PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION; In reviewing resolutions of prosecutors, the Secretary of Justice is not precluded from considering errors, although unassigned, for the purpose of determining whether there is probable cause for filing cases in court.
FACTS: Petitioner is the holder of Certificate of Copyright of Rhoda and Me, a dating game show aired from 1970-1977, while private respondents are the copyright holder of It's a Date, likewise a dating game show but aired in 1991. Petitioner filed an action contending that private respondent violated the law on copyright protection as mandated by P.D No. 49 in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City where it was docketed as Civil Case No. 92-27854. However, private respondent sought a review of the resolution of the Assistant City Prosecutor before the Department of Justice (DOJ). Subsequently, Secretary of Justice Franklin Drillon reversed the Asst. City Prosecutor's findings and directed the latter to dismiss the case. A motion for reconsideration was filed but was denied on the ground that petitioner failed to establish the existence of probable cause due to their failure to present the copyrighted master videotape of Rhoda and Me. Petitioner now claims that their failure to submit the copyrighted master videotape of the television show Rhoda and Me was not raised in issue by private respondents during the preliminary investigation and, therefore, it was error for the Secretary of Justice to reverse the investigating prosecutor's finding of probable cause on this ground.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Secretary of Justice gravely abused his discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when he invoked non-presentation of the master tape as being fatal to the existence of probable cause to prove infringement.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. Preliminary investigation falls under the authority of the State prosecutor who is given by law to direct and control criminal actions. He is, however, subject to the control of the Secretary of Justice. In reviewing resolutions of prosecutors, the Secretary of Justice is not precluded from considering errors, although unassigned, for the purpose of determining whether there is probable cause for filing cases in court. He must make his own finding of probable cause and is not confined to the issues raised by the parties during preliminary investigation. Moreover, determination of what is copyrightable is indeed within the jurisdiction of the RTC. However, this does not preclude public respondent Secretary of Justice from making a preliminary determination of this question in resolving whether there is probable cause for filing the case in court. In doing so in this case, public respondent did not commit any grave abuse. [Joaquin vs Drillon; G.R. No. 108946; January 28, 1999; Second Division--- Mendoza, J.]
JURISDICTION; Quo warranto actions against corporations or persons using corporate offices fall under the jurisdiction of the SEC, unless otherwise provided for by law, such as where the corporate entities involved are homeowners associations, in which case jurisdiction is lodged with the Home Insurance and Guarantee Corporation (HIGC).
FACTS: Sto. Nino de Cul de Sac Neighborhood Association Inc. (SNSNAI) was incorporated and registered with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) by petitioners Unilongo Group, comprising them as the original Board of Trustees. However, since no elections for a new Board of Trustees and for a new set of officers were held from the time of its incorporation, the petitioners subsequently amended the SNSNA's by-laws by changing the term of office of the Board of Trustees from 1yr to 2 yrs. Despite amendments, elections were held by private respondents Dino Group, from where they emerged as the new officers. Then again, the Unilongo group established Sto. Nino de Cul de Sac Homeowners Association Inc. (CHSHA) and registered the same with the Home Insurance Guarantee Corporation (HIGC). From this arise the controversy on who should represent the homeowners and hold the offices and positions therefrom. Private respondents, in their quo warranto complaints, sought to ouster the Unilongo group from the Board of Trustees of the SNSNAI and to dissolve the CDSHA and declare its registration with the HIGC null and void for being in contravention of law and illegally formed. In response, two pleadings, an answer with counterclaim and a motion to dismiss on grounds of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, were filed by petitioners. They contended that disputes involving homeowners association fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the HIGC. The motion to dismiss was denied. Dissatisfied, petitioners filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the Court of Appeals, which was again denied for lack of merit. On appeal, petitioners contended that the regular courts have no jurisdiction over intra-corporate controversies.
