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CRIMES

AGAINST
HONOR
Republic of the
SUPREME COURT
SECOND DIVISION
ERWIN TULFO, G.R.
No. 161032
Petitioner,
Present:
- versus - QUISUMBING,
J., Chairperson,
CARPIO MORALES,
VELASCO, JR.,
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES
NACHURA,* and
and ATTY. CARLOS T.
SO, BRION, JJ.
Respondents.
x--------------------------------
-----------x
SUSAN CAMBRI, REY
SALAO, G.R. No. 161176
JOCELYN BARLIZO,
and
PHILIP PICHAY,
Petitioners,
- versus -
COURT OF APPEALS,
PEOPLE
OF THE PHILIPPINES,
and Promulgated:
CARLOS SO,
Respondents. September
16, 2008
x--------------------------------
----------------------------------
-----------------------x
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
The freedom of the press
is one of the cherished
hallmarks of our
democracy; but even as
we strive to protect and
respect the fourth estate,
the freedom it enjoys must
be balanced with
responsibility. There is a
fine line between freedom
of expression and libel,
and it falls on the courts
to determine whether or
not that line has been
crossed.
The Facts
On the complaint of Atty.
Carlos Ding So of the
Bureau of Customs, four
(4) separate informations
were filed on September 8,
1999 with the Regional
Trial Court in (RTC)
Pasay City. These were
assigned to Branch 112
and docketed as Criminal
Case Nos. 99-1597 to 99-
1600, and charged
petitioners Erwin Tulfo,
as author/writer, Susan
Cambri, as managing
editor, Rey Salao, as
national editor, Jocelyn
Barlizo, as city editor, and
Philip Pichay, as president
of the Carlo Publishing
House, Inc., of the daily
tabloid Remate, with the
crime of libel in
connection with the
publication of the articles
in the column Direct Hit
in the issues of May 11,
1999; May 12, 1999; May
19, 1999; and June 25,
1999.[1] The four
informations read as
follows:
Criminal Case No. 99-
1598
That on or about the 11 th
day of May, 1999 in Pasay
City, Metro Manila,
Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
above-named accused,
conspiring and
confederating together
and mutually helping one
another, being then the
columnist, publisher and
managing editor,
respectively of REMATE,
a tabloid published daily
and of general circulation
in the Philippines, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
and with malicious intent
to discredit or dishonor
complainant, ATTY.
CARLOS DING SO, and
with the malicious intent
of injuring and exposing
said complainant to public
hatred, contempt and
ridicule, write and publish
in the regular issue of said
publication on May 11,
1999, its daily column
DIRECT HIT, quoted
hereunder, to wit:
PINAKAMAYAMAN SA
CUSTOMS
Ito palang si Atty.
Ding So ng
Intelligence
Division ng
Bureau of
Customs and [sic]
pinakamayaman
na yata na
government
official sa buong
bansa sa
pangungurakot
lamang diyan sa
South Harbor.
Hindi matibag ang
gagong attorney
dahil malakas daw
ito sa Iglesia ni
Kristo.
Hoy, So! . .
nakakahiya ka sa
mga INC, ikaw na
yata ang
pinakagago at
magnanakaw na
miyembro nito.
Balita ko, malapit
ka nang itiwalag
ng nasabing
simbahan dahil sa
mga kalokohan
mo.
Abangan bukas
ang mga raket ni
So sa BOC.
WHEREIN said
complainant was
indicated as an
extortionist, a
corrupt public
official, smuggler
and having
illegally acquired
wealth, all as
already stated,
with the object of
destroying his
reputation,
discrediting and
ridiculing him
before the bar of
public opinion.[2]
Criminal Case No. 99-
1599
That on or about the 12 th
day of May, 1999 in Pasay
City, Metro Manila,
Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
above-named accused,
conspiring and
confederating together
and mutually helping one
another, being then the
columnist, publisher and
managing editor,
respectively of REMATE,
a tabloid published daily
and of general circulation
in the Philippines, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
and with malicious intent
to discredit or dishonor
complainant, ATTY.
CARLOS DING SO, and
with the malicious intent
of injuring and exposing
said complainant to public
hatred, contempt and
ridicule, write and publish
in the regular issue of said
publication on May 12,
1999, in daily column
DIRECT HIT, quoted
hereunder, to wit:
SI ATTY. SO NG
BOC
LINTEK din sa
pangungurakot
itong Ding So ng
Bureau of
Customs
Intelligence Unit
sa .
Daan-daang
libong piso ang
kinikita ng masiba
at matakaw na si
So sa mga
importer na ayaw
ideklara ang
totoong laman ng
mga container
para makaiwas sa
pagbayad ng
malaking customs
duties at taxes.
Si So ang
nagpapadrino sa
mga pag-
inspection ng mga
container na ito.
Siyempre-
binibigyan din
niya ng salapi
yung ibang mga
ahensiya para
pumikit na lang at
itikom ang
kanilang nga [sic]
bibig diyan sa mga
buwayang taga
BOC.
Awang-awa ako sa
ating gobyerno.
Bankrupt na nga,
ninanakawan pa
ng mga kawatan
tulad ni So.
Ewan ko ba rito
kay Atty. So, bakit
hindi na lang
tumayo ng sarili
niyang robbery-
hold-up gang para
kumita ng mas
mabilis.
Hoy So.. hindi
bagay sa iyo ang
pagiging attorney .
. . Mas bagay sa
iyo ang pagiging
buwayang naka
korbata at
holdaper.
Magnanakaw ka
So!!
WHEREIN said
complainant was
indicated as an
extortionist, a
corrupt public
official, smuggler
and having
illegally acquired
wealth, all as
already stated,
with the object of
destroying his
reputation,
discrediting and
ridiculing him
before the bar of
public opinion.[3]
Criminal Case No. 99-
1600
th
That on or about 19 day
of May, 1999 in Pasay
City, Metro Manila,
Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
above-named accused,
conspiring and
confederating together
and mutually helping one
another, being then the
columnist, publisher and
managing editor,
respectively of REMATE,
a tabloid published daily
and of general circulation
in the Philippines, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
and with malicious intent
to discredit or dishonor
complainant, ATTY.
CARLOS DING SO, and
with the malicious intent
of injuring and exposing
said complainant to public
hatred, contempt and
ridicule, write and publish
in the regular issue of said
publication on May 19,
1999, in daily column
DIRECT HIT, quoted
hereunder, to wit:
xxxx
Tulad ni Atty.
Ding So ng
Bureau of
Customs
Intelligence
Division, saksakan
din ng lakas itong
si Daniel Aquino
ng Presidential
Anti-Smuggling
Unit na
nakatalaga sa .
Tulad ni So,
magnanakaw na
tunay itong si
Aquino.
Panghihingi ng
pera sa mga
brokers, ang lakad
nito.
Pag hindi
nagbigay ng pera
ang mga brokers,
maiipit ang pagre-
release ng
kanilang
kargamento.
WHEREIN said
complainant was
indicated as an
extortionist, a corrupt
public official, smuggler
and having illegally
acquired wealth, all as
already stated, with the
object of destroying his
reputation, discrediting
and ridiculing him before
the bar of public opinion.
[4]
Criminal Case No. 99-
1597
th
That on or about 25 day
of June, 1999 in Pasay
City, Metro Manila,
Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
above-named accused,
conspiring and
confederating together
and mutually helping one
another, being then the
columnist, publisher and
managing editor,
respectively of REMATE,
a tabloid published daily
and of general circulation
in the Philippines, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
and with malicious intent
to discredit or dishonor
complainant, ATTY.
CARLOS DING T. SO,
and with the malicious
intent of injuring and
exposing said complainant
to public hatred, contempt
and ridicule, write and
publish in the regular
issue of said publication
on June 25, 1999, its daily
column DIRECT HIT,
quoted hereunder, to wit:
xxxx
Nagfile ng P10 M
na libel suit itong
si Atty. Carlos So
ng Bureau of
Customs laban sa
inyong lingkod at
ilang opisyales ng
Remate sa Pasay
City Court.
Nagalit itong
tarantadong si
Atty. So dahil
binanatan ko siya
at inexpose ang
kagaguhan niya sa
BOC.
Hoy, So . . .
dagdagan mo pa
ang pagnanakaw
mo dahil hindi
kita tatantanan.
Buhay ka pa
sinusunog na ang
iyong kaluluwa sa
impyerno.
WHEREIN said
complainant was
indicated as an
extortionist, a
corrupt public
official, smuggler
and having
illegally acquired
wealth, all as
already stated,
with the object of
destroying his
reputation,
discrediting and
ridiculing him
before the bar of
public opinion.[5]
On November 3, 1999,
Tulfo, Salao, and Cambri
were arraigned, while
Barlizo and Pichay were
arraigned on December
15, 1999. They all pleaded
not guilty to the offenses
charged.
At pre-trial, the following
were admitted by
petitioners: (1) that
during the four dates of
the publication of the
questioned articles, the
complaining witness was
not assigned at South
Harbor; (2) that the
accused and complaining
witness did not know each
other during all the time
material to the four dates
of publication; (3) that
Remate is a
newspaper/tabloid of
general circulation in the
Philippines; (4) the
existence and genuineness
of the Remate newspaper;
(5) the column therein and
its authorship and the
alleged libelous statement
as well as the editorial
post containing the
designated positions of the
other accused; and (6) the
prosecutions qualified
admission that it is the
duty of media persons to
expose corruption.[6]
The prosecution presented
four witnesses, namely:
Oscar M. Ablan, Atty.
James Fortes, Jr., Gladys
Fontanilla, and
complainant Atty. So. The
prosecution presented
documentary evidence as
well.
Ablan testified that he
had read the four columns
written by Tulfo, and that
the articles were untrue
because he had known
Atty. So since 1992 and
had worked with him in
the Customs Intelligence
and Investigation Service
Division of the Bureau of
Customs. He further
testified that upon reading
the articles written by
Tulfo, he concluded that
they referred to Atty. So
because the subject
articles identified Atty.
Carlos as Atty. Ding So of
the Customs Intelligence
and Investigation Service
Division, Bureau of
Customs and there was
only one Atty. Carlos Ding
So of the Bureau of
Customs.[7]
Fontanilla, Records
Officer I of the Bureau of
Customs, testified that she
issued a certification in
connection with these
cases upon the request of
Atty. So.[8] This
certification stated that as
per records available in
her office, there was only
one employee by the name
of Atty. Carlos T. So who
was also known as Atty.
Ding So in the Intelligence
Division of the Customs
Intelligence and
Investigation Service or in
the entire Bureau of
Customs.[9]
Atty. Fortes testified that
he knew Atty. So as a
fellow member of the
Iglesia Ni Kristo and as a
lawyer, and that having
read the articles of Tulfo,
he believed that these
were untrue, as he knew
Atty. Carlos Ding So.[10]
Atty. So testified that he
was the private
complainant in these
consolidated cases. He
further testified that he is
also known as Atty. Ding
So, that he had been
connected with the
Bureau of Customs since
October 1981, and that he
was assigned as Officer-
in-Charge (OIC) of the
Customs Intelligence and
Investigation Service
Division at the Manila
International Container
Port since December 27,
1999. He executed two
complaint-affidavits, one
dated June 4, 1999 and
the other dated July 5,
1999, for Criminal Case
Nos. 99-1598 to 99-1600.
Prior to this, he also filed
14 cases of libel against
Raffy Tulfo, brother of
petitioner Erwin Tulfo. He
testified that petitioner
Tulfos act of imputing
upon him criminality,
assailing his honesty and
integrity, caused him
dishonor, discredit, and
contempt among his co-
members in the legal
profession, co-officers of
the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, co-members
and peers in the Iglesia ni
Kristo, his co-officers and
employees and superior
officers in the Bureau of
Customs, and among
ordinary persons who had
read said articles. He said
it also caused him and his
family sleepless nights,
mental anguish, wounded
feelings, intrigues, and
embarrassment. He
further testified that he
included in his complaint
for libel the officers of
Remate such as the
publisher, managing
editor, city editor, and
national editor because
under Article 360 of the
Revised Penal Code
(RPC), they are equally
responsible and liable to
the same extent as if they
were the author of the
articles. He also testified
that Ding is his nickname
and that he is the only
person in the entire
Bureau of Customs who
goes by the name of Atty.
Carlos T. So or Atty.
Carlos Ding So.[11]
In his defense, petitioner
Tulfo testified that he did
not write the subject
articles with malice, that
he neither knew Atty. So
nor met him before the
publication of the articles.
He testified that his
criticism of a certain Atty.
So of the South Harbor
was not directed against
the complainant, but
against a person by the
name of Atty. Ding So at
the South Harbor. Tulfo
claimed that it was the
practice of certain people
to use other peoples
names to advance their
corrupt practices. He also
claimed that his articles
had neither discredited
nor dishonored the
complainant because as
per his source in the
Bureau of Customs, Atty.
So had been promoted. He
further testified that he
did not do any research on
Atty. So before the subject
articles, because as a
columnist, he had to rely
on his source, and that he
had several sources in the
Bureau of Customs,
particularly in the South
Harbor.[12]
Petitioner Salao testified
that he came to know
Atty. Carlos Ding So when
the latter filed a case
against them. He testified
that he is an employee of
Carlo Publishing House,
Inc.; that he was
designated as the national
editor of the newspaper
Remate since December
1999; that the duties of
the position are to edit,
evaluate, encode, and
supervise layout of the
news from the provinces;
and that Tulfo was under
the supervision of Rey
Briones, Vice President
for Editorial and Head of
the Editorial Division.
Salao further testified that
he had no participation in
the subject articles of
Tulfo, nor had he
anything to do with the
latters column.[13]
Petitioner Cambri,
managing editor of
Remate, testified that she
classifies the news articles
written by the reporters,
and that in the Editorial
Division, the officers are
herself; Briones, her
supervisor; Lydia Bueno,
as news and city editor;
and Salao as national
editor. She testified that
petitioner Barlizo is her
subordinate, whose duties
and responsibilities are
the typesetting, editing,
and layout of the page
assigned to her, the Metro
page. She further testified
that she had no
participation in the
writing, editing, or
publication of the column
of Tulfo because the
column was not edited.
She claimed that none
among her co-accused
from the Remate
newspaper edited the
columns of Tulfo, that the
publication and editing of
the subject articles were
the responsibility of Tulfo,
and that he was given
blanket authority to write
what he wanted to write.
She also testified that the
page wherein Tulfos
column appeared was
supervised by Bueno as
news editor.[14]
Petitioner Pichay testified
that he had been the
president of Carlo
Publishing House, Inc.
since December 1998. He
testified that the company
practice was to have the
columnists report directly
to the vice-president of
editorials, that the
columnists were given
autonomy on their
columns, and that the
vice-president for
editorials is the one who
would decide what articles
are to be published and
what are not. He further
testified that Tulfo was
already a regular
contributor.[15]
The Ruling of the RTC
In a Decision dated
November 17, 2000, the
RTC found petitioners
guilty of the crime of
Libel. The dispositive
portion reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Court
finds the accused ERWIN
TULFO, SUSAN
CAMBRI, REY SALAO,
JOCELYN BARLIZO
and PHILIP PICHAY
guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of four (4) counts of
the crime of LIBEL, as
defined in Article 353 of
the Revised Penal Code,
and penalized by prision
correccional in its
minimum and medium
periods, or a fine ranging
from P200.00 Pesos to
P6,000.00 Pesos or both,
under Article 355 of the
same Code.
Applying the
Indeterminate Sentence
Law, the Court hereby
sentences EACH of the
accused to suffer
imprisonment of SIX (6)
MONTHS of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to
FOUR (4) YEARS and
TWO (2) MONTHS of
prision correccional, as
maximum, for EACH
count with accessory
penalties provided by law.
Considering that the
accused Erwin Tulfo,
Susan Cambri, Rey Salao,
Jocelyn Barlizo and Philip
Pichay wrote and
published the four (4)
defamatory articles with
reckless disregard, being,
in the mind of the Court,
of whether it was false or
not, the said articles
libelous per se, they are
hereby ordered to pay,
jointly and severally, the
sum of EIGHT
HUNDRED THOUSAND
(P800,000.00) PESOS, as
actual damages, the sum
of ONE MILLION
PESOS (P1,000,000.00),
as moral damages, and an
additional amount of
FIVE HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS
(P500,000.00), by way of
exemplary damages, all
with subsidiary
imprisonment, in case of
insolvency, and to pay the
costs.
SO ORDERED.[16]
The Ruling of the Court
of Appeals
Before the Court of
Appeals (CA), Tulfo
assigned the following
errors:
1. THE ERRED IN
IGNORING THE
UNREBUTTED
TESTIMONY OF THE
APPELLANT THAT HE
DID NOT CRITICIZE
THE PRIVATE
COMPLAINANT
WORKING AT THE
NAIA. HE CRITICIZED
ANOTHER PERSON
WORKING AT THE .
HENCE, THE
ELEMENT OF
IDENTITY IS
LACKING.
2. THE ERRED IN
IGNORING THE LACK
OF THE ESSENTIAL
ELEMENT OF
DISCREDIT OR
DISHONOR, AS
DEFINED BY
JURISPRUDENCE.
3. THERE WAS NO
MALICE AGAINST THE
PRIVATE
COMPLAINANT ATTY.
CARLOS DING SO.[17]
His co-accused assigned
the following errors:
A
The trial court seriously
erred in holding accused
Susan Cambri, Rey Salao,
Jocelyn Barlizo and Philip
Pichay liable for the
defamations contained in
the questioned articles
despite the fact that the
trial court did not have
any finding as to their
participation in the
writing, editing and/or
publication of the
questioned articles.
B
The trial court seriously
erred in concluding that
libel was committed by all
of the accused on the basis
of its finding that the
elements of libel have
been satisfactorily
established by evidence on
record.
C
The trial court seriously
erred in considering
complainant to be the one
referred to by Erwin Tulfo
in his articles in question.
[18]
In a Decision[19] dated
June 17, 2003, the Eighth
Division of the CA
dismissed the appeal and
affirmed the judgment of
the trial court. A motion
for reconsideration dated
June 30, 2003 was filed by
Tulfo, while the rest of his
co-accused filed a motion
for reconsideration dated
July 2, 2003. In a
Resolution dated
December 11, 2003, both
motions were denied for
lack of merit.[20]
Petitions for Review on
Certiorari under Rule 45
Tulfo brought this petition
docketed as G.R. No.
161032, seeking to reverse
the Decision of the CA in
CA-G.R. CR No. 25318
which affirmed the
decision of the RTC.
Petitioners Cambri, Salao,
Barlizo, and Pichay
brought a similar petition
docketed as G.R. No.
161176, seeking the
nullification of the same
CA decision.
In a Resolution dated
March 15, 2004, the two
cases were consolidated
since both cases arise
from the same set of facts,
involve the same parties,
assail the same decision of
the CA, and seek identical
reliefs.[21]
Assignment of Errors
Petitioner Tulfo submitted
the following assignment
of errors:
I
Assuming that the
Prosecution presented
credible and relevant
evidence, the Honorable
CA erred in not declaring
the assailed articles as
privileged; the CA erred
in concluding that malice
in law exists by the courts
having incorrectly
reasoned out that malice
was presumed in the
instant case.
II
Even assuming arguendo
that the articles
complained of are not
privileged, the lower
court, nonetheless,
committed gross error as
defined by the provisions
of Section 6 of Rule 45 by
its misappreciation of the
evidence presented on
matters substantial and
material to the guilt or
innocence of the
petitioner.[22]
Petitioners Cambri, Salao,
Barlizo, and Pichay
submitted their own
assignment of errors, as
follows:
A - The Court of Appeals
Seriously Erred In Its
Application of Article 360
Of The Revised Penal
Code By Holding Cambri,
Salao And Barlizo Liable
For The Defamatory
Articles In The May 11,
12, 19 And June 25, 1999
Issues Of Remate Simply
Because They Were
Managing Editor,
National Editor And City
Editor Respectively Of
Remate And By Holding
Pichay Also Liable For
Libel Merely Because He
Was The President Of
Carlo Publishing House,
Inc. Without Taking Into
Account The Unrebutted
Evidence That Petitioners
Had No Participation In
The Editing Or
Publication Of The
Defamatory Articles In
Question.
B - The Court Of Appeals
Committed Grave Abuse
Of Discretion In
Manifestly Disregarding
The Unrebutted Evidence
That Petitioners Had No
Participation In The
Editing Or Publication Of
The Defamatory Articles
In Question.
C - The Court Of Appeals
Seriously Misappreciated
The Evidence In Holding
That The Person Referred
To In The Published
Articles Was Private
Complainant Atty. Carlos
So.[23]
Our Ruling
The petitions must be
dismissed.
The assignment of errors
of petitioner Tulfo shall be
discussed first.
In his appeal, Tulfo claims
that the CA erred in not
applying the ruling in
Borjal v. Court of Appeals.
[24] In essence, he argues
that the subject articles
fall under qualifiedly
privileged communication
under Borjal and that the
presumption of malice in
Art. 354 of the RPC does
not apply. He argues that
it is the burden of the
prosecution to prove
malice in fact.
This case must be
distinguished from Borjal
on several points, the first
being that Borjal stemmed
from a civil action for
damages based on libel,
and was not a criminal
case. Second, the ruling in
Borjal was that there was
no sufficient identification
of the complainant, which
shall be differentiated
from the present case in
discussing the second
assignment of error of
Tulfo. Third, the subject in
Borjal was a private
citizen, whereas in the
present case, the subject is
a public official. Finally, it
was held in Borjal that the
articles written by Art
Borjal were fair
commentaries on matters
of public interest.[25] It
shall be discussed and has
yet to be determined
whether or not the articles
fall under the category of
fair commentaries.
In passing, it must be
noted that the defense of
Tulfos articles being
qualifiedly privileged
communication is raised
for the first time in the
present petition, and this
particular issue was never
brought before either the
RTC or the CA. Thus,
neither the RTC nor the
CA had a chance to
properly consider and
evaluate this defense.
Tulfo now draws parallels
between his case and that
of Art Borjal, and argues
that the prosecution
should have proved
malice in fact, and it was
error on the part of the
trial and appellate courts
to use the presumption of
malice in law in Art. 354
of the RPC. This lays an
unusual burden on the
part of the prosecution,
the RTC, and the CA to
refute a defense that Tulfo
had never raised before
them. Whether or not the
subject articles are
privileged
communications must
first be established by the
defense, which it failed to
do at the level of the RTC
and the CA. Even so, it
shall be dealt with now,
considering that an appeal
in a criminal proceeding
throws the whole case
open for review.
There is no question of the
status of Atty. So as a
public official, who served
as the OIC of the Bureau
of Customs Intelligence
and Investigation Service
at the Ninoy Aquino
International Airport
(NAIA) at the time of the
printing of the allegedly
libelous articles. Likewise,
it cannot be refuted that
the goings-on at the
Bureau of Customs, a
government agency, are
matters of public interest.
It is now a matter of
establishing whether the
articles of Tulfo are
protected as qualified
privileged communication
or are defamatory and
written with malice, for
which he would be liable.
Freedom of the Press v.
Responsibility of the Press
The Court has long
respected the freedom of
the press, and upheld the
same when it came to
commentaries made on
public figures and matters
of public interest. Even in
cases wherein the freedom
of the press was given
greater weight over the
rights of individuals, the
Court, however, has
stressed that such freedom
is not absolute and
unbounded. The exercise
of this right or any right
enshrined in the Bill of
Rights, indeed, comes
with an equal burden of
responsible exercise of
that right. The recognition
of a right is not free
license for the one
claiming it to run
roughshod over the rights
of others.
The Journalists Code of
Ethics adopted by the
National Union of
Journalists of the
Philippines shows that the
press recognizes that it
has standards to follow in
the exercise of press
freedom; that this
freedom carries duties
and responsibilities. Art. I
of said code states that
journalists recognize the
duty to air the other side
and the duty to correct
substantive errors
promptly. Art. VIII states
that journalists shall
presume persons accused
of crime of being innocent
until proven otherwise.
In the present case, it
cannot be said that Tulfo
followed the Journalists
Code of Ethics and
exercised his journalistic
freedom responsibly.
In his series of articles, he
targeted one Atty. Ding So
of the Bureau of Customs
as being involved in
criminal activities, and
was using his public
position for personal gain.
He went even further than
that, and called Atty. So
an embarrassment to his
religion, saying ikaw na
yata ang pinakagago at
magnanakaw sa miyembro
nito.[26] He accused Atty.
So of stealing from the
government with his
alleged corrupt activities.
[27] And when Atty. So
filed a libel suit against
him, Tulfo wrote another
article, challenging Atty.
So, saying, Nagalit itong
tarantadong si Atty. So
dahil binabantayan ko siya
at in-expose ang
kagaguhan niya sa
[Bureau of Customs].[28]
In his testimony, Tulfo
admitted that he did not
personally know Atty. So,
and had neither met nor
known him prior to the
publication of the subject
articles. He also admitted
that he did not conduct a
more in-depth research of
his allegations before he
published them, and
relied only on his source
at the Bureau of Customs.
In his defense before the
trial court, Tulfo claimed
knowledge of people using
the names of others for
personal gain, and even
stated that he had been
the victim of such a
practice. He argued then
that it may have been
someone else using the
name of Atty. So for
corrupt practices at the
South Harbor, and this
person was the target of
his articles. This
argument weakens his
case further, for even with
the knowledge that he
may be in error, even
knowing of the possibility
that someone else may
have used Atty. Sos name,
as Tulfo surmised, he
made no effort to verify
the information given by
his source or even to
ascertain the identity of
the person he was
accusing.
The trial court found
Tulfos accusations against
Atty. So to be false, but
Tulfo argues that the
falsity of contents of
articles does not affect
their privileged character.
It may be that the falsity
of the articles does not
prove malice. Neither did
Borjal give journalists
carte blanche with regard
to their publications. It
cannot be said that a false
article accusing a public
figure would always be
covered by the mantle of
qualified privileged
communication. The
portion of Borjal cited by
Tulfo must be scrutinized
further:
Even assuming that the
contents of the articles are
false, mere error,
inaccuracy or even falsity
alone does not prove
actual malice. Errors or
misstatements are
inevitable in any scheme
of truly free expression
and debate. Consistent
with good faith and
reasonable care, the press
should not be held to
account, to a point of
suppression, for honest
mistakes or imperfections
in the choice of language.
There must be some room
for misstatement of fact as
well as for misjudgment.
Only by giving them
much leeway and
tolerance can they
courageously and
effectively function as
critical agencies in our
democracy. In Bulletin
Publishing Corp. v. Noel
we held
A newspaper
especially one
national in reach
and coverage,
should be free to
report on events
and developments
in which the
public has a
legitimate interest
with minimum
fear of being
hauled to court by
one group or
another on
criminal or civil
charges for libel,
so long as the
newspaper
respects and keeps
within the
standards of
morality and
civility prevailing
within the general
community.
To avoid the self-
censorship that would
necessarily accompany
strict liability for
erroneous statements,
rules governing liability
for injury to reputation
are required to allow an
adequate margin of error
by protecting some
inaccuracies. It is for the
same reason that the New
York Times doctrine
requires that liability for
defamation of a public
official or public figure
may not be imposed in the
absence of proof of actual
malice on the part of the
person making the
libelous statement.[29]
(Emphasis supplied.)
Reading more deeply into
the case, the exercise of
press freedom must be
done consistent with good
faith and reasonable care.
This was clearly
abandoned by Tulfo when
he wrote the subject
articles. This is no case of
mere error or honest
mistake, but a case of a
journalist abdicating his
responsibility to verify his
story and instead
misinforming the public.
Journalists may be
allowed an adequate
margin of error in the
exercise of their
profession, but this
margin does not expand
to cover every defamatory
or injurious statement
they may make in the
furtherance of their
profession, nor does this
margin cover total
abandonment of
responsibility.
Borjal may have expanded
the protection of qualified
privileged communication
beyond the instances
given in Art. 354 of the
RPC, but this expansion
does not cover Tulfo. The
addition to the instances
of qualified privileged
communications is
reproduced as follows:
To reiterate, fair
commentaries on matters
of public interest are
privileged and constitute a
valid defense in an action
for libel or slander. The
doctrine of fair comment
means that while in
general every
discreditable imputation
publicly made is deemed
false, because every man
is presumed innocent until
his guilt is judicially
proved, and every false
imputation is deemed
malicious, nevertheless,
when the discreditable
imputation is directed
against a public person in
his public capacity, it is
not necessarily actionable.
In order that such
discreditable imputation
to a public official may be
actionable, it must either
be a false allegation of fact
or a comment based on a
false supposition. If the
comment is an expression
of opinion, based on
established facts, then it is
immaterial that the
opinion happens to be
mistaken, as long as it
might reasonably be
inferred from the facts.
[30] (Emphasis supplied.)
The expansion speaks of
fair commentaries on
matters of public interest.
While Borjal places fair
commentaries within the
scope of qualified
privileged
communication, the mere
fact that the subject of the
article is a public figure or
a matter of public interest
does not automatically
exclude the author from
liability. Borjal allows that
for a discreditable
imputation to a public
official to be actionable, it
must be a false allegation
of fact or a comment
based on a false
supposition. As previously
mentioned, the trial court
found that the allegations
against Atty. So were false
and that Tulfo did not
exert effort to verify the
information before
publishing his articles.
Tulfo offered no proof for
his accusations. He
claimed to have a source
in the Bureau of Customs
and relied only on this
source for his columns,
but did no further
research on his story. The
records of the case are
bereft of any showing that
Atty. So was indeed the
villain Tulfo pictured him
to be. Tulfos articles
related no specific details
or acts committed to
prove Atty. So was indeed
a corrupt public official.
These columns were
unsubstantiated attacks
on Atty. So, and cannot be
countenanced as being
privileged simply because
the target was a public
official. Although wider
latitude is given to
defamatory utterances
against public officials in
connection with or
relevant to their
performance of official
duties, or against public
officials in relation to
matters of public interest
involving them, such
defamatory utterances do
not automatically fall
within the ambit of
constitutionally protected
speech.[31] Journalists
still bear the burden of
writing responsibly when
practicing their
profession, even when
writing about public
figures or matters of
public interest. As held in
In Re: Emil P. Jurado:
Surely it cannot be
postulated that the law
protects a journalist who
deliberately prints lies or
distorts the truth; or that
a newsman may ecape
liability who publishes
derogatory or defamatory
allegations against a
person or entity, but
recognizes no obligation
bona fide to establish
beforehand the factual
basis of such imputations
and refuses to submit
proof thereof when
challenged to do so. It
outrages all notions of fair
play and due process, and
reduces to uselessness all
the injunctions of the
Journalists Code of Ethics
to allow a newsman, with
all the potential of his
profession to influence
popular belief and shape
public opinion, to make
shameful and offensive
charges destructive of
personal or institutional
honor and repute, and
when called upon to
justify the same,
cavalierly beg off by
claiming that to do so
would compromise his
sources and demanding
acceptance of his word for
the reliability of those
sources.[32]
The prosecution showed
that Tulfo could present
no proof of his allegations
against Atty. So, only
citing his one unnamed
source. It is not demanded
of him that he name his
source. The confidentiality
of sources and their
importance to journalists
are accepted and
respected. What cannot be
accepted are journalists
making no efforts to
verify the information
given by a source, and
using that unverified
information to throw wild
accusations and besmirch
the name of possibly an
innocent person.
Journalists have a
responsibility to report
the truth, and in doing so
must at least investigate
their stories before
publication, and be able to
back up their stories with
proof. The rumors and
gossips spread by
unnamed sources are not
truth. Journalists are not
storytellers or novelists
who may just spin tales
out of fevered imaginings,
and pass them off as
reality. There must be
some foundation to their
reports; these reports
must be warranted by
facts.
Jurado also established
that the journalist should
exercise some degree of
care even when writing
about public officials. The
case stated:
Clearly, the public interest
involved in freedom of
speech and the individual
interest of judges (and for
that matter, all other
public officials) in the
maintenance of private
honor and reputation
need to be accommodated
one to the other. And the
point of adjustment or
accommodation between
these two legitimate
interests is precisely found
in the norm which
requires those who,
invoking freedom of
speech, publish statements
which are clearly
defamatory to identifiable
judges or other public
officials to exercise bona
fide care in ascertaining
the truth of the statements
they publish. The norm
does not require that a
journalist guarantee the
truth of what he says or
publishes. But the norm
does prohibit the reckless
disregard of private
reputation by publishing
or circulating defamatory
statements without any
bona fide effort to
ascertain the truth
thereof. That this norm
represents the generally
accepted point of balance
or adjustment between
the two interests involved
is clear from a
consideration of both the
pertinent civil law norms
and the Code of Ethics
adopted by the journalism
profession in the .[33]
Tulfo has clearly failed in
this regard. His articles
cannot even be considered
as qualified privileged
communication under the
second paragraph of Art.
354 of the RPC which
exempts from the
presumption of malice a
fair and true report, made
in good faith, without any
comments or remarks, of
any judicial, legislative, or
other official proceedings
which are not of
confidential nature, or
any statement, report, or
speech delivered in said
proceedings, or of any
other act performed by
public officers in the
exercise of their functions.
This particular provision
has several elements
which must be present in
order for the report to be
exempt from the
presumption of malice.
The provision can be
dissected as follows:
In order that the
publication of a report of
an official proceeding may
be considered privileged,
the following conditions
must exist:
(a) That it is a
fair and true report of a
judicial, legislative, or
other official proceedings
which are not of
confidential nature, or of
a statement, report or
speech delivered in said
proceedings, or of any
other act performed by a
public officer in the
exercise of his functions;
(b) That it is
made in good faith; and
(c) That it is
without any comments or
remarks.[34]
The articles clearly are
not the fair and true
reports contemplated by
the provision. They
provide no details of the
acts committed by the
subject, Atty. So. They are
plain and simple baseless
accusations, backed up by
the word of one unnamed
source. Good faith is
lacking, as Tulfo failed to
substantiate or even
attempt to verify his story
before publication. Tulfo
goes even further to
attack the character of the
subject, Atty. So, even
calling him a disgrace to
his religion and the legal
profession. As none of the
elements of the second
paragraph of Art. 354 of
the RPC is present in
Tulfos articles, it cannot
thus be argued that they
are qualified privileged
communications under
the RPC.
Breaking down the
provision further, looking
at the terms fair and true,
Tulfos articles do not meet
the standard. Fair is
defined as having the
qualities of impartiality
and honesty.[35] True is
defined as conformable to
fact; correct; exact;
actual; genuine; honest.
[36] Tulfo failed to satisfy
these requirements, as he
did not do research before
making his allegations,
and it has been shown
that these allegations were
baseless. The articles are
not fair and true reports,
but merely wild
accusations.
Even assuming arguendo
that the subject articles
are covered by the shield
of qualified privileged
communication, this
would still not protect
Tulfo.
In claiming that his
articles were covered by
qualified privileged
communication, Tulfo
argues that the
presumption of malice in
law under Art. 354 of the
RPC is no longer present,
placing upon the
prosecution the burden of
proving malice in fact. He
then argues that for him
to be liable, there should
have been evidence that
he was motivated by ill
will or spite in writing the
subject articles.
The test to be followed is
that laid down in New
York Times Co. v. Sullivan,
[37] and reiterated in Flor
v. People, which should be
to determine whether the
defamatory statement was
made with actual malice,
that is, with knowledge
that it was false or with
reckless disregard of
whether it was false or
not.[38]
The trial court found that
Tulfo had in fact written
and published the subject
articles with reckless
disregard of whether the
same were false or not, as
proven by the
prosecution. There was
the finding that Tulfo
failed to verify the
information on which he
based his writings, and
that the defense presented
no evidence to show that
the accusations against
Atty. So were true. Tulfo
cannot argue that because
he did not know the
subject, Atty. So,
personally, there was no
malice attendant in his
articles. The test laid
down is the reckless
disregard test, and Tulfo
has failed to meet that
test.
The fact that Tulfo
published another article
lambasting respondent
Atty. So can be considered
as further evidence of
malice, as held in U.S. vs.
Montalvo,[39] wherein
publication after the
commencement of an
action was taken as
further evidence of a
malicious design to injure
the victim. Tulfo did not
relent nor did he pause to
consider his actions, but
went on to continue
defaming respondent Atty.
So. This is a clear
indication of his intent to
malign Atty. So, no matter
the cost, and is proof of
malice.
Leaving the discussion of
qualified privileged
communication, Tulfo also
argues that the lower
court misappreciated the
evidence presented as to
the identity of the
complainant: that Tulfo
wrote about Atty. Ding So,
an official of the Bureau
of Customs who worked
at the South Harbor,
whereas the complainant
was Atty. Carlos So who
worked at the NAIA. He
claims that there has
arisen a cloud of doubt as
to the identity of the real
party referred to in the
articles.
This argument is patently
without merit.
The prosecution was able
to present the testimonies
of two other witnesses
who identified Atty. So
from Tulfos articles.
There is the certification
that there is only one Atty.
So in the Bureau of
Customs. And most
damning to Tulfos case is
the last column he wrote
on the matter, referring to
the libel suit against him
by Atty. So of the Bureau
of Customs. In this article,
Tulfo launched further
attacks against Atty. So,
stating that the libel case
was due to the exposs
Tulfo had written on the
corrupt acts committed by
Atty. So in the Bureau of
Customs. This last article
is an admission on the
part of Tulfo that Atty. So
was in fact the target of
his attacks. He cannot
now point to a putative
Atty. Ding So at South
Harbor, or someone else
using the name of Atty. So
as the real subject of his
attacks, when he did not
investigate the existence
or non-existence of an
Atty. So at South Harbor,
nor investigate the alleged
corrupt acts of Atty. So of
the Bureau of Customs.
Tulfo cannot say that
there is doubt as to the
identity of the Atty. So
referred to in his articles,
when all the evidence
points to one Atty. So, the
complainant in the
present case.
Having discussed the issue
of qualified privileged
communication and the
matter of the identity of
the person referred to in
the subject articles, there
remains the petition of the
editors and president of
Remate, the paper on
which the subject articles
appeared.
In sum, petitioners
Cambri, Salao, Barlizo,
and Pichay all claim that
they had no participation
in the editing or writing of
the subject articles, and
are thus not liable.
The argument must fail.
The language of Art. 360
of the RPC is plain. It lists
the persons responsible
for libel:
Art. 360. Persons
responsible.Any person
who shall publish, exhibit,
or cause the publication
or exhibition of any
defamation in writing or
by similar means, shall be
responsible for the same.
The author or editor of a
book or pamphlet, or the
editor or business
manager of a daily
newspaper, magazine or
serial publication, shall be
responsible for the
defamations contained
therein to the same extent
as if he were the author
thereof.
The claim that they had
no participation does not
shield them from liability.
The provision in the RPC
does not provide absence
of participation as a
defense, but rather plainly
and specifically states the
responsibility of those
involved in publishing
newspapers and other
periodicals. It is not a
matter of whether or not
they conspired in
preparing and publishing
the subject articles,
because the law simply so
states that they are liable
as they were the author.
Neither the publisher nor
the editors can disclaim
liability for libelous
articles that appear on
their paper by simply
saying they had no
participation in the
preparation of the same.
They cannot say that
Tulfo was all alone in the
publication of Remate, on
which the subject articles
appeared, when they
themselves clearly hold
positions of authority in
the newspaper, or in the
case of Pichay, as the
president in the
publishing company.
As Tulfo cannot simply
say that he is not liable
because he did not fulfill
his responsibility as a
journalist, the other
petitioners cannot simply
say that they are not liable
because they did not fulfill
their responsibilities as
editors and publishers. An
editor or manager of a
newspaper, who has active
charge and control of its
management, conduct,
and policy, generally is
held to be equally liable
with the owner for the
publication therein of a
libelous article.[40] On the
theory that it is the duty
of the editor or manager
to know and control the
contents of the paper,[41]
it is held that said person
cannot evade
responsibility by
abandoning the duties to
employees,[42] so that it is
immaterial whether or not
the editor or manager
knew the contents of the
publication.[43] In
Fermin v. People of the
Philippines,[44] the Court
held that the publisher
could not escape liability
by claiming lack of
participation in the
preparation and
publication of a libelous
article. The Court cited
U.S. v. Ocampo, stating
the rationale for holding
the persons enumerated in
Art. 360 of the RPC
criminally liable, and it is
worth reiterating:
According to the legal
doctrines and
jurisprudence of the
United States, the printer
of a publication
containing libelous matter
is liable for the same by
reason of his direct
connection therewith and
his cognizance of the
contents thereof. With
regard to a publication in
which a libel is printed,
not only is the publisher
but also all other persons
who in any way
participate in or have any
connection with its
publication are liable as
publishers.
xxxx
In the case of State vs.
Mason (26 L.R.A., 779; 26
Oreg., 273, , 629), the
question of the
responsibility of the
manager or proprietor of
a newspaper was
discussed. The court said,
among other things (pp.
782, 783):
The question then recurs
as to whether the manager
or proprietor of a
newspaper can escape
criminal responsibility
solely on the ground that
the libelous article was
published without his
knowledge or consent.
When a libel is published
in a newspaper, such fact
alone is sufficient evidence
prima facie to charge the
manager or proprietor
with the guilt of its
publication.
The manager and
proprietor of a newspaper,
we think ought to be held
prima facie criminally for
whatever appears in his
paper; and it should be no
defense that the
publication was made
without his knowledge or
consent, x x x.
One who furnishes the
means for carrying on the
publication of a
newspaper and entrusts
its management to
servants or employees
whom he selects and
controls may be said to
cause to be published
what actually appears,
and should be held
responsible therefore,
whether he was
individually concerned in
the publication or not, x x
x. Criminal responsibility
for the acts of an agent or
servant in the course of
his employment
necessarily implies some
degree of guilt or
delinquency on the part of
the publisher; x x x.
We think, therefore, the
mere fact that the libelous
article was published in
the newspaper without the
knowledge or consent of
its proprietor or manager
is no defense to a criminal
prosecution against such
proprietor or manager.
In the case of
Commonwealth vs.
Morgan (107 Mass., 197),
this same question was
considered and the court
held that in the criminal
prosecution of a publisher
of a newspaper in which a
libel appears, he is prima
facie presumed to have
published the libel, and
that the exclusion of an
offer by the defendant to
prove that he never saw
the libel and was not
aware of its publication
until it was pointed out to
him and that an apology
and retraction were
afterwards published in
the same paper, gave him
no ground for exception.
In this same case, Mr.
Justice Colt, speaking for
the court, said:
It is the duty of the
proprietor of a public
paper, which may be used
for the publication of
improper
communications, to use
reasonable caution in the
conduct of his business
that no libels be
published. (Whartons
Criminal Law, secs. 1627,
1649; 1 Bishops Criminal
Law, secs. 219, 221;
People vs. Wilson, 64 Ill.,
195; Commonwealth vs.
Damon, 136 Mass., 441.)
The above doctrine is also
the doctrine established
by the English courts. In
the case of Rex vs. Walter
(3 Esp., 21) Lord Kenyon
said that he was clearly of
the opinion that the
proprietor of a newspaper
was answerable
criminally as well as
civilly for the acts of his
servants or agents for
misconduct in the
management of the paper.
This was also the opinion
of Lord Hale, Mr. Justice
Powell, and Mr. Justice
Foster.
Lofft, an English author,
in his work on Libel and
Slander, said:
An information for libel
will lie against the
publisher of a papers,
although he did not know
of its being put into the
paper and stopped the
sale as soon as he
discovered it.
In the case of People vs.
Clay (86 , 147) the court
held that
A person who makes a
defamatory statement to
the agent of a newspaper
for publication, is liable
both civilly and
criminally, and his
liability is shared by the
agent and all others who
aid in publishing it.[45]
Under Art. 360 of the
RPC, as Tulfo, the author
of the subject articles, has
been found guilty of libel,
so too must Cambri,
Salao, Barlizo, and
Pichay.
Though we find
petitioners guilty of the
crime charged, the
punishment must still be
tempered with justice.
Petitioners are to be
punished for libel for the
first time. They did not
apply for probation to
avoid service of sentence
possibly in the belief that
they have not committed
any crime. In Buatis, Jr. v.
People,[46] the Court, in a
criminal case for libel,
removed the penalty of
imprisonment and instead
imposed a fine as penalty.
In Sazon v. Court of
Appeals,[47] the accused
was merely fined in lieu of
the original penalty of
imprisonment and fine.
Freedom of expression as
well as freedom of the
press may not be
unrestrained, but neither
must it be reined in too
harshly. In light of this,
considering the necessity
of a free press balanced
with the necessity of a
responsible press, the
penalty of a fine of PhP
6,000 for each count of
libel, with subsidiary
imprisonment in case of
insolvency, should suffice.
[48] Lastly, the
responsibilities of the
members of the press
notwithstanding, the
difficulties and hazards
they encounter in their
line of work must also be
taken into consideration.
The award of damages by
the lower court must be
modified. Art. 2199 of the
Civil Code provides,
Except as provided by law
or by stipulation, one is
entitled to an adequate
compensation only for
such pecuniary loss
suffered by him as he has
duly proved. Such
compensation is referred
to as actual or
compensatory damages.
There was no showing of
any pecuniary loss
suffered by the
complainant Atty. So.
Without proof of actual
loss that can be measured,
the award of actual
damages cannot stand.
In Del Mundo v. Court of
Appeals, it was held, as
regards actual and moral
damages:
A party is entitled to an
adequate compensation
for such pecuniary loss
actually suffered by him
as he has duly proved.
Such damages, to be
recoverable, must not only
be capable of proof, but
must actually be proved
with a reasonable degree
of certainty. We have
emphasized that these
damages cannot be
presumed, and courts, in
making an award must
point out specific facts
which could afford a basis
for measuring whatever
compensatory or actual
damages are borne.
Moral damages, upon the
other hand, may be
awarded to compensate
one for manifold injuries
such as physical suffering,
mental anguish, serious
anxiety, besmirched
reputation, wounded
feelings and social
humiliation. These
damages must be
understood to be in the
concept of grants, not
punitive or corrective in
nature, calculated to
compensate the claimant
for the injury suffered.
Although incapable of
exactness and no proof of
pecuniary loss is
necessary in order that
moral damages may be
awarded, the amount of
indemnity being left to the
sound discretion of the
court, it is imperative,
nevertheless, that (1)
injury must have been
suffered by the claimant,
and (2) such injury must
have sprung from any of
the cases expressed in
Article 2219 and Article
2220 of the Civil Code. A
causal relation, in fine,
must exist between the act
or omission referred to in
the Code which underlies,
or gives rise to, the case or
proceeding on the one
hand, and the resulting
injury, on the other hand;
i.e. the first must be the
proximate cause and the
latter the direct
consequence thereof.[49]
It was the articles of Tulfo
that caused injury to Atty.
So, and for that Atty. So
deserves the award of
moral damages.
Justification for the
award of moral damages
is found in Art. 2219(7) of
the Civil Code, which
states that moral damages
may be recovered in cases
of libel, slander, or any
other form of defamation.
As the cases involved are
criminal cases of libel,
they fall squarely within
the ambit of Art. 2219(7).
Moral damages can be
awarded even in the
absence of actual or
compensatory damages.
The fact that no actual or
compensatory damage
was proven before the
trial court does not
adversely affect the
offended partys right to
recover moral damages.
[50]
And while on the subject
of moral damages, it may
not be amiss to state at
this juncture that Tulfos
libelous articles are
abhorrent not only
because of its vilifying and
demeaning effect on Atty.
So himself, but also
because of their impact on
members of his family,
especially on the children
and possibly even the
childrens children.
The Court can perhaps
take judicial notice that
the sense of kinship runs
deeply in a typical
Filipino family, such that
the whole family usually
suffers or rejoices at the
misfortune or good
fortune, as the case may
be, of any of its member.
Accordingly, any attempt
to dishonor or besmirch
the name and reputation
of the head of the family,
as here, invariably puts
the other members in a
state of disrepute, distress,
or anxiety. This reality
adds an imperative
dimension to the award of
moral damages to the
defamed party.
The award of exemplary
damages, however, cannot
be justified. Under Art.
2230 of the Civil Code, In
criminal offenses,
exemplary damages as a
part of the civil liability
may be imposed when the
crime was committed with
one or more aggravating
circumstances. Such
damages are separate and
distinct from fines and
shall be paid to the
offended party. No
aggravating
circumstances
accompanied the
commission of the libelous
acts; thus, no exemplary
damages can be awarded.
Conclusion
The press wields
enormous power. Through
its widespread reach and
the information it
imparts, it can mold and
shape thoughts and
opinions of the people. It
can turn the tide of public
opinion for or against
someone, it can build up
heroes or create villains.
It is in the interest of
society to have a free
press, to have liberal
discussion and
dissemination of ideas,
and to encourage people
to engage in healthy
debate. It is through this
that society can progress
and develop.
Those who would publish
under the aegis of
freedom of the press must
also acknowledge the
corollary duty to publish
responsibly. To show that
they have exercised their
freedom responsibly, they
must go beyond merely
relying on unfounded
rumors or shadowy
anonymous sources. There
must be further
investigation conducted,
some shred of proof found
to support allegations of
misconduct or even
criminal activity. It is in
fact too easy for
journalists to destroy the
reputation and honor of
public officials, if they are
not required to make the
slightest effort to verify
their accusations.
Journalists are supposed
to be reporters of facts,
not fiction, and must be
able to back up their
stories with solid research.
The power of the press
and the corresponding
duty to exercise that
power judiciously cannot
be understated.
But even with the need for
a free press, the necessity
that it be free does not
mean that it be totally
unfettered. It is still
acknowledged that the
freedom can be abused,
and for the abuse of the
freedom, there must be a
corresponding sanction. It
falls on the press to wield
such enormous power
responsibly. It may be a
clich that the pen is
mightier than the sword,
but in this particular case,
the lesson to be learned is
that such a mighty
weapon should not be
wielded recklessly or
thoughtlessly, but always
guided by conscience and
careful thought.
A robust and
independently free press is
doubtless one of the most
effective checks on
government power and
abuses. Hence, it behooves
government functionaries
to respect the value of
openness and refrain from
concealing from media
corruption and other
anomalous practices
occurring within their
backyard. On the other
hand, public officials also
deserve respect and
protection against false
innuendoes and
unfounded accusation of
official wrongdoing from
an abusive press. As it
were, the law and
jurisprudence on libel
heavily tilt in favor of
press freedom. The
common but most unkind
perception is that
government institutions
and their officers and
employees are fair game
to official and personal
attacks and even ridicule.
And the practice on the
ground is just as
disconcerting. Reports
and accusation of official
misconduct often times
merit front page or
primetime treatment,
while defenses set up,
retraction issued, or
acquittal rendered get no
more, if ever, perfunctory
coverage. The unfairness
needs no belaboring. The
balm of clear conscience is
sometimes not enough.
Perhaps lost in the
traditional press freedom
versus government
impasse is the fact that a
maliciously false
imputation of corruption
and dishonesty against a
public official, as here,
leaves a stigmatizing
mark not only on the
person but also the office
to which he belongs. In
the ultimate analysis,
public service also unduly
suffers.
WHEREFORE, in view of
the foregoing, the
petitions in G.R. Nos.
161032 and 161176 are
DISMISSED. The CA
Decision dated June 17,
2003 in CA-G.R. CR No.
25318 is hereby
AFFIRMED with the
MODIFICATIONS that
in lieu of imprisonment,
the penalty to be imposed
upon petitioners shall be a
fine of six thousand pesos
(PhP 6,000) for each count
of libel, with subsidiary
imprisonment in case of
insolvency, while the
award of actual damages
and exemplary damages is
DELETED. The Decision
dated November 17, 2000
of the RTC, Branch 112 in
Pasay City in Criminal
Case Nos. 99-1597 to 99-
1600 is modified to read
as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Court
finds the accused ERWIN
TULFO, SUSAN
CAMBRI, REY SALAO,
JOCELYN BARLIZO,
and PHILIP PICHAY
guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of four (4) counts of
the crime of LIBEL, as
defined in Article 353 of
the Revised Penal Code,
and sentences EACH of
the accused to pay a fine
of SIX THOUSAND
PESOS (PhP 6,000) per
count of libel with
subsidiary imprisonment,
in case of insolvency.
Considering that the
accused Erwin Tulfo,
Susan Cambri, Rey Salao,
Jocelyn Barlizo, and
Philip Pichay wrote and
published the four (4)
defamatory articles with
reckless disregard
whether it was false or
not, the said articles being
libelous per se, they are
hereby ordered to pay
complainant Atty. Carlos
T. So, jointly and
severally, the sum of ONE
MILLION PESOS (PhP
1,000,000) as moral
damages. The claim of
actual and exemplary
damages is denied for lack
of merit.
Costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 115239-40.
March 2, 2000]
MARIO C.V.
JALANDONI, petitioner,
vs. HON. SECRETARY
OF JUSTICE
FRANKLYN M. DRILON,
HONORABLE
PROVINCIAL
PROSECUTOR OF
RIZAL, ROBERT
COYIUTO, JR., JAIME
LEDESMA, RAMON
GARCIA, ANTONIO
OZAETA, AMPARO
BARCELON and
CARLOS DYHONGPO,
respondents.
DECISION
BUENA, J.:
This is a petition for
certiorari seeking to
nullify and set aside
the orders of the
Honorable Secretary of
Justice Franklin M.
Drilon, to wit: DOJ
Resolution No. 211
Series of 1994 dated
March 15, 1994 and the
letter-order dated April
20, 1994. DOJ
Resolution No. 211
Series of 1994
instructed the
Provincial Prosecutor
of Rizal to withdraw the
informations in I.S.
Nos. 93-6228 and 93-
6422 while the letter-
order denied the
motion for
reconsideration filed by
herein petitioner Mario
C.V. Jalandoni. Miso
The antecedent facts of
the case are as follows:
(a)......In I.S. No. 93-
6228
On July 15, 1992, Jaime
Ledesma, private
respondent herein,
filed an administrative
complaint for violation
of the Revised Penal
Code and the Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices
Act against the
petitioner with the
Presidential
Commission on Good
Government (PCGG).
On the two succeeding
days, July 16 and July
17, 1992, news articles
thereon appeared in
various daily
newspapers. [1]

A full-page paid
advertisement was
caused to be published
on July 16, 1992 by
private respondents
Robert Coyiuto, Jr.,
Jaime Ledesma,
Ramon Garcia, Amparo
Barcelon, Antonio
Ozaeta, and Carlos
Dyhongpo. The
advertisements were
published in five (5)
major daily
newspapers, to wit:
Manikx
1.......The Manila
Chronicle
2.......Business
World
3.......Malaya
4.......Philippine
Daily Globe, and
5.......The Manila
Times
Exactly a year
thereafter or on July
16, 1993, petitioner
Jalandoni filed a
complaint for the crime
of libel before the
Provincial Prosecutor
of Rizal designated as
I.S. No. 93-6228 against
officials/directors of
Oriental Petroleum &
Minerals Corporation
(OPMC, for brevity),
namely, Coyiuto, Jr.,
Ledesma, Garcia,
Barcelon, Ozaeta, and
Dyhongpo.
The publication in
question was the July
16, 1992 full-page
advertisements
simultaneously
published in five major
dailies. These
advertisements
contained allegations
naming herein
petitioner who was
then a PCGG
Commissioner of
having committed
illegal and
unauthorized acts, and
other wrongdoings
constituting graft and
corruption, relative to
the dacion en pago
financing arrangement
entered into by Piedras
Petroleum Co., Inc.
with Rizal Commercial
Banking Corporation.
Quoted in full below is
the said advertisement:
"My administration
will prove that
government is not
avoidly corrupt and
that bureaucracy is
not necessarily
corrupt. Graft and
corruption, we will
confront more with
action than with
words.
-- PRESIDENT
FIDEL V. RAMOS,
Inaugural Address,
June 30, 1992
"AN URGENT
APPEAL TO
JUSTICE
SECRETARY
FRANKLIN DRILON
(and) PCGG
CHAIRMAN
MAGTANGGOL
GUNIGUNDO
"Please stop the
unauthorized and
illegal acts of PCGG
officials led by
former Chairman
DAVID CASTRO and
Commissioner
MARIO JALANDONI
which will allow the
attempt of hostile
vested interest
groups to gain entry
into the board of
Oriental Petroleum
& Minerals
Corporation.
"1. The PCGG
openly defied
Malacaang orders
issued by former
Executive Secretary
Franklin Drilon on
the sale of Oriental
Petroleum shares.
"In spite of its
claims that the
disposal of OPMC
shares held by
Piedras Petroleum
was approved by
the Office of the
President,
documented proofs
belie the PCGGs
statements. Maniks
"No less than
Justice Secretary
Franklin Drilon, who
was Executive
Secretary at the
time PCGG
Chairman David
Castro sought
approval for the
OPMC-Piedras
Petroleum deal,
thumbed down
Castros request.
Clearly, the sale of
OPMC shares held
by Piedras
Petroleum to the
RCBC-Yuchengco
Group for P101
million was
unauthorized and
illegal.
"2. The PCGG
officials involved in
the unauthorized
and illegal sale of
Oriental Petroleum
shares committed
grave abuse of
authority. Their acts
defrauded
government of
better prices for
Oriental Petroleum
shares which they
undervalued and
sold to favored
buyers Pacific
Basin and RCBC,
both identified with
the Yuchengco
group.
"At the time the
Piedras deal was
closed the PCGG as
evidenced by the
minutes of the
Board Meeting of
Piedras Petroleum
on October 31,
1991, with PCGG
Commissioner
Mario Jalandoni as
acting Chairman,
the sale of 2.054
billion OPMC Class
A shares and 789.45
million B shares,
OPMC shares were
sold for the give-
away price of
P0.035/share. This
compares with
prevailing market
price of P0.042 for A
shares and P0.049
for the B shares.
This means that the
RCBC-Yuchengco
Group already
earned P25 million
at the time of the
transaction.
"3. The PCGG
proceeded without
any legal authority
to sell Oriental
Petroleum shares in
total violation of the
Public Bidding Law
and other
government rules
and regulations
pertaining to the
disposal of
government assets.
"The PCGG,
particularly
Commissioner
Mario Jalandoni,
should be made to
account for the
PCGG-Piedras-
RCBC transaction
as it was
consummated
without
transparency, in
violation of the
Public Bidding Law
and without
approval from the
government.
"4. The PCGG last
year illegally used
Philcomsat cash
dividends to avail
itself of an OPMC
stock subscription
to pay for the
subscription rights
of JY Campos and
Piedras Petroleum.
"Even before the
PCGG transacted
the questionable
Piedras-RCBC deal,
it was sued by a
Philcomsat
stockholder before
the Sandiganbayan
for diverting P76
million in cash
dividends. The anti-
graft court ordered
the cash dividends
deposited in an
escrow account in
1989. However, the
funds were used by
the PCGG to pay for
subscription rights
for OPMC shares.
"This case is
related to the
Piedras deal
because the
additional OPMC
shares were part of
those sold to the
RCBC-Yuchengco
Group. Manikanx
"5. The PCGG
diverted the
proceeds on the
authorized sale of
Oriental Petroleum
shares in violation
of the law requiring
proceeds of the sale
of assets by the
PCGG going to the
Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform
Program (CARP).
"In addition to the
litany of illegal
transactions
entered into by the
PCGG, the officials
of the anti-graft
body also violated
provisions of the
Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform
Law of 1988,
specifically Section
63, which states
that the following
shall serve as
source of funding
or appropriations
for the
implementation of
the said law;
"b) All receipts from
assets recovered
and sales of ill-
gotten wealth
recovered through
the Presidential
Commission on
Good Government."
"The Management &
Board of Directors
of Oriental
Petroleum and
Minerals
Corporation believe
that the fruits of oil
exploration and
development in the
country must be
shared by the
largest possible
number of Filipinos.
It urgently seeks the
intervention of the
National Leadership
to immediately step
in and prevent a
large-scale take-
over attempt on the
Company by selfish
and hostile vested
interest groups
under highly-
questionable,
unauthorized and
illegal
circumstances."[2]

(b) In I.S. No. 93-6422


On July 22, 1993,
petitioner filed a
complaint for libel
before the Provincial
Prosecutor of Rizal
designated as I.S. No.
93-6422 against then
OPMC Chairman and
President, private
respondent Robert
Coyiuto, Jr.
An open letter dated
August 14, 1992
addressed to the
stockholders of OPMC
is the subject of this
case. Coyiuto, Jr.,
wrote it in his capacity
as Chairman of the
Board and President of
OPMC. The paragraph
objected to is quoted
hereunder:
"Conclusion
"It has been
suggested that this
barrage of charges
and press releases
against the
Corporation, and
myself, were really
intended to create a
smokescreen to
cover up the
sweetheart deal
between
Commissioner
Mario Jalandoni of
the Presidential
Commission on
Good Government
(PCGG) and Rizal
Commercial
Banking Corp.
(RCBC) to the
prejudice of the
Government and/or
that it is a part of a
dubious proxy
solicitation strategy
by these persons. It
seems to me that
there is more to that
transaction than
meets the eye." [3]

Oldmiso
After the affidavits and
counter-affidavits were
filed, 3rd Assistant
Prosecutor Edgardo C.
Bautista issued a
Memorandum dated
November 26, 1993 in
I.S. No. 93-6228,
approved by Rizal
Provincial Prosecutor
Mauro M. Castro on
December 13, 1993,
recommending the
indictment of private
respondents Coyiuto,
Jr., Ledesma, Garcia,
Ozaeta, Barcelon and
Dyhongpo in
complicity in the crime
of libel. An information
[4]

for the crime of libel


docketed as Criminal
Case No. 93-10987 was
filed with the Regional
Trial Court of Makati,
Branch 138.
A Memorandum in I.S.
No. 93-6422 dated
November 8, 1993 was
issued by 3rd Assistant
Prosecutor Bautista,
approved by Rizal
Provincial Prosecutor
Mauro M. Castro on
December 13, 1993,
recommending the
indictment of private
respondent Coyiuto, Jr.
An Information for
[5]

libel docketed as
Criminal Case No. 93-
10986 was filed
thereafter with the
Regional Trial Court of
Makati, Branch 137.
All of the respondents
in the two
aforementioned cases
appealed to then
Secretary of Justice,
Franklin M. Drilon. [6]

On March 15, 1994,


Secretary Drilon issued
the questioned DOJ
Resolution No. 211,
Series of 1994. The
[7]

dispositive portion
thereof reads as
follows:
"WHEREFORE,
premises
considered, the
questioned
resolutions are
hereby SET ASIDE
and the complaints
DISMISSED. You are
hereby directed to
immediately
withdraw the
informations filed in
court against
respondents Robert
Coyiuto, Jr., Jaime
L. Ledesma, Ramon
Garcia, Amparo
Barcelon, Antonio
Ozaeta and Carlos
Dyhongpo. Report
of action taken
within ten (10) days
from receipt hereof
is desired."
[8]

A motion for
reconsideration was [9]

filed but the same was


denied in a letter-order
dated April 20, 1994. [10]

Hence this petition.


