35-36.

17
TSN, February 8, 2006, pp. 1-19.

18
TSN, April 19, 2006, pp. 1-15.

19
People, v. PFC Malejana, 515 Phil. 584, 597 (2006).

20
Rollo, p. 17.

21
Boneng, v. People, 363 Phil. 594, 600 (1999).

22
People v. Agulay, 588 Phil. 247, 263 (2008).

23
People v. Villanueva, 427 Phil. 102, 128 (2002).

24
People v. Santos, 388 Phil. 993, 1004 (2000).

25
People v. Bustinera, G.R. No. 148233, June 8, 2004, 431 SCRA 284, 291.

26
Tan v. People, 372 Phil. 93, 105 (1999).

27
People v. Ayola, 416 Phil. 861, 872 (2001).

28
CA rollo, p. 88.

29
TSN, February 8, 2006, pp. 4-5.

30
Id. at 5; TSN April 19, 2006, p. 5.

31
TSN, August 28, 2006, pp. 6-7.

32
CA rollo, pp. 90-91.

33
Rollo, p. 66.

34
G.R. No. 188969, February 27, 2013, 692 SCRA 217.

35
Id. at 222, citing People v. Caliso, 675 Phil. 742, 755 (2011).
36
TSN, April 19, 2006, pp . 4-5.

37
Id. at 111.

38
Id. at 12.

39
TSN, January 29, 2007, pp. 5-9.

40
TSN, April 19, 2006, p. 12.

41
Id. at 10.

42
TSN, August 28, 2006, pp. 6-7.

43
TSN, February 8, 2006, p. 11.

44
TSN, April 19, 2006, p. 10.

People v. Anabe, 644 Phil. 261, 281 (2010).


45

People v. Timtiman, G.R. No. 101663, November 4, 1992, 215 SCRA 364, 373, citing People v.
46

Remorosa, G.R. No. 8 1768, August 7, 1091, 200 SCRA 350, 360.

Rollo, p. 48.
47

48
Id. at 54-55.

49
Sec. 19. Classes of Documents. - For the purpose of their presentation in evidence, documents are
either public or private.

Public documents are:

(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign
authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the
Philippines, or of a foreign country;
(b) Documents acknowledge before a notary public except last wills and
testaments; and
(c) Public records kept in the Philippines, or private documents required by
law to be entered therein.

All other writings are private.

Sanvicente v. People, 441 Phil. 139, 151 (2002).


50

51
TSN, August 28, 2006, pp. 7, 14.

52
TSN, March 19, 2007, p. 4.

Rollo, p. 66.
53

People v. Deunida, G.R. Nos. 105199-200, March 28, 1994, 231 SCRA 520, 532.
54

55
652 Phil. 512 (2010).
56
Id. at 581.

Rollo, p. 24.
57

People v. Anabe, supra note 45.


58

People v. Tan, 432 Phil. 171, 199 (2002).


59

Rollo, pp. 45-46.


60

61
TSN, January 29, 2007, pp. 5-6.

People v. Ladrillo, 377 Phil. 904, 917 (1999).


62

People v. Caete, 364 Phil. 423, 435 (1999).


63

People v. Mejia, 612 Phil. 668, 687 (2009).


64

65
TSN, February 8, 2006, p. 6.

See People v. Manambit, 338 Phil. 57 (1997).


66

Atienza v. People, G.R. No. 188694, February 12, 2014, 716 SCRA 84, 104-105.
67

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 205472, January 25, 2016

AMADO I. SARAUM,1Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (Rules) seeks to reverse the
Decision2 dated September 8, 2011 and Resolution3 dated December 19, 2012 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CEB CR No. 01199, which affirmed the judgment of conviction against petitioner
Amado I. Saraum (Saraum) rendered by the Regional Trial Court (ATC), Branch 57, Cebu City, in
Criminal Case No. CBU-77737.

Saraum was charged with violation of Section 12, Article II (Possession of Paraphernalia for
Dangerous Drugs) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002. The accusatory portion of the Information reads:

That on or about the 17th day of August, 2006, at about 12:45 A.M., in the City of Cebu, Philippines
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with deliberate intent, and
without being authorized by law, did then and there have in his possession the following:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

1 = One (1) lighter


2 = One (1) rolled tissue paper
3 = One (1) aluminum tin foil

which are instruments and/or equipments (sic) fit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering,
ingesting, or introducing, any dangerous drug into the body.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4 ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


In his arraignment, Saraum, with the assistance of a counsel, pleaded not guilty to the offense
charged.5 Trial ensued. Meantime, Saraum was released on bail. 6

PO3 Jeffrey Larrobis and PO1 Romeo Jumalon testified for the prosecution while the defense presented
no witness other than Saraum.

According to the prosecution, on August 17, 2006, a telephone call was received by PO3 Larrobis
regarding the illegal drug activities in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Lorega, Cebu City. A buy-bust team
was then formed composed of PO3 Larrobis, PO1 Jumalon, PO2 Nathaniel Sta. Ana, PO1 Roy Cabahug,
and PO1 Julius Anion against a certain "Pata." PO2 Sta. Ana was designated as the poseur-buyer
accompanied by the informant, PO1 Jumalon as the back-up of PO2 Sta. Ana, and the rest of the team
as the perimeter security. PO1 Anion coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
(PDEA) regarding the operation. After preparing all the necessary documents, such as the pre-
operation report and submitting the same to the PDEA, the team proceeded to the subject area.

During the operation, "Pata" eluded arrest as he tried to run towards his shanty. Inside the house,
which was divided with a curtain as partition, the buy-bust team also saw Saraum and Peter
Espcranza, who were holding drug paraphernalia apparently in preparation to have a "shabu" pot
session. They recovered from Saraum's possession a lighter, rolled tissue paper, and aluminum tin foil
(tooter). PO3 Larrobis confiscated the items, placed them in the plastic pack of misua wrapper, and
made initial markings ("A" for Saraum and "P" for Esperanza). At the police station, PO3 Larrobis
marked as "AIS-08-17-2006" the paraphernalia recovered from Saraum. After the case was filed, the
subject items were turned over to the property custodian of the Office of City Prosecutor.

By way of defense, Saraum denied the commission of the alleged offense. He testified that on the date
and time in question, he was passing by Lorega Cemetery on his way to the house of his parents-in-
law when he was held by men with firearms. They were already with "Antik" and "Pata," both of whom
were his neighbors. Believing that he had not committed anything illegal, he resisted the arrest. He
learned of the criminal charge only when he was brought to the court.

On May 5, 2009, the RTC rendered its Decision,7 the dispositive portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of
Section 12, Article II of R.A. 9165 and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of six (6) months
and one (1) day to two (2) years and to pay a fine of Php20,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in
case of insolvency.

The drug paraphernalias (sic) are ordered forfeited in favor of the government.

SO ORDERED.8 C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On appeal, the CA sustained the judgment of conviction; hence, this petition.

We deny.

Considering that Saraum failed to show any arbitrariness, palpable error, or capriciousness on the
findings of fact of the trial and appellate courts, such findings deserve great weight and are deemed
conclusive and binding.9 Besides, a review of the records reveals that the CA did not err in affirming
his conviction.

The elements of illegal possession of equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia for
dangerous drugs under Section 12, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 are: (1) possession or control by the
accused of any equipment, apparatus or other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, consuming,
administering, injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body; and (2) such
possession is not authorized by law.10 In this case, the prosecution has convincingly established that
Saraum was in possession of drug paraphernalia, particularly aluminum tin foil, rolled tissue paper,
and lighter, all of which were offered and admitted in evidence.

Saraum was arrested during the commission of a crime, which instance does not require a warrant in
accordance with Section 5 (a), Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. 11 In arrest in
flagrante delicto, the accused is apprehended at the very moment he is committing or attempting to
commit or has just committed an offense in the presence of the arresting officer. To constitute a
valid in flagrante delicto arrest, two requisites must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must
execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to
commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting
officer.12

Here, the Court is unconvinced with Saraum's statement that he was not committing a crime at the
time of his arrest. PO3 Larrobis described in detail how they were able to apprehend him, who was
then holding a disposable lighter in his right hand and a tin foil and a rolled tissue paper in his left
hand,13 while they were in the course of arresting somebody. The case is clearly one of hot pursuit of
"Pate," who, in eluding arrest, entered the shanty where Saraum and Esperanza were incidentally
caught in possession of the illegal items. Saraum did not proffer any satisfactory explanation with
regard to his presence at the vicinity of the buy-bust operation and his possession of the seized items
that he claims to have "countless, lawful uses." On the contrary, the prosecution witnesses have
adequately explained the respective uses of the items to prove that they were indeed drug
paraphernalia.14 There is, thus, no necessity to make a laboratory examination and finding as to the
presence or absence of methamphetamine hydrochloride or any illegal substances on said items since
possession itself is the punishable act.

The valid warrantless arrest gave the officers the right to search the shanty for objects relating to the
crime and seize the drug paraphernalia they found. In the course of their lawful intrusion, they
inadvertently saw the various drug paraphernalia. As these items were plainly visible, the police
officers were justified in seizing them. Considering that Saraum's arrest was legal, the search and
seizure that resulted from it were likewise lawful. The various drug paraphernalia that the police
officers found and seized in the shanty are, therefore, admissible in evidence for having proceeded
from a valid search and seizure. Since the confiscated drug paraphernalia are the very corpus delicti of
the crime charged, the Court has no choice but to sustain the judgment of conviction.