ISSUE: Whether or not the regular courts have jurisdiction over intra-corporate controversies.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. HIGC has original and exclusive jurisdiction over intra-corporate controversies. The jurisdiction of the SEC over intra-corporate matters concerning homeowners association including their dissolution as found in P.D 902-A has been transferred to the Home Insurance and Guarantee Corporation. Whatever ambiguities that may arise regarding jurisdiction over quo warranto action against corporation or person usurping corporate offices are classified and resolved by the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. Quo Warranto actions against corporation or person using corporate offices fall under the jurisdiction of SEC, unless otherwise provided for by law, such as where the corporate entities involved are homeowners associations, in which case jurisdiction is lodged with the Home Insurance and Guarantee Corporation (HIGC). [Unilongo vs CA; G.R. No.123910; April 5, 1999 EN BANC--- Kapunan, J.]
ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE; When the witness had no personal knowledge of the facts entered by him, and the person who gave him the information is individually known and may testify as to the facts stated in the, such entry is not admissible without the testimony of the informer.
FACTS: Petitioner Rosella D. Canque is a contractor doing business under the name of RDC Construction. At the time material to this case, petitioner entered into two contracts with private respondent Socor Construction Corporation, whereby the latter agreed to supply the petitioner materials and services needed for its projects. Sometime thereafter, private respondent sent petitioner a bill but the latter refused to pay the amount. Consequently, private respondent brought suit in the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. Subsequently, Petitioner Canque was ordered by the trial court to pay private respondent the sum of P 299,717.75 plus interest and costs in its decision on June 22, 1988. During the trial, private respondent's book of collectible account was presented as evidence. The detailed account of all the transaction was made by Dolores Aday, private respondent's bookkeeper. In the course of her testimony, Aday admitted that she had no personal knowledge of the facts constituting the entry. She said she made the entries based on the bills given to her, which bills were supervised by the company's engineer. On appeal, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's reliance on private respondent's book of collectible accounts on the basis of Rule 130, Sec. 37 of the Rules of Court. Petitioner now contends that the respondent court erred in admitting in evidence entries in the course of business of private respondent's book of collectible accounts considering that the person who made the entries had no personal knowledge of the said entries and that the decision should be reversed as it has only inadmissible evidence to support it.
ISSUE: Whether or not evidence presented by a person who made the entries but had no personal knowledge about it is admissible in court.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. The admission in evidence of entries in corporate books requires the satisfaction of the following conditions: (1) the person who made the entry must be dead, outside the country or unable to testify; (2) the entries were made at or near the time of the transactions to which they refer; (3) the entrant was in a position to know the facts stated in the entries; (4) the entries were made in his professional capacity or in the performance of a duty, whether legal, contractual, moral or religious; and (5) the entries were made in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty. As petitioner points out, the business entries in question do not meet the first and third requisites. First, Dolores Aday, who made the entries, was presented by private respondent to testify on the account of RDC Construction. It was in the course of her testimony that the entries were presented and marked in evidence. There was, therefore, neither justification nor necessity for the presentation of the entries as the person who made them was available to testify in court. Second, whether or not the bills given to Aday correctly reflected the deliveries made was a fact that could be established by the project engineer alone, who, however, was not presented during trial. [Canque vs CA; G.R. No. 96202; April 13, 1999; Second Division--- Mendoza, J.]
APPEALS; Paramount consideration is strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts, on the judicial policy that the Supreme Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment or remedy within and calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction.
FACTS: The Alliance of Nationalist and Genuine Labor Organization (ANGLO-KMU) filed a petition for certification election among the rank and file employees of Cebu Shipyard and Engineering Work Inc. Petitioner NFL moved for the dismissal of the petition on the ground that ANGLO-KMU has no legal personality to file the petition for certification election and it failed to comply with the 25% consent requirement. The Med-Arbiter issued a resolution dismissing the petition upon finding that the required documents evidencing the due creation of a local was made after the lapse of the freedom period. ANGLO-KMU appealed to the Secretary of Labor and Employment who authorized Undersecretary Bienvenido Laguesma to set aside the resolution, finding the ANGLO-KMU to have complied with the requirement. NFL filed a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 before the Supreme Court questioning the Resolution of Undersecretary Laguesma. (In this particular case, the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the petition. Instead, the issue was centered on the procedure for review of the decisions of the Secretary of Labor.)