The petition is without
merit. Ncm
Section 4, Rule 112 of
the New Rules on
Criminal Procedure
ruled that:
"Sec. 4. Duty of
investigating fiscal.
-- If the
investigating fiscal
finds cause to hold
the respondent for
trial, he shall
prepare the
resolution and
corresponding
information. He
shall certify under
oath that he, or as
shown by the
record, an
authorized officer,
has personally
examined the
complainant and his
witnesses, that
there is reasonable
ground to believe
that a crime has
been committed
and that the
accused is probably
guilty thereof, that
the accused was
informed of the
complaint and of
the evidence
submitted against
him and that he was
given an
opportunity to
submit
controverting
evidence.
Otherwise, he shall
recommend
dismissal of the
case.
"In either case, he
shall forward the
records of the case
to the provincial or
city fiscal or chief
state prosecutor
within five (5) days
from his resolution.
The latter shall take
appropriate action
thereon within ten
(10) days from
receipt thereof,
immediately
informing the
parties of said
action.
"No complaint or
information may be
filed or dismissed
by an investigating
fiscal without the
prior written
authority or
approval of the
provincial or city
fiscal or chief state
prosecutor.
"Where the
investigating
assistant fiscal
recommends the
dismissal of the
case but his
findings are
reversed by the
provincial or city
fiscal or chief state
prosecutor on the
ground that a
probable cause
exists, the latter
may, by himself, file
the corresponding
information against
the respondent or
direct any other
assistant fiscal or
state prosecutor to
do so, without
conducting another
preliminary
investigation.
"If upon petition by
a proper party, the
Secretary of Justice
reverses the
resolution of the
provincial or city
fiscal or chief state
prosecutor, he shall
direct the fiscal
concerned to file
the corresponding
information without
conducting another
preliminary
investigation or to
dismiss or move for
dismissal of the
complaint or
information."
Section 1 (d) of P.D. No.
911 likewise empowers
the Secretary of
Justice, where he finds
that no prima facie
case exists, to
authorize and direct the
investigating fiscal
concerned or any other
fiscal or state
prosecutor to cause or
move for the dismissal
of the case, or, where
he finds a prima facie
case, to cause the filing
of an information in
court against the
respondent, based on
the same sworn
statements of evidence
submitted, without the
necessity of
conducting another
preliminary
investigation. Ncmmis
"The power of
supervision and
control by the Minister
of Justice over the
fiscals cannot be
denied. As stated in
Noblejas vs. Salas, 67
SCRA 47, 'Section 79
(c) of the Revised
Administrative Code
defines the extent of a
department secretary's
power. The power of
control therein
contemplated "means
the power (of the
department head) to
alter, modify or nullify
or set aside what a
subordinate officer had
done in the
performance of his
duties and to substitute
the judgment of the
former for that of the
latter." "The power of
control implies the
right of the President
(and, naturally, of his
alter ego) to interfere in
the exercise of such
discretion as may be
vested by law in the
officers of the national
government, as well as
to act in lieu of such
officers."' For, while it
is the duty of the fiscal
to prosecute persons
who, according to
evidence received from
the complainant, are
shown to be guilty of a
crime, the Minister of
Justice is likewise
bound by his oath of
office to protect
innocent persons from
groundless, false or
serious prosecution.
He would be
committing a serious
dereliction of duty if he
orders or sanctions the
filing of an information
based upon a
complaint where he is
not convinced that the
evidence would
warrant the filing of the
action in court. As he
has the power of
supervision and
control over
prosecuting officers,
the Minister of Justice
has the ultimate power
to decide which as
between conflicting
theories of the
complainant and the
respondents should be
believed."
[11]
It is a well-settled rule
that the Secretary of
Justice has the power
to review resolutions or
decisions of provincial
or city prosecutors or
the Chief State
Prosecutor upon
petition by a proper
party. Under the
Revised Administrative
Code, the secretary of
justice exercises the
power of direct control
and supervision over
said prosecutors. He
may thus affirm, nullify,
reverse or modify their
rulings as he may
deem fit.
Section 39, Chapter 8,
Book IV in relation to
Sections 5, 8, and 9,
Chapter 2, Title III of the
Code gives the
secretary of justice
supervision and
control over the Office
of the Chief State
Prosecutor and the
Provincial and City
Prosecution Offices.
The scope of his power
of supervision and
control is delineated in
Section 38, paragraph
1, Chapter 7, Book IV of
the Code: Scncm
"(1) Supervision
and Control. --
Supervision and
control shall
include authority to
act directly
whenever a specific
function is
entrusted by law or
regulation to a
subordinate; direct
the performance of
duty; restrain the
commission of acts;
review, approve,
reverse or modify
acts and decisions
of subordinate
officials or units;
determine priorities
in the execution of
plans and
programs; and
prescribe
standards,
guidelines, plans
and programs.
Unless a different
meaning is
explicitly provided
in the specific law
governing the
relationship of
particular agencies,
the word control
shall encompass
supervision and
control as defined
in this paragraph."
In the case of Ledesma
vs. Court of Appeals, it
[12]

was held that:


"Supervision and
control of a
department head
over his
subordinates have
been defined in
administrative law
as follows:
"In administrative
law, supervision
means overseeing
or the power or
authority of an
officer to see that
subordinate officers
perform their
duties. If the latter
fail or neglect to
fulfill them, the
former may take
such action or step
as prescribed by
law to make them
perform such
duties. Control, on
the other hand,
means the power of
an officer to alter or
modify or nullify or
set aside what a
subordinate officer
had done in the
performance of his
duties and to
substitute the
judgment of the
former for that of
the latter. (Mondano
vs. Silvosa, 97 Phil.
143, 148 (1955)
"Review as an act
of supervision and
control by the
justice secretary
over the fiscals and
prosecutors finds
basis in the
doctrine of
exhaustion of
administrative
remedies which
holds that mistakes,
abuses or
negligence
committed in the
initial steps of an
administrative
activity or by an
administrative
agency should be
corrected by higher
administrative
authorities, and not
directly by courts.
As a rule, only after
administrative
remedies are
exhausted may
judicial recourse be
allowed."
We have taken the
liberty to review the
"libelous" articles
complained of. We
however do not find
them to be such.
The questioned
"conclusion" in the
open letter addressed
to the stockholders of
the OPMC merely
[13]

stated the insinuations


going on about the deal
between petitioner
Jalandoni, in his
capacity as PCGG
Commissioner and
RCBC and the
explanation for the
press releases
concerning the writer,
respondent Coyiuto, Jr.
and the OPMC.
In the recent case of
Vasquez vs. Court of
Appeals, et. al., we
[14]

ruled that: Sdaamiso


"The question is
whether from the
fact that the
statements were
defamatory, malice
can be presumed so
that it was
incumbent upon
petitioner to
overcome such
presumption. Under
Art. 361 of the
Revised Penal
Code, if the
defamatory
statement is made
against a public
official with respect
to the discharge of
is official duties and
functions and the
truth of the
allegation is shown,
the accused will be
entitled to an
acquittal even
though he does not
prove that the
imputation was
published with
good motives and
for justifiable ends."
Moreover, this Court
has ruled in a plethora
of cases that in libel
[15]

cases against public


officials, for liability to
arise, the alleged
defamatory statement
must relate to official
conduct, even if the
defamatory statement
is false, unless the
public official
concerned proves that
the statement was
made with actual
malice, that is, with
knowledge that it was
false or not. Here
petitioner failed to
prove actual malice on
the part of the private
respondents.
Nor are we of the
opinion that the same
was written to cast
aspersion on the good
name of the petitioner.
In our view, the paid
advertisement[16]
merely served as a
vehicle to inform the
stockholders of the
going-ons in the
business world and
only exposed the
irregularities
surrounding the PCGG
and RCBC deal and the
parties involved.
The statements
embodied in the
advertisement and the
open letter are
protected by the
constitutional
guarantee of freedom
of speech. This carries
[17]

the right to criticize the


action and conduct of a
public official. The
extent of the exercise
of this right has been
interpreted and defined
in U.S. vs. Bustos[18]
which held:
"The interest of
society and the
maintenance of
good government
demand a full
discussion of public
affairs. Complete
liberty to comment
on the conduct of
public men is a
scalpel in the case
of free speech. The
sharp incision of its
probe relieves the
abscesses of
officialdom. Men in
public life may
suffer under a
hostile and an
unjust accusation;
the wound can be
assuaged with the
balm of a clear
conscience. A
public officer must
not be too thin-
skinned with
reference to
comment upon his
official acts. Only
thus can the
intelligence and
dignity of the
individual be
exalted. Of course,
criticism does not
authorize
defamation.
Nevertheless, as the
individual is less
than the State, so
must expected
criticism be born for
the common good.
Rising superior to
any official or set of
officials, to the
Chief Executive, to
the Legislature, to
the Judiciary -- to
any or all the
agencies of
Government public
opinion should be
the constant source
of liberty and
democracy." Sdaad
The extraordinary writ
of certiorari is issued
only when it is
sufficiently shown that
"any tribunal, board, or
officer exercising
judicial functions, has
acted without or in
excess of its or his
jurisdiction, or with
grave abuse of
discretion."[19]

In the case of Building


Care Corporation vs.
National Labor
Relations Commission,
it was held:
[20]
"The sole office of
the writ of certiorari
is the correction of
errors of
jurisdiction
including the
commission of
grave abuse of
discretion
amounting to lack
of jurisdiction, and
does not include
correction of public
respondent's
evaluation of the
evidence and
factual findings
based thereon."
Petitioner herein
desires that we make a
correction of the
findings of the
Secretary of Justice.
This we cannot do for
we do not find it
needing of any
correction.
A special civil action
for certiorari will
prosper only if a grave
abuse of discretion is
manifested. And this is
defined in the case of
Republic vs. Villarama,
Jr. which held that for
[21]

an abuse to be grave
the power is exercised
in an arbitrary or
despotic manner by
reason of passion or
personal hostility.
This petitioner failed to
prove. Scsdaad
Moreover a petition for
certiorari, in order to
prosper, must be based
on jurisdictional
grounds because, as
long as the respondent
acted with jurisdiction,
any error committed by
him or it in the exercise
thereof will amount to
nothing more than an
error of judgment
which may be reviewed
or corrected only by
appeal. Even an abuse
of discretion is not
sufficient by itself to
justify the issuance of
a writ of certiorari.
[22]

The petitioner failed to


point out the specific
instances where public
respondent had
committed a grave
abuse of discretion
when the latter issued
the questioned orders.
Failing this the petition
for certiorari must fall.
Assuming arguendo
that the extraordinary
writ of certiorari must
prosper, we must point
out to the petitioner the
oft-cited ruling in the
case of Crespo vs.
Mogul,[23]

"Once a complaint
or information is
filed in court, any
disposition of the
case such as its
dismissal or its
continuation rests
on the sound
discretion of the
court. Trial judges
are thus required to
make their own
assessment of
whether the
secretary of justice
committed grave
abuse of discretion
in granting or
denying the appeal,
separately and
independently of
the prosecution's or
the secretary's
evaluation that such
evidence is
insufficient or that
no probable cause
to hold the accused
for trial exists."
It is therefore
imperative upon the
trial judge to make an
assessment of the
motion to withdraw
before granting or
denying the same for
he is in the best
position to rule on the
same.
Finally, we have to
make the
pronouncement that
public respondent was
not remiss in his sworn
duty to prosecute
violators of the law and
to keep the innocent
from behind bars.
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW
OF THE FOREGOING,
the petition is hereby
DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G. R. No. 156747.
February 23, 2005]
ALLEN A. MACASAET,
NICOLAS V. QUIJANO,
JR., and ALFIE
LORENZO, petitioners,
vs. THE PEOPLE OF
THE PHILIPPINES and
JOSELITO TRINIDAD,
respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
Before Us is a Petition for
Review on Certiorari
under Rule 45 of the
Revised Rules of Court of
the Decision dated 22
[1]

March 2002 and


Resolution dated 6
January 2003 of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR
No. 22067 entitled, People
of the Philippines v. Alfie
Lorenzo, et al.
The factual antecedents
are as follows:
In an Information dated
10 July 1997, Alfie
Lorenzo, Allen Macasaet,
Nicolas Quijano, Jr., and
Roger Parajes, columnist,
publisher, managing
editor, and editor,
respectively of the
newspaper Abante were
charged before the
Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Quezon City,
with the crime of libel.
The information, which
was raffled off to Branch
93 of said court, reads:
The undersigned accuses
ALFIE LORENZO,
ALLEN MACASAET,
NICOLAS QUIJANO
JR., ROGER B.
PARAJES and JORDAN
CASTILLO, of the crime
of LIBEL, committed as
follows:
That on or about the 13 th
day of July, 1996 in
Quezon City, Philippines,
the said accused ALFIE
LORENZO, columnist,
ALLEN MACASAET,
publisher, NICOLAS
QUIJANO JR., managing
editor, ROGER B.
PARAJES, editor,
respectively of Abante a
newspaper of general
circulation in the
Philippines, and JORDAN
CASTILLO, conspiring,
confederating together
and mutually helping one
another, with evident
intent of exposing
JOSELITO
MAGALLANES
TRINIDAD, a.k.a. JOEY
TRINIDAD a.k.a. TOTO
TRINIDAD to public
hatred, dishonor, discredit
and contempt and
ridicule, did, then and
there willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously and
maliciously write, publish,
exhibit and circulate
and/or cause to be
written, published,
exhibited and circulated
in the aforesaid
newspaper, in its issue of
July 13, 1996 an article
which reads as follows:
Humarap sa ilang
reporters si Jordan
Castillo hindi para
magkaroon ng writeups
kundi para ituwid lang
ang ilang bagay na
baluktot at binaluktot
pang lalo ng isang Toto
Trinidad.
Hindi namin naging
barkada si Joey Trinidad.
Bah, Toto na pala siya
ngayon. Anong palagay
niya sa sarili niya, si Direk
Toto Natividad siya?
Nakikibuhat lang talaga
yang taong yan sa amin sa
Liberty Ave. noon. Ni
hindi nga pinapansin ni
Tito Alfie yan dahil nga sa
amoy-pawis siya
pagkatapos mag-barbell.
Kami naka-shower na, si
Joey punas lang nang
punas sa katawan niya ng
T-shirt niyang siya ring
isusuot niya pagkatapos
na gawing pamunas!
Madalas ngang makikain
sa amin yan noon. Galit
na galit nga ang
mayordoma naming si
Manang Hilda noon dahil
nagkukulang ang rasyon
namin dahil dagdag
pakainin nga yang si Joey.
Tamang-tama nga lang sa
amin ang kanin at ulam,
pero sinusugod pa niya
ang kaldero para
magkayod ng natitirang
tutong sa kaldero.
Naaawa nga ako madalas
diyan kaya sineshare ko
na lang ang pagkain ko sa
kanya.
Ewan ko kung anong
naisipan ng taong yan at
pagsasalitaan pa niya ng
masama si Tito Alfie.
Hindi man lang siya
tumanaw ng utang na
loob na kahit konti at
kahit na sandali ay
naitawid ng gutom niya.
Hindi ko alam kung may
kunsenya pa ang
gangyang klaseng tao,
pero sana naman ay
makunsensya ka, Pare!
Madalas nga itinatago ka
na nga namin ni Tito Alfie
para hindi mahighblood
sa iyo, ganyan pa ang
gagawin mo. Napupuyat
nga si Manang Hilda sa
pagbabantay sa iyo at
hindi makatulog ang
matanda hanggat hindi ka
pa umuuwi, magsasalita
ka pa ng mga inimbento
mo. Pati nga si Eruel ay
madalas mabanas sa iyo,
natatandaan mo pa ba,
dahil sa kakulitan mo!
Pilit mo kaming binubuyo
na sabihin kay Tito Alfie
na tulungan ka rin tulad
ng tulong na ibinibigay ni
Tito Alfie na pag-aalaga
sa amin. Pero hate na hate
ka nga ni Tito Alfie dahil
sa masamang ugali,
natatandaan mo pa ba
yun? Kaya tiyak ko na
imbento mo lang ang
lahat ng pinagsasabi mo
para makaganti ka kay
Tito Alfie, ani Jordan sa
mga nag-interbyu sa
kanyang legitimate
writers.
Hindi na siguro namin
kailangan pang dagdagan
ang mga sinabi ng
sinasabi ni Toto Trinidad
na mga barkada niya at
kapwa niya kuno Liberty
Boys!
thereby publicly imputing
a crime, vice or defect,
real or imaginary or an
act, omission, condition,
status or circumstance
and causing in view of
their publication, discredit
and contempt upon the
person of said JOSELITO
MAGALLANES
TRINIDAD a.k.a. JOEY
TRINIDAD a.k.a. TOTO
TRINIDAD, to his
damage and prejudice. [2]

In an Order dated 16 July


1997, Judge Apolinario D.
Bruselas, Jr., presiding
judge of RTC, Branch 93,
Quezon City, set the
arraignment of the
petitioners on 27 August
1997.[3]

On 22 August 1997,
petitioners filed before the
court a quo an Urgent
Motion to Suspend
Arraignment and/or Defer
Proceedings dated 21
August 1997 claiming that
they intended to elevate
the adverse Resolution of
the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Quezon City
to the Department of
Justice (DOJ) for review.
Despite this motion, the
scheduled arraignment of
petitioners pushed
through on 27 August
1997. During said
proceeding, petitioners
Lorenzo and Quijano, Jr.,
together with their co-
accused Parajes and
Castillo, refused to enter
any plea and so the trial
court ordered that a plea
of not guilty be entered
into the records on their
behalf. As for petitioner
[4]

Macasaet, his
arraignment was
rescheduled to 20 October
1997 due to his failure to
attend the previously
calendared arraignment.
On 12 September 1997,
petitioners filed a Motion
to Dismiss the libel case
on the ground that the
trial court did not have
jurisdiction over the
offense charged.
According to petitioners,
as the information
discloses that the
residence of private
respondent was in
Marikina, the RTC of
Quezon City did not have
jurisdiction over the case
pursuant to Article 360 of
the Revised Penal Code,
to wit:
The criminal and civil
action for damages in
cases of written
defamations as provided
for in this chapter, shall
be filed simultaneously or
separately with the Court
of First Instance of the
province or city where the
libelous article is printed
and first published or
where any of the offended
parties actually resides at
the time of the
commission of the offense [5]

(Emphasis supplied.)
Subsequently, on 23
September 1997, the trial
court received by way of
registered mail,
petitioners Motion for
Reconsideration and to
Withdraw Plea dated 3
September 1997. [6]

Petitioners argued therein


that the trial court
committed grave error
when it denied the
petitioners Urgent Motion
to Suspend Arraignment
and/or Defer Proceedings
and continued with the
scheduled arraignment on
27 August 1997.
According to petitioners
and their co-accused, by
the trial judges denial of
their Urgent Motion to
Defer Arraignment and/or
Defer Proceedings, he had
effectively denied them
their right to obtain relief
from the Department of
Justice. Moreover,
banking on the case of Roberts, et al.
, the petitioners and
v. Court of Appeals [7]

their fellow accused


contended that since they
had already manifested
their intention to file a
petition for review of the
Resolution of the city
prosecutor of Quezon City
before the DOJ, it was
premature for the trial
court to deny their urgent
motion of 21 August 1997.
Finally, petitioners and
their co-accused claimed
that regardless of the
outcome of their petition
for review before the
DOJ, the withdrawal of
their not guilty pleas is in
order as they planned to
move for the quashal of
the information against
them.
In an Order dated 26
September 1997, Judge
[8]

Bruselas, Jr., ruled that


with the filing of the
Motion to Dismiss, the
court considers the
accused to have
abandoned their Motion
for Reconsideration and
to Withdraw Plea and sees
no further need to act on
the same.
In his Opposition to the
Motion to Dismiss dated
23 September 1997, the
[9]

public prosecutor argued


that the RTC, Quezon
City, had jurisdiction over
the case. He maintained
that during the time
material to this case,
private respondent
(private complainant
below) was a resident of
both 28-D Matino St.
corner Malumanay St.,
Sikatuna Village, Quezon
City and Karen St.,
Paliparan, Sto. Nio,
Marikina, Metro Manila,
as shown in his Reply-
Affidavit of 11 October
1996 filed during the
preliminary investigation
of the case.
For their part, the
petitioners and their co-
accused countered that it
was incorrect for the
public prosecutor to refer
to the affidavit
purportedly executed by
private respondent as it is
axiomatic that the
resolution of a motion to
quash is limited to a
consideration of the
information as filed with
the court, and no other.
Further, as both the
complaint-affidavit
executed by private
respondent and the
information filed before
the court state that
private respondents
residence is in Marikina
City, the dismissal of the
case is warranted for the
rule is that jurisdiction is
determined solely by the
allegations contained in
the complaint or
information. [10]

On 16 October 1997,
petitioners and their
fellow accused filed a
Supplemental Reply [11]
attaching thereto
certifications issued by
Jimmy Ong and Pablito
C. Antonio, barangay
captains of Barangay
Malaya, Quezon City and
Barangay Sto. Nio,
Marikina City,
respectively. The pertinent
portion of the barangay
certification issued by
[12]

Barangay Captain Ong


states:
This is to certify that this
office has no record on file
nor with the list of
registered voters of this
barangay regarding a
certain person by the
name of one MR.
JOSELITO TRINIDAD.
This further certifies that
our BSDOs (have) been
looking for said person
seeking information
regarding his
whereabouts but to no
avail.
On the other hand, the
certification issued by
[13]

Barangay Captain
Antonio, reads in part:
This is to certify that
JOSELITO TRINIDAD
of legal age,
single/married/separate/w
idow/widower, a resident
of Karen Street, Sto. Nio,
Marikina City is a
bonafide member of this
barangay.
...
This is being issued upon
request of the above-
named person for
IDENTIFICATION.
During the hearing on 20
October 1997, the trial
court received and
marked in evidence the
two barangay
certifications. Also
marked for evidence were
page 4 of the information
stating the address of
private respondent to be
in Marikina City and the
editorial box appearing in
page 18 of Abante
indicating that the tabloid
maintains its editorial and
business offices at Rm.
301/305, 3/F BF
Condominium Bldg.,
Solana cor. A. Soriano
Sts., Intramuros, Manila.
The prosecution was then
given five (5) days within
which to submit its
comment to the evidence
submitted by the
petitioners and their
fellow accused.
In his Rejoinder to
Supplemental Reply, [14]

private respondent
contended that the
certification issued by the
barangay captain of
Barangay Malaya was
issued after he had
already moved out of the
apartment unit he was
renting in Sikatuna
Village, Quezon City; that
owners of residential
houses do not usually
declare they rent out
rooms to boarders in
order to avoid payment of
local taxes; and that there
is no showing that a
census was conducted
among the residents of
Barangay Malaya during
the time he resided
therein.
As regards the
certification issued by the
barangay chairman of Sto.
Nio, Marikina City,
private respondent argued
that it is of judicial notice
that barangay and city
records are not regularly
updated to reflect the
transfer of residence of
their constituents and that
a perusal of said
certification reveals that
the barangay captain did
not personally know him
(private respondent).
Finally, private
respondent claimed that
his receipt of the copy of
petitioners Appeal to the
DOJ, which was sent to
his alleged address in
Sikatuna Village, Quezon
City, proved that he did,
in fact, reside at said
place.
On 24 November 1997,
the trial court rendered
an Order dismissing the
case due to lack of
jurisdiction. The court a
[15]

quo noted that although


the information alleged
the venue of this case falls
within the jurisdiction of
Quezon City, the evidence
submitted for its
consideration indicated
otherwise. First, the
editorial box of Abante
clearly indicated that the
purported libelous article
was printed and first
published in the City of
Manila. In addition, the
trial court relied on the
following matters to
support its conclusion
that, indeed, jurisdiction
was improperly laid in
this case: a) on page 4 of
the information, the
address of private
respondent appeared to be
the one in Marikina City
although right below it
was a handwritten
notation stating 131 Sct.
Lozano St., Barangay
Sacred Heart, QC; b) the
two barangay
certifications submitted
by the petitioners; and c)
the Memorandum for
Preliminary Investigation
and Affidavit-Complaint
attached to the
information wherein the
given address of private
respondent was Marikina
City.
On 03 December 1997,
private respondent filed a
motion for
reconsideration insisting
[16]

that at the time the


alleged libelous article
was published, he was
actually residing in
Quezon City. According to
him, he mistakenly stated
that he was a resident of
Marikina City at the time
of publication of the
claimed defamatory
article because he
understood the term
address to mean the place
where he originally came
from. Nevertheless, the
error was rectified by his
supplemental affidavit
which indicated Quezon
City as his actual
residence at the time of
publication of the 13 July
1996 issue of Abante.
On 22 January 1998,
private respondent filed a
supplemental motion for
reconsideration to which
he attached an affidavit
executed by a certain
Cristina B. Del Rosario,
allegedly the owner of the
house and lot in Sikatuna
Village, Quezon City,
where private respondent
supposedly lived from
July 1996 until May 1997.
She also stated in her
affidavit that she was not
aware of any inquiry
conducted by the
barangay officials of
Barangay Malaya
regarding the residency of
private respondent in
their locality.
Through an Order dated
12 February 1998, the
trial court denied private
respondents motion for
reconsideration, ruling
thus:
[Del Rosarios] affidavit
appears to have been
executed only on 19
January 1998 to which
fact the court can only
chuckle and observe that
evidently said affidavit is
in the nature of a curative
evidence, the weight and
sufficiency of which is
highly suspect.[17]

Undaunted, the public


and the private
prosecutors filed a notice
of appeal before the court
a quo. In the Decision
[18]

now assailed before us,


the Court of Appeals
reversed and set aside the
trial courts conclusion
and ordered the remand
of the case to the court a
quo for further
proceedings. The
dispositive portion of the
appellate courts decision
reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of
the foregoing, the Order
dated November 24, 1997
of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 93, Quezon
City, in Criminal Case No.
Q-97-71903, dismissing
the case filed against
herein accused-appellees
on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction, is hereby
REVERSED and SET
ASIDE, and a new one
entered remanding the
case to the court a quo for
further proceedings. [19]

The Court of Appeals held


that jurisprudentially, it is
settled that the residence
of a person must be his
personal, actual or
physical habitation or his
actual residence or abode
and for the purpose of
determining venue, actual
residence is a persons
place of abode and not
necessarily his legal
residence or domicile. In
[20]

this case, the defect


appearing on the original
complaint wherein the
residence of private
respondent was indicated
to be Marikina City was
subsequently cured by his
supplemental-affidavit
submitted during the
preliminary investigation
of the case. Moreover, as
the amendment was made
during the preliminary
investigation phase of this
case, the same could be
done as a matter of right
pursuant to the Revised
Rules of Court. [21]

As for the barangay


certifications issued by the
barangay chairmen of
Barangay Malaya and
Barangay Sto. Nio, the
Court of Appeals ruled
that they had no probative
value ratiocinating in the
following manner:
. . . With respect to the
requirement of residence
in the place where one is
to vote, residence can
mean either domicile or
temporary residence
(Bernas, The 1987
Constitution A Primer, 3 rd
Ed., p. 209). Therefore,
one who is a resident of
Quezon City can be a
voter of Marikina if the
latter is his domicile.
Conversely, a person
domiciled in Marikina can
vote in Quezon City if he
resides in the latter. It is
just a matter of choice on
the part of the voter.
Thus, logic does not
support the supposition
that one who is not a
registered voter of a place
is also not a resident
theref. Furthermore, the
right to vote has the
corollary right of not
exercising it. Therefore,
one need not even be a
registered voter at all. The
same principle applies to
the certification issued by
the barangay in Marikina.
[22]
The appellate court
likewise gave weight to the
affidavit executed by Del
Rosario and observed that
petitioners failed to
controvert the same.
The petitioners thereafter
filed a motion for
reconsideration which was
denied by the Court of
Appeals in a Resolution
promulgated on 6
January 2003. [23]
Hence, this petition
raising the following
issues:
I
THE COURT OF
APPEALS COMMITTED
A REVERSIBLE ERROR
IN RULING THAT THE
REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT OF QUEZON
CITY HAS
TERRITORIAL
JURISDICTION OVER
THE CRIME
CHARGED.
II
THE COURT OF
APPEALS COMMITTED
REVERSIBLE ERROR
IN ADMITTING THE
AFFIDAVIT OF
CRISTINA B. DEL
ROSARIO.
III
THE COURT OF
APPEALS ERRED IN
SUSTAINING
RESPONDENT
TRINIDADS
PERSONALITY TO
APPEAL A CRIMINAL
CASE. [24]

Petitioners insist that the


evidence presented before
the trial court irrefutably
established the fact that
private respondent was
not a resident of Quezon
City at the time the
alleged libelous
publication saw print.
According to them, the
information dated 10 July
1997 filed before the RTC
of Quezon City indicated
private respondents
address to be in Karen St.,
Paliparan, Sto. Nio,
Marikina City. Further
supporting this claim
were the affidavit-
complaint and the
[25]

memorandum for
preliminary investigation[26]

where references were


explicitly made to said
address. Thus, petitioners
are of the view that the
Court of Appeals erred in
relying on the
supplemental affidavit
executed by private
respondent claiming that
its execution amounted to
nothing more than a mere
afterthought.
In addition, petitioners
argue that the appellate
court erred when it took
into account the affidavit
executed by Del Rosario.
They insist that its belated
submission before the
trial court and the
prosecutions failure to
present the affiant to
testify as regards the
veracity of her statements
undermined the
evidentiary value of her
affidavit. More, as the
affidavit was not formally
offered as evidence, it was
only proper that the trial
court disregarded the
same in dismissing the
case.
Finally, petitioners
contend that private
respondent did not have
the requisite personality
to appeal from the
decision of the trial court
as it is only the Office of
the Solicitor General
(OSG) which is
authorized by law to
institute appeal of
criminal cases. Thus, the
Court of Appeals made a
mistake in holding that -
While it is true that only
the OSG can file an
appeal representing the
government in a criminal
proceeding, the private
complainant nevertheless
may appeal the civil
aspect of the criminal
case. The case at bar was
dismissed due to the
alleged improper laying of
venue resulting in the
alleged lack of jurisdiction
of the trial court and not
based on the merits of the
case. It cannot therefore
be argued that private
complainants appeal
pertains to the merits of
the criminal case as what
happened in accused-
appellees cited case in the
motion to strike,VicentePalu-ay vs. Court of Appeals

(GR No. 112995, July 30,


1998). Needless to say, the
private complainant has
an interest in the civil
aspect of the dismissed
criminal case which he
had the right to protect.
In the interest of justice
and fair play, therefore,
the Brief filed by private
complainant in the
present case should be
treated as pertaining only
to the civil aspect of the
case.
[27]

In his
Comment/Opposition
dated 25 April 2003,[28]
private respondent
reiterated his position that
the RTC of Quezon City
had jurisdiction over this
libel case. According to
him, the affidavit executed
by Del Rosario, the
alleged owner of the house
he leased in Sikatuna
Village, Quezon City,
established, beyond
doubt, that he resided in
said place during the time
the claimed defamatory
article appeared on the
pages of Abante. In
addition, he draws
attention to the fact that
petitioners and their co-
accused furnished him a
copy of the petition for
review, filed before the
DOJ, at the
aforementioned address in
Quezon City.
Anent the affidavit of Del
Rosario, private
respondent maintains that
the prosecution exerted
efforts to present the
affiant before the trial
court. Unfortunately, Del
Rosario was out of town
when she was supposed to
be presented and so the
public and the private
prosecutors decided to
submit for resolution their
motion for
reconsideration sans the
affiants testimony. Citing
the case of Joseph
Helmuth, Jr. v. People of
the Philippines, et al.,
[29]

private respondent avers


that this Court had
previously admitted the
affidavits of witnesses who
were not presented during
the trial phase of a case.
As regards the petitioners
contention that he
(private respondent) did
not have the personality
to bring this case to the
appellate level, private
respondent contends that
the proper party to file the
Notice of Appeal before
the trial court is the
public prosecutor as what
happened in this case.
On its part, the OSG filed
its Comment dated 07
July 2003 wherein it
[30]
prayed for the dismissal of
this petition based on the
following: First, as the
petition is concerned with
the determination of the
residence of private
respondent at the time of
the publication of the
alleged libelous article,
Rule 45 should be
unavailing to the
petitioners because this
remedy only deals with
questions of law.
Second, venue was
properly laid in this case
as private respondents
residency in Quezon City
during the time material
to this case was
sufficiently established.
The OSG claims that the
errors appearing in the
memorandum for
preliminary investigation
and in the affidavit
complaint with regard to
private respondents
residence were corrected
through the supplemental
affidavit private
respondent executed
during the preliminary
investigation before the
Quezon City prosecutors
office.
Third, the OSG takes the
view that the public
prosecutor was the proper
party to file the notice of
appeal before the trial
court since its (OSGs)
office is only authorized to
bring or defend actions on
appeal on behalf of the
People or the Republic of
the Philippines once the
case is brought before this
Honorable Court of the
Court of Appeals.
We find merit in the
petition and therefore
grant the same.
Jurisdiction has been
defined as the power
conferred by law upon a
judge or court to try a
case the cognizance of
which belongs to them
exclusively and it
[31]

constitutes the basic


foundation of judicial
proceedings. The term
[32]

derives its origin from two


Latin words jus meaning
law and the other, dicere
meaning to declare. The
[33]

term has also been


variably explained to be
the power of a court to
hear and determine a
cause of action presented
to it, the power of a court
to adjudicate the kind of
case before it, the power
of a court to adjudicate a
case when the proper
parties are before it, and
the power of a court to
make the particular
decision it is asked to
render.[34]

In criminal actions, it is a
fundamental rule that
venue is jurisdictional.
Thus, the place where the
crime was committed
determines not only the
venue of the action but is
an essential element of
jurisdiction. In the case
[35]
of , this
Uy v. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines [36]

Court had the occasion to


expound on this principle,
thus:
It is a fundamental rule
that for jurisdiction to be
acquired by courts in
criminal cases the offense
should have been
committed or any one of
its essential ingredients
took place within the
territorial jurisdiction of
the court. Territorial
jurisdiction in criminal
cases is the territory
where the court has
jurisdiction to take
cognizance or to try the
offense allegedly
committed therein by the
accused. Thus, it cannot
take jurisdiction over a
person charged with an
offense allegedly
committed outside of that
limited territory.
Furthermore, the
jurisdiction of a court
over the criminal case is
determined by the
allegations in the
complaint or information.
And once it is so shown,
the court may validly take
cognizance of the case.
However, if the evidence
adduced during the trial
show that the offense was
committed somewhere
else, the court should
dismiss the action for
want of jurisdiction.
[37]

The law, however, is more


particular in libel cases.
The possible venues for
the institution of the
criminal and the civil
aspects of said case are
concisely outlined in
Article 360 of the Revised
Penal Code, as amended
by Republic Act No. 4363.
It provides:
Art. 360. Persons
responsible. - . . .
The criminal action and
civil action for damages in
cases of written
defamations as provided
for in this chapter, shall
be filed simultaneously or
separately with the Court
of First Instance of the
province or city where the
libelous article is printed
and first published or
where any of the offended
parties actually resides at
the time of the
commission of the offense:
Provided, however, That
where one of the offended
parties is a public officer
whose office is in the City
of Manila at the time of
the commission of the
offense, the action shall be
filed in the Court of First
Instance of the City of
Manila or of the city or
province where the
libelous article is printed
and first published, and in
case such public officer
does not hold office in the
City of Manila, the action
shall be filed in the Court
of First Instance of the
province or city where he
held office at the time of
the commission of the
offense or where the
libelous article is printed
and first published and in
case one of the offended
parties is a private
individual, the action shall
be filed in the Court of
First Instance of the
province or city where he
actually resides at the
time of the commission of
the offense or where the
libelous matter is printed
and first published.
In Agbayani v. Sayo, we
[38]

summarized the foregoing


rule in the following
manner:
1. Whether the offended
party is a public official or
a private person, the
criminal action may be
filed in the Court of First
Instance of the province
or city where the libelous
article is printed and first
published.
2. If the offended party is
a private individual, the
criminal action may also
be filed in the Court of
First Instance of the
province where he
actually resided at the
time of the commission of
the offense.
3. If the offended party is
a public officer whose
office is in Manila at the
time of the commission of
the offense, the action
may be filed in the Court
of First Instance of
Manila.
4. If the offended party is
a public officer holding
office outside of Manila,
the action may be filed in
the Court of First
Instance of the province
or city where he held
office at the time of the
commission of the offense.
[39]

In the case at bar, private


respondent was a private
citizen at the time of the
publication of the alleged
libelous article, hence, he
could only file his libel
suit in the City of Manila
where Abante was first
published or in the
province or city where he
actually resided at the
time the purported
libelous article was
printed.
A perusal, however, of the
information involved in
this case easily reveals
that the allegations
contained therein are
utterly insufficient to vest
jurisdiction on the RTC of
Quezon City. Other than
perfunctorily stating
Quezon City at the
beginning of the
information, the assistant
city prosecutor who
prepared the information
did not bother to indicate
whether the jurisdiction
of RTC Quezon City was
invoked either because
Abante was printed in that
place or private
respondent was a resident
of said city at the time the
claimed libelous article
came out. As these
matters deal with the
fundamental issue of the
courts jurisdiction, Article
360 of the Revised Penal
Code, as amended,
mandates that either one
of these statements must
be alleged in the
information itself and the
absence of both from the
very face of the
information renders the
latter fatally defective.
Sadly for private
respondent, the
information filed before
the trial court falls way
short of this requirement.
The assistant city
prosecutors failure to
properly lay the basis for
invoking the jurisdiction
of the RTC, Quezon City,
effectively denied said
court of the power to take
cognizance of this case.
For the guidance,
therefore, of both the
bench and the bar, this
Court finds it appropriate
to reiterate our earlier
pronouncement in the
case of Agbayani, to wit:
In order to obviate
controversies as to the
venue of the criminal
action for written
defamation, the complaint
or information should
contain allegations as to
whether, at the time the
offense was committed,
the offended party was a
public officer or a private
individual and where he
was actually residing at
that time. Whenever
possible, the place where
the written defamation
was printed and first
published should likewise
be alleged. That allegation
would be a sine qua non if
the circumstance as to
where the libel was
printed and first
published is used as the
basis of the venue of the
action.
[40]

Anent private respondent


and OSGs contention that
the supplemental affidavit
submitted during the
preliminary investigation
of this libel suit cured the
defect of the information,
we find the same to be
without merit. It is
jurisprudentially settled
that jurisdiction of a court
over a criminal case is
determined by the
allegations of the
complaint or information.
In resolving a motion to
[41]

dismiss based on lack of


jurisdiction, the general
rule is that the facts
contained in the
complaint or information
should be taken as they
are. The exception to this
[42]

rule is where the Rules of


Court allow the
investigation of facts
alleged in a motion to
quash such as when the
[43]

ground invoked is the


extinction of criminal
liability, prescriptions,
double jeopardy, or
insanity of the accused.
[44]

In these instances, it is
incumbent upon the trial
court to conduct a
preliminary trial to
determine the merit of the
motion to dismiss. As the
present case obviously
does not fall within any of
the recognized exceptions,
the trial court correctly
dismissed this action.
In the assailed decision,
the Court of Appeals
likewise put premium on
the affidavit executed by
Del Rosario which was
attached to private
respondents supplemental
motion for
reconsideration.
According to the appellate
court, said document
supports private
(respondents) claim that
indeed, he was a resident
of Quezon City at the time
the alleged libelous article
was published. The
[45]

pertinent provision of the


Rules of Court, under
Rule 10, Section 6 thereof,
states:
Sec. 6. Supplemental
Pleadings. - Upon motion
of a party the court may,
upon reasonable notice
and upon such terms as
are just, permit him to
serve a supplemental
pleading setting forth
transactions, occurrences
or events which have
happened since the date of
the pleading sought to be
supplemented. The
adverse party may plead
thereto within ten (10)
days from notice of the
order admitting the
supplemental pleading.
By the very nature of a
supplemental pleading, it
only seeks to reinforce
and augment the
allegations contained in
the principal pleading. It
does not serve to supplant
that which it merely
supplements; rather, it
ought to co-exist with the
latter. Further, the
admission of a
supplemental pleading is
not something that parties
may impose upon the
court for we have
consistently held that its
admittance is something
which is addressed to the
discretion of the court.
[46]

Explicit in the
aforequoted provision of
the Rules of Court is the
requirement that the
contents of a
supplemental pleading
should deal with
transactions, occurrences
or events which took place
after the date of the
pleading it seeks to
supplement. A reading of
the supplemental motion
for reconsideration filed
by private respondent
discloses no additional or
new matters which
transpired after he filed
his original motion for
reconsideration. The fact
that he attached thereto
the affidavit of his alleged
lessor fails to persuade us
into giving to said
supplemental motion the
same evidentiary value as
did the Court of Appeals.
For one, private
respondent did not even
bother to explain the
reason behind the belated
submission of Del
Rosarios affidavit nor did
he claim that he exerted
earnest efforts to file it
much earlier in the
proceedings. He must,
therefore, bear the
consequences of his own
lethargy.
Finally, we come to the
issue of whether the
private prosecutor and the
public prosecutor had the
personality to file the
notice of appeal before the
trial court. Petitioners
insist that the OSG should
have been the one to file
said notice in its capacity
as the sole representative
of the [g]overnment in the
Court of Appeals in
criminal cases.[47]

Under Presidential Decree


No. 478, among the
specific powers and
functions of the OSG was
to represent the
government in the
Supreme Court and the
Court of Appeals in all
criminal proceedings. This
provision has been carried
over to the Revised
Administrative Code
particularly in Book IV,
Title III, Chapter 12
thereof. Without doubt,
the OSG is the appellate
counsel of the People of
the Philippines in all
criminal cases. In such
capacity, it only takes over
a criminal case after the
same has reached the
appellate courts.[48]