Even if We consider the arrest as invalid, Saraum is deemed to have waived any objection thereto
when he did not raise the issue before entering his plea. "The established rule is that an accused may
be estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he failed to move for the quashing of the
Information against him before his arraignment. Any objection involving the arrest or the procedure in
the court's acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of an accused must be made before he enters his
plea; otherwise the objection is deemed waived." 15 In this case, counsel for Saraum manifested its
objection to the admission of the seized drug paraphernalia, invoking illegal arrest and search, only
during the formal offer of evidence by the prosecution. 16

In ascertaining the identity of the illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia presented in court as the
ones actually seized from the accused, the prosecution must show that: (a) the prescribed procedure
under Section 21(1), Article II of R.A. No. 9165 has been complied with or falls within the saving
clause provided in Section 21 (a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A.
No. 9165;17and (b) there was an unbroken link (not perfect link) in the chain of custody with respect
to the confiscated items.18

Although Section 21(1) of R.A. No. 9165 mandates that the apprehending team must immediately
conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and photograph them, non-compliance therewith is
not fatal as long as there is a justifiable ground and as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value
of the confiscated/seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending team. 19 While nowhere in
the prosecution evidence show the "justifiable ground" which may excuse the police operatives
involved in the buy-bust operation from making the physical inventory and taking a photograph of the
drug paraphernalia confiscated and/or seized, such omission shall not render Saraum's arrest illegal or
the items seized/confiscated from him as inadmissible in evidence. Said "justifiable ground" will
remain unknown in the light of the apparent failure of Saraum to specifically challenge the custody
and safekeeping or the issue of disposition and preservation of the subject drug paraphernalia before
the trial court. He cannot be allowed too late in the day to question the police officers' alleged non-
compliance with Section 21 for the first time on appeal. 20

The chain of custody rule requires the identification of the persons who handled the confiscated items
for the purpose of duly monitoring the authorized movements of the illegal drugs and/or drug
paraphernalia from the time they were seized from the accused until the time they arc presented in
court.21 Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, implementing R.A.
No. 9165, defines chain of custody as follows:
Chain of Custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or
controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from
the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in
court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity
and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when
such transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the
final disposition.
In Mallillin v. People,22 the Court discussed how the chain of custody of seized items should be
established, thus:
As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an
exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what the
proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment
the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who
touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what
happened to it while in the witness' possession, the condition in which it was received and the
condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe
the precautions taken lo ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no
opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same. 23 ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

While the procedure on the chain of custody should be perfect and unbroken, in reality, it is almost
always impossible to obtain an unbroken chain.24 Thus, failure to strictly comply with Section 21(1),
Article II of R.A. No. 9165 does not necessarily render an accused person's arrest illegal or the items
seized or confiscated from him inadmissible. 25
x x x Under Section 3 of Rule 128 of the Rules of Court, evidence is admissible when it is relevant to
the issue and is not excluded by the law or these rules. For evidence to be inadmissible, there should
be a law or rule which forbids its reception. If there is no such law or rule, the evidence must be
admitted subject only to the evidentiary weight that will be accorded it by the courts. x x x

We do not find any provision or statement in said law or in any rule that will bring about the non-
admissibility of the confiscated and/or seized drugs due to non-compliance with Section 21 of Republic
Act No. 9165. The issue therefore, if there is non-compliance with said section, is not of admissibility,
but of weight - evidentiary merit or probative value to be given the evidence. The weight to be given
by the courts on said evidence depends on the circumstances obtaining in each case. 26 C hanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The most important factor is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized
items.27 In this case, the prosecution was able to demonstrate that the integrity and evidentiary value
of the confiscated drug paraphernalia had not been compromised because it established the crucial
link in the chain of custody of the seized items from the time they were first discovered until they
were brought to the court for examination. Even though the prosecution failed to submit in evidence
the physical inventory and photograph of the drug paraphernalia, this will not render Saraum's arrest
illegal or the items seized from him inadmissible. There is substantial compliance by the police as to
the required procedure on the custody and control of the confiscated items. The succession of events
established by evidence and the overall handling of the seized items by specified individuals all show
that the evidence seized were the same evidence subsequently identified and testified to in open
court.

Certainly, the testimonies of the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation arc generally
accorded full faith and credit in view of the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duties and especially so in the absence of ill-motive that could be attributed to them. 28 The defense
failed to show any odious intent on the part of the police officers to impute such a serious crime that
would put in jeopardy the life and liberty of an innocent person. 29 Saraum's mere denial cannot prevail
over the positive and categorical identification and declarations of the police officers. The defense of
denial, frame-up or extortion, like alibi, has been invariably viewed by the courts with disfavor for it
can easily be concocted and is a common and standard defense ploy in most cases involving violation
of the Dangerous Drugs Act.30 As evidence that is both negative and self-serving, this defense cannot
attain more credibility than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who testily clearly, providing
thereby positive evidence on the various aspects of the crime committed. 31 To merit consideration, it
has to be substantiated by strong, clear and convincing evidence, which Saraum failed to do for
presenting no corroborative evidence.32

Settled then is the rule that, unless some facts or circumstances of weight and influence have been
overlooked or the significance of which has been misinterpreted, the findings and conclusion of the
trial court on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to great respect and will not be disturbed because
it has the advantage of hearing the witnesses and observing their deportment and manner of
testifying.33 The rule finds an even more stringent application where said findings are sustained by the
CA as in this case.34 In this case, the quantum of evidence necessary to prove Saraum's guilt beyond
reasonable doubt had been sufficiently met since the prosecution stood on its own strength and did
not rely on the weakness of the defense. The prosecution was able to overcome the constitutional
right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated September 8, 2011
and Resolution dated December 19, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB CR No. 01 199,
which sustained the judgment of conviction rendered by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, Cebu
City, in Criminal Case No. CBU-77737, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Del Castillo,*Perez, and Reyes, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 210308

ASIAN INTERNATIONAL MANPOWER SERVICES, INC., Petitioner,


vs.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Decision dated July 9, 2013 of the
1 2

Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 123565, which sustained the Order dated April
12, 2011 and Resolution dated December 22, 2011 of the Department of Labor and
Employment (DOLE) in OS-POEA-0142-1013-2008.

The Facts

Rule II, Part VI of the 2002 Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Rules and
Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers
(2002 POEA Rules) authorizes the filing of a complaint by the POEA upon its own
initiative against a recruitment agency suspected of violations of its Rules on the
3

recruitment and placement of overseas workers. In particular, Section 2(e) of Rule I, Part VI
thereof provides:

SECTION 2. Grounds for imposition of administrative sanctions:

xxxx
e. Engaging in act/s of misrepresentation in connection with recruitment and placement of
workers, such as furnishing or publishing any false notice, information or document in
relation to recruitment or employment;

xxxx

On November 8, 2006, the Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch of the POEA, pursuant to


Surveillance Order No. 033, Series of 2006, conducted a surveillance of Asian International
Manpower Services, Inc. (AIMS) with office address at 1653 Taft Avenue comer Pedro Gil
Street, Malate, Manila to determine whether it was operating as a recruitment agency
despite the cancellation of its license on August 28, 2006. The operatives reported that their
4

surveillance did not reveal the information needed, so another surveillance was
recommended. 5

On February 20, 2007, another surveillance was conducted on the premises of AIMS' office
pursuant to Surveillance Order No. 011. This time the POEA operatives observed that there
were people standing outside its main entrance, and there were announcements of job
vacancies posted on the main glass door of the office. Posing as applicants, the POEA
6

operatives, Atty. Romelson E. Abbang and Edilberto V. Alogoc, inquired as to the


requirements for the position of executive staff: and a lady clerk of AIMS handed them a
flyer. Through the flyer, they learned that AIMS was hiring hotel workers for deployment to
7

Macau and grape pickers for California. They also saw applicants inside the office waiting
8

to be attended to. The POEA operatives later confirmed through the POEA Verification
System that AIMS had regained its license and good standing on December 6, 2006, but
that it had no existing approved job orders yet at that time. 9

On March 26, 2007, the POEA issued a Show Cause Order directing AIMS and its covering
surety, Country Bankers Insurance Corporation, to submit their answer or explanation to the
Surveillance Report dated November 8, 2006 of the POEA operatives. However, no copy
10

of the Surveillance Report dated February 21, 2007 was attached. 11

In compliance thereto, Danilo P. Pelagio, AIMS President, wrote to the POEA on April 3,
2007 maintaining that AIMS was not liable for any recruitment misrepresentation. Invoking
the Surveillance Report dated November 8, 2006, he cited the POEA operatives' own
admission that when they first came posing as applicants, the AIMS staff advised them that
it had no job vacancies for waiters and that its license had been cancelled. He also called
POEA's attention to the notice issued to AIMS, which was received on November 27, 2006,
that the cancellation of its license had been set aside on December 6, 2006; and that the
POEA Adjudication Office even circulated an advise to all its operating units of the
restoration of AIMS' license.12

During the hearing on May 9, 2007, AIMS representative, Rommel Lugatiman (Lugatiman),
appeared, and averring that it had already filed its answer, he then moved for the resolution
of the complaint. 13

In the Order dated June 30, 2008, then POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz ruled that on
the basis of the Surveillance Report dated February 21, 2007 of the POEA operatives, AIMS
was liable for misrepresentation under Section 2(e), Rule I, Part VI of the 2002 POEA
Rules, since the POEA records showed that AIMS had no job orders to hire hotel workers
for Macau, nor grape pickers for California, as its flyer allegedly advertised. The fallo of the
order reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find and so hold [AlMS] liable for violation of
Section 2(e), Rule I, Part VI of the [2002 POEA Rules] and is hereby imposed with (sic) the
penalty of suspension of its license for four (4) months or, in lieu thereof, fine amounting to
PHP40,000.00.