ISSUE: Whether or not the special civil action filed directly with the Supreme Court is proper.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. It is procedurally feasible as well as practicable that petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 against the decisions of the Secretary of Labor rendered under the Labor Code and its implementing and related rules be filed initially in the Court of Appeals. Paramount consideration is strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts, on the judicial policy that the Supreme Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment or remedy within and calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction. [National Federation of Labor vs. Hon. Bienvenido Laguesma, G.R. No. 123426, March 10, 1999, EN BANC --- Kapunan, J.]
RIGHT TO APPEAL; While litigation is not a game of technicalities, it is a truism that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice.
FACTS: On April 23, 1991, the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City convicted petitioner Felix Sajot in Criminal Case No. 97-12635 of estafa. Petitioner filed with the trial court a notice of appeal. Subsequently, the trial court elevated the records to the Court of Appeals. The latter then required petitioner to file an appellant's brief within thirty days from receipt of notice. Petitioner filed a petition for extension of time to file brief for three times which were all granted by the Court. However, the appellate court resolved to dismiss petitioner's appeal for failure to file his brief within the third granted extension. Consequently, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals an urgent motion for reconsideration but the same was denied. Petitioner then filed a motion for reconsideration alleging that his counsel, Atty. Cervo, never submitted the brief because of "utter and gross ignorance of procedures and/or negligence or omission, intentional or otherwise, in the performance of his avowed professional duty." The court of appeals resolved to deny the motion. Petitioner now contends that the Court of Appeals denied him the right to due process when it dismissed his appeal because of his counsel's negligence.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals gravely abused its discretion in dismissing petitioner's appeal for failure to file appellant's brief.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. Petitioner was himself guilty of neglect. He was aware of his conviction and of the requirement of filing an appellant's brief. His excuse that he relied on the services of his counsel and that he was busy is "flimsy". Furthermore, we note that even during the trial of the estafa case before the lower court, petitioner never appeared in court except during the arraignment. Petitioner's lack of vigilance as found by the trial court in its decision is emphasized when his counsel in the instant petition filed a motion to withdraw primarily on the ground of irreconcilable professional relationship between Atty. Temporal and petitioner. It has been held that courts should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of the right to appeal. Respect for the appellant's right, however, carries with it the correspondent respect for the appellee's similar rights to fair play and justice. The appeal being a purely statutory right, an appealing party must strictly comply with the requisites laid down in the Rules of Court. While litigation is not a game of technicalities, it is a truism that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice. Indeed, appeal is an essential part of our judicial system. [Sajot vs. CA; G.R. No. 109721; March 11, 1999; First Division--- Pardo, J.]
CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES; The findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses are not to be disturbed without reason by the appellate court. Having heard the witnesses and observed their deportment personally, the trial court is in the best position to determine whether or not the witnesses are telling the truth.
FACTS: Accused-appellant was charged of the crime of rape for sexually violating private complainant Lea Ubaldo. Accused-appellant admitted that he had sexual intercourse with Ubaldo but denied that he forced her. He claimed that it was done consensually, as he and the complainant were lovers. He explained that Ubaldo sustained her injuries on her body when the two of them fell to the floor as they stumbled upon a toilet bowl plunger while searching for the light switch inside a comfort room. None of this contentions, however, reflect favorably on accused-appellant's persuasiveness. The trial court gave credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and complainant Lea Ubaldo, finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape as charged. On appeal, accused-appellant assailed the testimony of Ubaldo as deserving scant consideration only.
ISSUE: Whether of not the trial court erred in giving credence to the testimony of complainant Ubaldo.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. The court found no reason to doubt complainant Ubaldo's testimony. Accused-appellant has not shown any ill motive on her part that would have driven her to testify falsely against him. She would not have exposed herself to the humiliation and stigma attendant to a public trial for rape had it not been for her desire to bring to justice the one who defiled her. Thus full credence is to be accorded her testimony. A woman who says she has been raped, as a rule, says all that is necessary to signify that the crime has been committed. The trial court noted that Ubaldo was crying throughout her testimony. This is an earmark of truthfulness. The findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses are not to be disturbed without reason by the appellate court. Having heard the witnesses and observed their deportment personally, the trial court is in the best position to determine whether or not the witnesses are telling the truth. Appellate courts are bound by the findings of the trial in this respect unless it is shown that the trial court has overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated certain facts circumstances which if considered will alter the outcome of the case. [People of the Philippines vs. Jose Maglantay, G.R. No. 125537, March 8, 1999, SECOND DIVISION --- Quisumbing, J.]
