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Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2005 > April 2005 Decisions > G.R. No. 129472 - Marcelo Lasoy, et al. v. Hon. Monina A. Zenarosa, et al. :




G.R. No. 129472 - Marcelo Lasoy, et al. v. Hon. Monina A. Zenarosa, et al.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 129472. April 12, 2005]

MARCELO LASOY and FELIX BANISA, Petitioners, v. HON. MONINA A. ZENAROSA, PRESIDING JUDGE, RTC, BR. 76, QUEZON CITY, and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

After an information has been filed and the accused had been arraigned, pleaded guilty and were convicted and after they had applied for probation, may the information be amended and the accused arraigned anew on the ground that the information was allegedly altered/tampered with?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In an Information filed by Assistant City Prosecutor Evelyn Dimaculangan-Querijero dated 03 July 1996,1 accused Marcelo Lasoy and Felix Banisa were charged as follows:

That on or about the 2nd day of July, 1996, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, not having been authorized by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any prohibited drug, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully sell or offer for sale a total of 42.410 grams of dried marijuana fruiting tops, a prohibited drug, in violation of said law.

The case docketed as Criminal Case No. 96-66788 was assigned and raffled to Branch 103 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, presided by Judge Jaime N. Salazar, Jr.

Upon arraignment, both accused pleaded guilty and were sentenced on 16 July 1996 in this wise:2

On arraignment accused MARCELO LASOY and FELIX BANISA with the assistance of [their] counsel Atty. Diosdado Savellano entered a plea of GUILTY to the crime charged against them in the information.

ACCORDINGLY, the court hereby find[s] accused MARCELO LASOY and FELIX BANISA, GUILTY of Violation of Section 4, Republic Act 6425 and they are hereby sentenced to suffer a jail term of SIX (6) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY and the period during which said accused are under detention is hereby deducted pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 5127.

The evidence in this case which is the 42.410 grams of dried marijuana fruiting tops is hereby ordered confiscated in favor of the government. The Property Custodian is ordered to turn over said evidences to the Dangerous Drugs Board for proper disposition.

On the same date, both accused applied for probation under Presidential Decree No. 968, as amended.3

On 28 August 1996, plaintiff People of the Philippines, thru Assistant City Prosecutor Ma. Aurora Escasa-Ramos, filed two separate motions, first, to admit amended Information,4 and second, to set aside the arraignment of the accused, as well as the decision of the trial court dated 16 July 1996.5 In plaintiff's motion to admit amended information, it alleged:

1. That for some unknown reason both accused herein were charged of (sic) Violation of Sec. 4, Art. II, R.P. 6425.

That on or about the 2nd day of July, 1996, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, not having been authorized by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any prohibited drug, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully sell, or offer for sale a total of 42.410 grams of dried marijuana fruiting tops, a prohibited drug, in violation of said law.

When in truth and in fact the said accused should be charged for transportation and delivery, with intent to sell and to gain, of Forty-Five (45) pieces of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing 42.410 kilos from La Trinidad to Metro Manila.

2. That it is imperative to file an amended information in order to make it conformable to the evidence on hand.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing it is most respectfully prayed that the herewith attached Amended Information against both accused be admitted and subsequently set for arraignment and trial.6 (Emphasis supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

Resolving the motions, the trial court, in its Order dated 03 September 1996,7 held:

The Motion to Admit Amended Information is hereby DENIED, as this court has already decided this case on the basis that the accused was arrested in possession of 42.410 grams of marijuana and it is too late at this stage to amend the information.

Another Order8 of the same date issued by the trial court resolved the second motion in the following manner:

The Motion to Set Aside the Arraignment of the Accused as well as the Decision dated July 16, 1996, filed by the Public Prosecutor is hereby GRANTED, it appearing from the published resolution of the Supreme Court dated October 18, 1995, in G.R. No. 119131 Inaki Gulhoran and Galo Stephen Bobares v. Hon. FRANCISCO H. ESCANO, JR. in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court, Leyte Branch 12, Ormoc City which was dismissed by this court on August 20, 1996, the jurisdiction over drug of small quantity as in the case at bar should be tried by the Metropolitan Trial Court, although under the statute of R.A. 7659 which took effect on December 31, 1993 the penalty for possession or use of prohibited or regulated drugs is from prision [correccional] to reclusion temporal which indeterminate penalty and under the rule on jurisdiction the court which has jurisdiction over a criminal case is dependent on the maximum penalty attached by the statute to the crime.