SO ORDERED. 14

AIMS filed a motion for reconsideration before the DOLE. It alleged that its right to due
process was violated because the POEA did not furnish it with a copy of the Surveillance
Report dated February 21, 2007, which was the basis of the POEA Administrator's factual
findings.15

In an Order dated April 12, 2011, the DOLE affirmed the order of the POEA, asserting that
due process was observed. It cited AIMS's letter-answer to POEA's Show Cause Order
dated April 3, 2007 denying POEA's charge of misrepresentation. It likewise cited the
hearing held on May 9, 2007 wherein AIMS 's representative, Lugatiman, after manifesting
that it had filed its answer, merely moved that the case be deemed submitted for resolution
instead of availing of the hearing to rebut the allegations of misrepresentation against it.16

AIMS moved for reconsideration from the DOLE ruling, which the DOLE denied on
December 22, 2011. 17

On January 3, 2012, AIMS filed a petition for certiorari in the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP
No. 123565, upon the following grounds:

THE [DOLE] GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OR EXCESS


OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT DID NOT HEED THE PLEA OF [AIMS] FOR COMPLIANCE
WITH THE DUE PROCESS OF LAW, AT LEAST REMANDING THE CASE TO THE POEA
TO ENABLE [AIMS] TO ANSWER SQUARELY TI-IE [SURVEILLANCE REPORT DATED
FEBRUARY 21, 2007] AND ALL OTHER EVIDENCE ALONG WITH IT.

THE [DOLE] GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OR EXCESS


OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE ORDER OF THE POEA IN RULING THAT
[AIMS] IS GUILTY OF THE OFFENSE CHARGED DESPITE THE LACK OF SUBSTANTIAL
EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE FINDINGS. 18

In its Decision dated July 9, 2013, the CA dismissed AIMS's charge of denial of due
19

process for failure of POEA to furnish it with a copy of the Surveillance Report dated
February 21, 2007. It held that AIMS' misrepresentation with regard to the recruitment of
workers for non-existent overseas jobs was supported by substantial evidence.

In the case at bench, AIMS['s] failure to receive a copy of Surveillance Report dated 21
February 2007 does not amount to denial of due process. True, in the Show Cause Order,
only the Surveillance Report dated 8 November 2006 and the Affidavit of the operatives who
conducted the surveillance were attached to the same. Hence, when AIMS filed a Letter in
reply to the Show Cause Order, it answered only the contents of Surveillance Report dated
8 November 2006. However, it is undisputed that on 9 May 2007, POEA scheduled a
preliminary hearing 'where Lugatiman, AIMS representative, appeared. Lugatiman was
obviously informed of the charges against AIMS. Instead of rebutting the allegations of the
operatives in the two (2) Surveillance Reports, Lugatiman failed to clarify the issues or the
charges and merely manifested that AIMS already filed an answer and thus moved for the
resolution of the Complaint against it. Clearly, AIMS was given the opportunity to be heard
and to present its side but failed to make use of the same. Thus, AIMS cannot feign denial
of due process.

Further, the charge of misrepresentation against AIMS is supported by substantial


evidence. It is well settled that in administrative proceedings as in the case before the
POEA, only substantial evidence is needed or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
may accept as adequate to support a conclusion.

Section 2(e) of Rule I, Part VI of the 2002 POEA Rules reads:

"SECTION 2. Grounds for imposition of administrative sanctions:

xxxx

6. Engaging in act/s of misrepresentation in connection with recruitment and placement of


workers, such as furnishing or publishing any false notice, information or document in
relation to recruitment or employment;

x x x x"

In this case, AIMS committed misrepresentation in connection with recruitment and


placement of workers when it offered various job openings in Macau as hotel workers and
for U.S.A. as grape pickers although it knew that it had no existing approved job orders.
AIMS misrepresented to its applicants that it had the valid authority and capacity to defloy
workers to the said places in violation of the 2002 POEA Rules. (Citations omitted and
20

underlining ours)

In this petition, AIMS insists that its right to due process was violated because it was never
furnished with a copy of the POEA Surveillance Report dated February 21, 2007, upon
which both the POEA and DOLE anchored their factual finding that it misrepresented to job
applicants that it had existing job orders.

Ruling of the Court

The petition is granted.

"The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or, as applied to


administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek a
reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. In the application of the principle of
due process, what is sought to be safeguarded is not lack of previous notice but the denial
of the opportunity to be heard." 21

"Due process is satisfied when a person is notified of the charge against him and given an
opportunity to explain or defend himself." "The observance of fairness in the conduct of an
22

investigation is at the very heart of procedural due process." As long as he is given the
23

opportunity to defend his interests in due course, he is not denied due process. In 24

administrative proceedings, the filing of charges and giving reasonable opportunity to the
person charged to answer the accusations against him constitute the minimum
requirements of due process. 25

According to the CA, AIMS was "obviously informed of the charges" against it during the
May 9, 2007 preliminary hearing at the POEA, where its representative Lugatiman
appeared. But instead of rebutting the allegations of the POEA operatives in their
Surveillance Reports, Lugatiman "failed to clarify the issues or the charges and merely
manifested that AIMS already filed an answer and thus moved for the resolution of the
Complaint against it." Thus, the CA concluded that AIMS was given opportunity to be heard
and to present its side but it failed to make use of the said opportunity. 26

The Court does not agree. In concluding that, through Lugatiman, AIMS was "obviously
informed of the charges" during the preliminary hearing, The CA overlooked the crucial fact
that, as the POEA itself admitted, it did not furnish AIMS with a copy of its Surveillance
Report dated February 21, 2007, which contains the factual allegations of misrepresentation
supposedly committed by AIMS. It is incomprehensible why the POEA would neglect to
furnish AIMS with a copy of the said report, since other than the fact that AIMS was
represented at the hearing on May 9, 2007, there is no showing that Lugatiman was
apprised of the contents thereof. In fact, as AIMS now claims, the alleged recruitment flyer
distributed to its applicants was not even presented.

Since AIMS was provided with only the Surveillance Report dated November 8, 2006, it
could only have been expected to respond to the charge contained in the Show Cause
Order. Thus, in its answer, it needed only to point to the POEA operatives' own admission in
their Surveillance Report dated November 8, 2006 that when they came posing as job
applicants, the staff of AIMS advised them that it had no job vacancies for waiters and that
its license had been cancelled. As POEA now also admits, AIMS 's license to recruit was
restored on December 6, 2006.

The CA faulted AIMS for failing to avail itself of the opportunity to rebut the allegations of the
POEA operatives in the two Surveillance Reports, as well as "to clarify the issues or the
charges," during the May 9, 2007 preliminary hearing. Considering that AIMS was not
27

furnished with the Surveillance Report dated February 21, 2007, it cannot be expected to
second-guess what charges and issues it needed to clarify or rebut in order to clear
itself. Needless to say, its right to due process consisting of being informed of the charges
1wphi1

against it has been grossly violated.

Moreover, AIMS also points out that the flyer advertising the jobs in Macau and California
was never presented or made part of the record, and neither was the AIMS lady clerk who
allegedly distributed the same even identified, as AIMS demanded. Besides, granting that
AIMS did advertise with flyers for hotel workers or grape pickers, for which it allegedly had
no existing approved job orders, it is provided in Sections I and 2 of Rule VII (Advertisement
for Overseas Jobs), Part II of the 2002 POEA Rules28 that the said activity is permitted for
manpower pooling purposes, without need of prior approval from the POEA, upon the
following conditions: (1) it is done by a licensed agency; (2) the advertisement indicates in
bold letters that it is for manpower pooling only; (3) no fees are collected from the
applicants; and ( 4) the name, address and POEA license number of the agency, name and
worksite of the prospective registered/accredited principal and the skill categories and
qualification standards are indicated.

It is true that in administrative proceedings, as in the case below, only substantial evidence
is needed, or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Unfortunately, there is no evidence against AIMS to speak of, much
29

less substantial evidence. Clearly, AIMS 's right to be informed of the charges against it, and
its right to be held liable only upon substantial evidence, have both been gravely violated.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the Decision


dated July 9, 2013 and Resolution dated December 6, 2013 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. SP No. 123565, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

FRANCIS H. JARDELEZA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before
the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's
Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's
Division.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice

Footnotes

1
Rollo, pp. 15-35.

2
Penned by Associate Justice Fiorito S. Macalino, with Associate Justices Sesinando
E. Villon and Pedro B. Corales concurring; id. at 37-44.

