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SALVADOR ESTIPONA, JR.

y ASUELA, Petitioner, The Court sees merit in the argument of the accused that it
vs. is also the intendment of the law, R.A. No. 9165, to
HON. FRANK E. LOBRIGO, and PEOPLE OF THE rehabilitate an accused of a drug offense. Rehabilitation is
PHILIPPINES, Respondents. thus only possible in cases of use of illegal drugs because
plea bargaining is disallowed. However, by case law, the
Supreme Court allowed rehabilitation for accused charged
PERALTA, J.:
with possession of paraphernalia with traces of dangerous
drugs, as held in People v. Martinez, G.R. No. 191366, 13
Challenged in this petition for certiorari and prohibition1 is the constitutionality of December 2010. The ruling of the Supreme Court in this
Section 23 of Republic Act (R.A.)No. 9165, or the "Comprehensive Dangerous case manifested the relaxation of an otherwise stringent
Drugs Act of 2002, "2 which provides: application of Republic Act No. 9165 in order to serve an
intent for the enactment of the law, that is, to rehabilitate
the offender.
SEC 23. Plea-Bargaining Provision. - Any person charged under any provision of
this Act regardless of the imposable penalty shall not be allowed to avail of the
provision on plea-bargaining.3 Within the spirit of the disquisition in People v. Martinez,
there might be plausible basis for the declaration of Sec. 23
of R.A. No. 9165, which bars plea bargaining as
The facts are not in dispute.
unconstitutional because indeed the inclusion of the
provision in the law encroaches on the exclusive
Petitioner Salvador A. Estipona, Jr. (Estipona) is the accused in Criminal Case constitutional power of the Supreme Court.
No. 13586 for violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 (Possession of
Dangerous Drugs). The Information alleged:
While basic is the precept that lower courts are not
precluded from resolving, whenever warranted,
That on or about the 21st day of March, 2016, in the City of Legazpi, Philippines, constitutional questions, the Court is not unaware of the
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not admonition of the Supreme Court that lower courts must
being lawfully authorized to possess or otherwise use any regulated drug and observe a becoming modesty in examining constitutional
without the corresponding license or prescription, did then and there, willfully, questions. Upon which admonition, it is thus not for this
unlawfully and feloniously have, in his possession and under his control and lower court to declare Sec. 23 of R.A. No. 9165
custody, one (1) piece heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet marked as VOP unconstitutional given the potential ramifications that such
03/21/16- l G containing 0.084 [gram] of white crystalline substance, which when declaration might have on the prosecution of illegal drug
examined were found to be positive for Methamphetamine cases pending before this judicial station.8
Hydrocloride (Shabu), a dangerous drug.
Estipona filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was
CONTRARY TO LAW.4 denied in an Order9 dated July 26, 2016; hence, this
petition raising the issues as follows:
On June 15, 2016, Estipona filed a Motion to Allow the Accused to Enter into a
Plea Bargaining Agreement,5 praying to withdraw his not guilty plea and, instead, I.
to enter a plea of guilty for violation of Section 12, Article II of R.A. No.
9165 (Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other Paraphernalia
WHETHER SECTION 23 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165,
for Dangerous Drugs) with a penalty of rehabilitation in view of his being a
WHICH PROHIBITS PLEA BARGAINING IN ALL
first-time offender and the minimal quantity of the dangerous drug seized in his
VIOLATIONS OF THE SAID LAW, IS
possession. He argued that Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165 violates: (1) the intent of
UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR BEING VIOLATIVE OF THE
the law expressed in paragraph 3, Section 2 thereof; (2) the rule-making authority
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF
of the Supreme Court under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution;
THE LAW.
and (3) the principle of separation of powers among the three equal branches of
the government.
II.
In its Comment or Opposition6 dated June 27, 2016, the prosecution moved for
the denial of the motion for being contrary to Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165, which WHETHER SECTION 23 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 IS
is said to be justified by the Congress' prerogative to choose which offense it UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS IT ENCROACHED UPON THE
would allow plea bargaining. Later, in a Comment or Opposition7 dated June 29, POWER OF THE SUPREME COURT TO PROMULGATE
2016, it manifested that it "is open to the Motion of the accused to enter into plea RULES OF PROCEDURE.
bargaining to give life to the intent of the law as provided in paragraph 3, Section
2 of [R.A. No.] 9165, however, with the express mandate of Section 23 of [R.A.
III.
No.] 9165 prohibiting plea bargaining, [it] is left without any choice but to reject
the proposal of the accused."
WHETHER THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, AS
PRESIDED BY HON. FRANK E. LOBRIGO, COMMITTED
On July 12, 2016, respondent Judge Frank E. Lobrigo of
GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 3, Legazpi City,
OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT REFUSED TO
Albay, issued an Order denying Estipona's motion. It was
DECLARE SECTION 23 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 AS
opined:
UNCONSTITUTIONAL.10

The accused posited in his motion that Sec. 23 of RA No.


We grant the petition.
9165, which prohibits plea bargaining, encroaches on the
exclusive constitutional power of the Supreme Court to
promulgate rules of procedure because plea bargaining is a PROCEDURAL MATTERS
"rule of procedure." Indeed, plea bargaining forms part of
the Rules on Criminal Procedure, particularly under Rule
The People of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor
118, the rule on pre-trial conference. It is only the Rules of
General (OSG), contends that the petition should be dismissed outright for being
Court promulgated by the Supreme Court pursuant to its
procedurally defective on the grounds that: (1) the Congress should have been
constitutional rule-making power that breathes life to plea
impleaded as an indispensable party; (2) the constitutionality of Section 23 of R.A.
bargaining. It cannot be found in any statute.
No. 9165 cannot be attacked collaterally; and (3) the proper recourse should
have been a petition for declaratory relief before this Court or a petition
Without saying so, the accused implies that Sec. 23 of for certiorari before the RTC. Moreover, the OSG argues that the petition fails to
Republic Act No. 9165 is unconstitutional because it, in satisfy the requisites of judicial review because: (1) Estipona lacks legal standing
effect, suspends the operation of Rule 118 of the Rules of to sue for failure to show direct injury; (2) there is no actual case or controversy;
Court insofar as it allows plea bargaining as part of the and (3) the constitutionality of Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165 is not the lis mota of
mandatory pre-trial conference in criminal cases. the case.
On matters of technicality, some points raised by the OSG maybe x x x It should be stressed that the power to promulgate
correct.1âwphi1 Nonetheless, without much further ado, it must be underscored rules of pleading, practice and procedure was granted by
that it is within this Court's power to make exceptions to the rules of court. Under our Constitutions to this Court to enhance its
proper conditions, We may permit the full and exhaustive ventilation of the independence, for in the words of Justice Isagani Cruz
parties' arguments and positions despite the supposed technical infirmities of a "without independence and integrity, courts will lose that
petition or its alleged procedural flaws. In discharging its solemn duty as the final popular trust so essential to the maintenance of their vigor
arbiter of constitutional issues, the Court shall not shirk from its obligation to as champions of justice." Hence, our Constitutions
determine novel issues, or issues of first impression, with far-reaching continuously vested this power to this Court for it enhances
implications.11 its independence. Under the 1935 Constitution, the power
of this Court to promulgate rules concerning pleading,
practice and procedure was granted but it appeared to be
Likewise, matters of procedure and technicalities normally take a backseat when
co-existent with legislative power for it was subject to the
issues of substantial and transcendental importance are present.12 We have
power of Congress to repeal, alter or supplement. Thus, its
acknowledged that the Philippines' problem on illegal drugs has reached
Section 13, Article VIII provides:
"epidemic," "monstrous," and "harrowing" proportions,13 and that its disastrously
harmful social, economic, and spiritual effects have broken the lives, shattered
the hopes, and destroyed the future of thousands especially our young "Sec. 13. The Supreme Court shall have the power to
citizens.14 At the same time, We have equally noted that "as urgent as the promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and
campaign against the drug problem must be, so must we as urgently, if not more procedure in all courts, and the admission to the practice of
so, be vigilant in the protection of the rights of the accused as mandated by the law. Said rules shall be uniform for all courts of the same
Constitution x x x who, because of excessive zeal on the part of the law enforcers, grade and shall not diminish, increase, or modify
may be unjustly accused and convicted."15 Fully aware of the gravity of the drug substantive rights. The existing laws on pleading, practice
menace that has beset our country and its direct link to certain crimes, the Court, and procedure are hereby repealed as statutes, and are
within its sphere, must do its part to assist in the all-out effort to lessen, if not declared Rules of Court, subject to the power of the
totally eradicate, the continued presence of drug lords, pushers and users.16 Supreme Court to alter and modify the same. The
Congress shall have the power to repeal, alter or
supplement the rules concerning pleading, practice and
Bearing in mind the very important and pivotal issues raised in this petition,
procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the
technical matters should not deter Us from having to make the final and definitive
Philippines."
pronouncement that everyone else depends for enlightenment and
guidance.17 When public interest requires, the Court may brush aside procedural
rules in order to resolve a constitutional issue.18 The said power of Congress, however, is not as absolute
as it may appear on its surface. In In re:
Cunanan Congress in the exercise of its power to amend
x x x [T]he Court is invested with the power to suspend the
rules of the Supreme Court regarding admission to the
application of the rules of procedure as a necessary
practice of law, enacted the Bar Flunkers Act of 1953 which
complement of its power to promulgate the same. Barnes v.
considered as a passing grade, the average of 70% in the
Hon. Quijano Padilla discussed the rationale for this
bar examinations after July 4, 1946 up to August 1951 and
tenet, viz. :
71 % in the 1952 bar examinations. This Court struck down
the law as unconstitutional. In his ponencia, Mr. Justice
Let it be emphasized that the rules of procedure should be Diokno held that "x x x the disputed law is not a legislation;
viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment it is a judgment - a judgment promulgated by this Court
of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would during the aforecited years affecting the bar candidates
result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than concerned; and although this Court certainly can revoke
promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed. these judgments even now, for justifiable reasons, it is no
Even the Rules of Court reflect this principle. The power to less certain that only this Court, and not the legislative nor
suspend or even disregard rules can be so pervasive and executive department, that may do so. Any attempt on the
compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself has part of these departments would be a clear usurpation of its
already declared to be final, x x x. function, as is the case with the law in question." The
venerable jurist further ruled: "It is obvious, therefore, that
the ultimate power to grant license for the practice of law
The emerging trend in the rulings of this Court is to afford
belongs exclusively to this Court, and the law passed by
every party litigant the amplest opportunity for the proper
Congress on the matter is of permissive character, or as
and just determination of his cause, free from the
other authorities say, merely to fix the minimum conditions
constraints of technicalities. Time and again, this Court has
for the license." By its ruling, this Court qualified the
consistently held that rules must not be applied rigidly so as
absolutist tone of the power of Congress to "repeal, alter or
not to override substantial justice. 19
supplement the rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the
SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES Philippines.