The next question should


then be: when does the
jurisdiction of the trial
court end and that of the
Court of Appeals
commence? Happily, the
Revised Rules of Court is
clear on this point. Rule
41, Section 9 of the Rules
states that (i)n appeals by
notice of appeal, the court
loses jurisdiction over the
case upon the perfection
of the appeals filed in due
time and the expiration of
the time to appeal of the
other parties. When a
[49]

party files a notice of


appeal, the trial courts
jurisdiction over the case
does not cease as a matter
of course; its only effect is
that the appeal is deemed
perfected as to him. As
[50]

explained by our former


colleague, Justice Florenz
Regalado
. . . [I]n the meantime, the
trial court still retains
jurisdiction over the case.
However, where all the
parties have either thus
perfected their appeals, by
filing their notices of
appeal in due time and the
period to file such notice
of appeal has lapsed for
those who did not do so,
then the trial court loses
jurisdiction over the case
as of the filing of the last
notice of appeal or the
expiration of the period to
do so for all the parties.
[51]
Applied to the case at bar,
we deem it proper that the
notice of appeal was filed
by the private and the
public prosecutors before
the trial court. The Rules
cannot be any clearer:
until the filing of the last
notice of appeal and the
expiration of the period to
perfect an appeal by all
the parties, the lower
court still has jurisdiction
over the case. It is only
after the occurrence of
these two incidents when
the jurisdiction of the
Court of Appeals begins
and at which time the
OSG is supposed to take
charge of the case on
behalf of the government.
WHEREFORE, the
petition is GRANTED.
The Decision dated 22
March 2002 and
Resolution dated 6
January 2003 of the Court
of Appeals are hereby
REVERSED and SET
ASIDE and the 24
November 1997 Decision
of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 93, Quezon
City, dismissing Criminal
Case No. Q-97-71903 is
hereby REINSTATED. No
costs.
SO ORDERED.
LITO BAUTISTA
ALCANTARA,
and
.H!V~I\1\'
Petition·;;rs,
Present:
VELASCO, JR., J.,
Chairperson,
LEONARDO--DE
CASTRO,*
PERALTA,
ARAD, and
MENDOZA, JJ.
-versus -
SHARON
G.
PANGILINAN,
G.ll. No. 189754
ClJNETA-
Promulgated:
.
x----------------------------~~-
s-,~~~~~~~t-:
_________·=~~~--
~~~:~:~~~-~-~~~ut~~
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Before the Court is the
petition for review on
certiorari seeking to set
1
aside the Decision elated
May 19, 2009 and
Resolution 2 dated
September
28, 2009 of the Court of
Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R.
SP No. 104885, entitled
1
Sharon G. Cuneta-
Pangilinan v. lion.
Rizalina T Capco-Urnali,
in her
capacity as Presiding
Judge of the Regional
Trial Court in
A1andaluyong
City, Branch 212, Lito
Bautista, and Jimmy
Alcantara, which granted
the
petition for certiorari of
respondent Sharon G.
Cuneta-Pangilinan.
TheCA
3
Decision reversed and set
aside the Order dated
April 25, 2008 of the
Designated Acting
Member per Special
Order No 1343 dated
October 9, 2012.
Penned by Associak
Justice Isaias Dicdican,
with Associate Justices
Bicnvenido L Reyes (now
a
Member of this Court)
and f\brlene Gonzales-
Sison, concurring, rolla_
pp. 33-42.
2
!d. at 45-46.
Per Judge Rizalina l,
Capcv lJmali, CA 1'()//o,
pp. 21-28_
Decision
-2-
G.R. No. 189754
Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 212,
Mandaluyong City, but
only
insofar as it pertains to
the granting of the
Demurrer to Evidence
filed by
petitioners Lito Bautista
(Bautista) and Jimmy
Alcantara (Alcantara),
and
also ordered that the case
be remanded to the trial
court for reception of
petitioners' evidence.
The antecedents are as
follows:
On February 19, 2002, the
Office of the City
Prosecutor of
Mandaluyong City filed
two (2) informations, both
dated February 4, 2002,
with the RTC, Branch
212, Mandaluyong City,
against Pete G.
Ampoloquio,
Jr. (Ampoloquio), and
petitioners Bautista and
Alcantara, for the crime
of
libel, committed by
publishing defamatory
articles against
respondent
Sharon Cuneta-
Pangilinan in the tabloid
Bandera.
In Criminal Case No.
MC02-4872, the
Information dated
February 4,
2002 reads:
That on or about the 24th
day of April, 2001, in the
City of
Mandaluyong, Philippines
and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable
Court, the above-named
accused, conspiring and
confederating together
with Jane/John Does
unknown
directors/officer[s] of
Bandera Publishing
Corporation, publisher of
Bandera, whose true
identities are unknown,
and
mutually helping and
aiding one another, with
deliberate intent to bring
SHARON G. CUNETA-
PANGILINAN into public
dishonor, shame and
contempt, did then and
there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously, and
with malice and ridicule,
cause to publish in
Bandera (tabloid), with
circulation in Metro
Manila, which among
others have the following
insulting and slanderous
remarks, to wit:
MAGTIGIL KA,
SHARON!
Sharon Cuneta, the mega-
taba singer-actress, I’d
like to believe, is really
brain-dead. Mukhang
totoo yata
yung sinasabi ng kaibigan
ni Pettizou Tayag na
ganyan
siya.
Hayan at buong ingat na
sinulat namin yung
interview sa kaibigan ng
may-ari ng Central
Institute of
Technology at ni isang
side comment ay wala
kaming
ginawa and all throughout
the article, we’ve
maintained
our objectivity, pero sa
interview sa aparadoric
singer-
Decision
-3-
G.R. No. 189754
actress in connection with
an album launching, ay
buong
ningning na sinabi nitong
she’s supposedly looking
into the
item that we’ve written
and most probably would
take some
legal action.
xxx
Magsalita ka, Missed
Cuneta, at sabihin mong
hindi
ito totoo.
Ang hindi lang namin
nagustuhan ay ang
pagbintangan kaming
palagi naman daw namin
siyang
sinisiraan, kaya hindi lang
daw niya kami
pinapansin,
believing na part raw
siguro yun ng aming
trabaho.
Dios mio perdon, what she
gets to see are those
purportedly biting
commentaries about her
katabaan and
kaplastikan but she has
simply refused to
acknowledge the
good reviews we’ve done
on her.
xxx
Going back to this
seemingly disoriented
actress
who’s desperately trying
to sing even if she truly
can’t,
itanggi mo na hindi mo
kilala si Pettizou Tayag
gayung
nagkasama raw kayo ng
tatlong araw sa mother's
house ng
mga Aboitiz sa Cebu more
than a month ago, in
connection
with one of those political
campaigns of your
husband.
xxx
thereby casting publicly
upon complainant,
malicious contemptuous
imputations of a vice,
condition or defect, which
tend to cause
complainant her dishonor,
discredit or contempt.
CONTRARY TO LAW.4
In Criminal Case No.
MC02-4875, the
Information dated
February 4,
2002 reads:
That on or about the 27th
day of March, 2001, in the
City of
Mandaluyong, Philippines
and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable
Court, the above-named
accused, conspiring and
confederating together
with Jane/John Does
unknown
directors/officers of
Bandera Publishing
Corporation, publisher of
Bandera, whose true
identities are unknown,
and
mutually helping, and
aiding one another, with
deliberate intent to bring
SHARON G. CUNETA-
PANGILINAN into public
dishonor, shame and
contempt did, then and
there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously, and with
malice and ridicule, cause
to publish in Bandera
(tabloid), with circulation
in Metro Manila, which,
among others, have the
following insulting and
slanderous remarks, to
wit:
4
CA rollo, pp. 30-31.
Decision
-4-
G.R. No. 189754
NABURYONG SA
KAPLASTIKAN NI
SHARON ANG
MILYONARY[A]NG
SUPPORTER NI KIKO!
FREAKOUT pala kay
Sharon Cuneta ang isa sa
mga loyal supporters ni
Kiko Pangilinan na si
Pettizou
Tayag, a multi-millionaire
who owns Central
Institute of
Technology College in
Sampaloc, Manila (it is
also one of
the biggest schools in
Paniqui, Tarlac).
xxx
Which in a way, she did.
Bagama't busy siya (she
was having a meeting with
some business associates),
she
went out of her way to
give Sharon security.
So, ang ginawa daw ni
Ms. Tayag ay tinext nito si
Sha[ron] para mabigyan
ito ng instructions para
kumportable itong
makarating sa Bulacan.
She was most caring and
solicitous, pero tipong na-
offend daw ang megastar
at nagtext pang “You
don’t need
to produce an emergency
SOS for me, I’ll be fine.”
Now, nang makara[t]ing
na raw sa Bulacan si
Mega nagtatarang daw ito
at binadmouth si Pettizou.
Kesyo ang kulit-kulit daw
nito, atribida, mapapel at
kung
anu-ano pang mga
derogatory words na
nakarating
siyempre sa kinauukulan.
Anyhow, if it’s true that
Ms. Pettizou has been
most
financially supportive of
Kiko, how come Sharon
seems not
to approve of her?
“She doesn’t want kasi
her husband to win as a
senator because when that
happens, mawawalan siya
ng
hold sa kanya,” our caller
opines.
Pettizou is really sad that
Sharon is treating her
husband like a wimp.
“In public,” our source
goes on tartly, “pa kiss-
kiss
siya. Pa-embrace-embrace
pero kung silang dalawa
[na]
lang parang kung sinong
sampid kung i-treat niya
si Kiko.”
My God Pete, Harvard
graduate si Kiko. He’s
really intelligent as
compared to Sharon who
appears to be
brain dead most of the
time.
Yung text message niyang
“You don’t need to
produce an emergency
SOS for me,” hindi ba’t
she was
being redundant?
Another thing, I guess it’s
high time that she goes on
a diet [again]. Jesus, she
looks 6’11 crosswise!
Decision
-5-
G.R. No. 189754
xxx
Kunsabagay, she was only
being most consistent.
Yang si Sharon daw ay
talagang mega-brat,
mega-sungit.
But who does she think
she is? Her wealth, dear,
would
pale in comparison with
the Tayag’s millions.
Kunsabagay,
she’s brain dead most of
the time.
xxx
thereby casting publicly
upon complainant,
malicious contemptuous
imputation of a vice,
condition or defect, which
tend to cause complainant
her dishonor, discredit or
contempt.
CONTRARY TO LAW.5
Upon arraignment,
petitioners, together with
their co-accused
Ampoloquio, each entered
a plea of not guilty.
Thereafter, a joint pre-
trial
and trial of the case
ensued.6
Respondent’s undated
Complaint-Affidavit7
alleged that Bautista and
Alcantara were Editor
and Associate Editor,
respectively, of the
publication
Bandera, and their co-
accused, Ampoloquio, was
the author of the alleged
libelous articles which
were published therein,
and subject of the two
informations. According
to respondent, in April
2001, she and her family
were shocked to learn
about an article dated
March 27, 2001, featured
on
page 7 of Bandera (Vol.
11, No. 156), in the
column Usapang
Censored of
Ampoloquio,
entitled
Naburyong
sa
Kaplastikan
ni
Sharon
ang
Milyonaryang Supporter
ni Kiko, that described
her as plastic (hypocrite),
ingrate, mega-brat, mega-
sungit, and brain dead,
which were the subject of
Criminal Case No. MC02-
4875.8 Another article,
with the same title and
similar text, also featured
on the same date,
appeared on page 6 of
Saksi
Ngayon, in the column
Banatan of Ampoloquio.9
Moreover, respondent
averred that on April 24,
2001, Ampoloquio wrote
two follow-up articles,
one appeared in his
column Usapang
Censored, entitled
Magtigil Ka,
5
6
7
8
9
Id. at 32-34.
CA Decision dated May
19, 2009, p. 2; rollo, p. 34.
CA rollo, pp. 35-44.
Id. at 35-37, 45.
Id. at 37, 46.
Decision
-6-
G.R. No. 189754
Sharon!, stating that she
bad-mouthed one Pettizou
Tayag by calling the
latter kulit-kulit
(annoyingly persistent),
atribida (presumptuous),
mapapel
(officious or self-
important), and other
derogatory words; that
she
humiliated Tayag during a
meeting by calling the
latter bobo (stupid); that
she exhibited offensive
behavior towards Tayag;
and that she was a
dishonest person with
questionable credibility,
which were the subject of
Criminal Case No. MC02-
4872.10 Another article,
entitled Magtigil Ka,
Sharon Cuneta!!!!, also
featured on the same date
with similar text, and
appeared on page 7 of
Saksi Ngayon (Vol. 3, No.
285), in the column
Banatan of
Ampoloquio,11 with the
headline in bold letters,
Sharon Cuneta,
May Sira? on the front
page of the said issue.12
Respondent added that
Ampoloquio’s articles
impugned her character
as a woman and wife, as
they
depicted her to be a
domineering wife to a
browbeaten husband.
According
to Ampoloquio,
respondent did not want
her husband (Senator
Francis
Pangilinan) to win (as
Senator) because that
would mean losing hold
over
him, and that she would
treat him like a wimp and
sampid (hanger-on)
privately, but she
appeared to be a loving
wife to him in public.
Respondent
denied that Tayag
contributed millions to
her husband’s campaign
fund. She
clarified that Tayag
assisted during the
campaign and was one of
the
volunteers of her
husband’s Kilos Ko
Movement, being the first
cousin of
one Atty. Joaquinito
Harvey B. Ringler (her
husband’s partner in
Franco
Pangilinan Law Office);
however, it was Atty.
Ringler who asked Tayag
to
resign from the movement
due to difficulty in dealing
with her.
After presenting
respondent on the witness
stand, the prosecution
filed
its Formal Offer of
Documentary Exhibits
dated October 11, 2006,
which
included her undated
Complaint-Affidavit.13
10
Id. at 38-40.
Id. at 40, 49.
12
Id. at 40, 48.
13
CA Decision dated May
19, 2009, p. 2; rollo, p. 34.
(The prosecution's Formal
Offer of
Documentary Exhibits,
dated October 11, 2006,
was not elevated to the CA
so as to form part of the
records of the case.)
11
Decision
-7-
G.R. No. 189754
On November 14, 2006,
petitioners filed a Motion
for Leave of Court
to File the Attached
Demurrer to Evidence.14
In their Demurrer to
Evidence,15 which was
appended to the said
Motion, Bautista and
Alcantara
alleged that the
prosecution's evidence
failed to establish their
participation
as Editor and Associate
Editor, respectively, of the
publication Bandera; that
they were not properly
identified by respondent
herself during her
testimony;
and that the subject
articles written by
Ampoloquio were not
libelous due to
absence of malice.
On April 25, 2008, the
RTC issued an Order16
granting petitioners’
Demurrer to Evidence
and dismissed Criminal
Case Nos. MCO2-4872
and
MCO2-4875.
The trial court opined,
among others, that since
the
prosecution did not
submit its
Comment/Opposition to
the petitioners'
Demurrer to Evidence,
the averments therein
thus became unrebutted;
that
the testimonial and
documentary evidence
adduced by the
prosecution failed
to prove the participation
of petitioners as
conspirators of the crime
charged;
and that during the direct
examination on July 27,
2004 and cross-
examination on August 1,
2006, respondent neither
identified them, nor was
there any mention about
their actual participation.
As a consequence, the
prosecution filed a Motion
to Admit17 dated
May 29, 2008, with the
attached Comment ([to]
Accused Lito Bautista and
Jimmy Alcantara's
Demurrer to Evidence)18
dated March 24, 2008,
stating
that during the pendency
of the trial court's
resolution on the
petitioners'
Motion for Leave of Court
to File the Attached
Demurrer to Evidence,
with
the attached Demurrer to
Evidence, the prosecution
intended to file its
Comment, by serving
copies thereof, through
registered mail, upon
counsels
14
15
16
17
18
CA rollo, p. 50.
Id. at 51-57.
Id. at 24, 27.
Id. at 63-67.
Id. at 68-71.
Decision
-8-
G.R. No. 189754
for the petitioners,
including the other
accused, and the
respondent; however,
said Comment was not
actually filed with the trial
court due to oversight on
the part of the staff of the
State Prosecutor handling
the case.19 Claiming
that it was deprived of
due process, the
prosecution prayed that
its Comment
be admitted and that the
same be treated as a
reconsideration of the
trial
court's Order dated April
25, 2008.
In an Order dated June 3,
2008, the RTC granted the
prosecutions'
Motion to Admit, with the
attached Comment, and
ruled that its Comment
be admitted to form part
of the court records.
On August 19, 2008,
respondent filed a Petition
for Certiorari with
the CA, seeking to set
aside the RTC Orders
dated April 25, 2008
(which
granted petitioners'
Demurrer to Evidence
and ordered the dismissal
of the
cases against them) and
June 3, 2008 (which noted
and admitted
respondent's Comment to
form part of the records
of the case).
In a Decision dated May
19, 2009, the CA granted
respondent's
petition, thereby reversing
and setting aside the RTC
Order dated April 25,
2008, but only insofar as it
pertains to the grant of
petitioners' Demurrer to
Evidence, and ordered
that the case be remanded
to the trial court for
reception of petitioners'
evidence.
Aggrieved, petitioners
filed a Motion for
Reconsideration dated
June
7, 2009 which, however,
was denied by the CA in a
Resolution dated
September 28, 2009.
Hence, petitioners filed
this present petition,
raising the following
arguments:
19
Id. at 66.
Decision
-9-
G.R. No. 189754
I.
[RESPONDENT'S]
PETITION FOR
CERTIORARI BEFORE
THE
COURT OF APPEALS IS
BARRED BY THE
PETITIONERS' RIGHT
AGAINST DOUBLE
JEOPARDY.
II.
[RESPONDENT'S]
PETITION FOR
CERTIORARI BEFORE
THE
COURT OF APPEALS
DOES NOT LIE TO
CORRECT ALLEGED
ERRORS OF
JUDGMENT
COMMITTED BY THE
REGIONAL
TRIAL COURT.
III.
THE COURT OF
APPEALS ERRED IN
FINDING THAT THE
TRIAL
COURT COMMITTED
GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION IN
GRANTING
PETITONERS'
DEMURRER [TO]
EVIDENCE.
Petitioners allege that the
Order of the RTC, dated
April 25, 2008,
granting the Demurrer to
Evidence was tantamount
to an acquittal. As such,
the prosecution can no
longer interpose an appeal
to the CA, as it would
place them in double
jeopardy. Petitioners
contend that respondent's
petition
for certiorari with the CA
should not have
prospered, because the
allegations therein, in
effect, assailed the trial
court's judgment, not its
jurisdiction. In other
words, petitioners posit
that the said Order was in
the
nature of an error of
judgment rendered, which
was not correctible by a
petition for certiorari with
the CA.
Petitioners aver that
although the CA correctly
ruled that the
prosecution had not been
denied due process,
however, it erred in ruling
that
the trial court committed
grave abuse of discretion
in granting petitioners'
Demurrer to Evidence, on
the basis that the
prosecution failed to
prove that
they acted in conspiracy
with Ampoloquio, the
author of the questioned
articles. They added that
what the prosecution
proved was merely their
designations as Editor and
Associate Editor of the
publication Bandera, but
not the fact that they had
either control over the
articles to be published or
actually edited the subject
articles.
Respondent counters that
petitioners failed to show
special and
important reasons to
justify their invocation of
the Court's power to
review
Decision
- 10 -
under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court.
G.R. No. 189754
She avers that the
acquittal of
petitioners does not
preclude their further
prosecution if the
judgment
acquitting them is void for
lack of jurisdiction.
Further, she points out
that
contrary to petitioners’
contention, the principle
of double jeopardy does
not
attach in cases where the
court's judgment
acquitting the accused or
dismissing the case is void,
either for having
disregarded the State's
right to
due process or for having
been rendered by the trial
court with grave abuse
of discretion amounting to
lack or excess of
jurisdiction, and not
merely
errors of judgment.
Respondent also avers
that even if the
prosecution was deemed
to
have waived its right to
file a Comment on the
petitioners’ Motion for
Leave
of Court to File the
Attached Demurrer to
Evidence, this did not give
the
trial court any reason to
deprive the prosecution of
its right to file a
Comment on the
petitioners’ Demurrer to
Evidence itself, which was
a clear
violation of the due
process requirement.
By reason of the
foregoing,
respondent insists that
petitioners cannot invoke
violation of their right
against double jeopardy.
The petition is impressed
with merit.
At the onset, it should be
noted that respondent
took a procedural
misstep, and the view she
is advancing is erroneous.
The authority to
represent the State in
appeals of criminal cases
before the Supreme Court
and the CA is solely vested
in the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG).
Section 35 (1), Chapter 12,
Title III, Book IV of the
1987 Administrative
Code explicitly provides
that the OSG shall
represent the Government
of the
Philippines, its agencies
and instrumentalities and
its officials and agents in
any litigation, proceeding,
investigation or matter
requiring the services of
lawyers.
It shall have specific
powers and functions to
represent the
Government and its
officers in the Supreme
Court and the CA, and all
other
Decision
- 11 -
G.R. No. 189754
courts or tribunals in all
civil actions and special
proceedings in which the
Government or any
officer thereof in his
official capacity is a
party.20 The
OSG is the law office of
the Government.21
To be sure, in criminal
cases, the acquittal of the
accused or the
dismissal of the case
against him can only be
appealed by the Solicitor
General, acting on behalf
of the State. The private
complainant or the
offended party may
question such acquittal or
dismissal only insofar as
the
civil liability of the
accused is concerned.
In a catena of cases, this
view
has been time and again
espoused and maintained
by the Court.
In
Rodriguez v. Gadiane,22
it was categorically stated
that if the criminal case
is dismissed by the trial
court or if there is an
acquittal, the appeal on
the
criminal aspect of the case
must be instituted by the
Solicitor General in
behalf of the State. The
capability of the private
complainant to question
such dismissal or acquittal
is limited only to the civil
aspect of the case. The
same determination was
also arrived at by the
Court in Metropolitan
Bank
and Trust Company v.
Veridiano II.23 In the
recent case of Bangayan,
Jr. v.
Bangayan,24 the Court
again upheld this guiding
principle.
Worthy of note is the case
of People v. Santiago,25
wherein the Court
had the occasion to bring
this issue to rest. The
Court elucidated:
It is well-settled that in
criminal cases where the
offended party is
the State, the interest of
the private complainant
or the private offended
party is limited to the civil
liability. Thus, in the
prosecution of the
offense, the complainant's
role is limited to that of a
witness for the
prosecution. If a criminal
case is dismissed by the
trial court or if there is
an acquittal, an appeal
therefrom on the criminal
aspect may be
undertaken only by the
State through the Solicitor
General. Only the
Solicitor General may
represent the People of
the Philippines on appeal.
The private offended
party or complainant may
not take such appeal.
However, the said
offended party or
complainant may appeal
the civil
aspect despite the
acquittal of the accused.
20
21
22
23
24
People v. Duca, G.R. No.
171175, October 9, 2009,
603 SCRA 159, 166.
Id. at 167, citing Labaro v.
Panay, G.R. No. 129567,
December 4, 1998, 299
SCRA 714, 720.
G.R. No. 152903, July 17,
2006, 495 SCRA 368, 372;
527 Phil. 691, 697 (2006)..
G.R. No. 118251, June 29,
2001, 360 SCRA 359, 367-
368; 412 Phil. 795, 804-
805 (2001).
Bangayan, Jr. v.
Bangayan, G.R. Nos.
172777 and 172792,
October 19, 2011, 659
SCRA 590,
597.
25
G.R. No. 80778, June 20,
1989, 174 SCRA 143; 255
Phil. 851 (1989).
Decision
- 12 -
G.R. No. 189754
In a special civil action for
certiorari filed under
Section 1, Rule
65 of the Rules of Court
wherein it is alleged that
the trial court committed
a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to
lack of jurisdiction or on
other
jurisdictional grounds, the
rules state that the
petition may be filed by
the
person aggrieved. In such
case, the aggrieved parties
are the State and the
private offended party or
complainant. The
complainant has an
interest in
the civil aspect of the case
so he may file such special
civil action
questioning the decision
or action of the
respondent court on
jurisdictional
grounds. In so doing,
complainant should not
bring the action in the
name
of the People of the
Philippines. The action
may be prosecuted in
name of
said complainant.26
Thus, the Court has
definitively ruled that in a
criminal case in which
the offended party is the
State, the interest of the
private complainant or
the
private offended party is
limited to the civil liability
arising therefrom. If a
criminal case is dismissed
by the trial court or if
there is an acquittal, an
appeal of the criminal
aspect may be
undertaken, whenever
legally feasible,
only by the State through
the solicitor general. As a
rule, only the Solicitor
General may represent
the People of the
Philippines on appeal. The
private
offended party or
complainant may not
undertake such appeal.27
In the case at bar, the
petition filed by the
respondent before the CA
essentially questioned the
criminal aspect of the
Order of the RTC, not the
civil aspect of the case.
Consequently, the petition
should have been filed by
the State through the
OSG. Since the petition
for certiorari filed in the
CA
was not at the instance of
the OSG, the same should
have been outrightly
dismissed by the CA.
Respondent lacked the
personality or legal
standing to
question the trial court’s
order because it is only
the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG), who can
bring actions on behalf of
the State in criminal
proceedings, before the
Supreme Court and the
CA.28 Thus, the CA
should
have denied the petition
outright.
26
People v. Santiago, supra,
at 152-153; at 861-862.
Neplum, Inc. v. Orbeso,
G.R. No. 141986, July 11,
2002, 384 SCRA 467, 481-
482; 433 Phil. 844,
864 (2002).
28
Ong v. Genio, G.R. No.
182336, December 23,
2009, 609 SCRA 188, 195
(Citations omitted);
Heirs of Federico C.
Delgado v. Gonzalez, G.R.
No. 184337, August 7,
2009, 595 SCRA 501, 524;
People
v. Court of Appeals, G.R.
No. 132396, September 23,
2002, 389 SCRA 461, 475,
citing Republic v.
Partisala, L-61997,
November 15, 1982, 118
SCRA 370, 373.
27
Decision
- 13 -
G.R. No. 189754
Moreover, not only did the
CA materially err in
entertaining the
petition, it should be
stressed that the granting
of petitioners’ Demurrer
to
Evidence already
amounted to a dismissal
of the case on the merits
and a
review of the order
granting the demurrer to
evidence will place the
accused
in double jeopardy.
Consequently, the Court
disagrees with the CA’s
ruling
reversing the trial court’s
order dismissing the
criminal cases against
petitioners.
Under Section 23,29 Rule
119 of the Rules of Court
on Demurrer to
Evidence, after the
prosecution terminates
the presentation of
evidence and
rests its case, the trial
court may dismiss the
case on the ground of
insufficiency of evidence
upon the filing of a
Demurrer to Evidence by
the
accused with or without
leave of court. If the
accused files a Demurrer
to
Evidence with prior leave
of court and the same is
denied, he may adduce
evidence in his defense.
However, if the Demurrer
to Evidence is filed by
the accused without prior
leave of court and the
same is denied, he waives
his right to present
evidence and submits the
case for judgment on the
basis
of the evidence for the
prosecution.
Corollarily, after the
prosecution rests its case,
and the accused files a
Demurrer to Evidence,
the trial court is required
to evaluate whether the
evidence presented by the
prosecution is sufficient
enough to warrant the
conviction of the accused
beyond reasonable doubt.
If the trial court finds
29
SEC. 23. Demurrer to
evidence. – After the
prosecution rests its case,
the court may dismiss the
action on the ground of
insufficiency of evidence
(1) on its own initiative
after giving the
prosecution an
opportunity to be heard
or (2) upon demurrer to
evidence filed by the
accused with or without
leave of
court.
If the court denies the
demurrer to evidence filed
with leave of court, the
accused may adduce
evidence in his defense.
When the demurrer to
evidence is filed without
leave of court, the accused
waives
the right to present
evidence and submits the
case for judgment on the
basis of the evidence for
the
prosecution.
The motion for leave of
court to file demurrer to
evidence shall specifically
state its grounds and
shall be filed within a non-
extendible period of five
(5) days after the
prosecution rests its case.
The
prosecution may oppose
the motion within a non-
extendible period of five
(5) days from its receipt.
If leave of court is
granted, the accused shall
file the demurrer to
evidence within a non-
extendible
period of ten (10) days
from notice. The
prosecution may oppose
the demurrer to evidence
within a similar
period from its receipt.
The order denying the
motion for leave of court
to file demurrer to
evidence or the demurrer
itself
shall not be reviewable by
appeal or by certiorari
before judgment.
Decision
- 14 -
G.R. No. 189754
that the prosecution
evidence is not sufficient
and grants the accused's
Demurrer to Evidence,
the ruling is an
adjudication on the merits
of the case
which is tantamount to an
acquittal and may no
longer be appealed. Any
further prosecution of the
accused after an acquittal
would, thus, violate the
constitutional
proscription on double
jeopardy.30
Anent the prosecution’s
claim of denial of due
process. As correctly
found by the CA, the
prosecution was not
denied due process.
Suffice it to
state that the prosecution
had actively participated
in the trial and already
rested its case, and upon
petitioners' filing of their
Demurrer to Evidence,
was given the opportunity
to file its Comment or
Opposition and, in fact,
actually filed its Comment
thereto, albeit belatedly.
The CA emphasized
that the word “may” was
used in Section 23 of Rule
119 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal
Procedure, which states
that if leave of court is
granted,
and the accused has filed
the Demurrer to Evidence
within a non-extendible
period of ten (10) days
from notice, the
prosecution “may” oppose
the
Demurrer to Evidence
within a similar period
from its receipt.
In this
regard, the CA added that
the filing of a Comment or
Opposition by
respondent is merely
directory, not a
mandatory or
jurisdictional
requirement, and that in
fact the trial court may
even proceed with the
resolution of the
petitioners' Demurrer to
Evidence even without the
prosecution's Comment.
One final note. Article 360
of the Revised Penal Code
specifies the
persons that can be held
liable for libel. It
provides:
ART. 360. Persons
responsible. — Any
person who shall publish,
exhibit
or cause the publication
or exhibition of any
defamation in writing or
by
similar means, shall be
responsible for the same.
30
People v. Laguio, Jr., G.R.
No. 128587, March 16,
2007, 518 SCRA 393, 403.
Decision
- 15 -
G.R. No. 189754
The author or editor of a
book or pamphlet, or the
editor or
business manager of a
daily newspaper,
magazine or serial
publication,
shall be responsible for
the defamation contained
therein to the same
extent as if he were the
author thereof.31
From the foregoing, not
only is the person who
published, exhibited or
caused the publication or
exhibition of any
defamation in writing
shall be
responsible for the same,
all other persons who
participated in its
publication
are liable, including the
editor or business
manager of a daily
newspaper,
magazine or serial
publication, who shall be
equally responsible for the
defamations contained
therein to the same extent
as if he were the author
thereof. The liability
which attaches to
petitioners is, thus,
statutory in
nature.
In Fermin v. People,32
therein petitioner argued
that to sustain a
conviction for libel under
Article 360 of the Code, it
is mandatory that the
publisher knowingly
participated in or
consented to the
preparation and
publication of the libelous
article. She also averred
that she had adduced
ample evidence to show
that she had no hand in
the preparation and
publication of the
offending article, nor in
the review, editing,
examination,
and approval of the
articles published in
Gossip Tabloid. The Court
struck
down her erroneous
theory and ruled that
therein petitioner, who
was not
only the Publisher of
Gossip Tabloid but also its
President and
Chairperson,
could not escape liability
by claiming lack of
participation in the
preparation
and publication of the
libelous article.
Similarly, in Tulfo v.
People,33 therein
petitioners, who were
Managing Editor,
National Editor of Remate
publication, President of
Carlo
Publishing House, and
one who does typesetting,
editing, and layout of the
page, claim that they had
no participation in the
editing or writing of the
31
32
33
Emphasis supplied.
G.R. No. 157643, March
28, 2008, 550 SCRA 132.
G.R. Nos. 161032 and
161176, September 16,
2008, 565 SCRA 283, 314-
315.
Decision
- 16 -
G.R. No. 189754
subject articles which will
hold them liable for the
crime of libel and, thus,
should be acquitted. In
debunking this argument,
the Court stressed that an
editor or manager of a
newspaper, who has active
charge and control over
the publication, is held
equally liable with the
author of the libelous
article.
This is because it is the
duty of the editor or
manager to know and
control
the contents of the paper,
and interposing the
defense of lack of
knowledge
or consent as to the
contents of the articles or
publication definitely will
not
prosper.
The rationale for the
criminal culpability of
those persons enumerated
in Article 360 was already
elucidated as early as in
the case of U.S. v.
Ocampo,34 to wit:
According to the legal
doctrines and
jurisprudence of the
United
States, the printer of a
publication containing
libelous matter is liable
for
the same by reason of his
direct connection
therewith and his
cognizance
of the contents thereof.
With regard to a
publication in which a
libel is
printed, not only is the
publisher but also all
other persons who in any
way
participate in or have any
connection with its
publication are liable as
publishers.35
Accordingly, Article 360
would have made
petitioners Bautista and
Alcantara, being the
Editor and Assistant
Editor, respectively, of
Bandera
Publishing Corporation,
answerable with
Ampoloquio, for the
latter’s
alleged defamatory
writing, as if they were the
authors thereof. Indeed,
as
aptly concluded by the
court a quo:
The aforestated provision
is clear and unambiguous.
It equally
applies to an editor of a
publication in which a
libelous article was
published and states that
the editor of the same
shall be responsible for
the
defamation in writing as if
he were the author
thereof. Indeed, when an
alleged libelous article is
published in a newspaper,
such fact alone
sufficient evidence to
charge the editor or
business manager with the
guilt
of its publication. This
sharing of liability with
the author of said article
is
based on the principle
that editors and associate
editors, by the nature of
their positions, edit,
control and approve the
materials which are to be
published in a newspaper.
This means that, without
their nod of
approbation, any article
alleged to be libelous
would not be published.
34
35
18 Phil. 1 (1910).
Id. at 50.
Decision
- 17 -
G.R. No. 189754
Hence, by virtue of their
position and the authority
which they exercise,
newspaper editors and
associate editors are as
much critical part in the
publication of any
defamatory material as
the writer or author
thereof.36
Nevertheless, petitioners
could no longer be held
liable in view of the
procedural infirmity that
the petition for certiorari
was not undertaken by
the OSG, but instead by
respondent in her
personal capacity.
Although the
conclusion of the trial
court may be wrong, to
reverse and set aside the
Order
granting
the
demurrer
to
evidence
would
violate
petitioners’
constitutionally-enshrined
right against double
jeopardy. Had it not been
for
this procedural defect, the
Court could have
seriously considered the
arguments advanced by
the respondent in seeking
the reversal of the Order
of the RTC.
The granting of a
demurrer to evidence
should, therefore, be
exercised
with caution, taking into
consideration not only the
rights of the accused, but
also the right of the
private offended party to
be vindicated of the
wrongdoing done against
him, for if it is granted,
the accused is acquitted
and the private
complainant is generally
left with no more remedy.
In such
instances, although the
decision of the court may
be wrong, the accused can
invoke his right against
double jeopardy. Thus,
judges are reminded to be
more diligent and
circumspect in the
performance of their
duties as members
of the Bench, always
bearing in mind that their
decisions affect the lives of
the accused and the
individuals who come to
the courts to seek redress
of
grievances, which decision
could be possibly used by
the aggrieved party as
basis for the filing of the
appropriate actions
against them.
Perforce, the Order dated
April 25, 2008 of the
Regional Trial Court,
Branch 212,
Mandaluyong City, in
Criminal Case Nos.
MC02-4872 and
MC02-4875, which
dismissed the actions as
against petitioners Lito
Bautista
and Jimmy Alcantara,
should be reinstated.
36
Rollo, p. 40.
- Ig -
Decision
G.R. Nu. 180754
WHEREFORE, ihe
petition is GRANTED.
The Decision dated
May 19, 2009 and Rc:
11lution dated
September :?.8, :?.009 of
the Court of
Appeals, in CA-G.R.
~~-
1"-h). 104885, are
REVERSED AND SET
ASIDE.
The portion of the On.!..;,
dated April :?.5, 2008 of
the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 212, Mandalu, .,
[lg City, in Criminal Case
Nos. MC02-4872 and
MC02-4875, which
di.~; .. issedthe
actions as against
petitioners Lito I3autista
and Jimmy Alcantara, i:;
CtElNST ATED.
SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION
WONINA G.R. No.
M. 184800
BONIFACI Present:
O,
PUNO,
JOCELYN
C.J.,
UPANO,
Chairperso
VICENTE
ORTUOST n,
E AND CARPIO
JOVENCI MORALE
O S,
PERECHE,
LEONAR
SR.,
DO-DE
Petitioners, CASTRO,
- versus - BERSAMI
REGIONA N, and
L TRIAL VILLARA
COURT OF MA, JR.,
MAKATI, JJ.
BRANCH Promulgat
149, and ed:
JESSIE May 5,
JOHN P. 2010
GIMENEZ,
Respondent
s.
x------------------
-------------------
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Via a petition for
Certiorari and
Prohibition, petitioners
Wonina M. Bonifacio, et
al. assail the issuances of
Branch 149 of the
Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Makati (public
respondent) Order[1] of
April 22, 2008 which
denied their motion to
quash the Amended
Information indicting
them for libel, and Joint
Resolution[2] of August
12, 2008 denying
reconsideration of the
first issuance.
Private respondent Jessie
John P. Gimenez[3]
(Gimenez) filed on
October 18, 2005, on
behalf of the Yuchengco
Family (in particular,
former Ambassador
Alfonso Yuchengco and
Helen Y. Dee (Helen) and
of the Malayan Insurance
Co., Inc. (Malayan),[4] a
criminal complaint,[5]
before the Makati City
Prosecutors Office, for
thirteen (13) counts of
libel under Article 355 in
relation to Article 353 of
the Revised Penal Code
(RPC) against Philip
Piccio, Mia Gatmaytan
and Ma. Anabella Relova
Santos, who are officers of
Parents Enabling Parents
Coalition, Inc. (PEPCI),
John Joseph Gutierrez,
Jeselyn Upano, Jose
Dizon, Rolanda Pareja,
Wonina Bonifacio, Elvira
Cruz, Cornelio Zafra,
Vicente Ortueste, Victoria
Gomez Jacinto, Jurencio
Pereche, Ricardo Loyares
and Peter Suchianco, who
are trustees of PEPCI,
Trennie Monsod, a
member of PEPCI
(collectively, the accused),
and a certain John Doe,
the administrator of the
website www.pepcoalition.com .
PEPCI appears to have
been formed by a large
group of disgruntled
planholders of Pacific
Plans, Inc. (PPI) - a
wholly owned subsidiary
of Great Pacific Life
Assurance Corporation,
also owned by the
Yuchengco Group of
Companies (YGC) - who
had previously purchased
traditional pre-need
educational plans but
were unable to collect
thereon or avail of the
benefits thereunder after
PPI, due to liquidity
concerns, filed for
corporate rehabilitation
with prayer for
suspension of payments
before the Makati RTC.
Decrying PPIs
refusal/inability to honor
its obligations under the
educational pre-need
plans, PEPCI sought to
provide a forum by which
the planholders could seek
redress for their
pecuniary loss under their
policies by maintaining a
website on the internet
under the address of
www.pepcoalition.com .
Gimenez alleged that
PEPCI also owned,
controlled and moderated
on the internet a
blogspot[6] under the
website address www.pacificnoplan.blogspot.com ,
as well as a yahoo e-
group[7] at no2pep2010@yahoogroups.com .
These websites are easily
accessible to the public or
by anyone logged on to
the internet.
Gimenez further alleged
that upon accessing the
above-stated websites in
on various dates from
August 25 to October 2,
2005, he was appalled to
read numerous articles
[numbering 13],
maliciously and recklessly
caused to be published by
[the accused] containing
highly derogatory
statements and false
accusations, relentlessly
attacking the Yuchengco
Family, YGC, and
particularly, Malayan.[8]
He cited an article which
was posted/published on
www.pepcoalition.com on August 25, 2005
which stated:
Talagang naisahan na
naman tayo ng mga
Yuchengcos. Nangyari na
ang mga kinatatakutan
kong pagbagsak ng
negotiation because it was
done prematurely since
we had not file any
criminal aspect of our
case. What is worse is that
Yuchengcos benefited
much from the nego. x x
x . That is the fact na
talagang hindi dapat
pagtiwalaan ang mga
Yuchengcos.
LETS MOVE TO THE
BATTLEFIELD. FILE
THE CRIMINAL CASES
IN COURT, BSP AND
AMLC AND
WHEREVER. Pumunta
tayong muli sa senado,
congreso, , and other
venues to air our
grievances and call for
boycott ng YGC. Let us
start within ourselves.
Alisin natin ang mga
investments and deposits
natin sa lahat ng YGC
and I mean lahat and
again convince friends to
do the same. Yung mga
nanonood lang ay dapat
makisali na talaga ngayon
specially those who joined
only after knowing that
there was a negotiation
for amicable settlements.
FOR SURE MAY
TACTICS PA SILANG
NAKABASTA SA ATIN.
LET US BE READY FOR
IT BECAUSE THEY
HAD SUCCESSFULLY
LULL AND THE NEXT
TIME THEY WILL TRY
TO KILL NA. x x x [9]
(emphasis in the original)
By Resolution of May 5,
2006,[10] the Makati City
Prosecutors Office,
finding probable cause to
indict the accused, filed
thirteen (13) separate
Informations[11] charging
them with libel. The
accusatory portion of one
Information, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 06-876,
which was raffled off to
public respondent reads:

That on or about the 25 th


day of August 2005 in
Makati City, Metro
Manila, Philippines, a
place within the
jurisdiction of the
Honorable Court, the
above-named accused,
being then the trustees of
Parents Enabling Parents
Coalition and as such
trustees they hold the
legal title to the website
which is of general
www.pepcoalition.com

circulation, and
publication to the public
conspiring, confederating
and mutually helping with
one another together with
John Does, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously and
publicly and maliciously
with intention of attacking
the honesty, virtue, honor
and integrity, character
and reputation of
complainant Malayan
Insurance Co. Inc.,
Yuchengco Family
particularly Ambassador
Alfonso Yuchengco and
Helen Dee and for further
purpose exposing the
complainant to public
hatred and contempt
published an article
imputing a vice or defect
to the complainant and
caused to be composed,
posted and published in
the said websitewww.pepcoalition.com

and injurious and


defamatory article as
follows:
Talagang naisahan
na naman tayo ng
mga Yuchengcos.
Nangyari na ang
mga
kinatatakutan
kong pagbagsak
ng negotiation. x x
xxxxxxx
For sure may
tactics pa silang
nakabasta sa atin.
Let us be ready
for it because they
had successfully
lull us and the
next time they will
try to kill us na. x
xx
A copy of the full
text of the
foregoing article
as
published/posted
in is
www.pepcoalition.com

attached as Annex
F of the complaint.
That the keyword
and password to
be used in order to
post and publish
the above
defamatory article
are known to the
accused as trustees
holding legal title
to the above-cited
website and that
the accused are
the ones
responsible for the posting
and publication of the
defamatory articles that
the article in question was
posted and published with
the object of the
discrediting and ridiculing
the complainant before
the public.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
[12]
Several of the accused
appealed the Makati City
Prosecutors Resolution by
a petition for review to the
Secretary of Justice who,
by Resolution of June 20,
2007,[13] reversed the
finding of probable cause
and accordingly directed
the withdrawal of the
Informations for libel
filed in court. The Justice
Secretary opined that the
crime of internet libel was
non-existent, hence, the
accused could not be
charged with libel under
Article 353 of the RPC.
[14]
Petitioners, as co-accused,
[15] thereupon filed on
June 6, 2006, before the
public respondent, a
Motion to Quash[16] the
Information in Criminal
Case No. 06-876 on the
grounds that it failed to
vest jurisdiction on the
Makati RTC; the acts
complained of in the
Information are not
punishable by law since
internet libel is not
covered by Article 353 of
the RPC; and the
Information is fatally
defective for failure to
designate the offense
charged and the acts or
omissions complained of
as constituting the offense
of libel.
Citing Macasaet v. People,
[17] petitioners
maintained that the
Information failed to
allege a particular place
within the trial courts
jurisdiction where the
subject article was printed
and first published or that
the offended parties
resided in at the time the
alleged defamatory
material was printed and
first published.
By Order of October 3,
2006,[18] the public
respondent, albeit finding
that probable cause
existed, quashed the
Information, citing
Agustin v. Pamintuan.[19]
It found that the
Information lacked any
allegations that the
offended parties were
actually residing in
Makati at the time of the
commission of the offense
as in fact they listed their
address in the complaint-
affidavit at Yuchengco
Tower in Binondo,
Manila; or that the
alleged libelous article
was printed and first
published in Makati.
The prosecution moved to
reconsider the quashal of
the Information,[20]
insisting that the
Information sufficiently
conferred jurisdiction on
the public respondent. It
cited Banal III v.
Panganiban[21] which
held that the Information
need not allege verbatim
that the libelous
publication was printed
and first published in the
appropriate venue. And it
pointed out that Malayan
has an office in of which
Helen is a resident.
Moreover, the prosecution
alleged that even
assuming that the
Information was deficient,
it merely needed a formal
amendment.
Petitioners opposed the
prosecutions motion for
reconsideration,
contending, inter alia, that
since venue is
jurisdictional in criminal
cases, any defect in an
information for libel
pertaining to jurisdiction
is not a mere matter of
form that may be cured
by amendment.[22]
By Order of March 8,
2007,[23] the public
respondent granted the
prosecutions motion for
reconsideration and
accordingly ordered the
public prosecutor to
amend the Information to
cure the defect of want of
venue.
The prosecution
thereupon moved to admit
the Amended Information
dated March 20, 2007,[24]
the accusatory portion of
which reads:

That on or about the25 th


day of August 2005 in
Makati City, Metro
Manila, Philippines, a
place within the
jurisdiction of the
Honorable Court, the
above-named accused,
being then the trustees of
Parents Enabling Parents
Coalition and as such
trustees they hold the
legal title to the website
which is of general
www.pepcoalition.com

circulation, and
publication to the public
conspiring, confederating
together with John Does,
whose true names,
identities and present
whereabouts are still
unknown and all of them
mutually helping and
aiding one another, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
and publicly and
maliciously with intention
of attacking the honesty,
virtue, honor and
integrity, character and
reputation of complainant
Malayan Insurance Co.
Inc., Yuchengco Family
particularly Ambassador
Alfonso Yuchengco and
Helen Dee and for further
purpose exposing the
complainant to public
hatred and contempt
published an article
imputing a vice or defect
to the complainant and
caused to be composed,
posted and published in
the said website ,a
www.pepcoalition.com

website accessible in
Makati City, an injurious
and defamatory article,
which was first published
and accessed by the
private complainant in
Makati City, as follows:
x x x x (emphasis and
underscoring in the
original; italics supplied)
Petitioners moved to
quash the Amended
Information[25] which,
they alleged, still failed to
vest jurisdiction upon the
public respondent because
it failed to allege that the
libelous articles were
printed and first
published by the accused
in ; and the prosecution
erroneously laid the venue
of the case in the place
where the offended party
accessed the internet-
published article.
By the assailed Order of
April 22, 2008, the public
respondent, applying
Banal III, found the
Amended Information to
be sufficient in form.
Petitioners motion for
reconsideration[26]
having been denied by the
public respondent by
Joint Resolution of August
12, 2008, they filed the
present petition for
Certiorari and
Prohibition faulting the
public respondent for:
1. NOT FINDING THAT
THE ACTS ALLEGED
IN THE INFORMATION
ARE NOT PUNISHABLE
BY LAW;
2. ADMITTING AN
AMENDED
INFORMATION
WHOSE
JURISDICTIONAL
ALLEGATIONS
CONTINUES TO BE
DEFICIENT; and
3. NOT RULING THAT
AN AMENDMENT IN
THE INFORMATION
FOR THE PURPOSE OF
CURING
JURISDICTIONAL
DEFECTS IS ILLEGAL.
[27]
With the filing of
Gimenezs Comment[28]
to the petition, the issues
are: (1) whether
petitioners violated the
rule on hierarchy of
courts to thus render the
petition dismissible; and
(2) whether grave abuse of
discretion attended the
public respondents
admission of the Amended
Information.
The established policy of
strict observance of the
judicial hierarchy of
courts,[29] as a rule,
requires that recourse
must first be made to the
lower-ranked court
exercising concurrent
jurisdiction with a higher
court.[30] A regard for
judicial hierarchy clearly
indicates that petitions for
the issuance of
extraordinary writs
against first level courts
should be filed in the RTC
and those against the
latter should be filed in
the Court of Appeals.[31]
The rule is not iron-clad,
however, as it admits of
certain exceptions.
Thus, a strict application
of the rule is unnecessary
when cases brought before
the appellate courts do
not involve factual but
purely legal questions.[32]
In the present case, the
substantive issue calls for
the Courts exercise of its
discretionary authority,
by way of exception, in
order to abbreviate the
review process as
petitioners raise a pure
question of law involving
jurisdiction in criminal
complaints for libel under
Article 360 of the RPC
whether the Amended
Information is sufficient
to sustain a charge for
written defamation in
light of the requirements
under Article 360 of the
RPC, as amended by
Republic Act (RA) No.
4363, reading:
Art. 360. Persons
responsible.Any person
who shall publish, exhibit
or cause the publication
or exhibition of any
defamation in writing or
by similar means, shall be
responsible for the same.
The author or editor of a
book or pamphlet, or the
editor or business
manager of a daily
newspaper, magazine or
serial publication, shall be
responsible for the
defamations contained
therein to the same extent
as if he were the author
thereof.
The criminal action and
civil action for damages in
cases of written
defamations, as provided
for in this chapter shall be
filed simultaneously or
separately with the Court
of First Instance of the
province or city where the
libelous article is printed
and first published or
where any of the offended
parties actually resides at
the time of the
commission of the offense:
Provided, however, That
where one of the offended
parties is a public officer
whose office is in the City
of Manila at the time of
the commission of the
offense, the action shall be
filed in the Court of First
Instance of the City of
Manila or of the city or
province where the
libelous article is printed
and first published, and in
case such public officer
does not hold office in the
City of Manila, the action
shall be filed in the Court
of First Instance of the
province or city where he
held office at the time of
the commission of the
offense or where the
libelous article is printed
and first published and in
case one of the offended
parties is a private
individual, the action shall
be filed in the Court of
First Instance of the
province or city where he
actually resides at the
time of the commission of
the offense or where the
libelous matter is printed
and first published x x x.
(emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
Venue is jurisdictional in
criminal actions such that
the place where the crime
was committed
determines not only the
venue of the action but
constitutes an essential
element of jurisdiction.
[33] This principle
acquires even greater
import in libel cases, given
that Article 360, as
amended, specifically
provides for the possible
venues for the institution
of the criminal and civil
aspects of such cases.
In Macasaet,[34] the
Court reiterated its earlier
pronouncements in
Agbayani v. Sayo[35]
which laid out the rules on
venue in libel cases, viz:
For the guidance,
therefore, of both the
bench and the bar, this
Court finds it appropriate
to reiterate our earlier
pronouncement in the
case of Agbayani, to wit:
In order to obviate
controversies as to the
venue of the criminal
action for written
defamation, the complaint
or information should
contain allegations as to
whether, at the time the
offense was committed,
the offended party was a
public officer or a private
individual and where he
was actually residing at
that time. Whenever
possible, the place where
the written defamation
was printed and first
published should likewise
be alleged. That
allegation would be a sine
qua non if the
circumstance as to where
the libel was printed and
first published is used as
the basis of the venue of
the action. (emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
It becomes clear that the
venue of libel cases where
the complainant is a
private individual is
limited to only either of
two places, namely: 1)
where the complainant
actually resides at the
time of the commission of
the offense; or 2) where
the alleged defamatory
article was printed and
first published. The
Amended Information in
the present case opted to
lay the venue by availing
of the second. Thus, it
stated that the offending
article was first published
and accessed by the
private complainant in .
In other words, it
considered the phrase to
be equivalent to the
requisite allegation of
printing and first
publication.
The insufficiency of the
allegations in the
Amended Information to
vest jurisdiction in
becomes pronounced
upon an examination of
the rationale for the
amendment to Article 360
by RA No. 4363. Chavez v.
Court of Appeals[36]
explained the nature of
these changes:
Agbayani supplies a
comprehensive
restatement of the rules of
venue in actions for
criminal libel, following
the amendment by Rep.
Act No. 4363 of the
Revised Penal Code:
Article 360 in its original
form provided that the
venue of the criminal and
civil actions for written
defamations is the
province wherein the libel
was published, displayed
or exhibited, regardless of
the place where the same
was written, printed or
composed. Article 360
originally did not specify
the public officers and the
courts that may conduct
the preliminary
investigation of
complaints for libel.
Before article 360 was
amended, the rule was
that a criminal action for
libel may be instituted in
any jurisdiction where the
libelous article was
published or circulated,
irrespective of where it
was written or printed
(People v. Borja, 43 Phil.
618). Under that rule, the
criminal action is
transitory and the injured
party has a choice of
venue.
Experience had shown
that under that old rule
the offended party could
harass the accused in a
libel case by laying the
venue of the criminal
action in a remote or
distant place.
Thus, in connection with
an article published in the
Daily Mirror and the
Philippine Free Press, Pio
Pedrosa, Manuel V.
Villareal and Joaquin
Roces were charged with
libel in the justice of the
peace court of San
Fabian, Pangasinan
(Amansec v. De Guzman,
93 Phil. 933).
To forestall such
harassment, Republic Act
No. 4363 was enacted. It
lays down specific rules as
to the venue of the
criminal action so as to
prevent the offended
party in written
defamation cases from
inconveniencing the
accused by means of out-
of-town libel suits,
meaning complaints filed
in remote municipal
courts (Explanatory Note
for the bill which became
Republic Act No. 4363,
Congressional Record of
May 20, 1965, pp. 424-5;
Time, Inc. v. Reyes, L-
28882, May 31, 1971, 39
SCRA 303, 311).
x x x x (emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
Clearly, the evil sought to
be prevented by the
amendment to Article 360
was the indiscriminate or
arbitrary laying of the
venue in libel cases in
distant, isolated or far-
flung areas, meant to
accomplish nothing more
than harass or intimidate
an accused. The disparity
or unevenness of the
situation becomes even
more acute where the
offended party is a person
of sufficient means or
possesses influence, and is
motivated by spite or the
need for revenge.
If the circumstances as to
where the libel was
printed and first
published are used by the
offended party as basis for
the venue in the criminal
action, the Information
must allege with
particularity where the
defamatory article was
printed and first
published, as evidenced or
supported by, for
instance, the address of
their editorial or business
offices in the case of
newspapers, magazines or
serial publications. This
pre-condition becomes
necessary in order to
forestall any inclination to
harass.
The same measure cannot
be reasonably expected
when it pertains to
defamatory material
appearing on a website on
the internet as there
would be no way of
determining the situs of its
printing and first
publication. To credit
Gimenezs premise of
equating his first access to
the defamatory article on
petitioners website in with
printing and first
publication would spawn
the very ills that the
amendment to Article 360
of the RPC sought to
discourage and prevent. It
hardly requires much
imagination to see the
chaos that would ensue in
situations where the
websites author or writer,
a blogger or anyone who
posts messages therein
could be sued for libel
anywhere in the that the
private complainant may
have allegedly accessed
the offending website.
For the Court to hold that
the Amended Information
sufficiently vested
jurisdiction in the courts
of simply because the
defamatory article was
accessed therein would
open the floodgates to the
libel suit being filed in all
other locations where the
pepcoalition website is
likewise accessed or
capable of being accessed.
Respecting the contention
that the venue
requirements imposed by
Article 360, as amended,
are unduly oppressive, the
Courts pronouncements
in Chavez[37] are
instructive:
For us to grant the
present petition, it would
be necessary to abandon
the Agbayani rule
providing that a private
person must file the
complaint for libel either
in the place of printing
and first publication, or at
the complainants place of
residence. We would also
have to abandon the
subsequent cases that
reiterate this rule in
Agbayani, such as Soriano,
Agustin, and Macasaet.
There is no convincing
reason to resort to such a
radical action. These
limitations imposed on
libel actions filed by
private persons are hardly
onerous, especially as they
still allow such persons to
file the civil or criminal
complaint in their
respective places of
residence, in which
situation there is no need
to embark on a quest to
determine with precision
where the libelous matter
was printed and first
published.

(Emphasis and
underscoring supplied.)
IN FINE, the public
respondent committed
grave abuse of discretion
in denying petitioners
motion to quash the
Amended Information.
WHEREFORE, the
petition is GRANTED.
The assailed Order of and
the Joint Resolution of are
hereby SET ASIDE. The
Regional , 149 is hereby
DIRECTED TO QUASH
the Amended Information
in Criminal Case No. 06-
876 and DISMISS the
case.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION
CRISTINEL G.R. No.
LI S. 157643
FERMIN, Present:
Petitio AUSTRI
ner, A-
- versus - MARTIN
PEOPLE OFEZ, J.,
THE Acting
PHILIPPIN Chairpers
ES, on,
ResponTINGA,*

dent.
CHICO-
NAZARI
O,
NACHU
RA, and
REYES,
JJ.
Promulga
ted:
March
28, 2008
x------------------------
--------------------------
--------------------------
--------x
DECISION
NACHURA, J.:
Before us is a petition[1]
for review on certiorari,
under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court, of the