3
Section I of Rule II, Part VI of the 2002 POEA Rules provides that "the
Administration, on its own initiative, may conduct proceedings based on reports of
violation POEA Rules and Regulations and other issuances on overseas
employment subject to preliminary evaluation."

4
Rollo, p. 38.

5
Id.

6
Id.

7
Id. at 19, 38.

8
Id. at 21.

9
Id. at 20-21.

10
Id. at 39.

11
Id. at 19.

12
Id. at 39.

13
Id.

14
Id. at 39-40.

15
Id. at 40.
16
Id.

17
Id.

18
Id. at 41.

19
Id. at 37-44.

20
Id. at 42-43.

21
Gannapao v. Civil Service Commission, et al., 665 Phil. 60, 70 (2011).

22
F/O Ledesma v. CA, 565 Phil. 731, 740 (2007).

Vivo v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), G.R. No.


23

187854, November 12, 2013, 709 SCRA 276, 281.

Gannapao v. Civil Service Commission, et al., supra note


24

21; see also Cojuangco, Jr. v. Atty. Palma, 501 Phil. 1, 8 (2005).

25
Rivas v. Sison, 498 Phil. 148, 154 (2005).

26
Rollo, p. 43.

27
Id.

Section I. Advertisement for Actual Job Vacancies. Licensed agencies may


28

advertise for actual job vacancies without prior approval from the Administration if
covered by manpower requests of registered/accredited foreign principals and
projects. The advertisements shall indicate the following information:

a. Name, address and POEA license number of the agency;

b. Work site of prospective principal/project;

c. Skill categories and qualification standards; and

d. Number of available positions.

Section 2. Advertisement for Manpower Pooling. Licensed agencies may


advertise for manpower pooling without prior approval from the Administration
subject to the following conditions:

a. The advertisement should indicate in bold letters that it is for


manpower pooling only and that no fees will be collected from the
applicants; and
b. The advertisement indicates the name, address and POEA license
number of the agency, name and worksite of the prospective
registered/accredited principal and the skill categories and qualification
standards.

29
Office of the Ombudsman v. Beltran, 606 Phil. 573, 590 (2009).

G.R. No. 188909 September 17, 2014

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT,


DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS AND PRESIDENTIAL ANTI-
GRAFT COMMISSION, Petitioners,
vs.
FLORENDO B. ARIAS, ASSIST ANT DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF EQUIPMENT,
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS, Respondent.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Respondent Florendo B. Arias was the Assistant Bureau Director of the Bureau of
Equipment (BOE), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWIH). Respondent, along
with other DPWH officials Burt B. Favorito, Director of Administrative Manpower and
Management Service; Emily M. Tanquintic, Director of Comptrollership and Financial
Management Service; Oscar D. Abundo, Director of Legal Service; Abraham S. Divina, Jr.,
Director of BOE, and several unnamed presidential and non-presidential appointees of
DPWH, were charged with violation of Section 3(e), (i) or Republic Act No. 3019, as
amended, Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of Republic Act No. 6713, and the Memorandum
1 2 3

from the President dated 19 November 1999 on the doctrine of command responsibility for
corruption in government office.

On 28 November 2002, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) issued a Formal


Charge in PAGC-ADM-0095-02in connection with the following acts and
omissionscommitted by DPWH officials:

1. Herein respondents, together withother employeesof the DPWH who are non-
presidential appointees and under their control and supervision, unlawfully and
knowingly perpetrated acts in violation of Section 20 of the General Appropriations
Act (GAA) of FY 2000 (Republic Act No. 8760) by facilitating the alleged anomalous
emergency repairs of several DPWH motor vehicles for CY 2000-2001 from the
wrong fund source, an offense constituting Illegal Expenditure under Section 53,
Chapter 9, Book V and Section 43, Chapter 5, Book VI, both of the Administrative
Code of 1987, in relation to Section 9, Special Provision (Department of Public
Works & Highways) of the same General Appropriations Act, and Section 3(e), (i) of
Republic Act No. 3019, as amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7 (a) of Republic Act
No. 6713.
2. In an Audit Report dated June 23, 2002, submitted pursuant to DPWH Department
Order No. 15, series of 2002, the Internal Audit Service reported that the result of
their review of almost 7,000 vouchers for the Fiscal Year 2001, 578 vehicles and
equipment have undergone emergency repairs.

3. The same Audit Report narrated that as of June 7, 2002, from a review of almost
7,000 vouchers, a total of 578 vehicles and equipment were subjected to emergency
repairs, with a total cost of P139,633,134.26 was paid out of the capital outlay and
MOOE funds. A clear violation of Section 20 of the General Appropriations Act for FY
2000, reenacted for FY 2001, which constitute an offense under Section 43, Chapter
5, Book VI of the Administrative Code of 1987, in relation to Section 9, Special
Provision (Department of Public Works and Highways) of the same General
Appropriations Act and Section 3(e), (i) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended and
Section 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of Republic [A]ct No. 6713.

4. Mr. Florendo B. Arias, Assistant Bureau Director, Bureau of Equipment, then OIC
of the same Bureau recommended the approval of the twenty four (24) Requisitions
for Supplies and/or Equipment (RSE), not requested/certified and signed by the end-
users of the vehicles. Twenty (20) of these RSEs are for a Mercedes Benz, with
Plate No. NRV-687/HI-2297 and assigned to the Chief,Planning and Design Division
and four (4) RSEs are for a Nissan Pick-up with Plate No. TAG-211/HI-4161 and
assigned to Irene D. Ofilada, then Director of Internal Audit Service. These acts are
violative of and contrary to Item No. 4, 4.1, DPWH Department Order No. 33, series
of 1988 and DPWH Memorandum dated 31 July 1997, Item D, 1.2, 1.4, and 1.6 on
Additional Guidelines Re: Purchase of Spare Parts and Repairs of DPWH Central
Office Service Vehicles, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of R.A. 3019, as amended and
Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of RA 6713.

5. Despite personal knowledge that the end-users of these vehicles (Mercedes


Benz-NRV-687 and Nissan Pick-up-TAG-211) did not request/sign and/or certify the
Requisition for Supplies and Equipment (RSEs), Assistant Director Florendo B. Arias,
signed the Request of Obligation and Allotment (ROA) for the said vehicles and
approved the Report of Waste Material purportedly for the said vehicles when there
were no such waste materials because these vehicles were not subjected to actual
repairs. These are in violation of Item No. 4, 4.1 of DPWH Department Order No. 33,
series of 1988 and DPWH Memorandum dated 31 July 1997, Item D, 1.2, 1.4 and
1.6, on Additional Guidelines Re: Purchase of Spare Parts and Repairs of DPWH
Central Office Service Vehicles, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of R.A. 3019, as
amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of RA 6713.

6. Assistant Director Florendo B. Arias having no authority to sign Box C, affixed his
signature in box C of the twenty-four (24) Disbursement Vouchers for the said
vehicles and despite personal knowledge that there were no repairs done nor
replacement of defective parts for the said vehicles were made, approving the
payment/reimbursement for emergency repairs/purchase of spare parts/supplies for
the use of the said vehicles. This is in violation of Item No. 4, 4.1 of DPWH
Department Order No. 33, series of 1988 and DPWH Memorandumdated 31 July
1997, Item D, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, on Additional Guidelines Re: Purchase of Spare Parts
and Repairs of DPWH Central Office Service Vehicles, in relation to Section 3(e), (i)
of R.A. 3019, as amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of RA 6713.

7. Notwithstanding personalknowledge that the end-users of the abovementioned


vehicles did not request/sign and/or certify the Requisition for Supplies and
Equipment (RSEs), Director Burt B. Favorito approved twenty-four (24) RSEs in
violation of Item 4, 4.1 of DPWH Department Order No. 33, series of 1988 and Item
D, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, of DPWH Memorandum dated 31 July 1997 on Additional Guidelines
Re: Purchase of Spare Parts and Repairs of DPWH Central Office Service Vehicles,
in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of R.A.3019, as amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and
7(a) of RA 6713.

8. Director Burt B. Favorito, despite personal knowledge of the absence of the


request signed and/or certified by the end-user of Mitsubishi Pajero bearing Plate
No. PLM-494/HI-3558, assigned to Assistant Regional Director, Region IV-B, DPWH,
approved the ten (10) Requisition for Supplies and/or Equipment (RSE), inviolation
of Item No. 4, 4.1 of DPWH Department Order No. 33, series of 1988 and DPWH
Memorandum Order dated 31 July 1997, Item D, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, on Additional
Guidelines Re: Purchase ofSpare Parts and Repairs of DPWH Central Office Service
Vehicles, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of R.A. 3019, as amended and Sections 4(a),
(c) and 7(a) of RA 6713.