FACTUAL FINDINGS; Factual findings of the trial court on the probative value of evidence submitted and credibility of witnesses are entitled to great weight on appeal.
FACTS: Petitioner Bridget Boneng y Bagawili was charged with Illegal Recruitment before the Regional Trial Court. She pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. Trial ensued, and after presenting the witnesses, the prosecution made a formal offer of evidence and rested its case. After the prosecution has rested, the accused presented a demurrer to evidence and manifested that she was waiving the right to adduce evidence and was submitting the case for decision on the basis of the evidence on record. The trial court came out with its decision, finding petitioner guilty of the offense charged. It was appealed to the Court of Appeals contending that the testimony of the complainant is perjured, hearsay and uncorroborated. Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the judgement convicting petitioner for illegal recruitment.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. This Court is not a trier of facts. It is not its function to examine and determine the weight of the evidence supporting the assailed decision. The factual findings of the Court of Appeals which are supported by substantial evidence are binding, final and conclusive upon the Supreme Court. So also, well-established is the rule that "factual findings of the CA are conclusive on the parties and carry even more weight when the said court affirms the factual findings of the weight when the said court affirms the factual findings of the trial court." Moreover, well entrenched is the prevailing jurisprudence 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, which applies with greater force to the petition under consideration because the factual findings by the Court of Appeals are in full agreement with what the trial court found. [Bridget Boneng y Bagawili vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 133563, March 4, 1999, THIRD DIVISION --- Purisima, J.]
PAYMENT OF DOCKET FEES; Every party litigant should be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.
FACTS: Petitioner Asta Moskowsky, a German National, filed a complaint for collection of sum of money and damages against private respondents. He is seeking to recover her investments in an alleged joint venture with private respondents Antonio Doria, Edgardo Alcaraz and Evangeline Doria. The prayer of the complaint only specified the actual damages suffered by petitioner and left the determination of moral and exemplary damages to the sound discretion of the court. Attorney's fees, cost of suit and expenses of litigation were prayed for in such amounts as may be proven during trial. Thereafter, the trial court rendered a decision in favor of petitioner. On appeal, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case on the ground of petitioner's alleged non-payment of docket fees. Hence, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari assailing the finding of the Court of Appeals that he did not pay docket fees in the trial court and the erroneous application of the rules on non-payment of docket fees as enunciated in the cases of Manchester, Sun Insurance and Tacay.
ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner actually paid the docket fees in the trial court.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative. A cursory review of records would show that the petitioner paid P 150.00 as docket fees. Utmost circumspection should be exercised by appellate courts in dismissing appeals on grounds which can be readily verified from the records of the case. Moreover, although the petitioner should have specified the amount of all her claims in the body and prayer of the complaint (and not just left to the discretion of the court), nonetheless, in view of the attendant circumstances, a more liberal interpretation of the rules is called for. While the docket fees were based only on the amounts specified, the trial court acquired jurisdiction over the action, and the judgement awards which were left for determination by the court or as may be proven during trial would still be subject to additional filing fees which shall constitute a lien on the judgement. It would then be the responsibility of the Clerk of Court or his duly authorized deputy to enforce said lien and assess and collect the additional fees. As has been the constant ruling of the Court, every party litigant should be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities. [Moskowsky vs. CA, et. al.; G.R. No. 122860; April 30, 1999; Second Division--- Quisumbing, J.]
WRIT OF EXECUTION; Execution is the fruit and end of the suit and is the life of law. A judgement, if left unexecuted, would be nothing but an empty victory for the prevailing party.
FACTS: This is a complaint filed by Ludivina Marisga-Magbanua against respondent Sheriff Emilio Villamar of the Regional Trial Court, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, for dereliction of duty in connection with the execution of the decision rendered by the RTC in Civil Case No. R-838. In her complaint, complainant alleged that notwithstanding the issuance of writ of execution and a writ of demolition, respondent sheriff still failed to enforce said execution when it was his ministerial duty to do so. In his comment, respondent sheriff claimed that the property in question was owned in common by the heirs of the late Severino Marisga and Eleuteria Marisga and that as such, there was a need for a relocation survey of the property to determine the portion owned by complainant before he can enforce the said decision.
ISSUE: whether or not respondent sheriff is justified in not enforcing/implementing the writ of execution.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. The RTC in rendering its decision, limited its adjudication to complainant's claim of ownership and possession over the subject property. The decision being clear, it is respondent sheriff's ministerial duty to implement the same despite the claim of the other heirs of Severino Marisga that they own the subject property in common with complainant. Such a claim in any case apparently is still under litigation in another proceeding, and it does not appear that the other Marisgas have obtained any judicial writ or process to stay execution of the decision in Civil Case No. R-838. It is almost trite to say that execution is the fruit and end of the suit and is the life of law. A judgement, if left unexecuted, would be nothing but an empty victory for the prevailing party. It, therefore, behooves sheriffs to be zealous in the performance of their duties. Unless restrained by a court order to the contrary, they should see to it that the execution of judgements is not unduly delayed. [Magbanua vs. Villamar; A.M. No. P-99-1297; March 25, 1999; Second Division--- Mendoza, J.]
CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES; The credibility of a victim is not destroyed by inconsistencies in her testimony. A rape victim cannot be expected to keep an accurate account of her traumatic experience.
FACTS: Lorena Managaytay is fifteen years old, single, a student and residing at Danasan, Danao City. She was inside their house together with her father Nolino Managaytay and her two younger brothers when her father instructed her two brothers to attend and fetch the cow which was pastured seventy meters away from the house. After her two brothers left, Nolino hugged Lorena tightly and commanded her to lie down on the floor. When she did not obey his command, Nolino forced her down, placed himself on top of her body and inserted his penis to her vagina. Lorena did not shout for help because her father threatened to kill her if she will do so. Lorena told her aunt, Diditha Suplaag about the incident, who then reported the matter to the Barangay Captain. Such report lead to the arrest of Nolino. The Trial Court found Nolino guilty of rape. On appeal, the accused claimed that the lower court erred in finding him guilty despite the material inconsistencies in the testimony of private complainant which rendered it untruthful. He theorized that private complainant was confused in her testimony when she alleged that they were four in their house when the incident happened. Then, she stated that they were only three. Rape, according to accused, cannot be committed in the presence of other occupants in the house.
ISSUE: Whether or not Nolino could be found guilty of the crime of rape despite the inconsistencies in the testimony of Lorena.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative. It is an accepted rule that the credibility of a rape victim is not impaired by some inconsistencies in her testimony. A rape victim is not and cannot be expected to keep an accurate account of her traumatic experience. Minor inconsistencies tend to bolster rather than weaken the rape victim's credibility since one could hardly doubt that her testimony was not contrived and the court cannot expect a rape victim to remember every ugly detail of the appalling outrage. [People vs. Managaytay, G.R. No. 126916, March 25, 1999; - EN BANC--- Per Curiam]
SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE; The testimony of a single witness, if positive and credible is sufficient to convict the appellant, even in a murder charge.
FACTS: Ma. Lourdes Asis and her husband, Donato were taking supper in their house at Mali, Davao Oriental when she heard a gunshot. When she turned her face to the wall where the shot came from, her husband Donato fell down, bathed in his own blood. Lourdes saw Tom Batidor through the railing in the kitchen but identified the latter as the culprit only ten days after the killing of her husband. Batidor, for his defense, posited the theory of denial and alibi insisting that he was in another place at the time of the incident. The Trial Court found Batidor guilty of murder, giving full faith and credence to the testimony of Lourdes Asis.. Hence, this appeal.
ISSUE: Whether or not the trial court erred in giving credence to the testimony of Ma. Lourdes Asis.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. In criminal cases, the prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, the guilt of Batidor was proven with moral certainty as the case was anchored on the testimony of Lourdes who identified the former as the killer. Her testimony was credible and guileless, enough to sustain a judgment of conviction. For indeed, the testimony of a single witness, if positive and credible is sufficient to convict the appellant, even in a murder charge. The circumstance that the accused was identified by Lourdes only ten days after the victim's death was of no moment. It has been held that the lapse of a considerable length of time before a witness comes forward to reveal the identity of the assailant does not taint the credibility of the witness and his testimony, especially when, as in the present case, there were valid reasons for such delay. Moreover, the fact that the witness was the wife of the accused does not automatically impair her credibility, for as the Court has held, "mere relationship of a witness to the victim does not automatically impair his credibility and render his testimony less worthy of credence, where no improper motive can be ascribed to him for testifying. Finally, Batidor's defense of alibi cannot prosper since alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the appellant by a credible witness who has no motive to testify falsely. [People vs. Batidor, CR. No. 126027, February 18, 1999; THIRD DIVISION--- Panganiban, J.]
SUFFICIENCY OF PROSECUTION EVIDENCE; It is pointless to question on appeal the admissibility of documentary exhibits that were not used by the trial court as bases for convicting the accused.
FACTS: On May 26, 1993, a formal complaint for rape was filed by complainant May Linga against the accused Nestor Jimenez. As narrated by the complainant, at about 9:30 in the morning of April 16, 1993, while she was inside the bathroom, she noticed that someone was inside the house closing the door and windows. Thinking that a thief had entered the house, she hurriedly went out of the bathroom. She saw her brother-in-law Nestor (appellant) who immediately embraced her and covered her mouth. He pulled her and dragged her inside the bedroom. She struggled, shouted and tried to escape, but despite of her struggles and pleas for appellant to stop, appellant succeeded to consummate the bestial act. It was only when her sister Gina arrived from Iloilo and a brother came home from Manila that May emboldened to complain about her plight and submitted herself to medical examination. The accused denied the charges claiming that they were lovers and that the sexual act was done voluntarily and with consent. He admitted to having had sexual intercourse with complainant, but claimed that the latter consented to the sexual act and that the two of them were in fact lovers. The lower court convicted the accused guilty of the offense charged. On appeal, the accused-appellant assails the exhibit of the prosecution's documentary evidence notwithstanding the fact that they were not formally offered in evidence.
b whether or not the trial court erred in giving weight and credence to the exhibits of the prosecution even if the assailed documents were not formally offered as evidence.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. The trial court based its judgement, not on the questioned documentary exhibits, but on the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, who were found to be both truthful and credible. Unlike the said documents, these testimonies were formally offered, in accordance with the Rules of Court. More important, the aforementioned witnesses testified on the contents of the said exhibits, thereby making such documents themselves merely secondary in weight and value. It is pointless to question on appeal the admissibility of documentary exhibits that were not used by the trial court as bases for convicting the accused. [People vs. Jimenez, G.R. No. 128364, February 4, 1999; THIRD DIVISION--- Panganiban, J.]
SUBMISSION TO AMICABLE SETTLEMENT; Submission of the complaining witness to an amicable settlement in a prior charge for rape does not diminish in any way the weight accorded to her credibility.
FACTS: Manuel Cristobal and Jolito Cristobal were charged with the crime of Robbery with Multiple Rape. Luzviminda C. Garcia testified that on September 8, 1991, at 8:00 in the evening, six armed men barged in their house. She readily recognize brothers Manuel Cristobal and Jolito Cristobal. She used to see Manuel in the market while his brother Jolito worked in her farm in the past for three days. They took pieces of jewelry, a cassette recorder, and ladies and men's shoes with a total value of P 6,900. Thereafter, Manuel, Jolito and the old man took turns in raping Luzviminda who could not offer any resistance as the three malefactors were all armed. The accused, on the other hand, interposed the defense of alibi. The Regional Trial Court of Isabela convicted Cristobal brothers of the crime of Robbery with Multiple Rape and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. On appeal, accused-appellants endeavored to discredit Luzviminda by showing that this was not the first time that complaining witness filed a case for rape. They narrated that she had priorly filed a charge for rape but the same was dismissed when the accused therein opted to settle the case amicably.
ISSUE: Whether or not the submission of the complaining witness to an amicable settlement in a prior charge for rape diminishes her credibility.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. In criminal case, except those involving quasi-offenses or those allowed by law to be settled through mutual concessions, an offer of compromise is an implied admission of guilt. Consequently, the compromise did not weaken but buttressed instead Luzviminda's claim that she was raped. In fine, accused-appellants, in attempting to infuse doubt on complaining witness's credibility, unwittingly strengthened the belief that complaining witness is telling the truth. [People vs. Cristobal GR No. 119218, April 29, 1999; SECOND DIVISION--- Bellosillo, J.]
MOTION TO QUASH; The right to file a motion to quash belongs only to the accused, otherwise, if the judge initiates the motion to quash, then he is not only prejudging the case of the prosecution but also takes side with the accused, violating the right to a hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal.
FACTS: Three criminal informations were filed against herein private respondent Imelda Marcos relating to a series of transactions devised by the then President Marcos and private respondent Imelda Marcos to hide their ill-gotten wealth. The three informations were re-raffled and re-assigned to the Branch presided by public respondent Judge Nitafan. Thereafter, without private respondent taking any action or filing any motion to quash informations, respondent judge issued an order dismissing the first criminal case on the ground of ex post facto law and the two other criminal cases on the ground of double jeopardy.
ISSUE: Whether or not a judge can motu proprio initiate the dismissal and subsequently dismiss a criminal prosecution without any motion to that effect being filed by the accused.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. The right to file a motion to quash belongs only to the accused. There is nothing in the rules which authorizes the court or judge to motu proprio initiate a motion to quash if no such motion was filed by the accused. It is the latter who is in the best position to know on what ground he will base his objection to the information. Otherwise, if the judge initiates the motion to quash, then he is not only prejudging the case of the prosecution but also takes side with the accused, violating the right to a hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. To allow a judge to initiate such motion even under the guise of a show cause order would result in a situation where a magistrate who is supposed to be neutral, in effect, acts as counsel for the accused and judge as well. A combination of these two personalities in one person is violative of due process, which is a fundamental right not only of the accused but also of the prosecution. [People vs. Hon. David Nitafan and Imelda Marcos, G.R. Nos. 10796466, February 1, 1999, EN BANC --- Martinez, J.]
DISMISSAL; The propriety of dismissing a case must be determined by the circumstances surrounding each particular case. There must be sufficient reason to justify the dismissal of a complaint.
FACTS: Pending litigation, the entire records of the case were burned in a fire, which gutted several floors of the Quezon City Hall. Private respondent Citiwide Motors, Inc. filed a petition for the reconstitution of the burned records attaching thereto pertinent documents which its counsel was able to gather. The court directed both parties to examine the pages of the annexes and to initial them before they could be considered part of the reconstituted records of the case. Subsequently thereafter, the court directed the parties to attend a conference to discover means and ways of expediting disposition. Upon failure of private respondent's counsel to appear in court on the scheduled conference, the trial court dismissed the complaint on the ground of lack of interest to pursue the case. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the order of the lower court. Petitioner now contends that the dismissal of the complaint by the trial court was in accordance with the rules, and that respondent Court of Appeals should not have disturbed the discretion of the trial court in determining what constituted an "unreasonable length of time" in the absence of patent abuse.
ISSUE: Whether or not the dismissal of the complaint by the trial court is proper.
HELD: The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. First, what counsel failed to attend to was not a regular trial or trial where evidence will be presented. Neither was it a pre-trial conference under Rule 18 of the 1997 Rules of civil procedure. Hence, in the absence of any pattern of delay, the trial court committed a reversible error in dismissing the complaint solely on the ground of counsel's failure to attend a conference called by the court. Second, while private respondent's counsel failed to attend the conference as she was allegedly physically indisposed, this alone does not justify the dismissal of the case for failing to prosecute an action for an unreasonable length of time. The circumstances of the case showed that Petitioner itself contributed largely to the delay of the proceedings. In fine, private respondent cannot be said to have lost interest in pursuing the case. The mere filing of a petition for reconstitution of the burned records of the case is enough manifestation that it was still very interested in pursuing its complaint to a successful conclusion. Indeed, the dismissal of a case whether for failure to appear during trial or prosecute an action for an unreasonable length of time rests on the sound discretion of the trial court. But this discretion must not be abused, nay gravely abused, and must be exercised soundly. The propriety of dismissing a case must be determined by the circumstances surrounding each particular case. There must be sufficient reason to justify the dismissal of a complaint. [BPI vs. CA and Citiwide Motors, Inc., G.R. No. 117385, February 11, 1999, SECOND DIVISION --- Bellosillo, J.]