The amended Information reads:

That on or about the 2nd day of July, 1996, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, not having been authorized by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any prohibited drug, did, then and there, willfully unlawfully sell or offer for sale a total of 42.410 kilos of dried marijuana fruiting tops, a prohibited drug, in violation of said law.9

This second information was assigned to Branch 76 of the RTC of Quezon City presided by Judge Monina A. Zenarosa,10 docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-96-67572.

Both accused filed a Motion to Quash11 which was opposed12 by the People in its Comment/Opposition filed before the trial court. Subsequently, while the motion to quash before the RTC was as yet unresolved, both accused filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari13 which they later moved to withdraw "to pave the way for Branch 76 of the RTC of Quezon City to act judiciously on their motion to quash. ''14 The Court of Appeals in its Resolution dated 15 November 199615 noted the motion and considered the petition withdrawn.

In its now assailed resolution dated 14 February 1997,16 the trial court denied accused's motion to quash, and scheduled the arraignment of the accused under the amended information. Accused's Motion for Reconsideration,17 duly opposed by the prosecution,18 was denied by the trial court in its Order dated 16 April 1997.19 Hence, the instant Petition for Certiorari with prayer for injunction and temporary restraining order20 based on the following grounds:21

A) WITH DUE RESPECT, THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THERE IS NO VALID INFORMATION AND, THEREFORE, THE ACCUSED CANNOT CLAIM THE RIGHT AGAINST DOUBLE JEOPARDY; andcralawlibrary

B) WITH DUE RESPECT, THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO RECOGNIZE THAT THE RTC, BRANCH 103, HAD JURISDICTION OVER the case, docketed as Criminal CASE NO. Q-96-66799.22

In this Court's resolution dated 23 July 1997,23 respondents were required to comment on the Petition. They submitted their Comment on 18 November 1998.24 Accused filed their Reply25 on 02 March 2000. In compliance with the Court's resolution dated 29 March 2000,26 accused and respondents submitted their memoranda, respectively, on 26 May 200027 and 26 July 2000.28

To invoke the defense of double jeopardy, the following requisites must be present: (1) a valid complaint or information; (2) the court has jurisdiction to try the case; (3) the accused has pleaded to the charge; and (4) he has been convicted or acquitted or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent.29

The issues boil down to whether or not the first information is valid and whether or not the RTC, Branch 103, where the first information was filed and under which Criminal Case No. Q-96-66788 was tried, had jurisdiction to try the case.

On the issue of validity of the information, accused and respondents submitted opposing views - - accused insisting on its validity, whereas respondents asserted that the accused were arraigned under an invalid information. Alleging that there being an alteration on the first information, hence it failed to reflect the true quantity of drugs caught in possession of the accused, the prosecution insisted that the first information under which accused were arraigned is invalid.

In accord with the view of the prosecution, the trial court denied the accused's motion to quash, stating:30

. . . [I]n the instant case, it must be recalled that the earlier information filed against the accused appeared to be sufficient in form. It was discovered, however, that an alteration was made as to the weight of the marijuana fruiting tops which was placed at only 42.410 grams when the correct amount should have been in kilos. This fraudulent alteration necessarily vitiated the integrity of the proceedings such that despite the plea of guilt made by the accused it would not bar a subsequent prosecution for the correct offense.

Generally speaking to entitle accused to the plea of former jeopardy, the prior proceedings must have been valid, and the lack of any fundamental requisite which would render void the judgment would also make ineffective a plea of jeopardy based on such proceedings.

Fraudulent or collusive prosecution. A verdict of acquittal procured by accused by fraud and collusion is a nullity and does not put him in jeopardy; and consequently it is no bar to a second trial for the same offense.

