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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice
*

G.R. No. 132601. January 19, 1999.

LEO ECHEGARAY, petitioner, vs. SECRETARY OF


JUSTICE, ET AL., respondents.
Courts Judgments The rule on finality of judgment cannot
divest the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction to execute and enforce
the same judgmentthe finality of a judgment does not mean that
the Court has lost all its powers over the case.Contrary to the
submission of the Solicitor General, the rule on finality of
judgment cannot divest this Court of its jurisdiction to execute
and enforce the same judgment. Retired Justice Camilo Quiason
synthesized the well established jurisprudence on this issue as
follows: x x x the finality of a judgment does not mean that the
Court has lost all its powers over the case. By the finality of the
judgment, what the court loses is its jurisdiction to amend, modify
or alter the same. Even after the judgment has become final the
court retains its jurisdiction to execute and enforce it. There is a
difference between the jurisdiction of the court to execute its
judgment and its jurisdiction to amend, modify or alter the same.
The former continues even after the judgment has become final
for the purpose of enforcement of judgment the latter terminates
when the judgment becomes final. x x x For after the judgment
has become final facts and circumstances may transpire which
can render the execution unjust or impossible.
Same Same Criminal Law Death Penalty Notwithstanding
the order of execution and the executory nature thereof on the date
set or at the proper time, the date therefor can be postponed, even
in sentences of death.In truth, the argument of the Solicitor
General has long been rejected by this Court. As aptly pointed out
by the petitioner, as early as 1915, this Court has unequivocably
ruled in the case of Director of Prisons v. Judge of First Instance,
viz.: This Supreme Court has repeatedly declared in various
decisions, which constitute jurisprudence on the subject, that in
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criminal cases, after the sentence has been pronounced and the
period for reopening the same has elapsed, the court cannot
change or alter its judgment, as its jurisdiction has terminated . . .
When in cases of appeal or review the cause has been returned
thereto for execution, in the event that the judgment has been
affirmed, it performs a ministerial duty in issuing the proper
order. But it does not follow from this cessation of
_______________
*

EN BANC.

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functions on the part of the court with reference to the ending of


the cause that the judicial authority terminates by having then
passed completely to the Executive. The particulars of the
execution itself, which are certainly not always included in the
judgment and writ of execution, in any event are absolutely under
the control of the judicial authority, while the executive has no
power over the person of the convict except to provide for carrying
out of the penalty and to pardon. Getting down to the solution of
the question in the case at bar, which is that of execution of a
capital sentence, it must be accepted as a hypothesis that
postponement of the date can be requested. There can be no
dispute on this point. It is a wellknown principle that
notwithstanding the order of execution and the executory nature
thereof on the date set or at the proper time, the date therefor can
be postponed, even in sentences of death. Under the common law
this postponement can be ordered in three ways: (1) by command
of the King (2) by discretion (arbitrio) of the court and (3) by
mandate of the law.
Same Same Same Same The power to control the execution
of its decision is an essential aspect of jurisdictionsupervening
events may change the circumstance of the parties and compel
courts to intervene and adjust the rights of the litigants to prevent
unfairness.The power to control the execution of its decision is
an essential aspect of jurisdiction. It cannot be the subject of
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substantial subtraction for our Constitution vests the entirety of


judicial power in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as
may be established by law. To be sure, the most important part of
a litigation, whether civil or criminal, is the process of execution
of decisions where supervening events may change the
circumstance of the parties and compel courts to intervene and
adjust the rights of the litigants to prevent unfairness. It is
because of these unforseen, supervening contingencies that courts
have been conceded the inherent and necessary power of control
of its processes and orders to make them conformable to law and
justice.
Same Same Same Same What the Supreme Court
temporarily restrained is the execution of its own Decision to give it
reasonable time to check its fairness in light of supervening events
in Congress as alleged by petitionerit did not restrain the
effectivity of a law enacted by Congress.Section 6 of Rule 135
provides that when by law jurisdiction is conferred on a court or
judicial officer, all auxiliary writs, processes and other means
necessary to carry it into
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

effect may be employed by such court or officer and if the


procedure to be followed in the exercise of such jurisdiction is not
specifically pointed out by law or by these rules, any suitable
process or mode of proceeding may be adopted which appears
conformable to the spirit of said law or rules. It bears repeating
that what the Court restrained temporarily is the execution of its
own Decision to give it reasonable time to check its fairness in
light of supervening events in Congress as alleged by petitioner.
The Court, contrary to popular misimpression, did not restrain
the effectivity of a law enacted by Congress.
Same Same RuleMaking Powers Pleadings and Practice It
should be stressed that the power to promulgate rules of pleading,
practice and procedure was granted by the Constitution to the
Supreme Court to enhance its independence.The more
disquieting dimension of the submission of the public respondents
that this Court has no jurisdiction to restrain the execution of
petitioner is that it can diminish the independence of the
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judiciary. Since the implant of republicanism in our soil, our


courts have been conceded the jurisdiction to enforce their final
decisions. In accord with this unquestioned jurisdiction, this
Court promulgated rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure which, among others, spelled out the rules on execution
of judgments. These rules are all predicated on the assumption
that courts have the inherent, necessary and incidental power to
control and supervise the process of execution of their decisions.
Rule 39 governs execution, satisfaction and effects of judgments
in civil cases. Rule 120 governs judgments in criminal cases. It
should be stressed that the power to promulgate rules of pleading,
practice and procedure was granted by our Constitutions to this
Court to enhance its independence, for in the words of Justice
Isagani Cruz without independence and integrity, courts will lose
that popular trust so essential to the maintenance of their vigor
as champions of justice.
Same Same Same Same The 1987 Constitution took away
the power of Congress to repeal, alter, or supplement rules
concerning pleading, practice and procedure.The rule making
power of this Court was expanded. This Court for the first time
was given the power to promulgate rules concerning the
protection and enforcement of constitutional rights. The Court
was also granted for the first time the power to disapprove rules of
procedure of special courts and quasijudicial bodies. But most
importantly, the 1987 Constitution took away the power of
Congress to repeal, alter, or supplement
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rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure. In fine, the


power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is
no longer shared by this Court with Congress, more so with the
Executive. If the manifest intent of the 1987 Constitution is to
strengthen the independence of the judiciary, it is inutile to urge,
as public respondents do, that this Court has no jurisdiction to
control the process of execution of its decisions, a power conceded
to it and which it has exercised since time immemorial.
Same Same Constitutional Law President Pardoning
Power Separation of Powers The constitutional provision which is
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the source of the pardoning power of the President cannot be


interpreted as denying the power of courts to control the
enforcement of their decisions after their finality An accused who
has been convicted by final judgment still possesses collateral
rights and these rights can be claimed in the appropriate courts.
The text and tone of this provision will not yield to the
interpretation suggested by the public respondents. The provision
is simply the source of power of the President to grant reprieves,
commutations, and pardons and remit fines and forfeitures after
conviction by final judgment. It also provides the authority for the
President to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of
all the members of the Congress. The provision, however, cannot
be interpreted as denying the power of courts to control the
enforcement of their decisions after their finality. In truth, an
accused who has been convicted by final judgment still possesses
collateral rights and these rights can be claimed in the
appropriate courts.
Same Same Same Same Same Same The powers of the
Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary to save the life of a
death convict do not exclude each other for the simple reason that
there is no higher right than the right to life.The powers of the
Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary to save the life of a
death convict do not exclude each other for the simple reason that
there is no higher right than the right to life. Indeed, in various
States in the United States, laws have even been enacted
expressly granting courts the power to suspend execution of
convicts and their constitutionality has been upheld over
arguments that they infringe upon the power of the President to
grant reprieves. For the public respondents therefore to contend
that only the Executive can protect the right to life of an accused
after his final conviction is to violate the principle of coequal and
coordinate powers of the three branches of our government.
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Same Same Death Penalty Mob Mentality When the debate


deteriorates to discord due to the overuse of words that wound,
when anger threatens to turn the majority rule to tyranny, it is the
special duty of the Supreme Court to assure that the guarantees of
the Bill of Rights to the minority fully hold.In 1922, the famous
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Clarence Darrow predicted that x x x the question of capital


punishment has been the subject of endless discussion and will
probably never be settled so long as men believe in punishment.
In our clime and time when heinous crimes continue to be
unchecked, the debate on the legal and moral predicates of capital
punishment has been regrettably blurred by emotionalism
because of the unfaltering faith of the pro and antideath
partisans on the right and righteousness of their postulates. To be
sure, any debate, even if it is no more than an exchange of
epithets is healthy in a democracy. But when the debate
deteriorates to discord due to the overuse of words that wound,
when anger threatens to turn the majority rule to tyranny, it is
the especial duty of this Court to assure that the guarantees of
the Bill of Rights to the minority fully hold. As Justice Brennan
reminds us x x x it is the very purpose of the Constitutionand
particularly the Bill of Rightsto declare certain values
transcendent, beyond the reach of temporary political majorities.
Same Same Same Same Rule of Law Man has yet to invent
a better hatchery of justice than the courts, a hatchery where
justice will bloom only when we can prevent the roots of reason to
be blown away by the winds of ragethe flame of the rule of law
cannot be ignited by rage, especially the rage of the mob which is
the mother of unfairness.Man has yet to invent a better
hatchery of justice than the courts. It is a hatchery where justice
will bloom only when we can prevent the roots of reason to be
blown away by the winds of rage. The flame of the rule of law
cannot be ignited by rage, especially the rage of the mob which is
the mother of unfairness. The business of courts in rendering
justice is to be fair and they can pass their litmus test only when
they can be fair to him who is momentarily the most hated by
society.

VITUG, J., Separate Opinion:


Criminal Law Penalties Republic Act No. 7659, insofar as it
prescribes the death penalty, falls short of the strict norm set forth
by the Constitution.Let me state at the outset that I have
humbly maintained that Republic Act No. 7659, insofar as it
prescribes the
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death penalty, falls short of the strict norm set forth by the
Constitution. I and some of my brethren on the Court, who hold
similarly, have consistently expressed this stand in the
affirmance by the Court of death sentences imposed by Regional
Trial Courts.
Courts Judgments The rule of immutability of final and
executory judgments admits of settled exceptionsconcededly, the
Court may suspend the execution of a final judgment when it
becomes imperative in the higher interest of justice or when
supervening events warrant it.The doctrine has almost
invariably been that after a decision becomes final and executory,
nothing else is further done except to see to its compliance since
for the Court to adopt otherwise would be to put no end to
litigations. The rule notwithstanding, the Court retains control
over the case until the full satisfaction of the final judgment
conformably with established legal processes. Hence, the Court
has taken cognizance of the petition assailing before it the use of
lethal injection by the State to carry out the death sentence. In
any event, jurisprudence teaches that the rule of immutability of
final and executory judgments admits of settled exceptions.
Concededly, the Court may, for instance, suspend the execution of
a final judgment when it becomes imperative in the higher interest
of justice or when supervening events warrant it. Certainly, this
extraordinary relief cannot be denied any man, whatever might
be his station, whose right to life is the issue at stake.

PANGANIBAN, J., Separate Opinion:


Criminal Law
Penalties
Republic
Act
7659
is
unconstitutional insofar as some parts thereof prescribing the
capital penalty fail to comply with the requirements of
heinousness and compelling reasons prescribed by the
Constitution.I maintain my view that RA 7659 (the Death
Penalty Law) is unconstitutional insofar as some parts thereof
prescribing the capital penalty fail to comply with the
requirements of heinousness and compelling reasons
prescribed by the Constitution of the Philippines. This I have
repeatedly stated in my Dissenting Opinions in various death
cases decided by the Court, as well as during the Courts
deliberation on this matter on January 4, 1999. For easy
reference, I hereby attach a copy of my Dissent promulgated on
February 7, 1997. Consequently, I cannot now vote to lift the
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TRO, because to do so would mean the upholding and


enforcement of a law (or the relevant portions thereof) which, I
submit with all due respect, is unconstitutional and therefore
legally
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

nonexistent. I also reiterate that, in my humble opinion, RA 8177


(the Lethal Injection Law) is likewise unconstitutional since it
merely prescribes the manner in which RA 7659 (the Death
Penalty Law) is to be implemented.

MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION of a decision of the


Supreme Court.
The facts are stated in the resolution of the Court.
Theodore O. Te for petitioner.
Adviento, Mallonga, Adviento Law Offices for private
complainant Rodessa Baby R. Echegaray.
RESOLUTION
PUNO, J.:
For resolution are public respondents Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration of the Resolution of this Court dated
January 4, 1999 temporarily restraining the execution of
petitioner and Supplemental Motion to Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration. It is the submission of public respondents
that:
(1) The Decision in this case having become final and
executory, its execution enters the exclusive ambit
of authority of the executive authority. The
issuance of the TRO may be construed as trenching
on that sphere of executive authority
(2) The issuance of the temporary restraining order x x
x creates dangerous precedent as there will never
be an end to litigation because there is always a
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possibility that Congress may repeal a law


(3) Congress had earlier deliberated extensively on the
death penalty bill. To be certain, whatever question
may now be raised on the Death Penalty Law
before the present Congress within the 6month
period given by this Honorable Court had in all
probability been fully debated upon x x x
(4) Under the time honored maxim lex futuro, judex
praeterito, the law looks forward while the judge
looks at the past, x x x
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the Honorable Court in issuing the TRO has


transcended its power of judicial review
(5) At this moment, certain circumstances/supervening
events transpired to the effect that the repeal or
modification of the law imposing death penalty has
become nil, to wit:
a. The public pronouncement of President Estrada
that he will veto any law imposing the death
penalty involving heinous crimes
b. The resolution of Congressman Golez, et al., that
they are against the repeal of the law
c. The fact that Senator Rocos resolution to repeal the
law only bears his signature and that of Senator
Pimentel.
In their Supplemental Motion to Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration, public respondents attached a copy of
House Resolution No. 629 introduced by Congressman
Golez entitled Resolution expressing the sense of the
House of Representatives to reject any move to review
Republic Act No. 7659 which provided for the reimposition
of death penalty, notifying the Senate, the Judiciary and
the Executive Department of the position of the House of
Representatives on this matter, and urging the President
to exhaust all means under the law to immediately
implement the death penalty law. The Resolution was
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concurred in by one hundred thirteen (113) congressmen.


In their Consolidated Comment, petitioner contends: (1)
the stay order x x x is within the scope of judicial power
and duty and does not trench on executive powers nor on
congressional prerogatives (2) the exercise by this Court of
its power to stay execution was reasonable (3) the Court
did not lose jurisdiction to address incidental matters
involved or arising from the petition (4) public respondents
are estopped from challenging the Courts jurisdiction and
(5) there is no certainty that the law on capital punishment
will not be repealed or modified until Congress convenes
and considers all the various resolutions and bills filed
before it.
Prefatorily, the Court likes to emphasize that the
instant motions concern matters that are not incidents in
G.R. No.
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

117472, where the death penalty was imposed on petitioner


on automatic review of his conviction by this Court. The
instant motions were filed in this case, G.R. No. 132601,
where the constitutionality of R.A. No. 8177 (Lethal
Injection Law) and its implementing rules and regulations
was assailed by petitioner. For this reason, the Court in its
Resolution of January 4, 1999 merely noted the Motion to
Set Aside of Rodessa Baby R. Echegaray dated January 7,
1999 and Entry of Appearance of her counsel dated
January 5, 1999. Clearly, she has no legal standing to
intervene in the case at bar, let alone the fact that the
interest of the State is properly represented by the Solicitor
General.
We shall now resolve the basic issues raised by the
public respondents.
I
First. We do not agree with the sweeping submission of the
public respondents that this Court lost its jurisdiction over
the case at bar and hence can no longer restrain the
execution of the petitioner. Obviously, public respondents
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are invoking the rule that final judgments can no longer be


altered in accord with the principle that it is just as
important that there should be a place
to end as there
1
should be a place to begin litigation. To start with, the
Court is not changing even a comma of its final Decision. It
is appropriate to examine with precision the metes and
bounds of the Decision of this Court that became final.
These metes and bounds are clearly spelled out in the
Entry of Judgment in this case, viz.:
ENTRY OF JUDGMENT
This is to certify that on October 12, 1998 a decision rendered in
the aboveentitled case was filed in this Office, the dispositive
part of which reads as follows:
_________________
1

Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 US 165, 172 59 S. Ct. 134, 138 83 L. ed. 104

[1938].

f
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WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED insofar as petitioner seeks to
declare the assailed statute (Republic Act No. 8177) as unconstitutional
but GRANTED insofar as Sections 17 and 19 of the Rules and
Regulations to Implement Republic Act No. 8177 are concerned, which
are hereby declared INVALID because (a) Section 17 contravenes Article
83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 25 of Republic Act
No. 7659 and (b) Section 19 fails to provide for review and approval of
the Lethal Injection Manual by the Secretary of Justice, and unjustifiably
makes the manual confidential, hence unavailable to interested parties
including the accused/convict and counsel. Respondents are hereby
enjoined from enforcing and implementing Republic Act No. 8177 until
the aforesaid Sections 17 and 19 of the Rules and Regulations to
Implement Republic Act No. 8177 are appropriately amended, revised
and/or corrected in accordance with this Decision.
SO ORDERED.

and that the same has, on November 6, 1998 become final and
executory and is hereby recorded in the Book of Entries of
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Judgment.
Manila, Philippines.
Clerk of Court
By: (SGD) TERESITA G. DIMAISIP
Acting Chief
Judicial Records Office

The records will show that before the Entry of Judgment,


the Secretary of Justice, the Honorable Serafin Cuevas,
filed with this Court on October 21, 1998 a Compliance
where he submitted the Amended Rules and Regulations
implementing R.A. No. 8177 in compliance with our
Decision. On October 28, 1998, Secretary Cuevas submitted
a Manifestation informing the Court that he has caused the
publication of the said Amended Rules and Regulations as
required by the Administrative Code. It is crystalline that
the Decision of this Court that became final and unalterable
mandated: (1) that R.A. No. 8177 is not unconstitutional
(2) that Sections 17 and 19 of the Rules and Regulations to
Implement R.A. No. 8177 are invalid and (3) R.A. No. 8177
cannot be enforced and implemented until Sections 17 and
19 of the Rules and Regu
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

lations to Implement R.A. No. 8177 are amended. It is also


daylight clear that this Decision was not altered a whit by
this Court. Contrary to the submission of the Solicitor
General, the rule on finality of judgment cannot divest this
Court of its jurisdiction to execute and enforce the same
judgment. Retired Justice Camilo Quiason synthesized
the
2
well established jurisprudence on this issue as follows:
xxx
the finality of a judgment does not mean that the Court has
lost all its powers nor the case. By the finality of the judgment,
what the court loses is its jurisdiction to amend, modify or alter
the same. Even after the judgment has become final
the court
3
retains its jurisdiction to execute and enforce it. There is a
difference between the jurisdiction of the court to execute its
judgment and its jurisdiction to amend, modify or alter the same.
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The former continues even after the judgment has become final for
the purpose of enforcement of judgment the latter terminates when
4
the judgment becomes final. x x x For after the judgment has
become final facts and circumstances may transpire which can
5
render the execution unjust or impossible.
____________
2

Philippine Courts and their Jurisdiction, p. 13, 1998 ed.

Citing Miranda v. Tiangco, 96 Phil. 526 Santos v. Acuna, 100 Phil.

230 American Insurance Co. v. US Lines Co., 63 SCRA 325 Republic v.


Reyes, 71 SCRA 426 Luzon Stevedoring Corp. v. Reyes, 71 SCRA 655
Agricultural and Industrial Marketing, Inc. v. CA, 118 SCRA 49 Vasco v.
CA, 81 SCRA 712 Mindanao Portland Cement Corp. v. Laquihan, 120
SCRA 930.
4

Ibid. at pp. 1214 citing Miranda v. Tiangco, 96 Phil. 526 Santos v.

Acuna, 63 O.G. 358 Gabaya v. Hon. R. Mendoza, 113 SCRA 400 Bueno
Industrial and Development Corp. v. Encaje, 104 SCRA 388.
5

Ibid., pp. 1415 citing Molina v. dela Riva, 8 Phil. 569 Behn Meyer &

Co. v. McMicking, 11 Phil. 276 Warmer Barnes & Co. v. Jaucian, 13 Phil.
4 Espiritu v. Crossfield, 14 Phil. 588 Mata v. Lichauco, 36 Phil. 809 De
la Costa v. Cleofas, 67 Phil. 686 Omar v. Jose, 77 Phil. 703 City of
Butuan v. Ortiz, 113 Phil. 636 De los Santos v. Rodriguez, 22 SCRA 551
City of Cebu v. Mendoza, 66 SCRA 174.
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In truth, the argument of the Solicitor General has long


been rejected by this Court. As aptly pointed out by the
petitioner, as early as 1915, this Court has unequivocably
ruled in 6the case of Director of Prisons v. Judge of First
Instance, viz.:
This Supreme Court has repeatedly declared in various
decisions, which constitute jurisprudence on the subject, that in
criminal cases, after the sentence has been pronounced and the
period for reopening the same has elapsed, the court cannot
change or alter its judgment, as its jurisdiction has terminated . . .
When in cases of appeal or review the cause has been returned
thereto for execution, in the event that the judgment has been
affirmed, it performs a ministerial duty in issuing the proper
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order. But it does not follow from this cessation of functions on the
part of the court with reference to the ending of the cause that the
judicial authority terminates by having then passed completely to
the Executive. The particulars of the execution itself, which are
certainly not always included in the judgment and writ of
execution, in any event are absolutely under the control of the
judicial authority, while the executive has no power over the
person of the convict except to provide for carrying out of the
penalty and to pardon.
Getting down to the solution of the question in the case at bar,
which is that of execution of a capital sentence, it must be
accepted as a hypothesis that postponement of the date can be
requested. There can be no dispute on this point. It is a wellknown
principle that notwithstanding the order of execution and the
executory nature thereof on the date set or at the proper time, the
date therefor can be postponed, even in sentences of death. Under
the common law this postponement can be ordered in three ways:
(1) by command of the King (2) by discretion (arbitrio) of the
court and (3) by mandate of the law. It is sufficient to state this
principle of the common law to render impossible that assertion in
absolute terms that after the convict has once been placed in jail
the trial court can not reopen the case to investigate the facts that
show the need for postponement. If one of the ways is by direction
of the court, it is acknowledged that even after the date of the
execution has been fixed, and notwithstanding the general rule
that after the (court) has performed its ministerial duty of ordering
the execution . . . and its part is ended, if however a circumstance
arises that ought to delay the execution, and there
_______________
6

29 Phil. 267 (1915), p. 270.

108

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is an imperative duty to investigate the emergency and to order a


postponement. Then the question arises as to whom the
application for postponing the execution ought to be addressed
while the circumstances is under investigation and as to who has
jurisdiction to make the investigation.

The power to control the execution of its decision is an


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essential aspect of jurisdiction. It cannot be the


subject of
7
substantial subtraction for our Constitution vests the
entirety of judicial power in one Supreme Court and in such
lower courts as may be established by law. To be sure, the
most important part of a litigation, whether civil or
criminal, is the process of execution of decisions where
supervening events may change the circumstance of the
parties and compel courts to intervene and adjust the rights
of the litigants to prevent unfairness. It is because of these
unforseen, supervening contingencies that courts have been
conceded the inherent and necessary power of control of its
processes
and orders to make them conformable to law and
8
justice. For this purpose, Section 6 of Rule 135 provides
that when by law jurisdiction is conferred on a court or
judicial officer, all auxiliary writs, processes and other
means necessary to carry it into effect may be employed by
such court or officer and if the procedure to be followed in
the exercise of such jurisdiction is not specifically pointed
out by law or by these rules, any suitable process or mode of
proceeding may be adopted which appears conformable to
the spirit of said law or rules. It bears repeating that what
the Court restrained temporarily is the execution of its own
Decision to give it reasonable time to check its fairness in
light of supervening events in Congress as alleged by
petitioner. The Court, contrary to popular misimpression,
did not restrain the effectivity of a law enacted by
Congress.
The more disquieting dimension of the submission of the
public respondents that this Court has no jurisdiction to
restrain the execution of petitioner is that it can diminish
the independence of the judiciary. Since the implant of
republi
_________________
7

Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

Section 5(f), Rule 135.


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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

canism in our soil, our courts have been conceded the


jurisdiction to enforce their final decisions. In accord with
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this unquestioned jurisdiction, this Court promulgated


rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure which,
among others, spelled out the rules on execution of
judgments. These rules are all predicated on the assumption
that courts have the inherent, necessary and incidental
power to control and supervise the process of execution of
their decisions. Rule 39 governs execution, satisfaction and
effects of judgments in civil cases. Rule 120 governs
judgments in criminal cases. It should be stressed that the
power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and
procedure was granted by our Constitutions to this Court to
enhance its independence, for in the words of Justice
Isagani Cruz without independence and integrity, courts
will lose that popular trust so essential to the9 maintenance
of their vigor as champions of justice. Hence, our
Constitutions continuously vested this power to this Court
for it enhances its independence. Under the 1935
Constitution, the power of this Court to promulgate rules
concerning pleading, practice and procedure was granted
but it appeared to be coexistent with legislative power for it
was subject to the power of Congress to repeal, alter or
supplement. Thus, its Section 13, Article VIII provides:
Sec. 13. The Supreme Court shall have the power to promulgate
rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts,
and the admission to the practice of law. Said rules shall be
uniform for all courts of the same grade and shall not diminish,
increase, or modify substantive rights. The existing laws on
pleading, practice and procedure are hereby repealed as statutes,
and are declared Rules of Court, subject to the power of the
Supreme Court to alter and modify the same. The Congress shall
have the power to repeal, alter or supplement the rules concerning
pleading, practice and procedure, and the admission to the
practice of law in the Philippines.
_________________
9

Philippine Political Law, p. 225, 1993 ed.


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The said power of Congress, however, is not as absolute as


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10

it may appear on its surface. In In re Cunanan Congress


in the exercise of its power to amend rules of the Supreme
Court regarding admission to the
practice of law, enacted
11
the Bar Flunkers Act of 1953 which considered as a
passing grade, the average of 70% in the bar examinations
after July 4, 1946 up to August 1951 and 71% in the 1952
bar examinations. This Court struck down the law as
unconstitutional. In his ponencia, Mr. Justice Diokno held
that x x x the disputed law is not a legislation it is a
judgmenta judgment promulgated by this Court during
the aforecited years affecting the bar candidates concerned
and although this Court certainly can revoke these
judgments even now, for justifiable reasons, it is no less
certain that only this Court, and not the legislative nor
executive department, that may do so. Any attempt on the
part of these departments would be a clear usurpation
of
12
its function, as is the case with the law in question. The
venerable jurist further ruled: It is obvious, therefore, that
the ultimate power to grant license for the practice of law
belongs exclusively to this Court, and the law passed by
Congress on the matter is of permissive character, or as
other authorities say, merely to fix the minimum conditions
for the license. By its ruling, this Court qualified the
absolutist tone of the power of Congress to repeal, alter or
supplement the rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the
Philippines.
The ruling of this Court in In re Cunanan was not
changed by the 1973 Constitution. For the 1973
Constitution reiterated the power of this Court to
promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure in all courts, x x x which, however, may be
repealed, altered or supplemented by the Batasang
Pambansa x x x. More completely, Section 5(5) of its
Article X provided:
________________
10

94 Phil. 534 (1954), pp. 550, 555.

11

R.A. No. 372.

12

94 Phil. 550, p. 551.


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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice


x x xx x xx x x
Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers.
x x xx x xx x x
(5) Promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in
all courts, the admission to the practice of law, and the integration of the
Bar, which, however, may be repealed, altered, or supplemented by the
Batasang Pambansa. Such rules shall provide a simplified and
inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be
uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase,
or modify substantive rights.

Well worth noting is that the 1973 Constitution further


strengthened the independence of the judiciary by giving to
it the additional power
to promulgate rules governing the
13
integration of the Bar.
The 1987 Constitution molded an even stronger and
more independent judiciary. Among others, it enhanced the
rule making power of this Court. Its Section 5(5), Article
VIII provides:
x x xx x xx x x
Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following
powers:
x x xx x xx x x
(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of
constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, the
admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance
to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and
inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be
uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase,
or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and
quasijudicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the
Supreme Court.
______________
13

See In re Integration of the Bar of the Philippines, January 9, 1973,

49 SCRA 22.
112

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

The rule making power of this Court was expanded. This


Court for the first time was given the power to promulgate
rules concerning the protection and enforcement of
constitutional rights. The Court was also granted for the
first time the power to disapprove rules of procedure of
special courts and quasijudicial bodies. But most
importantly, the 1987 Constitution took away the power of
Congress to repeal, alter, or supplement rules concerning
pleading, practice and procedure. In fine, the power to
promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is no
longer shared by this Court with Congress, more so with
the Executive. If the manifest intent of the 1987
Constitution is to strengthen the independence of the
judiciary, it is inutile to urge, as public respondents do,
that this Court has no jurisdiction to control the process of
execution of its decisions, a power conceded to it and which
it has exercised since time immemorial.
To be sure, it is too late in the day for public respondents
to assail the jurisdiction of this Court to control and
supervise the implementation of its decision in the case at
bar. As aforestated, our Decision became final and
executory on November 6, 1998. The records reveal that
after November 6, 1998, or on December 8, 1998, no less
than the Secretary of Justice recognized the jurisdiction of
this Court by filing a Manifestation and Urgent Motion to
compel the trial judge, the Honorable Thelma A.
Ponferrada, RTC, Br. 104, Quezon City to provide him x x
x a certified true copy of the Warrant of Execution dated
November 17, 1998 bearing the designated execution day of
death convict Leo Echegaray and allow (him) to reveal or
announce the contents thereof, particularly the execution
date fixed by such trial court to the public when requested.
The relevant portions of the Manifestation and Urgent
Motion filed by the Secretary of Justice beseeching this
Court to provide the appropriate relief state:
x x xx x xx x x
5. Instead of filing a comment on Judge Ponferradas
Manifestation however, herein respondent is submitting the
instant Manifestation and Motion (a) to stress, inter alia, that the
nondisclosure of the date of execution deprives herein respondent
of
113
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

vital information necessary for the exercise of his statutory


powers, as well as renders nugatory the constitutional guarantee
that recognizes the peoples right to information of public concern,
and (b) to ask this Honorable Court to provide the appropriate
relief.
6. The nondisclosure of the date of execution deprives herein
respondent of vital information necessary for the exercise of his
power of supervision and control over the Bureau of Corrections
pursuant to Section 39, Chapter 8, Book IV of the Administrative
Code of 1987, in relation to Title III, Book IV of such
Administrative Code, insofar as the enforcement of Republic Act
No. 8177 and the Amended Rules and Regulations to Implement
Republic Act No. 8177 is concerned and for the discharge of the
mandate of seeing to it that laws and rules relative to the
execution of sentence are faithfully observed.
7. On the other hand, the willful omission to reveal the
information about the precise day of execution limits the exercise
by the President of executive clemency powers pursuant to
Section 19, Article VII (Executive Department) of the 1987
Philippine Constitution and Article 81 of the Revised Penal Code,
as amended, which provides that the death sentence shall be
carried out without prejudice to the exercise by the President of
his executive clemency powers at all times. (Italics supplied) For
instance, the President cannot grant reprieve, i.e., postpone the
execution of a sentence to a day certain (People v. Vera, 65 Phil.
56, 110 [1937]) in the absence of a precise date to reckon with.
The exercise of such clemency power, at this time, might even
work to the prejudice of the convict and defeat the purpose of the
Constitution and the applicable statute as when the date of
execution set by the President would be earlier than that
designated by the court.
8. Moreover, the deliberate nondisclosure of information about
the date of execution to herein respondent and the public violates
Section 7, Article III (Bill of Rights) and Section 28, Article II
(Declaration of Principles and State Policies) of the 1987
Philippine Constitution which read:
SEC. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public
concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents
and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well
as to government research data used as basis for policy development,
shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be
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provided by law.
114

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

SEC. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State


adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its
transactions involving public interest.

9. The right to information provision is selfexecuting. It supplies


the rules by means of which the right to information may be
enjoyed (Cooley, A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations, 167
[1972]) by guaranteeing the right and mandating the duty to
afford access to sources of information. Hence, the fundamental
right therein recognized may be asserted by the people upon the
ratification of the Constitution without need for any ancillary act
of the Legislature (Id., at p. 165). What may be provided for by the
Legislature are reasonable conditions and limitations upon the
access to be afforded which must, of necessity, be consistent with
the declared State policy of full public disclosure of all
transactions involving public interest (Constitution, Art. II, Sec.
28). However, it cannot be overemphasized that whatever
limitation may be prescribed by the Legislature, the right and the
duty under Art. III, Sec. 7 have become operative and enforceable
by virtue of the adoption of the New Charter. (Decision of the
Supreme Court En Banc in Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission,
150 SCRA 530, 534535 [1987]).

The same motion to compel Judge Ponferrada to reveal the


date of execution of petitioner Echegaray was filed by his
counsel, Atty. Theodore Te, on December 7, 1998. He
invoked his clients right to due process and the publics
right to information. The Solicitor General, as counsel for
public respondents, did not oppose petitioners motion on the
ground that this Court has no more jurisdiction over the
process of execution of Echegaray. This Court granted the
relief prayed for by the Secretary of Justice and by the
counsel of the petitioner in its Resolution of December 15,
1998. There was not a whimper of protest from the public
respondents and they are now estopped from contending
that this Court has lost its jurisdiction to grant said relief.
The jurisdiction of this Court does not depend on the
convenience of litigants.
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II
Second. We likewise reject the public respondents
contention that the decision in this case having become
final and
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

executory, its execution enters the exclusive ambit of


authority of the executive department x x x. By granting the
TRO, the Honorable Court has14 in effect granted reprieve
which is an executive function. Public respondents cite as
their authority for this proposition, Section 19, Article VII
of the Constitution which reads:
Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this
Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations,
and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures after conviction by
final judgment. He shall also have the power to grant amnesty
with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of the
Congress.

The text and tone of this provision will not yield to the
interpretation suggested by the public respondents. The
provision is simply the source of power of the President to
grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons and remit
fines and forfeitures after conviction by final judgment. It
also provides the authority for the President to grant
amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the
members of the Congress. The provision, however, cannot
be interpreted as denying the power of courts to control the
enforcement of their decisions after their finality. In truth,
an accused who has been convicted by final judgment still
possesses collateral rights and these rights can be claimed
in the appropriate courts. For instance, a death convict who
becomes insane after his final conviction
cannot be
15
executed while in a state of insanity. As observed by
Antieau, today, it is generally assumed that due process of
law will prevent the government from executing the death
sentence upon
a person who is insane at the time of
16
execution. The suspension of such a death sentence is
undisputably an exercise of judicial power. It is not a
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usurpation of the presidential power of reprieve though its


effect is the
__________________
14

See pp. 34 of Urgent Motion for Reconsideration.

15

See Article 79 of the Revised Penal Code.

16

Modern Constitutional Law, Vol. I, p. 409, 1969 ed., citing Caritativo

v. California, 357 US 549, 21 L ed. 2d 1531, 78 S. Ct. 1263 [1958].


116

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

samethe temporary suspension of the execution of the


death convict. In the same vein, it cannot be denied that
Congress can at any time amend R.A. No. 7659 by reducing
the penalty of death to life imprisonment. The effect of such
an amendment is like that of commutation of sentence. But
by no stretch of the imagination can the exercise by
Congress of its plenary power to amend laws be considered
as a violation of the power of the President to commute
final sentences of conviction. The powers of the Executive,
the Legislative and the Judiciary to save the life of a death
convict do not exclude each other for the simple reason that
there is no higher right than the right to life. Indeed, in
various States in the United States, laws have even been
enacted expressly granting courts the power to suspend
execution of convicts and their constitutionality has been
upheld over arguments that they infringe upon the power
of the President to grant reprieves. For the public
respondents therefore to contend that only the Executive
can protect the right to life of an accused after his final
conviction is to violate the principle of coequal and
coordinate powers of the three branches of our government.
III
Third. The Courts resolution temporarily restraining the
execution of petitioner must be put in its proper perspective
as it has been grievously distorted especially by those who
make a living by vilifying courts. Petitioner filed his Very
Urgent Motion for Issuance of TRO on December 28, 1998
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at about 11:30 p.m. He invoked several grounds, viz.: (1)


that his execution has been set on January 4, the first
working day of 1999 (b) that members of Congress had
either sought for his executive clemency and/or review or
repeal of the law authorizing capital punishment (b.1) that
Senator Aquilino Pimentels resolution asking that
clemency be granted to the petitioner and that capital
punishment be reviewed has been concurred by thirteen
(13) other senators (b.2) Senate President Marcelo Fernan
and Senator Miriam S. Defensor Santiago have publicly
declared they would seek a review of the death penalty law
(b.3) Senator Raul Roco has also sought
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VOL. 301, JANUARY 19, 1999

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

the repeal of capital punishment and (b.4) Congressman


Salacnib Baterina, Jr., and thirty five (35) other
congressmen are demanding review of the same law.
When the Very Urgent Motion was filed, the Court was
already in its traditional recess and would only resume
session on January 18, 1999. Even then, Chief Justice
Hilario Davide, Jr.
called the Court to a Special Session on
17
January 4, 1999 at 10 a.m. to deliberate on petitioners
Very Urgent Motion. The Court hardly had five (5) hours to
resolve petitioners motion as he was due to be executed at
3 p.m. Thus, the Court had the difficult problem of
resolving whether petitioners allegations about the moves
in Congress to repeal or amend the Death Penalty Law are
mere speculations or not. To the Courts majority, there
were good reasons why the Court should not immediately
dismiss petitioners allegations as mere speculations and
surmises. They noted that petitioners allegations were
made in a pleading under oath and were widely publicized
in the print and broadcast media. It was also of judicial
notice that the 11th Congress is a new Congress and has no
less than one hundred thirty (130) new members whose
views on capital punishment are still unexpressed. The
present Congress is therefore different from the Congress
that enacted the Death Penalty Law (R.A. No. 7659) and
the Lethal Injection Law (R.A. No. 8177). In contrast, the
Courts minority felt that petitioners allegations lacked
clear factual bases. There was hardly a time to verify
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petitioners allegations as his execution was set at 3 p.m.


And verification from Congress was impossible as Congress
was not in session. Given these constraints, the Courts
majority did not rush to judgment but took an extremely
cautious stance by temporarily restraining the execution of
petitioner. The suspension was temporaryuntil June 15,
1999, coeval with the constitutional duration of the present
regular session of Congress, unless it sooner becomes
certain that no repeal or modification
______________
17

December 30 and 31, 1998 were declared holidays. January 1, 1999

was an official holiday. January 2 was a Saturday and January 3 was a


Sunday.
118

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

of the law is going to be made. The extreme caution taken


by the Court was compelled, among others, by the fear that
any error of the Court in not stopping the execution of the
petitioner will preclude any further relief for all rights stop
at the graveyard. As life was at stake, the Court refused to
constitutionalize haste and the hysteria of some partisans.
The Courts majority felt it needed the certainty that the
legislature will not change the circumstance of petitioner
as alleged by his counsel. It was believed that law and
equitable considerations demand no less before allowing
the State to take the life of one of its citizens.
The temporary restraining order of this Court has
produced its desired result, i.e., the crystallization of the
issue whether Congress is disposed to review capital
punishment. The public respondents, thru the Solicitor
General, cite posterior events that negate beyond doubt the
possibility that Congress will repeal or amend the death
penalty law. He names these supervening events as follows:
xxx
a. The public pronouncement of President Estrada that he
will veto any law repealing the death penalty involving
heinous crimes
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b.

The resolution of Congressman Golez, et al., that they are


against the repeal of the law
c. The fact that Senator Rocos resolution to repeal the 18
law
only bears his signature and that of Senator Pimentel.

In their Supplemental Motion to Urgent Motion for


Reconsideration, the Solicitor General cited House
Resolution No. 629 introduced by Congressman Golez
entitled Resolution expressing the sense of the House of
Representatives to reject any move to review R.A. No. 7659
which provided for the reimposition of death penalty,
notifying the Senate, the Judiciary and the Executive
Department of the position of the
________________
18

Urgent Motion for Reconsideration of public respondents, p. 8.


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VOL. 301, JANUARY 19, 1999

119

Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

House of Representatives on this matter and urging the


President to exhaust all means under the law to
immediately implement the death penalty law. The Golez
resolution was signed by 113 congressmen as of January
11, 1999. In a marathon session yesterday that extended
up to 3 oclock in the morning, the House of
Representatives with minor amendments formally adopted
the Golez resolution by an overwhelming vote. House
Resolution No. 25 expressed the sentiment that the House
x x x does not desire at this time to review Republic Act
7659. In addition, the President has stated that he will not
request Congress to ratify the Second Protocol in view of
the prevalence of heinous crimes in the country. In light of
these developments, the Courts TRO should now be lifted
as it has served its legal and humanitarian purpose.
A last note. In 1922, the famous Clarence Darrow
predicted that x x x the question of capital punishment
has been the subject of endless discussion and will
probably never
be settled so long as men believe in
19
punishment. In our clime and time when heinous crimes
continue to be unchecked, the debate on the legal and
moral predicates of capital punishment has been
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regrettably blurred by emotionalism because of the


unfaltering faith of the pro and antideath partisans on the
right and righteousness of their postulates. To be sure, any
debate, even if it is no more than an exchange of epithets is
healthy in a democracy. But when the debate deteriorates to
discord due to the overuse of words that wound, when anger
threatens to turn the majority rule to tyranny, it is the
especial duty of this Court to assure that the guarantees of
the Bill of Rights to the minority fully hold. As Justice
Brennan reminds us x x x it is the very purpose of the
Constitutionand particularly the Bill of Rightsto
declare certain values transcendent,
beyond the reach of
20
temporary political majorities. Man has yet to invent a
better hatchery of justice than the courts. It is a hatchery
where justice will bloom only when we can prevent
_____________
19

Darrow, Crime: Its Cause and Treatment, p. 166 (1922).

20

Eisler, A Justice For All, p. 268.


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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

the roots of reason to be blown away by the winds of rage.


The flame of the rule of law cannot be ignited by rage,
especially the rage of the mob which is the mother of
unfairness. The business of courts in rendering justice is to
be fair and they can pass their litmus test only when they
can be 21fair to him who is momentarily the most hated by
society.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Court grants the public
respondents Urgent Motion for Reconsideration and
Supplemental Motion to Urgent Motion for Reconsideration
and lifts the Temporary Restraining Order issued in its
Resolution of January 4, 1999.
The Court also orders respondent trial court judge (Hon.
Thelma A. Ponferrada, Regional Trial Court, Quezon City,
Branch 104) to set anew the date for execution of the
convict/petitioner in accordance with applicable provisions
of law and the Rules of Court, without further delay.
SO ORDERED.
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Davide, Jr. (C.J.), Romero, Bellosillo, Melo,


Kapunan, Mendoza, Martinez, Quisumbing, Purisima and
Pardo, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., Please see Separate Opinion.
Panganiban, J., Please see Separate Opinion.
Buena and GonzagaReyes, JJ., No part.
________________
21

Where personal liberty is involved, a democratic society employs a

different arithmetic and insists that it is less important to reach an


unshakable decision than to do justice. Pollack, Proposals to Curtail
Habeas Corpus for State Prisoners: Collateral Attack on the Great Writ.
66 Yale LJ 50, 65 (1956).
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

SEPARATE OPINION
VITUG, J.:
Let me state at the outset that I have humbly maintained
that Republic Act No. 7659, insofar as it prescribes the
death penalty, falls short of the strict norm set forth by the
Constitution. I and some of my brethren on the Court, who
hold similarly, have consistently expressed this stand in
the affirmance by the Court of death sentences imposed by
Regional Trial Courts.
In its resolution of 04 January 1999, the Court resolved
to issue in the abovenumbered petition a temporary
restraining order (TRO) because, among other things, of
what had been stated to be indications that Congress would
reexamine the death penalty law. It was principally out of
respect and comity to a coequal branch of the government,
i.e., to reasonably allow it that opportunity if truly minded,
that motivated the Court to grant, after deliberation, a
limited time for the purpose.
The Court, it must be stressed, did not, by issuing the
TRO, thereby reconsider its judgment convicting the
accused or recall the imposition of the death penalty.
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The doctrine has almost invariably been that after a


decision becomes final and executory, nothing else is
further done except to see to its compliance since for the
Court to adopt otherwise would be to put no end to
litigations. The rule notwithstanding, the Court retains
control over the case until the full satisfaction of the final
judgment conformably with established legal processes.
Hence, the Court has taken cognizance of the petition
assailing before it the use of lethal injection by the State to
carry out the death sentence. In any event, jurisprudence
teaches that the rule of immutability of final and executory
judgments admits of settled exceptions. Concededly, the
Court may, for instance, suspend the execution of a final
judgment when it becomes imperative in the higher
122

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

interest of justice or when supervening events warrant it.1


Certainly, this extraordinary relief cannot be denied any
man, whatever might be his station, whose right to life is
the issue at stake. The pronouncement in 2Director of
Prisons vs. Judge of First Instance of Cavite, should be
instructive. Thus
This Supreme Court has repeatedly declared in various
decisions, which constitute jurisprudence on the subject, that in
criminal cases, after the sentence has been pronounced and the
period for reopening the same has elapsed, the court can not
change or alter its judgment, as its jurisdiction has terminated,
functus est officio suo, according to the classical phrase. When in
cases of appeal or review the cause has been returned thereto for
execution, in the event that the judgment has been affirmed, it
performs a ministerial duty in issuing the proper order. But it
does not follow from this cessation of functions on the part of the
court with reference to the ending of the cause that the judicial
authority terminates by having then passed completely to the
executive. The particulars of the execution itself, which are
certainly not always included in the judgment and writ of
execution, in any event are absolutely under the control of the
judicial authority, while the executive has no power over the person
of the convict except to provide for carrying out the penalty and to
pardon.
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Getting down to the solution of the question in the case at bar,


which is that of execution of a capital sentence, it must be
accepted as a hypothesis that postponement of the date can be
requested. There can be no dispute on this point. It is a well
known principle that, notwithstanding the order of execution and
the executory nature thereof on the date set or at the proper time,
the date therefor can be postponed, even in sentences of death.
Under the common law this postponement can be ordered in three
ways: (1) by command of the King (2) by discretion (arbitrio) of
the court and (3) by mandate of the law. It is sufficient to state
this principle of the common law to render impossible the
assertion in absolute terms that after the convict has once been
placed in jail the trial court can
______________
1

Candelaria vs. Caizares, 4 SCRA 738 Philippine Veterans Bank vs.

Intermediate Appellate Court, 178 SCRA 645 Lipana vs. Development Bank of
Rizal, 154 SCRA 257 Lee vs. De Guzman, 187 SCRA 276 Bachrach Corporation
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128349, 25 September 1998.
2

29 Phil. 267.

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

not reopen the case to investigate the facts that show the need for
postponement. If one of the ways is by direction of the court, it is
acknowledged that even after the date of the execution has been
fixed, and notwithstanding the general rule that after the Court of
First Instance has performed its ministerial duty of ordering the
execution, functus est officio suo, and its part is ended, if however
a circumstance arises that ought to delay the execution, there is an
imperative duty to investigate the emergency and to order a
postponement. x x x.

In fine, the authority of the Court to see to the proper


execution of its final judgment, the power of the President
to grant pardon, commutation or reprieve, and the
prerogative of Congress to repeal or modify the law that
could benefit the convicted accused are not essentially
preclusive of one another nor constitutionally incompatible
and may each be exercised within their respective spheres
and confines. Thus, the stay of execution issued by the
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Court would not prevent either the President from


exercising his pardoning power or Congress from enacting
a measure that may be advantageous to the adjudged
offender.
The TRO of this Court has provided that it shall be lifted
even before its expiry date of 15 June 1999, coeval with the
duration of the present regular session of Congress, if it
sooner becomes certain that no repeal or modification of the
law is going to be made. The Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General
states
that
as
of
the
moment,
certain
circumstances/supervening events (have) transpired to the
effect that the repeal or modification of the law imposing
death penalty has become nil x x x. If, indeed,
it would be
3
futile to yet expect any chance for a timely reexamination
by Congress of the death penalty law, then I can appreciate
why the majority of the Justices on the Court feel rightly
bound even now to lift the TRO.
I am hopeful, nevertheless, that Congress will in time
find its way clear to undertaking a most thorough and
dispassionate reexamination of the law not so much for its
questioned wisdom as for the need to have a second look at
the conditions
________________
3

At least for Mr. Echegaray.


124

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

sine qua non prescribed by the Constitution in 4the


imposition of the death penalty. In People vs. Masalihit, in
urging, with all due respect, Congress to consider a prompt
reexamination of the death penalty law, I have said:
The determination of when to prescribe the death penalty lies, in
the initial instance, with the lawmaking authority, the Congress
of the Philippines, subject to the conditions that the Constitution
itself has set forth viz.: (1) That there must be compelling reasons
to justify the imposition of the death penalty and (2) That the
capital offense must involve a heinous crime. It appears that the
fundamental law did not contemplate a simple reimposition of the
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death penalty to offenses theretofore already provided in the


Revised Penal Code or, let alone, just because of it. The term
compelling reasons would indicate to me that there must first be a
marked change in the milieu from that which has prevailed at the
time of adoption of the 1987 Constitution, on the one hand, to that
which exists at the enactment of the statute prescribing the death
penalty, upon the other hand, that would make it distinctively
inexorable to allow the reimposition of the death penalty. Most
importantly, the circumstances that would characterize the
heinous nature of the crime and make it so exceptionally offensive
as to warrant the death penalty must be spelled out with great
clarity in the law, albeit without necessarily precluding the Court
from exercising its power of judicial review given the
circumstances of each case. To venture, in the case of murder, the
crime would become heinous within the Constitutional concept,
when, to exemplify, the victim is unnecessarily subjected to a
painful and excruciating death or, in the crime of rape, when the
offended party is callously humiliated or even brutally killed by
the accused. The indiscriminate imposition of the death penalty
could somehow constrain courts to apply, perhaps without
consciously meaning to, stringent standards for conviction, not too
unlikely beyond what might normally be required in criminal
cases, that can, in fact, result in undue exculpation of offenders to
the great prejudice of victims and society.

Today, I reiterate the above view and until the exacting


standards of the Constitution are clearly met as so herein
above expressed, I will have to disagree, most respectfully,
_________________
4

G.R. No. 124329, 14 December 1998.


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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

with my colleagues in the majority who continue to hold


the presently structured Republic Act No. 7659 to be in
accord with the Constitution, an issue that is fundamental,
constant and inextricably linked to the imposition each
time of the death penalty and, like the instant petition, to
the legal incidents pertinent thereto.
Accordingly, I vote against the lifting of the restraining
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order of the Court even as I, like everyone else, however,


must respect and be held bound by the ruling of the
majority.
SEPARATE OPINION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
I agree with the Courts Resolution that, without doubt,
this Court has jurisdiction to issue the disputed Temporary
Restraining Order (TRO) on January 4, 1999. I will not
repeat its wellreasoned disquisition. I write only to explain
my vote in the context of the larger issue of the death
penalty.
Since the solicitor general has demonstrated that
Congress will not repeal or amend RA 7659 during its
current session which ends on June 15, 1999 and that, in
any event, the President will veto any such repeal or
amendment, the TRO should by its own terms be deemed
lifted now. However, my objections to the imposition of the
death penalty transcend the TRO and permeate its
juridical essence.
I maintain my view that RA 7659 (the Death Penalty
Law) is unconstitutional insofar as some parts thereof
prescribing the capital penalty fail to comply with the
requirements of heinousness and compelling reasons
**
prescribed by the Constitution of the Philippines. This I
have repeatedly stated in my Dissenting Opinions in
various death cases decided by the Court, as well as during
the Courts deliberation on this matter on January 4, 1999.
For easy reference, I hereby attach a copy of my Dissent
promulgated on February 7, 1997.
______________
**

I have further explained my unflinching position on this matter in

my recent book Battles in the Supreme Court, particularly on pages 58 to


84.
126

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Consequently, I cannot now vote to lift the TRO, because to


do so would mean the upholding and enforcement of a law
(or the relevant portions thereof) which, I submit with all
due respect, is unconstitutional and therefore legally
nonexistent. I also reiterate that, in my humble opinion,
RA 8177 (the Lethal Injection Law) is likewise
unconstitutional since it merely prescribes the manner in
which RA 7659 (the Death Penalty Law) is to be
implemented.
Having said that, I stress, however, that I defer to the
rule of law and will abide by the ruling of the Court that
both RA 7659 and RA 8177 are constitutional and that the
death penalty should, by majority vote, be implemented by
means of lethal injection.
FOR THE ABOVE REASONS, I vote to deny the
solicitor generals Motion for Reconsideration.
Supplemental Motion for
Reconsideration

SEPARATE OPINION

Death Penalty Law Unconstitutional


1

In his Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration dated


2
August 22, 1996 filed by his newlyretained counsel, the
accused raises for the first time a very crucial ground for
his defense: that Republic Act No. 7659, the law reimposing
the death penalty, is unconstitutional. In the Brief and
(original)
____________
1

It is called Supplemental because there was a (main) Motion for

Reconsideration filed by the previous counsel of the accused, which this


Court already denied.
2

The Anti Death Penalty Task Force of the Free Legal Assistance

GroupPablito V. Sanidad, Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Arno V. Sanidad,


Efren Moncupa, Eduardo R. Abaya and Ma. Victoria I. Dioknofiled its
Notice of Appearance dated August 22, 1996 only on August 23, 1996,
after the Per Curiam Decision of this Court was promulgated on June 25,
1996.

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice


3

Motion for Reconsideration filed by his previous counsel,


this transcendental issue was not brought up. Hence, it
was not passed upon by this Court4 in its Decision affirming
the trial courts sentence of death.
The Constitution Abolished Death Penalty
Section 19, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides:
Sec. 19. (1) Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel,
degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death
penalty be imposed, unless for compelling reasons involving
heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death
penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.
(Italics supplied)

The second and third sentences of the above provision are


new and had not been written in the 1935, 1973 or even in
the 1986 5 Freedom Constitution. They proscribe the
imposition
__________________
3

Atty. Julian R. Vitug, Jr.

The bulk of jurisprudence precludes raising an issue for the first time

only on appeal. See, for instance, Manila Bay Club Corporation vs. Court
of Appeals, 249 SCRA 303, October 13, 1995 Manila Bay Club
Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, 245 SCRA 715, July 11, 1995 Securities
and Exchange Commission vs. Court of Appeals, 246 SCRA 738, July 21,
1995.

However,

the

Court

resolved

to

tackle

the

question

of

constitutionality of Republic Act No. 7659 in this case, anticipating that


the same question would be raised anyway in many other subsequent
instances. The Court resolved to determine and dispose of the issue once
and for all, at the first opportunity. To let the issue pass unresolved just
because it was raised after the promulgation of the decision affirming
conviction may result in grave injustice.
5

In People vs. Muoz, 170 SCRA 107, February 9, 1989 the Court,

prior to the enactment and effectivity of RA 7659, ruled by a vote of 96 (J.


Cruz, ponente, C.J. Fernan, JJ. Gutierrez, Jr., Feliciano, Gancayco,
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Padilla, Bidin, GrioAquino and Medialdea, concurring) that the death


penalty was not abolished but only prohibited from being imposed. But see
also the persuasive Dissenting
128

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

of the death penalty unless for compelling reasons


involving heinous crimes, Congress provides for it, and
reduced any death penalty already imposed to reclusion
perpetua. The provision has both a prospective aspect (it
bars the future imposition of the penalty) and a retroactive
one (it reduces imposed capital sentences to the lesser
penalty of imprisonment).
This twofold aspect is significant. It stresses that the
Constitution did not merely suspend the imposition of the
death penalty, but in fact completely abolished it from the
statute books. The automatic commutation or reduction to
reclusion perpetua of any death penalty extant as of the
effectivity of the Constitution clearly recognizes that, while
the conviction of an accused for a capital crime remains,
death as a penalty ceased to exist in our penal laws and
thus may no longer be carried out. This is the clear intent
of the framers
of our Constitution. As Comm. Bernas
6
exclaimed, (t)he majority voted for the constitutional
abolition of the death penalty.
_____________
Opinion of Mme. Justice Ameurfina MelencioHerrera (joined by JJ.
Narvasa, Paras, Sarmiento, Cortes and Regalado) who contended that the
Constitution totally abolished the death penalty and removed it from the
statute books. People vs. Muoz reversed the earlier abolition doctrine
uniformly held in People vs. Gavarra, 155 SCRA 327, October 30, 1987,
(per C.J. Yap) People vs. Masangkay, 155 SCRA 113, October 27, 1987,
(per J. MelencioHerrera) and People vs. Atencio, 156 SCRA 242,
December 10, 1987 (per C.J. Narvasa). It is time that these cases are
revisited by this Court.
6

This quote is taken from I Record of the Constitutional Commission,

p. 676 (July 17, 1986) as follows:


Fr. Bernas:
x x xx x xx x x
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My recollection on this is that there was a division in the Committee not on


whether the death penalty should be abolished or not, but rather on whether the
abolition should be done by the Constitutionin which case it cannot be restored
by the legislatureor left to the legislature. The majority voted for the
constitutional abolition of the death penalty. And the reason is that capital
punishment is inhuman for the convict and his family who are traumatized by the
waiting, even if it is

129

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

Citing this and other similar pronouncements of the


distinguished Concom delegate,
Mme. Justice Ameurfina
7
MelencioHerrera emphasized, It is thus clear that when
Fr. Bernas sponsored the provision regarding the non
imposition of the death penalty, what he had in mind was
the total abolition and removal from the statute books of
the death penalty. This became the intent of the framers of
the Constitution when they approved the provision and
made it a part of the Bill of Rights. With such abolition as
a premise, restoration thereof becomes an exception to a
constitutional mandate. Being an exception and thus in
derogation of the Constitution, it must then be strictly
construed
against the State and liberally in favor of the
8
people. In this light, RA 7659 enjoys no presumption of
constitutionality.
The Constitution Strictly Limits
Prerogative to Prescribe Death

Congressional

To me, it is very clear that the Constitution (1) effectively


removed the death penalty from the then existing statutes
but (2) authorized Congress to restore it at some future
time to enable or empower9 courts to reimpose it on
condition that it (Congress) finds compelling reasons,
involving heinous
__________________
never carried out. There is no evidence that the death penalty deterred
deadly criminals, hence, life should not be destroyed just in the hope that
other lives might be saved. Assuming mastery over the life of another man
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is just too presumptuous for any man. The fact that the death penalty as
an institution has been there from time immemorial should not deter us
from reviewing it. Human life is more valuable than an institution
intended precisely to serve human life. So basically, this is the summary
of the reasons which were presented in support of the constitutional
abolition of the death penalty. (italics supplied)
7

Dissenting Opinion in People vs. Muoz, supra, p. 129.

Thus in People vs. Burgos, 144 SCRA 1, September 4, 1986, we held

that a statute which allows an exception to a constitutional right (against


warrantless arrests) should be strictly construed.
9

In his scholarly Memorandum, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. as amicus

curiae in People vs. Pedro V. Malabago (G.R. No. 115686,


130

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

crimes. The language


of the Constitution is emphatic
10
(even if awkward ): the authority of Congress to provide
for it is not absolute. Rather, it is strictly limited:
(1) by compelling reasons that may arise after the
Constitution became effective and
(2) to crimes which Congress should identify or define
or characterize as heinous.
The Constitution inexorably placed upon Congress the
burden of determining the existence of compelling
reasons and of defining what crimes are heinous before it
could exercise its lawmaking prerogative to restore the
death penalty. For claritys sake, may I emphasize that
Congress, by law, prescribes the death penalty on certain
crimes and courts, by their decisions, impose it on
individual offenders found guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of committing said crimes.
In the exercise
of this fundamental mandate, Congress
11
enacted RA 7659 to provide for it (the death penalty) (1)
by
_______________
December 2, 1996), vigorously argues that RA 7659 has validly restored
the death penalty which may now be imposed provided that the
prosecution proves, and the court is convinced, that (a) the accused is
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guilty of a crime designated by RA 7659 as capital, (b) whose commission


is accompanied by aggravating circumstances as defined by Arts. 14 and
15 of the Revised Penal Code, (c) the accompanying aggravating
circumstance must be one which can be characterized by the court as
making the crime heinous, and (d) that the execution of the offender is
demanded by compelling reasons related to the offense. In other words,
according to him, it is the courtsnot Congressthat have the
responsibility of determining the heinousness of a crime and the
compelling reason for its imposition upon a particular offender, depending
on the facts of each case. I cannot however subscribe to this view. The
Constitution clearly identifies Congress as the sovereign entity which is
given the onus of fulfilling these two constitutional limitations.
10

People vs. Muoz, supra, p. 121.

11

Which became effective on December 31, 1993, per People vs. Burgos,

234 SCRA 555, 569, July 29, 1994 People vs. Godoy, 250
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice


12

amending certain provisions of the Revised 13Penal Code


(2) by incorporating a new article
therein and (3) by
14
amending certain special laws.
But RA 7659 did not change the nature or the elements
of the crimes stated in the Penal Code and in the special
laws. It merely made the penalty more severe. Neither did
its provisions (other than the preamble, which was cast in
general terms) discuss or justify the reasons for the more
severe sanction, either collectively for all the offenses or
individually for each of them.
Generally, it merely reinstated the concept of and the
method by which the death penalty had been imposed until
February 2, 1987, when the Constitution took effect as
follows: (1) a person is convicted of a capital offense and (2)
the commission of which was accompanied by aggravating
circumstances not outweighed by mitigating circumstances.
The basic question then is: In enacting RA 7659, did
Congress exceed the limited authority granted it by the
Constitution? More legally put: In reviving the death
penalty, did Congress act with grave abuse of discretion or
in excess of the very limited power or jurisdiction conferred
on it by Art. III, Sec. 19? The answer, I respectfully submit,
is YES.
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Heinous Crimes
To repeat, while the Constitution limited the power of
Congress to prescribe the death penalty ONLY to heinous
_________________
SCRA 676, December 6, 1995 People vs. Albert, 251 SCRA 136,
December 11, 1995.
12

Art. 114Treason Art. 123Qualified Piracy Art. 246Parricide

Art. 248Murder Art. 255Infanticide Art. 267Kidnapping and


Serious Illegal Detention Art. 294Robbery with violence against or
intimidation of persons Art. 320Destructive Arson Art. 335Rape.
13

Art. 211A on Qualified Bribery.

14

Section 2, RA 7080Plunder Secs. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 of Article II of

RA 6425Prohibited Drugs Secs. 14, 14A and 15 of Article III of said RA


6425Carnapping.
132

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

crimes, it did not define or characterize the meaning of


heinous. Neither did Congress. As already stated, RA
7659 itself merely selected some existing crimes for which
it prescribed death as an applicable penalty. It did not give
a standard or a characterization by which courts may be
able to appreciate the heinousness of a crime. I concede
that Congress was only too well aware of its
constitutionally limited power. In deference thereto, it
included a paragraph in the preambular or whereas
clauses of RA 7659, as follows:
WHEREAS, the crimes punishable by death under this Act are
heinous for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which,
by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness,
atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the
common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just,
civilized and ordered society.

In my humble view, however, the foregoing clause is clearly


an insufficient definition or characterization of what a
heinous crime is. It simply and gratuitously declared
certain crimes to be heinous without adequately
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justifying its bases therefor. It supplies no useful,


workable, clear and unambiguous standard by which the
presence of heinousness can be determined. Calling the
crimes grievous, odious and hateful is not a substitute for
an objective juridical definition. Neither is the description
inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and
perversity. Describing blood as blue does not detract from
its being crimson in fact and renaming gumamela as rose
will not arm it with thorns.
Besides, a preamble is really not an integral part of a
law. It is merely an introduction to show its intent or
purposes. It cannot be the origin of rights and obligations.
Where the meaning of a statute is clear and unambiguous,
the preamble can neither expand
nor restrict its operation,
15
much less prevail over its text. In this case, it cannot be
the authoritative source to show compliance with the
Constitution.
_________________
A preamble is not an essential part of a statute. (Agpalo,
Statutory Construction, Second Edition 1990 Martin, Statutory
15

133

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133

Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

As already alluded to, RA 7659 merely amended certain


laws to prescribe death as the maximum imposable penalty
once the court appreciates16 the presence or absence of
aggravating circumstances. Theres nothing really new
that Congress did which it could not have otherwise done
had such provision not been included in our fundamental
law.
In other words, it just reinstated capital punishment for
crimes which were already punishable with death prior to
the effectivity of the 1987 Constitution. With
the possible
17
exception of plunder and qualified bribery, no new crimes
were introduced by RA 7659. The offenses punished by
death under said law
were already so punishable by the
18
Revised Penal Code and by special laws. In short, Sec. 19,
Article III of the Constitution did not have any impact upon
the legislative action. It was effectively ignored by Congress
in enacting the capital punishment law.
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________________
Construction, Sixth Edition, 1984). The function of the preamble is to
supply reasons and explanation and not to confer power or determine
rights. Hence it cannot be given the effect of enlarging the scope or effect
of a statute. (C. Dallas Sands, Statutes and Statutory Construction,
Fourth Edition, Volume IA, 20.03).
16

Under Sec. 11, RA 7659, it appears that death is the mandatory

penalty for rape, regardless of the presence or absence of aggravating or


mitigating circumstances, (w)hen by reason or on the occasion of the
rape, a homicide is committed, or when it is committed with any of the
attendant circumstances enumerated in said section.
17

While plunder and qualified bribery are new capital offenses, RA

7659 nonetheless fails to justify why they are considered heinous. In


addition, the specific compelling reasons for the prescribed penalty of
death are not laid out by the statute.
18

In the case of rape, RA 7659 provided certain attendant

circumstances which the prosecution must prove before courts can impose
the extreme penalty. Just the same however, the law did not explain why
said circumstances would make the crimes heinous. Neither did it set
forth the compelling reasons therefor.
134

134

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

During the debate on Senate Bill No. 891 which later


became RA 7659, Sen. Jose Lina, 19in answer to a question of
Sen. Ernesto Maceda, wryly said:
So we did not go that far from the Revised Penal Code, Mr.
President, and from existing special laws which, before abolition
of the death penalty, had already death as the maximum
penalty.

By merely reimposing capital punishment on the very same


crimes which were already penalized with death prior to
the charters effectivity, Congress I submit has not fulfilled
its specific and positive constitutional duty. If the
Constitutional Commission intended merely to allow
Congress to prescribe death for these very same crimes, it
would not have written Sec. 19 of Article III into the
fundamental law. But the stubborn fact is it did. Verily, the
intention to 1) delete the death penalty from our criminal
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laws and 2) make its restoration possible only under and


subject to stringent conditions is evident not only from the
language of the Constitution but also from the charter
debates on this matter.
The critical phrase unless for compelling reasons
involving heinous crimes was an amendment introduced
by Comm. Christian Monsod. In explaining what possible
crimes could qualify as heinous, he and Comm. Jose Suarez
agreed on
organized murder or brutal murder of a rape
20
victim. Note
______________
19

Record of the Senate, First Regular Session, January 18 to March 11,

1993, Volume III, No. 48, January 25, 1993, p. 122.


20

I Record of the Constitutional Commission, July 18, 1986, pp. 742

743:
MR. SUAREZ. The Gentleman advisedly used the words heinous
crimes, whatever is the pronunciation. Will the Gentleman give
examples of heinous crimes? For example, would the head of an
organized syndicate in dope distribution or dope smuggling fall within
the qualification of a heinous offender such as to preclude the
application of the principle of abolition of death penalty?
MR. MONSOD. Yes, Madam President. That is one of the possible
crimes that would qualify for a heinous crime. An
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

that the honorable commissioners did not just say murder


but organized murder not just rape but brutal murder of a
rape victim. While the debates were admittedly rather
scanty, I believe that the available information shows that,
when deliberating on heinousness, the Constitutional
Commission did not have in mind the offenses already
existing and already penalized with death. I also believe
that the heinousness clause requires that:
1) the crimes should be entirely new offenses, the
elements of which have an inherent quality, degree
or level of perversity, depravity or viciousness
unheard of until then or
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________________
other would be organized murder. In other words, yesterday there were
many arguments for and against, and they all had merit. But in the
contemporary society, we recognize the sacredness of human life andI
think it was Honorable Laurel who said this yesterdayit is only God who
gives and takes life. However, the voice of the people is also the voice of
God, and we cannot presume to have the wisdom of the ages. Therefore, it
is entirely possible in the future that circumstances may arise which we
should not preclude today. We know that this is very difficult question.
The fact that the arguments yesterday were quite impassioned and
meritorious merely tell us that this is far from a wellsettled issue. At
least in my personal opinion, we would like the death penalty to be
abolished. However, in the future we should allow the National Assembly,
in its wisdom and as representatives of the people, to still impose the
death penalty for the common good, in specific cases.
MR. SUAREZ. Thank you.
I would like to pursue some more the Gentlemans definition of heinous
crimes.
Would the brutal murder of a rape victim be considered as falling
within that classification?
MR. MONSOD. Madam President, yes, particularly, if it is a person
in authority. He would, therefore, add as an aggravating circumstance
to the crime the abuse of his position in authority.
MR. SUAREZ. Thank you.
136

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

2) even existing crimes, provided some new element or


essential ingredient like organized or brutal is
added to show their utter perversity, odiousness or
malevolence or
3) the means or method by which the crime, whether
new or old, is carried out evinces a degree or
magnitude of extreme violence, evil, cruelty,
atrocity, viciousness
as to demonstrate its
21
heinousness.
For this purpose, Congress could enact an entirely new set
of circumstances to qualify the crime as heinous, in the
same manner that the presence of treachery in a homicide
aggravates the crime to murder for which a heavier penalty
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is prescribed.
Compelling Reasons
Quite apart from requiring the attendant element of
heinousness, the Constitution also directs Congress to
determine compelling reasons for the revival of the
capital penalty. It is 22true that paragraphs 3 and 4 of the
preamble of RA 7659 made some attempt at meeting this
requirement. But such effort was at best feeble and
inconsequential. It should be remembered that every word
or phrase in the Constitution is
______________
Some examples of this may be taken by Congress from
Richmond vs. Lewis, 506 US 40, like gratuitous violence
or needless mutilation of the victim.
22 Paragraphs 3 & 4 of the preamble reads:
21

WHEREAS, due to the alarming upsurge of such crimes which


has resulted not only in the loss of human lives and wanton
destruction of property but has also affected the nations efforts
towards sustainable economic development and prosperity while
at the same time has undermined the peoples faith in the
Government and the latters ability to maintain peace and order
in the country
WHEREAS, the Congress, in the interest of justice, public
order and the rule of law, and the need to rationalize and
harmonize the penal sanctions for heinous crimes, finds
compelling reasons to impose the death penalty for said crimes.
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

sacred and should never be ignored, cavalierlytreated or


brushed aside. Thus, I believe that the compelling reasons
and the characterization of heinousness cannot be done
wholesale but must be shown for each and every crime,
individually and separately.
The words compelling reasons were included in the
Charter because, in the words of Comm. Monsod, in the
future, circumstances may arise which we should not
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preclude today x x x and that the conditions and the


situation (during the deliberations of the Constitutional
Commission) might change for very specific reasons
requiring the return of the constitutionallyabhorred
penalty.
In his sponsorship of House Bill No. 62 which later
evolved into RA 7659, Congressman Pablo Garcia, in
answer to questions raised by Representative
Edcel
23
Lagman tried to explain these compelling reasons:
MR. LAGMAN. So what are the compelling reasons now,
Mr. Speaker? x x x
MR. GARCIA (P.). The worsening peace and order
condition in the country, Mr. Speaker. That is one.
MR. LAGMAN. So the compelling reason which the
distinguished sponsor would like to justify or serve as an
anchor for the justification of the reimposition of the
death penalty is the alleged worsening peace and order
situation. The Gentleman claims that that is one of the
compelling reasons. But before we dissect this particular
compelling reason, may we know what are the other
compelling reasons, Mr. Speaker?
MR. GARCIA (P.). Justice, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAGMAN. Justice.
MR. GARCIA (P.). Yes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAGMAN. Justice is a compelling reason, Mr.
Speaker? Could the Gentleman kindly elaborate on that
answer? Why is justice a compelling reason as if justice
was not obtained at the time
_______________
23

Record of the House of Representatives, First Regular Session, 1992

1993, Volume IV, February 10, 1993, p. 674, italics supplied.


138

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

the Constitution abolished the death penalty? Any


compelling reason should be a supervening circumstances
after 1987.
MR. GARCIA (P.). Mr. Speaker, I have repeatedly said
again and again that if one lives in an organized society
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governed by law, justice demands that crime be


punished and that the penalty imposed be
commensurate with the offense committed.
MR. LAGMAN. The Gentleman would agree with me that
when the Constitution speaks of the compelling reasons
to justify the reimposition of death penalty, it refers to
reasons which would supervene or come after the
approval of the 1987 Constitution. Is he submitting that
justice, in his own concept of a commensurate penalty
for the offense committed, was not obtained in 1987
when the Constitution abolished the death penalty and
the people ratified it?
MR. GARCIA (P.). That is precisely why we are saying that
now, under present conditions, because of the
seriousness of the offenses being committed at this time,
justice demands that the appropriate penalty must be
meted out for those who have committed heinous crimes.
x x xx x xx x x
In short, Congressman Garcia invoked the preambular
justifications of worsening peace and order and justice.
With all due respect I submit that these grounds are not
compelling enough to justify the revival of statedecreed
deaths. In fact, I dare say that these reasons were even
nonexistent. Statistics from the Philippine National Police
show that the crime volume and crime rate particularly on
those legislated capital offenses did not worsen but in fact
declined between 1987, the date when the Constitution
took effect, and 1993, the year when RA
7659 was enacted.
24
Witness
the
following
debate
also
between
Representatives Garcia and Lagman:
MR. LAGMAN. Very good, Mr. Speaker. Now, can we go to
1987. Could the Gentleman from Cebu inform us the
volume of the crime of murder in 1987?
_______________
24

Record of the House of Representatives, First Regular Session, 1992

1993, Vol. III, November 10, 1992, p. 448 italics supplied.


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MR. GARCIA (P.). The volume of the crime of murder in


1987 is 12,305.
MR. LAGMAN. So, the corresponding crime rate was 21
percent.
MR. GARCIA (P.). Yes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAGMAN. That was in 1987. Mr. Speaker, could the
distinguished chairman inform us the volume of murder
in 1988?
MR. GARCIA (P.). It was 10,521, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAGMAN. Or it was a reduction from 12,305 in 1987
to 10,521 in 1988. Correspondingly, the crime rate in the
very year after the abolition of the death penalty was
reduced from 21 percent to 18 percent. Is that correct, Mr.
Speaker?
MR. GARCIA (P.). That is correct, Mr. Speaker.
Those are the statistics supplied by the PC.
MR. LAGMAN. Now can we go again to 1987 when the
Constitution abolished the death penalty? May we know
from the distinguished Gentleman the volume of robbery
in 1987?
MR. GARCIA (P.). Will the Gentleman state the figure? I
will confirm it.
MR. LAGMAN. No. Mr. Speaker, I am asking the question.
MR. GARCIA (P.). It was 22,942, Mr. Speaker, and the
crime rate was 40 percent.
MR. LAGMAN. This was the year immediately after the
abolition of the death penalty. Could the Gentleman tell
us the volume of robbery cases in 1988?
MR. GARCIA (P.). It was 16,926, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAGMAN. Obviously, the Gentleman would agree with
me, Mr. Speaker that the volume of robbery cases
declined from 22,942 in 1987 or crime rate of 40 percent
to 16,926 or a crime rate of 29 percent. Would the
Gentleman confirm that, Mr. Speaker?
MR. GARCIA (P.). This is what the statistics say, I
understand we are reading now from the same
document.
MR. LAGMAN. Now, going to homicide, the volume 1987
was 12,870 or a crime rate of 22 percent. The volume in
1988 was 11,132 or a crime rate of 19 percent. Would the
Gentleman confirm that, Mr. Speaker?
140

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MR. GARCIA (P.). As I said, Mr. Speaker, we are reading


from the same document and I would not want to say
that the Gentleman is misreading the document that I
have here.
MR. LAGMAN. But would the Gentleman confirm that?
MR. GARCIA (P.). The document speaks for itself.
When interpellated by Sen. Arturo Tolentino, Sen. Jose
Lina gave some figures on the number of persons arrested
in regard to drugrelated
offenses in the year 1987 as
25
compared to 1991:
Let me cite this concrete statistics by the Dangerous Drugs
Board.
In 1987this was the year when the death penalty was
abolishedthe persons arrested in drugrelated cases were 3,062,
and the figure dropped to 2,686 in 1988.
By the way, I will furnish my Colleagues with a photocopy of
this report.
From 3,062 in 1987, it dropped to 2,686. Again, it increased a
bit to 2,862 in 1989. It still decreased to 2,202 in 1990, and it
increased again to 2,862 in 1991.
But in 1987, when the death penalty was abolished, as far as
the drugrelated cases are concerned, the figure continued a
downward trend, and there was no death penalty in this time
from, 1988 to 1991.

In a further attempt to show compelling reasons, the


proponents of the death penalty argue that its reimposition
would 26pose as an effective deterrent against heinous
crimes. However no statistical data, no sufficient proof,
empirical or otherwise, have been submitted to show with
any conclusiveness the relationship between the
prescription of the death penalty for certain offenses and
the commission or noncommission thereof. This is a theory
that can be debated
__________________
25

Record of the Senate, First Regular Session, January 18 to March 11,

1993, Volume III, No. 50, January 27, 1993, pp. 176177.
26

See Sponsorship Remarks of Rep. Manuel Sanchez, Record of the

House of Representatives, November 9, 1992, pp. 4042.


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27

on and on, in the same manner that another proposition


that the real deterrent to crime is the certainty of
immediate arrest, prosecution and conviction of the culprit
without unnecessary risk, expense and inconvenience to
the victim, 28his heirs or his witnessescan be argued
indefinitely. This debate can last till the academics grow
weary of the spoken word, but it would not lessen the
constitutionallyimposed burden of Congress to act within
the heinousness and compelling reasons limits of its
deathprescribing power.
_______________
27

Witness,

for

instance,

this

interesting

exchange

between

Commissioners Joaquin Bernas and Napoleon Rama (I Record of the


Constitutional Commission, p. 678):
FR. BERNAS. When some experts appeared before us and we asked
them if there was evidence to show that the death penalty had deterred
the commission of deadly crimes, none of them was able to say that
there was evidence, conclusive evidence, for that.
MR. RAMA. I am curious. Who are these experts thensocial
scientist or penologists or what?
FR. BERNAS. Penologists.
MR. RAMA. Of course, we are aware that there is also another
school of thought here, another set of experts, who would swear that
the death penalty discourages crimes or criminality. Of course,
Commissioner Bernas knows that never in our history has there been a
higher incidence of crime. I say that criminality was at its zenith
during the last decade.
FR. BERNAS. Correct, in spite of the existence of the death penalty.
MR. RAMA. Yes, but not necessarily in spite of the existence of the
death penalty. At any rate, does the sponsor think that in removing the
death penalty, it would not affect, one way or another, the crime rate of
the country?
FR. BERNAS. The position taken by the majority of those who voted
in favor of this provision is that means other than the death penalty
should be used for the prevention of crime.
28

Cf. Report to the United Nations Committee on Crime Prosecution

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and Control, United Nations Social Affairs Division, Crime Prevention


and Criminal Justice Branch, Vienna, 1988, p. 110.
142

142

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

Other Constitutional Rights Militate Against RA 7659


It should be emphasized that the constitutional ban against
the death penalty is included in our Bill of Rights. As such,
it shouldlike any other guarantee
in favor of the accused
29
be zealously protected, and any exception thereto
meticulously screened. Any doubt should be resolved in
favor of the people, particularly
where the right pertains to
30
persons accused of crimes. Here the issue is not just
crimesbut capital crimes! So too, all our previous
Constitutions, including the first one ordained at Malolos,
guarantee that (n)o person shall be
_________________
29

Former Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando, in his book The Bill of

Rights, (Second Edition, 1972, p. 4) states: A regime of constitutionalism


is thus unthinkable without an assurance of the primacy of a bill of rights.
Precisely a constitution exists to assure that in the discharge of the
governmental functions, the dignity that is the birthright of every human
being is duly safeguarded. x x x In the context of the role of a bill of rights
the vast powers of government are clearly to be exercise within the limits
set by the constitution, particularly the bill of rights. In ErmitaMalate
Hotel and Motel Operators vs. City Mayor of Manila, (L24693, July 31,
1967), it was held that the exercise of police power, insofar as it may affect
the life, liberty or property of any person is subject to judicial inquiry. The
guarantee in Sec. 1 of Article III of the Constitution embraces life, liberty
and property. In the words of Justice Roberto Concepcion in People vs.
Hernandez, (99 Phil. 515, 5512 [1956]), x x x individual freedom is too
basic, too transcendental and vital in a republican state, like ours, to be
denied upon mere general principles and abstract consideration of public
safety. Indeed, the preservation of liberty is such a major preoccupation of
our political system that, not satisfied with guaranteeing its enjoyment in
the very first paragraph of Section (1) of the Bill of Rights, the framers of
our Constitution devoted paragraphs (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (11), (12),
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(13), (14), (15), (16), (17), (18), and (21) of said Section (1) to the protection
of several aspects of freedom. x x x These guarantees are preserved in the
1987 Constitution, according to Fr. Bernas.
30

See, for instance, People vs. Sinatao, 249 SCRA 554, 571, October 25,

1995, and People vs. Pidia, 249 SCRA 687, 702703, November 10, 1995.
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

deprived
of life, liberty or property without due process of
31
law. This primary right of the people to enjoy lifelife at
its fullest, life in dignity and honoris not only reiterated
by the 1987 Charter but is in fact fortified by its other pro
life and prohuman rights provisions. Hence, the
Constitution values the dignity of every human32 person and
guarantees full respect for 33 human rights, expressly
prohibits any form of torture which is arguably a lesser
penalty than death, emphasizes the individual right to life
by giving protection to the life of the34 mother and the
unborn from the moment of conception and establishes
the peoples
rights to health, a balanced ecology and
35
education.
This Constitutional explosion of concern for man more
than property, for people more than the state, and for life
more than mere existence augurs well for the strict
application of the constitutional limits against the revival
of death penalty as the final and irreversible exaction of
society against its perceived enemies.
Indeed, volumes have been written about individual
rights to free speech, assembly and even religion. But the
most basic and most important of these rights is the right
to life. Without life, the other rights cease in their
enjoyment, utility and expression.
This opinion would not be complete without a word on
the wrenching fact that the death penalty militates against
the poor, the powerless and the marginalized. The Profile
of 165 Death Row
Convicts submitted by the Free Legal
36
Assistance Group highlights this sad fact:
_______________
31

Art. III, Sec. 1.

32

Art. III, Sec. 11.

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33

Art. II, Sec. 12(2).

34

Art. II, Sec. 12.

35

Art. II, Secs. 15, 16 & 17.

36

For details, see Annex A of the Memorandum for the Accused

Appellant dated September 26, 1996 filed by the Free Legal Assistance
Group in People vs. Malabago, G.R. No. 115686, December 2, 1996.
144

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice
37

(1) Since the reimposition of the death penalty, 186 persons


have been sentenced to death. At the end of 1994, there were 24
death penalty convicts, at the end of 1995, the number rose to 90
an average of seven (7) convicts per month double the monthly
average of capital sentences imposed the prior year. From
January to June 1996, the number of death penalty convicts
reached 72, an average of 12 convicts per month, almost double
the monthly average of capital sentences imposed in 1995.
(2) Of the 165 convicts polled, approximately twenty one percent
(21%) earn between P200 to P2,900 monthly while approximately
twenty seven percent (27%) earn between P3,000 to P3,999
monthly. Those earning above P4,000 monthly are exceedingly few:
seven percent (7%) earn between P4,000 to P4,999, four percent
(4%) earn between P5,000 to P5,999, seven percent (7%) earn
between P6,000 to P6,999, those earning between P7,000 to
P15,000 comprise only four percent (4%), those earning P15,000
and above only one percent (1%). Approximately thirteen percent
(13%) earn nothing at all, while approximately two percent (2%)
earn subsistence wages with another five percent (5%) earning
variable income. Approximately nine percent (9%) do not know
how much they earn in a month.
(3) Thus, approximately twothirds of the convicts, about 112 of
them, earn below the governmentmandated minimum monthly
wage of P4,290 ten (10) of these earn below the official poverty line
set by government. Twenty six (26) earn between P4,500.00 and
P11,000.00 monthly, indicating they belong to the middle class
only one (1) earns P30,000.00 monthly. Nine (9) convicts earn
variable income or earn on a percentage or allowance basis
fifteen (15) convicts do not know or are ensure of their monthly
income. Twenty two (22) convicts earn nothing at all.
_________________
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37

The FLAGsubmitted Profile states that 186 have been sentenced to

death by trial courts since the effectivity of RA 7659. The Philippine Star
issue of December 9, 1996, page 17, however reports that, quoting Sen.
Ernesto Herrera, the total number of death row inmates has gone up to
267, as of November, 1996, of whom more than one half (139) are rape
convicts. Some major dailies (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star,
Manila Standard) in their February 3, 1997 issue up the death row figure
to 300, as of the end of January 1997, with 450 as the probable number at
the end of 1997.
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice


(4) In terms of occupation, approximately twenty one percent (21%)
are agricultural workers or workers in animal husbandry of
these, thirty (30), or almost onefifth thereof, are farmers. Thirty
five percent (35%) are in the transport and construction industry,
with thirty one (31) construction workers or workers in allied
fields (carpentry, painting, welding) while twenty seven (27) are
transport workers (delivery, dispatcher, mechanic, tire man, truck
helper) with sixteen (16) of them drivers. Eighteen percent (18%)
are in clerical, sales and service industries, with fourteen (14)
sales workers (engaged in buy and sell or fish, cigarette or rice
vendors), twelve (12) service workers (butchers, beauticians,
security
guards,
shoemakers,
tour
guides,
computer
programmers, radio technicians) and four (4) clerks (janitors,
MERALCO employee and clerk). About four percent (4%) are
government workers, with six (6) persons belonging to the armed
services (AFP, PNP and even CAFGU). Professionals,
administrative employee and executives comprise only three
percent (3%), nine percent (9%) are unemployed.
(5) None of the DRCs use English as their medium of
communication. About forty four percent (44%), or slightly less
than half speak and understand Tagalog twenty six percent
(26%), or about onefourth, speak and understand Cebuano. The
rest speak and understand Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilonggo,
Kapampangan, Pangasinense and Waray. One (1) convict is a
foreign national and speaks and understands Niponggo.
(6) Approximately twelve percent (12%) graduated from college,
about forty seven percent (47%) finished varying levels of
elementary education with twenty seven (27) graduating from
elementary. About thirty five percent (35%), fifty eight (58)
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convicts, finished varying levels of high school, with more than


half of them graduating from high school. Two (2) convicts
finished vocational education nine (9) convicts did not study at
all.

The foregoing profile based on age, language and


socioeconomic situations sufficiently demonstrates that RA
7659 has militated against the poor and the powerless in
societythose who cannot afford the legal services
necessary in capital crimes, where extensive preparation,
investigation, research and presentation are required. The
best example to show the sad plight of the underprivileged
is this very case where the crucial issue of constitutionality
was woefully omitted in the proceedings in the trial court
and even before this Court until
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

the Free Legal Assistance Group belatedly brought it up in


the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration.
To the poor and unlettered, it is bad enough that the law
is complex and written in a strange, incomprehensible
language. Worse still, judicial proceedings are themselves
complicated, intimidating and damning. The net effect of
having a death penalty that is imposed more often than not
upon the impecunious is to engender in the minds of the
latter, a senseunfounded, to be sure, but unhealthy
neverthelessof the unequal balance of the scales of
justice.
Most assuredly, it may be contended that the foregoing
arguments, and in particular, the statistics abovecited, are
in a very real sense prone to be misleading, and that
regardless of the socioeconomic profile of the DRCs, the
law reviving capital punishment does not in any way single
out or discriminate against the poor, the unlettered or the
underprivileged. To put it in another way, as far as the
disadvantaged are concerned, the law would still be
complex and written in a strange and incomprehensible
language, and judicial proceedings complicated and
intimidating, whether the ultimate penalty involved be life
(sentence) or death. Another aspect of the whole
controversy is that, whatever the penalties set by law, it
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seems to me that there will always be a certain class or


classes of people in our society who, by reason of their
poverty, lack of educational attainment and employment
opportunities, are consequently confined to living, working
and subsisting in lessthanideal environments, amidst
lessthangenteel
neighbors
similarly
situated
as
themselves, and are therefore inherently more prone to be
involved (as victims or perpetrators) in vices, violence and
crime. So from that perspective, the law reviving the death
penalty neither improves nor worsens their lot
substantially. Or, to be more precise, such law may even be
said to help improve their situation (at least in theory) by
posing a much stronger deterrent to the commission of
heinous crimes.
However, such a viewpoint simply ignores the very basic
differences that exist in the situations of the poor and the
nonpoor. Precisely because the underprivileged are what
they
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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

are, they require and deserve a greater degree of protection


and assistance from our laws and Constitution, and from
the courts and the State, so that in spite of themselves,
they can be empowered to rise above themselves and their
situation. The basic postulates for such a position are, I
think, simply that everyone ultimately wants to better
himself and that we cannot better ourselves individually to
any significant degree if we are unable to advance as an
entire people and nation. All the propoor provisions of the
Constitution point in this direction. Yet we are faced with
this law that effectively inflicts the ultimate punishment
on none other than the poor and disadvantaged in the
greater majority of cases, and which penalty, being so
obviously final and so irreversibly permanent, erases all
hope of reform, of change for the better. This law, I submit,
has no place in our legal, judicial and constitutional
firmament.
Epilogue
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In sum, I respectfully submit that:


(1) The 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty
from our statute books. It did not merely suspend or
prohibit its imposition.
(2) The Charter effectively granted a new right: the
constitutional right against the death penalty, which is
really a species of the right to life.
(3) Any law reviving the capital penalty must be strictly
construed against the State and liberally in favor of the
accused because such a statute denigrates the
Constitution, impinges on a basic right and tends to deny
equal justice to the underprivileged.
(4) Every word or phrase in the Constitution is sacred
and should never be ignored, cavalierlytreated or brushed
aside.
(5) Congressional power to prescribe death is severely
limited by two concurrent requirements:
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(a) First, Congress must provide a set of attendant


circumstances which the prosecution must prove
beyond reasonable doubt, apart from the elements
of the crime and itself. Congress must explain why
and how these circumstances define or characterize
the crime as heinous.
(b) Second, Congress has also the duty of laying out
clear and specific reasons which arose after the
effectivity of the Constitution compelling the
enactment of the law. It bears repeating that these
requirements are inseparable. They must both be
present in view of the specific constitutional
mandatefor
compelling
reasons
involving
heinous crimes. The compelling reason must flow
from the heinous nature of the offense.
(6) In every law reviving the capital penalty, the
heinousness and compelling reasons must be set out for
each and every crime, and not just for all crimes generally
and collectively.
Thou shall not kill is a fundamental commandment to
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all Christians, as well as to the rest of the38 sovereign


Filipino people who believe in Almighty God. While the
Catholic Church, to which the vast majority of our people
belong, acknowledges the power of public authorities to
prescribe the death penalty, it advisedly limits
such
39
prerogative only to cases of extreme gravity. To quote
Pope John Paul II in his
______________
38

The preamble of the Constitution is theistic. It declares the

sovereign Filipino peoples imploration of the aid of Almighty God.


39

Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 512, Word and Life

Publications: 2266. Preserving the common good of society requires


rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the
traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as wellfounded the
right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by
means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not
excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. For analogous
reasons those holding authority have the right to repel by armed force
aggressors against the community in their charge.
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40

encyclical Evangelium Vitae (A Hymn to Life),


punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided
upon, and ought not
______________
40

Evangelium Vitae, items Nos. 55 and 56, states:

55. This should not cause surprise: to kill a human being, in


whom the image of God is present, is a particularly serious sin.
Only God is the master of life! Yet from the beginning, faced with
the many and often tragic cases which occur in the life of
individuals and society, Christian reflection has sought a fuller
and deeper understanding of what Gods commandment prohibits
and prescribes. There are, in fact, situations in which values
proposed by Gods Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This
happens for example in the case of legitimate defence, in which
the right to protect ones own life and the duty not to harm
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someone elses life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly,


the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than
others are the basis of a true right to selfdefence. The demanding
commandment of love of neighbor, set forth in the Old Testament
and confirmed by Jesus, itself presupposes love of oneself as the
basis of comparison: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mk
12:31). Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self
defence out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done
in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love
of self into a radical selfoffering, according to the spirit of the
Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt. 5:3840). The sublime example of this
selfoffering is the Lord Jesus himself.
Moreover, legitimate defence can be not only a right but a
grave duty for someone responsible for anothers life, the common
good of the family or of the State. Unfortunately it happens that
the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm
sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome
is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about,
even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack
of the use of reason.
56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the
death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in
the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a
very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The
problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice
even more in line with human dignity and
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go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases


of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be
possible otherwise to defend society x x x (which is) very
rare, if not practically nonexistent.
Although not absolutely banning it, both the
Constitution and the Church indubitably abhor the death
penalty. Both are propeople and prolife. Both clearly
recognize the primacy of human life over and above even
the state which man created precisely to protect, cherish
and defend him. The Constitution reluctantly allows
capital punishment only for compelling reasons involving
heinous crimes just as the Church grudgingly permits it
only for reasons of absolute necessity involving crimes of
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extreme gravity, which are very rare and practically non


existent.
_________________
thus, in the end, with Gods plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the
punishment which society inflicts is to redress the disorder caused by the
offence. Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights
by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition
for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority
also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring peoples safety,
while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or
her behavior and be rehabilitated.
It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the
punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the
extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other
words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however,
as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such
cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.
In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic
Church remains valid: If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives
against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public
authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the
concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity
of the human person.

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Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice

In the face of these evident truisms, I ask: Has Congress, in


enacting RA 7659, amply discharged its constitutional
burden of proving the existence of compelling reasons to
prescribe death against welldefined heinous crimes?
I respectfully submit it has not.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, I respectfully vote
to grant partially the Supplemental Motion for
Reconsideration and to modify the dispositive portion of the
decision of the trial court by deleting the words DEATH,
as provided for under RA 7659, and substitute therefor
reclusion perpetua.
I further vote to declare RA 7659 unconstitutional
insofar as it prescribes the penalty of death for the crimes
mentioned in its text.
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Motion for Reconsideration and Supplemental Motion to


Motion for Reconsideration granted. Judge Thelma Ponfer
rada ordered to set anew the date of execution of con
vict/petitioner.
Notes.Judicious verdicts evolve from the privacy of
reasoned reflection in chambers and not from the publicity
of emotional acclaim on the podium. (People vs. Estomaca,
256 SCRA 421 [1996])
The power of the Supreme Court to review a decision
imposing the death penalty cannot be waived either by the
accused or by the courts. (People vs. Esparas, 260 SCRA
539 [1996])
o0o
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