9. Assistant Director Florendo B. Arias, then OIC, Bureau of Equipment, despite


personal knowledgethat there were no repairs done and/or replacement of spare
parts made on the Mitsubishi Pajero, with Plate No. PLM-494, approved the ten
(10)Reports of Waste Material in violation of Item No. 4, 4.1 of DPWH Department
Order No. 33, series of 1988 and DPWH Memorandum dated 31 July 1997, Item D,
1.2, 1.4, 1.6 on Additional Guidelines Re: Purchase of Spare Parts and Repairs of
DPWH Central Office Service Vehicles, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of R.A. 3019,
as amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of RA 6713.

10. Director Burt B. Favorito affixed his signature in box C of the ten (10)
Disbursement Vouchers for the Mitsubishi Pajero with Plate No. PLM-494 and
despite personal knowledge that there were no repairs done nor replacement of
defective parts for the said vehicles were made, approving the
payment/reimbursement for emergency repairs/purchase of spare parts/supplies for
the use of the said vehicles.

11. Director Burt B. Favorito by his acts of approving the RSEs for the said three (3)
motor vehicles and approving the disbursement vouchers/reimbursement for
emergency repairs and/or replacement of spare parts, has directed, authorized or
cooperated in the wrongdoings, instead of preventing the series of anomalous
transactions. A violation of Memorandum from the President, dated November 19,
1999, Invoking the Doctrine of Command Responsibilityfor Corruption in Government
Offices, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of Republic Act No. 3019 as amended and
Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of Republic Act No. 6713.
12. Director Emily M. Tanquintic, Comptrollership and Financial Management Service
(CFMS), for countersigning checks in payment for the purported repairs and/or
replacement of spare parts, despite the fact that the attached supporting documents
are dubiously anomalous. As Director of the CFMS, she failed to exercise prudence
in the management and control of governments financial resources, by failing to
institute necessary control measures to prevent wastage and losses on the part of
the government. As a supervising authority, she failed to perform the duties of her
office diligently and to oversee the proper and efficient use of funds for which they
were intended. She negligentlycarries on the business of her office, as to furnish the
opportunity for default. A violation of Memorandum from the President, dated
November 19, 1999, Invoking the Doctrine of Command Responsibility for Corruption
in Government Offices, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of Republic Act No. 3019 as
amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of Republic Act No. 6713.

13. Director Oscar D. Abundo, Legal Service, being the co-signatory in the checks in
payment for the purported emergency repairs or replacement of spare parts, despite
the fact thatthe attached supporting documents are dubiously anomalous. He
carelessly conducts or carries on the business of his office as to furnish the
opportunity for default. Such failure resulted to irregularity or illegal acts within his
area of jurisdiction.A violation of Memorandum from the President, dated November
19, 1999, Invoking the Doctrine of Command Responsibilityfor Corruption in
Government Offices, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of Republic Act No. 3019, as
amended, and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of Republic Act No. 6713.

14. Director Abraham S. Divina, Jr., Bureau of Equipment,as responsible supervising


authority, failed to institute necessary management monitoring and control systems
in the preparation and maintenance of equipment ledgers for each vehicle. Such
ledgers could have contained individual equipment profiles which record repairs, as
well as purchases of spare parts and movement of the vehicles. Such failure resulted
to irregularity or illegal acts within his area of jurisdiction. A violation of Memorandum
from the President, dated November 19, 1999, Invoking the Doctrine of Command
Responsibility for Corruption in Government Offices, in relation to Section 3(e), (i) of
Republic Act No. 3019 as amended and Sections 4(a), (c) and 7(a) of Republic Act
No. 6713 and Section 46(a), (1), (3), (4) and (9) of Book V, Administrative Code of
1987.

15. DPWH authorized payment and has actually paid the total amount
of P832,140.00 for the purported repairs and/or replacement of spare parts for the
three (3) motor vehicles, covering thirty four (34) transactions/disbursement
vouchers, as follows:

a. NISSAN PICK-UP-TAG-211/HI-4161 = P98,560.00 4 transactions


b. MITSUBISHI PAJERO-PLM-494/HI-3558 P249,020.00 10 transactions
=
c. MERCEDES BENZ-NRV-687/HI-2297 = P484,560.00 20 transactions
Total = P832,140.00
16. All respondent-presidential appointees are within the jurisdiction of the
Presidential Anti-Graft Commission pursuant to Section 4 of Executive Order No. 12,
dated April 16, 2001.

17. Herein respondents have openly committed serious misconduct prejudicial to the
best interest of the service.
4

Anent the charges against respondent, he was indicted for the following acts: 1)
recommending the approval of twenty-four (24) Requisitions for Supplies and/or Equipment
(RSEs) made on a Mercedes Benz and a Nissan Pick-up which were not requested/certified
and signed by the end-users of the vehicles; 2) signing the Request of Obligation and
Allotment (ROA) and approving the Report of Waste Material for said vehicles when there
were no such waste materials because the vehicles were not subjected to actual repairs; 3)
affixing his signature in Box C of the twenty-four (24) Disbursement Vouchers; and 4)
approving10 Reports of Waste Material despite personal knowledgethat there were no
repairs done and/or replacement of spare parts made on a Mitsubishi Pajero with Plate No.
PLM-494.

In an Order dated 29 November 2002, PAGC ordered respondent and other DPWH officials
charged to submit their Counter-Affidavits.

Respondent denied the charges that capital outlay funds were wrongfully used for
emergency repairs of DPWH-owned vehicles because according to the Department of
Budget and Management, emergency repairs of service/motor vehicles may be charged
against the 3.5% Engineering and Overhead of the projects of DPWH. With respect to the
approval of repair of the subject vehicles, respondent argued that he merely relied on the
representations of his subordinates that said vehicles were in need of emergency repairs.
Respondent further explained that all RSEs were prepared by the Chief of the Motor Pool
Section, Central Equipments and Spare Parts Division (CESPD) under the BOE and
submitted by the Chief of CESPD; that all RSEs were supported by Motor Vehicle Pre-
Repair Inspection Reports and Job Orders, all of which were assigned to CESPD; that when
a service/motor vehicle ofthe DPWH Central Office is turned over to the CESPD due for
repair and for issuance to various field offices, custody thereover is transferred toand/or
assumed by the Equipment Custody and Control Section or by the Motor Pool Section. In
this situation, the end-user appears to be the head of either department.

Respondent defended his approval of the waste material reports in that he was exercising
his ministerial duty. Moreover, his signing of the RSEs and the pertinent ROAs relative to
the twenty-four (24) repair transactions was based on Department Order No. 42,Series of
1998 which vested him with authority to recommend for approval of requisitions, purchase
orders and contract for the acquisition of supplies and materials, office equipment, spare
parts and services in amount not exceeding P25,000.00 per RSE, including signing of
corresponding ROAs.

Before he signed the disbursement vouchers, respondent saw to it that all supporting
documents were properly attached, suchas the job orders, prerepair inspection reports,
RSE as approved by Director Burt Favorito, postrepair inspection reports, cash invoice,
certificate of emergency repairs, certificates of acceptance, reports of waste materials and
price monitoring slip, to prove that emergency repairs had in fact been made on the subject
motor vehicles and were paid for, and that corresponding vouchers approval was in order.
Respondent also meticulously examined the initials on each voucher.

Respondent essentially relied on good faith and presumption of regularity in the


performance of official duties of his subordinates.

In a Resolution dated 19 December 2002, PAGC found respondent and the other DPWH
officials guilty and recommended their dismissal from the service with forfeiture of
retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government
office.
5

PAGC ruled that in accordance with Item Nos. 4 and 4.1 of DPWH Department Order No.
33, Series of 1988 on the Revised Guidelines for the Procurement of Supplies, Materials,
Spare Parts, Equipments, including Non-Personal Services dated 28 April 1988, and Items
D, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6 of DPWH Memorandum dated 31 July 1997 on Additional Guidelines Re:
Purchase of Spare Parts and Repairsof DPWH Central Office Service Vehicles, there is a
need for a certification/request by the end-user of a service vehicle before any action may
be done on the requestfor repair.

PAGC pointed out that the end-users of the subject vehicles executed sworn statements
denying personal knowledge over the repair of their vehicles. Thus:

The end-user of the Mercedes Benz, Engr. Chua executed a sworn statement that
"personally I have no actual knowledge on how much was the cost of the repair and
whether or not parts replaced were necessary, if parts were actually installed and if actual
repairs were undertaken. x x x. Atty. Ofilada, the end-user of the NissanPick-up, in her
affidavit declared, inter alia, "that during the period covered by the Memorandum Receipt,
the vehicle was never turned-over to the BOE for repairs, and for issuance of field offices. x
x x. Lastly, the end-user of Mitsubishi Pajero, Assistant Regional Director Reyes, executed
an affidavit that "I state that I have no personal knowledge on the said documented
transactions since I have no participation whatsoever, direct or indirect, in any of the
attendant processes of documentation regarding the repairs of the vehicle." He continued,
"that I learned the detailsof the supposed ten (10) repair transactions only upon being
furnished photocopies of the accounting records and documents by the office of Atty. Sulaik
and to which I state lack of knowledge thereof." He even emphasized "that all the
accounting documents and records supporting the supposed repair transactions show that
my signature or initial does not appear anywhere therein." 6

PAGC refuted the assertion of respondent that the recommendation for approval of the
RSEs is purely a ministerial act by stating that DPWH Department Order No. 33 and DPWH
Memorandum dated 31 July 1997 require certification by the end-userfor emergency
purchase/repair of equipment, spare parts or repair ofan equipment. Respondent and other
DPWH officials are required by law to exercise their judgment to ascertain if, on the face of
the document itself, the same is complete. The glaring absence of the names and
signatures of the end-users should have cautioned respondent from blindly approving the
RSEs.
According to PAGC, the processing of transactions, beginning from the preparation of the
RSEs, to the recommendation, to its approval; Certification of Emergency
Purchase/Repairs; Certificate of Acceptance; Report of Waste Materials; Request for
Obligation of Allotment; preparation and approval of disbursement vouchersup to the
signing/countersigning of checks in payment for the purported repairs/replacement of
defective spare parts were tainted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or gross
inexcusable negligence. Moreover,PAGC found that respondent, among others, have
shown their interest for personal gain as manifested by their acts of recommending,
approving, including the signing/countersigning of checks for the manifestly anomalous
transactions covering the purported repairs and/or replacements of defective spare parts of
the subject service vehicles.

