Você está na página 1de 42

786 Phil.

726

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 208146, June 08, 2016 ]

VIRGINIA DIO, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND TIMOTHY DESMOND,
RESPONDENTS.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

When a motion to quash an information is based on a defect that may be cured by amendment, courts must
provide the prosecution with the opportunity to amend the information.

This resolves a Petition for Review on Certiorari [1] assailing the Court of Appeals Decision [2] dated January
8, 2013 and Resolution[3] dated July 10, 2013. The Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the Regional
Trial Court Order that quashed the Informations charging petitioner Virginia Dio (Dio) with libel because
these Informations failed to allege publication.[4]

Private respondent Timothy Desmond (Desmond) is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Subic Bay
Marine Exploratorium, of which Dio is Treasurer and Member of the Board of Directors. [5]

On December 9, 2002, Desmond filed a complaint against Dio for libel. [6] Two (2) separate Informations,
both dated February 26, 2003, were filed and docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 9108 and 9109. [7] The
Information in Criminal Case No. 9108 reads:
That on or about July 6, 2002 in Morong, Bataan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the said accused with malicious intent to besmirch the honor, integrity and reputation of Timothy
Desmond, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously send electronic messages to the offended party and to other persons
namely: Atty. Winston Ginez, John Corcoran, and Terry Nichoson which read as follows:

'NOW THAT WE ARE SET TO BUILD THE HOTEL SO THAT YOU COULD SURVIVED, (sic) YOU SHOULD STOP
YOUR NONSENSE THREAT BECAUSE YOU COULD NOT EVEN FEED YOUR OWN SELF UNLESS WE PAY YOUR
EXHORBITANT (sic) SALARY, HOUSE YOU ADN (sic) SUPPORT ALL YOUR PERSONAL NEEDS. YOU SHOULD
BE ASHAMED IN DOING THIS. AS FAR AS WE ARE CONCERNED, YOU ARE NOTHING EXCEPT A PERSON
WHO IS TRYING TO SURVIVED (sic) AT THE PRETEXT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL PROTECTOR [sic].
YOU ARE PADI (sic) TO THE LAST CENTS ON ALL YOUR WORK IN THE WORK (sic). AT THE SAME TIME, YOU
BLOATED THE PRICE OF EACH ANIMAL YOU BROUGHT TO THE PHILIPPINES from US$500,000.00 to
US$750,000.00 each so that you could owned (sic) more shares that you should. Please look into this
deeply.

IF YOU INSISTS (sic) TO BE CALLED AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL PROTECTOR IN OUR COUNTRY,
THEN YOU AND YOUR WIFE SHOULD STOP BLEEDING THE COMPANY WITH YOUR MONTHLY PAYROLL OF
ALMOST P1 MILLION A MONTH.'

The above-quoted electronic message being defamatory or constituting an act causing or tending to cause
dishonor, discredit or contempt against the person of the said Timothy Desmond, to the damage and
prejudice of the said offended party.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[8]
The Information in Criminal Case No. 9109 reads:
That on or about July 13, 2002 in Morong, Bataan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the said accused, with malicious intent to besmirch the honor, integrity and reputation of Timothy
Desmond, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously send electronic messages to the [sic] Atty. Winston Ginez and Fatima
Paglicawan, to the offended party, Timothy Desmond and to other persons namely: Hon. Felicito Payumo,
SBMA Chariman [sic], Terry Nichoson, John Corcoran, and Gail Laule which read as follows:
'Dear Winston and Fatima:

UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF TIM DESMOND AS CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF SBME, AS
OF THIS DATE THE COMPANY HAD INCURRED A LOSS OF MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED MILLION. A BALANCE
SHEET SUBMITTED TODAY BY THEIR ACCOUNTANT JULIET REFLECT AND (sic) ASSETS OF MORE THAN
THREE HUNDRED MILLION PESOS, 50% OF WHICH IS OVERVALUED AND NON-EXISTENT. TIM DESMOND
AND FAMILY HAD ACCUMULATED A (sic) SHARES OF MORE THAN 70% OF THE RECORDED PAID UP CAPITAL
BY OVERVALUING OF THE ASSETS CONTRIBUTION, PAYMENT TO THEIR OWN COMPANY IN THE USA, ETC.
AT THE SAME TIME, TIM DESMOND AND FAMILY BLEED THE COMPANY FROM DATE OF INCORPORATION TO
PRESENT FOR AN AVERAGE OF ONE MILLION PER MONTH FOR THEIR PERSONAL GAIN, LIKE SALARY, CAR,
ET, [sic] ETC.'
The above-quoted electronic message being defamatory or constituting an act causing or tending to cause
dishonor, discredit or contempt against the person of the said Timothy Desmond, to the damage and
prejudice of the said offended party.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[9]
On April 22, 2003, Dio filed a Petition to suspend the criminal proceedings,[10] but it was denied in the Order
dated February 6, 2004.[11]

Dio moved for reconsideration of the February 6, 2004 Order.[12] She also moved to quash the Informations,
arguing that the "facts charged do not constitute an offense."[13]In its Order[14] dated July 13, 2004, the trial
court denied both Motions. The dispositive portion of the Order reads:
Premises considered, the Motion For Reconsideration of the Order dated February 6, 2004 and the Motion
To Quash, both filed for accused, as well as the Motion For Issuance of a Hold Departure Order filed by the
Prosecution, are hereby DENIED.

Arraignment will proceed as previously set on July 20, 2005 at 9:00 a.m.

SO ORDERED.[15]
Dio moved for partial reconsideration of the July 13, 2004 Order, but the Motion was denied in the trial
court's Order dated September 13, 2005.[16]

On October 11, 2005, Dio filed a Motion for leave of court to file a second motion for reconsideration. [17] She
also filed an Omnibus Motion to quash the Informations for failure to allege publication and lack of
jurisdiction, and for second reconsideration with leave of court. [18]

The trial court's Order dated February 7, 2006 denied both Motions and scheduled Dio's arraignment on
March 9, 2006.[19] Dio moved for partial reconsideration.[20]

The trial court granted Dio's Motion for Partial Reconsideration in its February 12, 2009 Order, [21] the
dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Motion For Partial Reconsideration filed by the accused in Criminal Cases (sic) Nos. 9108
and 9109, on the ground that the Informations in the said cases fail (sic) to allege publication, is GRANTED
and, accordingly, the Informations filed against the accused are thereby QUASHED and DISMISSED.

No finding as to costs.

SO ORDERED.[22]
After filing a Notice of Appeal on March 5, 2009, [23] Desmond raised before the Court of Appeals the following
issues:
I

WHETHER OR NOT THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE ACCUSED'S ARGUMENT THAT THE
PRESENT CHARGES SHOULD BE QUASHED FOR FAILURE OF THE INFORMATIONS TO ALLEGE PUBLICATION.

II

WHETHER OR NOT THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE CASE AND QUASHING THE
INFORMATIONS WITHOUT GIVING THE PROSECUTOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO AMEND THE
INFORMATIONS.[24]
In its January 8, 2013 Decision, the Court of Appeals sustained that the Informations did not substantially
constitute the offense charged.[25] It found that the Informations did not contain any allegation that the
emails allegedly sent by Dio to Desmond had been accessed. [26] However, it found that the trial court erred
in quashing the Informations without giving the prosecution a chance to amend them pursuant to Rule 117,
Section 4 of the Rules of Court:
Although we agree with the trial court that the facts alleged in the Informations do not substantially
constitute the offense charged, the most prudent thing to do for the trial court is to give the prosecution the
opportunity to amend it and make the necessary corrections. Indeed, an Information may be defective
because the facts charged do not constitute an offense, however, the dismissal of the case will not
necessarily follow. The Rules specifically require that the prosecution should be given a chance to correct
the defect; the court can order the dismissal only upon the prosecution's failure to do so. The trial court's
failure to provide the prosecution with this opportunity constitutes an arbitrary exercise of power. [27]
The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is GRANTED. The order of the Regional Trial Court of Balanga
City, Branch 3 dated February 12, 2009 in Criminal Case Nos. 9108 and 9109 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
The case is remanded to the trial court and the Public Prosecutor of Balanga City is hereby DIRECTED to
amend the Informations.
SO ORDERED.[28]
Dio moved for reconsideration,[29] but the Court of Appeals denied the Motion in its July 10, 2013
Resolution.[30]

Hence, this Petition was filed.

Desmond and the Office of the Solicitor General filed their Comments, [31] to which Dio filed her Reply.[32] On
April 2, 2014, this Court gave due course to the Petition and required the parties to submit their respective
memoranda.[33]

The Office of the Solicitor General filed on June 11, 2014 a Manifestation and Motion [34] adopting its
Comment. Desmond and Dio filed their memoranda on June 19, 2014 [35]and July 10, 2014,[36] respectively.

Dio stresses that "venue is jurisdictional in criminal cases."[37] Considering that libel is limited as to the
venue of the case, failure to allege "where the libelous article was printed and first published" [38] or "where
the offended party actually resided at the time of the commission of the offense"[39] is a jurisdictional defect.
She argues that jurisdictional defects in an Information are not curable by amendment, even before
arraignment. To support this position, she cites Agustin v. Pamintuan:[40]
We do not agree with the ruling of the CA that the defects in the Informations are merely formal. Indeed,
the absence of any allegations in the Informations that the offended party was actually residing in Baguio
City, where the crimes charged were allegedly committed, is a substantial defect. Indeed, the amendments
of the Informations to vest jurisdiction upon the court cannot be allowed. [41] (Citations omitted)
Dio also cites Leviste v. Hon. Alameda,[42] where this Court has stated that not all defects in an Information
are curable by amendment prior to arraignment:
It must be clarified though that not all defects in an information are curable by amendment prior to entry
of plea. An information which is void ab initio cannot be amended to obviate a ground for quashal. An
amendment which operates to vest jurisdiction upon the trial court is likewise impermissible. [43] (Citations
omitted)
Dio argues that the Informations were void as the prosecutor of Morong, Bataan had no authority to conduct
the preliminary investigation of the offenses charged.[44] The complaint filed before the prosecutor did not
allege that the emails were printed and first published in Morong Bataan, or that Desmond resided in Morong,
Bataan at the time of the offense.[45] In the absence of these allegations, the prosecutor did not have the
authority to conduct the preliminary investigation or to file the information. [46]

Dio further argues that publication, one of the elements of libel, was not present in the case. She asserts
that emailing does not constitute publication under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. As there
was no allegation in the Informations that the emails were received, accessed, and read by third persons
other than Desmond, there could be nopublication.[47] Further, emails are not covered under Article 355 of
the Revised Penal Code. Thus, at the time the allegedly libelous emails were sent, there was no law
punishing this act.[48]

Finally, Dio argues that she sent the emails as private communication to the officers of the corporation, who
were in the position to act on her grievances.[49] The emails were sent in good faith, with justifiable ends,
and in the performance of a legal duty. [50]

The primordial issue for resolution is whether an information's failure to establish venue is a defect that can
be cured by amendment before arraignment.

The Petition is denied.

If a motion to quash is based on a defect in the information that can be cured by amendment, the court
shall order that an amendment be made. Rule 117, Section 4 of the Rules of Court states:
SEC. 4. Amendment of complaint or information. - If the motion to quash is based on an alleged defect of
the complaint or information which can be cured by amendment, the court shall order that an amendment
be made.

If it is based on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, the prosecution shall be
given by the court an opportunity to correct the defect by amendment. The motion shall be granted if the
prosecution fails to make the amendment, or the complaint or information still suffers from the same defect
despite the amendment.
This Court has held that failure to provide the prosecution with the opportunity to amend is an arbitrary
exercise of power.[51] In People v. Sandiganbayan:[52]
When a motion to quash is filed challenging the validity and sufficiency of an Information, and the defect
may be cured by amendment, courts must deny the motion to quash and order the prosecution to file an
amended Information. Generally, a defect pertaining to the failure of an Information to charge facts
constituting an offense is one that may be corrected by an amendment. In such instances, courts are
mandated not to automatically quash the Information; rather, it should grant the prosecution the
opportunity to cure the defect through an amendment. This rule allows a case to proceed without undue
delay. By allowing the defect to be cured by simple amendment, unnecessary appeals based on technical
grounds, which only result to prolonging the proceedings, are avoided.

More than this practical consideration, however, is the due process underpinnings of this rule. As explained
by this Court in People v. Andrade, the State, just like any other litigant, is entitled to its day in court. Thus,
a court's refusal to grant the prosecution the opportunity to amend an Information, where such right is
expressly granted under the Rules of Court and affirmed time and again in a string of Supreme Court
decisions, effectively curtails the State's right to due process.[53]
In this case, petitioner Virginia Dio has not yet been arraigned; thus, Rule 117, Section 4 of the Rules of
Court applies. If the information is defective, the prosecution must be given the opportunity to amend it
before it may be quashed.

Petitioner claims that Rule 117, Section 4 of the Rules of Court applies only to informations that can be
cured by amendment. She argues that before a court orders that an amendment be made, or otherwise
gives the prosecution an opportunity to amend an information, it must first establish that the defective
information can be cured by amendment.

Petitioner relies on Agustin to argue the proscription of an amendment of an information in order to vest
jurisdiction in the court. This is misplaced.

In Agustin, the accused in the criminal case was already arraigned under a defective information that failed
to establish venue.[54] The Court of Appeals held that the defect in the information was merely formal and,
consequently, could be amended even after plea, with leave of court. Thus, this Court held:
We do not agree with the ruling of the CA that the defects in the Informations are merely formal. Indeed,
the absence of any allegations in the Informations that the offended party was actually residing in Baguio
City, where the crimes charged were allegedly committed, is a substantial defect. Indeed, the amendments
of the Informations to vest jurisdiction upon the court cannot be allowed. [55]
In turn, Agustin cited Agbayani v. Sayo.[56] However, Agbayani does not involve the amendment of a
defective information before or after arraignment. Subsequent cases have cited Agustin as basis that
amendment of an information to vest jurisdiction in the trial court is impermissible. Thus, in Leviste, this
Court cited Agustin and stated that certain amendments are impermissible even before arraignment:
It must be clarified though that not all defects in an information are curable by amendment prior to entry
of plea. An information which is void ab initio cannot be amended to obviate a ground for quashal. An
amendment which operates to vest jurisdiction upon the trial court is likewise impermissible. [57]
It may appear that Leviste supports petitioner's contention that an amendment operating to vest jurisdiction
in the trial court is impermissible. However, the statement in Leviste was obiter dictum. It cites only Agustin,
which did not involve the amendment of an information before arraignment.

Aside from obiter dictum in jurisprudence, petitioner provides no legal basis to reverse the Court of Appeals'
determination that the defective informations may be amended before arraignment. Although the cases
petitioner cited involved defective informations that failed to establish the jurisdiction of the court over the
libel charges, none involved the amendment of an information before arraignment. Thus, these cannot be
controlling over the facts of this case.

II

A defect in the complaint filed before the fiscal is not a ground to quash an information. In Sasot v. People:[58]
Section 3, Rule 117 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, which was then in force at the time the alleged
criminal acts were committed, enumerates the grounds for quashing an information, to wit:
a) That the facts charged do not constitute an offense;

b) That the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charged or the person of the accused;

c) That the officer who filed the information had no authority to do so;

d) That it does not conform substantially to the prescribed form;

e) That more than one offense is charged except in those cases in which existing laws prescribe a single punishment for various
offenses;

f) That the criminal action or liability has been extinguished;

g) That it contains averments which, if true, would constitute a legal excuse or justification; and

h) That the accused has been previously convicted or in jeopardy of being convicted, or acquitted of the offense charged.
Nowhere in the foregoing provision is there any mention of the defect in the complaint filed before the fiscal
and the complainant's capacity to sue as grounds for a motion to quash. [59]
On the other hand, lack of authority to file an information is a proper ground. In Cudia v. Court of Appeals:[60]
With respect to the second requisite, however, it is plainly apparent that the City Prosecutor of Angeles City
had no authority to file the first information, the offense having been committed in the Municipality of
Mabalacat, which is beyond his jurisdiction. Presidential Decree No. 1275, in relation to Section 9 of the
Administrative Code of 1987, pertinently provides that:

"Section 11. The provincial or the city fiscal shall:


. . . .

(b) Investigate and/or cause to be investigated all charges of crimes, misdemeanors and violations of all
penal laws and ordinances within their respective jurisdictions and have the necessary information or
complaint prepared or made against the persons accused. In the conduct of such investigations he or his
assistants shall receive the sworn statements or take oral evidence of witnesses summoned by subpoena
for the purpose.

....
It is thus the Provincial Prosecutor of Pampanga, not the City Prosecutor, who should prepare informations
for offenses committed within Pampanga but outside of Angeles City. An information, when required to be
filed by a public prosecuting officer, cannot be filed by another. It must be exhibited or presented by the
prosecuting attorney or someone authorized by law. If not, the court does not acquire jurisdiction.

Petitioner, however, insists that his failure to assert the lack of authority of the City Prosecutor in filing the
information in question is deemed a waiver thereof. As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals,
petitioner's plea to an information before he filed a motion to quash may be a waiver of all objections to it
insofar as formal objections to the pleadings are concerned. But by clear implication, if not by express
provision of the Rules of Court, and by a long line of uniform decisions, questions relating to want of
jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceeding. It is a valid information signed by a competent
officer which, among other requisites, confers jurisdiction on the court over the person of the accused
(herein petitioner) and the subject matter of the accusation. In consonance with this view, an infirmity in
the information, such as lack of authority of the officer signing it, cannot be cured by silence, acquiescence,
or even by express consent.

In fine, there must have been a valid and sufficient complaint or information in the former prosecution. If,
therefore, the complaint or information was insufficient because it was so defective in form or substance
that the conviction upon it could not have been sustained, its dismissal without the consent of the accused
cannot be pleaded. As the fiscal had no authority to file the information, the dismissal of the first information
would not be a bar to petitioner's subsequent prosecution. Jeopardy does not attach where a defendant
pleads guilty to a defective indictment that is voluntarily dismissed by the prosecution.

Petitioner next claims that the lack of authority of the City Prosecutor was the error of the investigating
panel and the same should not be used to prejudice and penalize him. It is an all too familiar maxim that
the State is not bound or estopped by the mistakes or inadvertence of its officials and employees. To rule
otherwise could very well result in setting felons free, deny proper protection to the community, and give
rise to the possibility of connivance between the prosecutor and the accused.

Finally, petitioner avers that an amendment of the first information, and not its dismissal, should have been
the remedy sought by the prosecution. Suffice it to say that this Court, in Galvez vs. Court of Appeals has
ruled that even if amendment is proper, pursuant to Section 14 of Rule 110, it is also quite plausible under
the same provision that, instead of an amendment, an information may be dismissed to give way to the
filing of a new information.[61] (Emphasis in the original, citations omitted)
However, for quashal of an information to be sustained, the defect of the information must be evident on
its face. In Santos v. People:[62]
First, a motion to quash should be based on a defect in the information which is evident on its face. The
same cannot be said herein. The Information against petitioner appears valid on its face; and that it was
filed in violation of her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the laws is not evident
on the face thereof. As pointed out by the CTA First Division in its 11 May 2006 Resolution, the more
appropriate recourse petitioner should have taken, given the dismissal of similar charges against Velasquez,
was to appeal the Resolution dated 21 October 2005 of the Office of the State Prosecutor recommending
the filing of an information against her with the DOJ Secretary.[63]
For an information to be quashed based on the prosecutor's lack of authority to file it, the lack of the
authority must be evident on the face of the information.

The Informations here do not allege that the venue of the offense was other than Morong, Bataan. Thus, it
is not apparent on the face of the Informations that the prosecutor did not have the authority to file them.

The proper remedy is to give the prosecution the opportunity to amend the Informations. If the proper
venue appears not to be Morong, Bataan after the Informations have been amended, then the trial court
may dismiss the case due to lack of jurisdiction, as well as lack of authority of the prosecutor to file the
information.
III

Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code provides:


Article 355. Libel by means of writings or similar means. - A libel committed by means of writing, printing,
lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or
any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine
ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to civil action which may be brought by the offended
party.
Petitioner argues that at the time of the offense, emails were not covered under Article 355 of the Revised
Penal Code. Petitioner claims this is bolstered by the enactment of Republic Act No. 10175, otherwise known
as the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which widened the scope of libel to include libel committed through email,
among others.[64]

Whether emailing or, as in this case, sending emails to the persons named in the Informations—who appear
to be officials of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority where Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium is found—is
sufficiently "public," as required by Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal Code and by the Anti-
Cybercrime Law, is a matter of defense that should be properly raised during trial.

Passionate and emphatic grievance, channelled through proper public authorities, partakes of a degree of
protected freedom of expression.[65]

Certainly, if we remain faithful to the dictum that public office is a public trust, [66] some leeway should be
given to the public to express disgust. The scope and extent of that protection cannot be grounded in
abstractions. The facts of this case need to be proven by evidence; otherwise, this Court exercises barren
abstractions that may wander into situations only imagined, not real.

IV

Good faith is not among the grounds for quashing an information as enumerated in Rule 117, Section 3 of
the Rules of Court. It is not apparent on the face of the Informations, and what is not apparent cannot be
the basis for quashing them. In Danguilan-Vitug v. Court of Appeals:[67]
We find no reason to depart from said conclusion. Section 3, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Court
enumerates the grounds for quashing an information. Specifically, paragraph (g) of said provision states
that the accused may move to quash the complaint or information where it contains averments which, if
true, would constitute a legal excuse or justification. Hence, for the alleged privilege to be a ground for
quashing the information, the same should have been averred in the information itself and secondly, the
privilege should be absolute, not only qualified. Where, however, these circumstances are not alleged in the
information, quashal is not proper as they should be raised and proved as defenses. With more reason is it
true in the case of merely qualifiedly privileged communications because such cases remain actionable since
the defamatory communication is simply presumed to be not malicious, thereby relieving the defendant of
the burden of proving good intention and justifiable motive. The burden is on the prosecution to prove
malice. Thus, even if the qualifiedly privileged nature of the communication is alleged in the information, it
cannot be quashed especially where prosecution opposes the same so as not to deprive the latter of its day
in court, but prosecution can only prove its case after trial on the merits. In People v. Gomez we held, inter
alia:
"The claim of the accused . . . that the letter is privileged communication is not a ground for a motion to
quash. It is a matter of defense which must be proved after trial of the case on the merits." [68] (Citations
omitted)
Thus, the Court of Appeals did not err in disregarding petitioner's purported good faith. This should be a
matter of defense properly raised during trial.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari dated July 29, 2013 is DENIED. The Court of Appeals
Decision dated January 8, 2013 and Resolution dated July 10, 2013 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 203370, April 11, 2016 ]

MALAYAN INSURANCE COMPANY, INC. AND HELEN Y. DEE, PETITIONERS, VS. PHILIP PICCIO, MIA GATMAYTAN, MA.
ANNABELLA RELOVA SANTOS, JOHN JOSEPH GUTIERREZ, JOCELYN UPANO, JOSE DIZON, ROLANDO PAREJA, WONINA
M. BONIFACIO, ELVIRA CRUZ, CORNELIO ZAFRA, VICENTE ORTUOSTE, VICTOMA GOMEZ JACINTO, JUVENCIO PERECHE,
JR., RICARDO LORAYES, PETER C. SUCHIANCO, AND TRENNIE MONSOD, RESPONDENTS.
[G.R. NO. 215106]

MALAYAN INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., PETITIONER, VS. PHILIP PICCIO, MIA GATMAYTAN, MA. ANNABELLA RELOVA
SANTOS, JOHN JOSEPH GUTIERREZ, JOCELYN UPANO, JOSE DIZON, ROLANDO PAREJA, WONINA M. BONIFACIO,
ELVIRA CRUZ, CORNELIO ZAFRA, VICENTE ORTUOSTE, VICTORIA GOMEZ JACINTO, JUVENCIO PERECHE, JR., RICARDO
LORAYES, PETER C. SUCHIANCO, AND TRENNIE MONSOD, RESPONDENTS.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before this Court are two (2) consolidated petitions for review on certiorari.[1] The first petition, docketed
as G.R. No. 203370, filed by petitioners Malayan Insurance Company, Inc. (Malayan Insurance) and Helen
Y. Dee (petitioners) assails the Decision [2] dated February 24, 2012 and the Resolution [3] dated September
5, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31467, which denied their appeal from the
Order[4] dated February 20, 2007 and the Resolution[5] dated September 3, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court
of Makati City (Makati-RTC), Branch 137 (Makati-RTC, Br. 137) in Criminal Case Nos. 06-877 and 06-882
on the ground that the same was not authorized by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). On the other
hand, the second petition, docketed as G.R. No. 215106, filed by petitioner Malayan Insurance assails the
Decision[6] dated March 31, 2014 and the Resolution[7] dated October 17, 2014 of the CA in CA-G.R. CR. No.
32148, which denied its appeal from the Orders[8] dated December 28, 2007 and August 29, 2008 of the
Makati-RTC, Branch 62 (Makati-RTC, Br. 62) in Criminal Case No. 06-884 on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction.

The Facts

On October 18, 2005, Jessie John P. Gimenez (Gimenez), President of the Philippine Integrated Advertising
Agency - the advertising arm of the Yuchengco Group of Companies (Yuchengco Group), to which Malayan
Insurance is a corporate member - filed a Complaint-Affidavit[9] for thirteen (13) counts of Libel, defined
and penalized under Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), before the City
Prosecutor of Makati City, docketed as I.S. No. 05-1-11895, against herein respondents Philip Piccio, Mia
Gatmaytan, Ma. Annabella Relova Santos, John Joseph Gutierrez, Jocelyn Upano, Jose Dizon, Rolando
Pareja, Wonina M. Bonifacio, Elvira Cruz, Cornelio Zafra, Vicente Ortuoste, Victoria Gomez Jacinto, Juvencio
Pereche, Jr., Ricardo Lorayes, Peter C. Suchianco, and Trennie Monsod (respondents) for purportedly posting
defamatory articles/statements on the website www.pepcoalition.com that besmirched the reputation of the
Yuchengco family and the Yuchengco Group, including herein petitioners. [10]

Upon the prosecutor's finding of probable cause,[11] thirteen (13) Informations were filed before the Makati-
RTC. Among those filed were Criminal Case Nos. 06-877[12] and 06-882[13] (raffled to Makati-RTC, Br. 137)
and Criminal Case No. 06-884[14] (raffled to Makati-RTC, Br. 62), from which arose the present petitions.

In Criminal Case Nos. 06-877 and 06-882, respondents filed a Motion to Quash[15] dated June 7, 2006,
asserting, among others, lack of jurisdiction, since the residences of petitioners were not alleged in the
Informations. Besides, even if so stated, the residence or principal office address of petitioners was
admittedly at Quintin Paredes Street, Binondo, Manila, and not in Makati City. Hence, the venue was mislaid,
and the Makati-RTC, Br. 137 did not have jurisdiction over the said cases. [16]

In an Order[17] dated February 20, 2007, the Makati-RTC, Br. 137 granted the said motion and
dismissed Criminal Case Nos. 06-877 and 06-882 on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.[18] It found that
the Informations filed in these cases failed to state that any one of the offended parties resides in Makati
City, or that the subject articles were printed or first published in Makati City.[19] Hence, the failure to state
the aforementioned details was a fatal defect which negated its jurisdiction over the criminal
cases.[20]Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration,[21] which was, however, denied in a
Resolution[22] dated September 3, 2007. Hence, petitioners filed an appeal [23] before the CA, docketed
as CA-G.R. CR No. 31467.

Similarly, in Criminal Case No. 06-884, respondents filed a Motion to Quash[24] dated June 5, 2006, based
on the following grounds: (a) that the Information failed to vest jurisdiction on the Makati-RTC; (b) that the
acts complained of in the Information are not punishable by law; and (c) that the Information is fatally
defective for failing to designate the offense charged and to allege the acts or omissions complained of as
constituting the offense of Libel.[25]

In an Order[26] dated December 28, 2007, the Makati-RTC, Br, 62 dismissed Criminal Case No. 06-884 for
lack of probable cause. Among others, it ruled that the element of malice was lacking since respondents did
not appear to have been motivated by personal ill will to speak or spite Malayan Insurance. [27] The
prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration,[28] which was,, however, denied in an Order[29] dated August
29, 2008. Thus, Malayan Insurance filed an appeaL[30] before the CA. docketed as CA-GR. CR. No. 32148.

The Proceedings Before the CA

In CA-GR. CR No. 31467, the CA noted that while petitioners filed a Notice of Appeal, the Appellants' Brief
was filed only by the private prosecutor, and not by the OSG as required by law. [31] It likewise observed
from the records that the OSG filed a Manifestation and Motion [32] dated September 16, 2008 asking that
"it be excused from filing any documents or pleadings relative to the aforementioned case[,] considering
that it had not received any endorsement coming from the Department of Justice to appeal the
same."[33] Moreover, the CA held that "the Chief City Prosecutor-of Makati City was required to comment,
and he categorically stated in his Explanation and Compliance that he did not authorize the filing, nor
conform to the filing of an appeal from the quashal of the two (2) Informations in [Criminal Case Nos. 06-
877 and 06-882]."[34]

Thus, in the assailed Decision[35] dated February 24, 2012, the CA denied the appeal outright on the ground
that the same was not filed by the authorized official, i.e., the OSG. It remarked that although the private
prosecutor may, at certain times, be permitted to participate in criminal proceedings on appeal in the CA,
his participation is always subject to prior approval of the OSG; and the former cannot be permitted to adopt
a position that is not consistent with that of the OSG. [36] Petitioners' motion for reconsideration[37] was
denied in the assailed Resolution[38] dated September 5, 2012, prompting them to file the petition
in G.R. No. 203370.

The same was reached when the CA, in the assailed Decision [39] dated March 31, 2014 in CA-GR. CR. No.
32148, denied Malayan Insurance's appeal, but this time, on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. The ruling
was premised on its finding that the case of Bonifacio v. RTC of Makati, Branch 149 (Bonifacio),[40] which
involved one of the thirteen (13) Libel cases, particularly Criminal Case No. 06-876, participated in by the
same parties albeit concerning a different defamatory article, is already controlling. [41] Hence, since this
Court directed the quashal of Information in Criminal Case No. 06-876 and dismissed the same, the CA did
not delve on the propriety of the Makati-RTC, Br. 62's finding of probable cause, and instead, adopted, the
same course of action in Bonifacio. In its view, all other issues are rendered moot and academic in light of
this Court's declaration that the Makati-RTC is without jurisdiction to try and hear cases for Libel filed by
Malayan Insurance against respondents. [42] Malayan Insurance's motion for reconsideration [43] was denied
in the assailed Resolution[44] dated October 17, 2014, prompting it to file the petition in G.R. No. 215106.

The Issues Before the Court

In G.R. No. 203370, petitioners contend that the CA erred in denying the appeal in CA-GR. CR No.
31467 due to lack of the OSG's authorization. While in G.R. No. 215106, Malayan Insurance argued that
the CA likewise erred in denying its appeal, in CA-GR. CR. No. 32148, but this time, on jurisdictional
grounds.

The Court's Ruling

I. Resolution of G.R. No. 203370

The authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases before the Court and the CA is vested solely
in the OSG[45] which is "the law office of the Government whose specific powers and functions include that
of representing the Republic and/or the People [of the Philippines] before any court in any action which
affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require." [46] Section 35 (1), Chapter 12, Title
III, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code[47] provides that:

Section 35. Powers and Functions. — The Office of the Solicitor General shall represent the
Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any
litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer, x x x. It shall have the
following specific powers and functions:

(1) Represent the Government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal
proceedings; represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court, and Court of Appeals, and
all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer
thereof in his official capacity is a party. (Emphases supplied)

In People v. Piccio (Piccio),[48] which involved one of the thirteen (13) criminal cases between the same
parties, this Court held that "if there is a dismissal of a criminal case by the trial court or if there is an
acquittal of the accused, it is only the OSG that may bring an appeal on the criminal aspect
representing the People. The rationale therefor is rooted in the principle that the party affected by the
dismissal of the criminal action is the People and not the petitioners who are mere complaining witnesses.
For this reason, the People are therefore deemed as the real parties in interest in the criminal case
and, therefore, only the OSG can represent them in criminal proceedings pending in the CA or in
this Court. In view of the corollary principle that every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name
of the real party in interest who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or by the
party entitled to the avails of the suit, an appeal of the criminal case not filed by the People as represented
by the OSG is perforce dismissible. The private complainant or the offended party may, however, file an
appeal without the intervention of the OSG but only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned.
He may also file a special civil action for certiorari even without the intervention of the OSG, but only to the
end of preserving his interest in the civil aspect of the case." [49]
In this case, as in Piccio, records show that petitioners' appeal in CA-G.R. CR No. 31467 principally sought
the remand of Criminal Case Nos. 06-877 and 06-882 to the Makati-RTC, Br. 137 for arraignment and
trial, or, in the alternative, amend the Informations, and therefore, was not intended to merely preserve
their interest in the civil aspect of the case. Thus, as its appeal was filed in relation to the criminal aspect of
the case, it is necessary that the same be filed with the authorization of the OSG, which, by law, is the
proper representative of the real party in interest in the criminal proceedings, the People. There
being no authorization given, the appeal was rightfully dismissed by the CA. In fact, in its Comment [50] dated
July 5, 2013, the People, through the OSG, even sought the dismissal of petitioners' appeal before this
Court[51] on the ground that "petitioners have no legal personality to elevate on appeal the quashal of the
[Informations] in the subject criminal cases."[52] As it is, petitioners have no legal standing to interpose an
appeal in the criminal proceeding; hence, as they went beyond the bounds of their interest, petitioners
cannot successfully contest the propriety of the Makati-RTC, Br. 137's dismissal of the criminal cases. It
must, however, be clarified that the CA's denial of petitioners' appeal is without prejudice to their filing of
the appropriate action to preserve their interest in the civil aspect of the Libel cases, following the
parameters of Rule 111 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure.[53]

II. Resolution of G.R. No. 215106

"Venue is jurisdictional in criminal actions such that the place where the crime was committed determines
not only the venue of the action but constitutes an essential element of jurisdiction. This principle acquires
even greater import in libel cases, given that Article 360 [of the RPC], as amended [by Republic Act No.
4363[54]], specifically provides for the possible venues for the institution of the criminal and civil aspects of
such cases,"[55] to wit:

Article 360. Persons responsible. - x x x.

x x x x

The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations as provided for in this chapter,
shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of the province or city where
the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually
resides at the time of the commission of the offense: x x x.

x x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Thus, generally speaking, "the venue of libel cases where the complainant is a private individual is limited
to only either of two places, namely: 1) where the complainant actually resides at the time of the commission
of the offense; or 2) where the alleged defamatory article was printed and first published.[56]

In this case, the CA proceeded to deny Malayan Insurance's appeal in view of the Makati-RTC, Br. 62's lack
of jurisdiction over Criminal Case No. 06-884. It held that this Court's ruling in Bonifacio is already
"controlling here because they involve the same parties and the same issues," [57] observing that this case
is "one (1) of the thirteen (13) cases/[I]nformations filed before the [Makati-RTC] which originated from
the complaint initiated by [Gimenez]."[58]

To contextualize, the Libel case involved in Bonifacio was Criminal Case No. 06-876 which, as the CA
observed, involved the same parties herein. Highlighting the Amended Information's allegation that the
offending article "was first published and accessed by the private complainant in Makati
City,"[59] respondents submitted that "[t]he prosecution erroneously laid the venue of the case in the place
where the offended party accessed the internet-published article."[60] This Court sustained the argument,
and directed the Makati-RTC to quash the Amended Information in Criminal Case No. 06-876 and dismiss
the case, ratiocinating in the following wise:

If the circumstances as to where the libel was printed and first published are used by the offended party as
basis for the venue in the criminal action, the Information must allege with particularity where the
defamatory article was printed and first published, as evidenced or supported by, for instance, the address
of their editorial or business offices in the case of newspapers, magazines or serial publications. This pre-
condition becomes necessary in order to forestall any inclination to harass.

The same measure cannot be reasonably expected when it pertains to defamatory material appearing on a
website on the internet as there would be no way of determining the situs of its printing and first publication.
To credit Gimenez's premise of equating his first access to the defamatory article on petitioners' website in
Makati with printing and first publication would spawn the very ills that the amendment to Article 360 of the
RPC sought to discourage and prevent. It hardly requires much imagination to see the chaos that would
ensue in situations where the website's author or writer, a blogger or anyone who posts messages therein
could be sued for libel anywhere in the Philippines that the private complainant may have allegedly accessed
the offending website.

For the Court to hold that the Amended Information sufficiently vested jurisdiction in the courts of Makati
simply because the defamatory article was accessed therein would open the floodgates to the libel suit being
filed in all other locations where the pepcoalition website is likewise accessed or capable of being
accessed.[61](Underscoring in the original)

Here, Malayan Insurance opposes the CA's application of Bonifacio, asserting that the venue was properly
laid as the Informations subject of this case state in one continuous sentence that: "x x x in Makati City,
[Metro Manila,] Philippines and a place within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court xxx, the above-named
accused x x x did then and there x x x caused to be composed, posted and published in the said website
www.pepcoalition.com and [sic] injurious and defamatory article." [62] They also aver that Bonifacio laid
down an entirely new requirement on internet Libel cases which did not exist prior to its promulgation and,
hence, should not be applied retroactively to Malayan Insurance's prejudice. [63]

While Bonifacio's applicability was indeed squarely raised in the instant petition, this Court finds that it would
be improper not to pass upon this issue considering that - similar to the appeal in CA-G.R. CR No. 31467 -
the appeal in CA-G.R. CRNo. 32148, as well as this petition for review, suffers from a fatal defect in that
they were filed without the conformity of the OSG. As earlier stated, the right to prosecute criminal cases
pertains exclusively to the People, which is, therefore, the proper party to bring the appeal, through the
representation of the OSG. The People are deemed as the real parties in interest in the criminal
case and, therefore, only the OSG can represent them in criminal proceedings pending in the CA
or in this Court. As the records bear out, this Court, in a Resolution [64] dated September 9, 2015, required
the OSG to file its Comment so as to be given the ample opportunity to manifest its desire to prosecute the
present appeal, in representation of the People. However, in a Manifestation (In lieu of Comment), [65] the
People, through the OSG, manifested that it is adopting its Comment [66] dated July 5, 2013
in G.R. No. 203370, which sought the dismissal of the petition on the ground that "petitioners have no legal
personality to elevate on appeal the quashal of the [Informations] in the subject criminal cases."[67] Hence,
in view of Malayan Insurance's lack of legal personality to file the present petition, this Court has to dismiss
the same, without prejudice, however, to Malayan Insurance's filing of the appropriate action to preserve
its interest in the civil aspect of the Libel case following the parameters of Rule 111 of the Rules of Criminal
Procedure.[68]

WHEREFORE, the petitions are DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 207662, April 13, 2016 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE, VS. FABIAN URZAIS Y LANURIAS, ALEX BAUTISTA, AND
RICKY BAUTISTA ACCUSED.

FABIAN URZAIS Y LANURIAS, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Before us for review is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in C.A. G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 04812 dated
19 November 2012 which dismissed the appeal of accused-appellant Fabian Urzais y Lanurias and affirmed
with modification the Judgment[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cabanatuan City, Branch 27, in
Criminal Case No. 13155 finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
carnapping with homicide through the use of unlicensed firearm.

Accused-appellant, together with co-accused Alex Bautista and Ricky Bautista, was charged with Violation
of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6539, otherwise known as the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972, as amended
by R.A. No. 7659, with homicide through the use of an unlicensed firearm. The accusatory portion of the
Information reads as follows:
That on or about the 13th day of November, 2002, or prior thereto, in the City of Cabanatuan, Republic of
the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring,
confederating with and abetting one another, with intent to gain and by means of force, violence and
intimidation, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away, a Isuzu
Highlander car, colored Forest Green, with Plate No. UUT-838 of one MARIO MAGDATO, valued at FIVE
HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P500,000.00) Philippine Currency, owned by and belonging to said MARIO
MAGDATO, against his will and consent and to his damage and prejudice in the aforestated amount of
P500,000.00, and on the occasion of the carnapping, did assault and use personal violence upon the person
of one MARIO MAGDATO, that is, by shooting the latter with an unlicensed firearm, a Norinco cal. 9mm
Pistol with Serial No. 508432, thereby inflicting upon him gunshot wound on the head which caused his
death.[3]
At his arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. The trial proceeded against him. His two co-
accused remain at large.

The prosecution presented as witnesses Shirley Magdato (Shirley), Senior Police Officer 2 Fernando Figueroa
(SPO2 Figueroa) and Dr. Jun Concepcion (Dr. Concepcion).

Shirley, the widow of the victim, testified mainly regarding her husband's disappearance and discovery of
his death. She narrated that her husband used to drive for hire their Isuzu Highlander with plate number
UUT-838 from Pulilan, Bulacan to the LRT Terminal in Metro Manila. On 12 November 2002, around four
o'clock in the morning, her husband left their house in Pulilan and headed for the terminal at the Pulilan
Public Market to ply his usual route. When her husband did not return home that day, Shirley inquired of
his whereabouts from his friends to no avail. Shirley went to the terminal the following day and the barker
there told her that a person had hired their vehicle to go to Manila. Shirley then asked her neighbors to call
her husband's mobile phone but no one answered. At around 10 o'clock in the morning of 13 November
2002, her husband's co-members in the drivers' association arrived at their house and thereafter
accompanied Shirley to her husband's supposed location. At the Sta.Rosa police station in Nueva Ecija,
Shirley was informed that her husband had passed away. She then took her husband's body home. [4] Shirley
retrieved their vehicle on 21 November 2002 from the Cabanatuan City Police Station. She then had it
cleaned as it had blood stains and reeked of a foul odor.[5]

SPO2 Figueroa of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Cabanatuan City, testified concerning the
circumstances surrounding accused-appellant's arrest. He stated that in November 2002, their office
received a "flash alarm" from the Bulacan PNP about an alleged carnapped Isuzu Highlander in forest green
color. Thereafter, their office was informed that the subject vehicle had been seen in the AGL Subdivision,
Cabanatuan City. Thus, a team conducted surveillance there and a checkpoint had been set up outside its
gate. Around three o'clock in the afternoon of 20 November 2002, a vehicle that fit the description of the
carnapped vehicle appeared. The officers apprehended the vehicle and asked the driver, accused-appellant,
who had been alone, to alight therefrom. When the officers noticed the accused-appellant's waist to be
bulging of something, he was ordered to raise his shirt and a gun was discovered tucked there. The officers
confiscated the unlicensed 9mm Norinco, with magazine and twelve (12) live ammunitions. The officers
confirmed that the engine of the vehicle matched that of the victim's. Found inside the vehicle were two (2)
plates with the marking "UUT-838" and a passport. Said vehicle contained traces of blood on the car seats
at the back and on its flooring. The officers detained accused-appellant and filed a case for illegal possession
of firearm against him. The subject firearm was identified in open court. [6]

Dr. Concepcion testified about the wounds the victim sustained and the cause of his death. He stated that
the victim sustained one (1) gunshot wound in the head, the entrance of which is at the right temporal area
exiting at the opposite side. The victim also had several abrasions on the right upper eyelid, the tip of the
nose and around the right eye. He also had blisters on his cheek area which could have been caused by a
lighted cigarette.[7]

Accused-appellant testified in his defense and interposed the defense of denial.

Accused-appellant testified that he had ordered in October 2002 from brothers Alex and Ricky Bautista, an
owner-type jeepney worth P60,000.00 for use in his business. The brothers, however, allegedly delivered
instead a green Isuzu Highlander around half past three o'clock in the afternoon of 13 November 2002. The
brothers told accused-appellant that his P60,000.00 would serve as initial payment with the remaining
undetermined amount to be paid a week after. Accused-appellant agreed to this, amazed that he had been
given a new vehicle at such low price. Accused-appellant then borrowed money from someone to pay the
balance but the brothers never replied to his text messages. On 16 November 2002, his friend Oscar Angeles
advised him to surrender the vehicle as it could be a "hot car." Accused-appellant was initially hesitant to
this idea as he wanted to recover the amount he had paid but he eventually decided to sell the vehicle. He
removed its plate number and placed a "for sale" sign at the back. On 18 November 2002, he allegedly
decided to surrender the vehicle upon advice by a certain Angie. But when he arrived home in the afternoon
of that day, he alleged that he was arrested by Alex Villareal, a member of the Criminal Investigation and
Detection Group (CIDG) of Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija.[8] Accused-appellant also testified that he found out in
jail the owner of the vehicle and his unfortunate demise.[9] On cross-examination, accused-appellant
admitted that his real name is "Michael Tapayan y Baguio" and that he used the name Fabian Urzais to
secure a second passport in 2001 to be able to return to Taiwan. [10]

The other defense witness, Oscar Angeles (Angeles), testified that he had known the accused-appellant as
Michael Tapayan when they became neighbors in the AGL subdivision. Accused-appellant also served as his
computer technician. Angeles testified that accused-appellant previously did not own any vehicle until the
latter purchased the Isuzu Highlander for P30,000.00 from the latter's friends in Bulacan. Angeles advised
accused-appellant that the vehicle might have been carnapped due to its very low selling price. Angeles
corroborated accused-appellant's testimony that he did not want to surrender the car at first as he wanted
to recover his payment for it.[11]
On 18 October 2010, the RTC rendered judgment finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime charged. The
RTC anchored its ruling on the disputable presumption that a person found in possession of a thing taken in
the doing of a recent wrongful act is the taker and the doer of the whole act.[12] It held that the elements of
carnapping were proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt through the recovery of the
purportedly carnapped vehicle from the accused-appellant's possession and by his continued possession
thereof even after the lapse of one week from the commission of the crime.[13] The dispositive portion of the
RTC Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Court finds accused Fabian Urzais alias Michael Tapayan y
Lanurias GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of carnapping as defined and penalized by Republic
Act 6539 (Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972) as amended by R.A. 7659 with homicide thru the use of unlicensed
firearm. Accordingly, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of forty (40) years of reclusion
perpetua.

In the service of the sentence, accused shall be credited with the full time of his preventive detention if he
agreed voluntarily and in writing to abide by the disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners
pursuant to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code.

Accused is further sentenced to indemnify the heirs of Mario Magdato the sum of Php50,000.00 as death
indemnity, Php50,000.00 as moral damages, and Php672,000.00 as loss of earning capacity. [14]
Accused-appellant filed a Notice of Appeal on 22 December 2010. [15]

On 19 November 2012, the CA rendered the assailed judgment affirming with modification the trial court's
decision. The CA noted the absence of eyewitnesses to the crime yet ruled that sufficient circumstantial
evidence was presented to prove accused-appellant's guilt, solely, accused-appellant's possession of the
allegedly carnapped vehicle.

Accused-appellant appealed his conviction before this Court. In a Resolution [16] dated 12 August 2013,
accused-appellant and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) were asked to file their respective
supplemental briefs if they so desired. Accused-appellant filed a Supplemental Brief[17] while the OSG
manifested[18] that it adopts its Brief[19] filed before the CA for the purpose of the instant appeal.

Before the Court, accused-appellant vehemently maintains that there is no direct evidence that he robbed
and murdered the victim; and that the lower courts erred in convicting him based on circumstantial evidence
consisting only of the fact of his possession of the allegedly carnapped vehicle. Accused-appellant decries
the appellate court's error in relying on the disputable presumption created by law under Section 3 (j), Rule
131 of the Rules of Court to conclude that by virtue of his possession of the vehicle, he is considered the
author of both the carnapping of the vehicle and the killing of its owner. Accused-appellant asserts that such
presumption does not hold in the case at bar.

The Court agrees.

Every criminal conviction requires the prosecution to prove two (2) things: 1. The fact of the crime, i.e. the
presence of all the elements of the crime for which the accused stands charged; and (2) the fact that the
accused is the perpetrator of the crime. The Court finds the prosecution unable to prove both aspects, thus,
it is left with no option but to acquit on reasonable doubt.

R.A. No. 6539, or the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972, as amended, defines carnapping as the taking, with
intent to gain, of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter's consent, or by means of violence
against or intimidation against persons, or by using force upon things. [20] By the amendment in Section 20
of R.A. No. 7659, Section 14 of the Anti-Carnapping Act now reads:
SEC. 14. Penally for Carnapping. Any person who is found guilty of carnapping, as this term is defined in
Section two of this Act, shall, irrespective of the value of the motor vehicle taken, be punished by
imprisonment for not less than fourteen years and eight months and not more than seventeen years and
four months, when the carnapping is committed without violence or intimidation of persons, or force upon
things, and by imprisonment for not less than seventeen years and four months and not more than thirty
years, when the carnapping is committed by means of violence or intimidation of any person, or force upon
things; and the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death shall be imposed when the owner, driver or occupant
of the carnapped motor vehicle is killed or raped in the course of the commission of the carnapping or on
the occasion thereof. (Emphasis supplied)
Three amendments have been made to the original Section 14 of the Anti-Carnapping Act: (1) the penalty
of life imprisonment was changed to reclusion perpetua, (2) the inclusion of rape, and (3) the change of the
phrase "in the commission of the carnapping" to "in the course of the commission of the carnapping or on
the occasion thereof." This third amendment clarifies the law's intent to make the offense a special complex
crime, by way of analogy vis-a-vis paragraphs 1 to 4 of the Revised Penal Code on robbery with violence
against or intimidation of persons. Thus, under the last clause of Section 14 of the Anti-Carnapping Act, the
prosecution has to prove the essential requisites of carnapping and of the homicide or murder of the victim,
and more importantly, it must show that the original criminal design of the culprit was carnapping and that
the killing was perpetrated "in the course of the commission of the carnapping or on the occasion thereof."
Consequently, where the elements of carnapping are not proved, the provisions of the Anti-Carnapping Act
would cease to be applicable and the homicide or murder (if proven) would be punishable under the Revised
Penal Code.[21]

In the instant case, the Court finds the charge of carnapping unsubstantiated for failure of the prosecution
to prove all its elements. For one, the trial court's decision itself makes no mention of any direct evidence
indicating the guilt of accused-appellant. Indeed, the CA confirmed the lack of such direct evidence. [22] Both
lower courts solely based accused-appellant's conviction of the special complex crime on one circumstantial
evidence and that is, the fact of his possession of the allegedly carnapped vehicle.

The Court notes that the prosecution's evidence only consists of the fact of the victim's disappearance, the
discovery of his death and the details surrounding accused-appellant's arrest on rumors that the vehicle he
possessed had been carnapped. Theres is absolutely no evidence supporting the prosecution's theory that
the victim's vehicle had been carnapped, much less that the accused-appellant is the author of the same.

Certainly, it is not only by direct evidence that an accused may be convicted, but for circumstantial evidence
to sustain a conviction, following are the guidelines: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts
from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is as
such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. [23] Decided cases expound that the circumstantial
evidence presented and proved must constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable
conclusion pointing to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the guilty person. All the circumstances
must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and at the
same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with every other rationale except that
of guilt.[24]

In the case at bar, notably there is only one circumstantial evidence. And this sole circumstantial evidence
of possession of the vehicle does not lead to an inference exclusively consistent with guilt. Fundamentally,
prosecution did not offer any iota of evidence detailing the seizure of the vehicle, much less with accused-
appellant's participation. In fact, there is even a variance concerning how accused-appellant was discovered
to be in possession of the vehicle. The prosecution's uncorroborated evidence says accused-appellant was
apprehended while driving the vehicle at a checkpoint, although the vehicle did not bear any license plates,
while the latter testified he was arrested at home. The following testimony of prosecution witness SPO2
Figueroa on cross-examination raises even more questions:
Q: You mentioned the car napping incident, when was that, Mr. witness?

ATTY. GONZALES:

Your Honor, I noticed that every time the witness gave his answer, he is looking at a piece of paper and he is not testifying
on his personal knowledge.

xxxx

COURT:

The witness is looking at the record for about 5 min. now. Fiscal, here is another witness who has lapses on the mind.

FISCAL MACARAIG:

I am speechless, Your Honor.

WITNESS:

It was not stated in my affidavit, sir the time of the carnapping incident.

ATTY. GONZALES:

Your Honor, if he can no longer remember even the simple matter when this car napping incident happened then he is an
incompetent witness and we are deprive (sic) of the right to cross examine him. I move that his testimony would be stricken
off from the record.

xxxx

Q: Mr. Witness, what is the date when you arrested the accused Fabian Urzais?
A: It was November 20, 2002 at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, sir.

Q: You said earlier that on November 3, 2002 that you met the accused is that correct, Mr. Witness?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Why did you see the accused on November 3, 2002, Mr. Witness?
A: During that time, we conducted a check point at AGL were (sic) the Highlander was often seen, sir.

Q: So, since on November 3, 2002, you were conducting this check point at AGL, it is safe to assume that the carnapping incident
happened earlier than November 3, 2002?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Were you present when this vehicle was car napped, Mr. Witness?
A: No, sir.

Q: Since you were not present, you have no personal knowledge about this car napping incident, right, Mr. Witness?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: No further question, Your Honor.[25]


Considering the dearth of evidence, the subject vehicle is at best classified as "missing" since the non-return
of the victim and his vehicle on 12 November 2002. Why the check-point had begun before then, as early 3
November 2002, as stated by the prosecution witness raises doubts about the prosecution's version of the
case. Perhaps, the check-point had been set up for another vehicle which had gone missing earlier. In any
event, accused-appellant's crime, if at all, was being in possession of a missing vehicle whose owner had
been found dead. There is perhaps guilt in the acquisition of the vehicle priced so suspiciously below
standard. But how this alone should lead to a conviction for the special complex crime of carnapping with
homicide/murder, affirmed by the appellate court is downright disturbing.

The application of disputable presumption found in Section 3 (j), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, that a
person found in possession of a thing taken in the doing of a recent wrongful act is the taker and doer of
the whole act, in this case the alleged carnapping and the homicide/murder of its owner, is limited to cases
where such possession is either unexplained or that the proffered explanation is rendered implausible in
view of independent evidence inconsistent thereto.[26] In the instant case, accused-appellant set-up a
defense of denial of the charges and adhered to his unrebutted version of the story that the vehicle had
been sold to him by the brothers Alex and Ricky Bautista. Though the explanation is not seamless, once the
explanation is made for the possession, the presumption arising from the unexplained possession may not
anymore be invoked and the burden shifts once more to the prosecution to produce evidence that would
render the defense of the accused improbable. And this burden, the prosecution was unable to discharge.
In contrast to prosecution witness SPO2 Figueroa's confused, apprehensive and uncorroborated testimony
accused-appellant unflinchingly testified as follows:
Q: Will you please tell us how you came into possession of this Isuzu Highlander with plate number UTT 838?
A: That vehicle was brought by Ricky Bautista and Alex Bautista, sir.

xxxx

Q: Do you know why Alex and Ricky Bautista gave you that Isuzu Highlander?
A: Actually that was not the vehicle I ordered form (sic) them, I ordered an owner type jeep worth Php60,000 but on November 13,
2002 they brought that Isuzu Highlander, sir.

Q: Why did you order an owner type jeep from them?


A: Because I planned to install a trolley, cause I have a videoke for rent business, sir.

xxxx

Q: What happened upon the arrival of this Alex and Ricky Bautista on that date and time?
A: I was a little bit surprise (sic) because Alex alighted from an Isuzu Highlander colored green, sir.

Q: What happened after that?


A: I told them that it was not I ordered from you and my money is only Php60,000, sir.

Q: What did he told (sic) you?


A: He told me to give them the Php60,000 and they will leave the vehicle and when I have the money next week I will send text
message to them, sir.

Q: What was your reaction?


A: I was amazed because the vehicle is brand new and the price is low, sir.

xxxx

Q: Did you find out anything about the Isuzu highlander that they left to you?
A: When I could not contact them I went to my friend Oscar Angeles and told him about the vehicle then he told me that you better
surrender the vehicle because maybe it is a hot car, sir. "Nung hindi ko na po sila makontak ay nagpunta ako sa kaibigan kong si
Oscar Angeles at sinabi ko po yung problema tungkol sa sasakyan at sinabi nya sa akin na isurrender na lang at baka hot car
yan"[27]

xxxx

Q: Mr. Witness, granting for the sake that what you are saying is true, immediately on the 16 th, according to your testimony, and
upon confirming it to your friend, you then decided to surrender the vehicle, why did you not do it on the 16 th, why did you still
have to wait until you get arrested?
A: Because I was thinking of my Sixty Thousand Pesos (Php60,000.00) at that time, and on how I can take it back, sir. ("Kasi
nanghinayang po ako sa Sixty Thousand (Php60,000.00) ko nung oras na un ... pano ko po yun mabawi sabi ko".)

xxxx
Q: So Mr. Witness, let us simplify this, you have purchased a carnapped vehicle, your intention is to surrender it but you never did
that until you get caught in possession of the same, so in other words, that is all that have actually xxx vehicle was found dead,
the body was dumped somewhere within the vicinity of Sta. Rosa, those are the facts in this case?
A: I only came to know that there was a dead person when I was already in jail, sir.

Q: What about the other facts that I have mentioned, are they correct or not?
A: When I gave the downpayment, I do not know yet that it was a hot car and I came to know it only on the 16 th, sir.[28]
Significantly, accused-appellant's testimony was corroborated by defense witness Angeles who had known
accused-appellant by his real name "Michael Tapayan y Baguio," to wit:
Q: Do you know if this Michael Tapayan owns any vehicle sometime in 2002?
A: At first none, sir, he has no vehicle.

Q: What do you mean when you say at first he has no vehicle?


A: Later, sir, I saw him riding in a vehicle.

xxxx

Q: Did Michael Tapayan tell you how much he bought that vehicle?
A: I remember he told me that he bought that vehicle for Thirty Thousand (Php30,000.00) Pesos, sir.

Q: What was your reaction when you were told that the vehicle was purchased for only Thirty Thousand Pesos (Php30,000.00)?
A: I told him that it's very cheap and also told him that it might be a carnap (sic) vehicle.

Q: What was the reaction of Michael Tapayan when you told him that?
A: He thought about it and he is of the belief that the person who sold the vehicle to him will come back and will get the additional
payment, sir.

Q: Aside from this conversation about that vehicle, did you have any other conversation with Michael Tapayan concerning that
vehicle?
A: After a few days, sir, I told him to surrender the said vehicle to the authorities because the persons who sold it to him did not
come back for additional payment.

Q: What was the reaction of Michael Tapayan to this suggestion?


A: He told me that he will think about it because he was thinking about the money that he already gave to them. [29]
Evidently, the disputable presumption cannot prevail over accused-appellant's explanation for his possession
of the missing vehicle. The possession having been explained, the legal presumption is disputed and thus,
cannot find application in the instant case. To hold otherwise would be a miscarriage of justice as criminal
convictions necessarily require proof of guilt of the crime charged beyond reasonable doubt and in the
absence of such proof, should not be solely based on legal disputable presumptions.

The carnapping not being duly proved, the killing of the victim may not be treated as an incident of
carnapping. Nonetheless, even under the provisions of homicide and murder under the Revised Penal Code,
the Court finds the guilt of accused-appellant was not established beyond reasonable doubt.

There were no eyewitnesses to the killing of the victim, Mario Magdato. Again, both courts relied only on
the circumstantial evidence of accused-appellant's possession of the missing vehicle for the latter's
conviction. Shirley, the widow, testified that her husband and their vehicle went missing on 12 November
2002. Dr. Concepcion gave testimony on the cause of death of Mario Magdato and the injuries he had
sustained. Most glaringly, no connection had been established between the victim's gunshot wound which
caused his death and the firearm found in the person of accused-appellant. Only SPO2 Figueroa's testimony
gave light on how allegedly accused-appellant was found to have been in possession of the missing vehicle
of the victim. But even if this uncorroborated testimony was true, it does not link accused-appellant to the
carnapping, much less, the murder or homicide of the victim. And it does not preclude the probability of
accused-appellant's story that he had merely bought the vehicle from the Bautista brothers who have
themselves since gone missing.

The equipoise rule states that where 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 fulfil the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction.
The equipoise rule provides that where the evidence in a criminal case is evenly balanced, the constitutional,
presumption of innocence tilts the scales in favor of the accused. [30]

The basis of the acquittal is reasonable doubt, which simply means that the evidence of the prosecution was
not sufficient to sustain the guilt of accused-appellant beyond the point of moral certainty. Proof beyond
reasonable doubt, however, is a burden particular to the prosecution and does not apply to exculpatory facts
as may be raised by the defense; the accused is not required to establish matters in mitigation or defense
beyond a reasonable doubt, nor is he required to establish the truth of such matters by a preponderance of
the evidence, or even to a reasonable probability. [31]

It is the primordial duty of the prosecution to present its side with clarity and persuasion, so that conviction
becomes the only logical and inevitable conclusion. What is required of it is to justify the conviction of the
accused with moral certainty. Upon the prosecution's failure to meet this test, acquittal becomes the
constitutional duty of the Court, lest its mind be tortured with the thought that it has imprisoned an innocent
man for the rest of his life.[32] The constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty can be
overthrown only by proof beyond reasonable doubt.[33]

In the final analysis, the circumstances narrated by the prosecution engender doubt rather than moral
certainty on the guilt of accused-appellant.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 19 November 2012 in
C.A. G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 04812 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. FABIAN URZAIS Y LANURIAS alias Michael
Tapayan y Baguio is ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt of the crime of carnapping with homicide, without
prejudice to investigation for the crime of fencing penalized under Presidential Decree 1612. His immediate
release from confinement is hereby ordered, unless he is being held for some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 183529, February 24, 2016 ]

OFELIA C. CAUNAN, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE SANDIGANBAYAN, RESPONDENTS.

DECISION
REYES, J.:

For review is the Decision[1] dated April 29, 2008 of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 28068, finding
Ofelia Caunan (Caunan) guilty of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, otherwise known
as the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act." The case involves the government's purchase and payment of
equipment not delivered; a transaction dubbed as "ghost delivery."

Facts of the Case

On August 15, 2000, Dra. Magnolia Punzalan (Punzalan), as the then Chairman of Barangay Marcelo Green,
requested for the purchase of Compost Garbage and Recycling Equipment (compost equipment) from the
City Government of Parañaque (City Government), intended to be used in their barangay. However, her
request was not acted upon even after she finished her term in 2002. On July 20, 2002, Dante Pacheco
(Pacheco) succeeded Punzalan and assumed his post as the Chairman of Barangay Marcelo Green. Like his
predecessor Punzalan, Pacheco requested for the purchase of compost equipment for their barangay. [2]

In September 2002, the Office of the City Auditor of Parañaque (Office of the City Auditor) conducted an
investigation on the City Government's reported purchase of 14 sets of compost equipment worth
P6,287,500.00 in the year 2000. As part of the investigation, state auditors sent letters of inquiry [3] to
barangay captains to confirm the delivery of compost equipment to their respective barangays in the year
2000.[4]

Punzalan was alerted of the ongoing investigation when Pacheco furnished her with a copy of his reply [5] to
the state auditor. In the letter, Pacheco stated that Punzalan did not turn over to him any compost equipment
she received during her tenure. Punzalan also received a similar letter of inquiry from the Office of the City
Auditor.[6] In a letter[7]dated October 21, 2002, Punzalan repudiated that she received the delivery of
compost equipment in Barangay Marcelo Green; she likewise disclaimed the signature purporting to be hers
on the documents attached to the letter of inquiry.

The foregoing events led Punzalan to visit the Office of the City Auditor where she discovered the existence
of documents relative to the purchase and delivery of compost equipment to Barangay Marcelo Green during
her term of office.[8] The following documents were uncovered: (1) Purchase Order (P.O.) No. 0005031 was
issued naming Julia Enterprises and General Merchandise (Julia Enterprises) as the supplier/dealer; (2)
Disbursement Voucher No. 101-00-12-8580, for a total amount of P900,000.00 for the delivery of compost
equipment, with Julia Enterprises indicated as the claimant; (3) Check No. 123787 dated December 12,
2000, with Julia Enterprises as the payee, for the amount of P861,600.00; and (4) Memorandum Receipt,
allegedly signed by Punzalan and Caunan on December 13, 2000. [9]

Incidentally, Pacheco's purchase request was granted. In 2003, one set of compost equipment was delivered
by another supplier, Lacto South Metro Enterprises (Lacto South) to Barangay Marcelo Green under P.O. No.
001100,[10] which was received by Pacheco.[11]

Meanwhile, the Office of the City Auditor continued with the investigation. In a Memorandum[12] dated
November 5, 2002, State Auditor Arturo F. Garcia disclosed that 10 sets of compost equipment worth
P4,493,750.00 were purchased and paid in full by the City Government in 2000 and 2001 for different
barangays, but were not delivered by the suppliers. One of the barangays that did not receive such compost
equipment is Barangay Marcelo Green.[13]

To clear her name,[14] Punzalan lodged a complaint before the Ombudsman. After preliminary investigation,
an Information[15] was filed before the Sandiganbayan against the following: Silvestre De Leon (De Leon),
City Treasurer; Antonio Abad III (Abad), City Administrator; Caunan, the Officer-in Charge of the General
Services Offices; and Ricardo Adriano (Adriano), the proprietor of Julia Enterprises for violation of Section
3(e) of R.A. No. 3019. The Information reads:
That on or before 12 December 2000 or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in the City of Parañaque,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused [De Leon], a public official being then the City
Treasurer of Parañaque City, [Abad], likewise a public officer, being then the City Administrator, and
[Caunan], a public official, being the OIC, General Services Offices, all from the [City Government], while
in the performance of their duties and taking advantage of their official positions, conspiring and
confederating with a private individual [Adriano], Proprietor of [Julia Enterprises], with evident bad faith or
manifest partiality, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally cause damage or undue injury to
the government in the amount of Nine Hundred Thousand Pesos (P900,000.00) by causing it to appear that
a [compost equipment] was delivered by [Julia Enterprises] to a certain [Punzalan], then Barangay
Chairman, Barangay Marcelo Green, Parañaque City, when in truth and in fact no such delivery was made,
and thereafter, did then and there cause the payment thereof in the amount of Nine Hundred Thousand
Pesos (P900,000.00) to the damage and prejudice of the government.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[16]
On April 29, 2008, the Sandiganbayan rendered a Decision finding Caunan guilty of violating Section 3(e)
of R.A. No. 3019 while her co-accused Abad was exonerated of the charge against him, viz:
ACCORDINGLY, accused [Caunan] is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having violated [R.A. No.]
3019, Section 3 (e) and is sentenced to suffer in prison the penalty of 6 years [and] 1 month to 10 years.
She also has to suffer perpetual disqualification from holding any public office. Accused [Caunan] is directed
to reimburse the City of Parañaque the amount of eight hundred sixty[-]one thousand six hundred [pesos]
(P861,600.00) representing the cost of the undelivered compost equipment.

For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of accused [Abad], beyond reasonable doubt, he is
ACQUITTED.

Costs against accused [Caunan].

SO ORDERED.[17]
Accused De Leon was freed from criminal liability in view of his death during the pendency of the case,
whereas Adriano was at large.[18]

During trial, the defense primarily argued that an ocular inspection would prove that the compost equipment
was actually delivered to Barangay Marcelo Green. Yet, the Sandiganbayan found that the existing compost
equipment in Barangay Marcelo Green was not delivered by Julia Enterprises, but by Lacto South under
another fully paid transaction.[19] The Sandiganbayan took note of the uncontested fact that the City
Government entered into two separate transactions for the purchase of compost equipment for Barangay
Marcelo Green. The first transaction was initiated by Punzalan's request on August 15, 2000 while the second
transaction was a result of Pacheco's request on September 5, 2002. It is the non-delivery under the first
transaction which is the subject of the case.[20]

Caunan moved to reconsider the decision but it was denied by the Sandiganbayan in its Resolution [21] dated
July 11, 2008.

Thus, Caunan filed a petition for certiorari[22] assailing the decision and resolution of the Sandiganbayan.

The issue primarily raised in the petition is whether Caunan's conviction for the crime of violation of Section
3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 was proper.

Ruling of the Court

The petition has no merit.

At the outset, it is emphasized that a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 shall raise only questions
of law. "It is a well-entrenched rule that factual findings of the Sandiganbayan are conclusive upon the
Supreme Court except where: (1) the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmise and
conjectures; (2) the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; [and]
(4) the judgment is based on misapprehension of facts and the findings of fact of the Sandiganbayan are
premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by evidence on record. None of the above
exceptions obtains in this case."[23]

The charge against Caunan is violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, which provides:
Sec. 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:
x x x x

(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any
unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial
functions through manifest impartiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. x x x.

xxxx
To be found guilty under the said provision, the following elements must concur:
1) The accused must be a public officer discharging administrative, judicial or official functions;

2) He must have acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence; and

3) That his action caused undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party
unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his functions.[24]
First, it is undisputed that Caunan is a public officer, as she is the Officer in Charge of the Department of
General Services of the City Government.[25] Under the Local Government Code of 1991, the general services
officer performs all functions pertaining to supply and property management in the local government unit
concerned.[26] The duties and functions of a general services officer were further expounded by the
Sandiganbayan:
The functions of accused Caunan as the General Services Officer of the City of Parañaque are:

1) As the General Services Officer of the City of Parañaque, she is mandated under the Local Government
Code to "(t)ake custody of and be accountable for all properties, real or personal, owned by the local
government unit".

2) As the General Services Officer, her purchasing function is specified under the Rules and Regulations On
Supply and Property Management, Section 29 [of] which provides that:
In every province and city, the office of the general services officer shall exercise the function of acquiring
for the province or city all its supply or property requirements. The municipal treasurer and barangay
treasurer shall exercise said function for the municipal and barangay government, respectively.
For the transaction/purchase in this case, it was accused Caunan as the General Services Officer who acted
as the purchasing officer for the City of Parañaque.
3) On the point bearing on the delivery and inspection of purchased items, Section 114 of the Rules and
Regulations on Supply and Property Management specifically provides that "(a)ll items to be inspected shall
be accepted first by the general services officer, municipal or barangay treasurer, as the case may
be." x x x Thus, the equipment (supposedly delivered) to be inspected should have first been accepted by
her, as the purchasing officer.[27](Citations omitted and emphasis and italics in the original)
Second, on the element of bad faith and manifest partiality, Caunan made it appear that the compost
equipment subject of P.O. No. 0005031 was in the official custody of the government by signing the
disbursement voucher and issuing a memorandum receipt for compost equipment which was not in fact
delivered.[28]

The Court explained that "'partiality' is synonymous with 'bias' which 'excites a disposition to see and report
matters as they are wished for rather than as they are.' 'Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment
or negligence; it imputes a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong; a
breach of sworn duty through some motive or intent or ill will; it partakes of the nature of fraud.'" [29]

Caunan's bad faith was made even more evident in the irregularities committed in the delivery and
acceptance of the compost equipment. Caunan claimed that her office merely prepared the Memorandum
Receipt based on the documents indicating that the compost equipment was received by Punzalan in
Barangay Marcelo Green.[30] These documents were supposedly brought to her office by a courier from the
barangay.[31] However, the details surrounding the delivery are not as straightforward; upon further
questioning, Caunan revealed that the compost equipment was initially delivered in the premises of the city
hall because of the lack of space to hold the equipment in Barangay Marcelo Green. It was the inspector
from the Office of the City Treasurer who accepted and inspected the delivery in the city hall, after which
Caunan issued the Memorandum Receipt.[32] According to Caunan, the compost equipment was deposited
later on with the manufacturer because of the confined space in the city hall. [33]

In Caunan's version of the events, there was no account on how the delivery eventually reached Barangay
Marcelo Green after the compost equipment was allegedly "returned" to the manufacturer. She claimed that
she cannot remember when the compost equipment was actually delivered in Barangay Marcelo
Green[34] but she sent members of her staff to check on the equipment. [35] Notably, none of these staff
members were presented to testify for the defense; there was no record as regards these staff members
who could vouch for the inspection of the delivery in Barangay Marcelo Green under P.O. No. 0005031. In
fact, Caunan declared that she personally inspected the compost equipment in Barangay Marcelo Green only
in 2006.[36] This was long after the supplier was paid in the year 2000.
On the last element, Caunan raised in her petition that P.O. No. 0005031 was duly served and
that no damage or prejudice was caused to the government; that Pacheco certified that two sets of compost
equipment are currently operating in Barangay Marcelo Green; and that the delivery was not made by Julia
Enterprises itself as the supplier, but by Lacto South as the manufacturer of the equipment. These
circumstances would indicate that there was full performance of the obligation to deliver under P.O. No.
0005031.[37]

But the delivery made by Lacto South is not an issue in this case as that delivery referred to a different
transaction, duly paid and supported by another set of documents. [38] In his testimony, Pacheco clarified
that his certification, affirming that two sets of compost equipment are operating in Barangay Marcelo Green,
was issued sometime in 2004.[39]This was after the compost equipment under P.O. No. 001100 from Lacto
South was delivered, while the second set of compost equipment was subsequently adopted from Barangay
Baclaran.[40] This was also verified by a Technical Audit Specialist from the Commission on Audit in an
Inspection Report[41] when another ocular inspection was conducted in 2006. It was found that "there was
a delivery of two (2) sets of [compost equipment] but not under the subject [P.O.] No. 0005031 and not
supplied by [Julia Enterprises]."[42] Furthermore, a perusal of the testimony[43] of Ronaldo Samala, managing
partner of Lacto South, would show that he never claimed that Lacto South delivered any compost
equipment under P.O. No. 0005031 on behalf of Julia Enterprises.

Thus, no delivery under P.O. No. 0005031 was made, resulting to a loss of P861,600.00 on the part of the
government for which Caunan must be held liable. As the general services officer concerned, she participated
in the issuance of documents which facilitated the payment of undelivered compost equipment.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated April 29, 2008 and Resolution dated July 11,
2008 of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 28068 are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 209387, January 11, 2016 ]

ERWIN LIBO-ON DELA CRUZ, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

Routine baggage inspections conducted by port authorities, although done without search warrants, are not
unreasonable searches per se. Constitutional provisions protecting privacy should not be so literally
understood so as to deny reasonable safeguards to ensure the safety of the traveling public.

For resolution is a Petition for Review on Certiorari [1] assailing the Decision[2] dated September 28, 2012
and the Resolution[3] dated August 23, 2013 of the Court of Appeals, Cebu City. [4] The Court of Appeals
affirmed[5] the trial court's Judgment[6] finding petitioner Erwin Libo-on Dela Cruz (Dela Cruz) guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of possessing unlicensed firearms under Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7764[7] in
relation to Section 261[8] of Batas Pambansa Big. 881[9] during the 2007 election period.[10]

Dela Cruz was an on-the-job trainee of an inter-island vessel. He frequently traveled, "coming back and
forth taking a vessel."[12] At around 12:00 noon of May 11, 2007, Dela Cruz was at a pier of the Cebu
Domestic Port to go home to Iloilo.[13] While buying a ticket, he allegedly left his bag on the floor with a
porter.[14] It took him around 15 minutes to purchase a ticket. [15]

Dela Cruz then proceeded to the entrance of the terminal and placed his bag on the x-ray scanning machine
for inspection.[16] The operator of the x-ray machine saw firearms inside Dela Cruz's bag.[17]

Cutie Pie Flores (Flores) was the x-ray machine operator-on-duty on May 11, 2007.[18] She saw the
impression of what appeared to be three (3) firearms inside Dela Cruz's bag. [19] Upon seeing the suspected
firearms, she called the attention of port personnel Archie Igot (Igot) who was the baggage inspector
then.[20]

Igot asked Dela Cruz whether he was the owner of the bag. [21] Dela Cruz answered Igot in the affirmative
and consented to Igot's manual inspection of the bag. [22]

"Port Police Officer Adolfo Abregana [(Officer Abregana)] was on duty at the terminal of the Cebu Domestic
Port in Pier 1-G when his attention was called by ... Igot."[23] Igot told Officer Abregana that there were
firearms in a bag owned by a certain person.[24] Igot then pointed to the person.[25] That person was later
identified as Dela Cruz.[26]

Dela Cruz admitted that he was owner of the bag.[27] The bag was then inspected and the following items
were found inside: three (3) revolvers; NBI clearance; seaman's book; other personal items; and four (4)
live ammunitions placed inside the cylinder.[28] When asked whether he had the proper documents for the
firearms, Dela Cruz answered in the negative.[29]

Dela Cruz was then arrested and informed of his violation of a crime punishable by law.[30] He was also
informed of his constitutional rights.[31]

In the Information dated November 19, 2003, Dela Cruz was charged with violation of Republic Act No.
8294 for illegal possession of firearms:[32]

Criminal Case No. CBU -80084

That on or about the 11th day of May 2007, at about 12:45 p.m. in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with the deliberate intent and without being
authorized by law, did then and there possess and carry outside his residence one (1) Cal. 38 Simith [sic]
& Wesson revolver without serial number; one (1) .22 Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver without serial
number; one (1) North American Black Widow magnum revolver without serial number and four rounds of
live ammunitions for cal. 38 without first securing the necessary license to possess and permit to carry from
the proper authorities.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[33]

Subsequently, another Information was filed charging Dela Cruz with the violation of Commission on
Elections Resolution No. 7764, in relation to Section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881: [34]

Criminal Case No. CBU 80085

That on or about the 11th day of May 2007, at about 12:45 in the afternoon, which is within the election
period for the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections, in the City of Cebu, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with deliberate intent, did then and there possess and
carry outside his residence the following:

One (1) cal. .38 Simith [sic] & Wesson revolver without serial number; One (1) cal. .22 Smith & Wesson
Magnum revolver without serial number; One (1) North American Black Widow magnum revolver without
serial number and four (4) rounds of live ammunitions for cal. 38.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[35]

Dela Cruz entered a plea of not guilty to both charges during arraignment. [36]

After trial, Branch 12 of the Regional Trial Court, Cebu City found Dela Cruz guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of violating the Gun Ban under Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7764, in relation to Section 261 of
Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 in Criminal Case No. CBU 80085.[37] Dela Cruz was sentenced to suffer
imprisonment of one (1) year with disqualification from holding public office and the right to suffrage.[38]

According to the trial court, the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Dela Cruz
committed illegal possession of firearms.[39] It proved the following elements: "(a) the existence of the
subject firearm and (b) the fact that the accused who owned or possessed it does not have the license or
permit to possess the same."[40]The prosecution presented the firearms and live ammunitions found in Dela
Cruz's possession.[41] It also presented three (3) prosecution witnesses who testified that the firearms were
found inside Dela Cruz's bag.[42] The prosecution also presented a Certification that Dela Cruz did not file
any application for license to possess a firearm, and he was not given authority to carry a firearm outside
his residence.[43]

The trial court also held that the search conducted by the port authorities was reasonable and, thus, valid: [44]

Given the circumstances obtaining here, the court finds the search conducted by the port authorities
reasonable and, therefore, not violative of the accused's constitutional rights. Hence, when the search of
the bag of the accused revealed the firearms and ammunitions, accused is deemed to have been caught
in flagrante delicto, justifying his arrest even without a warrant under Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules
of Criminal Procedure. The firearms and ammunitions obtained in the course of such valid search are thus
admissible as evidence against [the] accused.[45]

The trial court did not give credence to Dela Cruz's claim that the firearms were "planted" inside his bag by
the porter or anyone who could have accessed his bag while he was buying a ticket. [46] According to the trial
court, Dela Cruz's argument was "easy to fabricate, but terribly difficult to disprove." [47] Dela Cruz also did
not show improper motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses to discredit their testimonies. [48]

The trial court dismissed the case for violation of Republic Act No. 8294.[49] It held that "Republic Act No.
8294 penalizes simple illegal possession of firearms, provided that the person arrested committed 'no other
crime.'"[50] Dela Cruz, who had been charged with illegal possession of firearms, was also charged with
violating the Gun Ban under Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7764.[51]

The dispositive portion of the trial court's Consolidated Judgment reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of COMELEC
Resolution No. 7764 in relation to Section 261 of BP Blg. 881 in Criminal Case No. CBU-80085, and hereby
sentences him to suffer an imprisonment for a period of one (1) year, and to suffer disqualification to hold
public office and deprivation of the right to suffrage.

While Criminal Case No. CBU-80084 for Violation of RA 8294 is hereby DISMISSED. Accordingly, the cash
bond posted by accused therein for his provisional liberty is hereby ordered cancelled and released to said
accused.

The subject firearms (Exhs. "H", "I" & "J"), and the live ammunitions (Exhs. "K to K-2"") shall, however,
remain in custodia legis for proper disposition of the appropriate government agency.

SO ORDERED.[52] (Emphasis in the original)

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's Judgment. [53] It held that the defense failed to
show that the prosecution witnesses were moved by improper motive; thus, their testimonies are entitled
to full faith and credit.[54] The acts of government authorities were found to be regular. [55]

The Court of Appeals did not find Dela Cruz's defense of denial meritorious.[56] "Denial as a defense has
been viewed upon with disfavor by the courts due to the ease with which it can be concocted." [57] Dela Cruz
did not present any evidence "to show that he had authority to carry outside of residence firearms and
ammunition during the period of effectivity of the Gun Ban [during] election time." The prosecution was able
to prove Dela Cruz's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The dispositive portion of the assailed Decision provides:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is hereby DENIED. The assailed January 27, 2010
Consolidated Judgment of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 12 of Cebu City in Criminal Case CBU-
59434 is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs on accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.[59] (Emphasis in the original)

Dela Cruz filed a Motion for Reconsideration,[60] which was denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution
dated August 23, 2013.[61]

Dela Cruz filed this Petition on November 4, 2013. [62] In the Resolution[63] dated December 9, 2013, this
court required respondent, through the Office of the Solicitor General, to submit its Comment on the Petition.
Respondent submitted its Comment[64] on March 6, 2014, which this court noted in the Resolution[65] dated
March 19, 2014.

Dela Cruz claims that he was an on-the-job trainee for an inter-island vessel.[66] He was "well[-]acquainted
with [the] inspection scheme [at the] ports."[67] He would not have risked placing prohibited items such as
unlicensed firearms inside his luggage knowing fully the consequences of such an action.[68]

According to Dela Cruz, when he arrived at the port on May 11, 2007, he left his luggage with a porter to
buy a ticket.[69] "A considerable time of fifteen minutes went by before he could secure the ticket while his
luggage was left sitting on the floor with only the porter standing beside it."[70] He claims that someone
must have placed the unlicensed firearms inside his bag during the period he was away from it. [71] He was
surprised when his attention was called by the x-ray machine operator after the firearms were detected.[72]

Considering the circumstances, Dela Cruz argues that there was no voluntary waiver against warrantless
search:[73]

In petitioner's case, it may well be said that, with the circumstances attending the search of his luggage, he
had no actual intention to relinquish his right against warrantless searches. He knew in all honest belief that
when his luggage would pass through the routine x-ray examination, nothing incriminating would be
recovered. It was out of that innocent confidence that he allowed the examination of his luggage. . . . [H]e
believed that no incriminating evidence wfouldj be found. He knew he did not place those items. But
what is strikingly unique about his situation is that a considerable time interval lapsed, creating an
opportunity for someone else to place inside his luggage those incriminating items. [74] (Emphasis in the
original)

Respondent argues that there was a valid waiver of Dela Cruz's right to unreasonable search and seizure,
thus warranting his conviction.[75] Dela Cruz was "caught in flagrante delicto carrying three (3) revolvers
and four (4) live ammunitions when his bag went through the x-ray machine in the Cebu Domestic Port on
May 11, 2007, well within the election period."[76] The firearms were seized during a routine baggage x-ray
at the port of Cebu, a common seaport security procedure. [77]

According to respondent, this case is similar to valid warrantless searches and seizures conducted by airport
personnel pursuant to routine airport security procedures.[78]

Records are also clear that Dela Cruz voluntarily waived his right to unreasonable searches and
seizure.[79] The trial court found that Dela Cruz voluntarily gave his consent to the search. [80]

Dela Cruz's claim that his bag was switched is also baseless.[81] The witnesses categorically testified that
Dela Cruz was "in possession of the bag before it went through the x-ray machine, and he was also in
possession of the same bag that contained the firearms when he was apprehended."[82]

Dela Cruz raised the lone issue of "whether the Court of Appeals gravely erred in finding [him] guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged despite the failure of the prosecution to establish his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt[.]"[83]

The issues for resolution in this case are:

First, whether petitioner Erwin Libo-on Dela Cruz was in possession of the illegal firearms within the meaning
of the Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7764, in relation to Section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881;

Second, whether petitioner waived his right against unreasonable searches and seizures; and

Lastly, assuming that there was no waiver, whether there was a valid search and seizure in this case.

We deny the Petition.

The present criminal case was brought to this court under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The penalty imposed
on petitioner by the trial court is material in determining the mode of appeal to this court. A petition for
review on certiorari under Rule 45 must be differentiated from appeals under Rule 124, Section
13[84] involving cases where the lower court imposed on the accused the penalty of reclusion perpetua, life
imprisonment, or, previously, death.[85]

In Mercado v. People:[86]

Where the Court of Appeals finds that the imposable penalty in a criminal case brought to it on appeal is at
least reclusion perpetua, death or life imprisonment, then it should impose such penalty, refrain from
entering judgment thereon, certify the case and elevate the entire records to this Court for review. This will
obviate the unnecessary, pointless and time-wasting shuttling of criminal cases between this Court and the
Court of Appeals, for by then this Court will acquire jurisdiction over the case from the very inception and
can, without bothering the Court of Appeals which has fully completed the exercise of its jurisdiction, do
justice in the case.

On the other hand, where the Court of Appeals imposes a penalty less than reclusion perpetua, a review of
the case may be had only by petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 where only errors or questions
of law may be raised.[87] (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

It is settled that in petitions for review on certiorari, only questions of law are reviewed by this court. [88] The
rule that only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review under Rule 45 is based on sound and
practical policy considerations stemming from the differing natures of a question of law and a question of
fact:

A question of law exists when the doubt or controversy concerns the correct application of law or
jurisprudence to a certain set of facts; or when the issue does not call for an examination of the probative
value of the evidence presented, the truth or falsehood of facts being admitted. A question of fact exists
when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of facts or when the query invites calibration
of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of the witnesses, the existence and relevancy of
specific surrounding circumstances as well as their relation to each other and to the whole, and the
probability of the situation.[89]
Concomitantly, factual findings of the lower courts as affirmed by the Court of Appeals are binding on this
court.[90]

In contrast, an appeal in a criminal case "throws the whole case open for review[.]" [91] The underlying
principle is that errors in an appealed judgment, even if not specifically assigned, may be corrected motu
propio by the court if the consideration of these errors is necessary to arrive at a just resolution of the
case.[92] Nevertheless, "the right to appeal is neither a natural right nor a part of due process, it being
merely a statutory privilege which may be exercised only in the manner provided for by law[.]" [93]

II

Petitioner argues that the firearms found in his bag were not his. Thus, he could not be liable for possessing
the contraband. Key to the resolution of this case is whether petitioner possessed firearms without the
necessary authorization from the Commission on Elections. Petitioner was charged under special laws:
Republic Act No. 8294 and Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7764, in relation to Section 261 of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 881.

The law applicable is Section 2(a) of Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7764, which provides:

SECTION 2. Prohibitions. During the election period from January 14, 2007 it shall be unlawful for:

a. Any person, including those possessing a permit to carry firearms outside of residence or
place of business, to bear, carry or transport firearms or other deadly weapons in public places
including any building, street, park, private vehicle or public conveyance. For the purpose
firearm includes airgun, while deadly weapons include hand grenades or other explosives,
except pyrotechnics[.]

Section 261 (q) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 states:

Section 261. Prohibited Acts. - The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
. . . .

(q) Carrying firearms outside residence or place of business. - Any person who, although possessing a permit
to carry firearms, carries any firearms outside his residence or place of business during the election period,
unless authorized in writing by the Commission: Provided, That a motor vehicle, water or air craft shall not
be considered a residence or place of business or extension hereof. (Par. (1), Id.)

This prohibition shall not apply to cashiers and disbursing officers while in the performance of their duties
or to persons who by nature of their official duties, profession, business or occupation habitually carry large
sums of money or valuables.

For a full understanding of the nature of the constitutional rights involved, we will examine three (3) points
of alleged intrusion into the right to privacy of petitioner: first, when petitioner gave his bag for x-ray
scanning to port authorities; second, when the baggage inspector opened petitioner's bag and called the
Port Authority Police; and third, when the police officer opened the bag to search, retrieve, and seize the
firearms and ammunition.

III

The first point of intrusion occurred when petitioner presented his bag for inspection to port personnel—the
x-ray machine operator and baggage inspector manning the x-ray machine station.[94] With regard to
searches and seizures, the standard imposed on private persons is different from that imposed on state
agents or authorized government authorities.

In People v. Marti,[95] the private forwarding and shipping company, following standard operating procedure,
opened packages sent by accused Andre Marti for shipment to Zurich, Switzerland and detected a peculiar
odor from the packages.[96] The representative from the company found dried marijuana leaves in the
packages.[97] He reported the matter to the National Bureau of Investigation and brought the samples to
the Narcotics Section of the Bureau for laboratory examination. [98] Agents from the National Bureau of
Investigation subsequently took custody of the illegal drugs.[99] Andre Marti was charged with and was found
guilty of violating Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act. [100]

This court held that there was no unreasonable search or seizure.[101] The evidence obtained against the
accused was not procured by the state acting through its police officers or authorized government
agencies.[102] The Bill of Rights does not govern relationships between individuals; it cannot be invoked
against the acts of private individuals:[103]
If the search is made upon the request of law enforcers, a warrant must generally be first secured if it is to
pass the test of constitutionality. However, if the search is made at the behest or initiative of the proprietor
of a private establishment for its own and private purposes, as in the case at bar, and without the
intervention of police authorities, the right against unreasonable search and seizure cannot be invoked for
only the act of private individual, not the law enforcers, is involved. In sum, the protection against
unreasonable searches and seizures cannot be extended to acts committed by private individuals so as to
bring it within the ambit of alleged unlawful intrusion by the government. [104]

Hence, by virtue of Marti, items seized pursuant to a reasonable search conducted by private persons are
not covered by the exclusionary rule.[105]

To determine whether the intrusion by the port personnel in this case was committed by private or public
persons, we revisit the history and organizational structure of the Philippine Ports Authority.

Port security measures are consistent with the country's aim to develop transportation and trade in
conjunction with national and economic growth. In 1974, the Philippine Ports Authority was created for the
reorganization of port administration and operation functions. [106] The Philippine Ports Authority's Charter
was later revised through Presidential Decree No. 857. The Revised Charter provided that the Authority
may:

after consultation with relevant Government agencies, make rules or regulations for the planning,
development, construction, maintenance, control, supervision and management of any Port or Port District
and the services to be provided therein, and for the maintenance of good order therein, and generally for
carrying out the process of this Decree.[107]

The Philippine Ports Authority was subsequently given police authority through Executive Order No.
513,[108] which provides:

Sec. 2. Section 6 is hereby amended by adding a new paragraph to read as follows:


Section 6-c. Police Authority - The Authority shall have such police authority within the ports administered
by it as may be necessary to carry out its powers and functions and attain its purposes and objectives,
without prejudice to the exercise of the functions of the Bureau of Customs and other law enforcement
bodies within the area. Such police authority shall include the following:

a) To provide security to cargoes, port equipment, structure, facilities, personnel and documents: Provided,
however, That in ports of entry, physical security to import and export cargoes shall be exercised jointly
with the Bureau of Customs;

b) To regulate the entry to, exit from, and movement within the port, of persons and vehicles, as well as
movement within the port of watercraft;

c) To maintain peace and order inside the port, in coordination with local police authorities;

d) To supervise private security agencies operating within the port area; and

e) To enforce rules and regulations promulgated by the Authority pursuant to law. (Emphasis supplied)

In 1992, the Cebu Port Authority was created to specifically administer all ports located in the Province of
Cebu.[109] The Cebu Port Authority is a "public-benefit corporation . . . under the supervision of the
Department of Transportation and Communications for purposes of policy coordination." [110] Control of the
ports was transferred to the Cebu Port Authority on January 1, 1996, when its operations officially began. [111]

In 2004, the Office for Transportation Security was designated as the "single authority responsible for the
security of the transportation systems [in] the country[.]"[112] Its powers and functions included providing
security measures for all transportation systems in the country:

b. Exercise operational control and supervision over all units of law enforcement agencies and agency
personnel providing security services in the transportation systems, except for motor vehicles in land
transportation, jointly with the heads of the bureaus or agencies to which the units or personnel organically
belong or are assigned;

c. Exercise responsibility for transportation security operations including, but not limited to, security
screening of passengers, baggage and cargoes, and hiring, retention, training and testing of security
screening personnel;

d. In coordination with the appropriate agencies and/or instrumentalities of the government, formulate,
develop, promulgate and implement comprehensive security plans, policies, measures, strategies and
programs to ably and decisively deal with any threat to the security of transportation systems, and
continually review, assess and upgrade such security plans, policies, measures, strategies and programs, to
improve and enhance transportation security and ensure the adequacy of these security measures;

e. Examine and audit the performance of transportation security personnel, equipment and facilities, and,
thereafter, establish, on a continuing basis, performance standards for such personnel, equipment and
facilities, including for the training of personnel;

f. Prepare a security manual/master plan or programme which shall prescribe the rules and regulations for
the efficient and safe operation of all transportation systems, including standards for security screening
procedures, prior screening or profiling of individuals for the issuance of security access passes, and
determination of levels of security clearances for personnel of the OTS, the DOTC and its attached agencies,
and other agencies of the government;

g. Prescribe security and safety standards for all transportation systems in accordance with existing laws,
rules, regulations and international conventions;

h. Subject to the approval of the Secretary of the DOTC, issue Transportation Security Regulations/Rules
and amend, rescind or revise such regulations or rules as may be necessary for the security of the
transportation systems of the country[.][113] (Emphasis supplied)

The Cebu Port Authority has adopted security measures imposed by the Office for Transportation Security,
including the National Security Programme for Sea Transport and Maritime Infrastructure.[114]

The Cebu Port Authority is clothed with authority by the state to oversee the security of persons and vehicles
within its ports. While there is a distinction between port personnel and port police officers in this case,
considering that port personnel are not necessarily law enforcers, both should be considered agents of
government under Article III of the Constitution. The actions of port personnel during routine security checks
at ports have the color of a state-related function.

In People v. Malngan,[115] barangay tanod and the Barangay Chairman were deemed as law enforcement
officers for purposes of applying Article III of the Constitution. [116] In People v. Lauga,[117] this court held
that a "bantay bayan," in relation to the authority to conduct a custodial investigation under Article III,
Section 12[118] of the Constitution, "has the color of a state-related function and objective insofar as the
entitlement of a suspect to his constitutional rights[.]" [119]

Thus, with port security personnel's functions having the color of state-related functions and deemed agents
of government, Marti is inapplicable in the present case. Nevertheless, searches pursuant to port security
measures are not unreasonable per se. The security measures of x-ray scanning and inspection in domestic
ports are akin to routine security procedures in airports.

In People v. Suzuki,[120] the accused "entered the pre-departure area of the Bacolod Airport
Terminal."[121] He was "bound for Manila via flight No. 132 of the Philippine Airlines and was carrying a small
traveling bag and a box marked 'Bongbong's piaya."[122] The accused "proceeded to the 'walk through metal
detector,' a machine which produces a red light and an alarm once it detects the presence of metallic
substance or object."[123] "Thereupon, the red light switched on and the alarm sounded, signifying the
presence of metallic substance either in his person or in the box he was carrying." [124] When the accused
was asked to open the content of the box, he answered "open, open."[125] Several packs of dried marijuana
fruiting tops were then found inside the box.[126] Suzuki argued that the box was only given to him as
"pasalubong" by a certain Pinky, whom he had sexual relations with the night before.[127] He did not know
the contents of the box.[128]

This court in Suzuki found that the search conducted on the accused was a valid exception to the prohibition
against warrantless searches as it was pursuant to a routine airport security procedure: [129]

It is axiomatic that a reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula but is to be resolved
according to the facts of each case. Given the circumstances obtaining here, we find the search conducted
by the airport authorities reasonable and, therefore, not violative of his constitutional rights. Hence, when
the search of the box of piaya revealed several marijuana fruiting tops, appellant is deemed to have been
caught in flagrante delicto, justifying his arrest even without a warrant under Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the
Rules of Criminal Procedure. The packs of marijuana obtained in the course of such valid search are thus
admissible as evidence against appellant.[130] (Citations omitted)

The reason behind it is that there is a reasonable reduced expectation of privacy when coming into airports
or ports of travel:

Persons may lose the protection of the search and seizure clause by exposure of their persons or property
to the public in a manner reflecting a lack of subjective expectation of privacy, which expectation society is
prepared to recognize as reasonable. Such recognition is implicit in airport security procedures. With
increased concern over airplane hijacking and terrorism has come increased security at the nation's airports.
Passengers attempting to board an aircraft routinely pass through metal detectors; their carry-on baggage
as well as checked luggage are routinely subjected to x-ray scans. Should these procedures suggest the
presence of suspicious objects, physical searches are conducted to determine what the objects are. There
is little question that such searches are reasonable, given their minimal intrusiveness, the gravity of the
safety interests involved, and the reduced privacy expectations associated with airline travel. Indeed,
travelers are often notified through airport public address systems, signs and notices in their airline tickets
that they are subject to search and, if any prohibited materials or substances are found, such would be
subject to seizure. These announcements place passengers on notice that ordinary constitutional protections
against warrantless searches and seizures do not apply to routine airport procedures. [131] (Emphasis
supplied, citations omitted)

This rationale was reiterated more recently in Sales v. People.[132] This court in Sales upheld the validity of
the search conducted as part of the routine security check at the old Manila Domestic Airport—now Terminal
1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. [133]

Port authorities were acting within their duties and functions when it used x-ray scanning machines for
inspection of passengers' bags.[134] When the results of the x-ray scan revealed the existence of firearms in
the bag, the port authorities had probable cause to conduct a search of petitioner's bag. Notably, petitioner
did not contest the results of the x-ray scan.

IV

Was the search rendered unreasonable at the second point of intrusion—when the baggage inspector opened
petitioner's bag and called the attention of the port police officer?

We rule in the negative.

The port personnel's actions proceed from the authority and policy to ensure the safety of travelers and
vehicles within the port. At this point, petitioner already submitted himself and his belongings to inspection
by placing his bag in the x-ray scanning machine.

The presentation of petitioner's bag for x-ray scanning was voluntary. Petitioner had the choice of whether
to present the bag or not. He had the option not to travel if he did not want his bag scanned or inspected.
X-ray machine scanning and actual inspection upon showing of probable cause that a crime is being or has
been committed are part of reasonable security regulations to safeguard the passengers passing through
ports or terminals. Probable cause is:

reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to induce a


cautious man to believe that the person accused is guilty of the offense charged. It refers to the existence
of such facts and circumstances that can lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an
offense has been committed, and that the items, articles or objects sought in connection with said offense
or subject to seizure and destruction by law are in the place to be searched. [135]

It is not too burdensome to be considered as an affront to an ordinary person's right to travel if weighed
against the safety of all passengers and the security in the port facility.

As one philosopher said, the balance between authority and an individual's liberty may be confined within
the harm that the individual may cause others. John Stuart Mill's "harm principle" provides:

[T]he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty
of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully
exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own
good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear
because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of
others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or
reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with
any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be
calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable
to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is,
of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.[136]

Any perceived curtailment of liberty due to the presentation of person and effects for port security measures
is a permissible intrusion to privacy when measured against the possible harm to society caused by lawless
persons.

A third point of intrusion to petitioner's right to privacy occurred during petitioner's submission to port
security measures. This court should determine whether the requirements for a valid waiver against
unreasonable searches and seizures were met.
After detection of the firearms through the x-ray scanning machine and inspection by the baggage inspector,
Officer Abregana was called to inspect petitioner's bag.

The Constitution safeguards a person's right against unreasonable searches and seizures. [137] A warrantless
search is presumed to be unreasonable.[138] However, this court lays down the exceptions where warrantless
searches are deemed legitimate: (1) warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest; (2) seizure in "plain
view"; (3) search of a moving vehicle; (4) consented warrantless search; (5) customs search; (6) stop and
frisk; and (7) exigent and emergency circumstances. [139]

In Caballes v. Court of Appeals:[140]

In case of consented searches or waiver of the constitutional guarantee against obtrusive searches, it is
fundamental that to constitute a waiver, it must first appear that (1) the right exists; (2) that the person
involved had knowledge, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such right; and (3) the said person
had an actual intention to relinquish the right.[141]

Petitioner anchors his case on the claim that he did not validly consent to the search conducted by the port
authorities. He argues that he did not have an actual intention to relinquish his right against a warrantless
search.

In cases involving the waiver of the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, events must be
weighed in its entirety. The trial court's findings show that petitioner presented his bag for scanning in the
x-ray machine.[142] When his bag went through the x-ray machine and the firearms were detected, he
voluntarily submitted his bag for inspection to the port authorities:

Prosecutor Narido:

Q. What did he tell you?

A. I asked him if I can check his bag?

Q. What was his response?

A. He consented and cooperated. I checked the bag.[143]

It was after the port personnel's inspection that Officer Abregana's attention was called and the bag was
inspected anew with petitioner's consent.[144]

"[A]ppellate courts accord the highest respect to the assessment of witnesses' credibility by the trial court,
because the latter was in a better position to observe their demeanor and deportment on the witness stand."
We do not find anything erroneous as to the findings of fact of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals.

There was probable cause that petitioner was committing a crime leading to the search of his personal
effects. As the trial court found:

Given the circumstances obtaining here, the court finds the search conducted by the port authorities
reasonable and, therefore, not violative of the accused's constitutional rights. Hence, when the search of
the bag of the accused revealed the firearms and ammunitions, accused is deemed to have been caught in
flagrante delicto, justifying his arrest even without a warrant under Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of
Criminal Procedure. The firearms and ammunitions obtained in the course of such valid search are thus
admissible as evidence against [the] accused.[146]

Similar to the accused in People v. Kagui Malasugui[174] and People v. Omaweng[148] who permitted
authorities to search their persons and premises without a warrant, petitioner is now precluded from claiming
an invalid warrantless search when he voluntarily submitted to the search on his person. In addition,
petitioner's consent to the search at the domestic port was not given under intimidating or coercive
circumstances.[149]

This case should be differentiated from that of Aniag, Jr. v. Commission on Elections,[150] which involved the
search of a moving vehicle at a checkpoint.[151] In that case, there was no implied acquiescence to the search
since the checkpoint set up by the police authorities was conducted without proper consultation, and it left
motorists without any choice except to subject themselves to the checkpoint:

It may be argued that the seeming acquiescence of Arellano to the search constitutes an implied waiver of
petitioner's right to question the reasonableness of the search of the vehicle and the seizure of the firearms.

While Resolution No. 2327 authorized the setting up of checkpoints, it however stressed that "guidelines
shall be made to ensure that no infringement of civil and political rights results from the implementation of
this authority," and that "the places and manner of setting up of checkpoints shall be determined in
consultation with the Committee on Firearms Ban and Security Personnel created under Sec. 5,
Resolution No. 2323." The facts show that PNP installed the checkpoint at about five o'clock in the afternoon
of 13 January 1992. The search was made soon thereafter, or thirty minutes later. It was not shown that
news of impending checkpoints without necessarily giving their locations, and the reason for the same have
been announced in the media to forewarn the citizens. Nor did the informal checkpoint that afternoon carry
signs informing the public of the purpose of its operation. As a result, motorists passing that place did not
have any inkling whatsoever about the reason behind the instant exercise. With the authorities in control to
stop and search passing vehicles, the motorists did not have any choice but to submit to the PNP's scrutiny.
Otherwise, any attempt to turnabout albeit innocent would raise suspicion and provide probable cause for
the police to arrest the motorist and to conduct an extensive search of his vehicle.

In the case of petitioner, only his driver was at the car at that time it was stopped for inspection. As conceded
by COMELEC, driver Arellano did not know the purpose of the checkpoint. In the face of fourteen (14) armed
policemen conducting the operation, driver Arellano being alone and a mere employee of petitioner could
not have marshalled the strength and the courage to protest against the extensive search conducted in the
vehicle. In such scenario, the "implied acquiescence," if there was any, could not be more than a mere
passive conformity on Arellano's part to the search, and "consent" given under intimidating or coercive
circumstances is noconsent within the purview of the constitutional guaranty.[152] (Emphasis supplied,
citations omitted)

We also cannot subscribe to petitioner's argument that there was no . valid consent to the search because
his consent was premised on his belief that there were no prohibited items in his bag. The defendant's belief
that no incriminating evidence would be found does not automatically negate valid consent to the search
when incriminating items are found. His or her belief must be measured against the totality of the
circumstances.[153] Again, petitioner voluntarily submitted himself to port security measures and, as he
claimed during trial, he was familiar with the security measures since he had been traveling back and forth
through the sea port.

Consequently, we find respondent's argument that the present petition falls under a valid consented search
and during routine port security procedures meritorious. The search conducted on petitioner's bag is valid.

VI

The consented search conducted on petitioner's bag is different from a customs search.

Customs searches, as exception to the requirement of a valid search warrant, are allowed when "persons
exercising police authority under the customs law . . . effect search and seizure ... in the enforcement of
customs laws."[154] The Tariff and Customs Code provides the authority for such warrantless search, as this
court ruled in Papa, et at. v. Mago, et al.:[155]

The Code authorizes persons having police authority under Section 2203 of the Tariff and Customs Code to
enter, pass through or search any land, inclosure, warehouse, store or building, not being a dwelling house;
and also to inspect, search and examine any vessel or aircraft and any trunk, package, box or envelope or
any person on board, or stop and search and examine any vehicle, beast or person suspected of holding or
conveying any dutiable or prohibited article introduced into the Philippines contrary to law, without
mentioning the need of a search warrant in said cases.[156] (Citation omitted)

The ruling in Papa was echoed in Salvador v. People,[157] in that the state's policy to combat smuggling must
not lose to the difficulties posed by the debate on whether the state has the duty to accord constitutional
protection to dutiable articles on which duty has not been paid, as with a person's papers and/or effects.[158]

Hence, to be a valid customs search, the requirements are: (1) the person/s conducting the search was/were
exercising police authority under customs law; (2) the search was for the enforcement of customs law; and
(3) the place searched is not a dwelling place or house. Here, the facts reveal that the search was part of
routine port security measures. The search was not conducted by persons authorized under customs law. It
was also not motivated by the provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code or other customs laws. Although
customs searches usually occur within ports or terminals, it is important that the search must be for the
enforcement of customs laws.

VII

In violations of the Gun Ban, the accused must be "in possession of a firearm . . . outside of his residence
within the period of the election gun ban imposed by the COMELEC sans authority[.]"[159]

In Abenes v. Court of Appeals,[160] this court enumerated the elements for a violation of the Gun Ban: "1)
the person is bearing, carrying, or transporting firearms or other deadly weapons; 2) such possession occurs
during the election period; and, 3) the weapon is carried in a public place." [161] This court also ruled that
under the Omnibus Election Code, the burden to show that he or she has a written authority to possess a
firearm is on the accused.[162]
We find that the prosecution was able to establish all the requisites for violation of the Gun Ban. The firearms
were found inside petitioner's bag. Petitioner did not present any valid authorization to carry the firearms
outside his residence during the period designated by the Commission on Elections. He was carrying the
firearms in the Cebu Domestic Port, which was a public place.

However, petitioner raised the following circumstances in his defense: (1) that he was a frequent traveler
and was, thus, knowledgeable about the security measures at the terminal; (2) that he left his bag with a
porter for a certain amount of time; and (3) that he voluntarily put his bag on the x-ray machine for
voluntary inspection. All these circumstances were left uncontested by the prosecution.

This court is now asked to determine whether these circumstances are sufficient to raise reasonable doubt
on petitioner's guilt.

When petitioner claimed that someone planted the illegal firearms in his bag, the burden of evidence to
prove this allegation shifted to him. The shift in the burden of evidence does not equate to the reversal of
the presumption of innocence. In People v. Villanueva,[163] this court discussed the difference between
burden of proof and burden of evidence, and when the burden of evidence shifts to the accused:

Indeed, in criminal cases, the prosecution bears the onus to prove beyond reasonable doubt not only the
commission of the crime but likewise to establish, with the same quantum of proof, the identity of the person
or persons responsible therefor. This burden of proof does not shift to the defense but remains in the
prosecution throughout the trial. However, when the prosecution has succeeded in discharging the burden
of proof by presenting evidence sufficient to convince the court of the truth of the allegations in the
information or has established a prima facie case against the accused, the burden of evidence shifts to the
accused making it incumbent upon him to adduce evidence in order to meet and nullify, if not to overthrow,
that prima facie case.[164] (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)

Petitioner failed to negate the prosecution's evidence that he had animus possidendi or the intent to possess
the illegal firearms. In People v. De Gracia, this court elucidated on the concept of animus possidendi and
the importance of the intent to commit an act prohibited by law as differentiated from criminal intent. [166] The
accused was charged with the qualified offense of illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion
under Presidential Decree No. 1866 resulting from the coup d'etat staged in 1989 by the Reform Armed
Forces Movement - Soldiers of the Filipino People.[167] This court held that the actions of the accused
established his intent to possess the illegal firearms:

When the crime is punished by a special law, as a rule, intent to commit the crime is not necessary. It is
sufficient that the offender has the intent to perpetrate the act prohibited by the special law. Intent to
commit the crime and intent to perpetrate the act must be distinguished. A person may not have consciously
intended to commit a crime; but he did intend to commit an act, and that act is, by the very nature of
things, the crime itself. In the first (intent to commit the crime), there must be criminal intent; in the second
(intent to perpetrate the act) it is enough that the prohibited act is done freely and consciously.

In the present case, a distinction should be made between criminal intent and intent to possess. While mere
possession, without criminal intent, is sufficient to convict a person for illegal possession of a firearm, it
must still be shown that there was animus possidendi or an intent to possess on the part of the
accused. Such intent to possess is, however, without regard to any other criminal or felonious intent which
the accused may have harbored in possessing the firearm. Criminal intent here refers to the intention of the
accused to commit an offense with the use of an unlicensed firearm. This is not important in convicting a
person under Presidential Decree No. 1866. Hence, in order that one may be found guilty of a violation of
the decree, it is sufficient that the accused had no authority or license to possess a firearm, and that he
intended to possess the same, even if such possession was made in good faith and without criminal intent.

Concomitantly, a temporary, incidental, casual, or harmless possession or control of a firearm cannot be


considered a violation of a statute prohibiting the possession of this kind of weapon, such as Presidential
Decree No. 1866. Thus, although there is physical or constructive possession, for as long as the animus
possidendi is absent, there is no offense committed.

Coming now to the case before us, there is no doubt in our minds that appellant De Gracia is indeed guilty
of having intentionally possessed several firearms, explosives and ammunition without the requisite license
or authority therefor. Prosecution witness Sgt. Oscar Abenia categorically testified that he was the first one
to enter the Eurocar Sales Office when the military operatives raided the same, and he saw De Gracia
standing in the room and holding the several explosives marked in evidence as Exhibits D to D-4. At first,
appellant denied any knowledge about the explosives. Then, he alternatively contended that his act of
guarding the explosives for and in behalf of Col. Matillano does not constitute illegal possession thereof
because there was no intent on his part to possess the same, since he was merely employed as an errand
boy of Col. Matillano. His pretension of impersonal or indifferent material possession does not and cannot
inspire credence.

Animus possidendi is a state of mind which may be determined on a case to case basis, taking into
consideration the prior and coetaneous acts of the accused and the surrounding circumstances. What exists
in the realm of thought is often disclosed in the range of action. It is not controverted that appellant De
Gracia is a former soldier, having served with the Philippine Constabulary prior to his separation from the
service for going on absence without leave (AWOL). We do not hesitate, therefore, to believe and conclude
that he is familiar with and knowledgeable about the dynamites, "molotov" bombs, and various kinds of
ammunition which were confiscated by the military from his possession. As a former soldier, it would be
absurd for him not to know anything about the dangerous uses and power of these weapons. A fortiori, he
cannot feign ignorance on the import of having in his possession such a large quantity of explosives and
ammunition. Furthermore, the place where the explosives were found is not a military camp or office, nor
one where such items can ordinarily but lawfully be stored, as in a gun store, an arsenal or armory. Even
an ordinarily prudent man would be put on guard and be suspicious if he finds articles of this nature in a
place intended to carry out the business of selling cars and which has nothing to do at all, directly or
indirectly, with the trade of firearms and ammunition.[168] (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

The disquisition in De Gracia on the distinction between criminal intent and intent to possess, which is
relevant to convictions for illegal possession of firearms, was reiterated in Del Rosario v. People.[169] This
court ruled that "[i]n the absence of animus possidendi, the possessor of a Firearms incurs no criminal
liability.”[170]

In this case, petitioner failed to prove that his possession of the illegal firearms seized from his bag was
“temporary, incidental, casual, or harmless possession[.]” [171] As put by the trial court, petitioner’s claim
that anyone could have planted the firearms in his bag while it was unattended is flimsy.[172] There are dire
consequences in accepting this claim at face value, particularly that no one will be caught and convicted of
illegal possession of firearms.

Courts must also weigh the accused’s claim against the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
This includes determination of: (1) the motive of whoever allegedly planted the illegal firearms(s); (2)
whether there was opportunity to plant the illegal firearms(s); and (3) reasonableness of the situation
creating the opportunity.

Petitioner merely claims that someone must have planted the firearms when he left his bag with the porter.
He did not identify who this person could have been and he did not state any motive for this person to plant
the firearms in his possession, even if there was indeed an opportunity to plant the firearms.

However, this court is mindful that, owing to the nature of his work, petitioner was a frequent traveler who
is well-versed with port security measure. We cannot accept that an average reasonable person aware of
travel security measures would leave his belongings with a stranger for a relatively long period of time. Also,
records show that petitioner had only (1) bag. There was no evidence to show that a robust young man like
petitioner would have been need of the porter’s services. The defense did not identify nor present this porter
with whom petitioner left his bag.

VIII

The trial court was correct when it dismissed Criminal Case No. CBU-80084 for violation of Republic Act no.
8294, otherwise known as illegal possession of firearms. Section 1 of Republic Act No. 8294 provides:

SECTION 1. Section 1 of Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as
follows:

SECTION 1. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition


or Instruments Used or Intended to be Used in the Manufacture of Firearms or Ammunition. - The penalty
of prision correccional in its maximum period and a fine of not less than Fifteen thousand pesos (P15,000)
shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully manufacture, deal in, acquire, dispose, or possess
any low powered firearm, such as rimfire handgun, .380 or .32 and other firearm of similar firepower, part
of firearm, ammunition, or machinery, tool or instrument used or intended to be used in the manufacture
of any firearm or ammunition: Provided, That no other crime was committed. (Emphasis supplied)

Agote v. Judge Lorenzo[173] already settled the question of whether there can be a "separate offense of
illegal possession of firearms and ammunition if there is another crime committed[.]" [174] In that case, the
petitioner was charged with both illegal possession of firearms and violation of the Gun Ban under
Commission on Elections Resolution No. 2826.[175] This court acquitted petitioner in the case for illegal
possession of firearms since he simultaneously violated the Gun Ban. [176] This court also held that the
unlicensed firearm need not be actually used in the course of committing the other crime for the application
of Section 1 of Republic Act No. 8294.[177]

Similarly, Madrigal v. People[178] applied the ruling in Agote and held that Section 1 of Republic Act No. 8294
is express in its terms that a person may not be convicted for illegal possession of firearms if another crime
was committed.[179]

IX
We note that the trial court imposed the penalty of imprisonment for a period of one (1) year and to suffer
disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right to suffrage. Under Section 264 of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 881, persons found guilty of an election offense "shall be punished with imprisonment of not
less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation." [180] The Indeterminate
Sentence Law applies to offenses punished by both the Revised Penal Code and special laws. [181]

The penalty to be imposed is a matter of law that courts must follow. The trial court should have provided
minimum and maximum terms for petitioner's penalty of imprisonment as required by the Indeterminate
Sentence Law.[182] Accordingly, we modify the penalty imposed by the trial court. Based on the facts, we
deem it reasonable that petitioner be penalized with imprisonment of one (1) year as minimum to two (2)
years as maximum.[183]

The records are unclear whether petitioner is currently detained by the state or is out on bail. Petitioner's
detention is relevant in determining whether he has already served more than the penalty imposed upon
him by the trial court as modified by this court, or whether he is qualified to the credit of his preventive
imprisonment with his service of sentence.

Article 29[184] of the Revised Penal Code states:

ART. 29. Period of preventive imprisonment deducted from term of imprisonment. - Offenders or accused
who have undergone preventive imprisonment shall be credited in the service of their sentence consisting
of deprivation of liberty, with the full time during which they have undergone preventive imprisonment if
the detention prisoner agrees voluntarily in writing after being informed of the effects thereof and with the
assistance of counsel to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, except in
the following cases:

1. When they are recidivists, or have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime; and

2. When upon being summoned for the execution of their sentence they have failed to surrender voluntarily.

If the detention prisoner does not agree to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted
prisoners, he shall do so in writing with the assistance of a counsel and shall be credited in the service of
his sentence with four-fifths of the time during which he has undergone preventive imprisonment.

Credit for preventive imprisonment for the penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be deducted from thirty (30)
years.

Whenever an accused has undergone preventive imprisonment for a period equal to the possible maximum
imprisonment of the offense charged to which he may be sentenced and his case is not yet terminated, he
shall be released immediately without prejudice to the continuation of the trial thereof or the proceeding on
appeal, if the same is under review. Computation of preventive imprisonment for purposes of immediate
release under this paragraph shall be the actual period of detention with good conduct time allowance:
Provided, however, That if the accused is absent without justifiable cause at any stage of the trial, the court
may motu proprio order the rearrest of the accused: Provided, finally, That recidivists, habitual delinquents,
escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act. In case the
maximum penalty to which the accused may be sentenced is lestierro [sic], he shall be released after thirty
(30) days of preventive imprisonment.

In case credit of preventive imprisonment is due, petitioner must first signify his agreement to the conditions
set forth in Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code.[185] If petitioner has already served more than the penalty
imposed upon him by the trial court, then his immediate release from custody is in order unless detained
for some other lawful cause.[186]

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated September 8, 2012 and the
Resolution dated August 23, 2013 in CA-GR CEB CR No. 01606 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS.
Petitioner Erwin Libo-On Dela Cruz is sentenced to imprisonment of one (1) year as minimum to two (2)
years as maximum in accordance with the Indeterminate Sentence Law. The period of his preventive
imprisonment shall be credited in his favor if he has given his written conformity to abide by the disciplinary
rules imposed upon convicted prisoners in accordance with Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended, and if he is not out on bail.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION
[ G.R. No. 195224, June 15, 2016 ]

VIRGINIA JABALDE Y JAMANDRON, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the
Decision[2] dated August 12, 2010 and the Resolution[3] dated January 4, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CR No. 00424, which affirmed with modification the Judgment[4] promulgated on May 31, 2006
of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, Branch 63, in Criminal Case No. 210,
finding Virginia Jabalde y Jamandron (Jabalde) guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 10(a),
Article VI, of Republic Act (R.A) No. 7610, otherwise known as the "Special Protection of Children Against
Abuse, Exploitation, Discrimination Act."

The Antecedent Facts

The CA narrated the facts as follows:

Jabalde pleaded "not guilty" in a criminal information dated October 14, 2002, for violation of Section 10(a),
Article VI, of R.A. No. 7610, before the RTC of Dumaguete City, Branch 31,[5] which reads:
That on December 13, 2000 at 9:00 o'clock in the morning, more or less, in Barangay Cawitan,
Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, [Jabalde],
with cruelty and with intent to abuse, maltreat and injure one LIN J. BITOON, 8 years of age, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously slap and strike said Lin J. Bitoon, hitting said
Lin J. Bitoon on the latter's nape; and immediately thereafter[,] [c]hoke the said offended party,
causing the latter to sustain the following injuries: Abrasions: Two (2), linear 1 cm in length at
the base of the right mandibular area; One (1), linear 1 inch at the right lateral neck; Two (2),
linear 1 cm in length at the anterior neck; and Four (4), minute circular at the left lateral neck,
which acts of sa[i]d accused caused the said offended part[y] not only physical but also
emotional harm prejudicial to his development.

CONTRARY to the aforesaid.[6]


The witnesses presented by the prosecution were: Lin J. Bito-on (Lin), the minor victim; Dr. Rosita Muñoz
(Dr. Muñoz), the physician who examined Lin; Ray Ann Samson (Ray Ann), the classmate of Lin who
witnessed the incident; and Aileen Bito-on (Aileen), the mother of Lin.[7]

Lin testified that in the year 2000, he was a Grade 1 pupil of Cawitan Elementary School. At around 9:00
a.m. of December 13, 2000, he was playing "langit lupa" during recess with Ray Ann, Marco, Nova and
another classmate. During the course of their game, he touched the shoulder of Nova, Jabalde's daughter,
causing the latter to fall down and wounding her head. He then helped Nova to stand while one of his
classmates called Jabalde. Afraid of what happened, he ran towards a dilapidated building, which was near
the place of the incident. Soon thereafter, Jabalde arrived and slapped him on his neck and choked him. Lin
was able to get out of her hold when he removed her hands from his neck. He immediately ran towards
their house some 500 meters away from the school. He told his mother Aileen about the incident. Thereafter,
he was brought to Sta. Catalina Hospital for treatment and a medical certificate was then issued to him. [8]

Dr. Muñoz testified that she was the physician who issued the medical certificate to Lin on December 13,
2000 for the physical examination conducted upon the latter. Dr. Muñoz stated that Lin sustained abrasions:
two (2) linear abrasions 1 cm in length at the base of the right mandibular area; one (1) linear abrasion 1
inch in length at the right lateral neck; two (2) linear abrasions 1 cm in length at the back of the neck; and
four (4) minute circular abrasions at the left lateral neck. According to her, the abrasions could have been
caused by a hard object but mildly inflicted and that these linear abrasions were signs of fingernail marks.
Moreover, the abrasions were greenish in color signifying that they were still fresh. She did not notice other
injuries on the body of Lin except those on his neck. [9]

Ray Ann, the classmate and playmate of Lin, testified that she knows Jabalde because she was a teacher at
Cawitan Elementary School. At about 9:00 a.m. of December 13, 2000, she was playing "langit lupa" with
Lin, Nova, Ryan and Rhea. Nova, who was standing on top of an unstable stone fell on the ground and
thereafter hit her head on the stone. Then, somebody called Jabalde, Nova's mother. When Jabalde came
to see her daughter, she struck Lin on his neck then squeezed it. Lin cried and was able to free himself and
ran towards their house. Jabalde then shouted, "Better that you are able to free yourself because if not I
should have killed you."[10] Ray Ann saw Lin again after their class dismissal at 11:00 a.m. when she went
to their house. Lin did not return to school again because he was afraid of Jabalde. During cross examination,
Ray Ann testified that Lin did not run into the dilapidated building after the incident and that she was near
them when Jabalde struck Lin.[11]

Aileen testified that Lin is her son who was born on September 4, 1993, and at the time of the incident, he
was still 7 years old. That at about 10:00 a.m. of December 13, 2000, Lin came home crying and trembling.
Lin told her that he was strangled by Jabalde, who happens to be Aileen's aunt and Lin's grandmother. Lin
was running back and forth crying but Aileen noticed his neck with scratches. Thereafter, she went to see
his teacher-in-charge whom she asked for details of the incident. While in the school campus, she did not
see Jabalde. She also testified that they went to Dr. Muñoz for the examination of her son's injuries.
Afterwards, they went home. Her son no longer returned to the school because of fear but they let him pass
on that school year. During cross-examination, she testified that Jabalde's house is just adjacent to their
house in Cawitan, Sta. Catalina. Aileen also filed two cases against her for stealing and physical injuries in
the year 2002 in Sta. Catalina. After she filed two cases, she then filed the instant complaint in the Provincial
Prosecution's Office in Dumaguete City. She said it took her until 2002 to file the present charges against
Jabalde because she was still pregnant during the time of the incident and that her husband was still
assigned in Surigao. She admitted that when she was still a child, she already feared Jabalde. She also
initiated the filing of the present case because she heard that if she will not file a case against Jabalde, the
latter instead will file a case against them. [12]

The defense, on the other hand, presented Jabalde herself She testified that she is a school teacher at
Cawitan Elementary School for 18 years. Lin is her grandson and that his mother Aileen is her niece. She
remembered that it was about 10:00 a.m. of December 13, 2000, she was teaching Mathematics when
some children went to her classroom and shouted "Mam Jabalde, Ma'm Jabalde, Nova's head was punctured
(nabuslot)".[13] Thinking that her daughter was dead, her vision got blurred and she fainted. When she
returned into consciousness, she sat on her chair in front of the board for about 5 to 10 minutes. The children
then came again and shouted that her daughter's head got punctured. She ran towards her daughter's
classroom while at the same time, looking for a gathering of people in the hope of finding her daughter.
But, before reaching the place of the incident, she saw her grandson Lin crying. She asked him the
whereabouts of Nova but he just kept on jumping and so she held him still. Lin said, "Lola[,] forgive me,
forgive me"[14] and immediately ran. Jabalde proceeded to her daughter's room and saw the latter seated
on the desk. Thereafter, she brought Nova to her own classroom and applied first aid. Then she resumed
teaching. She believed that there was a motive in filing the instant complaint which has something to do
with a family grudge because of inheritance.[15]

Another defense witness Rhealuz Pedrona, playmate of Nova and Lin, testified that Nova got injured while
they were playing "langit lupa" during their recess on December 13, 2000. She went to Jabalde to inform
her that Nova's head was punctured. Jabalde immediately ran to the place of incident. She, however, did
not see Jabalde slap or choke Lin.[16]

In its Judgment[17] promulgated on May 31, 2006, the RTC found Jabalde guilty beyond reasonable doubt
for violation of Section 10(a), Article VI, of R.A. No. 7610. The dispositive portion of the judgment reads:
WHEREFORE, the prosecution having proved the guilt of [Jabalde] beyond reasonable doubt of violation of
paragraph (a), Section 10, Article VI of R.A. 7610, as amended, [Jabalde] is Convicted. Appreciating in her
favor the mitigating circumstance of passion and obluscation, and applying the provisions of the
indeterminate sentence law, [Jabalde] is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment
ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional in its minimum period, as minimum to
six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor in its minimum period, as maximum

The bond posted for her temporary liberty is hereby ordered release.

SO ORDERED.[18]
Naturally dissatisfied with the trial court's decision, Jabalde appealed to the CA.

Ruling of the CA

On August 12, 2010, the CA dismissed Jabalde's appeal and affirmed the RTC decision with
modification.[19] The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the 31 May 2006 Decision, of the [RTC], Branch 63, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental,
is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that [Jabalde] is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of four (4)
years, nine (9) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6)
years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.[20]
Jabalde filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied by the CA on January 4, 2011.[21]
The Issues

1. Whether or not acts complained of are covered by the Revised Penal Code (RPC) or R.A. No.
7610.

2. Whether or not under the facts established, the lower court erred in appreciating the acts of
Jabalde as constitutive of violation of Section 10(a), Article VI of R.A. No. 7610.

Ruling of the Court


The petition is meritorious.

Jabalde posits that in her case, the act of inflicting injuries, however minute they were, is punishable under
the RPC particularly Article 266(1)[22] which defines slight physical injuries; hence, she should be punished
under the RPC and not under Section 10(a), Article VI of R.A. No. 7610.[23]

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) pointed out in its Comment [24] filed on May 24, 2011 that since the
issue was just raised for the first time on appeal by Jabalde, this is already barred by estoppel citing the
cases of People v. Francisco[25] and People v. Lazaro, Jr.[26]

The cases cited by the OSG do not apply in this case. In Francisco, the appellant assailed the order of the
trial court for failing to ascertain the voluntariness of his plea of guilt for the records show neither proof nor
a transcript of the proceedings that the appellant indeed voluntarily made a guilty plea and that he fully
understood its import. The appellant also maintained that he was not given the opportunity to present
evidence and that the case was submitted for decision immediately after the prosecution filed its offer of
evidence. In Lazaro, the appellant raised the buy-bust team's alleged non-compliance with Section 21,
Article II of R.A. No. 9165. In both cases, this Court held that issues raised for the first time on appeal are
barred by estoppel.

However, the reliance on the foregoing cases is misplaced due to different factual antecedents. Here, Jabalde
postulates that the acts complained of do not fall within the definition of R.A. No. 7610 and therefore, she
should not be convicted on the basis of the said law, to wit:
[Jabalde] postulates that other acts of child abuse falling under Section 10 (a), Art. II, R.A. 7610 is limited
to acts not punishable under the [RPC]. As the law is being defined in this section:

"Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for
other conditions prejudicial to the child's development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential
Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the [RPC], as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision
mayor in its maximum period[."]

Needless to say, acts which are covered under the [RPC] will be dealt with under the provisions of the [RPC]
and definitely, out of the context of R.A. 7610, particularly Section 10 (a). In the case of [Jabalde], the act
of inflicting injuries, however minute they were, is punishable under the [RPC] particularly Article 266 (1)
which defines slight physical injuries. The act of [Jabalde] in slapping, striking and choking [Lin], causing
abrasions on the different parts of his neck is absolutely covered within the realm of Article 266 (1). When
the offender has inflicted physical injuries which shall incapacitate the offended party for labor from one to
nine days, or shall require medical attendance during the same period, shall be punished with arresto
menor.[27] (Citations omitted)
Here, Jabalde questions the applicability of R.A. No. 7610 on the factual circumstances of the case and is
correct in claiming that the instant petition raises pure question of law [28] and not question of fact[29] as
being argued by the OSG. In Cucueco v. CA,[30] the Court discussed the distinction between questions of
law and questions of fact, to wit:
The distinction between questions of law and questions of fact has long been settled. There is a "question
of law" when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on certain state of facts, and which does
not call for an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties-litigants. On the
other hand, there is a "question of fact" when the doubt or controversy arises as to the truth or falsity of
the alleged facts. Simply put, when there is no dispute as to fact, the question of whether or not the
conclusion drawn therefrom is correct, is a question of law.

Simple as it may seem, determining the true nature and extent of the distinction is sometimes
complicated. In a case involving a "question of law," the resolution of the issue must rest solely
on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue invites a
review of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact. If the query requires a re-evaluation of
the credibility of witnesses, or the existence or relevance of surrounding circumstances and their relation to
each other, the issue in that query is factual.

x x x The test of whether a question is one of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by
the party raising the same; rather, it is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without
reviewing or evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise, it is a question of
fact.[31] (Citations omitted and emphasis ours)
"The Court has consistently ruled that a question of law exists when there is a doubt or controversy as to
what the law is on a certain state of facts. On the other hand, there is a question of fact when the doubt or
difference arises as to the truth or the alleged falsehood of the alleged facts. For a question to be one of
law, it must involve noexamination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any
of them."[32]

In the case on hand, Jabalde neither questions the veracity or the falsehood of the alleged facts nor the
sufficiency of the evidence, but the appreciation of R.A. No. 7610 on the factual circumstances of the case.
Jabalde is simply correct in raising the question of law in the instant petition.
Now, on the substantive issue of the applicability of R.A. No. 7610 in the case at bar, the Court agrees with
the contention of Jabalde in her Reply to OSG's Comment [33] that the acts complained of do not fall within
the definition of the said law, to wit:
The [OSG] in his comment is correct in saying that the issues that could be raised in a petition for review
are purely questions of law. Guided by this principle, [Jabalde] comes to this Court to raise a question of
law. [Jabalde] has been arguing when she availed of his right to appeal that the acts of the [OSG] does not
fall within the definition of R.A. 7610 and should not be convicted on the basis of the said law. This is not a
new matter that [Jabalde] raised.[34]
The law under which Jabalde was charged, tried and found guilty of violating is Section 10(a), Article VI,
of R.A. No. 7610, which states:
SEC. 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and Other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child's
Development.

(a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or to be
responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child's development including those covered
by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code,
as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period. (Emphasis ours)
Child abuse, the crime charged, is defined by Section 3(b) of R.A. No. 7610, as follows:
SEC. 3. Definition of terms. -

x x x x

(b) "Child Abuse" refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the
following:

(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;

(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a
child as a human being;

(3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or

(4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his
growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.
In the recent case of Bongalon v. People,[35] the Court expounded the definition of "child abuse" being
referred to in R.A. No. 7610. In that case, therein petitioner was similarly charged, tried, and convicted by
the lower courts with violation of Section 10(a), Article VI of R.A. No. 7610. The Court held that only when
the laying of hands is shown beyond reasonable doubt to be intended by the accused to debase, degrade or
demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being should it be punished as child abuse,
otherwise, it is punished under the RPC, to wit:
Although we affirm the factual findings of fact by the RTC and the CA to the effect that the petitioner struck
Jayson at the back with his hand and slapped Jayson on the face, we disagree with their holding that his
acts constituted child abuse within the purview of the above-quoted provisions. The records did not
establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to
debase the "intrinsic worth and dignity" of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby
intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson
to have been done at the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed
by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at
the hands of Jayson and Roldan. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to
debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was
so essential in the crime of child abuse.[36] (Emphasis ours and italics in the original)
Jabalde was accused of slapping and striking Lin, hitting the latter on his nape, and immediately thereafter,
choking the said offended party causing the latter to sustain injuries. [37] However, the records of the case
do not show that Jabalde intended to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of Lin as a
human being.

Black's Law Dictionary defined debasement as "the act of reducing the value, quality, or purity of
something."[38] Degradation, on the other hand, is "a lessening of a person's or thing's character or
quality."[39] Webster's Third New International Dictionary defined demean as "to lower in status, condition,
reputation, or character."[40]

The laying of the hands on Lin was an offshoot of Jabalde's emotional outrage after being informed that her
daughter's head was punctured, and whom she thought was already dead. In fact, her vision got blurred
and she fainted. When she returned into consciousness, she sat on her chair in front of the board for about
five to ten minutes.[41]Moreover, the testimony of the examining physician, Dr. Muñoz, belied the accusation
that Jabalde, with cruelty and with intent, abused, maltreated and injured Lin, to wit:
[T]he abrasions could have been caused by a hard object but mildly inflicted. She also testified that the
linear abrasions were signs of fingernail marks. She did not notice other injuries on the body of the victim
except those on his neck. Moreover, the abrasions were greenish in color, signifying that they were still
fresh.[42](Emphasis ours)
It would be unforeseeable that Jabalde acted with cruelty when prosecution's witness herself testified that
the abrasions suffered by Lin were just "mildly inflicted." If Jabalde indeed intended to abuse, maltreat and
injure Lin, she would have easily hurt the 7-year-old boy with heavy blows.

As a mother, the death of her child, who has the blood of her blood, and the flesh of her flesh, is the most
excruciating idea that a mother could entertain. The spontaneity of the acts of Jabalde against Lin is just a
product of the instinctive reaction of a mother to rescue her own child from harm and danger as manifested
only by mild abrasions, scratches, or scrapes suffered by Lin, thus, negating any intention on inflicting
physical injuries. Having lost the strength of her mind, she lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or
demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was so essential in the crime of
child abuse. In fine, the essential element of intent was not established with the prescribed degree of proof
required for a successful prosecution under Section 10(a), Article VI of R.A. No. 7610.

What crime, then, did Jabalde commit?

Jabalde is liable for slight physical injuries under Article 266(2) of the RPC, to wit:
ART. 266. Slight physical injuries and maltreatment - The crime of slight physical injuries shall be punished:

x x x x

2. By arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 20 pesos and censure when the offender has caused physical
injuries which do not prevent the offended party from engaging in his habitual work nor require medical
assistance.

xxxx
As found out by Dr. Muñoz, Lin only sustained abrasions namely: two linear abrasions of 1 cm in length at
the base of the right mandibular area; one linear abrasion of 1 inch in length at the right lateral neck; two
linear abrasions of 1 cm in length at the back of the neck; and four minute circular abrasions at the left
lateral neck.[43] When there is noevidence of actual incapacity of the offended parly for labor or of the
required medical attendance; or when there is no proof as to the period of the offended party's incapacity
for labor or of the required medical attendance, the offense is only slight physical injuries.[44]

Although it is found out, as discussed hereinabove, that Jabalde lacked the intent to debase, degrade or
demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the child as a human being as required under Section 10(a), Article
VI of R.A. No. 7610, her acts of laying hands against Lin showed the essential element of intent which is a
prerequisite in all crimes punishable under the RPC.

The case of Villareal v. People[45] is instructing. In that case, the Court discussed that the RPC belongs to
the classical school of thought. The criminal liability is thus based on the free will and moral blame of the
actor. The identity of mens rea - defined as a guilty mind, a guilty or wrongful purpose or criminal intent -
is the predominant consideration. In order for an intentional felony to exist, it is necessary that the act be
committed by means of "dolo" or "malice".[46]

The Court further explained that the term "dolo" or "malice" is a complex idea involving the elements of
freedom, intelligence, and intent. The element of intent is described as the state of mind accompanying an
act, especially a forbidden act. It refers to the purpose of the mind and the resolve with which a person
proceeds. On the other hand, the term "felonious" means, inter alia, malicious, villainous, and/or proceeding
from an evil heart or purpose. With these elements taken together, the requirement of intent in intentional
felony must refer to malicious intent, which is a vicious and malevolent state of mind accompanying a
forbidden act.[47]
In order to be found guilty of the felonious acts under Articles 262 to 266 of the [RPC], the employment of
physical injuries must be coupled with dolus malus. As an act that is mala in se, the existence of malicious
intent is fundamental, since injury arises from the mental state of the wrongdoer — iniuria ex affectu
facientis consistat. If there is no criminal intent, the accused cannot be found guilty of an intentional felony.
Thus, in case of physical injuries under the [RPC], there must be a specific animus iniuriandi or malicious
intention to do wrong against the physical integrity or well-being of a person, so as to incapacitate and
deprive the victim of certain bodily functions. Without proof beyond reasonable doubt of the required animus
iniuriandi, the overt act of inflicting physical injuries per se merely satisfies the elements of freedom and
intelligence in an intentional felony. The commission of the act does not, in itself, make a man guilty unless
his intentions are.[48]
In the case at bar, the positive testimonies of the minor victim Lin that Jabalde slapped him on his neck and
choked him,[49] and that of Ray Ann that she saw Jabalde struck Lin on his neck, squeezed it and then
shouted, "Better that you are able to free yourself because if not I should have killed you,"[50] deserve more
credit than Jabalde's own statement that she merely held Lin still because the latter kept on jumping. [51] The
laying of the hands and the utterance of words threatening the life of Lin established the fact that Jabalde,
indeed, intended to cause or inflict physical injuries on, much less kill, Lin.
The penalty for slight physical injuries is arresto menor, which ranges from one (1) day to thirty (30) days
of imprisonment.[52] In imposing the correct penalty, however, the Court has to consider the mitigating
circumstance of passion or obfuscation under Article 13(6). of the RPC, [53] because Jabalde lost his reason
and self-control, thereby diminishing the exercise of his will power. [54] There is passional obfuscation when
the crime was committed due to an uncontrollable burst of passion provoked by prior unjust or improper
acts, or due to a legitimate stimulus so powerful as to overcome reason. [55] For passion and obfuscation to
be considered a mitigating circumstance, it must be shown that: (1) an unlawful act sufficient to produce
passion and obfuscation was committed by the intended victim; (2) the crime was committed within a
reasonable length of time from the commission of the unlawful act that produced the obfuscation in the
accused's mind; and (3) the passion and obfuscation arose from lawful sentiments and not from a spirit of
lawlessness or revenge.[56] With her having acted under the belief that Lin had killed her daughter, Jabalde
is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation.

Arresto menor is prescribed in its minimum period (i.e. one [1] day to ten [10] days) when only mitigating
circumstance is present in the case.[57] Accordingly, with the Indeterminate Sentence Law being inapplicable
due to the penalty imposed not exceeding one year, [58] Jabalde shall suffer a penalty of one (1) day to ten
(10) days of arresto menor.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 12, 2010 and Resolution dated January 4, 2011 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 00424 are SET ASIDE; and a new judgment is ENTERED (a) finding petitioner
Virginia Jabalde y Jamandron GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of SLIGHT PHYSICAL
INJURIES under paragraph 2, Article 266, of the Revised Penal Code, and (b) sentencing her to suffer the
penalty of one (1) day to ten (10) days of arresto menor.

SO ORDERED.

[ G.R. No. 181111, August 17, 2015 ]

JACKSON PADIERNOS Y QUEJADA, JACKIE ROXAS Y GERMAN AND ROLANDO MESINA Y JAVATE, PETITIONERS, VS.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioners Jackson Padieraos y Quejada
(Padiernos), Jackie Roxas y German (Roxas) and Rolando Mesina y Javate (Mesina). The petitioners seek
the reversal of the Court of Appeals' (CA) decision [1] dated May 10, 2007 and resolution[2] dated December
20, 2007 in CA-G.R. CR No. 28920. The assailed CA rulings affirmed with modification the decision of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 66, Baler, Aurora in Criminal Case No. 3122.

The petitioners were charged as accessories to the crime of illegal possession of lumber, in violation of
Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines. According to the
Information, the petitioners took away the truck that carried the lumber to prevent its use as
evidence and to avoid its confiscation and forfeiture. The Information specifically states as follows:
That at about 6:00 o'clock in the morning on November 15, 2002, in Caragsacan, Dingalan, Aurora, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the aforesaid principals, confederating together and mutually
helping one another, did then and there, unlawfully, feloniously and willfully have in their possession and
control 818 pieces of lumber with a total volume of 10,253 board feet and valued at P133,289.00 loaded on
a ten-wheeler truck with Plate No. TFZ-747 and owned by the accused Santiago Castillo y Cruz without any
permit, license or documents from the proper authority and that at about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon
on the following day, November 16, 2002, the aforesaid accessories, confederating together and
mutually helping one another, did then and there unlawfully, feloniously and willfully take and
carry away the aforementioned ten wheeler truck with Plate No. TFZ-747 so it could not be used
as evidence and avoid confiscation and forfeiture in favor of the government as tool or instrument
of the crime, [emphasis and italics supplied]

CONTRARY TO LAW.
Accused Santiago Castillo (Santiago), Frederico Castillo (Frederico), and Roger Mostera (Mostera) remain at
large; accused Eddie Gatdula (Gatdula) pleaded not guilty as principal to the crime; while petitioners
Padiernos, Mesina, and Roxas pleaded not guilty as accessories to the crime.

Prosecution's evidence

The presented evidence of the prosecution shows that on November 15, 2002, the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources Officer (DENRO) Felimon Balico (Balico) approached a truck loaded with
lumber, which was parked at a national highway in Dingalan, Aurora (Dingalan)[3] The truck bore the name
"JEROME" with Plate No. TFZ-747. Balico requested from the truck driver, Frederico, and the truck helper,
Mostera, the lumber's supporting documents but they failed to produce any.

Balico reported the matter to SPO4 Ramil Gamboa (Gamboa) and SPO4 Romulo Derit. Thereafter, he
proceeded to the DENR office to report the incident. Some of the DENROs represented that the
transportation of the seized lumber had the required permit but they, too, failed to produce any supporting
document.

The DENRO group - composed of Balico, Tarcila Vivero (Vivero) and Rodolfo Tumagan (Tumagan) - and
the policemen, Gamboa and Romulo Derit, guarded the truck loaded with lumber.[4]

The DENRO group decided to transfer the truck and the lumber to the police station at Poblacion. They
transferred the lumber first from November 15 to November 16, 2002, and left the truck at the national
highway in Dingalan, guarded by the DENROs and some police officers. [5]

On November 16, 2002, accused Gatdula, Santiago, and petitioners Mesina, Roxas, and Padiernos arrived
at the place where the truck was being held in custody. [6]

Santiago, who claimed ownership of the truck,[7] agreed with the DENROs and the police officers to bring
the truck to the police station. Santiago gave the truck key to Mesina who volunteered to drive the truck;
while Padiernos asked Balico where the seized lumbers were. [8]

Mesina started the engine and Roxas, Santiago, and Padiernos immediately got on board at the front of the
truck. The DENRO group also got on board at the back of the truck. SPO2 Renato Mendoza (Mendoza) and
his companion, PO1 John Fajardo (Fajardo) follow on a motorcycle.

Since the truck was then parked opposite the direction to the police station, Balico thought that Mesina
would maneuver the truck so that they could proceed to the police station. To their surprise, Mesina
increased the truck's speed and headed towards the direction of Nueva Ecija, leaving behind their two
policemen escorts[9] who chased the truck and fired three warning shots. [10]

As the truck sped faster, Balico yelled "Saklolo! Saklolo!" but the truck maintained its speed. SPO2 Mendoza
corroborated this testimony; he and Fajardo saw the three DENROs waving but could not hear what they
were saying.

When the truck had exited Dingalan, SPO2 Mendoza and Fajardo decided not to pursue the truck anymore
and simply reported the incident to the Philippine Army stationed at Brgy. Tanawan.

The Philippine Army blocked the road with a 50-caliber machine gun and flagged down the truck at Brgy.
Bagting, Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija.[11]

As the truck passengers alighted, petitioner Padiernos uttered bad words to them, saying that they
had no right to apprehend the truck and the lumber. [12]

Police officers Gamboa, Joemar Balmores, Sagudang, Fajardo, and Mendoza [13] immediately proceeded to
Brgy. Bagting where they found the DENRO group, Padiernos, and Roxas. The DENROs and the policemen
proceeded back to Dingalan, with police officer Gamboa driving the truck to the police station compound.

Evidence for the defense

Mesina testified that on November 16, 2002, he was watching television with his wife and children when his
former employer, Santiago, arrived and asked him to bring the latter's truck to Cabanatuan City. He refused
Santiago's request because he knew that the truck had been engaged in illegal activities; particularly, the
truck had been previously loaded with lumber that were confiscated.[14]

Santiago insisted and assured him that he would take care of everything and that there was
really no problem with the truck. Mesina finally agreed and rode in Santiago's car. Santiago asked him to
fetch Roxas to accompany them.[15]

Roxas was resting in his house when Santiago and Mesina arrived. Santiago asked Roxas if he could drive
his truck to Cabanatuan City.[16] Roxas refused because he had already heard of the truck's
apprehension,[17] but he finally relented after Santiago assured him that there was no problem with the
truck. They proceeded to Caragsacan, Dingalan where the truck was parked. [18] On cross-examination,
Roxas testified that he knew very well that the vehicle was a "hot" truck but he relied on Santiago's claim
that the problem already been settled.[19]

On their way to Caragsacan, Dingalan, they saw Padiernos at the waiting shed of Aplayang Malaki,
Dingalan.[20] According to Padiernos, he had been waiting for a ride to Cabanatuan City from 12:30 to 1:30
p.m. but only Santiago's group came by.[21] Padiernos hitched a ride with them after learning that they
would bring Santiago's truck to Cabanatuan City. [22]
Padiernos testified that he only learned where the truck was parked when they reached Caragsacan.[23]

On reaching the place where the truck was parked, they all alighted from the car and walked towards the
back of the truck; Padiernos crossed the street. Mesina saw Santiago talk to DENRO Tumagan and several
other persons for about 25 to 30 minutes.[24]

Thereafter, Santiago handed the truck keys to Mesina. [25] Padiernos seated himself in the front cab of the
truck with Santiago and Roxas, while Mesina took the driver's seat. [26]Mesina drove the car towards
Cabanatuan City upon Santiago's instruction.[27]

The petitioners unanimously testified that they did not hear people shouting or tapping on the truck to stop
them.[28] They also did not notice any motorcycle following them as the truck's side mirrors were broken.
They did not reach Cabanatuan City because the Philippine Army flagged them down. [29]

After the incident, Padiernos boarded a jeepney bound for Cabanatuan City while Roxas and Mesina boarded
a jeepney bound for Dingalan.[30]

The RTC's ruling

The RTC convicted petitioners Padiernos, Mesina and Roxas as accessories to the crime of violation of P.D.
705.[31]

The RTC ruled that the petitioners had a common design to take away the truck that earlier had been used
in violating P.D. No. 705 or the Forestry Reform Code. [32]

The RTC found that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were categorical, straightforward, and
consistent; they had no improper motive to testify falsely against the petitioners.[33] Thus, the RTC
disregarded the petitioners' defense that they did not intentionally take away the truck. [34]

The RTC also found that the petitioners' testimonies and admissions established their prior knowledge that
the truck had been previously confiscated for illegal transport of forest products. This explains the reluctance
of Mesina and Roxas to go with Santiago in getting the truck. [35]

The RTC further ruled that Padiernos' defense of denial fails in view of Balico's testimony that Padiernos
gave the DENROs a "tongue-lashing" as they had no right to apprehend the truck and its
cargo.[36] Padiernos' knowledge of the status of the truck is also undeniable as he admitted his familiarity
with the townsfolk of Dingalan and its rampant problem of illegal transport of forest products. The RTC
concluded that the incident and the personalities involved could not have escaped Padiernos' notice, yet he
still went with them to get the truck.[37]

Finally, the RTC disregarded the petitioners' claim that they did not hear the policemen's warning shots and
the DENROs' shouts because of the noisy engine and the defective windows of the truck. The RTC had
observed during its ocular inspection of the truck that both windows were in order and sounds outside could
be clearly heard even with a running engine.[38]

The CA's ruling

The CA affirmed the RTC's decision and adopted its factual findings, but modified the penalty imposed on
the petitioners.[39]

The CA considered the subject truck as an "instrument" in the commission of the offense, within the meaning
of Article 19, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). While the lumber had already been unloaded
and placed in police custody, the truck still served as the essential link to the discovery of the loaded
undocumented lumber. Similarly, its presentation as evidence is material in proving the commission of the
offense of violation of P.D. 705, as amended. [40]

The CA added that since the petitioners' violation of P.D. 705 is mala prohibita, their intent, motive, or
knowledge need not be shown. Nevertheless, their defense of denial must fail in view of the evidence on
record and their own admissions that they were aware of the truck's involvement in an illegal activity at the
time that they drove it towards Nueva Ecija.[41]

The prosecution had also clearly established Padiernos's close association with Santiago, Roxas, and Mesina.
Padiernos previously facilitated Santiago's application for mayor's permit as a lumber dealer; Roxas is a
family friend of Padiernos and his father is Padiernos's driver, while Mesina and Padiernos' are long-time
acquaintances.[42]

The Parties' Arguments

The petitioners argue that they could not be held liable as accessories for violation of P.D. 705 because the
DENROs and the police authorities had already discovered the crime and had, in fact, control over the truck
when the petitioners drove it towards Nueva Ecija. [43] Article 19 of the RPC only punishes accessories who
prevent the discovery of the crime.[44]

On the other hand, the respondent maintains that the petitioners' acts were aimed at preventing the
discovery of the crime. The respondent alleges that without the truck, the accused in the present case could
easily produce the necessary transportation documents to account for the entire volume of the confiscated
lumber.[45] The respondent refers to the testimony of James Martinez of CENRO Dingalan who tried to make
it appear that the seized lumber had the proper transportation permit for 8,254 board feet and 261 pieces
of lumber. This transportation permit did not tally, however, with the actual volume of the confiscated
lumber of 10,253 board feet, totaling 818 pieces.[46]

The Court's Ruling

We emphasize at the outset the well-settled doctrine that an appeal throws the whole case wide open for
review. An appeal therefore empowers, and even obligates, the appellate court to correct errors as may be
found in the appealed judgment even if these errors have not been raised. It is likewise settled that when
an accused appeals, he opens the whole case for a new trial. [47]

The Court is therefore not precluded from determining the correct criminal liability of the appealing accused,
and from imposing the corresponding punishment in accordance with the charges in the Information and
the crime proved during trial.

Thus, in People v. Manalili et al.,[48] the Court held that since the Information in that case contained a specific
allegation of every fact and circumstance necessarily constituting both the crimes of illegal possession of
firearms and of murder, the separate crime of multiple murder may be validly taken into account [49] in the
resolution of the appeal before the Court, although the appellants have been acquitted of illegal possession
of firearms. The Court ruled that the appellants in that case were fairly apprised of the nature of the crime
of multiple murder and granted a fair opportunity to defend themselves.

Even with this premise, we find that insofar as the petitioners are concerned, the facts alleged in the
Information and the crime proved in the present case do notmake the petitioners liable as
accessories for violation of P.D. 705. They are, however, liable for violation of Section 1(b) of
P.D. 1829.

The petitioners are not liable as accessories to the crime

The well-settled doctrine is that the allegations in the Information determine the nature of the offense, and
not the technical name that the public prosecutor assigns in the preamble of the Information. From a legal
point of view, and in a very real sense, the accused is not concerned with the technical name of the crime
of which he stands charged. It in no way aids him in a defense on the merits. His attention should be directed
and his interest should be on the facts alleged. The real question is not "did he commit a crime given
in the law with some technical and specific name," but "did he perform the acts alleged in the
body of the information in the manner therein set forth."[50]

In the present case, the Information charges the petitioners of committing the following acts:
xxx the aforesaid accessories, confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and
there unlawfully, feloniously and willfully take and carry away the aforementioned ten wheeler truck
with Plate No. TFZ-747 so it could not be used as evidence and avoid confiscation and forfeiture
in favor of the government as tool or instrument of the crime.
Applying the doctrine, the controlling charge against the petitioners is not the allegation that they were
accessories to the crime, which is merely the public prosecutor's conclusion of law or the technical
name of an accused's criminal participation under Article 19 of the RPC, but the factual
charges against them. In short, their alleged acts control in defining the crime for which they should stand
trial.

These material factual allegations pertain to their act of conspiring with each other to take and carry away
the subject truck so that it could not be used as evidence and to avoid its confiscation and forfeiture in favor
of the government as tool or instrument of the crime. Notably, the petitioners had been sufficiently apprised
of these factual allegations, against which they should defend themselves.

Reading the facts alleged in the Information and proved at the trial, in relation with the legal definition of
"accessories" under Article 19 of the RPC, we find that the RTC and the CA erred in convicting the accused
as accessories to the crime of violation of P.D. 705.

Article 19, paragraph 2[51] defines "accessories" as those who, with knowledge of the commission of the
crime and without having participated therein, either as principals or accomplices, take part subsequent
to its commission by concealing or destroying the body of the crime, its effects or instruments, in
order to prevent its discovery.

Under this provision, the punished acts should have been committed for the purpose of preventing the
discovery of the crime.[52]
In the present case, the crime punishable under P.D. 705 - the illegal possession of lumber - had
already been discovered at the time the petitioners took the truck. This discovery led to the confiscation
of the truck and the loaded lumber on November 15, 2002. The petitioners took the truck on November 16,
2002, after its confiscation.

In these lights, the petitioners are not liable as accessories to the crime charged in the Information as the
legal definition of the technical term "accessories" does not coincide with the factual allegations in the
Information that serves as the actual criminal charge against the petitioners.

The factual allegations in the Information constitute the crime of obstruction of justice under
Section 1(b) of P.D. 1829

The petitioners, however, cannot go scot-free. The factual allegations in the Information, while not
constituting an offense committed by accessories under Article 19, paragraph 2 of the RPC, constitute
instead the criminal offense of obstruction of justice, which is defined under Section 1(b) of P.D. No. 1829
entitled "Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders."

P.D. 1829 addresses the necessity of penalizing acts which obstruct or frustrate or tend to obstruct
or frustrate the successful apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.

Under Section 1(b) of P.D. 1829, the crime of obstruction of justice is committed through the following acts:
Section 1. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine ranging from 1,000 to 6,000
pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes,
frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of
criminal casesby committing any of the following acts:

xxxx

(b) altering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document, or object, with intent
to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility as evidence in any
investigation of or official proceedings in criminal cases, or to be used in the investigation of, or
official proceedings in criminal cases; xxx" [emphasis supplied]
The factual allegations in the Information, as duly proved during trial, show that the petitioners'
acts actually constituted a violation of Section 1(b) above.

First, the Information duly alleges all the essential elements of the crime of obstruction of justice under
Section 1(b).

The factual allegations in the Information clearly charge the accused of taking and carrying away the
truck so that it could not be used as evidence and to avoid its confiscation and forfeiture in favor
of the government as a tool or instrument of the crime.

In the present case, the truck that carried the undocumented lumber serves as material evidence that is
indispensable in the criminal investigation and prosecution for violation of P.D. 705. Particularly, the truck
is an indispensable link to the persons involved in the illegal possession/transportation of the seized lumber
as the permit for the transportation of the lumber necessarily involves the truck and the lumber. According
to DENR forest ranger Rogelio Pajimna,[53] the transport of lumber should be covered with supporting
documents that should be in the possession of the transporter.

Second, the petitioners deliberately took the truck or "suppressed" this particular evidence. The term
"suppress" means to subdue or end by force. [54]

Specifically, the petitioners intentionally suppressed the truck as evidence, with the intent to impair its
availability and prevent its use as evidence in the criminal investigation or proceeding for
violation of P.D. 705. This intent was duly proved during trial.

It is undisputed that Santiago owns the truck, which serves as his link to the illegal possession/transport of
the seized lumber. Santiago had every reason and motive to take his truck after its confiscation. Without
the truck, Santiago could be exculpated and the forthcoming criminal investigation or proceedings for
violation of P.D. 705 would be frustrated.

The petitioners' intent to take and carry away the truck is established by their knowledge of the status of
the truck and their commission of the crime at Santiago's prompting.

Notably, both the RTC and the CA correctly considered the testimonies of the witnesses and the petitioners'
admissions in ruling that the petitioners knew that the truck had been involved in the illegal
transportation/possession of the seized lumber.

Mesina admitted that he knew the truck's involvement in illegal activities as it had been previously
loaded with lumber that was confiscated.

According to Mesina, Roxas also initially refused to go with them because he already heard the
news of the truck's apprehension. Roxas admitted that he only agreed to join Santiago and
Mesina, after being assured that there was no problem with the truck.

Padiernos' demeanor after the army flagged them down establishes his knowledge of the truck's involvement
with the seized lumber. Padiernos uttered bad words at the DENROs, saying they had no right to apprehend
the truck and the lumber. This testimony, together with his close association with the other petitioners,
destroys his flimsy defense of denial.

The RTC's findings during its ocular inspection of the truck also prove that the petitioners deliberately drove
the truck to Nueva Ecija despite evident knowledge of the policemen's warning shots, tapping, and the
DENROs shouting for help from the back of the truck.

Clearly, these testimonies, the petitioners' admissions, and the findings of the trial court negate the
petitioners' defense of denial of their intent to take the truck and their knowledge of the truck's involvement
in an illegal activity.

The unanimous factual findings of the RTC and the CA - such as the petitioners' close association with each
other, their flimsy defense of denial of their intent to take away the truck, and the totality of their acts
showing their common design to take the truck - lead us to conclude that the petitioners had indeed mutually
conspired with one another to take away the truck to suppress it from being used as evidence in the criminal
investigation or proceeding for violation of P.D. 705.

Since the crime charged in the Information and the crime proved during trial point to the petitioners'
violation of P.D. 1829, we reverse the CA's findings and find the petitioners guilty of Section 1(b) of P.D.
1829.

Under Section 1 of the same law, the penalty for the crime of obstruction of justice is prision correccional in
its maximum period, or a fine ranging from P1,000.00 to P6,000.00 pesos, or both. [55]

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition and REVERSE the Court of Appeals' decision dated May 10, 2007,
and its resolution dated December 20, 2007. We find petitioners Jackson Padiernos y Quejada, Jackie Roxas
y German, and Rolando Mesina y Javate GUILTY for violation of Section 1(b) of P.D. 1829. They are hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of prision correccional for 4 years, 9 months, and 11 days to 5 years, 4
months, and 20 days.

SO ORDERED.