Decision[2] dated
September 3, 2002 and the
Resolution[3] dated
March 24, 2003 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CR No. 20890
entitled People of the
Philippines v. Cristenelli S.
Fermin and Bogs C.
Tugas.
On complaint of spouses
Annabelle Rama
Gutierrez and Eduardo
(Eddie) Gutierrez, two (2)
criminal informations for
libel[4] were filed against
Cristinelli[5] S. Fermin
and Bogs C. Tugas before
the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Quezon City,
Branch 218. Except for
the name of the
complainant,[6] the
informations uniformly
read

That on or about the 14 th


day of June, 1995 in
Quezon City, Philippines,
the above-named accused
CRISTENELLI
SALAZAR FERMIN,
publisher, and BOGS C.
TUGAS, Editor-in-Chief
of Gossip Tabloid with
offices located at 68-A
Magnolia Tulip St., Roxas
District, Quezon City, and
circulated in Quezon City
and other parts of Metro
Manila and the whole
country, conspiring
together, confederating
with and mutually helping
each other, publicly and
acting with malice, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
print and circulate in the
headline and lead story of
the said GOSSIP
TABLOID issue of June
14, 1995 the following
material, to wit:
MAS
MALAKING
HALAGA ANG
NADISPALKO
NILA SA
STATES, MAY
MGA NAIWAN
DING ASUNTO
SI ANNABELLE
IMPOSIBLENG
NASA AMERIKA
NGAYON SI
ANNABELLE
DAHIL SA
KALAT DIN ANG
ASUNTO NILA
DUN, BUKOD PA
SA
NAPAKARAMIN
G PINOY NA
HUMAHANTING
SA KANILA MAS
MALAKING
PROBLEMA
ANG
KAILANGAN
NIYANG
HARAPIN SA
STATES DAHIL
SA PERANG
NADISPALKO
NILA,
NAGHAHANAP
LANG NG SAKIT
NG KATAWAN SI
ANNABELLE
KUNG SA
STATES NGA
NIYA
MAIISIPANG
PUMUNTA
NGAYON PARA
LANG TAKASAN
NIYA SI LIGAYA
SANTOS AT ANG
SINTENSIYA SA
KANYA
when in truth and in
fact, the accused very
well knew that the
same are entirely false
and untrue but were
publicly made for no
other purpose than to
expose said
ANNABELLE RAMA
GUTIERREZ to
humiliation and
disgrace, as it depicts
her to be a fugitive
from justice and a
swindler, thereby
causing dishonor,
discredit and
contempt upon the
person of the offended
party, to the damage
and prejudice of the
said ANNABELLE
RAMA GUTIERREZ.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[7]
Upon arraignment,
petitioner and co-accused
Bogs C. Tugas (Tugas)
both pleaded not guilty.
Thereafter, a joint trial
ensued.
After trial on the merits,
the RTC of Quezon City,
Branch 218, in its Joint
Decision[8] dated January
27, 1997, found petitioner
and Tugas guilty of libel.
The dispositive portion of
the Joint Decision reads
WHEREFORE,
prosecution having
established the guilt of the
accused, judgment is
hereby rendered finding
CRISTENELLI S.
FERMIN and BOGS C.
TUGAS GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt, of libel,
punishable under Art. 355
of the Revised Penal Code
and sentences them to an
indeterminate penalty of
three (3) months and
eleven (11) days of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to
one (1) year, eight (8)
months and twenty-one
(21) days of prision
correccional, as
maximum, for each case.
Likewise, accused
Cristenelli S. Fermin and
Bogs Tugas are sentenced
to pay jointly and
solidarily:
a) moral
damages of:
1.
P500,000.00 to
Annabelle
Rama in
Criminal Case
No. Q-95-
62823; and
2.
P500,000.00 to
Eddie
Gutierrez in
Criminal Case
No. Q-95-
62824;
b) attorneys
fees of
P50,000.00.
SO ORDERED.[9]
Aggrieved, petitioner and
Tugas appealed to the CA.
The appellate court, in its
Decision dated September
3, 2002, affirmed the
conviction of petitioner,
but acquitted Tugas on
account of non-
participation in the
publication of the libelous
article. The fallo of the
Decision reads
WHEREFORE, judgment
is hereby rendered as
follows:
1. The appealed
decision as against the
accused-appellant
BOGS C. TUGAS is
REVERSED and SET
ASIDE, and another is
entered ACQUITTING
him of the crime
charged and
ABSOLVING him from
any civil liability; and
2. The same appealed
decision as against
accused-appellant
CRISTENELLI S.
FERMIN is AFFIRMED,
with the
MODIFICATION that the
award of moral damages
is REDUCED to
P300,000.00 for EACH
offended party, and the
award of attorneys fees is
DELETED.
Costs against the
appellant FERMIN.
SO ORDERED.[10]
The CA denied petitioners
motion for
reconsideration for lack of
merit in the Resolution
dated March 24, 2003.
Hence, this petition,
raising the following
arguments:
I.
THE RULING IN VS.
, PEOPLE VS.
TOPACIO AND , VS.
MADRIGAL AND
VS. AND THE
HOLDING IN VS.
OCAMPO AS
CLARIFIED BY THE
COURT OF
APPEALS IN
PEOPLE VS.
BELTRAN AND
SOLIVEN
REQUIRING
KNOWLEDGE,
PARTICIPATION
AND COMPLICITY
BY THE
PUBLISHER IN THE
PREPARATION AND
APPROVAL OF THE
LIBELOUS
ARTICLE TO
SUSTAIN THE
LATTERS
CONVICTION FOR
LIBEL ARE
APPLICABLE IN
THE PRESENT
CASE.
II.
ART. 360 OF THE
REVISED PENAL
CODE WHICH
MAKES A
PUBLISHER
LIABLE FOR LIBEL
TO THE SAME
EXTENT AS IF HE
WERE THE
AUTHOR THEREOF
MERELY CREATES
A DISPUTABLE
PRESUMPTION
WHICH MAY BE
REBUTTED BY
CONTRARY
EVIDENCE.
III.
THE QUESTIONED
ARTICLE IS NOT
LIBELOUS.
IV.
THE QUESTIONED
ARTICLE IS
PROTECTED BY
THE MANTLE OF
THE FREEDOM OF
THE PRESS AND IS
WITHIN THE
REALM OF FAIR
AND HONEST
COMMENT.[11]
Being interrelated, we
shall discuss the first and
the second issues jointly,
then the third and the
fourth issues together.
Petitioner posits that, to
sustain a conviction for
libel under Article 360 of
the Revised Penal Code, it
is mandatory that the
publisher knowingly
participated in or
consented to the
preparation and
publication of the libelous
article. This principle is,
allegedly, based on our
ruling in U.S. v. Taylor,
[12] People v. Topacio and
Santiago,[13] U.S. v.
Madrigal,[14] U.S. v. Abad
Santos,[15] and U.S. v.
Ocampo,[16] as
purportedly clarified in
People v. Beltran and
Soliven.[17] She submits
that these cases were
applied by the CA in
acquitting her co-accused
Tugas, and being similarly
situated with him, she is
also entitled to an
acquittal. She claims that
she had adduced ample
evidence to show that she
had no hand in the
preparation and
publication of the
offending article, nor in
the review, editing,
examination, and
approval of the articles
published in Gossip
Tabloid.
The arguments are too
simplistic and the cited
jurisprudence are either
misplaced or, in fact,
damning.
Foremost, U.S. v.
Madrigal and U.S. v. Abad
Santos are not applicable
to the present case. U.S. v.
Madrigal pertains to a
criminal prosecution
under Section 30 of Act
No. 1519 for fraudulently
representing the weight or
measure of anything to be
greater or less than it is,
whereas U.S. v. Abad
Santos refers to criminal
responsibility under the
Internal Revenue Law
(Act. No. 2339).
The other cases are more
in point, but they serve to
reinforce the conviction
of, rather than absolve,
petitioner.
In U.S. v. Taylor, the
accused was indicted
under Section 6 of Act No.
277 which provides that:
Every author, editor or
proprietor of any book,
newspaper, or serial
publication is chargeable
with the publication of
any words contained in
any part of said book or
number of each
newspaper or serial as
fully as if he were the
author of the same.
However, proof adduced
during the trial showed
that accused was the
manager of the
publication without the
corresponding evidence
that, as such, he was
directly responsible for
the writing, editing, or
publishing of the matter
contained in the said
libelous article.[18]
In People v. Topacio and
Santiago, reference was
made to the Spanish text
of Article 360 of the
Revised Penal Code which
includes the verb publicar.
Thus, it was held that
Article 360 includes not
only the author or the
person who causes the
libelous matter to be
published, but also the
person who prints or
publishes it.
Based on these cases,
therefore, proof of
knowledge of and
participation in the
publication of the
offending article is not
required, if the accused
has been specifically
identified as author,
editor, or proprietor or
printer/publisher of the
publication, as petitioner
and Tugas are in this case.
The rationale for the
criminal culpability of
those persons enumerated
in Article 360 of the
Revised Penal Code[19]
was enunciated in U.S. v.
Ocampo,[20] to wit:
According to the legal
doctrines and
jurisprudence of the
United States, the printer
of a publication
containing libelous matter
is liable for the same by
reason of his direct
connection therewith and
his cognizance of the
contents thereof. With
regard to a publication in
which a libel is printed,
not only is the publisher
but also all other persons
who in any way
participate in or have any
connection with its
publication are liable as
publishers.
xxxx
In the case of State vs.
Mason (26 L.R.A., 779; 26
Oreg., 273, , 629), the
question of the
responsibility of the
manager or proprietor of
a newspaper was
discussed. The court said,
among other things (pp.
782, 783):
The question then recurs
as to whether the manager
or proprietor of a
newspaper can escape
criminal responsibility
solely on the ground that
the libelous article was
published without his
knowledge or consent.
When a libel is published
in a newspaper, such fact
alone is sufficient evidence
prima facie to charge the
manager or proprietor
with the guilt of its
publication.
The manager and
proprietor of a newspaper,
we think ought to be held
prima facie criminally for
whatever appears in his
paper; and it should be no
defense that the
publication was made
without his knowledge or
consent, x x x
One who furnishes the
means for carrying on the
publication of a
newspaper and entrusts
its management to
servants or employees
whom he selects and
controls may be said to
cause to be published
what actually appears,
and should be held
responsible therefore,
whether he was
individually concerned in
the publication or not, x x
x. Criminal responsibility
for the acts of an agent or
servant in the course of
his employment
necessarily implies some
degree of guilt or
delinquency on the part of
the publisher; x x x.
We think, therefore, the
mere fact that the libelous
article was published in
the newspaper without the
knowledge or consent of
its proprietor or manager
is no defense to a criminal
prosecution against such
proprietor or manager.
In the case of
Commonwealth vs.
Morgan (107 , 197), this
same question was
considered and the court
held that in the criminal
prosecution of a publisher
of a newspaper in which a
libel appears, he is prima
facie presumed to have
published the libel, and
that the exclusion of an
offer by the defendant to
prove that he never saw
the libel and was not
aware of its publication
until it was pointed out to
him and that an apology
and retraction were
afterwards published in
the same paper, gave him
no ground for exception.
In this same case, Mr.
Justice Colt, speaking for
the court, said:
It is the duty of the
proprietor of a public
paper, which may be used
for the publication of
improper
communications, to use
reasonable caution in the
conduct of his business
that no libels be
published. (Whartons
Criminal Law, secs. 1627,
1649; 1 Bishops Criminal
Law, secs. 219, 221;
People vs. Wilson, 64 Ill.,
195; Commonwealth vs.
Damon, 136 Mass., 441.)
The above doctrine is also
the doctrine established
by the English courts. In
the case of Rex vs. Walter
(3 Esp., 21) Lord Kenyon
said that he was clearly of
the opinion that the
proprietor of a newspaper
was answerable
criminally as well as
civilly for the acts of his
servants or agents for
misconduct in the
management of the paper.
This was also the opinion
of Lord Hale, Mr. Justice
Powell, and Mr. Justice
Foster.
Lofft, an English author,
in his work on Libel and
Slander, said:
An information for libel
will lie against the
publisher of a paper,
although he did not know
of its being put into the
paper and stopped the
sale as soon as he
discovered it.
In the case of People vs.
Clay (86 , 147) the court
held that
A person who makes a
defamatory statement to
the agent of a newspaper
for publication, is liable
both civilly and
criminally, and his
liability is shared by the
agent and all others who
aid in publishing it.
It is worthy to note that
petitioner was not only the
publisher, as shown by the
editorial box of Gossip
Tabloid,[21] but also its
president and chairperson
as she herself admitted on
the witness stand.[22] She
also testified that she
handled the business
aspect of the publication,
and assigns editors to take
charge of everything.[23]
Obviously, petitioner had
full control over the
publication of articles in
the said tabloid. Her
excuse of lack of
knowledge, consent, or
participation in the
release of the libelous
article fails to persuade.
Following our ruling in
Ocampo, petitioners
criminal guilt should be
affirmed, whether or not
she had actual knowledge
and participation, having
furnished the means of
carrying on the
publication of the article
purportedly prepared by
the members of the
Gossip Reportorial Team,
who were employees
under her control and
supervision.
Petitioner argues that
Ocampo has been clarified
by the CA in People v.
Beltran and Soliven such
that Maximo V. Soliven,
as publisher of The
Philippine Star, was
acquitted by the appellate
court in view of the lack of
evidence that he knew and
approved the article
written by Luis D. Beltran
about then President
Corazon C. Aquino in the
newspapers October 12,
1987 issue. Petitioner
submits that People v.
Beltran and Soliven serves
as a guide to this Court
regarding the criminal
liability of the publisher of
the newspaper where a
libelous article is
published. Put differently,
it appears that petitioner
wants this Court to follow
the CA decision and adopt
it as judicial precedent
under the principle of
stare decisis.
The doctrine of stare
decisis, embodied in
Article 8[24] of the Civil
Code, is enunciated, thus:
The doctrine of stare
decisis enjoins adherence
to judicial precedents. It
requires courts in a
country to follow the rule
established in a decision
of the Supreme Court
thereof. That decision
becomes a judicial
precedent to be followed
in subsequent cases by all
courts in the land. The
doctrine of stare decisis is
based on the principle
that once a question of
law has been examined
and decided, it should be
deemed settled and closed
to further argument.[25]
(Emphasis supplied)
Unfortunately, the Beltran
decision attained finality
at the level of the CA.
Thus, if the CA seemingly
made a new
pronouncement regarding
the criminal liability of a
publisher under Article
360 of the Revised Penal
Code, that ruling cannot
bind this Court unless we
purposely adopt the same.
Be that as it may, we find
no compelling reason to
revisit U.S. v. Ocampo; to
modify it would amount
to judicial legislation.
Article 360 is clear and
unambiguous, and to
apply People v. Beltran
and Soliven, which
requires specific
knowledge, participation,
and approval on the part
of the publisher to be
liable for the publication
of a libelous article, would
be reading into the law an
additional requirement
that was not intended by
it.
In the same vein, we note
that the CA erred in
acquitting Tugas. Tugas
cannot feign lack of
participation in the
publication of the
questioned article as was
evident from his and
petitioners Joint Counter-
Affidavit,[26] and as
gleaned from his
testimony before the trial
court, to wit:
WITNESS: As editor-in-
chief, I have no
participation in the
writing of the questioned
article and my only
participation in the
publication is the
handling of the physical
lay-outing, indication and
allocation of type-size of
the body of the article,
before the same was
printed and published in
GOSSIP Tabloid.
Q: You do not deny the
statements in this
publication as executed by
you in the counter-
affidavit and sworn in
before the City
Prosecutor, is this correct?
A: Yes, that is correct.
ATTY. ALENTAJAN:
That is all for the witness,
your Honor.
COURT: Do we get it
right from you, if you
were acting as you were,
you will not allow the said
publication of this same
article or same stories?
A: If I were, if I was
physically present,
honestly I will because if
you can see the article,
your Honor, it is
according to our source, it
is not a direct comment.
COURT: So whether you
are there or not, [the]
same article leading to
them (sic) will still find its
way to come out?
A: Yes, your honor.[27]
Tugas testimony, in fact,
confirms his actual
participation in the
preparation and
publication of the
controversial article and
his approval thereof as it
was written. Moreover, his
alibi, which was
considered meritorious by
the CA, that he was
confined at the Mother of
Perpetual Help Clinic in
Angeles City, is
unavailing, in view of the
testimony of his attending
physician that Tugas
medical condition did not
prevent him from
performing his work, thus
Q: How would you
describe the condition of
the patient on ?
A: He is in stable
condition.
Q: You said he was in
severe pain, from your
opinion, was that
condition sufficient to
enable him to work?
A: Yes, in my opinion.[28]
Q: You said your
impression of the patient
was urethral colic and this
was caused by spasm?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: When you say spasm,
it is not sustained, it
comes every now and then
and [intermittently], it is
not sustained?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Now you said he was in
stable condition?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: That means that his
ailment is not life-
threatening?
A: Correct.
Q: In fact, visitors were
allowed to see him?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: He can also write?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: He was allowed to
[receive] friends?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: According to you, he
was able to work also, he
is not totally incapacitated
in performing certain
chores in the hospital
room?
A: No, sir.
Q: Now, prior to in the
morning of , you did not
see Mr. Bogs Tugas?
A: I saw him, he was
admitted at but I saw him
before.
Q: How long before were
you able to see him?
A: That is about 2 hours.
Q: About in the morning?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Who was his
companion when you saw
him?
A: He was boarding in my
place.
Q: So, you brought him to
the hospital?
A: Both of us went to the
hospital.
Q: Which boarding house
are you referring [to]?
In ?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Do you know that Mr.
Bogs Tugas works here in
as editor-in-chief of a
newspaper tabloid?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And some of his work
is done in your boarding
house?
A: I do not know about it.
Q: How did you know
that he is working on his
paper works in ? Did you
see him do that?
A: I only know he goes to
everyday.
Q: In your boarding
house, you saw him read
and write?
A: Probably yes.[29]
But, of course, we cannot
reinstate the ruling of the
trial court convicting Bogs
Tugas because with his
acquittal by the CA, we
would run afoul of his
constitutional right
against double jeopardy.
Anent the third and
fourth issues, petitioner
argues that the subject
article in the June 14,
1995 issue of Gossip
Tabloid is not libelous, is
covered by the mantle of
press freedom, and is
merely in the nature of a
fair and honest comment.
We disagree.
The banner headlines of
the offending article read:
KUNG TOTOONG
NAKATAKAS NA SI
ANNABELLE RAMA,
IMPOSIBLENG SA
STATES SIYA
NAGPUNTA!
MAS MALAKING
HALAGA ANG
NADISPALKO NILA SA
STATES, MAY MGA
NAIWAN DING
ASUNTO DUN SI
ANNABELLE!
On the first page of the
same issue of Gossip
Tabloid, written in smaller
but bold letters, are:
HINDI SIYA
MAKAKAPUNTA SA
AMERIKA DAHIL
NAPAKARAMI RIN
NIYANG ASUNTONG
INIWAN DUN NOON PA,
NAKAPAG-ABROAD
MAN SIYA, E,
PIHADONG HINDI SIYA
SA AMERIKA
NAGTULOY, SA
AMERIKA PA KAYA
SIYA MAGTATAGO, E,
ILANG TAON NA RIN
SIYANG INAABANGAN
DUN NG NGA
KABABAYAN NATING
NILOKO NIYA, IN ONE
WAY OR ANOTHER?...
NAAALALA PA BA
NINYO YUNG MGA
MAMAHALING
KALDERO NA
IBINEBENTA NILA
NOON SA AMERIKA,
DUN SILA
NAGKAPROBLEMA,
MILYON-MILYON ANG
INVOLVED, KAYA
KINAILANGAN
NILANG UMUWI SA
PILIPINAS !
The rest of the article,
which continued to the
entire second page of the
tabloid, follows
Mainit na pinag-uusapan
ngayon ang ibat ibang
posibilidad na maaaring
gawin ni Annabelle Rama
Gutierrez para lang hindi
matuloy ang pag-aresto at
pagkukulong sa kanya ng
mga awtoridad kaugnay
ng sintensiyang
ipinapataw sa kanya ni
-RTC Judge Rodolfo
Palattao.
Mula noong June 8,
nabatid ng Gossip Tabloid,
ay wala pang sinumang
nakapagtuturo kung saan
talaga naroon ang ina ni
Ruffa Gutierrez na hindi
pinayagang
makapagpiyansa ng
Branch 33 para sa
pansamantala niyang
kalayaan.
May mga nagpapalagay
na sa pamamagitan ng
tinatawag na back-door
exit, ang pag-alis ng bansa
sa paraang hindi na
kailangan pang dumaan
sa NAIA, ay nakaalis na si
Annabelle pang
nakaraang Biyernes, June
9, patungong Amerika.
Pero isang
mapagkakatiwalaang
source ng Gossip Tabloid
ang nagsabing napaka-
imposibleng sa Amerika
nagtungo si Annabelle
dahil doon man ay may
mga nakahanda nang
awtoridad na handang
magkulong kay
Annabelle, sakaling
mapatunayang naroon
nga siya.
Hindi siya makapupunta
sa Amerika dahil
napakarami rin niyang
asuntong iniwan doon pa!
Nag-abroad man siya, e
pihadong hindi siya sa
Amerika nagtuloy dahil
nakaabang na rin ang
sangkatutak niyang
maniningil dun ngayon!
Sa Amerika pa kaya siya
magtatago, samantalang
ilang taon na rin siyang
inaabangan dun ng mga
kababayan nating niloko
niya, in one way or
another? simula ng source
ng Gossip Tabloid.
Niliwanag ng naturang
source na ang dahilan ng
biglaang pag-uwi ng
pamilya Gutierrez sa
bansa ilang taon na ang
nakararaan ay may
kinalaman sa malaking
halagang hindi nabayaran
nina Eddie at Annabelle
sa ilang kababayan natin
sa Amerika.
Naaalala pa ba ninyo
yung mga kalderong
ibinebenta nina Eddie at
Annabelle sa States?
Mga mamahaling kaldero
yun, hindi basta-basta
kaldero ang ibinebenta
nila dun, kaya talagang
ang ganda-ganda na ng
buhay nilang mag-anak
dun hanggang sa
dumating yung point na
sinisingil na sila nung
mismong kompanya ng
kaldero!
Malaki ang halagang
involved, milyon-milyon,
kaya nung kinasuhan na
sila, e kinailangan nilang
umalis sa Amerika para
bumalik na dito.
Isa si Bert Leroy, Jr. sa
mga Pilipinong nagkaroon
ng malaking problema
kina Eddie at Annabelle,
alam ba nyo yun?
Ang ganda-ganda ng
samahan nila nung una sa
Amerika, yumaman sila
nang dahil sa mga
mamahaling kaldero na
ibinebenta nila, kaso,
sumabit sina Eddie at
Annabelle dun sa
mismong company na
pinagkukunan nila ng
produkto!
Bukod sa napakarami na
nilang isinabit na Pinoy sa
Amerika dahil sa mga
kalderong yun, e sumabit
pa sila nang malaking
halaga sa mismong
manufacturer nung mga
ibinebenta nilang
mamahaling kaldero!
Yun ang dahilan kung
bakit bigla-biglang umuwi
sa Pilipinas ang pamilya
ni Eddie!
Ang ikinakatwiran nilang
mag-asawa , e gusto raw
kasi nilang lumaking
Pilipinong-Pilipino ang
kanilang mga anak, pero
ang totoo, e, napakalaki
ng problemang iniwan
nila sa Amerika!
mahabang simula ng
source ng Gossip Tabloid.
Masamang-masama
diumano ang loob ng mga
Pilipinong kinatalo roon
nina Eddie at Annabelle,
lalo na si Annabelle, na
bukod sa mataray na ay
may kayabangan pa.
Dati nang ganyan si
Annabelle! Mataray siya
na wala sa lugar. Nung
nasa Amerika pa silang
mag-anak, e, yun din ang
madalas nilang pag-
awayan dun ni Eddie!
Madalas silang
magkagalit, kaya si Eddie,
para lang
makapagpalipas ng mga
sama niya ng loob, e, dun
nag-i-stay sa bahay ng
mga kaibigan niyang
Pinoy!
Grabe ang naging
problema nila dun, kaya
wala silang choice that
time kung di ang umuwi
na lang sa Pilipinas!
Ang halagang involved sa
pagbebenta nila ng
kaldero, e, hindi basta-
basta, milyunan yon!
Kaso yung
pinagbebentahan nila,
yung halagang dapat
sana, e, ibigay nila sa
kompanya dahil
porsiyentuhan lang
naman sila dun, nagastos
nila!
Nawala ang pera, at ang
balita nga sa States, e, si
Annabelle ang dahilan
kung bakit nalubog sila sa
utang sa States!
Nag-casino pala si
Annabelle! Grabe raw
kung magpatalo siya,
kaya pati yung kinita nila
sa pagbebenta ng
mamahaling kaldero, e,
natunaw! sabi uli ng
source ng Gossip Tabloid.
Maraming Pilipino ang
sinabitan doon ng mag-
asawa, ayon pa sa source
ng Gossip Tabloid, kaya
ngayong may asunto
naman si Annabelle dito
sa Pilipinas ay napaka-
imposibleng sa Amerika
pa rin siya tatakbo.
Paano siya magpupunta
dun para tuluyan nang
manirahan, e, ang dami-
dami ring Pinoy na
naghihintay sa kanya dun
para maningil sa kanya?
Alam nyo ba, bukod sa
galit na galit na sa kanila
ang mga Pinoy na
nandun, e, may mga
nakaabang na ring asunto
para kay Annabelle.
So, malabong sa Amerika
pa siya tumuloy ngayong
napapabalitang nasa
abroad siya dahil sa mga
naghihintay na kaso sa
kanya dun.
Ang alam namin, e, sa
Europe nagbabalak
pumunta ang pamilya ni
Eddie.
Di bat ilang beses nang
nagpapabalik-balik dun
sina Ruffa. Noon pa, e,
pinag-aralan na nina
Eddie at Annabelle ang
posibilidad ng mga
gagawin nila!
Alam nila na hindi sila
puwedeng mag-stay sa
States dahil kalat din ang
asunto nila dun, bukod pa
sa napakaraming Pinoy
na huma-hunting sa
kanila!
Kaya kung totoong
nakalusot na nga si
Annabelle ngayon para
makatakas siya sa
pagkakulong, imposibleng
sa States siya nagpunta!
Mas malaking problema
ang kailangan niyang
harapin sa States dahil sa
perang nadispalko nila,
bukod pa sa asuntong
iniwan nilang
nakatiwangwang dun!
Naghahanap ng sakit ng
katawan si Annabelle
kung sa States nga niya
maisipang pumunta
ngayon para lang
malusutan si Ligaya
Santos at ang sintensiya
sa kanya ni Judge
Palattao! madiin pang
pahayag ng
mapagkakatiwalaang
source ng Gossip Tabloid.
[30]
A libel is defined as a
public and malicious
imputation of a crime, or
of a vice or defect, real or
imaginary; or any act,
omission, condition,
status, or circumstance
tending to cause the
dishonor, discredit, or
contempt of a natural or
juridical person, or to
blacken the memory of
one who is dead.[31] In
determining whether a
statement is defamatory,
the words used are to be
construed in their entirety
and should be taken in
their plain and ordinary
meaning as they would
naturally be understood
by persons reading them,
unless it appears that they
were used and understood
in another sense.[32]
To say that the article, in
its entirety, is not libelous
disturbs ones sensibilities;
it would certainly prick
ones conscience. There is
evident imputation of the
crime of malversation
(that the complainants
converted for their
personal use the money
paid to them by fellow
Filipinos in America in
their business of
distributing high-end
cookware); of vices or
defects for being fugitives
from the law (that
complainants and their
family returned to the
Philippines to evade
prosecution in America);
and of being a wastrel
(that Annabelle Rama
Gutierrez lost the
earnings from their
business through
irresponsible gambling in
casinos). The attribution
was made publicly,
considering that Gossip
Tabloid had a nationwide
circulation. The victims
were identified and
identifiable. More
importantly, the article
reeks of malice, as it tends
to cause the dishonor,
discredit, or contempt of
the complainants.
Petitioner claims that
there was no malice on
her part because,
allegedly, the article was
merely a fair and honest
comment on the fact that
Annabelle Rama
Gutierrez was issued a
warrant of arrest for her
conviction for estafa
before then Judge
Palattaos court. She even
cited as proof of her lack
of malice the purported
absence of any ill will
against complainants, as
shown by the article she
wrote about complainants
daughter Sharmaine
Ruffa Gutierrez in the
June 15, 1995 issue of the
same tabloid where she
expressed her sympathy
and admiration for the
latter.
Notably, however, the
complainants successfully
refuted the imputations
during the trial.
Complainants proved that
they could return anytime
to the United States of
America after the
publication of the article,
[33] and that they
remained on good terms
with the manufacturing
company of the cookware.
[34] To the contrary, both
petitioner and Tugas
failed to adduce evidence
to show the truth of the
allegations in the article
despite the opportunity to
do so.
Further worthy of
mention is the admission
of petitioner before the
trial court that she had
very close association with
then Congressman Golez
and mayoralty candidate
Joey Marquez, and that
she would use her skills as
a writer to campaign for
them. Complainant Eddie
Gutierrez ran against
then incumbent Golez for
the congressional seat in
Paraaque City. Petitioner
testified in this wise
Q: When you acted as
writer during the
campaign, as you said, for
Joey Marquez and Golez,
of course you did not give
your services for free to
these candidates, were you
paid?
A: I was not paid, Sir.
Q: You just wanted to
help them, am I correct?
A: Yes, because they are
my friends, Sir.
Q: And you wanted them
to win the election, thru
your being a writer, is that
correct?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: You were campaigning
hard for Golez and
Marquez, right?
A: Right, Sir.
Q: When you say hard,
you wanted your
candidates to win, is it
not?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: Who was the opponent
of Joey Marquez at that
time?
A: The former Mayor
Olivares, Sir.
Q: How about the
opponent of Congressman
Golez?
A: One of them is Eddie
Gutierrez, Sir.
Q: And the tandem of
Marquez and Golez
versus the tandem of
Olivares and Eddie
Gutierrez, am I correct?
A: Actually, that was the
situation at that time, Sir.
Q: Of course, the tandem
of Joey Marquez was
working hard to win over
their opponent, is it not?
A: Whatever their
problems were, I am out.
Q: As a hard campaigner,
you wanted your team to
win over the other, is this
correct?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: Of course you
understand what PRO
work is, it includes
propaganda, is that
correct?
A: I am sorry I dont
accept PR work, Sir.
Q: Do you understand
PRO work?
A: Yes, Sir, I know.
Q: In propaganda, for
your side, you promote it
as against the other, right?
A: Yes, Sir.[35]
It can be gleaned from her
testimony that petitioner
had the motive to make
defamatory imputations
against complainants.
Thus, petitioner cannot,
by simply making a
general denial, convince
us that there was no
malice on her part. Verily,
not only was there malice
in law, the article being
malicious in itself, but
there was also malice in
fact, as there was motive
to talk ill against
complainants during the
electoral campaign.
Neither can petitioner
take refuge in the
constitutional guarantee
of freedom of speech and
of the press. Although a
wide latitude is given to
critical utterances made
against public officials in
the performance of their
official duties, or against
public figures on matters
of public interest, such
criticism does not
automatically fall within
the ambit of
constitutionally protected
speech. If the utterances
are false, malicious or
unrelated to a public
officers performance of
his duties or irrelevant to
matters of public interest
involving public figures,
the same may give rise to
criminal and civil liability.
[36] While complainants
are considered public
figures for being
personalities in the
entertainment business,
media people, including
gossip and intrigue
writers and commentators
such as petitioner, do not
have the unbridled license
to malign their honor and
dignity by
indiscriminately airing
fabricated and malicious
comments, whether in
broadcast media or in
print, about their personal
lives.[37]
We must however take
this opportunity to
likewise remind media
practitioners of the high
ethical standards attached
to and demanded by their
noble profession. The
danger of an unbridled
irrational exercise of the
right of free speech and
press, that is, in utter
contempt of the rights of
others and in willful
disregard of the cumbrous
responsibilities inherent in
it, is the eventual self-
destruction of the right
and the regression of
human society into a
veritable Hobbesian state
of nature where life is
short, nasty and brutish.
Therefore, to recognize
that there can be no
absolute unrestraint in
speech is to truly
comprehend the
quintessence of freedom
in the marketplace of
social thought and action,
genuine freedom being
that which is limned by
the freedom of others. If
there is freedom of the
press, ought there not also
be freedom from the
press? It is in this sense
that self-regulation as
distinguished from self-
censorship becomes the
ideal mean for, as Mr.
Justice Frankfurter has
warned, [W]ithout x x x a
lively sense of
responsibility, a free press
may readily become a
powerful instrument of
injustice.
Lest we be misconstrued,
this is not to diminish nor
constrict that space in
which expression freely
flourishes and operates.
For we have always
strongly maintained, as
we do now, that freedom
of expression is mans
birthright constitutionally
protected and guaranteed,
and that it has become the
singular role of the press
to act as its defensor fidei
in a democratic society
such as ours. But it is also
worth keeping in mind
that the press is the
servant, not the master, of
the citizenry, and its
freedom does not carry
with it an unrestricted
hunting license to prey on
the ordinary citizen.[38]
In view of the foregoing
disquisitions, the
conviction of petitioner
for libel should be upheld.
With respect to the
penalty to be imposed for
this conviction, we note
that on January 25, 2008,
the Court issued
Administrative Circular
No. 08-2008, entitled
Guidelines in the
Observance of a Rule of
Preference in the
Imposition of Penalties in
Libel Cases. The Circular
expresses a preference for
the imposition of a fine
rather than
imprisonment, given the
circumstances attendant
in the cases[39] cited
therein in which only a
fine was imposed by this
Court on those convicted
of libel. It also states that,
if the penalty imposed is
merely a fine but the
convict is unable to pay
the same, the Revised
Penal Code provisions on
subsidiary imprisonment
should apply.
However, the Circular
likewise allows the court,
in the exercise of sound
discretion, the option to
impose imprisonment as
penalty, whenever the
imposition of a fine alone
would depreciate the
seriousness of the offense,
work violence on the
social order, or otherwise
be contrary to the
imperatives of justice.
In the case at bench, the
Court considers the
publics speculations as to
the whereabouts of
Annabelle Rama
Gutierrez with the
issuance of the warrant of
arrest after her initial
conviction for estafa.
Petitioner fueled these
speculations through her
article. However, her
article went overboard
and exceeded the bounds
of fair comment. This
warrants her conviction.
Nonetheless, in light of the
relatively wide latitude
given to utterances
against public figures
such as private
complainants, and
consonant with
Administrative Circular
No. 08-2008, the Court
deems it proper to modify
the penalty of
imprisonment to a fine in
the amount of P6,000.00,
with subsidiary
imprisonment in case of
insolvency, in each case.
But the award of moral
damages for each of the
private complainants in
the amount of
P500,000.00, as ordered
by the trial court, should
be restored on account of
the serious anxiety and
the wounded feelings
suffered by complainants
from the libelous article,
particularly taking into
account the fact that
petitioner and the private
complainants were on
relatively good terms with
each other, and
complainants gave no
cause or offense which
could have provoked the
malicious publication.
WHEREFORE, the
Decision dated September
3, 2002 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR
No. 20890 is AFFIRMED
with the
MODIFICATION that in
lieu of imprisonment,
petitioner Cristinelli S.
Fermin is sentenced to
pay a fine in the amount
of P6,000.00, with
subsidiary imprisonment
in case of insolvency, in
each case. The award of
moral damages, in the
amount of P300,000.00
each in favor of
complainants Annabelle
Rama Gutierrez and
Eduardo Gutierrez, is
increased to P500,000.00.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-63559 May 30,
1986
NEWSWEEK, INC.,
petitioner,
vs.
THE INTERMEDIATE
APPELLATE COURT,
and NATIONAL
FEDERATION OF
SUGARCANE
PLANTERS INC.,
BINALBAGAN-
ISABELA PLANTERS
ASSOCIATION, INC.,
ASOCIACION DE
AGRICULTORES DE LA
CARLOTA, LA
CASTELLANA y
PONTEVEDRA, INC.,
DONEDCO PLANTERS
ASSOCIATION INC.,
ARMANDO GUSTILO,
ENRIQUE ROJAS,
ALFREDO
MONTELIBANO, JR.,
PABLO SOLA, JOSE
MONTALVO, VICENTE
GUSTILO, JOSEPH
MARANON, ROBERTO
CUENCA, JOSE
SICANGCO,
FLORENCIO ALONSO,
MIGUEL GATUSLAO,
PEDRO YULO,
MARINO RUBIN and
BENJAMIN BAUTISTA,
respondents.
San Juan, Africa,
Gonzales & San Agustin
Law Offices for private
respondents.

FERIA, J.:
Petitioner, Newsweek,
Inc., a foreign corporation
licensed to do business in
the Philippines, in this
special action for
certiorari, prohibition
with preliminary
injunction, seeks to annul
the decision of the
Intermediate Appellate
Court dated December 17,
1982 sustaining the Order
of the then Court of First
Instance of Bacolod City
which denied petitioner's
Motion to Dismiss the
complaint for libel filed by
private respondents (Civil
Case No. 15812), and the
Resolution dated March
10, 1983 which denied its
Motion for
Reconsideration.
It appears that on March
5, 1981, private
respondents, incorporated
associations of sugarcane
planters in Negros
Occidental claiming to
have 8,500 members and
several individual sugar
planters, filed Civil Case
No. 15812 in their own
behalf and/or as a class
suit in behalf of all
sugarcane planters in the
province of Negros
Occidental, against
petitioner and two of
petitioners' non-resident
correspondents/reporters
Fred Bruning and Barry
Came. The complaint
alleged that petitioner and
the other defendants
committed libel against
them by the publication of
the article "An Island of
Fear" in the February 23,
1981 issue of petitioner's
weekly news magazine
Newsweek. The article
supposedly portrayed the
island province of Negros
Occidental as a place
dominated by big
landowners or sugarcane
planters who not only
exploited the
impoverished and
underpaid sugarcane
workers/laborers, but also
brutalized and killed them
with imprunity.
Complainants therein
alleged that said article,
taken as a whole, showed
a deliberate and malicious
use of falsehood, slanted
presentation and/or
misrepresentation of facts
intended to put them
(sugarcane planters) in
bad light, expose them to
public ridicule, discredit
and humiliation here in
the Philippines and
abroad, and make them
objects of hatred,
contempt and hostility of
their agricultural workers
and of the public in
general. They prayed that
defendants be ordered to
pay them PlM as actual
and compensatory
damages, and such
amounts for moral,
exemplary and corrective
damages as the court may
determine, plus expenses
of litigation, attorney's
fees and costs of suit. A
photo copy of the article
was attached to the
complaint.
On November 5, 1981,
petitioner filed a motion
to dismiss on the grounds
that (1) the printed article
sued upon is not
actionable in fact and in
law; and (2) the complaint
is bereft of allegations that
state, much less support a
cause of action. It pointed
out the non-libelous
nature of the article and,
consequently, the failure
of the complaint to state a
cause of action. Private
respondents filed an
Opposition to the motion
to dismiss and petitioner
filed a reply.
On March 17, 1982, the
trial court denied the
motion to dismiss, stating
that the grounds on which
the motion to dismiss are
predicated are not
indubitable as the
complaint on its face
states a valid cause of
action; and the question
as to whether the printed
article sued upon its
actionable or not is a
matter of evidence.
Petitioner's motion for
reconsideration was
denied on May 28, 1982.
On June 18, 1982,
petitioner filed a petition
for certiorari with
respondent Court (CA-G.
R. No. 14406) seeking the
annulment of the
aforecited trial court's
Orders for having been
issued with such a grave
abuse of discretion as
amounting to lack of
jurisdiction and praying
for the dismissal of the
complaint for failure to
state a cause of action.
As earlier stated,
respondent Court
affirmed the trial court's
Orders in a Decision
dated December 17, 1982
and ordered the case to be
tried on the merits on the
grounds that -(1) the
complaint contains
allegations of fact which
called for the presentation
of evidence; and (2)
certiorari under Rule 65
cannot be made to
substitute for an appeal
where an appeal would lie
at a proper time.
Subsequently, on March
10, 1983, the respondent
Court denied petitioner's
Motion for
Reconsideration of the
aforesaid decision, hence
this petition.
The proper remedy which
petitioner should have
taken from the decision of
respondent Court is an
appeal by certiorari under
Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court and not the special
civil action of certiorari
and prohibition under
Rule 65 of said Rules.
However, since the
petition was filed on time
within fifteen days from
notice of the Resolution
denying the motion for
reconsideration, we shall
treat the same as a
petition for review on
certiorari. The two (2)
issues raised in the
petition are: (1) whether
or not the private
respondents' complaint
failed to state a cause of
action; and (2) whether or
not the petition for
certiorari and prohibition
is proper to question the
denial of a motion to
dismiss for failure to state
a cause of action.
First, petitioner argues
that private respondents'
complaint failed to state a
cause of action because
the complaint made no
allegation that anything
contained in the article
complained of regarding
sugarcane planters
referred specifically to
any one of the private
respondents; that libel can
be committed only against
individual reputation; and
that in cases where libel is
claimed to have been
directed at a group, there
is actionable defamation
only if the libel can be
said to reach beyond the
mere collectivity to do
damage to a specific,
individual group
member's reputation.
We agree with petitioner.
In the case of Corpus vs.
Cuaderno, Sr. (16 SCRA
807) this Court ruled that
"in order to maintain a
libel suit, it is essential
that the victim be
identifiable (People vs.
Monton, L-16772,
November 30, 1962),
although it is not
necessary that he be
named (19 A.L.R. 116)."
In an earlier case, this
Court declared that" ...
defamatory matter which
does not reveal the
Identity of the person
upon whom the
imputation is cast, affords
no ground of action unless
it be shown that the
readers of the libel could
have Identified the
personality of the
individual defamed."
(Kunkle vs. Cablenews-
American and Lyons 42
Phil. 760).
This principle has been
recognized to be of vital
importance, especially
where a group or class of
persons, as in the case at
bar, claim to have been
defamed, for it is evident
that the larger the
collectivity, the more
difficult it is for the
individual member to
prove that the defamatory
remarks apply to him.
(Cf. 70 ALR 2d. 1384).
In the case of Uy Tioco vs.
Yang Shu Wen , 32 Phil.
624, this Court held as
follows:
Defamatory remarks
directed at a class
or group of persons
in general language
only, are not
actionable by
individuals
composing the
class or group
unless the
statements are
sweeping; and it is
very probable that
even then no action
would lie where the
body is composed
of so large a
number of persons
that common sense
would tell those to
whom the
publication was
made that there was
room for persons
connected with the
body to pursue an
upright and law
abiding course and
that it would be
unreasonable and
absurd to condemn
all because of the
actions of a part.
(supra p. 628).
It is evident from the
above ruling that where
the defamation is
alleged to have been
directed at a group or
class, it is essential
that the statement must
be so sweeping or all-
embracing as to apply
to every individual in
that group or class, or
sufficiently specific so
that each individual in
the class or group can
prove that the
defamatory statement
specifically pointed to
him, so that he can
bring the action
separately, if need be.
We note that private
respondents filed a
"class suit" in
representation of all
the 8,500 sugarcane
planters of Negros
Occidental. Petitioner
disagrees and argues
that the absence of any
actionable basis in the
complaint cannot be
cured by the filing of a
class suit on behalf of
the aforesaid sugar
planters.
We find petitioner's
contention meritorious.
The case at bar is not a
class suit. It is not a
case where one or
more may sue for the
benefit of all (Mathay
vs. Consolidated Bank
and Trust Company, 58
SCRA 559) or where the
representation of class
interest affected by the
judgment or decree is
indispensable to make
each member of the
class an actual party
(Borlaza vs. Polistico,
47 Phil. 348). We have
here a case where each
of the plaintiffs has a
separate and distinct
reputation in the
community. They do
not have a common or
general interest in the
subject matter of the
controversy.
The disputed portion of
the article which refers
to plaintiff Sola and
which was claimed to
be libelous never
singled out plaintiff
Sola as a sugar planter.
The news report merely
stated that the victim
had been arrested by
members of a special
police unit brought into
the area by Pablo Sola,
the mayor of
Kabankalan. Hence, the
report, referring as it
does to an official act
performed by an
elective public official,
is within the realm of
privilege and protected
by the constitutional
guarantees of free
speech and press.
The article further
stated that Sola and the
commander of the
special police unit were
arrested. The Court
takes judicial notice of
this fact. (People vs.
Sola, 103 SCRA 393.)
The second issue to be
resolved here is
whether or not the
special civil action of
certiorari or prohibition
is available to
petitioner whose
motion to dismiss the
complaint and
subsequent motion for
reconsideration were
denied.
As a general rule, an
order denying a motion
to dismiss is merely
interlocutory and
cannot be subject of
appeal until final
judgment or order is
rendered. (Sec. 2 of
Rule 4 1). The ordinary
procedure to be
followed in such a case
is to file an answer, go
to trial and if the
decision is adverse,
reiterate the issue on
appeal from the final
judgment. The same
rule applies to an order
denying a motion to
quash, except that
instead of filing an
answer a plea is
entered and no appeal
lies from a judgment of
acquittal.
This general rule is
subject to certain
exceptions. If the court,
in denying the motion
to dismiss or motion to
quash, acts without or
in excess of
jurisdiction or with
grave abuse of
discretion, then
certiorari or prohibition
lies. The reason is that
it would be unfair to
require the defendant
or accused to undergo
the ordeal and expense
of a trial if the court
has no jurisdiction over
the subject matter or
offense, or is not the
court of proper venue,
or if the denial of the
motion to dismiss or
motion to quash is
made with grave abuse
of discretion or a
whimsical and
capricious exercise of
judgment. In such
cases, the ordinary
remedy of appeal
cannot be plain and
adequate. The
following are a few
examples of the
exceptions to the
general rule.
In De Jesus vs. Garcia
(19 SCRA 554), upon
the denial of a motion
to dismiss based on
lack of jurisdiction over
the subject matter, this
Court granted the
petition for certiorari
and prohibition against
the City Court of Manila
and directed the
respondent court to
dismiss the case.
In Lopez vs. City Judge
(18 SCRA 616), upon
the denial of a motion
to quash based on lack
of jurisdiction over the
offense, this Court
granted the petition for
prohibition and
enjoined the
respondent court from
further proceeding in
the case.
In Enriquez vs.
Macadaeg (84 Phil.
674), upon the denial of
a motion to dismiss
based on improper
venue, this Court
granted the petition for
prohibition and
enjoined the
respondent judge from
taking cognizance of
the case except to
dismiss the same.
In Manalo vs. Mariano
(69 SCRA 80), upon the
denial of a motion to
dismiss based on bar
by prior judgment, this
Court granted the
petition for certiorari
and directed the
respondent judge to
dismiss the case.
In Yuviengco vs.
Dacuycuy (105 SCRA
668), upon the denial of
a motion to dismiss
based on the Statute of
Frauds, this Court
granted the petition for
certiorari and
dismissed the
amended complaint.
In Tacas vs. Cariaso (72
SCRA 527), this Court
granted the petition for
certiorari after the
motion to quash based
on double jeopardy
was denied by
respondent judge and
ordered him to desist
from further action in
the criminal case
except to dismiss the
same.
In People vs. Ramos
(83 SCRA 11), the order
denying the motion to
quash based on
prescription was set
aside on certiorari and
the criminal case was
dismissed by this
Court.
Respondent Court
correctly stated the
general rule and its
exceptions. However, it
ruled that none of the
exceptions is present
in the case at bar and
that the case appears
complex and
complicated,
necessitating a full-
blown trial to get to the
bottom of the
controversy.
Petitioner's motion to
dismiss is based on the
ground that the
complaint states no
cause of action against
it by pointing out the
non-libelous nature of
the article sued upon.
There is no need of a
trial in view of the
conclusion of this
Court that the article in
question is not
libelous. The specific
allegation in the
complaint, to the effect
that the article
attributed to the
sugarcane planters the
deaths and
brutalization of
sugarcane workers, is
not borne out by a
perusal of the actual
text.
The complaint contains
a recital of the
favorable working
conditions of the
agricultural workers in
the sugar industry and
the various
foundations and
programs supported by
planters' associations
for the benefit of their
workers. Undoubtedly,
the statements in the
article in question are
sweeping and
exaggerated; but,
paraphrasing the ruling
in the Uy Tioco case
above quoted, it would
be unreasonable and
absurd to condemn the
majority of the
sugarcane planters,
who have at heart the
welfare of their
workers, because of
the actions of a part.
Nonetheless, articles
such as the one in
question may also
serve to prick the
consciences of those
who have but are not
doing anything or
enough for those who
do not have.
On the other hand,
petitioner would do
well to heed the
admonition of the
President to media that
they should check the
sources of their
information to ensure
the publication of the
truth. Freedom of the
press, like all
freedoms, should be
exercised with
responsibility.
WHEREFORE, the
decision of the
Intermediate Appellate
Court is reversed and
the complaint in Civil
Case No. 15812 of the
Court of First Instance
of Negros Occidental is
dismissed, without
pronouncement as to
costs.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 76565
November 9, 1988
BULLETIN
PUBLISHING
CORPORATION,
represented by its
President, MARTIN
ISIDRO and its
Publisher, APOLONIO
BATALLA, BEN F.
RODRIGUEZ, FRED J.
REYES, JAMIL MAIDAN
FLORES and JOHN
DOES, petitioners,
vs.
HON. JUDGE
EDILBERTO NOEL, in
his capacity as
Presiding Judge of
Branch VIII of the
Regional Trial Court,
12th Judicial Region
with station in Marawi
City, ATTY.
DIMATIMPOS
MINDALANO, ATTY.
MANGORSI A.
MINDALANO, SHIEK
EDRES MINDALANO,
SULTAN GUINAR
MINDALANO, FAROUK
CALIPA MINDALANO,
SULTAN MAHADI
MINDALANO, SULTAN
KHALID MINDALANO,
SULTAN MA-AMOR
MINDALANO, DR.
TAHER MINDALANO,
DATU MAGUIDALA
MINDALANO, SOBAIDA
MAGUMPARA VDA. DE
MINDALANO, RAISHA
MINDALANO
MANDANGAN, ATTY.
KIMAL M. SALACOP,
DATU KAMAR M.
MINDALANO, MAYOR
RASLANI MINDALANO,
VICE-MAYOR ALIDADI
A. MINDALANO, ENG.
RASHDI A.
MINDALANO, MRS.
PAISHA MINDALANO
AGUAM, DATU AZIS
MINDALANO AGUAM,
MRS. MOOMINA
MINDALANO OMAR,
DATU AMINOLA
MINDALANO OMAR, in
behalf of the Mindalano
Clan, respondents.
Siguion Reyna,
Montecillo and
Ongsiako for
petitioners.
Kimal M. Salacop,
Mahadi Pimping,
Dimatimpos Mindalano,
Mangorsi Mindalano,
Linang Mandangan,
Abdul S. Aguam and
Dagoroan Q.
Macarambon for
private respondents.

FELICIANO, J.:
On 3 July 1986 the
twenty-one (21) private
respondents (plaintiffs
below), claiming to be
the nearest relatives of
the late Amir
Mindalano, suing on
their own behalf and on
behalf of the entire
Mindalano clan of
Mindanao, filed a
Complaint 1 for
damages (docketed as
Civil Case No. 81-86)
before Branch 8 of the
Regional Trial Court of
Marawi City charging
petitioners with libel.
Private respondents'
action was anchored
on a feature article
written by Jamil Maidan
Flores entitled "A
Changing of the
Guard," which
appeared in the 22
June 1986 issue of
Philippine Panorama, a
publication of
petitioner Bulletin
Publishing
Corporation. In
particular, exception
was taken to the
following excerpt:
The division of
Lanao into Sur and
Norte in 1959 only
emphasized the
feudal nature of
Maranaw politics.
Talk of Lanao
politics and you find
yourself confined to
a small circle of the
Alonto, Dimaporo,
Dimakuta, Dianalan,
Lucman families
and a few more.
These are big, royal
families. If you are a
Maranaw with
aspirations for
political leadership,
you better be a
certified bona fide
member of one or
several of these
clans.
xxx xxx xxx
About the only time
that one who was
not of any royal
house became a
leader of
consequence in the
province was during
the American era
when the late Amir
Mindalano held
some sway. That
was because
Mindalano had the
advantage of
having lived with an
American family
and was therefore
fluent and literate in
English. But as
soon as the datus
woke up to the
blessings of the
transplanted
American public
school system, as
soon as they could
speak and read and
write in English,
political leadership
again became
virtually their
exclusive domain.
There must be some
irony in that. 2
(Emphasis
supplied)
Private respondents
alleged in their
complaint that,
contrary to the above
portion of the article,
the Mindalanos "belong
to no less than four (4)
of the 16 Royal Houses
of Lanao del Sur."
Private respondents
likewise objected to the
statement that the late
Amir Mindalano, grand
patriarch of the
Mindalano clan, had
lived with an American
family, a statement
which, they alleged,
apart from being
absolutely false, "has a
distinct repugnant
connotation in Maranao
society." Contending
finally that petitioners
had with malice
inflicted "so much
damage upon the
social standing of the
plaintiffs" as to
"irreparably injure" the
Mindalano name and
reputation, private
respondents
interposed a claim for
the award of moral and
exemplary damages,
attorney's fees, and
litigation expenses, all
in the aggregate
amount of
P2,350,000.00.
Reacting to the
complaint, petitioners
filed on 6 August 1986
a Motion to Dismiss 3
urging that (a) venue
had been improperly
laid, (b) the complaint
failed to state a cause
of action, and (c) the
complainants lacked
the capacity to bring
the suit. In an Order 4
dated 30 October 1986,
however, respondent
Judge denied the
Motion to Dismiss and
directed petitioners
(defendants below) to
file their answer to the
complaint.
In the present Petition
for certiorari and
Prohibition, petitioners
assail the 30 October
1986 order of
respondent Judge,
reiterating basically the
arguments raised in
their Motion to Dismiss
filed with the trial court.
On 4 December 1986,
the court issued a
Temporary Restraining
Order enjoining
respondent Judge from
conducting further
proceedings in Civil
Case No. 81-86. 5
Petitioners and private
respondents have
since then filed
responsive pleadings.
On the question of
venue raised by
petitioners, paragraph
2 of Article 360 of the
Revised Penal Code, as
amended by Republic
Act No. 4363, provides
in part:
The criminal and
civil action for
damages in cases
of written
defamations, as
provided for in this
Chapter, shall be
filed simultaneously
or separately with
the court of first
instance (now
Regional Trial
Court) of the
province or city
where the libelous
article was printed
and first published
or where any of the
offended parties
actually resides at
the time of the
commission of the
offense ...
(Emphasis
supplied)
The law specifically
designates as proper
venue in criminal and
civil actions for libel
the Regional Trial Court
of the province or city
"where any of the
offended parties
actually resides at the
time of the commission
of the offense;" upon
the other hand, the
record of this case
shows that at the time
the allegedly libelous
Panorama article was
published, nine (9) of
the twenty-one (21)
complainants (private
respondents) were then
residents of Marawi
City. Filing of the
complaint (Civil Case
No. 81-86) with the
Marawi Regional Trial
Court thus did not
result in any
procedural infirmity as
would vitiate the
proceedings
undertaken there.
Petitioners' argument
that venue was
improperly laid simply
because the twelve (12)
other complainants
were non-residents of
Marawi at the time of
publication is,
therefore, without
merit. It is to the benefit
of petitioners that the
twelve (12) non-
residents of Marawi
chose to go along with
the suit in Marawi
instead of commencing
a separate suit
elsewhere. The Court is
not, however, to be
understood as saying
that the 21
complainants, if
residents in 21 different
places, could have
sued in 21 differing
courts and still claim
that venue had been
properly laid in each
instance. Such a
situation may well
indicate a pattern of
harassment of the
defendant newspaper
which could justify
intervention on the part
of this Court to avoid a
potential paralysing
effect upon the
exercise of press
freedom.
Coming now to the
principal issue of
whether or not the
complaint states a valid
cause of action, the
Court finds that libel
has not here been
committed; the civil
suit for damages must
fail.
It is axiomatic in
actions for damages
for libel that the
published work alleged
to contain libelous
material must be
examined and viewed
6
as a whole. We have
accordingly examined
in its entirety the
subject article "A
Changing of the Guard"
which is in essence a
popular essay on the
general nature and
character of Mindanao
politics and the recent
emergence of a new
political leader in the
province of Lanao del
Sur. We note firstly that
the essay is not
focused on the late
Amir Mindalano nor his
family. Save in the
excerpts complained
about and quoted
above, the name of the
Mindalano family or
clan is not mentioned
or alluded to in the
essay. The
Identification of Amir
Mindalano is thus
merely illustrative or
incidental in the course
of the development of
the theme of the article.
The language utilized
by the article in general
and the above excerpts
in particular appears
simply declaratory or
expository in character,
matter-of-fact and
unemotional in tone
and tenor. No
derogatory or derisive
implications or
nuances appear
detectable at all,
however closely one
may scrutinize the
above excerpts. We
find in the quoted
excerpts no evidence
of malevolent intent
either on the part of the
author or the publisher
of the article here
involved.
Private respondents,
however, argue that
petitioners had in the
article falsely and
maliciously ascribed to
the late Amir
Mindalano, and to the
rest of the extended
Mindalano family, an
inferior status or
condition—i.e., that of
not belonging to any of
the royal Muslim
houses of the Lanao
provinces which
respondents assert
substantially injured
their good family name
and reputation. In their
complaint before the
trial court, private
respondents asserted
their affiliations with at
least five (5) royal
houses:
11. The late Amir
Mindalano, as well
as plaintiffs from
their heritage from
the Mindalano
genealogy, belong
to no less than four
(4) of the 16 royal
Houses of Lanao
del Sur, namely; (1)
the Sultanate of
Ramain; (2) the
Sultanate of Butig,
(3) the Sultanate of
Masiu and (4) the
Sultanate of
Bayang. They also
are distinctly
favored for being
scions of the Royal
House of Noron of
Kapatagan, Lanao
del Norte. Noron
was the sister of
Pagayawan and
Diwan of the Royal
Houses of
Pagayawan and
Bayang
respectively;
12. Intermarrying
with the Mindalano
clan, who are also
represented in this
suit, are scions of
the other royal
families of the two
Lanao provinces, all
of whom, together
with the nominal
plaintiffs and the
others represented
in this suit, have
been provoked to
wrath, exposed to
public contempt
and ridicule, and
their social standing
and reputation
besmirched and
humiliated by the
defamation subject
matter of this suit
that blackened and
vilified the memory
of their departed
patriarch, the late
Amir Mindalano;
xxx xxx xxx 7

It is also claimed by
private respondents
that the excerpts
objected to falsely
asserted that—
the late Amir
Mindalano has
acquired his fluency
and literacy by
living with an
American family
[which] has a
distinct repugnant
connotation in
Maranao society in
that during the
American time the
royal families of
Lanao hid their
children from the
public school
system and the
Americans. Only the
lowliest commoners
were sent to school
or allowed to live
with any American
family. Amir
Manalao Mindalano
has received his
education at the
Lumbatan High
School, was a
student leader
thereat, and has not
lived with an
American family. 8