Rule-making power of the Supreme The ruling of this Court in In re Cunanan was not changed by the 1973
Court under the 1987 Constitution Constitution. For the 1973 Constitution reiterated the power of this Court "to
promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, x x x
which, however, may be repealed, altered or supplemented by the Batasang
Section 5(5), A1iicle VIII of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides:
Pambansa x x x." More completely, Section 5(2)5 of its Article X provided:

Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:


xxxx

xxxx
"Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers.

(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional


xxxx
rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the
practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged.
Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy (5) Promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts,
disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall the admission to the practice of law, and the integration of the Bar, which,
not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special however, may be repealed, altered, or supplemented by the Batasang Pambansa.
courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy
Supreme Court. disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall
not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights."
The power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is now Our
exclusive domain and no longer shared with the Executive and Legislative Well worth noting is that the 1973 Constitution further strengthened the
departments.20 In Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice, 21 then Associate Justice independence of the judiciary by giving to it the additional power to promulgate
(later Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno traced the history of the Court's rules governing the integration of the Bar.
rule-making power and highlighted its evolution and development.
The 1987 Constitution molded an even stronger and more independent Thus, as it now stands, Congress has no authority to repeal,
judiciary. Among others, it enhanced the rule making power of this Court. Its alter, or supplement rules concerning pleading, practice,
Section 5(5), Article VIII provides: and procedure.x x x.24

xxxx The separation of powers among the three co-equal


branches of our government has erected an impregnable
wall that keeps the power to promulgate rules of pleading,
"Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following
practice and procedure within the sole province of this
powers:
Court.25 The other branches trespass upon this prerogative
if they enact laws or issue orders that effectively repeal,
xxx alter or modify any of the procedural rules promulgated by
the Court.26 Viewed from this perspective, We have
rejected previous attempts on the part of the Congress, in
(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and
the exercise of its legislative power, to amend the Rules of
enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and
Court (Rules), to wit:
procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law,
the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the
underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and 1. Fabian v. Desierto27 -Appeal from the decision of the
inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, Office of the Ombudsman in an administrative disciplinary
shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall case should be taken to the Court of Appeals under the
not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules provisions of Rule 43 of the Rulesinstead of appeal
of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies by certiorari under Rule 45 as provided in Section 27 of R.A.
shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme No. 6770.
Court. "
2. Cathay Metal Corporation v. Laguna West Multi-Purpose
The rule making power of this Court was expanded. This Cooperative, Inc. 28 - The Cooperative Code provisions on
Court for the first time was given the power to promulgate notices cannot replace the rules on summons under Rule
rules concerning the protection and enforcement of 14 of the Rules.
constitutional rights. The Court was also granted for
the .first time the power to disapprove rules of procedure of
3. RE: Petition for Recognition of the Exemption of the
special courts and quasi-judicial bodies. But most
GSIS from Payment of Legal Fees; 29 Baguio Market
importantly, the 1987 Constitution took away the power of
Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BAMARVEMPCO) v.
Congress to repeal, alter, or supplement rules concerning
Hon. Judge Cabato-Cortes;30 In Re: Exemption of the
pleading, practice and procedure. In fine, the power to
National Power Corporation from Payment of Filing/Docket
promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is no
Fees; 31 and Rep. of the Phils. v. Hon. Mangotara, et al. 32 -
longer shared by this Court with Congress, more so with
Despite statutory provisions, the GSIS, BAMARVEMPCO,
the Executive. x x x.22
and NPC are not exempt from the payment of legal fees
imposed by Rule 141 of the Rules.
Just recently, Carpio-Morales v. Court of Appeals (Sixth
Division)23 further elucidated:
4. Carpio-Morales v. Court of Appeals (Sixth Division)33 -
The first paragraph of Section 14 of R.A. No. 6770, which
While the power to define, prescribe, and apportion the jurisdiction of the various prohibits courts except the Supreme Court from issuing
courts is, by constitutional design, vested unto Congress, the power to temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary
promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of injunction to enjoin an investigation conducted by the
constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all Ombudsman, is unconstitutional as it contravenes Rule 58
courts belongs exclusively to this Court.Section 5 (5), Article VIII of the 1987 of the Rules.
Constitution reads:
Considering that the aforesaid laws effectively modified
xxxx the Rules, this Court asserted its discretion to amend,
repeal or even establish new rules of procedure, to the
exclusion of the legislative and executive branches of
In Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice (Echegaray), the Court traced the evolution
government. To reiterate, the Court's authority to
of its rule-making authority, which, under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, had
promulgate rules on pleading, practice, and procedure is
been priorly subjected to a power-sharing scheme with Congress. As it now
exclusive and one of the safeguards of Our institutional
stands, the 1987 Constitution textually altered the old provisions by deleting
independence.34
the concurrent power of Congress to amend the rules, thus solidifying in
one body the Court's rule-making powers, in line with the Framers' vision of
institutionalizing a " [ s] tronger and more independent judiciary." Plea bargaining in criminal cases

The records of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission would show Plea bargaining, as a rule and a practice, has been existing in our jurisdiction
that the Framers debated on whether or not the Court's rulemaking powers since July 1, 1940, when the 1940 Rules took effect. Section 4, Rule 114 (Pleas)
should be shared with Congress. There was an initial suggestion to insert the of which stated:
sentence "The National Assembly may repeal, alter, or supplement the said rules
with the advice and concurrence of the Supreme Court," right after the phrase
SEC. 4. Plea of guilty of lesser offense. - The defendant, with the consent of the
"Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional
court and of the fiscal, may plead guilty of any lesser offense than that charged
rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the
which is necessarily included in the offense charged in the complaint or
practice of law, the integrated bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged[,]"
information.
in the enumeration of powers of the Supreme Court. Later, Commissioner
Felicitas S. Aquino proposed to delete the former sentence and, instead, after the
word "[under]privileged," place a comma(,) to be followed by "the phrase with the When the 1964 Rules became effective on January 1, 1964, the same provision
concurrence of the National Assembly." Eventually, a compromise formulation was retained under Rule 118 (Pleas).1âwphi1 Subsequently, with the effectivity
was reached wherein (a) the Committee members agreed to Commissioner of the 1985 Rules on January 1, 1985, the provision on plea of guilty to a lesser
Aquino's proposal to delete the phrase "the National Assembly may repeal, alter, offense was amended. Section 2, Rule 116 provided:
or supplement the said rules with the advice and concurrence of the Supreme
Court" and (b) in turn, Commissioner Aquino agreed to withdraw his proposal to
SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. - The accused with the consent of the
add "the phrase with the concurrence of the National Assembly." The changes
offended party and the fiscal, may be allowed by the trial court to plead guilty to a
were approved, thereby leading to the present lack of textual reference to
lesser offense, regardless of whether or not it is necessarily included in the crime
any form of Congressional participation in Section 5 (5), Article
charged, or is cognizable by a court of lesser jurisdiction than the trial court. No
VIII, supra. Theprevailing consideration was that "both bodies, the Supreme
amendment of the complaint or information is necessary. (4a, R-118)
Court and the Legislature, have their inherent powers."
As well, the term "plea bargaining" was first mentioned and The Supreme Court's sole prerogative to issue, amend, or repeal procedural
expressly required during pre-trial. Section 2, Rule 118 rules is limited to the preservation of substantive rights, i.e., the former should not
mandated: diminish, increase or modify the latter.38 "Substantive law is that part of the law
which creates, defines and regulates rights, or which regulates the right and
duties which give rise to a cause of action; that part of the law which courts are
SEC. 2. Pre-trial conference; subjects. - The pre-trial
established to administer; as opposed to adjective or remedial law, which
conference shall consider the following:
prescribes the method of enforcing rights or obtain redress for their
invasions."39 Fabian v. Hon. Desierto40 laid down the test for determining whether
(a) Plea bargaining; a rule is substantive or procedural in nature.

(b) Stipulation of facts; It will be noted that no definitive line can be drawn between those rules or
statutes which are procedural, hence within the scope of this Court's rule-making
power, and those which are substantive. In fact, a particular rule may be
(c) Marking for identification of evidence of the parties;
procedural in one context and substantive in another. It is admitted that what is
procedural and what is substantive is frequently a question of great difficulty. It is
(d) Waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence; and not, however, an insurmountable problem if a rational and pragmatic approach is
taken within the context of our own procedural and jurisdictional system.
(e) Such other matters as will promote a fair and
expeditious trial. (n) In determining whether a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court, for the practice
and procedure of the lower courts, abridges, enlarges, or modifies any
substantive right, the test is whether the rule really regulates procedure, that is,
The 1985 Rules was later amended. While the wordings of Section 2, Rule 118
the judicial process for enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive
was retained, Section 2, Rule 116 was modified in 1987. A second paragraph
law and for justly administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction
was added, stating that "[a] conviction under this plea shall be equivalent to a
of them. If the rule takes away a vested right, it is not procedural. If the rule
conviction of the offense charged for purposes of double jeopardy."
creates a right such as the right to appeal, it may be classified as a substantive
matter; but if it operates as a means of implementing an existing right then the
When R.A. No. 8493 ("Speedy Trial Act of 1998 ') was enacted,35 Section 2, Rule rule deals merely with procedure.41
118 of the Rules was substantially adopted. Section 2 of the law required that
plea bargaining and other matters36 that will promote a fair and expeditious trial
In several occasions, We dismissed the argument that a procedural rule violates
are to be considered during pre-trial conference in all criminal cases cognizable
substantive rights. For example, in People v. Lacson, 42 Section 8, Rule 117 of
by the Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court,
the Rules on provisional dismissal was held as a special procedural limitation
Regional Trial Court, and the Sandiganbayan.
qualifying the right of the State to prosecute, making the time-bar an essence of
the given right or as an inherent part thereof, so that its expiration operates to
Currently, the pertinent rules on plea bargaining under the 2000 Rules37 are extinguish the right of the State to prosecute the accused.43Speaking through
quoted below: then Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr., the Court opined:

RULE 116 (Arraignment and Plea): In the new rule in question, as now construed by the Court, it has fixed a time-bar
of one year or two years for the revival of criminal cases provisionally dismissed
with the express consent of the accused and with a priori notice to the offended
SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. - At arraignment,
party. The time-bar may appear, on first impression, unreasonable compared to
the accused, with the consent of the offended party and the
the periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code. However, in fixing the
prosecutor, may be allowed by the trial court to plead guilty
time-bar, the Court balanced the societal interests and those of the accused for
to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the
the orderly and speedy disposition of criminal cases with minimum prejudice to
offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the
the State and the accused. It took into account the substantial rights of both the
accused may still be allowed to plead guilty to said lesser
State and of the accused to due process. The Court believed that the time limit is
offense after withdrawing his plea of not guilty. No
a reasonable period for the State to revive provisionally dismissed cases with the
amendment of the complaint or information is necessary.
consent of the accused and notice to the offended parties. The time-bar fixed by
(Sec. 4, Cir. 38-98)
the Court must be respected unless it is shown that the period is manifestly short
or insufficient that the rule becomes a denial of justice. The petitioners failed to
RULE 118 (Pre-trial): show a manifest shortness or insufficiency of the time-bar.

SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. - In all The new rule was conceptualized by the Committee on the Revision of the Rules
criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan,Regional and approved by the Court en banc primarily to enhance the administration of the
Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court criminal justice system and the rights to due process of the State and the
in Cities, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial accused by eliminating the deleterious practice of trial courts of provisionally
Court, the court shall, after arraignment and within thirty (30) dismissing criminal cases on motion of either the prosecution or the accused or
days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the jointly, either with no time-bar for the revival thereof or with a specific or definite
person of the accused, unless a shorter period is provided period for such revival by the public prosecutor. There were times when such
for in special laws or circulars of the Supreme Court, order criminal cases were no longer revived or refiled due to causes beyond the control
a pre-trial conference to consider the following: of the public prosecutor or because of the indolence, apathy or the lackadaisical
attitude of public prosecutors to the prejudice of the State and the accused
despite the mandate to public prosecutors and trial judges to expedite criminal
(a) plea bargaining;
proceedings.

(b) stipulation of facts;


It is almost a universal experience that the accused welcomes delay as it usually
operates in his favor, especially if he greatly fears the consequences of his trial
(c) marking for identification of evidence of the parties; and conviction. He is hesitant to disturb the hushed inaction by which dominant
cases have been known to expire.
(d) waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;
The inordinate delay in the revival or refiling of criminal cases may impair or
reduce the capacity of the State to prove its case with the disappearance or
(e) modification of the order of trial if the accused admits
nonavailability of its witnesses. Physical evidence may have been lost. Memories
the charge but interposes a lawful defense; and
of witnesses may have grown dim or have faded. Passage of time makes proof of
any fact more difficult. The accused may become a fugitive from justice or commit
(f) such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial another crime. The longer the lapse of time from the dismissal of the case to the
of the criminal and civil aspects of the case. (Sec. 2 & 3, Cir. revival thereof, the more difficult it is to prove the crime.
38-98)
On the other side of the fulcrum, a mere provisional dismissal of a criminal case
Plea bargaining is a rule of procedure does not terminate a criminal case. The possibility that the case may be revived
at any time may disrupt or reduce, if not derail, the chances of the accused for
employment, curtail his association, subject him to public obloquy and create
anxiety in him and his family. He is unable to lead a normal life because of The decision to plead guilty is often heavily influenced by the defendant's
community suspicion and his own anxiety. He continues to suffer those penalties appraisal of the prosecution's case against him and by the apparent likelihood of
and disabilities incompatible with the presumption of innocence. He may also securing leniency should a guilty plea be offered and accepted.54 In any case,
lose his witnesses or their memories may fade with the passage of time. In the whether it be to the offense charged or to a lesser crime, a guilty plea is a
long run, it may diminish his capacity to defend himself and thus eschew the "serious and sobering occasion" inasmuch as it constitutes a waiver of the
fairness of the entire criminal justice system. fundamental rights to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, to be
heard by himself and counsel, to meet the witnesses face to face, to bail (except
those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of
The time-bar under the new rule was fixed by the Court to excise the malaise that
guilt is strong), to be convicted by proof beyond reasonable doubt, and not to be
plagued the administration of the criminal justice system for the benefit of the
compelled to be a witness against himself.55
State and the accused; not for the accused only.44

Yet a defendant has no constitutional right to plea bargain. No basic rights are
Also, We said in Jaylo, et al. v. Sandiganbayan, et al. 45 that Section 6, Rule 120
infringed by trying him rather than accepting a plea of guilty; the prosecutor need
of the Rules, which provides that an accused who failed to appear at the
not do so if he prefers to go to trial.56 Under the present Rules, the acceptance of
promulgation of the judgment of conviction shall lose the remedies available
an offer to plead guilty is not a demandable right but depends on the consent of
against the judgment, does not take away substantive rights but merely provides
the offended party57and the prosecutor, which is a condition precedent to a valid
the manner through which an existing right may be implemented.
plea of guilty to a lesser offense that is necessarily included in the offense
charged.58 The reason for this is that the prosecutor has full control of the
Section 6, Rule 120, of the Rules of Court, does not take away per se the right of prosecution of criminal actions; his duty is to always prosecute the proper offense,
the convicted accused to avail of the remedies under the Rules. It is the failure of not any lesser or graver one, based on what the evidence on hand can sustain. 59
the accused to appear without justifiable cause on the scheduled date of
promulgation of the judgment of conviction that forfeits their right to avail
[Courts] normally must defer to prosecutorial decisions as to whom to prosecute.
themselves of the remedies against the judgment.
The reasons for judicial deference are well known. Prosecutorial charging
decisions are rarely simple. In addition to assessing the strength and importance
It is not correct to say that Section 6, Rule 120, of the Rules of Court diminishes of a case, prosecutors also must consider other tangible and intangible factors,
or modifies the substantive rights of petitioners. It only works in pursuance of the such as government enforcement priorities. Finally, they also must decide how
power of the Supreme Court to "provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure best to allocate the scarce resources of a criminal justice system that simply
for the speedy disposition of cases." This provision protects the courts from delay cannot accommodate the litigation of every serious criminal charge. Because
in the speedy disposition of criminal cases - delay arising from the simple these decisions "are not readily susceptible to the kind of analysis the courts are
expediency of nonappearance of the accused on the scheduled promulgation of competent to undertake," we have been "properly hesitant to examine the
the judgment of conviction.46 decision whether to prosecute. "60

By the same token, it is towards the provision of a simplified and inexpensive The plea is further addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court,
procedure for the speedy disposition of cases in all courts47 that the rules on plea which may allow the accused to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is
bargaining was introduced. As a way of disposing criminal charges by agreement necessarily included in the offense charged. The word may denotes an exercise
of the parties, plea bargaining is considered to be an "important," "essential," of discretion upon the trial court on whether to allow the accused to make such
"highly desirable," and "legitimate" component of the administration of plea.61 Trial courts are exhorted to keep in mind that a plea of guilty for a lighter
justice.48 Some of its salutary effects include: offense than that actually charged is not supposed to be allowed as a matter of
bargaining or compromise for the convenience of the accused.62
x x x For a defendant who sees slight possibility of acquittal, the advantages of
pleading guilty and limiting the probable penalty are obvious - his exposure is Plea bargaining is allowed during the arraignment, the pre-trial, or even up to the
reduced, the correctional processes can begin immediately, and the practical point when the prosecution already rested its case.63 As regards plea bargaining
burdens of a trial are eliminated. For the State there are also advantages - the during the pre-trial stage, the trial court's exercise of discretion should not amount
more promptly imposed punishment after an admission of guilt may more to a grave abuse thereof.64 "Grave abuse of discretion" is a capricious and
effectively attain the objectives of punishment; and with the avoidance of trial, whimsical exercise of judgment so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion
scarce judicial and prosecutorial resources are conserved for those cases in of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, as where
which there is a substantial issue of the defendant's guilt or in which there is the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner because of passion or
substantial doubt that the State can sustain its burden of proof. (Brady v. United hostility; it arises when a court or tribunal violates the Constitution, the law or
States, 397 U.S. 742, 752 [1970]) existing jurisprudence.65