Similarly, a conviction of a criminal offense procured fraudulently or by collusion of the offender, for the purpose of protecting himself from further prosecution and adequate punishment, is no bar to a subsequent prosecution for the same offense, either on the ground that the conviction is void because of the fraud practiced, or that the state is not in any sense a party to it and therefore not bound by it. (22 Corpus Juris Secundum, pp. 244-245)

It is impossible to believe that the accused were not aware of the deceitful maneuvering which led to the erasure of the true weight of the marijuana fruiting tops as alleged in the information.

They cannot pretend not to know the exact amount of prohibited stuff for which they were charged before the information was tampered with.

They could not feign innocence when they participated in that charade when they pleaded guilty upon arraignment.

Consequently, their plea to the lesser offense considering the decreased weight in the now altered information which merited a much lighter penalty was irregularly obtained. Hence, they cannot be considered as put in jeopardy by the proceedings in court which was tainted with fraud.

The accused should not be allowed to make a mockery of justice or to trifle with the courts by participating in a grand deception of pleading guilty to a lesser offense knowing that they participated/acquiesced to such tampering and then tell the court that they would be placed in jeopardy for the second time.

We do not agree with the trial court.

FIRST, it cannot be denied that the request for appropriate inquest proceedings dated 03 July 1996 addressed to the City Prosecutor of Quezon City and received by Prosecutor Querijero, stated that the accused were apprehended "for conspiring, confederating and mutually helping with each other in facilitating and effecting the transportation and delivery . . . of forty five pieces of dried marijuana leaves (already in bricks) and weighing approximately forty-five kilos. ''31

In the joint affidavit of the poseur-buyer, PO3 Ernesto Jimenez Viray, Jr., and arresting officer SPOI Inadio U. Ibay, Jr., it is stated that the accused were caught with approximately 45 kilos of dried marijuana fruiting tops.32 For some unknown reasons, however, the Information filed against the accused reflected a much lesser quantity, i.e., 42.410 grams.

The question is whether this is sufficient to consider the first Information under which the accused were arraigned invalid.

Pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court under Rule 110 are hereunder quoted:

Section 4. Information defined. - An information is an accusation in writing charging a person with an offense subscribed by the fiscal and filed with the court.

In Alvizo v. Sandiganbayan,33 this Court citing People v. Marquez affirmed:34

It should be observed that section 3 of Rule 110 defines an information as nothing more than "an accusation in writing charging a person with an offense subscribed by the fiscal and filed with the court."

An information is valid as long as it distinctly states the statutory designation of the offense and the acts or omissions constitutive thereof.35

In other words, if the offense is stated in such a way that a person of ordinary intelligence may immediately know what is meant, and the court can decide the matter according to law, the inevitable conclusion is that the information is valid. It is not necessary to follow the language of the statute in the information. The information will be sufficient if it describes the crime defined by law.36

Applying the foregoing, the inescapable conclusion is that the first information is valid inasmuch as it sufficiently alleges the manner by which the crime was committed. Verily the purpose of the law, that is, to apprise the accused of the nature of the charge against them, is reasonably complied with.

Furthermore, the first information, applying Rule 110,37 Section 6, shows on its face that it is valid.

Section 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information. - A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the offense by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate time of the commission of the offense, and the place wherein the offense was committed.

SECOND, and with respect specifically to the trial court's point of view that the accused cannot claim their right against double jeopardy because they "participated/acquiesced to the tampering," we hold that while this may not be far-fetched, there is actually no hard evidence thereof.38 Worse, we cannot overlook the fact that accused were arraigned, entered a plea of guilty and convicted under the first information. Granting that alteration/tampering took place and the accused had a hand in it, this does not justify the setting aside of the decision dated 16 July 1996. The alleged tampering/alteration allegedly participated in by the accused may well be the subject of another inquiry.

In Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines v. People,39 the Court affirming the finality of a decision in a criminal case, citing Section 7, Rule 120 of the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure, stated:

A judgment of conviction may, upon motion of the accused, be modified or set aside before it becomes final or before appeal is perfected. Except where the death penalty is imposed a judgment [of conviction] becomes final after the lapse of the period for perfecting an appeal, or when the sentence has been partially or totally satisfied or served, or when the accused has waived in writing his right to appeal, or has applied for probation.

Indeed, the belated move on the part of the prosecution to have the information amended defies procedural rules, the decision having attained finality after the accused applied for probation and the fact that amendment is no longer allowed at that stage.

Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure is emphatic:

Sec. 14. Amendment. 'The information or complaint may be amended, in substance or form, without leave of court, at any time before the accused pleads; and thereafter and during the trial as to all matters of form, by leave and at the discretion of the court, when the same can be done without prejudice to the rights of the accused.

If it appears at any time before judgment that a mistake has been made in charging the proper offense, the court shall dismiss the original complaint or information upon the filing of a new one charging the proper offense in accordance with Rule 119, Section 11, provided the accused would not be placed thereby in double jeopardy, and may also require the witnesses to give bail for their appearance at the trial.

In Sanvicente v. People,40 this Court held that given the far-reaching scope of an accused's right against double jeopardy, even an appeal based on an alleged misappreciation of evidence will not lie. The only instance when double jeopardy will not attach is when the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, such as where the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham. Respondent People of the Philippines argues, citing the case of Galman v. Sandiganbayan41 that the trial was a sham. We do not agree with the respondent as the trial in the Galman case was considered a mock trial owing to the act of a then authoritarian president who ordered the therein respondents Sandiganbayan and Tanodbayan to rig the trial and who closely monitored the entire proceedings to assure a predetermined final outcome of acquittal and total absolution of the respondents-accused therein of all the charges.42

The Constitution is very explicit. Article III, Section 21, mandates that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. In this case, it bears repeating that the accused had been arraigned and convicted. In fact, they were already in the stage where they were applying for probation. It is too late in the day for the prosecution to ask for the amendment of the information and seek to try again accused for the same offense without violating their rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

There is, therefore, no question that the amendment of an information by motion of the prosecution and at the time when the accused had already been convicted is contrary to procedural rules and violative of the rights of the accused.

FINALLY, on the issue of jurisdiction, the case of Gulhoran and Bobares v. Escano, Jr.,43 upon which both trial courts justified their claim of jurisdiction, was actually based on this Court's resolution dated 18 October 1995 where this Court held:

The criminal jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts under Section 32 (2) of B. P. 129, as amended by Rep. Act 7691 has been increased to cover offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years irrespective of the amount of the fine (Administrative Cir. No. 09-94, June 14, 1994). It appears that the imposable penalties applicable to the subject cases are within the range of prision correccional, a penalty not exceeding six years, thus falling within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the MTC. It follows that the RTC has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the charges against petitioners.

If we apply the resolution of this Court quoted above, it would seem that the Metropolitan Trial Court has jurisdiction over the case under the first Information. Following that argument, the decision dated 16 July 1996 of the RTC Branch 103 was rendered without jurisdiction, thus, accused may not invoke the right against double jeopardy.

Nonetheless, we cannot uphold this view owing to the fact that a later resolution superseding the resolution cited by the trial courts, specifically Administrative Order No. 51-96 dated 03 May 1996, vests the RTC with jurisdiction to try Criminal Case No. Q-96-67572. The resolution provides:

RE: SPECIAL COURTS FOR KIDNAPPING, ROBBERY, DANGEROUS DRUGS, CARNAPPING AND OTHER HEINOUS CRIMES UNDER R.A. NO. 7659

Pursuant to Sec. 23 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, in the interest of speedy and efficient administration of justice and subject to the guidelines hereinafter set forth, the following Regional Trial Court branches are hereby designated to exclusively try and decide cases of KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM, ROBBERY IN BAND, ROBBERY COMMITTED AGAINST A BANKING OR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION, VIOLATION OF THE DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT OF 1972, AS AMENDED, AND VIOLATION OF THE ANTI-CARNAPPING ACT OF 1972, AS AMENDED, AND OTHER HEINOUS CRIMES defined and penalized under Rep. Act No. 7659, committed within their respective territorial jurisdictions:

. . .

11. Branch 103, Quezon City, presided over by RTC JUDGE JAIME N. SALAZAR, JR.

Subsequently, A.M. No. 96-8-282-RTC dated 27 August 1996, Re: Clarification on the applicability of Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 51-96 in relation to Section 20 of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, declared:

. . . [T]he Court Resolved to AMEND the prefatory paragraph in Administrative Order No. 5-96, to read:

Pursuant to Section 23 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 in the interest of speedy administration of justice and subject to the guidelines hereinafter set forth, the following Regional Trial Court branches are hereby designated to exclusively try and decide cases of KIDNAPPING AND/OR KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM, ROBBERY IN BAND, ROBBERY COMMITTED AGAINST A BANKING OR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION, VIOLATION OF THE DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT OF 1972, AS AMENDED, regardless of the quantity of the drugs involved.

This issue is further settled by the concurring opinion of Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., in People v. Velasco:44

. . . [A]ll drug-related cases, regardless of the quantity involved and the penalty imposable pursuant to R.A. No. 7659, as applied/interpreted in People v. Simon (G.R. No. 93028, 29 July 1994; 234 SCRA 555), and of the provisions of R.A. No. 7691 expanding the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, still fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts, in view of Section 39 of R.A. No. 6425 (the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972). R.A. No. 7659 and R.A. No. 7691 have neither amended nor modified this Section.

Wherefore, premises considered, the instant petition is Granted. The Orders dated 14 February 1997 and 16 April 1997 issued by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 76, are set aside. Criminal Case No. Q-96-67572 is ordered Dismissed. Accused Marcelo Lasoy and Felix Banisa are forthwith ordered released from detention45 unless there may be valid reasons for their further detention.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and TINGA, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1 Records, p. 41.

2 Records, p. 45.

3 Establishing A Probation System, Appropriating Funds Therefore And For Other Purposes.

4 Rollo, p. 48.

5 Rollo, pp. 53-54.

6 Records, pp. 48-49.

7 Records, p. 52.

8 Records, p. 55.

9 Records, p. 50.

10 Now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals.

11 Rollo, pp. 26-39.

12 Records, pp. 98-107.

13 CA-G.R. SP No. 41932 raffled to Justice Hector L. Hofilena.

14 Records, pp. 117-119.

15 Rollo, p. 129.

16 Records, pp. 137-142.

17 Records, pp. 152-158.

18 Records, p. 159.

19 Records, p. 163.

20 Rollo, pp. 4-18.

21 Rollo, p. 10.

22 Rollo, p. 10.

23 Rollo, p. 61.

24 Rollo, pp. 87-102.

25 Rollo, pp. 131-146.

26 Rollo, pp. 148-149.

27 Rollo, pp. 163-189.

28 Rollo, pp. 197-212.

29 Section 7, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended; Reynaldo Dimayacyac v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 136264, 28 May 2004, citing People v. Tac-an, G.R. No. 148000, 27 February 2003, 398 SCRA 373, 380; Navallo v. Sandiganbayan G.R. No. 97214, 18 July 1994, 234 SCRA 175, cited in Potot v. People, G.R. No. 143547, 26 June 2002, 383 SCRA 449.

30 RTC Order, pp. 4-5; Rollo, pp. 22-23.

31 Records, pp. 5-6.

32 Records, pp. 7-8.

33 G.R. No. 101689, 17 March 1993, 220 SCRA 55.

34 G.R. No. L-23654, 28 March 1969, 27 SCRA 808.

35 People v. Alba, G.R. NOS. 131858-59, 14 April 1999, 305 SCRA 811.

36 Flores v. Layosa, G.R. No. 154714, 12 August 2004.

37 Rules of Court.

38 In Director, PNP Narcotics Command v. Judge Salazar (A.M. No. 96-9-332-RTC, 15 August 2001, 363 SCRA 8), a complaint for gross ignorance of the law and gross inefficiency was filed against Judge Salazar relative to the tampering/alteration of the information in Crim. Case No. 96-66788. However, while the court found that there was indeed a tampering/alteration, the accused were not at all implicated or faulted for the act.

39 G.R. No. 147703, 14 April 2004, 427 SCRA 456, 467.

40 G.R. No. 132081, 26 November 2002, 392 SCRA 610.

41 G.R. No. L-72670, 12 September 1986, 144 SCRA 43.

42 Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company v. Veridiano II, G.R. No. 118251, 29 June 2001, 360 SCRA 359.

43 G.R. No. L-119135, 18 October 1995.

44 G.R. No. 110592, 23 January 1996, 252 SCRA 135, 149.

45 Records, p. 260.




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