On 30 January 2003, the Officeof the President through Administrative Order No. 57,
concurred with the findings and recommendation of the PAGC. Only respondent appealed
the unfavorable Order to the Court of Appeals by way of a petition for review.

The Court of Appeals granted the petition and dismissed the administrative charges filed
against respondent.

After examination and evaluation of the pertinent documents, the appellate court found no
sufficient basis to hold respondent administratively liable. The appellate court observed that
the aforesaid documents appear to be regular on their faces as the requisite signatures of
the proper officials, particularly the three members of the Special Inspectorate Team who
were tasked to conduct pre-repair and post-repair inspection of the subject vehicles appear
thereon, and it was only after inspection of these documents did respondent recommend
the approval of the emergency repair of the three (3) service vehicles and the payment
thereof.

The appellate court noted that respondent had to rely to a reasonable extent on his
subordinates and on good faith of those who prepared and submitted the questionable
documents. The appellate court ruled that the unlawful action of his subordinates cannotbe
ascribed to respondent in the absence of evidence of the latters foreknowledge of the
falsities of the emergency repairs on the three (3) vehicles.

Respondents acquittal from the administrative charges prompted petitioner Republic of the
Philippines, represented by the Office of the President, DPWH and PAGC, to file the instant
petition for review on certiorarigrounded on the lone issue of whether or not respondent is
guilty of dishonesty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the
best interest of the service.

Petitioner disagrees withrespondents claim that his recommendation for approval of the
twenty-four (24) RSEs and disbursement vouchers were regular and ministerial. Petitioner
contends that respondent, as recommending authority, should have reviewed and evaluated
the documents prior to recommending its approval. Petitioner expounds that the emergency
purchases and repairs must first be requested by the end-user of the vehicle sought to be
repaired because it is the end-user who will certify on the immediate need for the repairs
ofthe vehicle to justify the emergency purchases and exempt such requisition from public
bidding. Echoing the ruling of the PAGC, as affirmed by the Office of the President,
petitioner maintains that respondent made the recommendation to approve the emergency
repairs in the absence ofa certification from the end-user pursuant to Department Order No.
33, series of 1998 and the Memorandum dated 31 July 1997. Petitioner avers that the
annotation on the RSEs "turned over to the CESPD-BOE duefor repair and/or issuance to
various field offices" should have alerted respondent on the irregularity of the purported
emergency purchases and repairs. In light of the glaring irregularities in the supporting
documents, respondents defense of reliance on the favorable recommendations and
signatures of his subordinates cannot be sustained. Petitioner submits that the defense of
good faith is likewise unavailing because respondents relied on documentswhich showed
palpable defects when he signed them.

We grant the petition.

The quantum of evidence necessary to find an individual administratively liable in


administrative cases is substantial evidence.

Section 5, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court provides: Sec. 5. Substantial evidence. In cases
filed before administrative or quasi-judicial bodies, a fact may be deemed established if it is
supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.

Substantial evidence does not necessarily mean preponderant proof as required in ordinary
civil cases, but such kind of relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion or evidence commonly accepted by reasonably prudent
men in the conduct of their affairs.
7

In the instant case, it is petitioners submission that The respondent cannot be exonerated
from administrative liability for mere reliance on his subordinates in view of the glaring
irregularities on the documents.

On the contrary, respondent, whose argument was sustained by the Court of Appeals,
insists that the signatures appearing on the documents appear to be regular.

At the onset, this Court is not a trier of facts. When supported by substantial evidence, the
findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not
reviewable by this Court, unless the case falls under any of the following recognized
exceptions:

(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises and
conjectures;

(2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

(3) Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;

(4) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

(5) When the findings offact are conflicting;


(6) When the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the
case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

(7) When the findings are contraryto those of the trial court;

(8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on
which they are based;

(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners main and
reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and

(10) When the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed
absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record. 8

The instant case falls under the exceptions because the findings of fact of the Office of the
President are contrary to that of the Court of Appeals warranting review by this Court.

Petitioner invoked Item Nos. 4 and 4.1 of DPWH Department Order No. 33, Series of 1988
on the Revised Guidelines for the Procurement of Supplies, Materials, Spare Parts,
Equipments, including Non-Personal Services dated 28 April 1988 and Items D, 1.2, 1.4 and
1.6 of DPWH Memorandum dated 31 July 1997 on Additional Guidelines Re: Purchase of
Spare Parts and Repairs of DPWH Central Office Service Vehicles, both pertaining to
emergency purchases, to wit:

4. Emergency Purchase

4.1 Emergency purchase shall be allowed only where the need for the supplies, materials,
furnitures, equipment, spare parts or repair of an equipment exceptionally urgent or
absolutely indispensable to prevent immediate danger to, or loss of life and/or property, or
avoid detriment to the public service as certified by the end-user and approved by the
higher authorities.

D. FUNDING REQUIREMENTS

1. Documentation No claim for payment for the emergency minor/major repair of


service vehicles of this Department shall be processed by the Accounting Division,
CFMS without strictly following provisions of COA Circular No. 92-389 dated
November 3, 1992. The following documentary requirements shall be complied with
prior to finding and/or processing of payment, to wit:

1.2 Certification of Emergency Purchase/Repair which shall be signed by the end-


user, duly approved by the Head of Office concerned (with the rank higher than
Division Chief);

1.4 The Requisition for Supplies or Equipment (RSE) which shall be signed by the
end-user, recommended for approval and duly approved by the official concerned,in
accordance with the existing delegation of authorities;
1.6 Certificate of Acceptance which shall be signed by the end user of said vehicle.
All documents under accounting and auditing rules and regulations, shall be signed
bythe official and/or supplier concerned over their respective printed names.

Petitioner highlights the importance of the certification and signature of the end-user on the
documents relating to emergency purchases, because, the end-user would be the first to
detect if there are actual defects on the vehicles and who will certify on the immediate need
for the repairs of the vehicle to justify the emergency purchases, and exempt such
requisition from public bidding. Moreover, the job order signed by the end-user is the
initiating document and primary basis for determining accountability.

While respondent is not expected to scrutinize each and every transaction covered by the
RSEs and other documents, he should have at least verified the contents of these
documents and seen to it that each requisition complied with existing safeguards on
emergency purchases and/or repairs.

Petitioner correctly pointed out that the annotation on the RSEs "turned over to the CESPD-
BOE due for repair and/or issuance to various field offices" should have alerted respondent
on the irregularity of the purported emergency purchases and repairs. Indeed, the fact that
1awp++i1

the vehicles were turned over to Central Equipments Spare Parts Division for repair without
certification from the end-users only meant that repairs were not urgently needed.

Complete reliance on signaturesis a ministerial function but respondent, as Assistant


Director of BOE under DPWH, does not exercise purely ministerial duties. His duties entail
review and evaluation of documents presented before him for recommending approval. He
cannot simply recommend approval of documents without determining compliance with
existing law, rules and regulationsof the Department. As Assistant Director of BOE, his
obligation isnot limited to merely affixing his signature in the emergency purchases
documents. While he does not need to personally and physically inspect eachand every
vehicle subjected to emergency repair and/or purchases, he must ensure that the subject
vehicles in fact necessitate repairs through the signature and certification of the endusers.

The Court of Appeals anchored its ruling on the case of Arias v. Sandiganbayan, where the
9

Court acquitted Arias, who was an Auditor of Rizal Engineering District in Pasig and passed
upon and approved in audit the acquisition as well as payment of lands needed for the
Mangahan Floodway Project. According to the Court, all heads of offices have to rely to a
reasonable extent on their subordinates and on the good faith of those who prepare bids,
purchase supplies orenter negotiations. However, the Court went on to state that "there
should be other grounds than mere signature or approval appearing on the voucher to
sustain a conspiracy charge and conviction" or dismissal in this case.

There exists a ground other than the signatures appearing on the emergency
purchase/repair documents that should have prodded respondent to conduct a more than
cursory examination of the documents. The absence of a certification and signature of the
end-user which would justify the emergency repair and/or purchase is glaring.