Disposition of charges after plea discussions x x x leads to prompt and largely If the accused moved to plead guilty to a lesser offense subsequent to a bail
final disposition of most criminal cases; it avoids much of the corrosive impact of hearing or after the prosecution rested its case, the rules allow such a plea only
enforced idleness during pretrial confinement for those who are denied release when the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of
pending trial; it protects the public from those accused persons who are prone to the crime charged.66 The only basis on which the prosecutor and the court could
continue criminal conduct even while on pretrial release; and, by shortening the rightfully act in allowing change in the former plea of not guilty could be nothing
time between charge and disposition, it enhances whatever may be the more and nothing less than the evidence on record. As soon as the prosecutor
rehabilitative prospects of the guilty when they are ultimately has submitted a comment whether for or against said motion, it behooves the trial
imprisoned. (Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 261 [1971]) court to assiduously study the prosecution's evidence as well as all the
circumstances upon which the accused made his change of plea to the end that
the interests of justice and of the public will be served.67 The ruling on the motion
The defendant avoids extended pretrial incarceration and the anxieties and
must disclose the strength or weakness of the prosecution's evidence. 68 Absent
uncertainties of a trial; he gains a speedy disposition of his case, the chance to
any finding on the weight of the evidence on hand, the judge's acceptance of the
acknowledge his guilt, and a prompt start in realizing whatever potential there
defendant's change of plea is improper and irregular.69
may be for rehabilitation. Judges and prosecutors conserve vital and scarce
resources. The public is protected from the risks posed by those charged with
criminal offenses who are at large on bail while awaiting completion of criminal On whether Section 23 of R.A. No.
proceedings. (Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 71 [1977]) 9165 violates the equal protection
clause
In this jurisdiction, plea bargaining has been defined as "a process whereby the
accused and the prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the At this point, We shall not resolve the issue of whether Section 23 of R.A. No.
case subject to court approval."49 There is give-and-take negotiation common in 9165 is contrary to the constitutional right to equal protection of the law in order
plea bargaining.50 The essence of the agreement is that both the prosecution and not to preempt any future discussion by the Court on the policy considerations
the defense make concessions to avoid potential losses.51 Properly administered, behind Section 23 of R.A. No. 9165. Pending deliberation on whether or not to
plea bargaining is to be encouraged because the chief virtues of the system - adopt the statutory provision in toto or a qualified version thereof, We deem it
speed, economy, and finality - can benefit the accused, the offended party, the proper to declare as invalid the prohibition against plea bargaining on drug cases
prosecution, and the court.52 until and unless it is made part of the rules of procedure through an
administrative circular duly issued for the purpose.
Considering the presence of mutuality of advantage,53 the rules on plea
bargaining neither create a right nor take away a vested right. Instead, it operates WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari and prohibition is GRANTED. Section 23
as a means to implement an existing right by regulating the judicial process for of Republic Act No. 9165 is declared unconstitutional for being contrary to the
enforcing rights and duties recognized by substantive law and for justly rule-making authority of the Supreme Court under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the
administering remedy and redress for a disregard or infraction of them. 1987 Constitution.
PEOPLE VS MAGAT (SUPRA) 5 Edilberto Evangelists, a police lieutenant, testified that on October 26, 1973, he
received a tip that the accused was in Tuburan. After directing a certain Sgt.
Borres to verify the tip, they proceeded to the place and sought the assistance of
the local police. At around 1:30 o'clock in the morning of the following day, upon
arriving at the house of the accused, they woke up the occupants and
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, vs. DIOSDADO COMENDADOR
interrogated the accused who readily admitted the killing and turned over the
wrist watch, the bag full of clothes and the wallet containing P70.00 marked as
GUERRERO, J.: Exhibit "H". They likewise gathered from the accused that he got P122.00 from
the deceased and that he killed him because he was in dire need of money for his
wife and children. 6
Automatic review of the judgment of the Circuit Criminal Court, 14th Judicial
District, Cebu City, in Criminal Case No. CCC-XIV- 837-Cebu, finding the
accused DIOSDADO COMENDADOR guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the 6. Gabriel Trocio, Jr., Special Counsel of Toledo City, declared on the witness
crime of ROBBERY with HOMICIDE, and sentencing him to suffer the supreme stand that on October 27, 1973, the accused went to his office to sign a prepared
penalty of DEATH, and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Jungie Zaragosa extra-judicial confession, Identified as Exhibit "J". As an administering officer, he
the sum of P625.00 the value of the unrecovered property plus the sum of informed the accused of his rights under the law, namely: that he had the right to
P12,000.00, without any subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to remain silent and to be assisted by counsel. To this statement, the accused said
pay the costs. that since everything is true, he will sign the same notwithstanding the absence of
counsel. He likewise inquired whether the confession was voluntary on his part
and as a standard operating procedure, he requested a City Health Department
The trial court based its ruling on accused's plea of guilty which it found to have
physician to examine the body of the accused. 'Thereafter, he requested the
been "freely and voluntarily" given and reiterated despite the Court's admonition
accused to read the confession and the accused even read it aloud and then
that the death penalty may be imposed, on the accused's extrajudicial confession,
affixed his signature. 7
marked Exhibit "J", as well as on the following evidence which the Court required
the prosecution to present to determine the circumstances obtaining in the case:
The extra-judicial confession of the accused presented by the prosecution as
Exhibit "J" reads as follows in English as translated from the original Cebuano
1. Edilberto Zaragoza, a farmer residing in Cadiz City, testified that he is the
dialect: (Original Records, pp. 6-7)
father of the 22-year old deceased Jungie Zaragoza; that he knows the accused
very well as he is a helper in his house; that on October 22, 1973; his son, who
was working in Zamboanga City and at that time, on vacation in their hacienda, CONFESSION OF DIOSDADO CANTORNE COMENDADOR TAKEN BY SGT.
asked permission to leave for Cagayan de Oro via Cebu; that the accused ERASMO M. MENDEZ, MEMBER OF THE TOLEDO CITY POLICE DEPT. AT
advised his son that "if he goes to Cebu without any companion they will just THE OFFICE OF THE COMPLAINT AND INVESTIGATION SECTION THIS 27th
tickle him with a knife and then get his bag and since he was very familiar with DAY OF OCTOBER 1973, IN THE PRESENCE OF LT.EDILBERTOM.
Cebu, he should accompany him to Cebu. 1 EVANGELISTA, ATTY. ROMEO RAMOLETE.

He likewise declared on the witness stand that his son had money of his own but INITIAL STATEMENT: This investigation that I am conducting now is about an
despite that, he still gave him P200.00 to make his vacation worthwhile. He told incident which you have a participation and you are informed of rights based on
his brother to give the money. Further said that his son brought along with him a our Constitution, to hire the services of a lawyer during this investigation and you
bag of clothes and wore a Citizen Day Date wrist watch, identified as Exhibit "A", also have the right not to answer questions which you think will incriminate you,
with an engraving "Jungle Zaragosa" on the side. Later, he teamed that his son do you understand?
had been robbed and killed in Toledo City and that he went there to bring home
his body. 2
ANSWER: Yes, I understand.

2. Dolores Reponte, a farmer residing at Cantabako, Toledo City, declared on the


Q — Who is the lawyer whom you want to assist you in this investigation?
witness stand that at about 12:00 noon on October 25, 1973, while she was
drying ypil-ypil leaves by the side of the hill, two passers-by who turned out to be
the accused and the deceased in this case, asked her if there was any road A — I don't need a lawyer because I know the purpose of this investigation and 1
where they could pass. To which query, she replied that there was none and the also know that all that I will declare here will be used against me during the trial of
only place which they could reach would be Oling. After the accused remarked this case in the court.
that he is familiar with the place, both of them proceeded towards the bushes. At
around 5:00 o'clock, she was informed by Patrolman Panda-an of the presence
Q — State your name, age, and all of your personal circumstances?
of a dead man at a distance from her farm and when she went there to see, she
recognized the man lying dead as the companion of the accused. 3
A — DIOSDADO CANTORNE COMENDADOR, 23 years old married, residing at
Summon, Tuburan, Cebu.
3. Angelo Obenque, a farmer and resident of Media Once, Toledo City, testified
that he knows the accused in this case very well as the latter happened to be his
neighbor for fifteen years while residing in Tuburan. At about 2:00 o'clock in the Q — What is your occupation?
afternoon on October 25, 1973, the accused arrived in his house with a watch
and a travel bag, Identified as Exhibits "A" and "C" respectively. When asked
where he came from the accused that he had been to Cebu City and also Talisay, A — Farming.
where he had just taken a bath. He likewise said that he had some wet clothes,
including two pairs of pants, Identified as Exhibits "D" and "E". which he took out Q — In what place are you farming?
to dry. When he went upstairs, he pulled out from his pocket a wallet where he
picked out two P50.00 bills and one P20.00 bill and he placed them on the
window sill to dry. After eating his supper with them at about 5:00 o'clock, he A — In Hacienda Zaragosa, owned by Roberto Zaragosa, in Cadiz City.
begged leave to go around the place and returned at 8:00 o'clock in the evening.
He spent the night with them and at 5:00 o'clock the following morning, he left. 4 Q —Why are you here now in the office of the Police of Toledo?

4. Dioscoro Panda-an, a police corporal in Toledo City, declared that at about A — I am here now arrested Because of an offense.
3:30 o'clock in the afternoon of October 25, 1973, while he was at the police
precinct, he received a report from the barrio captain about a dead person found.
He immediately proceeded to the scene which was about two kilometers from the Q —What offense did commit that you were arrested?
national road. He described the place as a forest with thick trees and no
inhabitants, the nearest hut which was not even occupied being about one A — Because I killed a person.
hundred meters from the creek.
Q — Who is the person whom you said to have killed, do you know him?
Upon arriving thereat, he took steps to preserve the scene. He found the fatal
weapon, Identified as Exhibit "F" about thirteen feet from the body of the
deceased, and a pair of shoes floating in the water near the body, Identified as A — Yes, I know, Jungle Zaragosa.
Exhibit "G". He then requested the help of the PC to guard the place and called
for a medico-legal officer and a photographer. Thereafter, he asked the help of Q — Why do you know this man whom you killed?
the people who repaired to the scene to get the body of the deceased to Toledo
City for an autopsy. 5
A — Because this man is the son of my master in whose hacienda I am working. Q — Why did you happen to be with Jungie Zaragosa from Cadiz to Cebu?

Q — When and which did you kill. Jungie Zaragosa? A — Because I was requested by the father of Jungie Zaragosa to conduct him to
Cebu because he was leaving for Cagayan de Oro.
A — Last Thursday, October 25, 1973, at about 2:00 noon in sitio Apid,
Cantabaco, Toledo. Q — Did you know that Jungie Zaragosa had money in his position?

Q — What was there reason why you killed Jungie Zaragosa? A — Yes, I know because I was the one given by his uncle the amount of One
Hundred Eighty Two Pesos (P182.00).
A — I needed money Badly because my wife and child were hardup and I killed
Jungie Zaragosa sa because he had money. Q — Why are you wounded on the hand?

Q — How much money did you take from Jungie Zaragosa after the incident? A — My right hand is wounded by the hunting knife I used in killing him because
he fought back at first until he died.
A — There was One Hundred Twenty One pesos and fifty centavos, (P121.50)
Q — Are you willing to sign this statement stating that nobody threatened you,
you of a reward, and that you are doing so on your own voluntary act?
Q — What else did you take from Jungle Zaragosa after the incident?

A — Yes, I am willing to sign.


A — A wristwatch, Citizen day date, 27 jewels, super king (with engraved name
of the victim (Jungie Zaragosa) (suspect Identifying the watch); and clothes of
Jungie Zaragosa and pants, polo shirt, jacket that were packed inside a brown Q — Have you read and understood all before signing?
travelling bag.
A — Yes, I read and understood all before I sign.
Q — What did you use in killing Jungie Zaragosa at that time?
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before me this 27th day of October 1973 at
A — A hunting knife nine (9) inches long with carve handle with bronze ring Toledo City, Philippines.
(suspect Identifying the fatal weapon when shown to him for Identity)
(SGD.) DIOSDADO CANTORNE COMENDADOR
Q — Who is the owner of the hunting knife you used in killing him?
Affiant
A — I am the owner of the hunting knife I used.
(SGD.) GABRIEL L. TROCIO JR. Special Counsel Toledo City
Q — How many times did you stab Jungle Zaragosa?
WITNESSES:
A — More than two (2) tunes.
1) (SGD.) MONTEMAYOR MAGDALENO
Q — Which part of the body did you stab him (Jungie Zaragosa) first?
2) (SGD.) COLUMBO R. LISTON
A — At the chest then on the neck and I did not know anymore because we
grappled on the ground.
The prosecution, after submitting its evidence, rested its case. The defense,
however, did not present any evidence nor did the accused take the witness
Q — Were you able to kill him at the time? stand. The case was, thereupon, submitted for decision.