The Court takes judicial


notice of the fact that
titles of royalty or
nobility have been
maintained and appear
to be accorded some
value among some
members of certain
cultural groups in our
society. At the same
time, such titles of
royalty or nobility are
not generally
recognized or
acknowledged socially
in the national
community. No legal
rights or privileges are
contingent upon grant
or possession of a title
of nobility or royalty
and the Constitution
expressly forbids the
enactment of any law
conferring such a title.
9 Thus, the status of a
commoner carries with
it no legal disability.
Assuming for present
purposes only the
falsity (in the sense of
being inaccurate or
non-factual) of the
description in the
Panorama article of
Amir Mindalano as not
belonging to a royal
house, we believe that
such a description
cannot in this day and
age be regarded as
defamatory, as an
imputation of "a vice or
defect," or as tending
to cause "dishonor,
discredit or contempt,"
or to "blacken the
memory of one who is
dead" 10 in the eyes of
an average person in
our community. The
above excerpts
complained of do not
disparage or deprecate
Maranao titles of
royalty or nobility,
neither do they hold up
to scorn and disrespect
those who, Maranao or
not, are commoners.
There is here no visible
effort on the part of
petitioners to cast
contempt and ridicule
upon an institution or
tradition of members of
a cultural or ethnic
minority group, an
"indigenous cultural
community" in the
language of the
Constitution, whose
traditions and
institutions the State is
required to respect and
protect. 11 What private
respondents assert is
defamatory is the
simple failure to
ascribe to the late Amir
membership in a
Maranao royal house,
the ascription, in other
words, to him of a
factual condition
shared by the
overwhelming majority
of the population of
this country, both
Maranao and non-
Maranao, Muslim and
non-Muslim. In a
community like ours
which is by
constitutional principle
both republican in
character 12 and
egalitarian in
inspiration, 13 such an
ascription, whether
correct or not, cannot
be defamatory.
The Court is similarly
unable to see anything
defamatory in a
statement (even if
inaccurate) that private
respondents' patriarch
once lived with an
American family. Since
the early decades of
this century a great
many young Filipinos
(including Muslim
Filipinos) have been
going abroad for study
and many of them
share the experience of
staying with a foreign
family, improving their
language skills and
learning something
about the culture and
mores of the people.
Once more, from the
viewpoint of the
average person in our
present day
community, the
statement complained
of is not defamatory.
Private respondents'
feelings and
sensibilities have
obviously been hurt
and offended by the
reference to Amir
Mindalano as a
commoner and as
having lived for a time
with an American
family. Personal hurt or
embarassment or
offense, even if real, is
not, however,
automatically
equivalent to
defamation. The law
against defamation
protects one's interest
in acquiring, retaining
and enjoying a
reputation "as good as
one's character and
conduct warrant," 14 in
the community and it is
to community
standards-not personal
or family standards-
that a court must refer
in evaluating a
publication claimed to
be defamatory.
The term "community"
may of course be
drawn as narrowly or
as broadly as the user
of the term and his
purposes may require.
The reason why for
purposes of the law on
libel the more general
meaning of community
must be adopted in the
ascertainment of
relevant standards, is
rooted deep in our
constitutional law. That
reason relates to the
fundamental public
interest in the
protection and
promotion of free
speech and
expression, an interest
shared by all members
of the body politic and
territorial community. A
newspaper especially
one national in reach
and coverage, should
be free to report on
events and
developments in which
the public has a
legitimate interest,
wherever they may take
place within the nation
and as well in the
outside world, with
minimum fear of being
hauled to court by one
group or another
(however defined in
scope) on criminal or
civil charges for libel,
so long as the
newspaper respects
and keeps within the
standards of morality
and civility prevailing
within the general
community. Any other
rule on defamation, in a
national community
like ours with many,
diverse cultural, social,
religious and other
groupings, is likely to
produce an
unwholesome "chilling
effect" upon the
constitutionally
protected operations of
the press and other
instruments of
information and
education. 15

Applying the foregoing


to the facts of the
present Petition, we
note that the subject
matter of the article "A
Changing of the Guard"
is clearly one of
legitimate public
interest. As pointed out
earlier, petitioners in
the exercise of freedom
of speech and of the
press have kept well
within the generally
accepted moral and
civil standards of the
community as to what
may be characterized
as defamatory. The
complaint in the court
below failed to state a
cause of action and
should have been
dismissed by
respondent Judge. We
hold that such
dismissal, in the
circumstances of this
case, including in
particular the nature of
the basic issue here at
stake, may be
compelled by certiorari
and prohibition. 16 This
conclusion renders the
third and last issue
raised by petitioners
quite moot.
WHEREFORE, the
Petition for certiorari
and Prohibition is
GRANTED. The Order
of respondent Judge
dated 30 October 1986
in Civil Case No. 81-86
denying the
defendants' Motion to
Dismiss is SET ASIDE,
and respondent Judge
is hereby DIRECTED to
dismiss Case No. 81-86
forthwith upon notice
hereof. The Temporary
Restraining Order
issued by this Court on
4 December 1986 is
made permanent. No
pronouncement as to
costs.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 146848
October 17, 2006
GMA NETWORK, INC.
(formerly known as
"REPUBLIC
BROADCASTING
SYSTEM, INC.") and
REY VIDAL, petitioners,
vs.
JESUS G. BUSTOS,
M.D., TEODORA R.
OCAMPO, M.D.,
VICTOR V.
BUENCAMINO, M.D.,
CESAR F.
VILLAFUERTE, M.D.,
ARTEMIO T.
ORDINARIO, M.D., and
VIRGILIO C. BASILIO,
M.D., respondents.

DECISION

GARCIA, J.:
Assailed and sought to be
set aside in this petition
forreview 1 under Rule 45
of the Rules of Court is
the decision 2 dated
January 25, 2001 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CV No. 52240
which reversed and set
aside an earlier decision 3
of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Makati
City, Branch 64, in Civil
Case No. 88-1952, an
action for damages
thereat commenced by the
herein respondents Jesus
G. Bustos, Teodora R.
Ocampo, Victor V.
Buencamino, Cesar F.
Villafuerte, Artemio T.
Ordinario and Virgilio C.
Basilio, all physicians by
profession and the former
chairman and members,
respectively, of the Board
of Medicine, against the
herein petitioners GMA
Network, Inc. (formerly
Republic Broadcasting
System, Inc.) and Rey
Vidal.
The facts:
In August 1987, the Board
of Medicine of the
Professional Regulation
Commission (PRC)
conducted the physicians’
licensure examinations.
Out of the total two
thousand eight hundred
thirty-five (2,835)
examinees who took the
examinations, nine
hundred forty-one (941)
failed.
On February 10, 1988, a
certain Abello and over
two hundred other
unsuccessful examinees
filed a Petition for
Mandamus before the
RTC of Manila to compel
the PRC and the board of
medical examiners to re-
check and reevaluate the
test papers. As alleged,
mistakes in the counting
of the total scores and
erroneous checking of
answers to test questions
vitiated the results of the
examinations.
As news writer and
reporter of petitioner
GMA Network, Inc.
assigned to gather news
from courts, among other
beats, its co-petitioner Rey
Vidal covered the filing of
the mandamus petition.
After securing a copy of
the petition, Vidal
composed and narrated
the news coverage for the
ten o’clock evening news
edition of GMA’s Channel
7 Headline News.
The text of the news
report, 4 as drafted and
narrated by Vidal and
which GMA Network, Inc.
aired and televised on
February 10, 1988, runs:
Some 227 examinees in
the last August
Physician Licensure
Examinations today
asked the Manila [RTC]
to compel the [PRC]
and the Medical Board
of Examiners to recheck
the August 1987 test
papers. The petitioners
[examinees] today went
to the Presiding Judge
to also ask for a special
raffling of the case
considering that the
next physicians
examinations have been
scheduled for February
[1988] …. They said that
the gross, massive,
haphazard, whimsical
and capricious checking
that must have been
going on for years
should now be stopped
once and for all.
The last examination
was conducted last
August … at the PRC
central offices, the Far
Eastern University and
the Araullo High School,
the exams on multiple
choice or matching type
involve 12 subjects
including general
medicine, biochemistry,
surgery and obstetrics
and gynecology.
21 schools participated
in the examination
represented by some
2,835 medical student
graduates, 1,894 passed
and 141 failed.
The results of the exams
were released December
9 and were published
the following day in
metropolitan papers last
years (sic).
A group of failing
examinees enlisted the
help of the Offices of the
President and the Vice
President and as a result
were allowed by PRC …
to obtain the official set
of test questions. The
students then
researched … and
produced the key
answers to the key
questions.
The petitioners were
also allowed to see their
own test papers, most of
them copying the papers
….
With these copies, they
were able to match the
scores and the correct
answers in the
examinations. They
found that the errors in
checking were so
material that they
actually lowered the
scores that formed the
individual ratings of the
examinees in the various
subjects.
Examples of the
discrepancies are to be
found in identical
answers being rated as
incorrect in one
examinee’s paper but
correct in another.
There is also the case of
two different answers
being rated as correct.
There are indications of
wrong counting of total
scores per subject so
that the totals are either
short by two up to four
points.
Finally, there are raw
scores that have been
transmuted incorrectly
so that a passing score
was rendered a failure.
The petitioners said that
the haphazard and
whimsical and
capricious checking
should now be stopped
once and for all. They
said that the nine years
formal studies and the
one year internship not
to mention the expenses
and the blood, sweat,
and tears of the students
and their families will
have been rendered
nugatory. The
petitioners also noted
that Com. Francia had
promised last January
12 to rectify the errors
in the checking and yet
they have not received
the appropriate action
promised whereas the
next exams have been
set for Feb. 20, 21, 27
and 28. (Words in
bracket added.)
Stung by what they claim
to be a false, malicious
and one-sided report filed
and narrated by a
remorseless reporter, the
herein respondents
instituted on September
21, 1988 with the RTC of
Makati City a damage
suit against Vidal and
GMA Network, Inc., then
known as the Republic
Broadcasting System, Inc.
In their complaint, 5
docketed as Civil Case No.
88-1952 and raffled to
Branch 64 of the court,
the respondents, as
plaintiffs a quo, alleged,
among other things, that
then defendants Vidal and
GMA Network, Inc., in
reckless disregard for the
truth, defamed them by
word of mouth and
simultaneous visual
presentation on GMA
Network, Inc.’s Channel
7. They added that, as a
measure to make a
forceful impact on their
audience, the defendants
made use of an unrelated
and old footage (showing
physicians wearing black
armbands) to make it
appear that other doctors
were supporting and
sympathizing with the
complaining unsuccessful
examinees. According to
the plaintiffs, the video
footage in question
actually related to a 1982
demonstration staged by
doctors and personnel of
the Philippine General
Hospital (PGH) regarding
wage and economic
dispute with hospital
management.
In their answer with
counterclaim, the
defendants denied any
wrongdoing, maintaining
that their February 10,
1988 late evening telecast
on the filing of the
mandamus petition was
contextually a concise and
objective narration of a
matter of public concern.
They also alleged that the
press freedom guarantee
covered the telecast in
question, undertaken as it
was to inform, without
malice, the viewing public
on the conduct of public
officials. And vis-à-vis the
particular allegation on
the film footages of the
PGH demonstration,
defendants tagged such
footages as "neutral."
Pressing the point,
defendants hastened to
add that the footages were
accompanied, when
shown, by an appropriate
voiceover, thus negating
the idea conjured by the
plaintiffs to create an
effect beyond an
obligation to report.
In the course of trial, the
plaintiffs presented
testimonial evidence to
prove their allegations
about the Vidal report
having exposed them, as
professionals, to hatred,
contempt and ridicule.
And in a bid to establish
malice and bad faith on
the part of the defendants,
the plaintiffs adduced
evidence tending to show
that the former exerted no
effort toward presenting
their (plaintiffs’) side in
subsequent telecasts.
In a decision 6 dated
October 17, 1995, the trial
court found for the herein
petitioners, as defendants
a quo, on the postulate
that the Vidal telecast
report in question is
privileged. Dispositively,
the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view
of the foregoing
considerations,
plaintiffs’ complaint for
damages against
defendants Republic
Broadcasting System
Incorporated and Rey
Vidal is hereby
DISMISSED.
The defendants’
counterclaim for
damages is likewise
dismissed.
SO ORDERED.
Following the denial of
their motion for
reconsideration, 7 herein
respondents went on
appeal to the CA in CA-
G.R. CV No. 52240. As
stated at the threshold
hereof, the appellate
8
court, in its decision of
January 25, 2001,
reversed and set aside that
of the trial court, to wit:
WHEREFORE, the
Decision dated October
17, 1995 is hereby
REVERSED and SET
ASIDE and [petitioners]
are hereby ordered to
pay, in solidum, the
following:
a) the amount of
P100,000.00 for each of
the [respondents] as
moral damages;
b) the amount of
P100,000.00 for each of
the [respondents] as
exemplary damages;
c) the amount of
P20,000.00 as attorney’s
fee;
d) and cost of suit.
SO ORDERED. (Words
in brackets added.)
Hence, petitioners’
present recourse,
submitting for the Court’s
consideration the
following questions:
A.
WHETHER OR NOT
THE CA, AFTER
DECLARING THE
NEWS TELECAST OF
FEBRUARY 10, 1988
AS QUALIFIEDLY
PRIVILEGED
COMMUNICATION,
COMMITTED
REVERSIBLE ERROR
AND ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION IN
INJECTING ACTUAL
MALICE TO THE
NEWS TELECAST OF
FEBRUARY 10, 1988
JUST SO THAT
RESPONDENT
BOARD OF
MEDICINE COULD
RECOVER MORAL
AND EXEMPLARY
DAMAGES.
B.
WHETHER OR NOT
THE CA COMMITTED
REVERSIBLE ERROR
AND ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION IN
COMPLETELY
REJECTING
PETITIONERS’
EVIDENCE THAT
THE CHARACTER
GENERATED WORDS
‘FILE VIDEO’ WERE
INDICATED ON
SCREEN TO
IDENTIFY THE
SHOWING OF THE
OLD FILM FOOTAGE
IN THE NEWS
TELECAST OF
FEBRUARY 10, 1988.
C.
WHETHER OR NOT
THE CA COMMITTED
REVERSIBLE ERROR
… IN IMPUTING
MALICE UPON
PETITIONERS FOR
NOT PRESENTING A
TAPE COPY OF THE
NEWS TELECAST OF
FEBRUARY 10, 1988
ON THE
GRATUITOUS
DECLARATION THAT
A TAPE COPY COULD
BE EASILY SECURED
FROM THE
NATIONAL
TELECOMMUNICATI
ONS COMMISSION
(NTC) WHICH
ALLEGEDLY KEEPS
FILE COPIES OF ALL
SHOWS FOR A
CERTAIN PERIOD OF
TIME.
D.
WHETHER OR NOT
RESPONDENT
BOARD OF
MEDICINE
CHAIRMAN AND
MEMBERS THEREOF,
WHO NEVER
QUESTIONED THE
COURT OF APPEALS’
DECISION DATED
JANUARY 25, 2001 IN
A SEPARATE AND
INDEPENDENT
PETITION BEFORE
THE HONORABLE
COURT, CAN ASK
FOR AN INCREASED
AWARD IN DAMAGES
FROM THE
HONORABLE COURT
UNDER THEIR
COMMENT DATED 7
MAY 2001.
Summed up, the issues
tendered in this petition
boil down to the
following: (1) whether or
not the televised news
report in question on the
filing of the petition for
mandamus against the
respondents is libelous;
and (2) whether or not the
insertion of the old film
footage depicting the
doctors and personnel of
PGH in their 1982
demonstrations
constitutes malice to
warrant the award of
damages to the
respondents.
It bears to stress, at the
outset, that the trial court
found the disputed news
report not actionable
under the law on libel,
hence no damages may be
recovered. Wrote that
court:
This Court finds the
telecast of February 10,
1988 aired over Channel
7 by [petitioner] Rey
Vidal as a straight news
report of the acts and
conduct of the members
of the Medical Board of
Examiners who are
public officers, devoid of
comment or remarks,
and thus privileged, and
recognized under the
1987 Constitution.
A comparative
examination of the
telecast of the disputed
news report with the
Petition for Mandamus
entitled Abello, et al., vs.
Professional Regulation
Commission … filed
before the [RTC] by the
medical examinees
reveals that the disputed
news report is but a
narration of the
allegations contained in
and circumstances
attending the filing of
the said Petition for
Mandamus. In the case
of Cuenco vs. Cuenco,
G.R. No. L-29560,
March 31, 1976 …, [it
was] … held that the
correct rule is that a fair
and true report of a
complaint filed in Court
without remarks nor
comments even before
an answer is filed or a
decision promulgated
should be covered by
the privilege. xxx. This
Court adopts the ruling
[in Cuenco] to support
its finding of fact that
the disputed news
report consists merely of
a summary of the
allegations in the said
Petition for Mandamus,
filed by the medical
examinees, thus the
same falls within the
protected ambit of
privileged
communication.
xxx xxx xxx
Thus, [petitioners], in
consideration of the
foregoing observations
… cannot be held liable
for damages claimed by
[respondents] for simply
bringing to fore
information on subjects
of public concern. 9
(Words in brackets
supplied.)
The CA, too, regarded the
text of the news telecast as
not libelous and as a
qualifiedly privileged
communication, "[it
having been] merely lifted
or quoted from the
contents and allegations in
the said petition [for
10
mandamus]." But unlike
the trial court, the CA saw
fit to award damages to
the respondents, it being
its posture that the
insertion to the news
telecast of the unrelated
1982 PGH picket film
footage is evidence of
malice. Without quite
saying so, the CA viewed
the footage insertion as
giving a televised news
report otherwise
privileged a libelous
dimension. In the precise
words of the appellate
court:
While it is the duty of
the media to report to
the public matters of
public concern and
interest, the report
should be a fair,
accurate and true report
of the proceedings. The
subject telecast failed in
this aspect. The
insertion of the film
footage showing the
doctors’ demonstration
at the PGH several
times during the news
report on the petition
filed by the board
flunkers undoubtedly
created an impression
that the said
demonstration was
related to the filing of
the case by the board
flunkers. The insertion
of the film footage
without the words ‘file
video’, and which had
no connection
whatsoever to the
petition, was done with
the knowledge of the
[petitioners], thus, in
wanton and reckless
disregard of their duty
to the public to render a
fair, accurate and true
report of the same.
xxx xxx xxx
The findings of malice
on the part of the
[petitioners] should not
be construed as a
censure to the freedom
of the press since their
right to render a news
on matters of public
concern was not the
issue but rather the
misrepresentation made
when they inserted a
film footage of the
doctors’ demonstration
which created a wrong
impression of the real
situation.
Unquestionably, the
news reporting,
interview and the
showing of [the
flunkers] filing the case
were fair reporting. At
this point, that would
have been sufficient to
inform the public of
what really happened.
However, for reasons
only known to
[petitioners], they
inserted the questioned
film footage which had
no relation to the news
being reported. There is
no other conclusion that
there was motive to
create an impression
that the issue also
affected the doctors
which forced them to
demonstrate. xxx.
(Words in brackets
supplied).
With the view we take of
this case, given the
parallel unchallenged
determination of the two
courts below that what
petitioner Vidal reported
was privileged, the award
of damages is untenable
as it is paradoxical.
An award of damages
under the premises
presupposes the
commission of an act
amounting to defamatory
imputation or libel, which,
in turn, presupposes
malice. Libel is the public
and malicious imputation
to another of a
discreditable act or
condition tending to cause
the dishonor, discredit, or
contempt of a natural or
juridical person. 11
Liability for libel attaches
present the following
elements: (a) an allegation
or imputation of a
discreditable act or
condition concerning
another; (b) publication of
the imputation; (c)
identity of the person
defamed; and (d)
existence ofmalice. 12

Malice or ill-will in libel


must either be proven
(malice in fact) or may be
taken for granted in view
of the grossness of the
imputation (malice in
law). Malice, as we wrote
in Brillante v. Court of
13
Appeals, is a term used
to indicate the fact that
the offender is prompted
by personal ill-will or
spite and speaks not in
response to duty, but
merely to injure the
reputation of the person
defamed. Malice implies
an intention to do ulterior
and unjustifiable harm. It
is present when it is
shown that the author of
the libelous or defamatory
remarks made the same
with knowledge that it
was false or with reckless
disregard as to the truth
or falsity thereof.
In the instant case, there
can be no quibbling that
what petitioner
corporation aired in its
Channel 7 in the
February 10, 1988 late
evening newscast was
basically a narration of
the contents of the
aforementioned petition
for mandamus. This is
borne by the records of
the case and was likewise
the finding of the trial
court. And the narration
had for its subject nothing
more than the purported
mistakes in paper
checking and the errors in
the counting and tallying
of the scores in the August
1987 physicians’ licensure
examinations attributable
to the then chairman and
members of the Board of
Medicine.
Conceding hypothetically
that some failing
specifically against the
respondents had been
ascribed in that news
telecast, it bears to stress
that not all imputations of
some discreditable act or
omission, if there be any,
are considered malicious
thus supplying the ground
for actionable libel. For,
although every
defamatory imputation is
presumed to be malicious,
the presumption does not
exist in matters
considered privileged. In
fine, the privilege destroys
the presumption.
Privileged matters may be
absolute or qualified. 14
Absolutely privileged
matters are not actionable
regardless of the existence
of malice in fact. In
absolutely privileged
communications, the mala
or bona fides of the author
is of no moment as the
occasion provides an
absolute bar to the action.
Examples of these are
speeches or debates made
by Congressmen or
Senators in the Congress
or in any of its
committees. On the other
hand, in qualifiedly or
conditionally privileged
communications, the
freedom from liability for
an otherwise defamatory
utterance is conditioned
on the absence of express
malice or malice in fact.
The second kind of
privilege, in fine, renders
the writer or author
susceptible to a suit or
finding of libel provided
the prosecution
established the presence
of bad faith or malice in
fact. To this genre belongs
"private communications"
and "fair and true report
without any comments or
remarks" falling under
and described as
exceptions in Article 354
of the Revised Penal
Code. 15

To be sure, the
enumeration under the
aforecited Article 354 is
not an exclusive list of
conditional privilege
communications as the
constitutional guarantee
of freedom of the speech
and of the press has
expanded the privilege to
include fair commentaries
on matters of public
interest. 16
.
In the case at bench, the
news telecast in question
clearly falls under the
second kind of privileged
matter, the same being the
product of a simple
narration of the
allegations set forth in the
mandamus petition of
examinees Abello, et al.,
devoid of any comment or
remark. Both the CA and
the trial court in fact
found the narration to be
without accompanying
distortive or defamatory
comments or remarks.
What at bottom
petitioners Vidal and
GMA Network, Inc., then
did was simply to inform
the public of the
mandamus petition filed
against the respondent
doctors who were
admittedly the then
chairman and members of
the Board of Medicine. It
was clearly within
petitioner Vidal’s job as
news writer and reporter
assigned to cover
government institutions to
keep the public abreast of
recent developments
therein. It must be
reiterated that the courts
a quo had determined the
news report in question to
be qualifiedly privileged
communication protected
under the 1987
Constitution.
This brings us to the more
important question of
whether or not the
complaining respondents,
in their effort to remove
the protection accorded
by the privilege,
succeeded in establishing
ill-will and malice on the
part of the petitioners in
their televised
presentation of the news
report in dispute, thus
committing libel.
The CA, adopting the
respondents’ line on the
matter of malice, resolved
the question in the
affirmative. As the CA
noted, the insertion of an
old film footage showing
doctors wearing black
armbands and
demonstrating at the
PGH, without the
accompanying character-
generated words "file
video," created the
impression that other
doctors were supporting
and sympathizing with the
unsuccessful examinees.
The Court disagrees.
Contrary to the CA’s
findings, the identifying
character-generated
words "file video"
appeared to have been
superimposed on screen,
doubtless to disabuse the
minds of televiewers of the
idea that a particular
footage is current. In the
words of the trial court,
the phrase "file video"
was "indicated on screen
purposely to prevent
misrepresentation so as
not to confuse the viewing
17
public." The trial court
added the observation
that "the use of file
footage in TV news
reporting is a standard
18
practice." At any rate,
the absence of the
accompanying character-
generated words "file
video" would not change
the legal situation insofar
as the privileged nature of
the audio-video
publication complained of
is concerned. For, with the
view we take of the state
of things, the video
footage was not libel in
disguise; standing without
accompanying sounds or
voices, it was meaningless,
or, at least, conveyed
nothing derogatory in
nature.
And lest it be overlooked,
personal hurt or
embarrassment or
offense, even if real, is not
automatically equivalent
to defamation. The law
against defamation
protects one’s interest in
acquiring, retaining and
enjoying a reputation "as
good as one’s character
and conduct warrant" in
19
the community. Clearly
then, it is the community,
not personal standards,
which shall be taken into
account in evaluating any
allegations of libel and
any claims for damages on
account thereof.
So it is that in Bulletin
Publishing Corp. v. Noel, 20
we held:
The term "community"
may of course be drawn
as narrowly or as
broadly as the user of
the term and his
purposes may require.
The reason why for
purposes of the law on
libel the more general
meaning of community
must be adopted in the
ascertainment of
relevant standards, is
rooted deep in our
constitutional law. That
reason relates to the
fundamental public
interest in the protection
and promotion of free
speech and expression,
an interest shared by all
members of the body
politic and territorial
community. A
newspaper … should be
free to report on events
and developments in
which the public has a
legitimate interest,
wherever they may take
place within the nation
and as well in the
outside world, with
minimum fear of being
hauled to court by one
group or another
(however defined in
scope) on criminal or
civil charges for libel, so
long as the newspaper
respects and keep within
the general community.
Any other rule on
defamation, in a
national community like
ours with many, diverse
cultural, social, religious
an other groupings, is
likely to produce an
unwholesome "chilling
effect" upon the
constitutionally
protected operations of
the press and other
instruments of
information and
education.
It cannot be over-
emphasized furthermore
that the showing of the
1982 film footage,
assuming for argument
that it contained
demeaning features, was
actually accompanied or
simultaneously voiced
over by the narration of
the news report lifted
from the filing of the
mandamus petition. As
aptly put by the
petitioners without
controversion from the
respondents, there was
nothing in the news report
to indicate an intent to
utilize such old footages to
create another news story
beyond what was
reported. 21

To be sure, actual malice,


as a concept in libel,
cannot plausibly be
deduced from the fact of
petitioners having dubbed
in their February 10, 1988
telecast an old unrelated
video footage. As it were,
nothing in the said
footage, be it taken in
isolation or in relation to
the narrated Vidal report,
can be viewed as
reputation impeaching; it
did not contain an attack,
let alone a false one, on
the honesty, character or
integrity or like personal
qualities of any of the
respondents, who were
not even named or
specifically identified in
the telecast. It has been
said that if the matter is
not per se libelous, malice
cannot be inferred from
the mere fact of
publication. 22 And as
records tend to indicate,
the petitioners,
particularly Vidal, do not
personally know or had
dealings with any of the
respondents. The Court
thus perceives no reason
or motive on the part of
either petitioner for
malice. The respondents
too had failed to
substantiate by
preponderant evidence
that petitioners were
animated by a desire to
inflict them unjustifiable
harm or at least to place
them in a discomforting
light.
Surely, the petitioners’
failure, perhaps even their
indisposition, to obtain
and telecast the
respondents’ side is not an
indicia of malice. Even the
CA, by remaining mum
on this point, agrees with
this proposition and with
the petitioners’ proffered
defense on the matter. As
petitioner Vidal said while
on the witness box, his
business as a reporter is to
report what the public has
the right to know, not to
comment on news and
events, obviously taking a
cue from the
pronouncement of the US
Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals in New York
23
Times Co. v. Connor that
"a reporter … may rely on
statements made by a
single source even though
they reflect only one side
of the story without fear of
libel prosecution by a
public official."
What is more, none of the
herein respondents ever
made a claim or pretence
that he or all of them
collectively was or were
among the demonstrating
PGH doctors in the 1982
video footage. It thus
puzzles the mind how they
could claim to have been
besmirched by the use of
the same video in the
subject news telecast.
Given the foregoing
considerations, the
propriety of the award by
the CA of moral and
exemplary damages need
not detain us long. Suffice
it to state that moral
damages may be
recovered only if the
existence of the factual
and legal bases for the
claim and their causal
connection to the acts
complained of are
satisfactorily proven. 24
Sadly, the required
quantum of proof is
miserably wanting in this
case. This is as it should
be. For, moral damages,
albeit incapable of
pecuniary estimation, are
designed not to impose a
penalty but to compensate
one for injury sustained
and actual damages
suffered. 25 Exemplary
damages, on the other
hand, may only be
awarded if the claimants,
respondents in this case,
were able to establish
their right to moral,
temperate, liquidated or
compensatory damages. 26
Not being entitled to
moral damages, neither
may the respondents lay
claim for exemplary
damages.
In all, the Court holds and
so rules that the subject
news report was clearly a
fair and true report, a
simple narration of the
allegations contained in
and circumstances
surrounding the filing by
the unsuccessful
examinees of the petition
for mandamus before the
court, and made without
malice. Thus, we find the
petitioners entitled to the
protection and immunity
of the rule on privileged
matters under Article 354
(2) of the Revised Penal
Code. It follows that they
too cannot be held liable
for damages sought by the
respondents, who, during
the period material, were
holding public office.
We close this ponencia
with the following oft-
quoted excerpts from an
old but still very much
applicable holding of the
Court on how public men
should deport themselves
in the face of criticism:
The interest of society
and the maintenance of
good government
demand a full discussion
of public affairs.
Complete liberty to
comment on the conduct
of public men is a
scalpel in the case of
free speech. The sharp
incision of its probe
relieves the abscesses of
officialdom. Men in
public life may suffer
under a hostile and
unjust accusation; the
wound can be assuaged
by the balm of clear
conscience. A public
officer must not be too
thin-skinned with
reference to comment
upon his officials acts.
Only thus can the
intelligence and dignity
of the individual be
exalted. xxx. 27

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the


petition is GRANTED.
Accordingly, the assailed
decision dated January
25, 2001 of the appellate
court in CA-G.R. CV No.
52240 is REVERSED and
SET ASIDE and that of
the trial court is
REINSTATED and
AFFIRMED in toto.
No pronouncement as to
costs.

SLANDER
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. Nos. L-21528 and L-
21529 March 28,
1969
ROSAURO REYES,
petitioner,
vs.
THE PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES,
respondent.
Jose F. Mañacop for
petitioner.
Office of the Solicitor
General Arturo A. Alafriz,
Assistant Solicitor General
Pacifico P. de Castro and
Solicitor Antonio M.
Martinez for respondent.
MAKALINTAL, J.:
This case is before us on
appeal by certiorari, from
the decision of the Court
of Appeals affirming that
a the municipal court of
Cavite City, convicting
Rosauro Reyes of the
crimes of grave threats
and grave oral
defamation, and
sentencing him, in the
first case (Criminal Case
No. 2594), to four (4)
months and ten (10) days
of arresto mayor and to
pay a fine of P300, with
subsidiary imprisonment
in case of insolvency; and
in the second case
(Criminal Case No. 2595),
to an indeterminate
penalty of from four (4)
months of arresto mayor
to one (1) year and eight
(8) months of prison
correccional and to pay
Agustin Hallare the sum
of P800 as moral
damages, with costs in
both cases.
The petitioner herein,
Rosauro Reyes, was a
former civilian employee
of the Navy Exchange,
Sangley Point, Cavite
City, whose services were
terminated on May 6,
1961. In the afternoon of
June 6, 1961, he led a
group of about 20 to 30
persons in a
demonstration staged in
front of the main gate of
the United States Naval
Station at Sangley Point.
They carried placards
bearing statements such
as, "Agustin, mamatay
ka;" "To, alla boss con
Nolan;" "Frank do not be
a common funk;"
"Agustin, mamamatay ka
rin"; "Agustin, Nolan for
you;" "Agustin alla bos
con Nolan;" "Agustin,
dillega, el dia di quida rin
bo chiquiting;" and
others. The base
commander, Capt.
McAllister, called up Col.
Patricia Monzon, who as
Philippine Military
Liaison Officer at Sangley
Point was in charge of
preserving harmonious
relations between
personnel of the naval
station and the civilian
population of Cavite City.
Capt. McAllister
requested Col. Monzon to
join him at the main gate
of the base to meet the
demonstrators. Col.
Monzon went to the place
and talked to Rosauro
Reyes and one Luis
Buenaventura upon
learning that the
demonstration was not
directed against the naval
station but against
Agustin Hallare and a
certain Frank Nolan for
their having allegedly
caused the dismissal of
Rosauro Reyes from the
Navy Exchange, Col.
Monzon suggested to
them to demonstrate in
front of Hallare's
residence, but they told
him that they would like
the people in the station to
know how they felt about
Hallare and Nolan. They
assured him, however,
that they did not intend to
use violence, as "they just
wanted to blow off
steam."
At that time Agustin
Hallare was in his office
inside the naval station.
When he learned about
the demonstration he
became apprehensive
about his safety, so he
sought Col. Monzon's
protection. The colonel
thereupon escorted
Hallare, his brother, and
another person in going
out of the station, using
his (Monzon's) car for the
purpose. Once outside,
Col. Monzon purpose
slowed down to
accommodate the request
of Reyes. He told Hallare
to take a good look at the
demonstrators and at the
placards they were
carrying. When the
demonstrators saw
Hallare they shouted,
"Mabuhay si Agustin."
Then they boarded their
jeeps and followed the car.
One jeep overtook passed
the car while the other to
led behind. After Hallare
and his companions had
alighted in front of his
residence at 967 Burgos
St., Cavite City, Col.
Monzon sped away.
The three jeeps carrying
the demonstrators parked
in front of Hallare's
residence after having
gone by it twice Rosauro
Reyes got off his jeep and
posted himself at the gate,
and with his right hand
inside his pocket and his
left holding the gate-door,
he shouted repeatedly,
"Agustin, putang ina mo.
Agustin, mawawala ka.
Agustin lumabas ka,
papatayin kita."
Thereafter, he boarded his
jeep and the motorcade
left the premises.
Meanwhile, Hallare,
frightened by the
demeanor of Reyes and
the other demonstrators,
stayed inside the
house.lâwphi1.ñet
On the basis of the
foregoing events Rosauro
Reyes was charged on
July 24 and 25, 1961 with
grave threats and grave
oral defamation,
respectively (Criminal
Cases Nos. 2594 and 2595,
Municipal Court of Cavite
City), as follows;
The undersigned
City Fiscal of the
City of Cavite
accuses Rosauro
Reyes of the crime of
Grave Threats, as
defined by Article
282 of the Revised
Penal Code and
penalized by
paragraph 2 of the
same Article,
committed as
follows:
That on or about
June 6, 1961, in the
City of Cavite,
Republic of the
Philippines and
within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
above named
accused, did then and
there, willfully,
unlawfully and
feloniously, orally
threaten to kill, one
Agustin Hallare.
Contrary to
law.
Cavite City,
July 24, 1961.
DEOGRACIAS S.
SOLIS
City Fiscal
BY: (SGD.) BUEN N.
GUTIERREZ

Special Counsel
The undersigned
complainant, after
being duly sworn to
an oath in
accordance with law,
accuses Rosauro
Reyes of the crime of
Grave Oral
Defamation, as
defined and
penalized by Article
358 of the Revised
Penal Code,
committed as
follows:
That on or about
June 6, 1961, in the
City of Cavite,
Republic of the
Philippines and
within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
above named
accused, without any
justifiable motive but
with the intention to
cause dishonor,
discredit and
contempt to the
undersigned
complainant, in the
presence of and
within hearing of
several persons, did
then and there,
willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously utter
to the undersigned
complainant the
following insulting
and serious
defamatory remarks,
to wit: "AGUSIN,
PUTANG INA MO".
which if translated
into English are as
follows: "Agustin,
Your mother is a
whore."
Contrary to
law.
Cavite City,
July 25, 1961.
(SGD.) AGUSTIN
HALLARE
Complainant
Subscribed and
sworn to before me
this. 25th day of July,
1961, in the City of
Cavite, Philippines.
(SGD.) BUEN N.
GUTIERREZ
Special Counsel

Upon arraignment, the


accused pleaded not guilty
to both charges and the
cases were set for joint
trial. On the day of the
hearing the prosecution
moved to amend the
information in Criminal
Case No. 2594 for grave
threats by deleting
therefrom the word
"orally". The defense
counsel objected to the
motion on the ground that
the accused had already
been arraigned on the
original information and
that the amendment
"would affect materially
the interest of the
accused." Nevertheless,
the amendment was
allowed and the joint trial
proceeded.
From the judgment of
conviction the accused
appeal to the Court of
Appeals, which returned a
verdict of affirmance. A
motion for
reconsideration having
been denied, the accused
brought this appeal by
certiorari.
Petitioner avers that the
Court of Appeals erred:
(1) in affirming the
proceedings in the lower
court allowing the
substantial amendment of
the information for grave
threats after petitioner
had been arraigned on the
original information; (2)
in proceeding with the
trial of the case of grave
threats without first
requiring petitioner to
enter his plea on the
amended information; (3)
in convicting petitioner of
both offenses when he
could legally be convicted
of only one offense,
thereby putting him in
jeopardy of being
penalized twice for the
same offense; (4) in
convicting petitioner of
grave threats when the
evidence adduced and
considered by the court
tend to establish the
offense of light threats
only; and (5) in convicting
petitioner of grave oral
defamation when the
evidence tend to establish
that of simple slander
only.
On the first error
assigned, the rule is that
after the accused has
pleaded the information
may be amended as to all
matters of form by leave
and at the discretion of
the court when the same
can be done without
prejudice to the rights of
the defendant (Section 13,
Rule 110, New Rules of
Court). Amendments that
touch upon matters of
substance cannot be
permitted after the plea is
entered.
After a careful
consideration of the
original information, we
find that all the elements
of the crime of grave
threats as defined in
Article 282 1 of the
Revised Penal Code and
penalized by its
paragraph 2 were alleged
therein namely: (1) that
the offender threatened
another person with the
infliction upon his person
of a wrong; (2) that such
wrong amounted to a
crime; and (3) that the
threat was not subject to a
condition. Hence,
petitioner could have been
convicted thereunder. It is
to be noted that under the
aforementioned provision
the particular manner in
which the threat is made
not a qualifying
ingredient of the offense,
such that the deletion of
the word "orally" did not
affect the nature and
essence of the crime as
charged originally.
Neither did it change the
basic theory of the
prosecution that the
accused threatened to kill
Rosauro Reyes so as to
require the petitioner to
undergo any material
change or modification in
his defense. Contrary to
his claim, made with the
concurrence of the
Solicitor General,
petitioner was not exposed
after the amendment to
the danger of conviction
under paragraph 1 of
Article 282, which
provides for a different
penalty, since there was
no allegation in the
amended information that
the threat was made
subject to a condition. In
our view the deletion of
the word "orally" was
effected in order to make
the information
conformable to the
evidence to be presented
during the trial. It was
merely a formal
amendment which in no
way prejudiced
petitioner's rights.
Petitioner next contends
that even assuming that
the amendment was
properly allowed, the trial
court committed a
reversible error in
proceeding with the trial
on the merits without first
requiring him to enter his
plea to the amended
information. Considering,
however, that the
amendment was not
substantial, no second
plea was necessary at all.
The third and fourth
issues are related and will
be discussed together.
Petitioner avers that the
appellate court erred in
affirming the decision of
the trial court erred in
affirming him of grave
threats and of grave oral
defamation when he could
legally be convicted of
only one offense, and in
convicting him of grave
threats at all when the
evidence adduced and
considered by the court
indicates the commission
of light threats only.
The demonstration led
by petitioner Agustin
Hallare in front of the
main gate of the naval
station; the fact that
placards with threatening
statements were carried
by the demonstrators;
their persistence in
trailing Hallare in a
motorcade up to his
residence; and the
demonstration conducted
in front thereof,
culminating in repeated
threats flung by petitioner
in a loud voice, give rise to
only one conclusion: that
the threats were made
"with the deliberate
purpose of creating in the
mind of the person
threatened the belief that
the threat would be
carried into effect." 2
Indeed, Hallare became so
apprehensive of his safety
that he sought the
protection of Col.
Monzon, who had to
escort him home, wherein
he stayed while the
demonstration was going
on. It cannot be denied
that the threats were
made deliberately and not
merely in a temporary fit
of anger, motivated as
they were by the dismissal
of petitioner one month
before the incident. We,
therefore, hold that the
appellate court was
correct in upholding
petitioner's conviction for
the offense of grave
threats.
The charge of oral
defamation stemmed from
the utterance of the
words, "Agustin, putang
ina mo". This is a
common enough
expression in the dialect
that is often employed, not
really to slander but
rather to express anger or
displeasure. It is seldom, if
ever, taken in its literal
sense by the hearer, that
is, as a reflection on the
virtues of a mother. In the
instant case, it should be
viewed as part of the
threats voiced by
appellant against Agustin
Hallare, evidently to make
the same more emphatic.
In the case of Yebra, G.R.
No. L-14348, Sept. 30,
1960, this Court said:
The letter containing
the allegedly libelous
remarks is more
threatening than
libelous and the intent
to threaten is the
principal aim and object
to the letter. The libelous
remarks contained in
the letter, if so they be
considered, are merely
preparatory remarks
culminating in the final
threat. In other words,
the libelous remarks
express the beat of
passion which engulfs
the writer of the letter,
which heat of passion in
the latter part of the
letter culminates into a
threat. This is the more
important and serious
offense committed by
the accused. Under the
circumstances the Court
believes, after the study
of the whole letter, that
the offense committed
therein is clearly and
principally that of
threats and that the
statements therein
derogatory to the person
named do not constitute
an independent crime of
libel, for which the
writer maybe
prosecuted separately
from the threats and
which should be
considered as part of the
more important offense
of threats.
The foregoing ruling
applies with equal force to
the facts of the present
case.
WHEREFORE, the
decision appealed from is
hereby reversed and
petitioner is acquitted,
with costs de oficio,
insofar as Criminal Case
No. 2595 of the Court a
quo (for oral defamation)
is concerned; and
affirmed with respect to
Criminal Case No. 2594,
for grave threats, with
costs against petitioner.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes,
J.B.L., Dizon, Zaldivar,
Santos, Sanchez,
Fernando, Teehankee and
Barredo, JJ., concur.
Castro and Capistrano,
JJ., took no part.
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. Nos. L-32836-37
May 3, 1989
DANIEL VICTORIO and
EXEQUIEL VICTORIO,
petitioners,
vs.
THE HON. COURT OF
APPEALS and THE
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES,
respondents.
Ellis F. Jacoba and
Jose Ma. Abola for
petitioners.
The Office of the
Solicitor General for
respondents.
BIDIN, J.:
This is a petition for
review by certiorari of
the decision** of the
Court of Appeals dated
July 27, 1970 in
Criminal Cases Nos.
09243 and 09244
entitled "People of the
Philippines v. Exequiel
Victorio and Daniel
Victoria", affirming the
lower court's judgment
of conviction of the
petitioners for grave
oral defamation with
modification of
sentence and the
appellate court's
resolution dated
October 28, 1970
denying herein
petitioners' motion for
rehearing and/or new
trial as well as their
urgent motion for
reconsideration filed
on October 19, 1970.
The dispositive portion
of the appealed
decision reads as
follows:
IN VIEW HEREOF,
with the
modification that
appellants are
sentenced to the
indeterminate
penalty of one (1)
month and one (1)
day of arresto
mayor to one (1)
year and one (1) day
of prision
correccional, the
judgment appealed
from is affirmed in
all respects with
costs." (as
amended by the
resolution dated
August 7, 1970,
Rollo, p. 19).
The facts of the case
taken from the decision
of the Court of Appeals
are as follows:
Atty. Vivencio Ruiz, a
practising lawyer since
1926, one time Justice
of the Peace and
member of the
Provincial Board of
Nueva Ecija, a
professor of law and
for sometime president
of the Nueva Ecija Bar
Association, has been
the attorney of
petitioner Exequiel
Victorio in certain civil
cases from 1953 until
1963 when petitioner
decided to hire the
services of another
lawyer, Atty. L. Castillo
in place of Atty. Ruiz
and his collaborator
Judge Alfredo Guiang,
then Municipal Judge
of Guimba, Nueva
Ecija. Exequiel Victorio
and his wife afterwards
filed an administrative
charge against Judge
Guiang which was
assigned to Judge
Ramon Avancena,
Presiding Judge of the
Court of First Instance
of Nueva Ecija, for
investigation and
disbarment
proceedings against
Atty. Ruiz, then
pending in the Office of
the Solicitor General.
Petitioner Daniel
Victorio is the son of
Exequiel Victoria.
During the hearing of
the administrative case
on that particular
afternoon of January 9,
1964 in the sala of
Judge Avanceña, Atty.
Castillo, counsel of the
Victorios, presented an
urgent motion to
disqualify Judge
Avanceña to hear the
administrative case,
who apparently taken
aback, called down
Atty. Castillo and gave
him a lecture, while
Atty. Ruiz, as counsel
for respondent Judge
Guiang in the
administrative case,
moved that Atty.
Castillo be cited for
contempt of court.
After the said hearing
and while the two
accused were later
walking down the
corridor leading to the
stairs from the sala of
Judge Avanceña, the
incident that gave rise
to the criminal
prosecution for oral
defamation took place.
Petitioners were
overheard by Emiliano
Manuzon, a policeman
of Cabanatuan City and
one of the witnesses
for the prosecution, to
have uttered the
following defamatory
words:
Daniel:
"Kayabang ng
putang-inang
abogadong Ruiz
na iyan, tunaw
naman ang utak,
suwapang at
estapador."
Exequiel:
"Lastog ta
ukinnanata
abogado Ruiz,
suwapang,
estapador,
paltogak ta
ukinana ta
abogado Ruiz,
suwapang ken
estapador."
(Translated in
Tagalog as,
Mayabang yang
putang-inang
abogado Ruiz na
iyan, babarilin
ko ang putang
inang iyan,
suwapang at
estapador.")
On February 8, 1964,
Daniel Victorio and
Exequiel Victorio were
separately charged
with the crime of
Serious Oral
Defamation in the City
Court of Cabanatuan
City, in Identical
informations (Original
Record, p. 1) indicting
the accused as follows:
That on or about the
9th day of January,
1964, in the City of
Cabanatuan,
Republic of the
Philippines, and
within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court,
the abovenamed
accused moved by
resentment and
hatred which he
entertained against
the person of one
Vivencio Ruiz, and
in order to put him
into public ridicule,
discredit, and
contempt, did then
and there willfully,
unlawfully, and
feloniously, and in
the the presence of
many persons,
uttered the
following
defamatory words,
to wit:
LASTOG TA
UKINANATA
ABOGADO RUIZ,
SWAPANG,
ESTAPADOR,
PALTOGAK TA
UKINNANATA. 1
and other words of
similar import to the
great
embarrassment of
said Vivencio Ruiz.
Contrary to law.
Both accused pleaded
not guilty upon
arraignment (Original
Record, p. 10; p. 4) and
the cases were tried
jointly.
After trial, both
accused were
convicted in a decision
of the the City Court
dated April 10, 1968,***
the dispositive portion
of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the
prosecution having
proved the guilt of
the accused beyond
reasonable doubt,
the accused,
Exequiel Victoria is
hereby found guilty
of Grave Oral
Defamation and is
hereby sentenced to
suffer an
imprisonment of SIX
(6) MONTHS & ONE
(1) DAY, and the
accused Daniel
Victorio is hereby
sentenced to suffer
an imprisonment of
(6) MONTHS and
ONE (1) DAY and to
pay the costs
proportionately.
SO ORDERED.
(Original Record, p.
179).
Their motion for
reconsideration and/or
modification of
judgment (Original
Record, p. 181) filed on
the same date was
denied in an order of
the trial court dated
September 25, 1968
(Original Record, p.
189). On appeal, the
Court of Appeals, on
October 9, 1968
(Original Record, p.
201) affirmed the
decision of the trial
court but modified the
penalty to the
indeterminate sentence
of one (1) month and
one (1) day of arresto
mayor as minimum to
one (1) year and one (1)
day of prisIon
correccional as
maximum (Resolution
of August 7, 1970;
Rollo, p. 19). The
motion for hearing
and/or reconsideration
filed on October 15,
1970 as well as their
urgent motion for
reconsideration filed
on October 19, 1970
were denied by the
Court of Appeals in its
resolution dated
October 28, 1970. Thus,
this petition for review
by certiorari filed with
the Court on December
18, 1970 (Rollo, P. 9).
On February 11, 1971,
the Court resolved to
deny the petition for
insufficient showing
that findings of facts
are unsupported by
substantial evidence
and for lack of merit
(Rollo, p. 43). However,
in its Resolution of
April 15, 1971, the
Court, considering the
grounds of the motion
of petitioners for
reconsideration of the
resolution of February
11, 1971, resolved to:
(a) reconsider said
resolution; and (b) to
give due course to the
petition for review on
certiorari of the
decision of the Court of
Appeals (Rollo, p. 56).
On October 15, 1974,
counsel for petitioners-
appellants filed a
motion to dismiss G.R.
No. L-32836 (Criminal
Case No. 9469 of the
City Court of
Cabanatuan City and
CA-G.R. No. 09243-44-
CR), manifesting that
the petitioner-appellant
Exequiel Victorio died
on April 14, 1974 at
Guimba, Nueva Ecija
where he was then
residing (Rollo, p. 131).
There being no
objection interposed by
the Solicitor General in
his comment filed with
the Court on December
11, 1974, the death of
petitioner-appellant
having occurred prior
to the rendition of final
judgment (Rollo,p.
154), the Court
resolved on December
18, 1974 to dismiss L-
32836-37 only insofar
as appellant Exequiel
Victorio is concerned
(Rollo, p. 157).
The lone assignment of
error (Brief for the
Petitioners, p. 91), is as
follows:
THAT THE
HONORABLE
COURT OF
APPEALS ERRED
IN FINDING THAT
THE WORDS
UTTERED BY THE
PETITIONERS IN
CONVERSATION
WITH EACH OTHER
AND WHILE IN THE
HEAT OF ANGER
CONSTITUTE
GRAVE ORAL
DEFAMATION
INSTEAD OF
MERELY LIGHT
ORAL
DEFAMATION.
In effect, counsel for
petitioners abandoned
all the assignments of
error in the Court of
Appeals, confined
himself to only one,
and practically
admitted that the
accused committed the
crime charged
although of a lesser
degree that of slight
oral defamation only,
instead of grave oral
defamation.
There is no dispute
regarding the main
facts that had given
rise to the present
case. Appellant-
petitioner in this
instant appeal, does
not deny that the
accused, on the
occasion in question,
uttered the defamatory
words alleged in the
information. Thus, the
sole issue that the
Court has to resolve is
whether or not the
defamatory words
constitute serious oral
defamation or simply
slight oral defamation.
The term oral
defamation or slander
as now understood,
has been defined as
the speaking of base
and defamatory words
which tend to prejudice
another in his
reputation, office,
trade, business or
means of livelihood (33
Am. Jur. 39). Article
358, Revised Penal
Code, spells out the
demarcation line,
between serious and
slight oral defamations,
as follows: "Oral
defamation shall be
punished by arresto
mayor in its maximum
period to prision
correccional in its
minimum period, if it is
of a serious and
insulting nature,
otherwise, the penalty
shall be arresto menor
or a fine not exceeding
200 pesos." (Balite v.
People, 18 SCRA 280
[1966]).
To determine whether
the offense committed
is serious or slight oral
defamation, the Court
adopted the following
guidelines:
. . . We are to be
guided by a
doctrine of ancient
respectability that
defamatory words
will fall under one or
the other,
depending upon, as
Viada puts it,
'...upon their sense
and grammatical
meaning judging
them separately, but
also upon the
special
circumstances of
the case,
antecedents or
relationship
between the
offended party and
the offender, which
might tend to prove
the intention of the
offender at the time:
... Balite v. People,
Ibid., quoting Viada,
Codigo Penal,
Quinta edicion,
page 494).
Thus, in the same case
cited where scurrilous
words imputed to the
offended party the
crime of estafa, the
Court ruled:
The scurrilous
words imputed to
the offended party
the crime estafa.
The language of the
indictment strikes
deep into the
character of the
victim; He 'has sold
the union; he 'has
swindled the money
of the vendees; he
'received bribe
money in the
amount of
P10,000.00 ... and
another P6,000.00';
He 'is engaged in
racketeering and
enriching himself
with the capitalists';
He 'has spent the
funds of the union
for his personal
use.'
No amount of
sophistry will take
these statements
out of the compass
of grave oral
defamation. They
are serious and
insulting. No
circumstances need
to be shown to
upgrade the
slander. . . .
In another case where
a woman of violent
temper hurled
offensive and
scurrilous epithets
including words
imputing unchastity
against a respectable
married lady and
tending to injure the
character of her young
daughters, the Court
ruled that the crime
committed was grave
slander:
The language used
by the defendant
was deliberately
applied by her to
the complainant.
The words were
uttered with evident
intent to injure
complainant, to ruin
her reputation, and
to hold her in public
contempt, for the
sake of revenge.
One who will thus
seek to impute vice
or immorality to
another, the
consequences of
which might gravely
prejudice the
reputation of the
person insulted, in
this instance
apparently an
honorable and
respectable lady
and her young
daughters, all
prominent in social
circles, deserves
little judicial
sympathy. Certainly,
it is time for the
courts to put the
stamp of their
disapproval on this
practice of vile and
loud slander. (U.S.
v. Tolosa, 37 Phil.
166 [1917]).
In a case where the
accused, a priest,
called the offended
party a gangster, in the
middle of a sermon, the
court affirmed the
conviction of the
accused for slight
slander (People v.
Arcand 68 Phil. 601
[1939]). There was no
imputation of a crime
nor a vice or immorality
in said case.
In the instant case,
appellant-petitioner
admitted having
uttered the defamatory
words against Atty.
Vivencio Ruiz. Among
others he called Atty.
Ruiz, "estapador",
which attributes to the
latter the crime of
estafa, a serious and
insulting imputation.
As stated by the Court
in Balite v. People,
supra, "no amount of
sophistry will take
these statements out of
the compass of grave
oral defamation . . . No
circumstances need to
be shown to upgrade
the slander."
Defamatory words
uttered specifically
against a lawyer when
touching on his
profession are libelous
per se. Thus, in
Kleeberg v. Sipser (191
NY 845 [1934]), it was
held that "where
statements concerning
plaintiff in his
professional capacity
as attorney are
susceptible, in their
ordinary meaning, of
such construction as
would tend to injure
him in that capacity,
they are libelous per se
and (the) complaint,
even in the absence of
allegation of special
damage, states cause
of action." Oral
statements that a
certain lawyer is
'unethical,' or a false
charge, dealing with
office, trade,
occupation, business
or profession of a
person charged, are
slanderous per se
(Kraushaar v. LaVin, 42
N.Y.S. 2d 857 [1943];
Mains v. Whiting 49 NW
559 [1891]; Greenburg
v. De Salvo, 216 So. 2d
638 [1968]).
In Pollard v. Lyon (91
US 225 [1876]), the
court there had
occasion to divide oral
slander, as a cause of
action, into several
classes, as follows:
(1) Words falsely
spoken of a person
which impute to the
party the
commission of
some criminal
offense involving
moral turpitude for
which the party, if
the charge is true,
may be indicted and
punished;
(2) Words falsely
spoken of a person
which impute that
the party is infected
with some
contagious disease,
where, if the charge
is true, it would
exclude the party
from society;
(3) Defamatory
words falsely
spoken of a person
which impute to the
party unfitness to
perform the duties
of an office or
employment, or the
want of integrity in
the discharge of the
duties of such office
or employment;