PAGC, as affirmed by the Office of the President found respondent guilty of dishonesty,
grave misconduct,gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the
service. Dishonesty is defined as intentionally making a false statement in any material fact,
or practicing or attempting to practice any deception or fraud in securing his examination,
registration, appointment or registration. Dishonesty was understood to imply a disposition
to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud; unworthiness; lack of integrity. Respondents act of
10

recommending approval despite lack ofcertification from end-users does not constitute
dishonesty. It is actually a form of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct. 1wphi1

Gross neglect of duty or gross negligence refers to negligence characterized by the want of
even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not
inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to consequences,
insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care which even
inattentive and thoughtless persons never fail to take on their own property. In cases
involving public officials, there is gross negligence when a breach of duty is flagrant and
palpable.11

Misconduct is an intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard


of behavior, especially by a government official. As differentiated from simple misconduct, in
grave misconduct the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant
disregard of established rule, must be manifest. 12

The failure of respondent to exercise his functions diligently when he recommended for
approval documents for emergency repair and purchase in the absence of the signature
and certification by the enduser, in complete disregard of existing DPWH rules, constitute
gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct which undoubtedly resulted in loss of public
funds thereby causing undue injury to the government.

In sum, this Court finds substantial evidence to hold respondent administratively liable.
Pursuant to Sections 22 and 23, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of
Executive Order No. 292, grave misconduct and gross negligence in the performance of
duty arc classified as grave offenses punishable by dismissal.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated 23 December 2008 and the 9
July 2009 Resolution of the Couti of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP. No. 75379 dismissing the
administrative charges against Florendo B. Arias are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
Administrative Order No. 57 issued by the Office of the President imposing the penalty or
dismissal from service with forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for
re-employment in the government service on Florendo B. Arias is hereby REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 153675 April 19, 2007

GOVERNMENT OF HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION, represented by


the Philippine Department of Justice, Petitioner,
vs.
HON. FELIXBERTO T. OLALIA, JR. and JUAN ANTONIO MUOZ, Respondents.

DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

For our resolution is the instant Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure, as amended, seeking to nullify the two Orders of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 8, Manila (presided by respondent Judge Felixberto T. Olalia, Jr.) issued in
Civil Case No. 99-95773. These are: (1) the Order dated December 20, 2001 allowing Juan
Antonio Muoz, private respondent, to post bail; and (2) the Order dated April 10, 2002
denying the motion to vacate the said Order of December 20, 2001 filed by the Government
of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, represented by the Philippine Department of
Justice (DOJ), petitioner. The petition alleges that both Orders were issued by respondent
judge with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction as there is
no provision in the Constitution granting bail to a potential extraditee.

The facts are:

On January 30, 1995, the Republic of the Philippines and the then British Crown Colony of
Hong Kong signed an "Agreement for the Surrender of Accused and Convicted Persons." It
took effect on June 20, 1997.

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverted back to the Peoples Republic of China and became
the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Private respondent Muoz was charged before the Hong Kong Court with three (3) counts
of the offense of "accepting an advantage as agent," in violation of Section 9 (1) (a) of the
Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Cap. 201 of Hong Kong. He also faces seven (7) counts of
the offense of conspiracy to defraud, penalized by the common law of Hong Kong. On
August 23, 1997 and October 25, 1999, warrants of arrest were issued against him. If
convicted, he faces a jail term of seven (7) to fourteen (14) years for each charge.

On September 13, 1999, the DOJ received from the Hong Kong Department of Justice a
request for the provisional arrest of private respondent. The DOJ then forwarded the
request to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which, in turn, filed with the RTC of
Manila, Branch 19 an application for the provisional arrest of private respondent.

On September 23, 1999, the RTC, Branch 19, Manila issued an Order of Arrest against
private respondent. That same day, the NBI agents arrested and detained him.

On October 14, 1999, private respondent filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for
certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with application for preliminary mandatory injunction
and/or writ of habeas corpus questioning the validity of the Order of Arrest.

On November 9, 1999, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision declaring the Order of
Arrest void.

On November 12, 1999, the DOJ filed with this Court a petition for review on certiorari,
docketed as G.R. No. 140520, praying that the Decision of the Court of Appeals be
reversed.
On December 18, 2000, this Court rendered a Decision granting the petition of the DOJ and
sustaining the validity of the Order of Arrest against private respondent. The Decision
became final and executory on April 10, 2001.

Meanwhile, as early as November 22, 1999, petitioner Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region filed with the RTC of Manila a petition for the extradition of private respondent,
docketed as Civil Case No. 99-95733, raffled off to Branch 10, presided by Judge Ricardo
Bernardo, Jr. For his part, private respondent filed, in the same case,- a petition for
bail which was opposed by petitioner.

After hearing, or on October 8, 2001, Judge Bernardo, Jr. issued an Order denying the
petition for bail, holding that there is no Philippine law granting bail in extradition cases and
that private respondent is a high "flight risk."

On October 22, 2001, Judge Bernardo, Jr. inhibited himself from further hearing Civil Case
No. 99-95733. It was then raffled off to Branch 8 presided by respondent judge.

On October 30, 2001, private respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the Order
denying his application for bail. This was granted by respondent judge in an Order dated
December 20, 2001 allowing private respondent to post bail, thus:

In conclusion, this Court will not contribute to accuseds further erosion of civil liberties. The
petition for bail is granted subject to the following conditions:

1. Bail is set at Php750,000.00 in cash with the condition that accused hereby
undertakes that he will appear and answer the issues raised in these proceedings
and will at all times hold himself amenable to orders and processes of this Court, will
further appear for judgment. If accused fails in this undertaking, the cash bond will be
forfeited in favor of the government;

2. Accused must surrender his valid passport to this Court;

3. The Department of Justice is given immediate notice and discretion of filing its
own motion for hold departure order before this Court even in extradition proceeding;
and

4. Accused is required to report to the government prosecutors handling this case or


if they so desire to the nearest office, at any time and day of the week; and if they
further desire, manifest before this Court to require that all the assets of accused,
real and personal, be filed with this Court soonest, with the condition that if the
accused flees from his undertaking, said assets be forfeited in favor of the
government and that the corresponding lien/annotation be noted therein accordingly.

SO ORDERED.

On December 21, 2001, petitioner filed an urgent motion to vacate the above Order, but it
was denied by respondent judge in his Order dated April 10, 2002.
Hence, the instant petition. Petitioner alleged that the trial court committed grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in admitting private respondent to bail;
that there is nothing in the Constitution or statutory law providing that a potential extraditee
has a right to bail, the right being limited solely to criminal proceedings.

In his comment on the petition, private respondent maintained that the right to bail
guaranteed under the Bill of Rights extends to a prospective extraditee; and that extradition
is a harsh process resulting in a prolonged deprivation of ones liberty.

Section 13, Article III of the Constitution provides that the right to bail shall not be impaired,
thus:

Sec. 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion
perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient
sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall
not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended.
Excessive bail shall not be required.

Jurisprudence on extradition is but in its infancy in this jurisdiction. Nonetheless, this is not
the first time that this Court has an occasion to resolve the question of whether a
prospective extraditee may be granted bail.

In Government of United States of America v. Hon. Guillermo G. Purganan, Presiding


Judge, RTC of Manila, Branch 42, and Mark B. Jimenez, a.k.a. Mario Batacan Crespo,1 this
Court, speaking through then Associate Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, later Chief Justice,
held that the constitutional provision on bail does not apply to extradition proceedings. It is
"available only in criminal proceedings," thus:

x x x. As suggested by the use of the word "conviction," the constitutional provision on bail
quoted above, as well as Section 4, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, applies only when a
person has been arrested and detained for violation of Philippine criminal laws. It does not
apply to extradition proceedings because extradition courts do not render judgments of
conviction or acquittal.

Moreover, the constitutional right to bail "flows from the presumption of innocence in favor of
every accused who should not be subjected to the loss of freedom as thereafter he would
be entitled to acquittal, unless his guilt be proved beyond reasonable doubt" (De la Camara
v. Enage, 41 SCRA 1, 6, September 17, 1971, per Fernando, J., later CJ). It follows that the
constitutional provision on bail will not apply to a case like extradition, where the
presumption of innocence is not at issue.

The provision in the Constitution stating that the "right to bail shall not be impaired even
when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended" does not detract from the rule
that the constitutional right to bail is available only in criminal proceedings. It must be noted
that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus finds application "only to
persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with
invasion" (Sec. 18, Art. VIII, Constitution). Hence, the second sentence in the constitutional
provision on bail merely emphasizes the right to bail in criminal proceedings for the
aforementioned offenses. It cannot be taken to mean that the right is available even in
extradition proceedings that are not criminal in nature.

At first glance, the above ruling applies squarely to private respondents case. However, this
Court cannot ignore the following trends in international law: (1) the growing importance of
the individual person in public international law who, in the 20th century, has gradually
attained global recognition; (2) the higher value now being given to human rights in the
international sphere; (3) the corresponding duty of countries to observe these universal
human rights in fulfilling their treaty obligations; and (4) the duty of this Court to balance the
rights of the individual under our fundamental law, on one hand, and the law on extradition,
on the other.