A — Yes, I killed him because I did not leave him until he died. In this review en consulta of the judgment of the trial court, which as aforestated,
convicted Diosdado Comendador of the crime of robbery with homicide and
sentenced him to death, the accused-appellant raised the following assignment
Q — After killing Jungie Zaragosa, what did you do?
of errors:

A — I took his wristwatch from his left wrist, then took his trousers off and run
I. The trial court erred is not taking appellant's conditional plea as a plea of not
away because I became afraid of his looks.
guilty.

Q — Where did you go when you ran away from Jungie Zaragosa?
II. The trial court erred in Exhibit "J". the extrajudicial confession of the appellant.

A — I proceeded to Don Andres Soriano, Lutopan, Toledo City in order to take a


III. The trial court erred in finding that the guilt of the appellant was proved
bus to my friend Angelo Ubenque in Media Once.
beyond reasonable doubt.

Q — What did you do in the house of Angelo Ubenque at that time?


IV. The trial court erred in finding against the appellant the aggravating
circumstances of craft, uninhabited place and abuse of confidence and obvious
A — I passed the time there and I was thinking of going home to Sumon Tuburan, ungratefulness. 8
Cebu that following dawn and on that early evening we were drinking in the
house of Angelo Ubenque.
The task of seeking a reversal of a judgment of conviction is difficult. It is more so
if the judgment is anchored not only on a plea of guilty and an extra-judicial
Q — How much did you spend in the drinking that you had in the house of Angelo confession but also on several testimonial evidence demonstrating
Ubenque? accused-appellant's culpability beyond reasonable doubt. While counsel for
accused-appellant has performed his duty well and. argued ably for the defense,
We must affirm the judgment of conviction with the modification, however, that
A — P15.00 all in all.
accused-appellant be sentenced to reclusion perpetua instead of death. as will
be explained hereunder.
Q — What did you take in going home to Tuburan, Cebu that morning?
It is elementary that a plea of guilty, besides being a mitigating circumstance, is a
A — A CBC bus No. 122 and I arrived Tuburan at 8:00 in the morning, October judicial confession of guilt — an admission of all the material facts alleged in the
26, 1973. information, including the aggravating circumstances alleged. To be considered,
it must be spontaneously in open court prior to presentation of evidence. It must Long settled is the rule, therefore, that "the proper and prudent course to follow
also be made unconditionally. where the accused enters a plea of 'guilty' to capital offenses especially where he
is ignorant with little or no education, is to take testimony not only to satisfy the
trial judge himself but to aid the Supreme Court in determining whether the
In the case at bar, while it is true that accused-appellant requested for a lesser
accused really and truly understood and comprehended the meaning, full
penalty, such does not make his plea of guilty conditional. It remains to be an
significance and consequences of his plea." (People vs. Bulalake, 106 Phil. 767,
admission of the facts alleged in the information charging robbery with homicide.
770; People vs. Baluyot, 75 SCRA 148; People vs. Duaban, L-31912, August 24,
At most, said plea for a lesser penalty is an appeal to emotion as it does not
1979). There can, therefore, be no error imputed to the trial court for having
assail, restrict or qualify the information. It does not even specify the penalty
directed the prosecution to present evidence after the accused- appellant
desired to be imposed. Unlike in People vs. Sabilul, 93 Phil. 567, the case cited
pleaded guilty.
by accused-appellant in support of his contention, the plea for the lesser penalty
of destierro qualifies the information for murder to that crime described under
Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code, to wit: death under exceptional From the testimonies and exhibits thus presented, We hold that the several
circumstances, as the plea therein specifies a certain penalty to be imposed. circumstantial evidence more than suffice to overcome the presumption of
innocence. While there was no eyewitness to the killing, there are indubitable
proof that he is guilty thereof. Prosecution witness Dolores Reponte pointed to
That the accused-appellant intended his plea of guilty to be unconditional is
him as the person she saw with the deceased just a few hours before the latter's
further 'bolstered by the fact that he did not adduce any evidence in his favor and
body was found. Another prosecution witness, Angelo Obenque, declared under
merely submitted the case for decision. Although he had an opportunity to do so
oath that the accused-appellant dropped by his house on that fateful day with a
after the prosecution rested its case, he did not avail of the same. He remained
watch, a travelling bag, two pairs of wet pants, and a wallet containing wet bins
resolute in his decision to own the crime. His claim, therefore, that his plea of
amounting to P120.00, an proven to belong to the victim. Finally, Edilberto
guilty is conditional is inconsistent with his candor, spontaneity and insistent
Evangelista, a police lieutenant, also testified that accused-appellant readily
admission of guilt in the trial court. Clearly, this change in his stand is now a
admitted the robbery and killing and turned over the aforementioned things he
belated and unconvincing effort to avoid conviction.
took from the victim. All these incriminating circumstantial evidence, having
remained unexplained, make out a clear case against accused-appellant. As this
By this plea of guilty alone, accused-appellant has supplied the necessary proof Court said in People vs. Servillano Ma. Modesto, et. at., 25 SCRA 36:
as to his culpability. No other proof is required.
A rule of ancient respectability now molded into tradition is that circumstantial
It would not be amiss to state, however, with respect to the second assignment of evidence suffices to convict only if the following requisites concur: (a) there is
error that by mandate of the New Constitution, confessions obtained without more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived
informing the accused of his right to remain silent and to counsel are placed in are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to
the same category as coerced confessions and are, therefore, deemed null and produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
void and inadmissible in evidence. Section 20, Article IV of the New Constitution
expressly declares:
The standard postulated by this Court in the appreciation of circumstantial
evidence is well set out in the following passage from People vs. Ludday: "No
No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Any person under general rule can be laid down as to the quantity of circumstantial evidence which
investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to remain silent in any case will suffice. All the circumstances proved must be consistent with
and to counsel, and to be informed of such right. No force, violence, threat, each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the
intimidation, orally other means which vitiates the free will shall be used against same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with every
him. Any confession obtained in violation of this section shall be inadmissible in other rational hypothesis except that of guilt."
evidence.
It has been said, and we believe correctly, that the circumstances proved should
Explaining said provision, this Court held in Magtoto vs. Manguera, 63 SCRA 4, constitute an unbroken chain which to one fair and reasonable conclusion which
that a confession obtained from a person under investigation for the commission points to the accused to the exclusion of all others, as the guilty person. From all
of an offense, who has not been informed of his right (to silence and) to counsel the circumstances, there should be a combination of evidence which in the
is inadmissible in evidence if the same had been obtained after the effectivity of ordinary and natural course of things, leaves no room for reasonable doubt as to
the New Constitution on January 17, 1973. Conversely, such confession is his guilt.
admissible in evidence against the accused, if the same had been obtained
before the effectivity of the New Constitution, even if presented after January 17,
In Our considered view, the above standards have been satisfactorily met and
1973, and even ff. he had not been informed of his right to counsel, since no law
complied with in the instant case.
gave the accused the right to be so informed before that date.

We disagree with accused-appellant's argument that even assuming that the


In the case at bar, the extra-judicial confession given by the accused was made
extra-judicial confession is admissible, it is not sufficient to convict because the
on October 27, 1973 (after the effectivity of the New Constitution). Nevertheless,
evidence of the corpus delicti consisting of the death certificate and the necropsy
since the confession itself indicates on its face that the accused was advised of
report were not properly Identified.
his right to remain silent and also of his right to counsel but he not only waived
both rights but also failed to contradict, deny or rebutt the same by failing to take
the witness stand although he was assisted by two defense counsels, We find no It should be remembered that the rule that an accused person cannot be
legal impediment or obstacle in admitting the said confession after its convicted upon a mere confession without some independent proof indicating
genuineness and authenticity had been duly proven. The second assignment of that a crime has been committed, does not mean that every element of the crime
error of accused-appellant is, therefore, without merit. must be made out by proof apart from the confession, but merely that there
should be some evidence apart from the confession, tending to show that a crime
has been committed, as for example, in a case of homicide, there should be
Even without the accused-appellant's extra-judicial confession quoted above, his
some proof of the fact of death, as by the production of the dead body. The rule
of guilty coupled with the prosecution's evidence pointing to him as the author of
requiring independent proof of corpus delicti is merely intended to guard against
the crime, proved his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. We reject the claim of the
conviction upon false confession. 9
defense that the presentation and offer of the prosecution evidence indicate that
the trial court, upon whose directive the prosecution acted, entertained doubts on
the plea of accused-appellant. In the case at bar, despite the failure of the death certificate and the necropsy
report to serve as evidence, the fact of death of Jungle Zaragosa is conclusively
shown by the testimonies of the father, Edilberto Zaragosa, and the other
Section 5, Rule 118 of the Rules of Court itself provides that "where the
prosecution witnesses: Dolores Reponte and Dioscoro Panda-an. They an
defendant pleads guilty to a complaint or information, if the trial court accepts the
declared on the witness stand that they saw the body of the deceased having
plea and has discretion as to the punishment for the offense, it may hear
marks that indicate foul play. In addition thereto, prosecution witness Panda-an
witnesses to determine what punishment shall be imposed." (emphasis supplied)
Identified in court the death weapon he saw about 13 feet from the body of the
deceased as well as the photographs of the deceased at the scene of the crime
As early as U.S. vs. Talbanos, 6 Phil. 541, it has been held that Courts of First which he requested a photographer to take. All these prove that a crime had in
Instance may sentence defendants in criminal cases who plead guilty to the fact been committed.
offense charged in the complaint, without the necessity of taking testimony. But it
was likewise held therein that while there is no law requiring it, yet in every case
Moreover, it has been held that the absence of death or burial certificate ought
under the plea of guilty where the penalty may be death, it is advisable for the
not, in the least, put in doubt the reality of the killing. 10 Corpus delicit being the
court to call witnesses for the purpose of establishing the guilt and degree of
fact of the commission of the crime, may be proved by testimonial evidence. 11
culpability of the defendant.
Notwithstanding the plea of guilty, however, which, as a rule, constitutes also an AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
admission of all the aggravating circumstances set forth in the information, We
hold that the three aggravating circumstances listed therein, namely: 1. craft; 2.
Joselito Raniero J. Daan (petitioner), one of the accused in Criminal Cases Nos.
uninhabited place; and 3. abuse of confidence or obvious ungratefulness, are not
24167-24170, 24195-24196,1questions the denial by the Sandiganbayan of his
supported by the evidence. In People vs. Corachea, L-30101, July 16, 1979,
plea bargaining proposal.
citing People vs. Galapia, 84 SCRA 526, this Court held:

The antecedents facts are laid down by Sandiganbayan in its Resolution dated
The rule is that a judicial confession of guilt admits all the material facts alleged in
March 25, 2004, as follows:
the information including the aggravating circumstances listed therein. But, where
such circumstances are disprove by the evidence, it should be disallowed in the
judgment. Thus, in People vs. Gungab (64 Phil. 779), the Court ruled that when Said accused,2 together with accused Benedicto E. Kuizon, were charged before
an accused who lacks instruction, pleads guilty to the crime of parricide this Court for three counts of malversation of public funds involving the sums of
described in the information as having been committed with the aggravating ₱3,293.00, ₱1,869.00, and ₱13,528.00, respectively, which they purportedly tried
circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation and his testimony given to conceal by falsifying the time book and payrolls for given period making it
under oath before the trial court, upon his petition, fails to show the existence of appear that some laborers worked on the construction of the new municipal hall
such aggravating circumstances, his plea of guilty shall be understood as being building of Bato, Leyte and collected their respective salaries thereon when, in
to the admission of having committed the crime of parricide, not of having done truth and in fact, they did not. Thus, in addition to the charge for malversation, the
so with treachery and evident premeditation. accused were also indicted before this Court for three counts of falsification of
public document by a public officer or employee.
Thus, the aggravating circumstance of craft in the commission of the crime based
on the allegation in the information that the accused employed a cunning scheme In the falsification cases, the accused offered to withdraw their plea of "not guilty"
e by acting as guide professing to be with Cebu City, should not and cannot be and substitute the same with a plea of "guilty", provided, the mitigating
appreciated as an aggravating circumstance because it is not such an intellectual circumstances of confession or plea of guilt and voluntary surrender will be
trickery or cunning device, scheme or artifice resorted to by the accused in order appreciated in their favor. In the alternative, if such proposal is not acceptable,
to carry out his evil design. The accused may have been actually familiar with said accused proposed instead to substitute their plea of "not guilty" to the crime
Cebu City as he was a resident of Sumon, Tuburan, Cebu. He may also have of falsification of public document by a public officer or employee with a plea of
been motivated with good intentions to act as guide at the start of the trip from "guilty", but to the lesser crime of falsification of a public document by a private
Cadiz City but only decided to kin the victim upon reaching the forest area at Sitio individual. On the other hand, in the malversation cases, the accused offered to
Apid, Cantabaco, Toledo City. And there is no showing that the accused merely substitute their plea of "not guilty" thereto with a plea of "guilty", but to the lesser
pretended to be familiar with Cebu City. crime of failure of an accountable officer to render accounts.

The aggravating circumstance of uninhabited place which is alleged in the Insofar as the falsification cases are concerned, the prosecution found as
information is that "the accused deliberately lured the victim in such a place with acceptable the proposal of the accused to plead "guilty" to the lesser crime of
the pretense to visit his wife fully knowing that the victim is not acquainted with falsification of public document by a private individual. The prosecution
the place to ensure the commission of the offense" should not also be explained:
appreciated against said accused because the evidence shows that the body of
the victim was found a few hours after his death, a fact indicating that the place is
"With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act
not unpeopled. In U.S. vs. Devela, 3 Phil. 625, such aggravating circumstance
of the accused in pleading guilty for a lesser offense of falsification by a private
was not considered as the brother of the deceased arrived at the scene of the
individual defined and penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal code will
crime shortly after the wounding of the deceased and immediately thereafter the
strengthen our cases against the principal accused, Municipal Mayor Benedicto
officers of the law were in pursuit of the defendants.
Kuizon, who appears to be the master mind of these criminal acts."

As to the aggravating circumstance of abuse of confidence or obvious


Insofar as the malversation cases are concerned, the prosecution was likewise
ungratefulness based on the allegation that "he was given food and shelter by the
amenable to the offer of said accused to plead "guilty" to the lesser crime of
father of the victim, aside from his salary as a farm laborer and was also treated
failure of an accountable officer to render accounts because:
by the victim for being their farm laborer," the contention of the accused-appellant
that such aggravating circumstance should not be considered against is
meritorious. For this circumstance to be taken and appreciated, it is that there "x x x JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has already restituted the total amount of
exists a relation of trust and confidence between the accused and the one ₱18,860.00 as per official receipt issued by the provincial government of Leyte
against whom the crime was committed and the accused made use of such dated February 26, 2002. In short, the damage caused to the government has
relation to commit the crime. Inasmuch as the relation of trust and confidence that already been restituted x x x.3
exists in this case is between the accused-appellant and the father of the
deceased, and that the deceased was then residing apart from his father as he
The Sandiganbayan, in the herein assailed Resolution,4 dated March 25, 2004,
was working in Zamboanga City, there is no Same and personal relationship
denied petitioner’s Motion to Plea Bargain, despite favorable recommendation by
between accused appellant and the deceased Hence, abuse of confidence or
the prosecution, on the main ground that no cogent reason was presented to
obvious ungratefulness is not warranted or justified under the premises.
justify its approval.5

The crime committed by the accused-appellant is robbery with homicide


The Sandiganbayan likewise denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration in a
penalized under Article 294, paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code, with the penalty
Resolution dated May 31, 2004.
of reclusion perpetua to death, without any aggravating circumstance but with
two mitigating circumstances of plea of guilty and voluntary surrender. Pursuant
to Article 63, par. 3, R.P.C., the lesser penalty or reclusion perpetua is hereby This compelled petitioner to file the present case for certiorari and prohibition with
imposed on the accused-appellant. prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/ or writ of preliminary
injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the judgment of the trial court under review
is hereby MODIFIED in that the accused-appellant Diosdado Comendador is Petitioner argues that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in
hereby sentenced to reclusion perpetua, to indemnify the heirs of the deceased denying his plea bargaining offer on the following grounds: first, petitioner is not
Jungie Zaragosa the sum of P625.00 the value of the unrecovered property, and an accountable officer and he merely affixed his signature on the payrolls on a
the sum of P12,000.00 as indemnity, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of "routinary basis," negating any criminal intent; and that the amount involved is
insolvency, and to pay the costs. only ₱18,860.00, which he already restituted.6

The petition is meritorious.

Plea bargaining in criminal cases is a process whereby the accused and the
prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to
court approval. It usually involves the defendant's pleading guilty to a lesser
offense or to only one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return
for a lighter sentence than that for the graver charge.7
JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN, vs. THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN
Plea bargaining is authorized under Section 2, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of for this being that Section 4 of Rule 118 (now Section 2, Rule 116) under which a
Criminal Procedure, to wit: plea for a lesser offense is allowed was not and could not have been intended as
a procedure for compromise, much less bargaining.15 (Emphasis supplied)
SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. — At arraignment, the accused, with
the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor, may be allowed by the trial However, Villarama involved plea bargaining after the prosecution had already
court to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the rested its case.
offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the accused may still be
allowed to plead guilty to said lesser offense after withdrawing his plea of not
As regards plea bargaining during the pre-trial stage, as in the present case, the
guilty. No amendment of the complaint or information is necessary. (sec. 4, cir.
trial court's exercise of its discretion should neither be arbitrary nor should it
38-98)
amount to a capricious and whimsical exercise of discretion. Grave abuse of
discretion implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is
Ordinarily, plea bargaining is made during the pre-trial stage of the proceedings. equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, where the power is exercised
Sections 1 and 2, Rule 118 of the Rules of Court, require plea bargaining to be in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; and it
considered by the trial court at the pre-trial conference,8 viz: must be so patent or gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a
virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation
of law.16
SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. – In all criminal cases cognizable
by the Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal
Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the In the present case, the Sandiganbayan rejected petitioner's plea offer on the
court shall, after arraignment and within thirty (30) days from the date the court ground that petitioner and the prosecution failed to demonstrate that the proposal
acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused, unless a shorter period is would redound to the benefit of the public. The Sandiganbayanbelieves that
provided for in special laws or circulars of the Supreme Court, order a pre-trial approving the proposal would "only serve to trivialize the seriousness of the
conference to consider the following: charges against them and send the wrong signal to potential grafters in public
office that the penalties they are likely to face would be lighter than what their
criminal acts would have merited or that the economic benefits they are likely to
(a) plea bargaining;
derive from their criminal activities far outweigh the risks they face in committing
them; thus, setting to naught the deterrent value of the laws intended to curb graft
(b) stipulation of facts; and corruption in government."171avvphi1

(c) marking for identification of evidence of the parties; Apparently, the Sandiganbayan has proffered valid reasons in rejecting
petitioner's plea offer. However, subsequent events and higher interests of justice
and fair play dictate that petitioner's plea offer should be accepted. The present
(d) waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;
case calls for the judicious exercise of this Court's equity jurisdiction -

(e) modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but
Equity as the complement of legal jurisdiction seeks to reach and do complete
interposes a lawful defense; and
justice where courts of law, through the inflexibility of their rules and want of
power to adapt their judgments to the special circumstances of cases, are
(f) such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil incompetent so to do. Equity regards the spirit of and not the letter, the intent and
aspects of the case. not the form, the substance rather than the circumstance, as it is variously
expressed by different courts.18
SEC. 2. Pre-trial agreement. – All agreements or admissions made or entered
during the pre-trial conference shall be reduced in writing and signed by the and of its power of control and supervision over the proceedings of lower
accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot be used against the accused. The courts,19 in order to afford equal justice to petitioner.
agreements covering the matters referred to in section 1 of this Rule shall be
approved by the court. (Emphasis supplied)
In People of the Philippines v. Estrada,20 the Sandiganbayan, in its Resolution
dated March 14, 2007, approved the Plea Bargaining Agreement entered into by
But it may also be made during the trial proper and even after the prosecution the prosecution and one of the accused, Charlie "Atong" Ang. The agreement
has finished presenting its evidence and rested its case. Thus, the Court has held provided that the accused undertakes to assist in the prosecution of the case and
that it is immaterial that plea bargaining was not made during the pre-trial stage promises to return the amount of ₱25,000,000.00. In approving the Plea
or that it was made only after the prosecution already presented several Bargaining Agreement, the Sandiganbayan took into consideration the timeliness
witnesses.9 of the plea bargaining and whether the agreement complied with the
requirements of Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court.
The Sandigabayan noted that the accused had already withdrawn his earlier plea
Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court presents the basic requisites upon
of "not guilty"; and that the prosecution consented to the plea of guilt to a lesser
which plea bargaining may be made, i.e., that it should be with the consent of the
offense; and the lesser offense, which is Corruption of Public Officials in relation
offended party and the prosecutor,10 and that the plea of guilt should be to a
to Indirect Bribery, is necessarily included in the offense charged, which is
lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. The rules
Plunder.21
however use word may in the second sentence of Section 2, denoting an
exercise of discretion upon the trial court on whether to allow the accused to
make such plea.11 Trial courts are exhorted to keep in mind that a plea of guilty The Court sees no reason why the standards applied by
for a lighter offense than that actually charged is not supposed to be allowed as a the Sandiganbayan to Estrada should not be applied to the present case.
matter of bargaining or compromise for the convenience of the accused.12 Records show that there was a favorable recommendation by the Office of the
Special Prosecutor to approve petitioner's motion to plea bargain. Thus, in its
Memorandum dated August 16, 2002, the Office of the Special Prosecutor
In People of the Philippines v. Villarama,13 the Court ruled that the acceptance of
rationalized:
an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense is not demandable by the accused as a
matter of right but is a matter that is addressed entirely to the sound discretion of
the trial court,14 viz: In the cases at bar, there is no dispute that JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has
already restituted the total amount of ₱18,860.00 as per official receipt issued by
the provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In short, the
x x x In such situation, jurisprudence has provided the trial court and the Office of
damage caused to the government has already been restituted by the accused.
the Prosecutor with a yardstick within which their discretion may be properly
exercised. Thus, in People v. Kayanan (L-39355, May 31, 1978, 83 SCRA 437,
450), We held that the rules allow such a plea only when the prosecution does There is also no dispute that accused DAAN voluntarily surrendered in the instant
not have sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of the crime charged. In his cases. Moreover, the accused is also willing to plead guilty to a lesser offense
concurring opinion in People v. Parohinog (G.R. No. L-47462, February 28, 1980, which to our mind, merits consideration.
96 SCRA 373, 377), then Justice Antonio Barredo explained clearly and tersely
the rationale or the law:
With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act of
the accused in pleading guilty for a lesser offense of falsification by private
x x x (A)fter the prosecution had already rested, the only basis on which the individual defined and penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code will
fiscal and the court could rightfully act in allowing the appellant to change his strengthen our cases against the principal accused, the Municipal Mayor
former plea of not guilty to murder to guilty to the lesser crime of homicide could Benedicto Kuizon, who appears to be the master mind of these criminal acts.
be nothing more nothing less than the evidence already in the record. The reason After all, the movants herein JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN was merely
designated as draftsman detailed as foreman/timekeeper of the Municipality of Finally, as propounded by petitioner, indeed, he is not an accountable officer in
Bato, Leyte.22 that the nature of his duty as foreman/timekeeper does not permit or require
possession or custody of local government funds,29 not to mention that petitioner
has already restituted the amount of ₱18,860.00 involved in this case.
Moreover, the lesser offenses of Falsification by Private Individuals and Failure to
Unlike Estrada which involves a crime punishable by reclusion perpetua to
Render Account by an Accountable Officer are necessarily included in the crimes
death,30 and a whopping ₱25,000,000.00 taken from the public coffers, this case
of Falsification of Public Documents and Malversation of Public Funds,
tremendously pales in comparison.
respectively, with which petitioner was originally charged.

Under the peculiar circumstances of the present case, where gross inequity will
Under Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, for the crime of
result in a discriminatory dispensation of justice, the Court will not hesitate to
Falsification of Public Documents through an untruthful narration of facts to be
intervene in order to equalize the imbalance.
established, the following elements must concur: (a) the offender makes in a
document untruthful statements in a narration of facts; (b) the offender has a
legal obligation to disclose the truth of the facts narrated; (c) the facts narrated by WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated March 25,
the offender are absolutely false; and (d) the perversion of truth in the narration of 2004 and May 31, 2004 are SETASIDE. The Sandiganbayan is
facts was made with the wrongful intent of injuring a third person.23 hereby ORDERED to grant petitioner's Motion to Plea Bargain. Let records of this
case be REMANDED to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings in
accordance with this Decision.
On the other hand, Falsification by Private Individuals penalized under Article 172,
paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code has the following elements: (a) the
offender is a private individual or a public officer or employee who did not PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff, vs. EDGAR DAWATON
take advantage of his official position; (b) the offender committed any of the
acts of falsification enumerated under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code; and BELLOSILLO, J.:
(c) the falsification was committed in a public or official or commercial
document.24 EDGAR DAWATON was found by the trial court guilty of murder qualified
by treachery and sentenced to death, ordered to indemnify the heirs of the
As regards the crime of Malversation of Public Funds defined and penalized victim P50,000.00 plus the accessory penalties provided by law, without
under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, with which petitioner was also subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the costs of suit. [1]
charged, the elements are as follows: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) he
An Information[2] for murder qualified by treachery and evident
has custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office; (c)
premeditation was filed against Edgar Dawaton on 11 March 1999. When first
the funds or property involved are public funds or property for which he is
arraigned he pleaded not guilty,[3] but during the pre-trial on 7 May 1999, he
accountable; and (d) he has appropriated, taken or misappropriated, or has
consented to, or through abandonment or negligence permitted, the taking by offered to plead guilty to the lesser offense of homicide but was rejected by the
prosecution, hence, the case proceeded to trial.
another person of such funds or property.25 Article 217 also provides that the
failure of the public officer to have duly forthcoming such public funds or property, The prosecution presented as witnesses the very persons who were with
upon demand by a duly authorized officer, "shall be prima facie evidence that he the accused and the victim during the incident, namely, Domingo Reyes and
has put such missing funds or property to personal use." In this regard, it has Esmeraldo Cortez. The prosecution also presented Generosa Tupaz, the mother
been ruled that once such presumption is rebutted, then it is completely of the victim, to prove the civil liability of the accused.
destroyed; in fact, the presumption is never deemed to have existed at all.26
The evidence for the prosecution: On 20 September 1998 Esmeraldo
Meanwhile, under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code, Failure to Render Cortez was entertaining visitors in his house in Sitio Garden, Brgy. Paltic,
Account by an Accountable Officer, the lesser offense which petitioner seeks to Dingalan, Aurora. His brother-in-law Edgar Dawaton and kumpadre Leonides
plead guilty of, the following elements must concur: (a) the offender is a public Lavares dropped by at about 12:00 o'clock noon followed by Domingo Reyes
officer; (b) the offender must be an accountable officer for public funds or shortly after. All three (3) guests of Esmeraldo were residents of Sitio
property; (c) the offender is required by law or regulation to render accounts to Garden. They started drinking soon after. At about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon
the COA or to a provincial auditor; and (d) the offender fails to render an account and after having consumed four (4) bottles of gin, they went to the house of
for a period of two months after such accounts should be rendered.27 Amado Dawaton, Edgar's uncle, located about twenty (20) meters away from
Esmeraldo's house. They stayed at the balcony of the house and continued
drinking. Amado Dawaton was not in.
Section 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court states when an offense includes or is
included in the other, to wit: Already drunk, Leonides decided to sleep on a papag or wooden bench,
lying down on his right side facing Domingo and Edgar using his right hand for a
pillow. Edgar, Domingo and Esmeraldo continued drinking until they finished
SEC. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. — An offense another bottle of gin.
charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential
elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information, At about 3:30 in the afternoon, twenty (20) minutes after Leonides had
constitute the latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included in the gone to sleep, Edgar stood up and left for his house. When he returned he
offense proved, when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form brought with him a stainless knife with a blade 2 to 3 inches long. Without a word,
part of those constituting the latter. he approached Leonides who was sleeping and stabbed him near the base of his
neck.[4] Awakened and surprised, Leonides got up and blurted: "Bakit Pare,
An offense may be said to necessarily include another when some of the bakit?"[5] Instead of answering, Edgar again stabbed Leonides on the upper part
essential elements or ingredients of the former as alleged in the complaint of his neck, spilling blood on Leonides' arm.
or information constitute the latter. And vice versa, an offense may be said to
Leonides attempted to flee but Edgar who was much bigger grabbed the
be necessarily included in another when the essential ingredients of the former
collar of his shirt and thus effectively prevented him from running away. Edgar
constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.28
then repeatedly stabbed Leonides who, despite Edgar's firm hold on him, was still
able to move about twenty (20) meters away from the house of Amado Dawaton
In this case, the allegations in the Informations filed against petitioner are before he fell to the ground at the back of Esmeraldo's house. But even then,
sufficient to hold petitioner liable for the lesser offenses. Thus, in the charge for Edgar still continued to stab him. Edgar only stopped stabbing Leonides when
Falsification of Public Documents, petitioner may plead guilty to the lesser the latter already expired. Edgar then ran away towards the house of his uncle
offense of Falsification by Private Individuals inasmuch as it does not appear that Carlito Baras situated behind the cockpit.
petitioner took advantage of his official position in allegedly falsifying the
timebook and payroll of the Municipality of Bato, Leyte. In the same vein, with Domingo and Esmeraldo were positioned a few meters away from where
regard to the crime of Malversation of Public Funds, while the Informations Leonides was sleeping when he was initially assaulted by Edgar. They were
contain allegations which make out a case for Malversation against petitioner, shocked by what happened but other than pleading for Edgar to stop they were
nevertheless, absent the element of conversion, theoretically, petitioner may still unable to help Leonides.
be held liable for Failure to Render Account by an Accountable Officer if it is
Domingo left for his house soon after the stabbing started as he did not
shown that the failure to render account was in violation of a law or regulation that
want to get involved. Nonetheless he felt pity for Leonides so he returned a few
requires him to render such an accounting within the prescribed period.
minutes later.

Given, therefore, that some of the essential elements of offenses charged in this By then, Leonides was already dead and people had already gathered at
case likewise constitute the lesser offenses, then petitioner may plead guilty to the site. The mayor who was in a nearby cement factory arrived and instructed
such lesser offenses. them not to go near the body.They pointed to the direction where Edgar
fled. Edgar was later arrested at the house of his uncle, Carlito Baras, at Sitio
Aves, Brgy. Paltic, Dingalan.
Accused-appellant Edgar Dawaton was the sole witness for the terms; as in fact they were even kumpadres. No one knew nor expected that
defense. He did not deny that he stabbed Leonides Lavares but insisted that he when the accused momentarily excused himself, it was for the purpose of looking
was provoked into stabbing him. Edgar claimed that the night prior to the for a knife, and without any warning, stabbing the victim who was sleeping.
stabbing incident, or on 19 September 1998, his uncle Armando Ramirez went to
his house to welcome his return from Cavite where he worked as a There is treachery when the attack is upon an unconscious victim who
carpenter. They started drinking gin at about 7:00 o'clock in the evening and could not have put up any defense whatsoever,[14] or a person who was dead
ended at 3:00 o'clock in the morning of the following day. He slept and woke up drunk and sleeping on a bench and had no chance to defend himself.[15] Clearly,
at 6:00 o'clock in the morning of 20 September 1998. the attack was not only sudden but also deliberately adopted by the accused to
ensure its execution without risk to himself.
Apparently, he did not have enough of the prior evening's drinking orgy. He
went to his uncle's house early that morning and after his uncle bought two (2) The accused argues that trial court erred in imposing the death penalty
bottles of gin they started drinking again. Domingo Reyes arrived at around 7:30 despite the attendance of mitigating and alternative circumstances in his
in the morning and joined them. Esmeraldo Cortez joined them about 12:00 favor.[16] He avers that he is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of plea of
o'clock noon and bought two (2) more bottles of gin.Later, the group with the guilty. We disagree. While the accused offered to plead guilty to the lesser
exception of Armando Ramirez transferred to the house of Esmeraldo upon the offense of homicide, he was charged with murder for which he had already
latter's invitation and drank two (2) more bottles of gin. entered a plea of not guilty. We have ruled that an offer to enter a plea of guilty to
a lesser offense cannot be considered as an attenuating circumstance under the
In Edgar's version of the stabbing incident, a drunk and angry Leonides provisions of Art. 13 of The Revised Penal Code because to be voluntary the
arrived at about 2:30 in the afternoon and demanded that they - he and Edgar - plea of guilty must be to the offense charged.[17]
return candles (magbalikan [tayo] ng kandila).[6] Leonides was godfather of a son
of Edgar. Leonides also cursed and threatened to hang a grenade on Edgar (P - t Furthermore, Sec. 2, Rule 116, of the Revised Rules of Criminal
- ng ina mo. Hintayin mo ako. Kukuha ako ng granada at sasabitan kita!).[7] Procedure requires the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor before
an accused may be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense necessarily
According to Edgar, he tried to calm down Leonides but the latter insisted included in the offense charged. We note that the prosecution rejected the offer
on going home purportedly to get a grenade. Alarmed because he knew of the accused.
Leonides had a grenade, Edgar went home to look for a bladed weapon. He
already had a knife with him but he thought it was short. Not finding another Nor can the accused avail of the mitigating circumstance of voluntary
weapon, he returned to Esmeraldo's house. surrender as he himself admitted that he was arrested at his uncle's
residence.[18] The following elements must be present for voluntary surrender to
When he returned, Leonides was still in Esmeraldo's house and had joined be appreciated: (a) the offender has not been actually arrested; (b) the offender
in the drinking. He sat opposite Leonides who resumed his tirades against him. surrendered himself to a person in authority, and, (c) the surrender must be
voluntary.[19]
Again Leonides started to leave for his house purportedly to get a
grenade. Afraid that Leonides would make good his threat, Edgar held on to him Resorting to sophistry, the accused argues that he was not arrested
and stabbed him. He did not know where and exactly how many times he struck but "fetched" as he voluntarily went with the policemen when they came for
Leonides but he recalled doing it three (3) times before his mind went blank him. This attempt at semantics is futile and absurd. That he did not try to escape
(nablangko).[8] Edgar also claimed that he was in this mental condition when he or resist arrest after he was taken into custody by the authorities did not amount
left Leonides and ran to the house of Carlito Baras. He did not know that he had to voluntary surrender. A surrender to be voluntary must be spontaneous,
already killed Leonides, only that he stabbed him thrice. He regained his senses showing the intent of the accused to submit himself unconditionally to the
only when he reached his uncle Carlito's house. authorities, either because he acknowledges his guilt or because he wishes to
save them the trouble and expense necessarily included in his search and
Edgar further said that he sought his uncle's help so he could surrender capture.[20] It is also settled that voluntary surrender cannot be appreciated where
but he was told to wait because his uncle was then taking a bath. It was while the evidence adduced shows that it was the authorities who came looking for the
waiting for his uncle when the policemen arrived to arrest him. He maintained accused.[21]
that he voluntarily went with them.
Moreover, the evidence submitted by the prosecution belies the claim of
The medico-legal certificate dated 24 September 1998 issued by Dr. the accused that he intended to submit himself to the authorities. The joint
Ernesto C. del Rosario[9] showed that the victim sustained a stab wound at the affidavit of the arresting officers, the veracity of which was admitted by the parties
back and ten (10) stab wounds in front. He also had slash wounds on his left and evidenced by a 20 October 1999 Order of the trial court, revealed that they
hand and his tongue was cut off. The immediate cause of death was determined chanced upon the accused trying to escape from the rear of the cockpit building
to be "Hypovolemic Shock due to hemorrhage, multiple stabbed (sic) wounds."[10] when they came looking for him.[22]
On 20 October 1999 the parties entered into several stipulations which Similarly, there is no factual basis to credit the accused with the mitigating
were embodied in an Order.[11] Specifically, they admitted the veracity of circumstance of outraged feeling analogous or similar[23] to passion and
the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated 21 September 1998 executed by SPO2 Ramil D. obfuscation.[24] Other than his self-serving allegations, there was no evidence
Gamboa and PO3 Gerry M. Fabros,[12] the police officers who arrested the that the victim threatened him with a grenade. Domingo Reyes and Esmeraldo
accused; the genuineness and due execution of the medico-legal certificate Cortez testified that there was no prior altercation or disagreement between
issued by Dr. Ernesto C. del Rosario; and, the authenticity of the certificate of Edgar and Leonides during the drinking spree, and they did not know of any
death[13] also issued by Dr. del Rosario. Thus, the presentation of the arresting reason for Edgar's hostility and violence. On the contrary, Esmeraldo Cortez
officers and Dr. del Rosario as witnesses was dispensed with. even recalled seeing the two (2) in a playful banter (lambingan) during the course
of their drinking[25] indicating that the attack on the accused was completely
On 20 November 1999 the trial court convicted Edgar Dawaton of murder
unexpected.
qualified by treachery and sentenced him to death.
The accused would want us to reconsider the penalty imposed on him on
We affirm the conviction of accused-appellant; we however modify the
account of his not being a recidivist. He contends that an appreciation of this
penalty imposed on him.
factor calls for a reduction of the penalty.
The conclusion that accused-appellant murdered Leonides Lavares was
We are not persuaded. Recidivism is an aggravating circumstance the
sufficiently proved by the testimonies of prosecution witnesses Domingo Reyes
presence of which increases the penalty. The converse however, that is,
and Esmeraldo Cortez who both witnessed the fatal stabbing. This was not
non-recidivism, is not a mitigating circumstance which will necessarily reduce the
refuted by the accused himself who admitted that he stabbed the victim three (3)
penalty. Nonetheless, we hold that the trial court erred in not appreciating the
times before his mind went blank and could no longer recall what he did after
alternative circumstance of intoxication in favor of the accused.Under Art. 15
that.
of The Revised Penal Code, intoxication of the offender shall be considered as a
Treachery clearly attended the killing. The accused attacked the victim mitigating circumstance when the offender commits a felony in a state of
while the latter was in deep slumber owing to the excessive amount of alcohol he intoxication, if the same is not habitual or subsequent to the plan to commit said
imbibed. We are not persuaded by the version of the accused that the victim felony. Otherwise, when habitual or intentional, it shall be considered as an
threatened to harm him with a grenade and that it was only to prevent this from aggravating circumstance.
happening that he was forced to stab Leonides. We defer instead to the judgment
The allegation that the accused was drunk when he committed the crime
of the trial court which gave more credence to the version of the prosecution
was corroborated by the prosecution witnesses. The accused and his drinking
witnesses inasmuch as it was in a better position to decide on the question of
companions had consumed four (4) bottles of gin at the house of Esmeraldo
credibility, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their
Cortez, each one drinking at least a bottle.[26] It was also attested that while the
deportment during trial.
four (4) shared another bottle of gin at the house of Amado Dawaton, it was the
According to the prosecution witnesses, the victim had no chance to accused who drank most of its contents.[27] In addition, Esmeraldo testified that
defend himself as he was dead drunk and fast asleep. He had no inkling at all of when Edgar and Leonides arrived at his house that noon, they were already
what was going to happen to him since there was no prior argument or untoward intoxicated.[28] There being no indication that the accused was a habitual
incident between him and the accused. From all indications they were on friendly
drunkard or that his alcoholic intake was intended to fortify his resolve to commit
the crime, the circumstance of intoxication should be credited in his favor.

Consequently, we find that the trial court erroneously imposed the penalty
of death. The accused was charged with murder for which the law provides a
penalty of reclusion perpetua to death. Under Art. 63, par. 3, of The Revised
Penal Code, in all cases in which the law prescribes a penalty composed of two
(2) indivisible penalties, such as in this case, when the commission of the act is
attended by a mitigating circumstance and there is no aggravating circumstance,
the lesser penalty shall be applied. Since no aggravating circumstance attended
the killing but there existed the mitigating circumstance of intoxication, the
accused should be sentenced only to the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua.

The trial court correctly ordered the accused to pay civil indemnity in the
amount of P50,000.00 to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than
the fact that a crime was committed resulting in the death of the victim and that
the accused was responsible therefor.[29] The heirs are also entitled to moral
damages pursuant to Art. 2206 of the New Civil Code on account of the mental
anguish which they suffered, and the amount of P50,000.00 is considered
reasonable according to existing jurisprudence.[30]

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the court a quo finding the


accused EDGAR DAWATON guilty of MURDER qualified by treachery is
AFFIRMED with the modification that the penalty is reduced from death
to reclusion perpetua. The accused is ordered to pay the heirs of Leonides
Lavares P50,000.00 in civil indemnity and P50,000.00 in moral damages.