(4) Defamatory
words falsely
spoken of a party
which prejudice
such party in his or
her profession or
trade; and
(5) Defamatory
words falsely
spoken of a person,
which, though not
in themselves
actionable,
occasion the party
special damage."
In the instant case,
appellant-petitioner
imputed the crime of
estafa against a
prominent lawyer one-
time Justice of the
Peace and member of
the Provincial Board of
Nueva Ecija, a
professor of law and
for sometime a
president of the Nueva
Ecija Bar Association.
As the scurrilous
imputation strikes deep
into the character of
the victim, no special
circumstance need be
shown for the
defamatory words
uttered to be
considered grave oral
defamation Balite v.
People, supra. In
addition, the fact that
the offended party is a
lawyer, the totality of
such words as
"kayabang", "tunaw
ang utak", "swapang at
estapador", imputed
against him has the
import of charging him
with dishonesty or
improper practice in
the performance of his
duties, hence,
actionable per se.
Petitioner argues that
this Court in People v.
Doronila (40 O.G. No.
15, Supp. 11, p. 231
[1941]) and People v.
Modesto (40 O.G. No.
15, Supp. 11, p. 128
[1941]) ruled that
defamatory words
uttered in the heat of
anger could only give
rise to slight oral
defamation (Rono, p.
13).
We disagree.
An examination of the
rulings relied upon by
petitioner showed that
said cases were
decided not by this
Court but by the
respondent court.
Suffice it to say that
said decisions do not
bind this Court.
Nevertheless, the
cases adverted to by
petitioner would not in
any manner help his
cause. As pointed out
by the Solicitor
General, there was no
reason for the
petitioner to be angry
at the offended party
who was merely
performing his duties
as a lawyer in defense
of his client.
Petitioner's anger was
not lawfully caused.
(Brief for the Appellee,
p. 7). The fact that the
defamatory words were
uttered by the
petitioner without
provocation by private
respondent and taken
seriously by the latter,
renders inapplicable
the cases relied upon
by petitioner.
As a matter of fact, the
scurrilous remarks
were found by the
respondent court to
have been uttered in a
loud voice, in the
presence of at least ten
(10) persons, taken
seriously by the
offended party and
without provocation on
his part.
WHEREFORE, the
petition is Denied for
lack of merit and the
appealed decision
Affirmed in toto.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. L-57103
January 30, 1982
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff,
vs.
HON. ANTONIO A.
ORCULLO, as Acting
City Judge of Cagayan
de Oro City, and
VENIDA PERALTA alias
EDAT PERALTA,
respondents.

FERNANDEZ, J.:
This is a petition for
certiorari filed by the
City Fiscal and
Assistant City Fiscal of
Cagayan de Oro City
praying that the order
of the respondent
Judge, Hon. Antonio A.
Orcullo, dismissing
Criminal Case No.
40117 be set aside and
that said case be
ordered reinstated and
tried on the merits.
The petition alleges
that on September 4,
1978, a special counsel
in the Office of the City
Fiscal of Cagayan de
Oro City filed an
information with the
City Court of Cagayan
de Oro, Branch I,
charging the
respondent Venida
Peralta alias Edat
Peralta with oral
defamation committed
as follows:
That on or about
August 17, 1978, at
7:00 o'clock in the
evening, at
Gumamela
Extension Street,
Carmen, Cagayan
de Oro City,
Philippines, and
within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court,
the above-named
accused, with
deliberate intent to
cast undue shame,
public ridicule,
discredit, disrepute
and contempt
against one Lydia
Flores, did then and
there wilfully,
unlawfully and
feloniously speak
and shouted the
following words
towards the latter:
"Hostess ug
nangabit, bisan
unsa lang oten and
nakapaslak "; which
approximately
means in English.-
"A hostess and has
a paramour, any
kind of penis had
penetrated your
vagina", or words of
similar import,
directed to the said
Lydia Flores, in the
presence and with
the hearing of many
people, well-
knowing that what
she uttered were
not only defamatory
but downright false,
causing the
offended party by
said utterance to
suffer undue
shame, public
ridicule, disrepute,
discredit and
contempt, to the
great damage and
prejudice of the said
Lydia Flores.
Contrary to Article
358 of the Revised
Penal Code.
Cagayan de Oro
City, September 1,
1978.
(SGD)
EFRE
N L.
LAMPI
OS
Specia
l
Couns
el 1

which information was


docketed as Criminal
Case No. 40117; that on
November 3, 1978,
Criminal Case No.
40117 was set for
arraignment and the
accused- respondent
pleaded not guilty; that
on February 2, 1981,
the accused-
respondent filed a
motion to quash on the
ground that the crime
alleged constituted an
imputation of a crime
which cannot be
prosecuted de oficio;
that on February 10,
1981, the respondent
judge, Hon. Antonio A.
Orcullo, issued an
order dismissing
Criminal Case No.
40117 on the ground
that the offense alleged
in the information is a
private crime which
can be instituted or
filed only by the
offended party; that on
February 27, 1981, the
City Fiscal filed a
motion for
reconsideration of the
order dismissing
Criminal Case No.
40117; and that on
March 11, 1981, the
respondent judge
denied the motion for
reconsideration. 2

In his comment filed on


November 3, 1981, the
private respondent
contended that the
wordings "Hostess and
has a paramour, any
kind of penis had
penetrated your
vagina" are in
unequivocal terms and
can be readily
understood as
imputing to the
offended party the
commission of the act
of adultery, she being a
married woman, hence
the crime charged
consists in the
imputation of an
offense which cannot
be prosecuted de oficio
and can be brought
only upon complaint
filed by the offended
party as provided in
paragraph 5, Article 360
of the Revised Penal
Code. 3

The Solicitor General


was required to
comment on the
petition and on the
opposition of the
accused. 4

The pertinent portion of


the comment of the
Solicitor General filed
on December 18, 1981,
reads:
The main issue to
be resolved is
whether the
derogatory remarks
— "A hostess and
has a paramour, any
kind of penis had
penetrated your
vagina" — imputes
adultery or
prostitution.
Petitioner submits
that the remarks
impute prostitution
rather than adultery.
The word "hostess"
has acquired a
notorious
connotation. It has a
peculiar reference
to one who works in
nightclubs and
"misters to the
pleasures of men
for fee". The
expression "any
kind of penis had
penetrated your
vagina" definitely
describes and only
refers to the work of
a prostitute, and not
that of a mere
adulteress.
It is alleged by
accused-
respondent that the
remarks imputed
adultery, because
the word
"paramour" was
mentioned, thereby
implying
complainant to be a
married woman who
was carrying on an
affair with a man not
her husband. It
must be pointed out
that since the
information does
not allege the civil
status of
complainant as
married, she should
be presumed to be
single, and
therefore the
remarks must be
understood as
imputing
prostitution, and not
adultery. Assuming
arguendo that
complainant is
married and that the
remarks, while
imputing acts of
prostitution to her
and in effect
charged her with
adultery, the
information can still
be filed without her
complaint. The case
of People vs. Hong
Din Chu, 33 SCRA
199, 202 is in point.
As thus alleged
it is clear that,
while the
utterance in
effect also
imputed on her
the commission
of adultery, the
offended party
being a married
woman, the
disreputable
conduct she was
particularly
charged with
was the crime of
prostitution, not
adultery. And it
may be pointed
out that
prostitution and
adultery are not
one and the
same thing, the
first is a crime
against public
morals,
committed by a
woman, whether
married or not,
who, for money
or profit,
habitually
indulges in
sexual
intercourse or
lascivious
conduct,
whereas
adultery is in the
nature of a
private offense
committed by a
married woman
who shall have
sexual
intercourse with
a man not her
husband. In
short, the
essential
element in
prostitution is
not simply a
woman's
entering into
marital relations
with a man other
than her
husband, if she
happens to be
married, but the
existence of
pecuniary or
financial gain as
inducement to,
or consideration
for, that
woman's
engaging in
sexual activities.
Thus, to call a
married woman
a prostitute is
not merely to
proclaim her an
adulteress a
violator of her
marital vows: it
is to charge her
of having
committed an
offense against
public morals, of
moral
degeneracy far
exceeding that
involved in the
maintenance of
adulterous
relations.
It appearing
from the recital
of the
information that
the alleged
defamatory
remark by the
accused
specifically
imputed upon
the offended
party the
commission of
prostitution,
which is a public
crime that can
be prosecuted
de oficio, the
information filed
under the
signature of the
Assistant City
Fiscal duly
conferred
jurisdiction upon
the lower court
to try the case.
(Emphasis
supplied)
This ruling is a mere
reiteration of
previous
pronouncements
made by this
Honorable Court in
People v. Santos, 98
Phil. 11 and Mangila
v. Lantik, 30 SCRA
82. Still for another
reason, assuming
arguendo that
adultery which is a
private crime, and
prostitution which
is a public crime,
are both imputed to
complainant,
criminal action may
still be instituted
without her
complaint because
public interest,
which is always
paramount to
private interest, so
requires (People v.
Yu, 1 SCRA 199).
It must be noted
that it is only when
derogatory remarks
clearly and
categorically reflect
the elements
constituting
adultery would the
complaint for libel
by the offended
party be necessary
to commence
prosecution (People
v. Padilla, 105 Phil.
45). In this case,
however, the
derogatory remarks
of accused-
respondent, not
only do not clearly
show the elements
of adultery, but on
the contrary, such
remarks indubitably
impute the crime of
prostitution.
Therefore, the
information for libel
can be filed without
the complaint of the
offended party. 5

The submission of the


Solicitor General is well
taken. Indeed, the
words quoted in the
information are
indubitably an
imputation of the crime
of prostitution which
can be prosecuted de
oficio.
WHEREFORE, the
petition is granted, the
order dismissing
Criminal Case No.
40117 of the City Court
of Cagayan de Oro City
is set aside, and the
respondent judge, Hon.
Antonio A. Orcullo, is
ordered to reinstate
said criminal case and
to try the same on the
merits.
SO ORDERED.

INCRIMINATIN
G AN
INNOCENT
PERSON
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-20721
April 30, 1966
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-
appellant,
vs.
MARTIN ALAGAO, et
al., defendants-appellees.
Office of the Solicitor
General Arturo A. Alafriz,
Assistant Solicitor General
Antonio A. Torres and
Solicitor R. Pronove, Jr.
for plaintiff-appellant.
De Santos and Delfino for
defendants-appellees.
ZALDIVAR, J.:
This is an appeal by the
City Fiscal of Manila from
an order of the Court of
First Instance of Manila
sustaining the motion to
quash the information in
its Criminal Case No.
66655.
On October 20, 1962 the
City Fiscal of Manila filed
an information against the
defendants-appellees
charging them of having
committed the complex
crime of incriminatory
machinations through
unlawful arrest, as
follows:
That on or about the
28th day of February,
1961, in the City of
Manila, Philippines, the
said accused, being then
members of the Manila
Police Department,
conspiring and
confederating together
and helping one another,
did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously incriminate
or impute to one
Marcial Apolonio y
Santos the commission
of the crime of bribery
through unlawful arrest,
in the following manner,
to wit: the said accused,
on the aforesaid date,
without reasonable
ground therefor and for
the purpose of
delivering said Marcial
Apolonio y Santos to the
proper authorities, did
then and there willfully,
unlawfully and
feloniously arrest said
Marcial Apolonio y
Santos; that after the
said Marcial Apolonio y
Santos had been
arrested in the manner
aforestated, and while
the latter was
supposedly being
investigated by the said
accused, the said
accused did then and
there place or
commingle a marked
P1.00 bill together with
the money taken from
said Marcial Apolonio y
Santos, supposedly
given to the latter by
one Emerita Calupas de
Aresa, so that he
(Marcial Apolonio y
Santos), then an
employee of the Local
Civil Registrar's Office
of Manila, would appear
to have agreed to
perform an act not
constituting a crime, in
connection with the
performance of his
(Marcial Apolonio y
Santos') duties, which
was to expedite the
issuance of a birth
certificate, thereby
directly incriminating or
imputing to said
Marcial Apolonio y
Santos the commission
of the crime bribery.
On October 25, 1962 the
defendants, through
counsel, moved to quash
the information against
them on the grounds that
(1) the facts charged in
the information do not
constitute an offense; and
(2) the court trying the
case has no jurisdiction
over the offense charged.
Later on, the defendants
filed a supplemental
motion to quash, alleging
that the information
charges more than one
offense.
The contention of the
defense in the motion to
quash is that "... the
information would seem
to indicate that the
accused are charged with
a complex crime, that is,
the accused without
reasonable ground
arrested Marcial Apolonio
y Santos for the purpose
of incriminating him by
planting on his person a
marked P1.00 bill. We
have searched the penal
laws in vain for a crime
such as set out in the
information at bar." Then
the motion to quash
further states: "... there
would either be only the
singular crimes of
incriminatory
machinations or unlawful
arrest, or perhaps two
crimes, incriminatory
machinations and
unlawful arrest. If such
would be the case then
this Honorable Court
would not have any
jurisdiction over any
crime or crimes charged.
For certainly,
incriminatory
machinations and
unlawful arrest would
come within the
jurisdiction of the inferior
court.
The City Fiscal opposed
the motion to quash,
contending that "A
perusal of the information
will readily conclude that
it is a complex crime in
the sense that unlawful
arrest was used as a
means for incriminatory
machination." The City
Fiscal further contended
that the motion to quash
raises a question of fact
which should be raised
during the trial and not
during the stage of the
proceedings when the
allegations in the
information should be
controlling. The City
Fiscal also contended that
the crime of unlawful
arrest, being punishable
by arresto mayor and a
fine of not exceeding
P500.00, the same falls
within the jurisdiction of
the Court of First
Instance.
On November 9, 1962, the
Court of First Instance of
Manila issued an order
sustaining the motion to
quash, the pertinent
portion of which order
reads as follows:
A careful perusal of the
information quoted
above shows clearly that
it is defective. Assuming
the truth of the
allegations of the
information, the Court
is of the opinion that
there is no complex
crime involved. The
alleged unlawful arrest
committed by the
defendants cannot be
said to have been used
as a necessary means to
commit the crime of
incriminatory
machination. The latter
crime could be
committed without the
unlawful arrest. The
acts constituting the two
offenses — unlawful
arrest and
incriminatory
machination — are two
separate and
independent acts that
preclude the concept of
a complex crime. The
alleged planting of
evidence took place
while the victim was
already under
investigation, long after
the consummation of the
alleged unlawful arrest.
It is true that under an
information charging a
complex crime the
Court may convict the
defendant of two
component crimes, if the
evidence of record does
not establish the
complexity of the crime.
This cannot be done,
however, in the case at
bar for the simple
reason that one of the
component offenses of
the alleged complex
crime, that is, —
incriminatory
machination, — does
not fall within the
concurrent, much less
original exclusive
jurisdiction of the Court
of First Instance.
Consequently, the
motion to quash is
granted and the case is
hereby dismissed,
without prejudice for
the prosecution to file
the proper informations
against the defendants
in the proper court.;
The City Fiscal of Manila,
on November 28, 1962,
filed a motion for
reconsideration of the
foregoing order, but on
December 19, 1962 the
Court of First Instance of
Manila denied the motion
for reconsideration. Hence
this appeal of the City
Fiscal of Manila to this
Court.
In the present appeal, the
main question to be
resolved is whether the
information filed in the
court below alleges the
complex crime of
"incriminatory
machinations through
unlawful arrest." It is the
view of the court a quo
that the information
alleges the commission of
two distinct crimes, one,
for unlawful arrest, and,
the other, for
incriminatory
machinations. The lower
court discarded the theory
of the prosecution that the
offense of unlawful arrest
was a necessary means to
commit the crime of
incriminatory
machinations, because of
the allegation in the
information that the
accused had first
unlawfully arrested the
offended party Marcial
Apolonio y Santos and
after the arrest he was
investigated and it was
during the investigation
that the accused had
commingled the marked
P1.00 bill among the
paper bills that were
taken from the possession
of the said offended party.
The trial court is of the
opinion that "the alleged
planting of evidence took
place while the victim was
already under
investigation, long after
the consummation of the
alleged unlawful arrest." 1

We cannot sustain the


view of the trial court. It
is the general rule that in
resolving the motion to
quash a criminal
complaint or information
the facts alleged in the
complaint or information
should be taken as they
are. The exceptions to this
general rule are those
cases where the Rules of
Court expressly permit
the investigation of facts
alleged in the motion to
2
quash. The grounds, or
facts, relied upon in the
motion, to quash in the
present case, are not
included in the exceptions
we have adverted to. We
find that the information
in the present case
specifically alleges that
the accused did "willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously
incriminate and impute to
one Marcial Apolonio y
Santos the commission of
the crime of bribery
through unlawful arrest ...
." 3 The information
further alleges that "... the
said accused ... without
reasonable ground
therefor and for the
purpose of delivering said
Marcial Apolonio y Santos
to the proper authorities
did there and there
willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously arrest said
Marcial Apolonio y
Santos; that after the said
Marcial Apolonio y Santos
had been arrested in the
manner aforestated, and
while the latter was
supposedly being
investigated by the said
accused, the said accused
did then and there placed
or commingled a marked
P1.00 bill together with
the money taken from the
said Marcial Apolonio y
Santos ...". It is very
apparent that by the use
of the phrase "through
unlawful arrest" in the
information an idea is
conveyed that the
unlawful arrest was
resorted to as a necessary
means to plant evidence in
the person of the offended
party, thereby
incriminating him. From
a reading of the
information we find a
close connection between
the act of the accused in
first unlawfully arresting
the offended party and
then investigating him;
and it was during that
investigation that they
planted incriminatory
evidence against him. We
agree with the Solicitor
General in his contention
that the accused first had
to resort to unlawful
arrest in order to be able
to plant the P1.00 bill
among the money taken
from the offended party.
We find merit in the
following argument, as
stated in the brief of the
Solicitor General:
Under the
circumstances of the
case, the accused had to
arrest Marcial because
it was the only way that
they could with facility
detain him and, more
importantly, search his
person or effects and, in
the process, commingle
therewith the marked
peso bill. It should be
observed that without
detaining, investigating
and searching Marcial it
would have been
impossible, if not
difficult, for the accused
to plant the marked one
peso bill, because then
they could not have
simply held Marcial and
placed the marked one
peso bill in his pocket,
without the latter
vigoriously protesting
the act. Besides, if the
accused simply held
Marcial and planted in
his pockets the marked
one peso bill without
arresting him, they
could not have possibly
accomplished their
purpose, because
Marcial would have
surely and easily
discovered what they
were up to. Indeed, the
accused had to arrest
Marcial, even in the
absence of a valid
reason, so that under
the semblance of a
police investigation, they
could get whatever
money was inside his
pockets and include in it
the marked one peso
bill. In short, the
accused had to arrest
Marcial so that he could
be detained and
pretending to
investigate him, search
his person and thereby
have the opportunity of
planting the marked one
peso bill among his
belongings.1äwphï1.ñët
In declaring that the
information did not allege
a complex crime the trial
court expressed the view
that the alleged planting
of evidence took place
while the victim was
already under
investigation, "long after
the consummation of the
alleged unlawful arrest."
This observation of the
trial court does not find
support in the allegations
contained in the
information in question.
The statement in the
information that the
offended party was
investigated "after" the
unlawful arrest does not
necessarily convey the
idea that the investigation
took place "long after"
the arrest had been
effected. It should be a
matter of evidence first,
before any conclusion is
arrived at: that the
investigation, during
which the incriminating
evidence was planted, had
taken place immediately
after the arrest or long
after the arrest. The
allegation in the
information that the
accused committed the
complex crime of
incriminatory
machinations thru
unlawful arrest, and also
the allegation that the act
of planting the
incriminatory evidence
took place during the
supposed investigation
after the unlawful arrest,
are basis for the logical
assumption, in the
absence of evidence, that
the two acts imputed to
the accused — that of
unlawfully arresting and
that of planting
incriminatory evidence —
had closely followed each
other, and that the former
was a necessary means to
commit the latter.
For a criminal complaint
or information to charge
the commission of a
complex crime, the
allegations contained
therein do not necessarily
have to charge a complex
crime as defined by law. It
is sufficient that the
information contains
allegations which show
that one offense was a
necessary means to
4
commit the other. On this
particular point this
Court has ruled, as
follows:
In order to determine
whether two offenses
constitute a complex
crime, we should not
find out whether, in
accordance with their
definition by law, one of
them is an essential
element of the other,
such as physical injuries
which cause the death of
the victim, or stealing of
personal property
without the consent of
the owner through force
or violence, for in such
cases there would be
only one single offense
of homicide in the first
and robbery in the
second case. But we
should take into
consideration the facts
alleged in a complaint
or information and
determine whether one
of the two separate and
different offenses
charged therein was
committed as a
necessary means to
commit the other
offense; if it were, the
two offenses constitute
one complex crime;
otherwise the complaint
or information charges
two crimes or offenses
independent from one
another. (Parulan vs.
Rodas and Reyes, 78
Phil. 855, 856)
We, therefore, held that
the information in
question in the present
case contains allegations
properly charging the
commission of the
complex crime of
incriminatory
machinations thru
unlawful arrest, and the
court a quo committed
error when it ordered its
dismissal.
We likewise hold that the
court a quo has
jurisdiction to try the
accused of the offense
charged in the
information. The crime of
unlawful arrest is
punishable with arresto
mayor or imprisonment of
from one month and one
day to six months, and a
fine not exceeding
P500.00; 5 and the crime
of incriminatory
machinations is
punishable with arresto
mayor, or imprisonment
of from one month and
one day to six months. 6
Under Article 48 of the
Revised Penal Code, in
complex crimes, the
penalty for the most
serious offense shall be
imposed, the same to be
applied in its maximum
period. And so, in the
present case, in the event
of conviction, the penalty
for the crime of unlawful
arrest should be imposed
in its maximum period. 7

In view of the foregoing,


the order appealed from is
reversed and set aside,
and this case is remanded
to the court of origin for
further proceedings. No
costs. So ordered.
Bengzon, C.J., Bautista
Angelo, Concepcion,
Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera,
Dizon, Regala, Makalintal,
Bengzon, J.P., and
Sanchez, JJ., concur.

QUASI
OFFENSES
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 172716
November 17, 2010
JASON IVLER y
AGUILAR, Petitioner,
vs.
HON. MARIA ROWENA
MODESTO-SAN
PEDRO, Judge of the
Metropolitan Trial Court,
Branch 71, Pasig City,
and EVANGELINE
PONCE, Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
The petition seeks the
1 2
review of the Orders of
the Regional Trial Court
of Pasig City affirming
sub-silencio a lower
court’s ruling finding
inapplicable the Double
Jeopardy Clause to bar a
second prosecution for
Reckless Imprudence
Resulting in Homicide
and Damage to Property.
This, despite the accused’s
previous conviction for
Reckless Imprudence
Resulting in Slight
Physical Injuries arising
from the same incident
grounding the second
prosecution.
The Facts
Following a vehicular
collision in August 2004,
petitioner Jason Ivler
(petitioner) was charged
before the Metropolitan
Trial Court of Pasig City,
Branch 71 (MeTC), with
two separate offenses: (1)
Reckless Imprudence
Resulting in Slight
Physical Injuries
(Criminal Case No.
82367) for injuries
sustained by respondent
Evangeline L. Ponce
(respondent Ponce); and
(2) Reckless Imprudence
Resulting in Homicide
and Damage to Property
(Criminal Case No.
82366) for the death of
respondent Ponce’s
husband Nestor C. Ponce
and damage to the
spouses Ponce’s vehicle.
Petitioner posted bail for
his temporary release in
both cases.
On 7 September 2004,
petitioner pleaded guilty
to the charge in Criminal
Case No. 82367 and was
meted out the penalty of
public censure. Invoking
this conviction, petitioner
moved to quash the
Information in Criminal
Case No. 82366 for
placing him in jeopardy of
second punishment for the
same offense of reckless
imprudence.
The MeTC refused
quashal, finding no
identity of offenses in the
two cases. 3

After unsuccessfully
seeking reconsideration,
petitioner elevated the
matter to the Regional
Trial Court of Pasig City,
Branch 157 (RTC), in a
petition for certiorari
(S.C.A. No. 2803).
Meanwhile, petitioner
sought from the MeTC
the suspension of
proceedings in Criminal
Case No. 82366, including
the arraignment on 17
May 2005, invoking
S.C.A. No. 2803 as a
prejudicial question.
Without acting on
petitioner’s motion, the
MeTC proceeded with the
arraignment and, because
of petitioner’s absence,
cancelled his bail and
4
ordered his arrest. Seven
days later, the MeTC
issued a resolution
denying petitioner’s
motion to suspend
proceedings and
postponing his
arraignment until after
his arrest. 5 Petitioner
sought reconsideration
but as of the filing of this
petition, the motion
remained unresolved.
Relying on the arrest
order against petitioner,
respondent Ponce sought
in the RTC the dismissal
of S.C.A. No. 2803 for
petitioner’s loss of
standing to maintain the
suit. Petitioner contested
the motion.
The Ruling of the Trial
Court
In an Order dated 2
February 2006, the RTC
dismissed S.C.A. No.
2803, narrowly grounding
its ruling on petitioner’s
forfeiture of standing to
maintain S.C.A. No. 2803
arising from the MeTC’s
order to arrest petitioner
for his non-appearance at
the arraignment in
Criminal Case No. 82366.
Thus, without reaching
the merits of S.C.A. No.
2803, the RTC effectively
affirmed the MeTC.
Petitioner sought
reconsideration but this
proved unavailing. 6

Hence, this petition.


Petitioner denies
absconding. He explains
that his petition in S.C.A.
No. 2803 constrained him
to forego participation in
the proceedings in
Criminal Case No. 82366.
Petitioner distinguishes
his case from the line of
jurisprudence sanctioning
dismissal of appeals for
absconding appellants
because his appeal before
the RTC was a special
civil action seeking a pre-
trial relief, not a post-trial
appeal of a judgment of
conviction. 7

Petitioner laments the


RTC’s failure to reach the
merits of his petition in
S.C.A. 2803. Invoking
jurisprudence, petitioner
argues that his
constitutional right not to
be placed twice in
jeopardy of punishment
for the same offense bars
his prosecution in
Criminal Case No. 82366,
having been previously
convicted in Criminal
Case No. 82367 for the
same offense of reckless
imprudence charged in
Criminal Case No. 82366.
Petitioner submits that
the multiple consequences
of such crime are material
only to determine his
penalty.
Respondent Ponce finds
no reason for the Court to
disturb the RTC’s
decision forfeiting
petitioner’s standing to
maintain his petition in
S.C.A. 2803. On the
merits, respondent Ponce
calls the Court’s attention
to jurisprudence holding
that light offenses (e.g.
slight physical injuries)
cannot be complexed
under Article 48 of the
Revised Penal Code with
grave or less grave
felonies (e.g. homicide).
Hence, the prosecution
was obliged to separate
the charge in Criminal
Case No. 82366 for the
slight physical injuries
from Criminal Case No.
82367 for the homicide
and damage to property.
In the Resolution of 6
June 2007, we granted the
Office of the Solicitor
General’s motion not to
file a comment to the
petition as the public
respondent judge is
merely a nominal party
and private respondent is
represented by counsel.
The Issues
Two questions are
presented for resolution:
(1) whether petitioner
forfeited his standing to
seek relief in S.C.A. 2803
when the MeTC ordered
his arrest following his
non-appearance at the
arraignment in Criminal
Case No. 82366; and (2) if
in the negative, whether
petitioner’s constitutional
right under the Double
Jeopardy Clause bars
further proceedings in
Criminal Case No. 82366.
The Ruling of the Court
We hold that (1)
petitioner’s non-
appearance at the
arraignment in Criminal
Case No. 82366 did not
divest him of personality
to maintain the petition in
S.C.A. 2803; and (2) the
protection afforded by the
Constitution shielding
petitioner from
prosecutions placing him
in jeopardy of second
punishment for the same
offense bars further
proceedings in Criminal
Case No. 82366.
Petitioner’s Non-
appearance at the
Arraignment in
Criminal Case No. 82366
did not Divest him of
Standing
to Maintain the Petition in
S.C.A. 2803
Dismissals of appeals
grounded on the
appellant’s escape from
custody or violation of the
terms of his bail bond are
governed by the second
paragraph of Section 8,
8
Rule 124, in relation to
Section 1, Rule 125, of the
Revised Rules on
Criminal Procedure
authorizing this Court or
the Court of Appeals to
"also, upon motion of the
appellee or motu proprio,
dismiss the appeal if the
appellant escapes from
prison or confinement,
jumps bail or flees to a
foreign country during
the pendency of the
appeal." The "appeal"
contemplated in Section 8
of Rule 124 is a suit to
review judgments of
convictions.
The RTC’s dismissal of
petitioner’s special civil
action for certiorari to
review a pre-arraignment
ancillary question on the
applicability of the Due
Process Clause to bar
proceedings in Criminal
Case No. 82366 finds no
basis under procedural
rules and jurisprudence.
The RTC’s reliance on
People v. Esparas 9
undercuts the cogency of
its ruling because Esparas
stands for a proposition
contrary to the RTC’s
ruling. There, the Court
granted review to an
appeal by an accused who
was sentenced to death for
importing prohibited
drugs even though she
jumped bail pending trial
and was thus tried and
convicted in absentia. The
Court in Esparas treated
the mandatory review of
death sentences under
Republic Act No. 7659 as
an exception to Section 8
of Rule 124. 10

The mischief in the RTC’s


treatment of petitioner’s
non-appearance at his
arraignment in Criminal
Case No. 82366 as proof of
his loss of standing
becomes more evident
when one considers the
Rules of Court’s
treatment of a defendant
who absents himself from
post-arraignment
hearings. Under Section
21, Rule 114 11 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, the
defendant’s absence
merely renders his
bondsman potentially
liable on its bond (subject
to cancellation should the
bondsman fail to produce
the accused within 30
days); the defendant
retains his standing and,
should he fail to
surrender, will be tried in
absentia and could be
convicted or acquitted.
Indeed, the 30-day period
granted to the bondsman
to produce the accused
underscores the fact that
mere non-appearance
does not ipso facto
convert the accused’s
status to that of a fugitive
without standing.
Further, the RTC’s
observation that
petitioner provided "no
explanation why he failed
to attend the scheduled
proceeding" 12 at the
MeTC is belied by the
records. Days before the
arraignment, petitioner
sought the suspension of
the MeTC’s proceedings
in Criminal Case No.
82366 in light of his
petition with the RTC in
S.C.A. No. 2803.
Following the MeTC’s
refusal to defer
arraignment (the order
for which was released
days after the MeTC
ordered petitioner’s
arrest), petitioner sought
reconsideration. His
motion remained
unresolved as of the filing
of this petition.
Petitioner’s Conviction in
Criminal Case No. 82367
Bars his Prosecution in
Criminal Case No. 82366
The accused’s negative
constitutional right not to
be "twice put in jeopardy
of punishment for the
13
same offense" protects
him from, among others,
post-conviction
prosecution for the same
offense, with the prior
verdict rendered by a
court of competent
jurisdiction upon a valid
information. 14 It is not
disputed that petitioner’s
conviction in Criminal
Case No. 82367 was
rendered by a court of
competent jurisdiction
upon a valid charge. Thus,
the case turns on the
question whether
Criminal Case No. 82366
and Criminal Case No.
82367 involve the "same
offense." Petitioner
adopts the affirmative
view, submitting that the
two cases concern the
same offense of reckless
imprudence. The MeTC
ruled otherwise, finding
that Reckless Imprudence
Resulting in Slight
Physical Injuries is an
entirely separate offense
from Reckless
Imprudence Resulting in
Homicide and Damage to
Property "as the [latter]
requires proof of an
additional fact which the
other does not." 15

We find for petitioner.


Reckless Imprudence is
a Single Crime,
its Consequences on
Persons and
Property are Material
Only to Determine
the Penalty
The two charges against
petitioner, arising from
the same facts, were
prosecuted under the
same provision of the
Revised Penal Code, as
amended, namely, Article
365 defining and
penalizing quasi-offenses.
The text of the provision
reads:
Imprudence and
negligence. — Any person
who, by reckless
imprudence, shall commit
any act which, had it been
intentional, would
constitute a grave felony,
shall suffer the penalty of
arresto mayor in its
maximum period to
prision correccional in its
medium period; if it
would have constituted a
less grave felony, the
penalty of arresto mayor
in its minimum and
medium periods shall be
imposed; if it would have
constituted a light felony,
the penalty of arresto
menor in its maximum
period shall be imposed.
Any person who, by
simple imprudence or
negligence, shall commit
an act which would
otherwise constitute a
grave felony, shall suffer
the penalty of arresto
mayor in its medium and
maximum periods; if it
would have constituted a
less serious felony, the
penalty of arresto mayor
in its minimum period
shall be imposed.
When the execution of the
act covered by this article
shall have only resulted in
damage to the property of
another, the offender shall
be punished by a fine
ranging from an amount
equal to the value of said
damages to three times
such value, but which
shall in no case be less
than twenty-five pesos.
A fine not exceeding two
hundred pesos and
censure shall be imposed
upon any person who, by
simple imprudence or
negligence, shall cause
some wrong which, if
done maliciously, would
have constituted a light
felony.
In the imposition of these
penalties, the court shall
exercise their sound
discretion, without regard
to the rules prescribed in
Article sixty-four.
The provisions contained
in this article shall not be
applicable:
1. When the penalty
provided for the offense
is equal to or lower than
those provided in the
first two paragraphs of
this article, in which
case the court shall
impose the penalty next
lower in degree than
that which should be
imposed in the period
which they may deem
proper to apply.
2. When, by imprudence
or negligence and with
violation of the
Automobile Law, to
death of a person shall
be caused, in which case
the defendant shall be
punished by prision
correccional in its
medium and maximum
periods.
Reckless imprudence
consists in voluntary, but
without malice, doing or
failing to do an act from
which material damage
results by reason of
inexcusable lack of
precaution on the part of
the person performing or
failing to perform such
act, taking into
consideration his
employment or
occupation, degree of
intelligence, physical
condition and other
circumstances regarding
persons, time and place.
Simple imprudence
consists in the lack of
precaution displayed in
those cases in which the
damage impending to be
caused is not immediate
nor the danger clearly
manifest.
The penalty next higher in
degree to those provided
for in this article shall be
imposed upon the
offender who fails to lend
on the spot to the injured
parties such help as may
be in this hand to give.
Structurally, these nine
paragraphs are collapsible
into four sub-groupings
relating to (1) the
penalties attached to the
quasi-offenses of
"imprudence" and
"negligence" (paragraphs
1-2); (2) a modified
penalty scheme for either
or both quasi-offenses
(paragraphs 3-4, 6 and 9);
(3) a generic rule for trial
courts in imposing
penalties (paragraph 5);
and (4) the definition of
"reckless imprudence"
and "simple imprudence"
(paragraphs 7-8).
Conceptually, quasi-
offenses penalize "the
mental attitude or
condition behind the act,
the dangerous
recklessness, lack of care
or foresight, the
imprudencia punible," 16
unlike willful offenses
which punish the
intentional criminal act.
These structural and
conceptual features of
quasi-offenses set them
apart from the mass of
intentional crimes under
the first 13 Titles of Book
II of the Revised Penal
Code, as amended.
Indeed, the notion that
quasi-offenses, whether
reckless or simple, are
distinct species of crime,
separately defined and
penalized under the
framework of our penal
laws, is nothing new. As
early as the middle of the
last century, we already
sought to bring clarity to
this field by rejecting in
Quizon v. Justice of the
Peace of Pampanga the
proposition that "reckless
imprudence is not a crime
in itself but simply a way
of committing it x x x" 17
on three points of
analysis: (1) the object of
punishment in quasi-
crimes (as opposed to
intentional crimes); (2)
the legislative intent to
treat quasi-crimes as
distinct offenses (as
opposed to subsuming
them under the mitigating
circumstance of minimal
intent) and; (3) the
different penalty
structures for quasi-
crimes and intentional
crimes:
The proposition (inferred
from Art. 3 of the Revised
Penal Code) that
"reckless imprudence" is
not a crime in itself but
simply a way of
committing it and merely
determines a lower degree
of criminal liability is too
broad to deserve
unqualified assent. There
are crimes that by their
structure cannot be
committed through
imprudence: murder,
treason, robbery,
malicious mischief, etc. In
truth, criminal negligence
in our Revised Penal Code
is treated as a mere quasi
offense, and dealt with
separately from willful
offenses. It is not a mere
question of classification
or terminology. In
intentional crimes, the act
itself is punished; in
negligence or imprudence,
what is principally
penalized is the mental
attitude or condition
behind the act, the
dangerous recklessness,
lack of care or foresight,
the imprudencia punible.
xxxx
Were criminal negligence
but a modality in the
commission of felonies,
operating only to reduce
the penalty therefor, then
it would be absorbed in
the mitigating
circumstances of Art. 13,
specially the lack of intent
to commit so grave a
wrong as the one actually
committed. Furthermore,
the theory would require
that the corresponding
penalty should be fixed in
proportion to the penalty
prescribed for each crime
when committed willfully.
For each penalty for the
willful offense, there
would then be a
corresponding penalty for
the negligent variety. But
instead, our Revised Penal
Code (Art. 365) fixes the
penalty for reckless
imprudence at arresto
mayor maximum, to
prision correccional
[medium], if the willful
act would constitute a
grave felony,
notwithstanding that the
penalty for the latter
could range all the way
from prision mayor to
death, according to the
case. It can be seen that
the actual penalty for
criminal negligence bears
no relation to the
individual willful crime,
but is set in relation to a
whole class, or series, of
crimes. 18 (Emphasis
supplied)
This explains why the
technically correct way to
allege quasi-crimes is to
state that their
commission results in
damage, either to person
or property. 19

Accordingly, we found the


Justice of the Peace in
Quizon without
jurisdiction to hear a case
for "Damage to Property
through Reckless
Imprudence," its
jurisdiction being limited
to trying charges for
Malicious Mischief, an
intentional crime
conceptually incompatible
with the element of
imprudence obtaining in
quasi-crimes.
Quizon, rooted in Spanish
law 20 (the normative
ancestry of our present
day penal code) and since
repeatedly reiterated, 21
stands on solid conceptual
foundation. The contrary
doctrinal pronouncement
22
in People v. Faller that
"[r]eckless impudence is
not a crime in itself x x x
[but] simply a way of
23
committing it x x x," has
long been abandoned
when the Court en banc
promulgated Quizon in
1955 nearly two decades
after the Court decided
Faller in 1939. Quizon
rejected Faller’s
conceptualization of
quasi-crimes by holding
that quasi-crimes under
Article 365 are distinct
species of crimes and not
merely methods of
committing crimes. Faller
found expression in post-
Quizon jurisprudence 24
only by dint of lingering
doctrinal confusion
arising from an
indiscriminate fusion of
criminal law rules
defining Article 365
crimes and the
complexing of intentional
crimes under Article 48 of
the Revised Penal Code
which, as will be shown
shortly, rests on erroneous
conception of quasi-
crimes. Indeed, the
Quizonian conception of
quasi-crimes undergirded
a related branch of
jurisprudence applying
the Double Jeopardy
Clause to quasi-offenses,
barring second
prosecutions for a quasi-
offense alleging one
resulting act after a prior
conviction or acquittal of
a quasi-offense alleging
another resulting act but
arising from the same
reckless act or omission
upon which the second
prosecution was based.
Prior Conviction or
Acquittal of
Reckless Imprudence
Bars
Subsequent Prosecution
for the Same
Quasi-Offense
The doctrine that reckless
imprudence under Article
365 is a single quasi-
offense by itself and not
merely a means to commit
other crimes such that
conviction or acquittal of
such quasi-offense bars
subsequent prosecution
for the same quasi-
offense, regardless of its
various resulting acts,
undergirded this Court’s
unbroken chain of
jurisprudence on double
jeopardy as applied to
Article 365 starting with
People v. Diaz, 25decided
in 1954. There, a full
Court, speaking through
Mr. Justice Montemayor,
ordered the dismissal of a
case for "damage to
property thru reckless
imprudence" because a
prior case against the
same accused for
"reckless driving," arising
from the same act upon
which the first
prosecution was based,
had been dismissed
earlier. Since then,
whenever the same legal
question was brought
before the Court, that is,
whether prior conviction
or acquittal of reckless
imprudence bars
subsequent prosecution
for the same quasi-
offense, regardless of the
consequences alleged for
both charges, the Court
unfailingly and
consistently answered in
the affirmative in People
26
v. Belga (promulgated in
1957 by the Court en
banc, per Reyes, J.), Yap
27
v. Lutero (promulgated
in 1959, unreported, per
Concepcion, J.), People v.
28
Narvas (promulgated in
1960 by the Court en
banc, per Bengzon J.),
People v. Silva 29
(promulgated in 1962 by
the Court en banc, per
Paredes, J.), People v.
Macabuhay 30
(promulgated in 1966 by
the Court en banc, per
Makalintal, J.), People v.
Buan 31 (promulgated in
1968 by the Court en
banc, per Reyes, J.B.L.,
acting C. J.), Buerano v.
Court of Appeals 32
(promulgated in 1982 by
the Court en banc, per
Relova, J.), and People v.
City Court of Manila 33
(promulgated in 1983 by
the First Division, per
Relova, J.). These cases
uniformly barred the
second prosecutions as
constitutionally
impermissible under the
Double Jeopardy Clause.
The reason for this
consistent stance of
extending the
constitutional protection
under the Double
Jeopardy Clause to quasi-
offenses was best
articulated by Mr. Justice
J.B.L. Reyes in Buan,
where, in barring a
subsequent prosecution
for "serious physical
injuries and damage to
property thru reckless
imprudence" because of
the accused’s prior
acquittal of "slight
physical injuries thru
reckless imprudence,"
with both charges
grounded on the same act,
the Court explained: 34

Reason and precedent


both coincide in that once
convicted or acquitted of a
specific act of reckless
imprudence, the accused
may not be prosecuted
again for that same act.
For the essence of the
quasi offense of criminal
negligence under article
365 of the Revised Penal
Code lies in the execution
of an imprudent or
negligent act that, if
intentionally done, would
be punishable as a felony.
The law penalizes thus the
negligent or careless act,
not the result thereof. The
gravity of the consequence
is only taken into account
to determine the penalty,
it does not qualify the
substance of the offense.
And, as the careless act is
single, whether the
injurious result should
affect one person or
several persons, the
offense (criminal
negligence) remains one
and the same, and can not
be split into different
crimes and
prosecutions. 35 x x x
(Emphasis supplied)
Evidently, the Diaz line of
jurisprudence on double
jeopardy merely extended
to its logical conclusion
the reasoning of Quizon.
There is in our
jurisprudence only one
ruling going against this
unbroken line of
authority. Preceding Diaz
by more than a decade, El
Pueblo de Filipinas v.
36
Estipona, decided by the
pre-war colonial Court in
November 1940, allowed
the subsequent
prosecution of an accused
for reckless imprudence
resulting in damage to
property despite his
previous conviction for
multiple physical injuries
arising from the same
reckless operation of a
motor vehicle upon which
the second prosecution
was based. Estipona’s
inconsistency with the
post-war Diaz chain of
jurisprudence suffices to
impliedly overrule it. At
any rate, all doubts on
this matter were laid to
rest in 1982 in Buerano. 37
There, we reviewed the
Court of Appeals’
conviction of an accused
for "damage to property
for reckless imprudence"
despite his prior
conviction for "slight and
less serious physical
injuries thru reckless
imprudence," arising
from the same act upon
which the second charge
was based. The Court of
Appeals had relied on
Estipona. We reversed on
the strength of Buan: 38

Th[e] view of the Court of


Appeals was inspired by
the ruling of this Court in
the pre-war case of People
vs. Estipona decided on
November 14, 1940.
However, in the case of
People vs. Buan, 22 SCRA
1383 (March 29, 1968),
this Court, speaking thru
Justice J. B. L. Reyes,
held that –
Reason and precedent
both coincide in that once
convicted or acquitted of a
specific act of reckless
imprudence, the accused
may not be prosecuted
again for that same act.
For the essence of the
quasi offense of criminal
negligence under Article
365 of the Revised Penal
Code lies in the execution
of an imprudent or
negligent act that, if
intentionally done, would
be punishable as a felony.
The law penalizes thus the
negligent or careless act,
not the result thereof. The
gravity of the consequence
is only taken into account
to determine the penalty,
it does not qualify the
substance of the offense.
And, as the careless act is
single, whether the
injurious result should
affect one person or
several persons, the
offense (criminal
negligence) remains one
and the same, and can not
be split into different
crimes and prosecutions.
xxxx
. . . the exoneration of this
appellant, Jose Buan, by
the Justice of the Peace
(now Municipal) Court of
Guiguinto, Bulacan, of the
charge of slight physical
injuries through reckless
imprudence, prevents his
being prosecuted for
serious physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence in the Court
of First Instance of the
province, where both
charges are derived from
the consequences of one
and the same vehicular
accident, because the
second accusation places
the appellant in second
jeopardy for the same
offense. 39 (Emphasis
supplied)
Thus, for all intents and
purposes, Buerano had
effectively overruled
Estipona.
It is noteworthy that the
Solicitor General in
Buerano, in a reversal of
his earlier stance in Silva,
joined causes with the
accused, a fact which did
not escape the Court’s
attention:
Then Solicitor General,
now Justice Felix V.
Makasiar, in his
MANIFESTATION dated
December 12, 1969 (page
82 of the Rollo) admits
that the Court of Appeals
erred in not sustaining
petitioner’s plea of double
jeopardy and submits that
"its affirmatory decision
dated January 28, 1969, in
Criminal Case No. 05123-
CR finding petitioner
guilty of damage to
property through reckless
imprudence should be set
aside, without costs." He
stressed that "if double
jeopardy exists where the
reckless act resulted into
homicide and physical
injuries. then the same
consequence must
perforce follow where the
same reckless act caused
merely damage to
property-not death-and
physical injuries. Verily,
the value of a human life
lost as a result of a
vehicular collision cannot
be equated with any
amount of damages
caused to a motors vehicle
arising from the same
mishap." 40 (Emphasis
supplied)
Hence, we find merit in
petitioner’s submission
that the lower courts
erred in refusing to extend
in his favor the mantle of
protection afforded by the
Double Jeopardy Clause.
A more fitting
jurisprudence could not
be tailored to petitioner’s
case than People v. Silva,
41 a Diaz progeny. There,
the accused, who was also
involved in a vehicular
collision, was charged in
two separate Informations
with "Slight Physical
Injuries thru Reckless
Imprudence" and
"Homicide with Serious
Physical Injuries thru
Reckless Imprudence."
Following his acquittal of
the former, the accused
sought the quashal of the
latter, invoking the
Double Jeopardy Clause.
The trial court initially
denied relief, but, on
reconsideration, found
merit in the accused’s
claim and dismissed the
second case. In affirming
the trial court, we quoted
with approval its analysis
of the issue following Diaz
and its progeny People v.
Belga: 42

On June 26, 1959, the


lower court reconsidered
its Order of May 2, 1959
and dismissed the case,
holding: —
[T]he Court believes that
the case falls squarely
within the doctrine of
double jeopardy
enunciated in People v.
Belga, x x x In the case
cited, Ciriaco Belga and
Jose Belga were charged
in the Justice of the Peace
Court of Malilipot, Albay,
with the crime of physical
injuries through reckless
imprudence arising from
a collision between the
two automobiles driven by
them (Crim. Case No. 88).
Without the aforesaid
complaint having been
dismissed or otherwise
disposed of, two other
criminal complaints were
filed in the same justice of
the peace court, in
connection with the same
collision one for damage
to property through
reckless imprudence
(Crim. Case No. 95)
signed by the owner of
one of the vehicles
involved in the collision,
and another for multiple
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence
(Crim. Case No. 96)
signed by the passengers
injured in the accident.
Both of these two
complaints were filed
against Jose Belga only.
After trial, both
defendants were acquitted
of the charge against them
in Crim. Case No. 88.
Following his acquittal,
Jose Belga moved to
quash the complaint for
multiple physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence filed against
him by the injured
passengers, contending
that the case was just a
duplication of the one
filed by the Chief of Police
wherein he had just been
acquitted. The motion to
quash was denied and
after trial Jose Belga was
convicted, whereupon he
appealed to the Court of
First Instance of Albay. In
the meantime, the case for
damage to property
through reckless
imprudence filed by one
of the owners of the
vehicles involved in the
collision had been
remanded to the Court of
First Instance of Albay
after Jose Belga had
waived the second stage of
the preliminary
investigation. After such
remand, the Provincial
Fiscal filed in the Court of
First Instance two
informations against Jose
Belga, one for physical
injuries through reckless
imprudence, and another
for damage to property
through reckless
imprudence. Both cases
were dismissed by the
Court of First Instance,
upon motion of the
defendant Jose Belga who
alleged double jeopardy in
a motion to quash. On
appeal by the Prov. Fiscal,
the order of dismissal was
affirmed by the Supreme
Court in the following
language: .
The question for
determination is whether
the acquittal of Jose Belga
in the case filed by the
chief of police constitutes
a bar to his subsequent
prosecution for multiple
physical injuries and
damage to property
through reckless
imprudence.
In the case of Peo[ple] v.
F. Diaz, G. R. No. L-6518,
prom. March 30, 1954, the
accused was charged in
the municipal court of
Pasay City with reckless
driving under sec. 52 of
the Revised Motor Vehicle
Law, for having driven an
automobile in a ῾fast and
reckless manner ...
thereby causing an
accident.’ After the
accused had pleaded not
guilty the case was
dismissed in that court
῾for failure of the
Government to
prosecute’. But some time
thereafter the city
attorney filed an
information in the Court
of First Instance of Rizal,
charging the same
accused with damage to
property thru reckless
imprudence. The amount
of the damage was alleged
to be P249.50. Pleading
double jeopardy, the
accused filed a motion,
and on appeal by the
Government we affirmed
the ruling. Among other
things we there said
through Mr. Justice
Montemayor —
The next question to
determine is the relation
between the first offense
of violation of the Motor
Vehicle Law prosecuted
before the Pasay City
Municipal Court and the
offense of damage to
property thru reckless
imprudence charged in
the Rizal Court of First
Instance. One of the tests
of double jeopardy is
whether or not the second
offense charged
necessarily includes or is
necessarily included in the
offense charged in the
former complaint or
information (Rule 113,
Sec. 9). Another test is
whether the evidence
which proves one would
prove the other that is to
say whether the facts
alleged in the first charge
if proven, would have
been sufficient to support
the second charge and
vice versa; or whether one
crime is an ingredient of
the other. x x x
xxxx
The foregoing language of
the Supreme Court also
disposes of the contention
of the prosecuting
attorney that the charge
for slight physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence could not
have been joined with the
charge for homicide with
serious physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence in this case,
in view of the provisions
of Art. 48 of the Revised
Penal Code, as amended.
The prosecution’s
contention might be true.
But neither was the
prosecution obliged to
first prosecute the accused
for slight physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence before
pressing the more serious
charge of homicide with
serious physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence. Having first
prosecuted the defendant
for the lesser offense in
the Justice of the Peace
Court of Meycauayan,
Bulacan, which acquitted
the defendant, the
prosecuting attorney is
not now in a position to
press in this case the more
serious charge of
homicide with serious
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence
which arose out of the
same alleged reckless
imprudence of which the
defendant have been
previously cleared by the
inferior court. 43

Significantly, the Solicitor


General had urged us in
Silva to reexamine Belga
(and hence, Diaz) "for the
purpose of delimiting or
clarifying its
application." 44 We
declined the invitation,
thus:
The State in its appeal
claims that the lower
court erred in dismissing
the case, on the ground of
double jeopardy, upon the
basis of the acquittal of
the accused in the JP
court for Slight Physical
Injuries, thru Reckless
Imprudence. In the same
breath said State, thru the
Solicitor General, admits
that the facts of the case at
bar, fall squarely on the
ruling of the Belga case x
x x, upon which the order
of dismissal of the lower
court was anchored. The
Solicitor General,
however, urges a re-
examination of said
ruling, upon certain
considerations for the
purpose of delimiting or
clarifying its application.
We find, nevertheless, that
further elucidation or
disquisition on the ruling
in the Belga case, the facts
of which are analogous or
similar to those in the
present case, will yield no
practical advantage to the
government. On one
hand, there is nothing
which would warrant a
delimitation or
clarification of the
applicability of the Belga
case. It was clear. On the
other, this Court has
reiterated the views
expressed in the Belga
case, in the identical case
of Yap v. Hon. Lutero,
etc., L-12669, April 30,
1959. 45 (Emphasis
supplied)
Article 48 Does not Apply
to Acts Penalized
Under Article 365 of the
Revised Penal Code
The confusion bedeviling
the question posed in this
petition, to which the
MeTC succumbed, stems
from persistent but
awkward attempts to
harmonize conceptually
incompatible substantive
and procedural rules in
criminal law, namely,
Article 365 defining and
penalizing quasi-offenses
and Article 48 on
complexing of crimes,
both under the Revised
Penal Code. Article 48 is a
procedural device
allowing single
prosecution of multiple
felonies falling under
either of two categories:
(1) when a single act
constitutes two or more
grave or less grave
felonies (thus excluding
from its operation light
46
felonies ); and (2) when
an offense is a necessary
means for committing the
other. The legislature
crafted this procedural
tool to benefit the accused
who, in lieu of serving
multiple penalties, will
only serve the maximum
of the penalty for the most
serious crime.
In contrast, Article 365 is
a substantive rule
penalizing not an act
defined as a felony but
"the mental attitude x x x
behind the act, the
dangerous recklessness,
lack of care or foresight x
x x," 47 a single mental
attitude regardless of the
resulting consequences.
Thus, Article 365 was
crafted as one quasi-crime
resulting in one or more
consequences.
Ordinarily, these two
provisions will operate
smoothly. Article 48
works to combine in a
single prosecution
multiple intentional
crimes falling under Titles
1-13, Book II of the
Revised Penal Code, when
proper; Article 365
governs the prosecution of
imprudent acts and their
consequences. However,
the complexities of human
interaction can produce a
hybrid quasi-offense not
falling under either
models – that of a single
criminal negligence
resulting in multiple non-
crime damages to persons
and property with varying
penalties corresponding to
light, less grave or grave
offenses. The ensuing
prosecutorial dilemma is
obvious: how should such
a quasi-crime be
prosecuted? Should
Article 48’s framework
apply to "complex" the
single quasi-offense with
its multiple (non-criminal)
consequences (excluding
those amounting to light
offenses which will be
tried separately)? Or
should the prosecution
proceed under a single
charge, collectively
alleging all the
consequences of the single
quasi-crime, to be
penalized separately
following the scheme of
penalties under Article
365?
Jurisprudence adopts
both approaches. Thus,
one line of rulings (none
of which involved the
issue of double jeopardy)
applied Article 48 by
"complexing" one quasi-
crime with its multiple
48
consequences unless one
consequence amounts to a
light felony, in which case
charges were split by
grouping, on the one
hand, resulting acts
amounting to grave or less
grave felonies and filing
the charge with the
second level courts and,
on the other hand,
resulting acts amounting
to light felonies and filing
the charge with the first
49
level courts. Expectedly,
this is the approach the
MeTC impliedly
sanctioned (and
respondent Ponce
invokes), even though
under Republic Act No.
7691, 50 the MeTC has
now exclusive original
jurisdiction to impose the
most serious penalty
under Article 365 which is
prision correccional in its
medium period.
Under this approach, the
issue of double jeopardy
will not arise if the
"complexing" of acts
penalized under Article
365 involves only resulting
acts penalized as grave or
less grave felonies because
there will be a single
prosecution of all the
resulting acts. The issue of
double jeopardy arises if
one of the resulting acts is
penalized as a light
offense and the other acts
are penalized as grave or
less grave offenses, in
which case Article 48 is
not deemed to apply and
the act penalized as a light
offense is tried separately
from the resulting acts
penalized as grave or less
grave offenses.
The second
jurisprudential path nixes
Article 48 and sanctions a
single prosecution of all
the effects of the quasi-
crime collectively alleged
in one charge, regardless
of their number or
51
severity, penalizing each
consequence separately.
Thus, in Angeles v. Jose, 52
we interpreted paragraph
three of Article 365, in
relation to a charge
alleging "reckless
imprudence resulting in
damage to property and
less serious physical
injuries," as follows:
[T]he third paragraph of
said article, x x x reads as
follows:
When the execution of the
act covered by this article
shall have only resulted in
damage to the property of
another, the offender shall
be punished by a fine
ranging from an amount
equal to the value of said
damage to three times
such value, but which
shall in no case be less
than 25 pesos.
The above-quoted
provision simply means
that if there is only
damage to property the
amount fixed therein shall
be imposed, but if there
are also physical injuries
there should be an
additional penalty for the
latter. The information
cannot be split into two;
one for the physical
injuries, and another for
the damage to property, x
53
x x. (Emphasis supplied)
By "additional penalty,"
the Court meant, logically,
the penalty scheme under
Article 365.
Evidently, these
approaches, while
parallel, are
irreconcilable. Coherence
in this field demands
choosing one framework
over the other. Either (1)
we allow the
"complexing" of a single
quasi-crime by breaking
its resulting acts into
separate offenses (except
for light felonies), thus re-
conceptualize a quasi-
crime, abandon its present
framing under Article
365, discard its conception
under the Quizon and
Diaz lines of cases, and
treat the multiple
consequences of a quasi-
crime as separate
intentional felonies
defined under Titles 1-13,
Book II under the penal
code; or (2) we forbid the
application of Article 48
in the prosecution and
sentencing of quasi-
crimes, require single
prosecution of all the
resulting acts regardless
of their number and
severity, separately
penalize each as provided
in Article 365, and thus
maintain the distinct
concept of quasi-crimes as
crafted under Article 365,
articulated in Quizon and
applied to double
jeopardy adjudication in
the Diaz line of
cases.1avvphi1
A becoming regard of this
Court’s place in our
scheme of government
denying it the power to
make laws constrains us
to keep inviolate the
conceptual distinction
between quasi-crimes and
intentional felonies under
our penal code. Article 48
is incongruent to the
notion of quasi-crimes
under Article 365. It is
conceptually impossible
for a quasi-offense to
stand for (1) a single act
constituting two or more
grave or less grave
felonies; or (2) an offense
which is a necessary
means for committing
another. This is why, way
back in 1968 in Buan, we
rejected the Solicitor
General’s argument that
double jeopardy does not
bar a second prosecution
for slight physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence allegedly
because the charge for
that offense could not be
joined with the other
charge for serious
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence
following Article 48 of the
Revised Penal Code:
The Solicitor General
stresses in his brief that
the charge for slight
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence could
not be joined with the
accusation for serious
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence,
because Article 48 of the
Revised Penal Code
allows only the
complexing of grave or
less grave felonies. This
same argument was
considered and rejected
by this Court in the case
of People vs. [Silva] x x x:
[T]he prosecution’s
contention might be true.
But neither was the
prosecution obliged to
first prosecute the accused
for slight physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence before
pressing the more serious
charge of homicide with
serious physical injuries
through reckless
imprudence. Having first
prosecuted the defendant
for the lesser offense in
the Justice of the Peace
Court of Meycauayan,
Bulacan, which acquitted
the defendant, the
prosecuting attorney is
not now in a position to
press in this case the more
serious charge of
homicide with serious
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence
which arose out of the
same alleged reckless
imprudence of which the
defendant has been
previously cleared by the
inferior court.
[W]e must perforce rule
that the exoneration of
this appellant x x x by the
Justice of the Peace x x x
of the charge of slight
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence,
prevents his being
prosecuted for serious
physical injuries through
reckless imprudence in
the Court of First
Instance of the province,
where both charges are
derived from the
consequences of one and
the same vehicular
accident, because the
second accusation places
the appellant in second
jeopardy for the same
offense. 54 (Emphasis
supplied)
Indeed, this is a
constitutionally compelled
choice. By prohibiting the
splitting of charges under
Article 365, irrespective of
the number and severity
of the resulting acts,
rampant occasions of
constitutionally
impermissible second
prosecutions are avoided,
not to mention that scarce
state resources are
conserved and diverted to
proper use.
Hence, we hold that
prosecutions under Article
365 should proceed from a
single charge regardless of
the number or severity of
the consequences. In
imposing penalties, the
judge will do no more
than apply the penalties
under Article 365 for each
consequence alleged and
proven. In short, there
shall be no splitting of
charges under Article 365,
and only one information
shall be filed in the same
first level court. 55

Our ruling today secures


for the accused facing an
Article 365 charge a
stronger and simpler
protection of their
constitutional right under
the Double Jeopardy
Clause. True, they are
thereby denied the
beneficent effect of the
favorable sentencing
formula under Article 48,
but any disadvantage thus
caused is more than
compensated by the
certainty of non-
prosecution for quasi-
crime effects qualifying as
"light offenses" (or, as
here, for the more serious
consequence prosecuted
belatedly). If it is so
minded, Congress can re-
craft Article 365 by
extending to quasi-crimes
the sentencing formula of
Article 48 so that only the
most severe penalty shall
be imposed under a single
prosecution of all
resulting acts, whether
penalized as grave, less
grave or light offenses.
This will still keep intact
the distinct concept of
quasi-offenses.
Meanwhile, the lenient
schedule of penalties
under Article 365,
befitting crimes occupying
a lower rung of
culpability, should
cushion the effect of this
ruling.
WHEREFORE, we
GRANT the petition. We
REVERSE the Orders
dated 2 February 2006
and 2 May 2006 of the
Regional Trial Court of
Pasig City, Branch 157.
We DISMISS the
Information in Criminal
Case No. 82366 against
petitioner Jason Ivler y
Aguilar pending with the
Metropolitan Trial Court
of Pasig City, Branch 71
on the ground of double
jeopardy.
Let a copy of this ruling
be served on the President
of the Senate and the
Speaker of the House of
Representatives.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the
Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 163879
July 30, 2014
DR. ANTONIO P.
CABUGAO, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES and
SPOUSES RODOLFO M.
PALMA and ROSARIO
F. PALMA, Respondents.
x------------------
-----x
G.R. No. 165805
DR. CLENIO YNZON,
Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES and
SPOUSES RODOLFO M.
PALMA AND ROSARIO
F. PALMA, Respondents.
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Before this Court are
appeals via Rule 45 from
the Decision dated June 4,
1

2004 of the Court of


Appeals in CA-G.R. CR
No. 27293, affirming the
Decision dated February
2

28,2003 of the Regional


Trial Court (RTC),
convicting appellant Dr.
Antonio P. Cabugao (Dr.
Cabugao) and Dr. Clenio
Ynzon (Dr. Ynzon) of the
crime of Reckless
Imprudence Resulting to
Homicide.
The Information alleged –
3

That on or about June 17,


2000in the City of
Dagupan, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the
abovenamed accused, DR.
ANTONIO P.CABUGAO
and DR. CLENIO
YNZON, being then the
attending physicians of
one RODOLFO PALMA,
JR., a minor 10 years old,
confederating and acting
jointly with one another,
did, then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously fail through
negligence, carelessness
and imprudence to
perform immediate
operation upon their
patient, RODOLFO
PALMA, JR. of acute
appendicitis, when they,
the said physicians,
should have been done so
considering that
examinations conducted
upon their patient
Rodolfo Palma, Jr.
seriously manifest todo so,
causing by such
negligence, carelessness,
and imprudence the
victim, RODOLFO
PALMA JR., to die due
to:
"CARDIORESPIRATOR
Y ARREST,
METABOLIC
ENCEPHALOPATHY,
SEPTICEMIA (ACUTE
APPENDICITIS),
CEREBRAL
ANEURYSM
RUPTURED (?)"
As per Certificate of
Death issued by accused
Dr. Antonio P. Cabugao,
to the damage and
prejudice of the legal heirs
of said deceased
RODOLFO PALMA, JR.
and other consequential
damages relative thereto.
CONTRARY to Article
365, 1st par. of the
Revised Penal Code.
Dagupan City,
Philippines, January 29,
2001.
Arising from the same
events, the Court resolved
to consolidate these cases.
4

The facts, as culled from


the records, are as
follows:
On June 14, 2000, at
around 4 o'clock in the
afternoon, ten (10)-year
old Rodolfo F. Palma, Jr.
(JR) complained of
abdominal pain to his
mother, Rosario Palma. At
5 o’clock that
sameafternoon, Palma's
mother and father, Atty.
Rodolfo Palma Sr.,
brought JR to the clinic of
accused Dr. Cabugao. Dr.
Cabugao, a general
practitioner, specializing
in familymedicine gave
medicines for the pain and
told Palma's parents to
call him up if his stomach
pains continue. Due to
persistent abdominal
pains, at 4:30 in the early
morning of June 15, 2000,
they returnedto Dr.
Cabugao, who advised
them to bring JR to the
Nazareth General
Hospital in Dagupan City,
for confinement. JR was
admitted at the said
hospital at 5:30 in the
morning. 5
Blood samples were taken
from JR for laboratory
testing. The complete
blood count conveyed the
following result: wbc –
27.80 x 10 9/L;
lymphocytes – 0.10 and
neutrophils – 0.90.
Diagnostic ultrasound was
likewise conducted on the
patient's lower abdomen
by radiologist, Dr. Ricky
V. Querubin, with the
following findings:
Normal liver, bile ducts,
gallbladder, pancreas,
spleen, kidneys and
urinary bladder.
There is no free peritoneal
fluid.
There is localized
tenderness in the
paraumbilical region,
more so in the supra and
right paraumbilical areas.
There is a vague elongated
hypoechoic focus in the
right periumbilical region
roughly about 47 x 18 mm
surrounded by
undistended gas-filled
bowels. This is suggestive
of an inflammatory
process wherein
appendiceal or
periappendiceal pathology
cannot be excluded.
Clinical correlation is
essential." 6

Dr. Cabugao did a rectal


examination noting the
following: "rectal: good
sphincter, negative
tenderness, negative
mass." The initial
impression was Acute
Appendicitis, and hence,
7

he referred the case to his


co-accused, Dr. Ynzon, a
surgeon. In the later part
8

of the morning of June 15,


2000, Dr. Ynzon went to
the hospital and readthe
CBC and ultrasound
results. The
administration of massive
antibiotics and pain
reliever to JRwere
ordered. Thereafter, JR
was placed on observation
for twenty-four (24)
hours.
In the morning of June
16, 2000, JR complained
again of abdominal pain
and his parents noticeda
swelling in his scrotum. In
the afternoon of the same
day, JR vomitted out
greenish stuff three (3)
times and had watery
bowels also three (3)
times. The nurses on-duty
relayed JR's condition to
Dr. Ynzon who merely
gaveorders via telephone. 9

Accused continued
medications to alleviate
JR's abdominal spasms
and diarrhea. By
midnight, JR again
vomitted twice, had loose
bowel movements and was
unable to sleep. The
following morning, June
17,2000, JR's condition
worsened, he had a
running fever of 38°C.
JR's fever remained
uncontrolled and he
became unconscious, he
was given Aeknil (1
ampule) and Valium (1
ampule). JR's condition
continued to deteriorate
that by 2 o'clock in the
afternoon, JR's
temperature soared to
42°C, had convulsions and
finally died.
The Death Certificate 10

dated June 19, 2000


prepared by Dr. Cabugao
indicated the following
causes of death:
Immediate cause:
CARDIORESPIRATOR
Y ARREST
Antecedent cause:
METABOLIC
ENCEPHALOPATHY
Underlying cause:
SEPTICEMIA (ACUTE
APPENDICITIS)
Other significant
conditionscontributing
to death:
CEREBRAL
ANEURYSM
RUPTURED (?)
No post-mortem
examination was
conducted on JR. On
February 1, 2001, an
Information was filed
against accused for
reckless imprudence
resulting to homicide. At
their arraignment, both
accused, duly assisted by
counsel, pleaded not
guilty to the charge.
On February 28, 2003, in
convicting both the
accused, the trial court
found the following
circumstances as
sufficient basis to
conclude that accused
were indeed negligent in
the performance of their
duties:
It is unquestionable that
JR was under the medical
care of the accused from
the time of his admission
for confinement at the
Nazareth General
Hospital until his death.
Upon his admission, the
initial working diagnosis
was to consider acute
appendicitis. To assist the
accused in the
consideration of acute
appendicitis, Dr. Cabugao
requested for a complete
blood count (CBC) and a
diagnostic ultrasound on
JR. The findings of the
CBC and ultrasound
showed that an
inflammatory process or
infection was going on
inside the body of JR.
Said inflammatory
process was happening in
the periumbilical region
where the appendix could
be located. The initial
diagnosis of acute
appendicitis appears to be
a distinct possibility. x x x.
Dr. Ynzon ordered
medications to treat the
symptoms being
manifested by JR.
Thereafter, he ordered
that JR be observed for 24
hours. However, the
accused, as the attending
physicians, did not
personally monitor JR in
order to check on subtle
changes that may occur.
Rather, they left the
monitoring and actual
observation to resident
physicians who are just on
residency training and in
doing so, they substituted
their own expertise, skill
and competence with
those of physicians who
are merely new doctors
still on training. Not
having personally
observed JR during this
24-hour critical period of
observation, the accused
relinquished their duty
and thereby were unable
to give the proper and
correct evaluation as to
the real condition of JR.
In situations where
massive infection is going
on as shown by the
aggressive medication of
antibiotics, the condition
of the patient is serious
which necessitated
personal, not delegated,
attention of attending
physicians, namely JR
and the accused in this
case.
xxxx
Throughout the course of
the hospitalization and
treatment of JR, the
accused failed to address
the acute appendicitis
which was the initial
diagnosis. They did not
take steps to find out if
indeed acute appendicitis
was what was causing the
massive infection that was
ongoing inside the body of
JR even when the
inflammatory process was
located at the
paraumbilical region
where the appendix can
be located. x x x
There may have been
other diseases but the
records do not show that
the accused took steps to
find outwhat disease
exactly was plaguing JR.
It was their duty to find
out the disease causing the
health problem of JR, but
they did not perform any
process of elimination.
Appendicitis, according to
expert testimonies, could
be eliminated only by
surgery but no surgery
was done by the accused.
But the accused could not
have found out the real
disease of JR because they
were treating merely and
exclusively the symptoms
by means of the different
medications to arrest the
manifested symptoms. In
fact, by treating the
symptoms alone, the
accused were recklessly
and wantonly ignoring the
same as signs of the
graver health problem of
JR. This gross negligence
on the part of the accused
allowed the infection to
spread inside the body of
JR unabated. The
infection obviously spread
so fastand was so massive
that within a period of
only two and a half (2 ½)
days from the day of
admission to the hospital
on June 15, 2000, JR who
was otherwise healthy
died [of] Septicemia
(Acute Appendicitis) on
June 17, 2000.
11

On June 4, 2004, in
affirming the accused'
conviction, the Court of
Appeals gave similar
observations, to wit:
The foregoing expert
testimony clearly revealed
such want of reasonable
skill and care on the part
of JR's attending
physicians, appellants Dr.
Cabugao and Dr. Ynzon
in neglecting to monitor
effectively and sufficiently
the developments/changes
during the observation
period and act upon the
situation after said 24-
hour period when his
abdominal pain subsisted,
his condition even
worsened with the
appearance of more
serious symptoms of
nausea, vomiting and
diarrhea. Considering the
brief visit only made on
regular rounds, the
records clearly show such
gross negligence in failing
to take appropriate steps
to determine the real
cause of JR's abdominal
pain so that the crucial
decision to perform
surgery (appendectomy)
had even been ruled out
precisely because of the
inexcusable neglect to
undertake suchefficient
diagnosis by process of
elimination, as correctly
pointed out by the trial
court. As has been
succinctly emphasized by
Dr. Mateo, acute
appendicitis was the
working diagnosis, and
with the emergence of
symptoms after the 24-
hour observation (high
fever, vomiting, diarrhea)
still, appellants ruled out
surgery, not even
considering exploratory
laparoscopy. Dr. Mateo
also expressed the opinion
that the decision to
operate could have been
made after the result of
the ultrasound test,
considering that acute
appendicitis was the
initial diagnosis by Dr.
Cabugao after he had
conducted a rectal
examination.
Medical records buttress
the trial court's finding
that in treating JR,
appellants have
demonstrated indifference
and neglect of the
patient's condition as a
serious case. Indeed,
appendicitis remains a
clinical emergencyand a
surgical disease, as
correctly underscored by
Dr. Mateo, a practicing
surgeon who has already
performed over a
thousand appendectomy.
In fact, appendectomy is
the only rational therapy
for acute appendicitis; it
avoids clinical
deterioration and may
avoid chronic or recurrent
appendicitis. Although
difficult, prompt
recognition and
immediate treatment of
the disease prevent
complications. Under the
factual circumstances, the
inaction, neglect and
indifference of appellants
who, after the day of
admission and after being
apprised of the ongoing
infection from the CBC
and initial diagnosis as
acute appendicitis from
rectal examination and
ultrasound testand only
briefly visited JR once
during regular rounds
and gave medication
orders by telephone –
constitutes gross
negligenceleading to the
continued deterioration of
the patient, his infection
having spread in sofast a
pace that he died within
just two and a half (2 ½)
days’ stay inthe hospital.
Authorities state that if
the clinical picture is
unclear a short period of 4
to 6 hours of watchful
waiting and a CT scan
may improve diagnostic
accuracy and help to
hasten diagnosis.Even
assuming that JR's case
had an atypical
presentation in view of the
location of his appendix,
laboratory tests could
have helped to confirm
diagnosis, as Dr. Mateo
opined thatthe possibility
of JR having a retrocecal
appendicitis should have
been a strong
consideration.
Lamentably, however, as
found by the trial court,
appellants had not taken
steps towards correct
diagnosis and
demonstrated laxity even
when JR was already
running a high fever in
the morning of June 17,
2000 and continued
vomiting with diarrhea,
his abdominal pain
becoming more intense.
This is the reason why
private complainants were
not even apprised of the
progress of appellants'
diagnosis – appellants
have nothing to report
because they did nothing
towards the end and
merely gave medications
to address the symptoms.12

Thus, these appeals


brought beforethis Court
raising the following
arguments:
I
WHETHER THE
CAUSE OF
ACCUSATION AS
CONTAINED IN THE
INFORMATION IS
"FAILURE TO
PERFORM
IMMEDIATE
OPERATION UPON
THE PATIENT
ROFOLFO PALMA
JR. OF ACUTE
APPENDICITIS;
II
WHETHER THE
SUBJECT
INFORMATION
APPEARS TO HAVE
ACCUSED BOTH
ACCUSED DOCTORS
OF CONSPIRACY
AND THE
APPEALED
DECISION SEEMS
TO HAVE TREATED
BOTH ACCUSED
DOCTORS TO BE IN
CONSPIRACY;
III
WHETHER
PETITIONER DR.
CABUGAO IS A
GENERAL
PRACTITIONER
(NOT A SURGEON)
AND HAVE
EXCLUDED
SURGERY FROM
THE LIMITS OFHIS
PRACTICE, AND IT
WAS NOT AND
NEVER HIS DUTY
TO OPERATE THE
PATIENT RODOLFO
PALMA JR., THAT
WAS WHY HE
REFERRED
SUBJECT PATIENT
TO A SURGEON, DR.
CLENIO YNZON;
IV
WHETHER THE
DEFENSE NEVER
STATED THAT
THERE IS
GUARANTEE THAT
DOING SURGERY
WOULD HAVE
SAVED THE
PATIENT;
V
WHETHER THE
WITNESSES FOR
THE PROSECUTION
INCLUDING
PROSECUTION'S
EXPERT WITNESSES
EVER
DECLARED/TESTIFI
ED THAT
PETITIONER DR.
CABUGAO HAD THE
DUTY TO PERFORM
IMMEDIATE
OPERATION ON
RODOLFO PALMA,
JR., AND THEY
FAILED TO
STATE/SHOW THAT
THE PROXIMATE
CAUSE OF DEATH
OF JR WAS ACUTE
APPENDICITIS;
VI
WHETHER THE
EXPERT WITNESSES
PRESENTED BY THE
PROSECUTION
EVER QUESTIONED
THE MANAGEMENT
AND CARE APPLIED
BY PETITIONER DR.
CABUGAO;
VII
WHETHER THE
EXPERT WITNESSES
PRESENTED BY THE
DEFENSE ARE
UNANIMOUS IN
APPROVING THE
METHOD OF
TREATMENT
APPLIED BY BOTH
ACCUSED DOCTORS
ON SUBJECT
PATIENT, AND THEY
DECLARED/AFFIRM
ED THAT THEY
WOULD FIRST
PLACE SUBJECT
THE PATIENT
UNDER
OBSERVATION, AND
WOULD NOT
PERFORM
IMMEDIATE
OPERATION;
VIII
WHETHER THE
CONVICTION OF
PETITIONER DR.
YNZON WAS
ESTABLISHED
WITH THE
REQUIRED
QUANTUM OF
PROOF BEYOND
REASONABLE
DOUBT THAT THE
PATIENT WAS
SPECIFICALLY
SUFFERING FROM
AND DIED OF
ACUTE
APPENDICITIS; and
IX
WHETHER THE
FAILURE TO
CONDUCT THE
SPECIFIC
SURGICAL
OPERATION
KNOWN AS
APPENDECTOMY
CONSTITUTED
CRIMINAL
NEGLIGENCE.
In a nutshell, the petition
brought before this Court
raises the issue of whether
or not petitioners'
conviction of the crime of
reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide,
arising from analleged
medical malpractice, is
supported by the evidence
on record.
Worth noting is that the
assigned errors are
actually factual in nature,
which as a general rule,
findings of factof the trial
court and the Court of
Appeals are binding and
conclusiveupon this
Court, and we will not
normally disturb such
factual findings unless the
findings of the court are
palpably unsupported by
the evidence on record or
unless the judgment itself
is based on
misapprehension of facts.
Inthe instant case, we find
the need to make certain
exception.
AS TO DR. YNZON'S
LIABILITY:
Reckless imprudence
consists of voluntarily
doing or failing to do,
without malice, an act
from which material
damage results by reason
of an inexcusable lack of
precautionon the part of
the person performing or
failing to perform such
act. The elements of
13

reckless imprudence are:


(1) that the offender does
or fails to do an act; (2)
that the doing or the
failure to do that act is
voluntary; (3) that it
bewithout malice; (4) that
material damage results
from the reckless
imprudence; and (5) that
there is inexcusable lack
of precaution on the part
of the offender, taking into
consideration his
employment or
occupation, degree of
intelligence, physical
condition, and other
circumstances regarding
persons, time and place.14

With respect to Dr.


Ynzon, all the requisites
of the offense have been
clearly established by the
evidence on record. The
court a quoand the
appellate court were one
in concluding that Dr.
Ynzon failed to observe
the required standard of
care expected from
doctors.
In the instant case, it was
sufficiently established
that to prevent certain
death, it was necessary to
perform surgery on JR
immediately. Even the
prosecution’s own expert
witness, Dr. Antonio
Mateo, testified during
15

cross-examination that he
would perform surgery on
JR:
ATTY. CASTRO:
Q. Given these data soft
non-tender abdomen,
ambulatory, watery
diarrhea, Exhibit C which
is the ultrasound result,
with that laboratory
would you operate the
patient?
A Yes, I would do surgery.
Q And you should have
done surgery with this
particular case?"
A Yes, sir.
16

xxxx
COURT:
Q You stated a while ago
doctor thatyou are going
to [do] surgery to the
patient, why doctor, if you
are notgoing to do
surgery, what will
happen?
A If this would be
appendicitis, the usual
progress would be that it
would be ruptured and
generalized peritonitis
and eventually septicemia,
sir.
Q What do you mean by
that doctor?
A That means that
infection would spread
throughout the body, sir.
Q If unchecked doctor,
what will happen?
A It will result to death.
17

xxxx
Q And what would have
you doneif you entertain
other considerations from
the time the patient was
admitted?
A From the time the
patient was admitted until
the report of the
sonologist, I would have
made a decision by then.
Q And when to decide the
surgery would it be a
particular exact time,
would it be the same for
all surgeons?
A If you are asking acute
appendicitis, it would be
about 24 hours because
acute appendicitis is a 24-
hour disease, sir.
Q. And would it be correct
to say that it depends on
the changes on the
condition of the patient?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. So, are you saying
more than 24 hours when
there are changes?
A. If there are changes in
the patient pointing
towards appendicitis then
you have to decide right
there and then, sir.
Q. So if there are changes
in the patient pointing to
appendicitis?
A. It depends now on
what you are trying to
wait for in the observation
period, sir.
Q. So precisely if the
change is a condition
which bring you in doubt
that there is something
else other than
appendicitis, would you
extend over a period of 24
hours?
A. It depends on the
emergent development,
sir.
Q. That is the point, if you
are the attending
physician and there is a
change not pointing to
appendicitis, would you
extend over a period of 24
hours?
A. In 24 hours you have to
decide, sir.
xxxx
Q. And that is based on
the assessment of the
attending physician?
A. Yes, sir.
18

Dr. Mateo further testified


on cross-examination:
ATTY. CASTRO:
Q: So you will know
yourself, as far as the
record is concerned,
because if you will agree
with me, you did not even
touch the patient?
A. Yes, I based my opinion
on what is put on record,
sir. The records show that
after the observation
period, the abdominal
pain is still there plus
there are already other
signs and symptoms
which are not seen or
noted.
Q. But insofar as you
yourself not having
touched the abdomen of
the patient, would you
give a comment on that?
A. Yes, based on the
record, after 24 hours of
observation, the pain
apparently was still there
and there was more
vomiting and there was
diarrhea. In my personal
opinion, I think the
condition of the patient
was deteriorating.
Q. Even though you have
not touched the patient?
A. I based on what was on
the record, sir.
19

From the foregoing, it is


clear that if JR’s
condition remained
unchecked it would
ultimately result in his
death, as what actually
happened in the present
case. Another expert
witness for the defense,
Dr. Vivencio Villaflor, Jr.
testified on direct
examination that he
would perform a personal
and thorough physical
examination of the patient
as frequent as every 4 to 6
hours, to wit:
ATTY. CASTRO:
Q. As an expert doctor, if
you were faced with a
history of abdominal pain
with nausea, vomiting,
fever, anurecia (sic),
elevated white blood cell
count, physical
examination of a positive
psoas sign, observation of
the sonologist of
abdominal tenderness and
the ultrasound findings of
the probability of
appendiceal (sic)
pathology, what will you
do if you have faced these
problems, Doctor?
A. I will examine the
patient thoroughly and it
will depend on my
physical examination and
that isprobably every 4 to
6 hours, sir.
20

On cross-examination, Dr.
Villaflor affirmed:
Cross Exam. By Atty.
Marteja:
Q. x x x However, there
are corrections and
admissions made at that
time, your Honor, do I
understand thatT/C does
not mean ruled out but
rather to consider the
matter?
A. Yes, now that I have
seen the records of the
patient, it says here,
impression and T/C
means to consider the
appendicitis.
Q. Isn't it that it is worth
then to say that the initial
working diagnosis on
Rodolfo Palma, Jr.,
otherwise known as JR, to
whom I shall now refer to
as JR, the primary
consideration then is
acute appendicitis, is that
correct to say Doctor?
A. I think so, that is the
impression.
Q. x x x Now if it is to be
considered as the primary
consideration in the initial
working diagnosis, isn't it
a fact that it has tobe
ruled out in order to
consider it as not the
disease of JR?
A. Yes. Sir.
Q. Isn't it a fact thatto
rule out acute appendicitis
as not the disease of JR,
surgery or operation must
be done, isn't it Doctor?
A. You have to correlate
all the findings.
Q. Is it yes or no, Doctor?
A. Yes.
Q. So, you are saying then
that in order to rule out
acute appendicitis there
must be an operation, that
is right Doctor?
A. No, sir. If your
diagnosis is toreally
determine if it is an acute
appendicitis, you have to
operate.21

xxxx
Q. Now Doctor,
considering the infection,
considering that there was
a [symptom] that causes
pain, considering that JR
likewise was feverish and
that he was vomiting, does
that not show a disease of
acute appendicitis
Doctor?
A. Its possible.
Q. So that if that is
possible, are we getting
the impression then
Doctor what you have
earlier mentioned that the
only way to rule out the
suspect which is acute
appendicitis is by surgery,
you have said that earlier
Doctor, I just want any
confirmation of it?
A. Yes, sir.
22

Verily, whether a
physician or surgeon has
exercised the requisite
degree of skill and care in
the treatment of his
patient is, in the
generality of cases, a
matter of expert opinion.
The deference of courts to
the expert opinions of
qualified physicians stems
from its realization that
the latter possess unusual
technical skills which
laymen in most instances
are incapable of
intelligently evaluating. 23

From the testimonies of


the expert witnesses
presented, it was
irrefutably proven that
Dr. Ynzon failed to
practice that degree of
skill and care required in
the treatment of his
patient.
As correctly observed by
the appellate court, Dr.
Ynzon revealed want of
reasonable skill and care
in attending to the needs
of JR by neglecting to
monitor effectively the
developmentsand changes
on JR's condition during
the observation period,
and to act upon the
situation after the 24-hour
period when his
abdominal pain persisted
and his condition
worsened. Lamentable,
Dr. Ynzon appeared to
have visited JRbriefly
only during regular
rounds in the mornings.
He was not there during
the crucial times on June
16, 2000 when JR's
condition started to
deteriorate until JR's
death. As the attending
surgeon, he should be
primarily responsible in
monitoring the condition
of JR, as he is in the best
position considering his
skills and experience to
know if the patient's
condition had
deteriorated. While the
resident-doctors-onduty
could likewise monitor the
patient’scondition, he is
the one directly
responsible for the patient
as the attending surgeon.
Indeed, it is reckless and
gross negligence of duty to
relegate his personal
responsibility to observe
the condition of the
patient. Again, acute
appendicitis was the
working diagnosis, and
with the emergence of
graver symptoms after the
24-hour observation, Dr.
Ynzon ruled out surgery
for no apparent reason.
We, likewise, note that the
records are devoid of
showing of any reasonable
cause which would lead
Dr. Ynzon tooverrule
appendectomy despite the
initial diagnosis of
appendicitis. Neitherwas
there any showing that he
was entertaining another
diagnosis nor he took
appropriate steps towards
another diagnosis.
Among the elements
constitutive of reckless
imprudence, what
perhaps is most central to
a finding of guilt is the
conclusive determination
that the accused has
exhibited, by his
voluntary act without
malice, an inexcusable
lack of precaution. It is
that which supplies the
criminal intent so
indispensable as tobring
an act of mere negligence
and imprudence under
the operation of the penal
law. This is because a
conscious indifference to
the consequences of the
conduct is all that is
required from the
standpoint of the frame of
mind of the accused. 24

Quasioffenses penalize the


mental attitudeor
condition behind the act,
the dangerous
recklessness, the lack of
care or foresight, the
"imprudencia punible,"
unlike willful offenses
which punish the
intentional criminal act.25

This is precisely where


this Court found Dr.
Ynzon to be guilty of - his
seemingly indifference to
the deteriorating
condition of JR that he as
a consequence, failed to
exercise lack of precaution
which eventually led to
JR's death.
To be sure, whether or not
a physician has committed
an "inexcusable lack of
precaution" in the
treatment of his patient is
to be determined
according to the standard
of care observed by other
members of the profession
in good standing under
similar circumstances
bearing in mind the
advanced state of the
profession at the time of
treatment or the present
state of medical science.
In accepting a case, a
doctor in effect represents
that, having the needed
training and skill
possessed by physicians
and surgeons practicing in
the same field, he will
employ such training, care
and skill in the treatment
of his patients. He,
therefore, has a duty to
use at least the same level
of care that any other
reasonably competent
doctor would use to treat
a condition under the
same circumstances.26

Sadly, Dr. Ynzon did not


display that degree of care
and precaution demanded
by the circumstances.
AS TO DR. CABUGAO'S
LIABILITY:
Every criminal conviction
requires of the
prosecution to prove two
things — the fact of the
crime, i.e., the presence of
all the elements of the
crime for which the
accused stands charged,
and the fact that the
accused is the perpetrator
of the crime. Based on the
above disquisitions,
however, the prosecution
failed to prove these two
things. The Court is not
convinced with moral
certainty that Dr.
Cabugao isguilty of
reckless imprudence as
the elements thereof were
not proven by the
prosecution beyond a
reasonable doubt.
Both the trial court and
the appellate court bewail
the failure to perform
appendectomy on JR, or
the failure to determine
the source of infection
which caused the
deterioration of JR's
condition. However, a
review of the records fail
to show that Dr. Cabugao
is in any position to
perform the required
appendectomy.
Immediately apparent
from a review of the
records of this case is the
fact that Dr. Cabugao is
not a surgeon,but a
general practitioner
specializing in family
medicine; thus, even if he
27

wanted to, he cannot do


an operation, much less
an appendectomy on JR.
It is precisely for this
reason why he referred JR
to Dr. Ynzon after he
suspected appendicitis.
Dr. Mateo, the
prosecution’s expert
witness, emphasized the
role of the surgeon during
direct examination, to wit:
ATTY. MARTEJA:
Q. You had mentioned
that under this
circumstances and
condition, you have
mentioned that surgery is
the solution, would you
have allowed then a 24
hour observation?
A. If there is a lingering
doubt, inshort period of
observation of 18-24
hours can be allowed
provided that there would
be close monitoring of the
patient, sir.
Q. Would you please tell
us who would be doing the
monitoring doctor?
A. The best person should
be the first examiner, the
best surgeon, sir.
Q. So that would you say
that it is incumbent on the
surgeon attending to the
case to have been the one
to observe within the
period of observation?
A. Yes, because he will be
in the best position to
observe the sudden
changes in the condition
of the patient, sir.
Q. And how often would
in your experience doctor,
how often would the
surgeon re-assist (sic) the
condition of the patient
during the period of
observation?
A. Most foreign authors
would recommend every
four (4) hours, some
centers will recommend
hourly or every two hours
but here in the
Philippines, would
recommend for 4 to 6
hours, sir.
28

Dr. Cabugao’s supervision


does not cease upon his
endorsement of his patient
to the surgeon. Here, Dr.
Cabugao has shown to
have exerted all efforts to
monitor his patient and
under these circumstances
he did not have any cause
to doubt Dr. Ynzon’s
competence and diligence.
Expert testimonies have
been offered to prove the
circumstances
surrounding the case of
JR and the need to
perform an operation.
Defense witness, Dr.
Villaflor, on cross
examination testified, to
wit:
Q. Isn't it a fact that
torule out acute
appendicitis as notthe
disease of JR, surgery or
operation mustbe done,
isn't it Doctor?
A. You have to [correlate]
all the findings.
Q. Is it yes or no, Doctor?
A. Yes.
Q. So, you are saying then
that in order to rule out
acute appendicitis there
must be an operation, that
is right Doctor?
A. No, sir. If your
diagnosis is to really
determine if it is an acute
appendicitis, you have to
operate.29
xxxx
Q. Now Doctor,
considering the infection,
considering that there was
a [symptom] that causes
pain, considering that JR
likewise was feverish and
that he was vomitting,
does that not show a
disease of acute
appendicitis Doctor?
A. It’s possible.
Q. So that if that is
possible, are we getting
the impression then
Doctor what you have
earlier mentioned that the
only way to rule out the
suspect which is acute
appendicitis is by surgery,
you have said that earlier
Doctor, I just want any
confirmation of it?
A. Yes, sir.
30

Neither do we find
evidence that Dr. Cabugao
has been negligent or
lacked the necessary
precaution in his
performance of his duty
as a family doctor. On the
contrary, a perusal ofthe
medical records would
show that during the 24-
hour monitoring on JR, it
was Dr. Cabugao who
frequently made orders
on the administration of
antibiotics and pain
relievers. There was also
repetitive instructions
from Dr. Cabugao to refer
JR to Dr. Ynzon as it
appeared that he is
suspecting appendicitis.
The referral of JR to Dr.
Ynzon, a surgeon, is
actually an exercise of
precaution as he knew
that appendicitis is not
within his scope of
expertise. This clearly
showed that he employed
the best of his knowledge
and skill in attending to
JR's condition, even after
the referral of JR to Dr.
Ynzon. To be sure, the
calculated assessment of
Dr. Cabugao to refer JRto
a surgeon who has
sufficient training and
experience to handle JR’s
case belies the finding that
he displayed inexcusable
lack of precaution in
handling his patient.31

We likewise note that Dr.


Cabugao was out of town
when JR's condition
began to deteriorate. Even
so, before he left, he made
endorsement and notified
the resident-doctor and
nurses-on-duty that he
will be on leave.
Moreover, while both
appeared to be the
attending physicians of JR
during his hospital
confinement, it cannot be
said that the finding of
guilt on Dr. Ynzon
necessitates the same
finding on the co-accused
Dr. Cabugao. Conspiracy
is inconsistent with the
idea of a felony committed
by means of culpa. Thus,
32

the accused-doctors to be
found guilty of reckless
imprudence resulting in
homicide, it must be
shown that both accused-
doctors demonstratedan
act executed without
malice or criminal intent –
but with lack of foresight,
carelessness, or
negligence. Noteworthy,
the evidence on record
clearly points to the
reckless imprudence of
Dr. Ynzon; however, the
same cannot be said in Dr.
Cabugao's case.
AS TO CIVIL
LIABILITY
While this case is pending
appeal, counsel for
petitioner Dr. Ynzon
informed the Court that
the latter died on
December 23, 2011 due to
"multiorgan failure" as
evidenced by a copy of
death certificate. Thus,
33
the effect of death,
pending appeal of his
conviction of petitioner
Dr. Ynzon with regard to
his criminal and
pecuniary liabilities
should be in accordance
to People v. Bayotas, 34

wherein the Court laid


down the rules in case the
accused dies prior to final
judgment:
1. Death of the accused
pending appeal of his
conviction extinguishes
his criminal liability as
well as the civil liability
based solely thereon. As
opined by Justice
Regalado, in this regard,
"the death of the
accused prior to final
judgment terminates his
criminal liability and
only the civil liability
directly arising from
and based solely on the
offense committed,
i.e.,civil liability ex
delictoin senso
strictiore."
2. Corollarily, the claim
for civil liability
survives
notwithstanding the
death of accused, if the
same may also be
predicated on a source
of obligation other than
delict. Article 1157 of
the Civil Code
enumerates these other
sources of obligation
fromwhich the civil
liability may arise as a
result of the same act or
omission:
a) Law
b) Contracts
c) Quasi-contracts
d) x x x x x x x x x
e) Quasi-delicts
3. Where the civil
liability survives, as
explained in Number 2
above, an action for
recovery therefor may
be pursued but only by
way of filing a separate
civil action and subject
to Section 1, Rule 111 of
the 1985 Rules on
Criminal Procedure as
amended. This separate
civil action may be
enforced either
againstthe
executor/administrator
or the estate of the
accused, depending on
the source of obligation
upon which the same is
based as explained
above.
4. Finally, the private
offended party need not
fear a forfeiture of his
right to file this separate
civil action by
prescription, in cases
where during the
prosecution of the
criminal action and
prior to its extinction,
the private-offended
party instituted together
therewith the civil
action. In such case, the
statute of limitationson
the civil liability is
deemed interrupted
during the pendency of
the criminal case,
conformably with
provisions of Article
1155 of the Civil Code,
that should thereby
avoid any apprehension
on a possible privation
of right by prescription.35

In view of the foregoing, it


is clear that the death of
the accused Dr. Ynzon
pending appeal of his
conviction extinguishes
his criminal liability.
However, the recovery of
civil liability subsists as
the same is not based on
delictbut by contract and
the reckless imprudence
he was guilty of under
Article 365 of the Revised
Penal Code.1âwphi1 For
this reason, a separate
civil action may be
enforced either against the
executor/administrator or
the estate of the accused,
depending on the source
of obligation upon which
the same is based, and in
36

accordance with Section 4,


Rule 111 of the Rules on
Criminal Procedure, we
quote:
Sec. 4. Effect of death on
civil actions. – The death
of the accused after
arraignment and during
the pendency of the
criminal action shall
extinguish the civil
liability arising from the
delict. However, the
independent civil action
instituted under section 3
of this Rule or which
thereafter is instituted to
enforce liability arising
from other sources of
obligation may be
continued against the
estate or legal
representative of the
accused after proper
substitution or against
said estate, as the case
may be. The heirs of the
accused may
besubstituted for the
deceased without
requiring the appointment
of an executor or
administrator and the
court may appoint a
guardian ad litem for the
minor heirs.
The court shall forthwith
order said legal
representative or
representatives to appear
and be substituted within
a period of thirty (30)
days from notice.
A final judgment entered
in favor of the offended
party shall be enforced in
the manner especially
provided in these rules for
prosecuting claims against
the estate of the deceased.
If the accused dies before
arraignment, the case
shall be dismissed without
prejudice to any civil
action the offended party
may file against the estate
of the deceased.
(Emphases ours)
In sum, upon the
extinction of the criminal
liability and the offended
party desires to recover
damages from the same
act or omission
complained of, the party
may file a separate civil
action based on the other
sources of obligation in
accordance with Section 4,
Rule 111. If the same act
37

or omission complained of
arises from quasi-delict,as
in this case, a separate
civil action must be filed
against the executor or
administrator of the estate
of the accused, pursuant
to Section 1, Rule 87 of
the Rules of Court:38

Section 1. Actions which


may and which may not
be brought against
executor or administrator.
— No action upon a claim
for the recovery of money
or debtor interest thereon
shall be commenced
against the executor or
administrator; but to
recover real or personal
property, or an interest
therein, from the estate, or
to enforce a lien thereon,
and actions to recover
damages for an injury to
person or property, real
or personal, may be
commenced against him.
(Emphases ours)
Conversely, if the
offended party desires to
recover damages from the
same act or omission
complained of arising
from contract, the filing of
a separate civil action
must be filed against the
estate, pursuant to Section
5, Rule 86 of the Rules of
Court, to wit:
Section 5. Claims which
must be filed under the
notice. If not filed, barred;
exceptions. — All claims
for money against the
decent, arising from
contract, express or
implied, whether the same
be due, not due, or
contingent, all claims for
funeral expenses and
expense for the last
sickness of the decedent,
and judgment for money
against the decent, must
be filed within the time
limited in the notice;
otherwise they are barred
forever, except that they
may be set forth as
counterclaims in any
action that the executor or
administrator may bring
against the claimants.
Where an executor or
administrator
commencesan action, or
prosecutes an action
already commenced by
the deceased in his
lifetime, the debtor may
set forth by answer the
claims he has against the
decedent, instead of
presenting them
independently to the court
as herein provided, and
mutual claims may be set
off against each other in
such action; and if final
judgment is rendered in
favor of the defendant, the
amount so determined
shall be considered the
true balance against the
estate, as though the claim
had been presented
directly beforethe court in
the administration
proceedings. Claims not
yet due, or contingent,
may be approved at their
present value.
As a final note, we
reiterate thatthe policy
against double recovery
requires that only one
action be maintained for
the same act or omission
whether the action is
brought against the
executor or administrator,
or the estate. The heirs of
39

JR must choose which of


the available causes of
action for damages they
will bring.
WHEREFORE, premises
considered, petitioner DR.
ANTONIO P. CABUGAO
is hereby ACQUITTEDof
the crime of reckless
imprudence resulting to
homicide.
Due to the death of
accused Dr. Clenio Ynzon
prior to the disposition of
this case, his criminal
liability is extinguished;
however, his civil liability
subsists. A separate civil
action may be filed either
against the
executor/administrator, or
the estateof Dr. Ynzon,
depending on the source
of obligation upon which
the same are based.
SO ORDERED.
EN BANC
[G.R. No. 129029. April
3, 2000]
RAFAEL REYES
TRUCKING
CORPORATION,
petitioner, vs. PEOPLE
OF THE PHILIPPINES
and ROSARIO P. DY
(for herself and on
behalf of the minors
Maria Luisa, Francis
Edward, Francis Mark
and Francis Rafael, all
surnamed Dy),
respondents.
DECISION
PARDO, J.:
The case is an appeal
via certiorari from the
amended decision of
[1]

the Court of Appeals [2]

affirming the decision


and supplemental
decision of the trial
court, as follows:
[3]

"IN VIEW OF THE


FOREGOING,
judgment is hereby
rendered
dismissing the
appeals interposed
by both accused
and Reyes Trucking
Corporation and
affirming the
Decision and
Supplemental
Decision dated
June 6, 1992 and
October 26, 1992
respectively.
"SO ORDERED." [4]

The facts are as


follows:
On October 10, 1989,
Provincial Prosecutor
Patricio T. Durian of
Isabela filed with the
Regional Trial Court,
Isabela, Branch 19,
Cauayan an amended
information charging
Romeo Dunca y de
Tumol with reckless
imprudence resulting
in double homicide and
damage to property,
reading as follows:
"That on or about
the 20th day of
June, 1989, in the
Municipality of
Cauayan, Province
of Isabela,
Philippines, and
within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court,
the said accused
being the driver and
person-in-charge of
a Trailer Truck
Tractor bearing
Plate No. N2A-867
registered in the
name of Rafael
Reyes Trucking
Corporation, with a
load of 2,000 cases
of empty bottles of
beer grande,
willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously
drove and operated
the same while
along the National
Highway of
Barangay Tagaran,
in said Municipality,
in a negligent,
careless and
imprudent manner,
without due regard
to traffic laws, rules
and ordinances and
without taking the
necessary
precautions to
prevent injuries to
persons and
damage to property,
causing by such
negligence,
carelessness and
imprudence the
said trailer truck to
hit and bump a
Nissan Pick-up
bearing Plate No.
BBG-957 driven by
Feliciano Balcita
and Francisco Dy,
Jr., @ Pacquing,
due to irreversible
shock, internal and
external
hemorrhage and
multiple injuries,
open wounds,
abrasions, and
further causing
damages to the
heirs of Feliciano
Balcita in the
amount of
P100,000.00 and to
the death of
Francisco Dy, Jr.; @
Pacquing and
damages to his
Nissan Pick-Up
bearing Plate No.
BBG-957 in the total
amount of
P2,000,000.00.
"CONTRARY TO
LAW.
"Cauayan, Isabela,
October 10, 1989.
"(Sgd.) FAUSTO C.
CABANTAC
"Third Assistant
Provincial Prosecutor"
Upon arraignment on
October 23, 1989, the
accused entered a plea
of not guilty. On the
same occasion, the
offended parties
(Rosario P. Dy and
minor children and
Angelina M. Balcita and
minor son Paolo) made
a reservation to file a
separate civil action
against the accused
arising from the
offense charged. On
[5]

November 29, 1989, the


offended parties
actually filed with the
Regional Trial Court,
Isabela, Branch 19,
Cauayan a complaint
against petitioner
Rafael Reyes Trucking
Corporation, as
employer of driver
Romeo Dunca y de
Tumol, based on quasi
delict. The petitioner
settled the claim of the
heirs of Feliciano
Balcita (the driver of
the other vehicle
involved in the
accident). The private
respondents opted to
pursue the criminal
action but did not
withdraw the civil case
quasi ex delicto they
filed against petitioner.
On December 15, 1989,
private respondents
withdrew the
reservation to file a
separate civil action
against the accused
and manifested that
they would prosecute
the civil aspect ex
delicto in the criminal
action. However, they
[6]

did not withdraw the


separate civil action
based on quasi delict
against petitioner as
employer arising from
the same act or
omission of the
accused driver.[7]

Upon agreement of the


parties, the trial court
consolidated both
criminal and civil cases
and conducted a joint
trial of the same.
The facts, as found by
the trial court, which
appear to be
undisputed, are as
follows:
"The defendant
Rafael Reyes
Trucking
Corporation is a
domestic
corporation
engaged in the
business of
transporting beer
products for the
San Miguel
Corporation (SMC
for short) from the
latters San
Fernando,
Pampanga plant to
its various sales
outlets in Luzon.
Among its fleets of
vehicles for hire is
the white truck
trailer described
above driven by
Romeo Dunca y
Tumol, a duly
licensed driver.
Aside from the
Corporations
memorandum to all
its drivers and
helpers to
physically inspect
their vehicles
before each trip
(Exh. 15, pars. 4 &
5), the SMCs Traffic
Investigator-
Inspector certified
the roadworthiness
of this White Truck
trailer prior to June
20, 1989 (Exh. 17).
In addition to a
professional drivers
license, it also
conducts a rigid
examination of all
driver applicants
before they are
hired.
"In the early
morning of June 20,
1989, the White
Truck driven by
Dunca left
Tuguegarao,
Cagayan bound to
San Fernando,
Pampanga loaded
with 2,000 cases of
empty beer
"Grande" bottles.
Seated at the front
right seat beside
him was Ferdinand
Domingo, his truck
helper ("pahinante"
in Pilipino). At
around 4:00 oclock
that same morning
while the truck was
descending at a
slight downgrade
along the national
road at Tagaran,
Cauayan, Isabela, it
approached a
damaged portion of
the road covering
the full width of the
trucks right lane
going south and
about six meters in
length. These made
the surface of the
road uneven
because the
potholes were
about five to six
inches deep. The
left lane parallel to
this damaged
portion is smooth.
As narrated by
Ferdinand
Domingo, before
approaching the
potholes, he and
Dunca saw the
Nissan with its
headlights on
coming from the
opposite direction.
They used to evade
this damaged road
by taking the left
lance but at that
particular moment,
because of the
incoming vehicle,
they had to run over
it. This caused the
truck to bounce
wildly. Dunca lost
control of the
wheels and the
truck swerved to
the left invading the
lane of the Nissan.
As a result, Duncas
vehicle rammed the
incoming Nissan
dragging it to the
left shoulder of the
road and climbed a
ridge above said
shoulder where it
finally stopped. (see
Exh. A-5, p. 8,
record). The Nissan
was severely
damaged (Exhs. A-
7, A-8, A-9 and A-14,
pp. 9-11, record),
and its two
passengers,
namely: Feliciano
Balcita and
Francisco Dy, Jr.
died instantly (Exh.
A-19) from external
and internal
hemorrhage and
multiple fractures
(pp. 15 and 16,
record).
"For the funeral
expenses of
Francisco Dy, Jr.
her widow spent
P651,360.00 (Exh. I-
3). At the time of his
death he was 45
years old. He was
the President and
Chairman of the
Board of the
Dynamic Wood
Products and
Development
Corporation
(DWPC), a wood
processing
establishment, from
which he was
receiving an income
of P10,000.00 a
month (Exh. D). In
the Articles of
Incorporation of the
DWPC, the spouses
Francisco Dy, Jr.
and Rosario Perez
Dy appear to be
stockholders of
10,000 shares each
with par value of
P100.00 per share
out of its
outstanding and
subscribed capital
stock of 60,000
shares valued at
P6,000,000.00
(Exhs. K-1 & 10-B).
Under its 1988
Income Tax Returns
(Exh. J) the DWPC
had a taxable net
income of
P78,499.30 (Exh. J).
Francisco Dy, Jr.
was a La Salle
University graduate
in Business
Administration, past
president of the
Pasay Jaycees,
National Treasurer
and President of the
Philippine Jaycees
in 1971 and 1976,
respectively, and
World Vice-
President of
Jaycees
International in
1979. He was also
the recipient of
numerous awards
as a civic leader
(Exh. C). His
children were all
studying in
prestigious schools
and spent about
P180,000.00 for
their education in
1988 alone (Exh. H-
4).
"As stated earlier,
the plaintiffs
procurement of a
writ of attachment
of the properties of
the Corporation was
declared illegal by
the Court of
Appeals. It was
shown that on
December 26, 1989,
Deputy Sheriff
Edgardo Zabat of
the RTC at San
Fernando,
Pampanga,
attached six units of
Truck Tractors and
trailers of the
Corporation at its
garage at San
Fernando,
Pampanga. These
vehicles were kept
under PC guard by
the plaintiffs in said
garage thus
preventing the
Corporation to
operate them.
However, on
December 28, 1989,
the Court of
Appeals dissolved
the writ (p. 30,
record) and on
December 29, 1989,
said Sheriff
reported to this
Court that the
attached vehicles
were taken by the
defendants
representative,
Melita Manapil (Exh.
O, p. 31, record).
The defendants
general Manager
declared that it lost
P21,000.00 per day
for the non-
operation of the six
units during their
attachment (p. 31,
t.s.n., Natividad C.
Babaran,
proceedings on
December 10,
1990)."
[8]

On June 6, 1992, the


trial court rendered a
joint decision, the
dispositive portion of
which reads as follows:
"WHEREFORE, in
view of the
foregoing
considerations
judgment is hereby
rendered:
"1. Finding the
accused Romeo
Dunca y de Tumol
guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of
the crime of Double
Homicide through
Reckless
Imprudence with
violation of the
Motor Vehicle Law
(Rep. Act No. 4136),
and appreciating in
his favor the
mitigating
circumstance of
voluntary surrender
without any
aggravating
circumstance to
offset the same, the
Court hereby
sentences him to
suffer two (2)
indeterminate
penalties of four
months and one
day of arresto
mayor as minimum
to three years, six
months and twenty
days as maximum;
to indemnify the
Heirs of Francisco
Dy. Jr. in the
amount of
P3,000,000.00 as
compensatory
damages,
P1,000,000.00 as
moral damages, and
P1,030,000.00 as
funeral expenses;
"2. Ordering the
plaintiff in Civil
Case No. Br. 19-424
to pay the
defendant therein
actual damages in
the amount of
P84,000.00; and
"3. Ordering the
dismissal of the
complaint in Civil
Case No. Br. 19-424.
"No pronouncement
as to costs.
"SO ORDERED.
"Cauayan, Isabela,
June 6, 1992.
"(Sgd.) ARTEMIO R.
ALIVIA
"Regional Trial Judge" [9]

On September 3, 1992,
petitioner and the
accused filed a notice
of appeal from the joint
decision.[10]

On the other hand,


private respondents
moved for amendment
of the dispositive
portion of the joint
decision so as to hold
petitioner subsidiarily
liable for the damages
awarded to the private
respondents in the
event of insolvency of
the accused. [11]

On October 26, 1992,


the trial court rendered
a supplemental
decision amending the
dispositive portion by
inserting an additional
paragraph reading as
follows:
"2:A Ordering the
defendant Reyes
Trucking
Corporation
subsidiarily liable
for all the damages
awarded to the
heirs of Francisco
Dy, Jr., in the event
of insolvency of the
accused but
deducting
therefrom the
damages of
P84,000.00 awarded
to said defendant in
the next preceding
paragraph; and x x
x"[12]

On November 12, 1992,


petitioner filed with the
trial court a
supplemental notice of
appeal from the
supplemental decision.
[13]

During the pendency of


the appeal, the accused
jumped bail and fled to
a foreign country. By
resolution dated
December 29, 1994, the
Court of Appeals
dismissed the appeal
of the accused in the
criminal case. [14]

On January 6, 1997, the


Court of Appeals
rendered an amended
decision affirming that
of the trial court, as set
out in the opening
paragraph of this
decision. [15]

On January 31, 1997,


petitioner filed a
motion for
reconsideration of the
amended decision. [16]

On April 21, 1997, the


Court of Appeals
denied petitioners
motion for
reconsideration for
lack of merit.[17]

Hence, this petition for


review.[18]

On July 21, 1997, the


Court required
respondents to
comment on the
petition within ten (10)
days from notice. [19]

On January 27, 1998,


the Solicitor General
filed his comment. On [20]

April 13, 1998, the


Court granted leave to
petitioner to file a reply
and noted the reply it
filed on March 11, 1998.
[21]

We now resolve to give


due course to the
petition and decide the
case.
Petitioner raises three
(3) grounds for
allowance of the
petition, which,
however, boil down to
two (2) basic issues,
namely:
1.....May petitioner
as owner of the
truck involved in
the accident be held
subsidiarily liable
for the damages
awarded to the
offended parties in
the criminal action
against the truck
driver despite the
filing of a separate
civil action by the
offended parties
against the
employer of the
truck driver?
2.....May the Court
award damages to
the offended parties
in the criminal case
despite the filing of
a civil action
against the
employer of the
truck driver; and in
amounts exceeding
that alleged in the
information for
reckless
imprudence
resulting in
homicide and
damage to
property?[22]

We grant the petition,


resolving under the
circumstances pro hac
vice to remand the
cases to the trial court
for determination of the
civil liability of
petitioner as employer
of the accused driver in
the civil action quasi ex
delicto re-opened for
the purpose.
In negligence cases,
the aggrieved party has
the choice between (1)
an action to enforce
civil liability arising
from crime under
Article 100 of the
Revised Penal Code;
and (2) a separate
action for quasi delict
under Article 2176 of
the Civil Code of the
Philippines. Once the
choice is made, the
injured party can not
avail himself of any
other remedy because
he may not recover
damages twice for the
same negligent act or
omission of the
accused. This is the
[23]

rule against double


recovery.
In other words, "the
same act or omission
can create two kinds of
liability on the part of
the offender, that is,
civil liability ex delicto,
and civil liability quasi
delicto" either of which
"may be enforced
against the culprit,
subject to the caveat
under Article 2177 of
the Civil Code that the
offended party can not
recover damages under
both types of liability."
[24]

In the instant case, the


offended parties
elected to file a
separate civil action for
damages against
petitioner as employer
of the accused, based
on quasi delict, under
Article 2176 of the Civil
Code of the
Philippines. Private
respondents sued
petitioner Rafael Reyes
Trucking Corporation,
as the employer of the
accused, to be
vicariously liable for
the fault or negligence
of the latter. Under the
law, this vicarious
liability of the employer
is founded on at least
two specific provisions
of law.
The first is expressed
in Article 2176 in
relation to Article 2180
of the Civil Code, which
would allow an action
predicated on quasi-
delict to be instituted
by the injured party
against the employer
for an act or omission
of the employee and
would necessitate only
a preponderance of
evidence to prevail.
Here, the liability of the
employer for the
negligent conduct of
the subordinate is
direct and primary,
subject to the defense
of due diligence in the
selection and
supervision of the
employee. The
enforcement of the
judgment against the
employer in an action
based on Article 2176
does not require the
employee to be
insolvent since the
nature of the liability of
the employer with that
of the employee, the
two being statutorily
considered joint
tortfeasors, is solidary.
The second,
[25]

predicated on Article
103 of the Revised
Penal Code, provides
that an employer may
be held subsidiarily
civilly liable for a felony
committed by his
employee in the
discharge of his duty.
This liability attaches
when the employee is
convicted of a crime
done in the
performance of his
work and is found to be
insolvent that renders
him unable to properly
respond to the civil
liability adjudged.
[26]

As regards the first


issue, the answer is in
the negative. Rafael
Reyes Trucking
Corporation, as
employer of the
accused who has been
adjudged guilty in the
criminal case for
reckless imprudence,
can not be held
subsidiarily liable
because of the filing of
the separate civil
action based on quasi
delict against it. In view
of the reservation to
file, and the
subsequent filing of the
civil action for recovery
of civil liability, the
same was not
instituted with the
criminal action. Such
separate civil action
was for recovery of
damages under Article
2176 of the Civil Code,
arising from the same
act or omission of the
accused. [27]

Pursuant to the
provision of Rule 111,
Section 1, paragraph 3
of the 1985 Rules of
Criminal Procedure,
when private
respondents, as
complainants in the
criminal action,
reserved the right to
file the separate civil
action, they waived
other available civil
actions predicated on
the same act or
omission of the
accused-driver. Such
civil action includes the
recovery of indemnity
under the Revised
Penal Code, and
damages under Articles
32, 33, and 34 of the
Civil Code of the
Philippines arising
from the same act or
omission of the
accused. [28]

The intention of private


respondents to
proceed primarily and
directly against
petitioner as employer
of accused truck driver
became clearer when
they did not ask for the
dismissal of the civil
action against the latter
based on quasi delict.
Consequently, the
Court of Appeals and
the trial court erred in
holding the accused
civilly liable, and
petitioner-employer of
the accused
subsidiarily liable for
damages arising from
crime (ex delicto) in the
criminal action as the
offended parties in fact
filed a separate civil
action against the
employer based on
quasi delict resulting in
the waiver of the civil
action ex delicto.
It might be argued that
private respondents as
complainants in the
criminal case withdrew
the reservation to file a
civil action against the
driver (accused) and
manifested that they
would pursue the civil
liability of the driver in
the criminal action.
However, the
withdrawal is
ineffective to reverse
the effect of the
reservation earlier
made because private
respondents did not
withdraw the civil
action against
petitioner based on
quasi delict. In such a
case, the provision of
Rule 111, Section 1,
paragraph 3 of the 1985
Rules on Criminal
Procedure is clear that
the reservation to file
or the filing of a
separate civil action
results in a waiver of
other available civil
actions arising from
the same act or
omission of the
accused. Rule 111,
Section 1, paragraph 2
enumerated what are
the civil actions
deemed waived upon
such reservation or
filing, and one of which
is the civil indemnity
under the Revised
Penal Code. Rule 111,
Section 1, paragraph 3
of the 1985 Rules on
Criminal Procedure
specifically provides:
"A waiver of any of
the civil actions
extinguishes the
others. The
institution of, or the
reservation of the
right to file, any of
said civil actions
separately waives
the others."
The rationale behind
this rule is the
avoidance of multiple
suits between the same
litigants arising out of
the same act or
omission of the
offender. The
restrictive phraseology
of the section under
consideration is meant
to cover all kinds of
civil actions,
regardless of their
source in law, provided
that the action has for
its basis the same act
or omission of the
offender.[29]

However, petitioner as
defendant in the
separate civil action for
damages filed against
it, based on quasi
delict, may be held
liable thereon. Thus,
the trial court
grievously erred in
dismissing plaintiffs
civil complaint. And the
Court of Appeals erred
in affirming the trial
courts decision.
Unfortunately private
respondents did not
appeal from such
dismissal and could
not be granted
affirmative relief.
[30]
The Court, however, in
exceptional cases has
relaxed the rules "in
order to promote their
objectives and assist
the parties in obtaining
just, speedy, and
inexpensive
determination of every
action or proceeding" [31]

or exempted "a
particular case from
the operation of the
rules."
[32]

Invoking this principle,


we rule that the trial
court erred in awarding
civil damages in the
criminal case and in
dismissing the civil
action. Apparently
satisfied with such
award, private
respondent did not
appeal from the
dismissal of the civil
case. However,
petitioner did appeal.
Hence, this case
should be remanded to
the trial court so that it
may render decision in
the civil case awarding
damages as may be
warranted by the
evidence. [33]

With regard to the


second issue, the
award of damages in
the criminal case was
improper because the
civil action for the
recovery of civil
liability was waived in
the criminal action by
the filing of a separate
civil action against the
employer. As
enunciated in Ramos
vs. Gonong, "civil
[34]

indemnity is not part of


the penalty for the
crime committed." The
only issue brought
before the trial court in
the criminal action is
whether accused
Romeo Dunca y de
Tumol is guilty of
reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide
and damage to
property. The action for
recovery of civil
liability is not included
therein, but is covered
by the separate civil
action filed against the
petitioner as employer
of the accused truck-
driver.
In this case, accused-
driver jumped bail
pending his appeal
from his conviction.
Thus, the judgment
convicting the accused
became final and
executory, but only
insofar as the penalty
in the criminal action is
concerned. The
damages awarded in
the criminal action was
invalid because of its
effective waiver. The
pronouncement was
void because the
action for recovery of
the civil liability arising
from the crime has
been waived in said
criminal action.
With respect to the
issue that the award of
damages in the
criminal action
exceeded the amount
of damages alleged in
the amended
information, the issue
is de minimis. At any
rate, the trial court
erred in awarding
damages in the
criminal case because
by virtue of the
reservation of the right
to bring a separate civil
action or the filing
thereof, "there would
be no possibility that
the employer would be
held liable because in
such a case there
would be no
pronouncement as to
the civil liability of the
accused. [35]

As a final note, we
reiterate that "the
policy against double
recovery requires that
only one action be
maintained for the
same act or omission
whether the action is
brought against the
employee or against
his employer. The[36]
injured party must
choose which of the
available causes of
action for damages he
will bring.
[37]

Parenthetically, the trial


court found the
accused "guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of
the crime of Double
Homicide Through
Reckless Imprudence
with violation of the
Motor Vehicle Law
(Rep. Act No. 4136)."
There is no such
nomenclature of an
offense under the
Revised Penal Code.
Thus, the trial court
was misled to sentence
the accused "to suffer
two (2) indeterminate
penalties of four (4)
months and one (1) day
of arresto mayor, as
minimum, to three (3)
years, six (6) months
and twenty (20) days of
prision correccional, as
maximum." This is
erroneous because in
reckless imprudence
cases, the actual
penalty for criminal
negligence bears no
relation to the
individual willful crime
or crimes committed,
but is set in relation to
a whole class, or series
of crimes.[38]

Unfortunately, we can
no longer correct this
judgment even if
erroneous, as it is,
because it has become
final and executory.
Under Article 365 of the
Revised Penal Code,
criminal negligence "is
treated as a mere quasi
offense, and dealt with
separately from willful
offenses. It is not a
question of
classification or
terminology. In
intentional crimes, the
act itself is punished;
in negligence or
imprudence, what is
principally penalized is
the mental attitude or
condition behind the
act, the dangerous
recklessness, lack of
care or foresight, the
imprudencia punible.
Much of the confusion
has arisen from the
common use of such
descriptive phrase as
homicide through
reckless imprudence,
and the like; when the
strict technical sense
is, more accurately,
reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide;
or simple imprudence
causing damages to
property."[39]

There is need,
therefore, to rectify the
designation of the
offense without
disturbing the imposed
penalty for the
guidance of bench and
bar in strict adherence
to precedent.
WHEREFORE, the
Court GRANTS the
petition and SETS
ASIDE the amended
decision and resolution
of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G. R. CR No.
14448, promulgated on
January 6, 1997, and
the joint decision of the
Regional Trial Court,
Isabela, Branch 19,
Cauayan, in Criminal
Case No. Br. 19-311 and
Civil Case No. Br. 19-
424, dated June 6,
1992.
IN LIEU THEREOF, the
Court renders
judgment as follows:
(1) In Criminal Case No.
Br. 19-311, the Court
declares the accused
Romeo Dunca y de
Tumol guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of
reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide
and damage to
property, defined and
penalized under Article
365, paragraph 2 of the
Revised Penal Code,
with violation of the
automobile law (R. A.
No. 4136, as amended),
and sentences him to
suffer two (2)
indeterminate penalties
of four (4) months and
one (1) day of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to
three (3) years, six (6)
months and twenty (20)
days of prision
correccional, as
maximum, without
[40]

indemnity, and to pay


the costs, and
(2) In Civil Case No. Br.
19-424, the Court
orders the case re-
opened to determine
the liability of the
defendant Rafael Reyes
Trucking Corporation
to plaintiffs and that of
plaintiffs on defendants
counterclaim.
No costs in this
instance.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION
[G.R. No. 122445.
November 18, 1997]
DR. NINEVETCH
CRUZ, petitioner, vs.
COURT OF APPEALS
and LYDIA UMALI,
respondents.
DECISION
FRANCISCO, J.:
"Doctors are protected by
a special law. They are not
guarantors of care. They
do not even warrant a
good result. They are not
insurers against mishap or
unusual consequences.
Furthermore they are not
liable for honest mistake
of judgment" [1]

The present case against


petitioner is in the nature
of a medical malpractice
suit, which in simplest
term is the type of claim
which a victim has
available to him or her to
redress a wrong
committed by a medical
professional which has
cause bodily harm. In
[2]

this jurisdiction, however,


such claims are most often
brought as a civil action
for damages under Article
2176 of the Civil Code, [3]

and in some instances, as


a criminal case under
Article 365 of the Revised
Penal Code with which
[4]

the civil action for


damages is impliedly
instituted. It is via the
latter type of action that
the heirs of the deceased
sought redress for the
petitioner's alleged
imprudence and
negligence in treating the
deceased thereby causing
her death. The petitioner
and one Dr. Lina Ercillo
who was the attending
anaesthesiologist during
the operation of the
deceased were charged
with "reckless
imprudence and
negligence resulting to
(sic) homicide" in an
information which reads:
"That on or about March
23, 1991, in the City of
San Pablo, Republic of the
Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the
accused abovenamed,
being then the attending
anaesthesiologist and
surgeon, respectively, did
then and there, in a
negligence (sic), careless,
imprudent, and
incompetent manner, and
failing to supply or store
sufficient provisions and
facilities necessary to meet
any and all exigencies apt
to arise before, during
and/or after a surgical
operation causing by such
negligence, carelessness,
imprudence, and
incompetence, and
causing by such failure,
including the lack of
preparation and foresight
needed to avert a tragedy,
the untimely death of said
Lydia Umali on the day
following said surgical
operation."[5]

Trial ensued after both


the petitioner and Dr.
Lina Ercillo pleaded not
guilty to the above-
mentioned charge. On
March 4, 1994, the
Municipal Trial Court in
Cities (MTCC) of San
Pablo City rendered a
decision, the dispositive
portion of which is
hereunder quoted as
follows:
"WHEREFORE, the
court finds the accused
Dr. Lina Ercillo not guilty
of the offense charged for
insufficiency of evidence
while her co-accused Dra.
Ninevetch Cruz is hereby
held responsible for the
death of Lydia Umali on
March 24, 1991, and
therefore guilty under Art.
365 of the Revised Penal
Code, and she is hereby
sentenced to suffer the
penalty of 2 months and 1
day imprisonment of
arresto mayor with
costs."
[6]

The petitioner appealed


her conviction to the
Regional Trial Court
(RTC) which affirmed in
toto the decision of the
MTCC prompting the
[7]
petitioner to file a petition
for review with the Court
of Appeals but to no avail.
Hence this petition for
review on certiorari
assailing the decision
promulgated by the Court
of Appeals on October 24,
1995 affirming
petitioner's conviction
with modification that she
is further directed to pay
the heirs of Lydia Umali
P50,000.00 as indemnity
for her death.[8]

In substance, the petition


brought before this Court
raises the issue of whether
or not petitioner's
conviction of the crime of
reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide,
arising from an alleged
medical malpractice, is
supported by the evidence
on record.
First the antecedent facts.
On March 22, 1991,
prosecution witness,
Rowena Umali De
Ocampo, accompanied
her mother to the
Perpetual Help Clinic and
General Hospital situated
in Balagtas Street, San
Pablo City, Laguna. They
arrived at the said
hospital at around 4:30 in
the afternoon of the same
day. Prior to March 22,
[9]

1991, Lydia was examined


by the petitioner who
found a "myoma" in her
[10]

uterus, and scheduled her


for a hysterectomy
operation on March 23,
1991. Rowena and her
[11]

mother slept in the clinic


on the evening of March
22, 1991 as the latter was
to be operated on the next
day at 1:00 o'clock in the
afternoon. According to
[12]

Rowena, she noticed that


the clinic was untidy and
the window and the floor
were very dusty
prompting her to ask the
attendant for a rag to
wipe the window and the
floor with. Because of the
[13]

untidy state of the clinic,


Rowena tried to persuade
her mother not to proceed
with the operation. The
[14]
following day, before her
mother was wheeled into
the operating room,
Rowena asked the
petitioner if the operation
could be postponed. The
petitioner called Lydia
into her office and the two
had a conversation. Lydia
then informed Rowena
that the petitioner told her
that she must be operated
on as scheduled. [15]
Rowena and her other
relatives, namely her
husband, her sister and
two aunts waited outside
the operating room while
Lydia underwent
operation. While they
were waiting, Dr. Ercillo
went out of the operating
room and instructed them
to buy tagamet ampules
which Rowena's sister
immediately bought.
About one hour had
passed when Dr. Ercillo
came out again this time
to ask them to buy blood
for Lydia. They bought
type "A" blood from the
St. Gerald Blood Bank
and the same was brought
by the attendant into the
operating room. After the
lapse of a few hours, the
petitioner informed them
that the operation was
finished. The operating
staff then went inside the
petitioner's clinic to take
their snacks. Some thirty
minutes after, Lydia was
brought out of the
operating room in a
stretcher and the
petitioner asked Rowena
and the other relatives to
buy additional blood for
Lydia. Unfortunately, they
were not able to comply
with petitioner's order as
there was no more type
"A" blood available in the
blood bank. Thereafter, a
person arrived to donate
blood which was later
transfused to Lydia.
Rowena then noticed her
mother, who was attached
to an oxygen tank,
gasping for breath.
Apparently the oxygen
supply had run out and
Rowena's husband
together with the driver of
the accused had to go to
the San Pablo District
Hospital to get oxygen.
Lydia was given the fresh
supply of oxygen as soon
as it arrived. But at
[16]

around 10:00 o'clock P.M.


she went into shock and
her blood pressure
dropped to 60/50. Lydia's
unstable condition
necessitated her transfer
to the San Pablo District
Hospital so she could be
connected to a respirator
and further examined. [17]

The transfer to the San


Pablo City District
Hospital was without the
prior consent of Rowena
nor of the other relatives
present who found out
about the intended
transfer only when an
ambulance arrived to take
Lydia to the San Pablo
District Hospital. Rowena
and her other relatives
then boarded a tricycle
and followed the
ambulance. [18]

Upon Lydia's arrival at


the San Pablo District
Hospital, she was wheeled
into the operating room
and the petitioner and Dr.
Ercillo re-operated on her
because there was blood
oozing from the
abdominal incision. The
[19]

attending physicians
summoned Dr. Bartolome
Angeles, head of the
Obstetrics and
Gynecology Department
of the San Pablo District
Hospital. However, when
Dr. Angeles arrived, Lydia
was already in shock and
possibly dead as her blood
pressure was already 0/0.
Dr. Angeles then informed
petitioner and Dr. Ercillo
that there was nothing he
could do to help save the
patient. While petitioner
[20]

was closing the abdominal


wall, the patient died.
[21]

Thus, on March 24, 1991,


at 3:00 o'clock in the
morning, Lydia Umali
was pronounced dead.
Her death certificate
states "shock" as the
immediate cause of death
and "Disseminated
Intravascular Coagulation
(DIC)" as the antecedent
cause.
[22]

In convicting the
petitioner, the MTCC
found the following
circumstances as
sufficient basis to
conclude that she was
indeed negligent in the
performance of the
operation:
"x x x, the clinic was
untidy, there was lack of
provision like blood and
oxygen to prepare for any
contingency that might
happen during the
operation. The manner
and the fact that the
patient was brought to the
San Pablo District
Hospital for reoperation
indicates that there was
something wrong in the
manner in which Dra.
Cruz conducted the
operation. There was no
showing that before the
operation, accused Dr.
Cruz had conducted a
cardio pulmonary
clearance or any typing of
the blood of the patient. It
was (sic) said in medical
parlance that the
"abdomen of the person is
a temple of surprises"
because you do not know
the whole thing the
moment it was open (sic)
and surgeon must be
prepared for any
eventuality thereof. The
patient (sic) chart which is
a public document was
not presented because it is
only there that we could
determine the condition of
the patient before the
surgery. The court also
noticed in Exh. "F-1" that
the sister of the deceased
wished to postpone the
operation but the patient
was prevailed upon by
Dra. Cruz to proceed with
the surgery. The court
finds that Lydia Umali
died because of the
negligence and
carelessness of the
surgeon Dra. Ninevetch
Cruz because of loss of
blood during the
operation of the deceased
for evident
unpreparedness and for
lack of skill, the reason
why the patient was
brought for operation at
the San Pablo City
District Hospital. As such,
the surgeon should
answer for such
negligence. With respect
to Dra. Lina Ercillo, the
anaesthesiologist, there is
no evidence to indicate
that she should be held
jointly liable with Dra.
Cruz who actually did the
operation."[23]

The RTC reiterated the


abovementioned findings
of the MTCC and upheld
the latter's declaration of
"incompetency, negligence
and lack of foresight and
skill of appellant (herein
petitioner) in handling the
subject patient before and
after the operation." And
[24]

likewise affirming the


petitioner's conviction, the
Court of Appeals echoed
similar observations, thus:
"x x x. While we may
grant that the untidiness
and filthiness of the clinic
may not by itself indicate
negligence, it nevertheless
shows the absence of due
care and supervision over
her subordinate
employees. Did this
unsanitary condition
permeate the operating
room? Were the surgical
instruments properly
sterilized? Could the
conditions in the OR have
contributed to the
infection of the patient?
Only the petitioner could
answer these, but she
opted not to testify. This
could only give rise to the
presumption that she has
nothing good to testify on
her defense. Anyway, the
alleged "unverified
statement of the
prosecution witness"
remains unchallenged and
unrebutted.
Likewise undisputed is the
prosecution's version
indicating the following
facts: that the accused
asked the patient's
relatives to buy Tagamet
capsules while the
operation was already in
progress; that after an
hour, they were also asked
to buy type "A" blood for
the patient; that after the
surgery, they were again
asked to procure more
type "A" blood, but such
was not anymore
available from the source;
that the oxygen given to
the patient was empty;
and that the son-in-law of
the patient, together with
a driver of the petitioner,
had to rush to the San
Pablo City District
Hospital to get the much-
needed oxygen. All these
conclusively show that the
petitioner had not
prepared for any
unforeseen circumstances
before going into the first
surgery, which was not
emergency in nature, but
was elective or pre-
scheduled; she had no
ready antibiotics, no
prepared blood, properly
typed and cross-matched,
and no sufficient oxygen
supply.
Moreover, there are a lot
of questions that keep
nagging Us. Was the
patient given any cardio-
pulmonary clearance, or
at least a clearance by an
internist, which are
standard requirements
before a patient is
subjected to surgery. Did
the petitioner determine
as part of the pre-
operative evaluation, the
bleeding parameters of
the patient, such as
bleeding time and clotting
time? There is no showing
that these were done. The
petitioner just appears to
have been in a hurry to
perform the operation,
even as the family wanted
the postponement to April
6, 1991. Obviously, she did
not prepare the patient;
neither did she get the
family's consent to the
operation. Moreover, she
did not prepare a medical
chart with instructions for
the patient's care. If she
did all these, proof thereof
should have been offered.
But there is none. Indeed,
these are overwhelming
evidence of recklessness
and imprudence." [25]

This court, however, holds


differently and finds the
foregoing circumstances
insufficient to sustain a
judgment of conviction
against the petitioner for
the crime of reckless
imprudence resulting in
homicide. The elements of
reckless imprudence are:
(1) that the offender does
or fails to do an act; (2)
that the doing or the
failure to do that act is
voluntary; (3) that it be
without malice; (4) that
material damage results
from the reckless
imprudence; and (5) that
there is inexcusable lack
of precaution on the part
of the offender, taking into
consideration his
employment or
occupation, degree of
intelligence, physical
condition, and other
circumstances regarding
persons, time and place.
Whether or not a
physician has committed
an "inexcusable lack of
precaution" in the
treatment of his patient is
to be determined
according to the standard
of care observed by other
members of the profession
in good standing under
similar circumstances
bearing in mind the
advanced state of the
profession at the time of
treatment or the present
state of medical science. [26]

In the recent case of


Leonila Garcia-Rueda v.
Wilfred L. Pacasio, et. al., [27]

this Court stated that in


accepting a case, a doctor
in effect represents that,
having the needed
training and skill
possessed by physicians
and surgeons practicing in
the same field, he will
employ such training, care
and skill in the treatment
of his patients. He
therefore has a duty to use
at least the same level of
care that any other
reasonably competent
doctor would use to treat
a condition under the
same circumstances. It is
in this aspect of medical
malpractice that expert
testimony is essential to
establish not only the
standard of care of the
profession but also that
the physician's conduct in
the treatment and care
falls below such standard.
Further, inasmuch as
[28]

the causes of the injuries


involved in malpractice
actions are determinable
only in the light of
scientific knowledge, it
has been recognized that
expert testimony is
usually necessary to
support the conclusion as
to causation.
[29]

Immediately apparent
from a review of the
records of this case is the
absence of any expert
testimony on the matter of
the standard of care
employed by other
physicians of good
standing in the conduct of
similar operations. The
prosecution's expert
witnesses in the persons of
Dr. Floresto Arizala and
Dr. Nieto Salvador, Jr. of
the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI) only
testified as to the possible
cause of death but did not
venture to illuminate the
court on the matter of the
standard of care that
petitioner should have
exercised.
All three courts below
bewail the inadequacy of
the facilities of the clinic
and its untidiness; the
lack of provisions such as
blood, oxygen, and certain
medicines; the failure to
subject the patient to a
cardio-pulmonary test
prior to the operation; the
omission of any form of
blood typing before
transfusion; and even the
subsequent transfer of
Lydia to the San Pablo
Hospital and the
reoperation performed on
her by the petitioner. But
while it may be true that
the circumstances pointed
out by the courts below
seemed beyond cavil to
constitute reckless
imprudence on the part of
the surgeon, this
conclusion is still best
arrived at not through the
educated surmises nor
conjectures of laymen,
including judges, but by
the unquestionable
knowledge of expert
witnesses. For whether a
physician or surgeon has
exercised the requisite
degree of skill and care in
the treatment of his
patient is, in the
generality of cases, a
matter of expert opinion. [30]

The deference of courts to


the expert opinion of
qualified physicians stems
from its realization that
the latter possess unusual
technical skills which
laymen in most instances
are incapable of
intelligently evaluating.
[31]
Expert testimony should
have been offered to prove
that the circumstances
cited by the courts below
are constitutive of conduct
falling below the standard
of care employed by other
physicians in good
standing when
performing the same
operation. It must be
remembered that when
the qualifications of a
physician are admitted, as
in the instant case, there is
an inevitable presumption
that in proper cases he
takes the necessary
precaution and employs
the best of his knowledge
and skill in attending to
his clients, unless the
contrary is sufficiently
established. This
[32]

presumption is rebuttable
by expert opinion which is
so sadly lacking in the
case at bench.
Even granting arguendo
that the inadequacy of the
facilities and untidiness of
the clinic; the lack of
provisions; the failure to
conduct pre-operation
tests on the patient; and
the subsequent transfer of
Lydia to the San Pablo
Hospital and the
reoperation performed on
her by the petitioner do
indicate, even without
expert testimony, that
petitioner was recklessly
imprudent in the exercise
of her duties as a surgeon,
no cogent proof exists that
any of these
circumstances caused
petitioner's death. Thus,
the absence of the fourth
element of reckless
imprudence: that the
injury to the person or
property was a
consequence of the
reckless imprudence.
In litigations involving
medical negligence, the
plaintiff has the burden of
establishing appellant's
negligence and for a
reasonable conclusion of
negligence, there must be
proof of breach of duty on
the part of the surgeon as
well as a casual
connection of such breach
and the resulting death of
his patient. In Chan
[33]

Lugay v. St Luke's
Hospital, Inc., where the
[34]

attending physician was


absolved of liability for
the death of the
complainant's wife and
newborn baby, this court
held that:
"In order that there may
be a recovery for an
injury, however, it must
be shown that the 'injury
for which recovery is
sought must be the
legitimate consequence of
the wrong done; the
connection between the
negligence and the injury
must be a direct and
natural sequence of
events, unbroken by
intervening efficient
causes.' In other words,
the negligence must be the
proximate cause of the
injury. For, 'negligence,
no matter in what it
consists, cannot create a
right of action unless it is
the proximate cause of the
injury complained of.'
And 'the proximate cause
of an injury is that cause,
which, in natural and
continuous sequence,
unbroken by any efficient
intervening cause,
produces the injury, and
without which the result
would not have
occurred.'''
[35]

(Underscoring supplied.)
Dr. Arizala who
conducted an autopsy on
the body of the deceased
summarized his findings
as follows:
"Atty. Cachero:
Q. You mentioned about
your Autopsy Report
which has been marked as
Exh. "A-1-b". There
appears here a signature
above the typewritten
name Floresto Arizala, Jr.,
whose signature is that?
A. That is my signature,
sir.
Q. Do you affirm the truth
of all the contents of Exh.
"A-1-b"?
A. Only as to the autopsy
report no. 91-09, the time
and place and everything
after the post mortem
findings, sir.
Q. You mentioned on your
"Post Mortem Findings"
about surgical incision,
14:0 cm., infraumbilical
area, anterior abdominal
area, midline, will you
please explain that in your
own language?
A. There was incision
wound (sic) the area just
below the navel, sir.
Q. And the last paragraph
of the postmortem
findings which I read:
Uterus, pear-shaped and
pale measuring 7.5 x 5.5 x
5.0 cm, with some surface
nodulation of the fundic
area posteriorly. Cut-
section shows diffusely
pale myometrium with
areas of streak induration.
The ovaries and adnexal
structures are missing
with the raw surfaces
patched with clotted
blood. Surgical sutures
were noted on the
operative site.
Intestines and mesenteries
are pale with blood clots
noted between the
mesentric folds.
Hemoperitonium: 300 s.s.,
right paracolic gutter,
50 c.c., left paracolic
gutter
200 c.c., mesentric area,
100 c.c., right pelvic
gutter
stomach empty.
Other visceral organs,
pale.',
will you please explain
that on (sic) your own
language or in ordinary
A. There was a uterus
which was not attached to
the adnexal structures
namely ovaries which
were not present and also
sign of previous surgical
operation and there were
(sic) clotted blood, sir.
Q. How about the ovaries
and adnexal structures?
A. They are missing, sir.
Q. You mean to say there
are no ovaries?
A. During that time there
are no ovaries, sir.
Q. And there were
likewise sign of surgical
sutures?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How about the
intestines and mesenteries
are place (sic) with blood
clots noted between the
mesenteric folds, will you
please explain on (sic)
this?
A. In the peritoneal
cavity, they are mostly
perritonial blood.
Q. And what could have
caused this blood?
A. Well, ordinarily blood
is found inside the blood
vessel. Blood were (sic)
outside as a result of the
injuries which destroyed
the integrity of the vessel
allowing blood to sip (sic)
out, sir.
Q. By the nature of the
postmortem findings
indicated in Exh. A-1-B,
can you tell the court the
cause of death?
A. Yes, sir. The cause of
death is: Gross findings
are compatible with
hemorrhagic shock.
Q. Can you tell the us
what could have caused
this hemorrhagic shock?
A. Well hemorrhagic
shock is the result of
blood loss.
Q. What could have the
effect of that loss of
blood?
A. Unattended
hemorrhage, sir.
[36]

(Underscoring supplied.)
The foregoing was
corroborated by Dr. Nieto
Salvador:
"Q. And were you able to
determine the cause of
death by virtue of the
examination of the
specimen submitted by
Dr. Arizala?
A. Without knowledge of
the autopsy findings it
would be difficult for me
to determine the cause of
death, sir.
Q. Have you examined the
post mortem of Dr.
Arizala?
A. Yes, sir, and by virtue
of the autopsy report in
connection with your
pathology report.
Q. What could have
caused the death of the
victim?
A. This pathologic
examination are (sic)
compatible with the
person who died, sir.
Q. Will you explain to us
the meaning of
hemorrhagic compatible?
A. It means that a person
died of blood loss.
Meaning a person died of
non-replacement of blood
and so the victim before
she died there was shock
of diminish of blood of the
circulation. She died most
probably before the actual
complete blood loss, sir.
Court: Is it possible
doctor that the loss of the
blood was due on (sic)
operation?
A. Based on my pathology
findings, sir.
Q. What could have
caused this loss of blood?
A. Many, sir. A patient
who have undergone
surgery. Another may be a
blood vessel may be cut
while on operation and
this cause (sic) bleeding,
or may be set in the
course of the operation, or
may be (sic) he died after
the operation. Of course
there are other cause (sic).
Atty. Cachero:
Q. Especially so doctor
when there was no blood
replacement?
A. Yes, sir."
[37]

(Underscoring supplied.)
The testimonies of both
doctors establish
hemorrhage or
hemorrhagic shock as the
cause of death. However,
as likewise testified to by
the expert witnesses in
open court, hemorrhage
or hemorrhagic shock
during surgery may be
caused by several
different factors. Thus,
Dr. Salvador's elaboration
on the matter:
"Atty. Pascual:
Q. Doctor, among the
causes of hemorrhage that
you mentioned you said
that it could be at the
moment of operation
when one losses (sic)
control of the presence, is
that correct? During the
operation there is lost (sic)
of control of the cut
vessel?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Or there is a failure to
ligate a vessel of
considerable size?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Or even if the vessel
were ligated the knot may
have slipped later on?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you also
mentioned that it may be
possible also to some
clotting defect, is that
correct?
A. May be (sic)."
[38]

(Underscoring supplied).
Defense witness, Dr. Bu C.
Castro also gave the
following expert opinion:
"Q. Doctor even a patient
after an operations (sic)
would suffer hemorrage
what would be the
possible causes of such
hemorrage (sic)?
A. Among those would be
what we call
Intravascular Coagulation
and this is the reason for
the bleeding, sir, which
cannot be prevented by
anyone, it will happen to
anyone, anytime and to
any persons (sic), sir.
COURT:
What do you think of the
cause of the bleeding, the
cutting or the operations
done in the body?
A. Not related to this one,
the bleeding here is not
related to any cutting or
operation that I (sic) have
done.
Q. Aside from the DIC
what could another causes
(sic) that could be the
cause for the hemorrhage
or bleeding in a patient by
an operations (sic)?
A. In general sir, if there
was an operations (sic)
and it is possible that the
ligature in the suture was
(sic) become (sic) loose, it
is (sic) becomes loose if
proven.
xxxxxxxxx
Q. If the person who
performed an autopsy
does not find any untight
(sic) clot (sic) blood vessel
or any suture that become
(sic) loose the cause of the
bleeding could not be
attributed to the fault of
the subject?
A. Definitely, sir."
[39]

(Underscoring supplied.)
According to both
doctors, the possible
causes of hemorrhage
during an operation are:
(1) the failure of the
surgeon to tie or suture a
cut blood vessel; (2)
allowing a cut blood vessel
to get out of control; (3)
the subsequent loosening
of the tie or suture applied
to a cut blood vessel; and
(4) and a clotting defect
known as DIC. It is
significant to state at this
juncture that the autopsy
conducted by Dr. Arizala
on the body of Lydia did
not reveal any untied or
unsutured cut blood vessel
nor was there any
indication that the tie or
suture of a cut blood
vessel had become loose
thereby causing the
hemorrhage. Hence the
[40]

following pertinent
portion of Dr. Arizala's
testimony:
"Q: Doctor, in examining
these structures did you
know whether these were
sutured ligature or plain
ligature
A: Ligature, sir.
Q: We will explain that
later on. Did you recall if
the cut structures were
tied by first suturing it
and then tying a knot or
the tie was merely placed
around the cut structure
and tied?
A: I cannot recall, sir.
Q: As a matter of fact, you
cannot recall because you
did not even bothered (sic)
to examine, is that
correct?
A: Well, I bothered
enough to know that they
were sutured, sir.
Q: So, therefore, Doctor,
you would not know
whether any of the cut
structures were not
sutured or tied neither
were you able to
determine whether any
loose suture was found in
the peritoneal cavity?
A: I could not recall any
loose sutured (sic), sir."
[41]

On the other hand, the


findings of all three
doctors do not preclude
the probability that DIC
caused the hemorrhage
and consequently, Lydia's
death. DIC which is a
clotting defect creates a
serious bleeding tendency
and when massive DIC
occurs as a complication
of surgery leaving raw
surface, major
hemorrhage occurs. And
[42]

as testified to by defense
witness, Dr. Bu C. Castro,
hemorrhage due to DIC
"cannot be prevented, it
will happen to anyone,
anytime." He testified
[43]

further:
"Q. Now, under the
circumstance one of the
possibility as you
mentioned in (sic) DIC?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you mentioned
that it cannot be
prevented?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Can you even predict if
it really happen (sic)?
A. Possible, sir.
Q. Are there any specific
findings of autopsy that
will tell you whether this
patient suffered among
such things as DIC?
A. Well, I did reserve
because of the condition
of the patient.
Q. Now, Doctor you said
that you went through the
record of the deceased
Lydia Umali looking for
the chart, the operated
(sic) records, the post
mortem findings on the
histophanic (sic)
examination based on
your examination of
record, doctor, can you
more or less says (sic)
what part are (sic)
concerned could have
been the caused (sic) of
death of this Lydia
Umali?
A. As far as the medical
record is concern (sic) the
caused (sic) of death is
dessimulated (sic) Intra
Vascular Coagulation or
the DIC which resulted to
hemorrhage or bleedings,
sir.
Q. Doctor based on your
findings then there is
knowing (sic) the doctor
would say whether the
doctor her (sic) has been
(sic) fault?
ATTY. MALVEDA:
We will moved (sic) to
strike out the (sic) based
on finding they just read
the chart as well as the
other record.
ATTY. PASCUAL:
Precisely based on this
examination.
ATTY. MALVEDA:
Not finding, there was no
finding made.
COURT:
He is only reading the
record.
ATTY. PASCUAL:
Yes, sir.
A. No, sir, there is no fault
on the part of the surgeon,
sir."[44]

This court has no recourse


but to rely on the expert
testimonies rendered by
both prosecution and
defense witnesses that
substantiate rather than
contradict petitioner's
allegation that the cause
of Lydia's death was DIC
which, as attested to by an
expert witness, cannot be
attributed to the
petitioner's fault or
negligence. The
probability that Lydia's
death was caused by DIC
was unrebutted during
trial and has engendered
in the mind of this Court
a reasonable doubt as to
the petitioner's guilt.
Thus, her acquittal of the
crime of reckless
imprudence resulting in
homicide. While we
condole with the family of
Lydia Umali, our hands
are bound by the dictates
of justice and fair dealing
which hold inviolable the
right of an accused to be
presumed innocent until
proven guilty beyond
reasonable doubt.
Nevertheless, this Court
finds the petitioner civilly
liable for the death of
Lydia Umali, for while a
conviction of a crime
requires proof beyond
reasonable doubt, only a
preponderance of
evidence is required to
establish civil liability.
[45]

The petitioner is a doctor


in whose hands a patient
puts his life and limb. For
insufficiency of evidence
this Court was not able to
render a sentence of
conviction but it is not
blind to the reckless and
imprudent manner in
which the petitioner
carried out her duties. A
precious life has been lost
and the circumstances
leading thereto
exacerbated the grief of
those left behind. The
heirs of the deceased
continue to feel the loss of
their mother up to the
present time and this
[46]

Court is aware that no


amount of compassion
and commiseration nor
words of bereavement can
suffice to assuage the
sorrow felt for the loss of
a loved one. Certainly, the
award of moral and
exemplary damages in
favor of the heirs of Lydia
Umali are proper in the
instant case.
WHEREFORE, premises
considered, petitioner DR.
NINEVETCH CRUZ is
hereby ACQUITTED of
the crime of reckless
imprudence resulting in
homicide but is ordered to
pay the heirs of the
deceased Lydia Umali the
amount of FIFTY
THOUSAND PESOS
(P50,000.00) as civil
liability, ONE HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS
(P100,000.00) as moral
damages, and FIFTY
THOUSAND PESOS
(P50,000.00) as exemplary
damages.
Let the copy of this
decision be furnished to
the Professional
Regulation Commission
(PRC) for appropriate
action.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 124670. June
21, 2000]
THE PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-
appellee, vs.
PATROLMAN
DOMINGO BELBES,
accused-appellant.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
Before the Regional
Trial Court of Tabaco,
Albay, Branch 18,
Patrolman Domingo
Belbes stood charged
of Murder. The
information against
him reads:
"That on or about
the 16th of
February, 1990 at
9:00 oclock in the
evening, more or
less, inside the
campus of Pili
National High
School, at Barangay
Pili, Municipality of
Bacacay, Province
of Albay,
Philippines and
within the
jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court,
the above-named
accused, with
treachery, taking
advantage of
nighttime,
employing means to
insure or afford
impunity, with the
use of high
powered firearm,
and with intent to
kill, did then and
there willfully,
unlawfully,
feloniously,
suddenly,
unexpectedly and
without any
warning, attack, fire
and shoot
successively with
an armalite rifle (M-
16) FERNANDO B.
BATALLER while
the latter was
intoxicated, thereby
hitting and inflicting
upon him multiple
serious and mortal
wounds on his
head, at the right
lower face, the
chest (front) at the
left antero lateral
approximately 5 cm.
below but lateral to
the left nipple, at
the left lateral
waistline, thereby
lacerating the liver,
hitting the stomach
portions of the large
and small intestines
and lower
vertebrae, and the
chest (back) at the
middle back and
another at the left
back, lateral level of
the lower rib, which
caused Fernando B.
Batallers direct and
instantaneous
death, to the
damage and
prejudice of his
legal heirs.
ACTS CONTRARY
TO LAW." [1]

When arraigned, he
pleaded not guilty.
The facts established
during trial by the
prosecution is
summarized by the
appellee in its brief,
thus:
"In the evening of
February 16, 1990,
appellant Pat.
Domingo Belbes
and Pat. Jose
Pabon were
assigned by the
Bacacay Station
Commander to
maintain peace and
order at the Junior
and Senior Prom of
Pili Barangay High
School, Pili,
Bacacay, Albay.
Around 9:00 p.m.
while Teacher-In-
Charge Mila Ulanca,
appellant, Pat.
Pabon and Elmo
Bes were watching
the dance, two
students, Riselle
Banares and
Juliana Basaysay,
approached Mrs.
Ulanca and said
"Mam, it seems that
there is somebody
making trouble."
Appellant and Pat.
Pabon, armed with
an armalite rifle and
a .38 caliber
revolver,
respectively,
responded
forthwith. Moments
after the two police
officers left, bursts
of gunfire-- "Rat-tat-
tat-tat-tat" filled the
air. Fernando
Bataller, a
graduating student
of Pili Barangay
High School, was
hit on different
parts of his body
and died.
Moments before the
gruesome incident,
Fernando Bataller,
then drunk, was in
the company of
Carlito Bataller and
Rosalio Belista.
While Fernando was
vomiting and
holding on to the
bamboo wall of the
schools temporary
building, the
bamboo splits
broke. At this
instance, appellant
and Pat. Pabon
appeared. Without
warning, appellant
fired his gun.
Fernando slumped
on the ground,
bathed with his own
blood. Appellant
and Pat. Pabon fled
from the crime
scene.
Fernando was
pronounced dead
on arrival at the
hospital. As shown
in the autopsy
report, Fernando
suffered the
following gunshot
wounds: (1) head,
located at the right
lower face, skin,
muscles, blood
vessels, nerves,
bone torn away; (2)
chest (front, located
at left, antero lateral
approximately 5 cm.
below but lateral to
the left nipple,
another gunshot
wound on the same
location with
tattooing located at
left lateral waistline;
(3) chest (back)
located at the
middle back at the
level of the lowest
rib, skin and
superficial muscles
torn away, another
gunshot wound
located at the left
back, lateral level of
the lowest rib, with
tattooing. (Citations
omitted)" [2]

In his defense, the


accused-appellant
presented his version
of the fatal incident,
summed up by the trial
court as follows:
"The accused,
Domingo Belbes in
his defense testified
that he was at Pili
Barangay High
School with P/Cpl.
Jose Pabon
because they were
detailed by their
Station
Commander. x x x
At 9:00 p.m. two
female students
reported to them
and Mrs. Ulanca
that somebody was
making trouble at
the back of the
temporary building.
They were
requested by Mrs.
Ulanca to see what
happened and they
went to the place.
There they came
upon somebody
who was making
trouble and
destroying the wall
of the temporary
building. He came
to know that it was
Fernando Bataller.
Fernando Bataller
had some
companions, Carlito
Bataller and certain
Belista. Fernando
Bataller was more
than 20 years old at
that time and Carlito
was about
Fernandos age. He
saw Fernando
destroying the wall
of the temporary
building which was
made of bamboo
splits. Pabon was in
front of him. The
two companions
were prevailing
upon Fernando.
Fernando was
drunk or a little bit
tipsy. He was not
vomiting but he
smelled of wine.
They approached
Fernando and
identified
themselves as
policemen.
Fernando did not
mind them.
Fernando stabbed
Pabon with a knife.
Belbes knew
because he saw the
glint of the blade
when the thrust was
made on Pabon.
Pabon and Bataller
were about one (1)
meter away from
each other. Pabon
was not hit, for he
was able to move
backward.
Fernando made two
thrusts on Pabon.
After Pabon
retreated because
of the knife thrusts,
he (Belbes) was
also stabbed by
Fernando. He was
hit on his lower left
shoulder. He was
able to hold
Fernandos hand
because he wanted
to get the knife from
him. His firearm
was slung on his
shoulder. Fernando
was able to free
himself. Fernando
made another thrust
and Belbes moved
to his left. Then he
made a warning
shot. After the
warning shot,
Fernando suddenly
grabbed his firearm.
Belista was quite
aggressive at that
moment, while
Carlito wanted to
kick him. Fernando
was able to hold the
barrel of the
armalite. They
struggled with each
other and the gun
went off
considering that his
armalite was semi-
automatic, with one
squeeze of the
trigger one shot
came out. During
the process of
grappling for the
armalite he could
not recall how many
shots came out.
When his service
armalite went off he
saw Fernando fall to
the ground. When
Fernando fell, he
took the knife from
his hand. The
people gathered
around them. They
asked that
Fernando be
brought to the
hospital. After one
hour, the police
mobile car arrived.
They proceeded to
the Police Station.
There they turned
over the knife to the
Desk Officer. The
knife is now with
the Provincial
Command." [3]

Defense witness Jose


Pabon, also a
policeman, who was
present when the
incident happened,
corroborated the
testimony of the
appellant. However, on
cross-examination,
Pabon belied the fact
that the appellant fired
a warning shot. Pabon
likewise failed to
mention anything about
aggression on the part
of the companions of
the deceased, namely
Carlito Bataller and
Rosalio Belista. He
only recalled that said
companions ganged up
on Belbes after he shot
the deceased.
Finding the defense
weak, while the
evidence for the
prosecution sufficiently
strong, the trial court
convicted the appellant
of murder and
sentenced him to
reclusion perpetua.
In this appeal, counsel
de oficio raised one
issue:
WAS THE TRIAL
[Court] CORRECT
IN HOLDING
ACCUSED-
APPELLANT
GUILTY OF
MURDER? [4]

We shall now consider


this matter as well as
the more basic issues
of self-defense claimed
by appellant and the
credibility of the
witness for the
prosecution. Appellant
policeman admits firing
the fatal gunshots that
hit the deceased
student. But he claims
that he did so in self-
defense. He contends
that he was only
performing his official
functions when he
responded in the
course of police duties
to the information that
somebody was making
trouble and disturbing
the peace. Being in
charge of maintaining
peace and order within
the vicinity, he
ascertained the
veracity of the
information given by
the students
concerned. He asserts
that in the absence of
intent and
voluntariness, he
cannot be faulted for
the death of the
deceased.
At the outset, we note
that appellant
questions the
credibility of the sole
eye-witness for the
prosecution, Carlito
Bataller. He states that
Carlito is the cousin
and friend of the
deceased. In his view,
Carlito had strong
motive to falsely testify
against him. Moreover,
appellant says that
Carlito kindled some
moral guilt because he
contributed to the
sudden death of his
cousin. Appellant
alleges that if only
Carlito had prevailed
over Fernando (instead
of tolerating the
hostility of the
deceased), he could
have prevented the
shooting incident.
Regrettably, appellant
offers no material
evidence to sufficiently
support his claim of
self-defense on the
face of mortal danger
while on police duty.
The cross-examination
of Carlito Bataller did
not bear out his
averments of fraternal
bias and psychological
guilt or moral taint in
Carlitos testimony. The
testimony of the single
witness, if positive and
clear, is sufficient to
sustain a judgment of
conviction, even in a
charge for murder. [5]

Moreover, when the


issue boils down to the
credibility of witnesses,
the findings of the trial
court deserve great
respect since it is in a
better position to
observe the demeanor
of the witnesses while
testifying in court, and
to discern its
dimensions, both
verbal and non-verbal. [6]

The relationship of a
witness to the victim
does not necessarily
diminish the formers
credibility.
[7]
It is a settled rule that
the findings and
conclusions of the trial
court on the credibility
of a witness deserve
respect because it is in
a better position to
determine whether the
witness was telling the
truth or not, having
observed the demeanor
of the witness while
testifying on the
witness stand. In the
[8]

case at bar, there


appears to be no
cogent reason why we
should not adhere to
this rule.
Where the accused
owns up to killing the
victim in self-defense,
the burden of evidence
shifts to him. He must
show by clear and
convincing evidence
that he indeed acted in
self-defense, or in
defense of a relative or
a stranger. To prove
[9]

self-defense, the
accused must show
with clear and
convincing evidence,
that: (1) he is not the
unlawful aggressor; (2)
there was lack of
sufficient provocation
on his part; and (3) he
employed reasonable
means to prevent or
repel the aggression.
Self-defense, like alibi,
is a defense which can
easily be concocted. It
is well settled in this
jurisdiction that once
an accused had
admitted that he
inflicted the fatal
injuries on the
deceased, it was
incumbent upon him, in
order to avoid criminal
liability, to prove the
justifying circumstance
claimed by him with
clear, satisfactory and
convincing evidence.
He cannot rely on the
weakness of the
prosecution but on the
strength of his own
evidence, "for even if
the evidence of the
prosecution were weak
it could not be
disbelieved after the
accused himself had
admitted the killing."
[10]

Appellant testified that


upon responding to the
report of two students,
he and Patrolman
Pabon, saw Fernando
Bataller destroying the
bamboo wall of the
schools temporary
building. Fernando
appeared to be drunk
and a little bit tipsy.
They approached
Fernando and
identified themselves
as policemen but the
former ignored them.
Instead, Fernando
lunged with a knife at
Patrolman Pabon but
the latter avoided the
thrust. Afterwards,
Fernando also stabbed
the appellant and hit
his left shoulder. As
another thrust was
coming, appellant
claims he fired a
warning shot.
Fernando grabbed the
armalite and they
struggled until the gun
went off hitting
Fernando, according to
appellant.
We have serious
questions on accused-
appellants claim of
self-defense, on his
part, against the
alleged aggressiveness
of the deceased
student. First, why was
the knife allegedly used
by the deceased mis-
handled? It was not
even subjected to
fingerprinting. Second,
why was the wound on
appellants shoulder
medically examined
only after the lapse of
more than twenty-one
hours? Was it possibly
self-inflicted?
According to the
doctor who examined
him, Dr. Evelyn
Amador, it was a
possibility. Lastly, as
[11]

observed by the trial


court, if it was true that
they grappled face to
face with each other,
why was the victim hit
sideways, as testified
to by Amador?
The time factor here
appears significant.
Mrs. Mila Ulanca
testified that it only
took about six seconds
from the time
Patrolman Belbes left
his seat until she heard
the burst of gunshots.[12]

This testimony is not


contradicted or
rebutted.
Thus, appellants claim
of self-defense could
not prosper. The
evidence on record,
however, reveals an
incomplete justifying
circumstance defined
in Article 11, paragraph
number 5 of the
Revised Penal Code. A[13]

person incurs no
criminal liability when
he acts in the
fulfillment of a duty or
in the lawful exercise of
a right or office. But we
must stress there are
two requisites for this
justifying
circumstance: (a) that
the offender acted in
the performance of a
duty or in the lawful
exercise of a duty or in
the lawful exercise of a
right: and (b) that the
injury or offense
committed be the
necessary
consequence of the
due performance of
such right or office. In
[14]

the instant case, only


the first requisite is
present; admittedly
appellant acted in the
performance of his
duty. However, the
second requisite is
lacking, for the killing
need not be a
necessary
consequence of the
performance of his
duty. His duty is to
maintain peace and
order during the Junior
and Senior Prom. But
he exceeded such duty,
in our view, when he
fired his armalite
without warning. No
doubt, the concept of
mitigating
circumstances is
founded on leniency in
favor of an accused
who has shown less
perversity in the
commission of an
offense. Though his
[15]

protestation of
innocence is
unavailing, his offense
could only be
characterized as
homicide, not murder,
as hereafter shown.
On one hand, treachery
did not attend the
commission of the
crime as to rule out
murder. Treachery
cannot be presumed
but must be proved by
clear and convincing
evidence as
conclusively as the
killing itself. For the
same to be considered
as a qualifying
circumstance, two
conditions must
concur: (a) the
employment of means,
method or manner of
execution which would
ensure the safety of the
malefactor from
defensive or retaliatory
acts on the part of the
victim, no opportunity
being given the latter to
defend himself or to
retaliate; and (b) the
means, method or
manner of execution
were deliberately or
consciously adopted
by the offender. There
[16]

is no showing that the


shooting was
premeditated or that
appellant, in shooting
the victim, employed
means, methods or
forms to ensure its
execution, without risk
to himself arising from
the defense which the
offended victim might
make. Likewise, mere
suddenness of the
attack does not
necessarily imply
treachery.[17]

On the other hand, the


offense is definitely not
reckless imprudence
resulting in homicide
because the shooting
was intentional. [18]

Illustrations of reckless
imprudence resulting
in homicide are: (1)
exhibiting a loaded
revolver to a friend,
who was killed by the
accidental discharge
brought about by
negligent handling; or
[19]

(2) discharging a
firearm from the
window of ones house
and killing a neighbor
who just at the moment
leaned over the
balcony front; or (3)
[20]
where the defendant, to
stop a fist fight, fired
his .45 caliber pistol
twice in the air, and, as
the bout continued, he
fired another shot at
the ground, but the
bullet ricocheted and
hit a bystander who
died soon thereafter.[21]

In this case, appellant


intended to fire AT the
victim, and in fact hit
ONLY the victim.
We conclude that
appellant is guilty only
of homicide, mitigated
by the incomplete
justifying circumstance
of fulfillment of duty.
The penalty for
homicide is reclusion
temporal. There being
one mitigating
circumstance, the
maximum of the
penalty should be
reclusion temporal in
its minimum period,
which is 12 years and 1
day to 14 years and 8
months. Applying the
indeterminate sentence
law, the minimum of
said penalty should be
taken from prision
mayor.
WHEREFORE, the
decision of the trial
court convicting
appellant Domingo
Belbes of the crime of
murder is hereby
MODIFIED. Appellant is
found guilty of the
crime of homicide and
sentenced to an
indeterminate penalty
of eight (8) years of
prision mayor
minimum, as minimum,
to fourteen (14) years
of reclusion temporal
minimum, as
maximum. He is also
ordered to pay the
heirs of the victim the
amount of P50,000.00
as civil indemnity and
P20,000.00 as moral
damages, and to pay
the costs.
SO ORDERED.