The modern trend in public international law is the primacy placed on the worth of
the individual person and the sanctity of human rights. Slowly, the recognition that the
individual person may properly be a subject of international law is now taking root. The
vulnerable doctrine that the subjects of international law are limited only to states was
dramatically eroded towards the second half of the past century. For one, the Nuremberg
and Tokyo trials after World War II resulted in the unprecedented spectacle of individual
defendants for acts characterized as violations of the laws of war, crimes against peace,
and crimes against humanity. Recently, under the Nuremberg principle, Serbian leaders
have been persecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the former
Yugoslavia. These significant events show that the individual person is now a valid subject
of international law.

On a more positive note, also after World War II, both international organizations and states
gave recognition and importance to human rights. Thus, on December 10, 1948, the United
Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which the
right to life, liberty and all the other fundamental rights of every person were proclaimed.
While not a treaty, the principles contained in the said Declaration are now recognized
as customarily binding upon the members of the international community. Thus,
in Mejoff v. Director of Prisons,2 this Court, in granting bail to a prospective deportee,
held that under the Constitution,3 the principles set forth in that Declaration are part of the
law of the land. In 1966, the UN General Assembly also adopted the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights which the Philippines signed and ratified. Fundamental among
the rights enshrined therein are the rights of every person to life, liberty, and due process.

The Philippines, along with the other members of the family of nations, committed to uphold
the fundamental human rights as well as value the worth and dignity of every person. This
commitment is enshrined in Section II, Article II of our Constitution which provides: "The
State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human
rights." The Philippines, therefore, has the responsibility of protecting and promoting the
right of every person to liberty and due process, ensuring that those detained or arrested
can participate in the proceedings before a court, to enable it to decide without delay on the
legality of the detention and order their release if justified. In other words, the Philippine
authorities are under obligation to make available to every person under detention such
remedies which safeguard their fundamental right to liberty. These remedies include the
right to be admitted to bail. While this Court in Purganan limited the exercise of the right to
bail to criminal proceedings, however, in light of the various international treaties giving
recognition and protection to human rights, particularly the right to life and liberty, a
reexamination of this Courts ruling in Purganan is in order.

First, we note that the exercise of the States power to deprive an individual of his
liberty is not necessarily limited to criminal proceedings. Respondents in
administrative proceedings, such as deportation and quarantine, 4 have likewise been
detained.

Second, to limit bail to criminal proceedings would be to close our eyes to our
jurisprudential history. Philippine jurisprudence has not limited the exercise of the
right to bail to criminal proceedings only. This Court has admitted to bail persons who
are not involved in criminal proceedings. In fact, bail has been allowed in this
jurisdiction to persons in detention during the pendency of administrative
proceedings, taking into cognizance the obligation of the Philippines under
international conventions to uphold human rights.

The 1909 case of US v. Go-Sioco5 is illustrative. In this case, a Chinese facing deportation
for failure to secure the necessary certificate of registration was granted bail pending his
appeal. After noting that the prospective deportee had committed no crime, the Court
opined that "To refuse him bail is to treat him as a person who has committed the most
serious crime known to law;" and that while deportation is not a criminal proceeding, some
of the machinery used "is the machinery of criminal law." Thus, the provisions relating to bail
was applied to deportation proceedings.

In Mejoff v. Director of Prisons6 and Chirskoff v. Commission of Immigration,7 this Court


ruled that foreign nationals against whom no formal criminal charges have been filed may
be released on bail pending the finality of an order of deportation. As previously stated, the
Court in Mejoff relied upon the Universal declaration of Human Rights in sustaining the
detainees right to bail.

If bail can be granted in deportation cases, we see no justification why it should not also be
allowed in extradition cases. Likewise, considering that the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights applies to deportation cases, there is no reason why it cannot be invoked in
extradition cases. After all, both are administrative proceedings where the innocence or guilt
of the person detained is not in issue.

Clearly, the right of a prospective extraditee to apply for bail in this jurisdiction must be
viewed in the light of the various treaty obligations of the Philippines concerning respect for
the promotion and protection of human rights. Under these treaties, the presumption lies in
favor of human liberty. Thus, the Philippines should see to it that the right to liberty of every
individual is not impaired.

Section 2(a) of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1069 (The Philippine Extradition Law) defines
"extradition" as "the removal of an accused from the Philippines with the object of placing
him at the disposal of foreign authorities to enable the requesting state or government to
hold him in connection with any criminal investigation directed against him or the execution
of a penalty imposed on him under the penal or criminal law of the requesting state or
government."
Extradition has thus been characterized as the right of a foreign power, created by treaty, to
demand the surrender of one accused or convicted of a crime within its territorial
jurisdiction, and the correlative duty of the other state to surrender him to the demanding
state.8 It is not a criminal proceeding.9 Even if the potential extraditee is a criminal, an
extradition proceeding is not by its nature criminal, for it is not punishment for a crime, even
though such punishment may follow extradition. 10 It is sui generis, tracing its existence
wholly to treaty obligations between different nations. 11 It is not a trial to determine the
guilt or innocence of the potential extraditee.12 Nor is it a full-blown civil action, but one
that is merely administrative in character.13 Its object is to prevent the escape of a person
accused or convicted of a crime and to secure his return to the state from which he fled, for
the purpose of trial or punishment.14

But while extradition is not a criminal proceeding, it is characterized by the following: (a) it
entails a deprivation of liberty on the part of the potential extraditee and (b) the means
employed to attain the purpose of extradition is also "the machinery of criminal
law." This is shown by Section 6 of P.D. No. 1069 (The Philippine Extradition Law) which
mandates the "immediate arrest and temporary detention of the accused" if such "will
best serve the interest of justice." We further note that Section 20 allows the requesting
state "in case of urgency" to ask for the "provisional arrest of the accused, pending
receipt of the request for extradition;" and that release from provisional arrest "shall not
prejudice re-arrest and extradition of the accused if a request for extradition is received
subsequently."

Obviously, an extradition proceeding, while ostensibly administrative, bears all earmarks of


a criminal process. A potential extraditee may be subjected to arrest, to a prolonged
restraint of liberty, and forced to transfer to the demanding state following the
proceedings. "Temporary detention" may be a necessary step in the process of extradition,
but the length of time of the detention should be reasonable.

Records show that private respondent was arrested on September 23, 1999, and remained
incarcerated until December 20, 2001, when the trial court ordered his admission to bail. In
other words, he had been detained for over two (2) years without having been
convicted of any crime. By any standard, such an extended period of detention is a
serious deprivation of his fundamental right to liberty. In fact, it was this prolonged
deprivation of liberty which prompted the extradition court to grant him bail.

While our extradition law does not provide for the grant of bail to an extraditee, however,
there is no provision prohibiting him or her from filing a motion for bail, a right to due
process under the Constitution.

The applicable standard of due process, however, should not be the same as that in
criminal proceedings. In the latter, the standard of due process is premised on the
presumption of innocence of the accused. As Purganan correctly points out, it is from this
major premise that the ancillary presumption in favor of admitting to bail arises. Bearing in
mind the purpose of extradition proceedings, the premise behind the issuance of the arrest
warrant and the "temporary detention" is the possibility of flight of the potential extraditee.
This is based on the assumption that such extraditee is a fugitive from justice. 15 Given the
foregoing, the prospective extraditee thus bears the onus probandi of showing that he or
she is not a flight risk and should be granted bail.

The time-honored principle of pacta sunt servanda demands that the Philippines honor its
obligations under the Extradition Treaty it entered into with the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region. Failure to comply with these obligations is a setback in our foreign
relations and defeats the purpose of extradition. However, it does not necessarily mean that
in keeping with its treaty obligations, the Philippines should diminish a potential extraditees
rights to life, liberty, and due process. More so, where these rights are guaranteed, not only
by our Constitution, but also by international conventions, to which the Philippines is a party.
We should not, therefore, deprive an extraditee of his right to apply for bail, provided that a
certain standard for the grant is satisfactorily met.

An extradition proceeding being sui generis, the standard of proof required in granting or
denying bail can neither be the proof beyond reasonable doubt in criminal cases nor the
standard of proof of preponderance of evidence in civil cases. While administrative in
character, the standard of substantial evidence used in administrative cases cannot likewise
apply given the object of extradition law which is to prevent the prospective extraditee from
fleeing our jurisdiction. In his Separate Opinion in Purganan, then Associate Justice, now
Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, proposed that a new standard which he termed "clear and
convincing evidence" should be used in granting bail in extradition cases. According
to him, this standard should be lower than proof beyond reasonable doubt but higher than
preponderance of evidence. The potential extraditee must prove by "clear and convincing
evidence" that he is not a flight risk and will abide with all the orders and processes of the
extradition court.

In this case, there is no showing that private respondent presented evidence to show that
he is not a flight risk. Consequently, this case should be remanded to the trial court to
determine whether private respondent may be granted bail on the basis of "clear and
convincing evidence."

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition. This case is REMANDED to the trial court to
determine whether private respondent is entitled to bail on the basis of "clear and
convincing evidence." If not, the trial court should order the cancellation of his bail bond and
his immediate detention; and thereafter, conduct the extradition proceedings with dispatch.

SO ORDERED.

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice