Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Charo Santos-Concio, et. al. vs Sec of Justice, et. al.

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G.R. No. 175057 January 29, 2008

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, HON. RAUL M. GONZALEZ, as Secretary of the Department of Justice, NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION - NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, PANEL OF INVESTIGATING PROSECUTORS created under Department of Justice Department Order No. 165 dated 08 March 2006, LEO B. DACERA III, as Chairman of the Panel of Investigating Prosecutors, and DEANA P. PEREZ, MA. EMILIA L. VICTORIO, EDEN S. WAKAY-VALDES and PETER L. ONG, as Members of the Panel of Investigating Prosecutors, the EVALUATING PANEL created under Department of Justice Department Order No. 90 dated 08 February 2006, JOSELITA C. MENDOZA as Chairman of the Evaluating Panel, and MERBA WAGA, RUEL LASALA and ARNOLD ROSALES, as Members of the Evaluating Panel, respondents.



In the days leading to February 4, 2006, people started to gather in throngs at the Philsports Arena (formerly Ultra) in Pasig City, the publicized site of the first anniversary episode of "Wowowee," a noontime game show aired by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (ABS-CBN). With high hopes of winning the bonanza, hundreds queued for days and nights near the venue to assure themselves of securing tickets for the show. Little did they know that in taking a shot at instant fortune, a number of them would pay the ultimate wager and place their lives at stake, all in the name of bagging the prizes in store.

Came the early morning of February 4, 2006 with thousands more swarming to the venue. Hours before the show and minutes after the people were allowed entry through two entry points at six o’clock in the morning, the obstinate crowd along Capt. Javier Street jostled even more just to get close to the lower rate pedestrian gate. The mad rush of the unruly mob generated much force, triggering the horde to surge forward with such momentum that led others to stumble and get trampled upon by the approaching waves of people right after the gate opened.

This fatal stampede claimed 71 lives, 69 of whom were women, and left hundreds wounded which necessitated emergency medical support and prompted the cancellation of the show’s episode.

By Department Order No. 90 of February 8, 2006, respondent DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez (Gonzalez) constituted a Panel (Evaluating Panel) to evaluate the DILG Report and "determine whether there is sufficient basis to proceed with the conduct of a preliminary investigation on the basis of the documents submitted."

Acting on the recommendation of the NBI-NCR, Gonzalez, by Department Order No. 165 of March 8, 2006, designated a panel of state prosecutors (Investigating Panel) to conduct the preliminary investigation of the case, docketed as I.S. No. 2006-291, "NCR-NBI v. Santos-Concio, et al.," and if warranted by the evidence, to file the appropriate information and prosecute the same before the appropriate court. The following day or on March 9, 2006, the Investigating Panel issued subpoenas directing the therein respondents to appear at the preliminary investigation set on March 20 and 27, 2006.


a) Whether or not it can be dismissed the petitioners’ petition for certiorari and prohibition that sought to annul respondent Department of Justice (DOJ) Department Order Nos. 90 and 165dated February 8, 2006 and March 8, 2006, respectively;

b) Whether or not to prohibit the DOJ from further conducting a preliminary investigation in what has been dubbed as the "Ultra Stampede" case.


On the Investigatory Power of the DOJ

In the assailed Decision, the appellate court ruled that the Department Orders were issued within the scope of authority of the DOJ Secretary pursuant to the Administrative Code of 1987 bestowing general investigatory powers upon the DOJ.

Petitioners concede that the DOJ has the power to conduct both criminal investigation and preliminary investigation but not in their case, they invoking Cojuangco, Jr. v. PCGG. They posit that in Cojuangco, the reshuffling of personnel was not considered by this Court which ruled that the entity which conducted the criminal investigation is disqualified from conducting a preliminary investigation in the same case. They add that the DOJ cannot circumvent the prohibition by simply creating a panel to conduct the first, and another to conduct the second.

In insisting on the arbitrariness of the two Department Orders which, so they claim, paved the way for the DOJ’s dual role, petitioners trace the basis for the formation of the five-prosecutor Investigating Panel to the NBI-NCR Report which was spawned by the supposed criminal investigation of the Evaluating Panel the members of which included two, albeit different, prosecutors. While petitioners do not assail the constitution of the Evaluating Panel, they claim that it did not just evaluate the DILG Report but went further and conducted its own criminal investigation by interviewing witnesses, conducting an ocular inspection, and perusing the evidence.

On the Alleged Defects of the Complaint

On the two succeeding issues, petitioners fault the appellate court’s dismissal of their petition despite, so they claim, respondents’ commission of grave abuse of discretion in proceeding with the preliminary investigation given the fatal defects in the supposed complaint.

Petitioners point out that they cannot be compelled to submit their counter-affidavits because the NBI-NCR Report, which they advert to as the complaint-affidavit, was not under oath. While they admit that there were affidavits attached to the NBI-NCR Report, the same, they claim, were not executed by the NBI-NCR as the purported complainant, leaving them as "orphaned" supporting affidavits without a sworn complaint-affidavit to support.

These affidavits, petitioners further point out, nonetheless do not qualify as a complaint within the scope of Rule 110 of the Rules of Court as the allegations therein are insufficient to initiate a preliminary investigation, there being no statement of specific and individual acts or omissions constituting reckless imprudence. They bewail the assumptions or conclusions of law in the NBI-NCR Report as well as the bare narrations in the affidavits that lack any imputation relating to them as the persons allegedly responsible.

IN FINE, petitioners contend that absent any act or omission ascribed to them, it is unreasonable to expect them to confirm, deny or explain their side.

In the present case, there is no doubt about the existence of affidavits. The appellate court found that "certain complaint-affidavits were already filed by some of the victims," a factual finding to which this Court, by rule, generally defers.

On the Claim of Bias and Prejudgment

On the remaining issues, petitioners charge respondents to have lost the impartiality to conduct the preliminary investigation since they had prejudged the case, in support of which they cite the "indecent" haste in the conduct of the proceedings. Thus, they mention the conduct of the criminal investigation within 24 working days and the issuance of subpoenas immediately following the creation of the Investigating Panel.

Petitioners likewise cite the following public declarations made by Gonzalez as expressing his conclusions that a crime had been committed, that the show was the proximate cause, and that the show’s organizers are guilty thereof.


A FINAL WORD. The Court takes this occasion to echo its disposition in Cruz v. Salva where it censured a fiscal for inexcusably allowing undue publicity in the conduct of preliminary investigation and appreciated the press for wisely declining an unusual probing privilege. Agents of the law ought to recognize the buoys and bounds of prudence in discharging what they may deem as an earnest effort to herald the government’s endeavor in solving a case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

RP vs Sandiganbayan & Imelda Marcos

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G.R. No. 155832 December 7, 2010

SANDIGANBAYAN (Fourth Division) and IMELDA R. MARCOS, Respondents.


This case involves the validity of a sequestration order signed, not by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioners, but by designated agents and issued prior to the effectivity of the PCGG Rules and Regulations.


When then President Corazon Aquino assumed power in 1986, she issued Executive Order 1, creating the PCGG and empowered it to recover all ill-gotten wealth allegedly amassed by the family and close friends of former president Marcos. Through PCGG's Commissioner Raul Daza’s written authority by lawyers Jose Tan Ramirez and Ben Abella, it sequestered any property (particularly the Olot resthouse which is a 17-room affair sitting on 42 hectares of beachfront land, with a golf course, swimming pool, cottages, a pelota court, and a pavilion), documents, money, and other assets of former First Lady Imelda Marcos in Leyte. In 2001 Mrs. Marcos filed a motion to quash the March 18, 1986 sequestration order against the Olot Resthouse,claiming that such order, issued only by Attys. Ramirez and Abella, was void for failing to observe Sec. 3 of the PCGG Rules and Regulations. The rules required the signatures of at least two PCGG Commissioners. The Republic opposed the motion, claiming that Mrs. Marcos was estopped from questioning the sequestration order. In 2002 the Sandiganbayan issued the assailed Resolution,granting the motion to quash and ordering the full restoration of the Olot Resthouse to Mrs. Marcos.


Whether or not the March 18, 1986 sequestration order against the Olot Resthouse, issued by PCGG agents before the enactment of the PCGG rules, was validly issued.


Under Section 26, Article XVIII of the Constitution, an order of sequestration may only issue upon a showing "of a prima facie case" that the properties are ill-gotten wealth under Executive Orders 1 and 2. When a court nullifies an order of sequestration for having been issued without a prima facie case, the Court does not substitute its judgment for that of the PCGG but simply applies the law. The absence of a prior determination by the PCGG of a prima facie basis for the sequestration order is, unavoidably, a fatal defect which rendered the sequestration of respondent corporation and its properties void ab initio. Being void ab initio, it is deemed non-existent, as though it had never been issued. The Court is maintaining its above ruling in this case. Although the two PCGG lawyers issued the sequestration order in this case on March 18, 1986, before the passage of Sec. 3 of the PCGG Rules, such consideration is immaterial following our above ruling. The Court DISMISSES the petition for lack of merit and AFFIRMS the challenged resolutions of the Fourth Division of the Sandiganbayan dated February 28, 2002 and August 28, 2002 in Civil Case 0002, which granted respondent Imelda R. Marcos’ Motion to Quash the March 18, 1986 Sequestration Order covering the Olot Resthouse.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jason Ivler vs Hon San Pedro & Evangeline Ponce

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G.R. No. 172716 November 17, 2010

HON. MARIA ROWENA MODESTO-SAN PEDRO, Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 71, Pasig City, and EVANGELINE PONCE, Respondents.

The petition seeks the review of the Orders of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City affirming sub-silencio a lower court’s ruling finding inapplicable the Double Jeopardy Clause to bar a second prosecution for Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property. This, despite the accused’s previous conviction for Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries arising from the same incident grounding the second prosecution.


Following a vehicular collision in August 2004, petitioner Jason Ivler (petitioner) was charged before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City (MeTC), with two separate offenses: (1) Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries for injuries sustained by respondent Evangeline L. Ponce (respondent Ponce); and (2) Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property for the death of respondent Ponce’s husband Nestor C. Ponce and damage to the spouses Ponce’s vehicle.

Petitioner posted bail for his temporary release in both cases.

On 2004, petitioner pleaded guilty to the charge on the first delict and was meted out the penalty of public censure. Invoking this conviction, petitioner moved to quash the Information for the second delict for placing him in jeopardy of second punishment for the same offense of reckless imprudence.

The MeTC refused quashal, finding no identity of offenses in the two cases.
The petitioner elevated the matter to the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (RTC), in a petition for certiorari while Ivler sought from the MeTC the suspension of proceedings in criminal case, including the arraignment his arraignment as a prejudicial question.

Without acting on petitioner’s motion, the MeTC proceeded with the arraignment and, because of petitioner’s absence, cancelled his bail and ordered his arrest.

Seven days later, the MeTC issued a resolution denying petitioner’s motion to suspend proceedings and postponing his arraignment until after his arrest.Petitioner sought reconsideration but as of the filing of this petition, the motion remained unresolved.


(1) Whether petitioner forfeited his standing to seek relief from his petition for certiorari when the MeTC ordered his arrest following his non-appearance at the arraignment in Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries for injuries sustained by respondent; and

(2) Whether petitioner’s constitutional right under the Double Jeopardy Clause bars further proceedings in Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property for the death of respondent Ponce’s husband.


On Petition for Certiorari

The RTC dismissed Ivler’s petition for certiorari, narrowly grounding its ruling on petitioner’s forfeiture of standing to maintain said petition arising from the MeTC’s order to arrest petitioner for his non-appearance at the arraignment in the second offense. Thus, without reaching the merits of the said petition, the RTC effectively affirmed the MeTC. Petitioner sought reconsideration but this proved unavailing.

Respondent Ponce finds no reason for the Court to disturb the RTC’s decision forfeiting petitioner’s standing to maintain his petition in S.C.A. 2803. On the merits, respondent Ponce calls the Court’s attention to jurisprudence holding that light offenses (e.g. slight physical injuries) cannot be complexed under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code with grave or less grave felonies (e.g. homicide). Hence, the prosecution was obliged to separate the charge in Criminal Case No. 82366 for the slight physical injuries from Criminal Case No. 82367 for the homicide and damage to property.

In the Resolution of 6 June 2007, the Court granted the Office of the Solicitor General’s motion not to file a comment to the petition as the public respondent judge is merely a nominal party and private respondent is represented by counsel.

Dismissals of appeals grounded on the appellant’s escape from custody or violation of the terms of his bail bond are governed by the second paragraph of Section 8, Rule 124, in relation to Section 1, Rule 125, of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure authorizing this Court or the Court of Appeals to "also, upon motion of the appellee or motu proprio, dismiss the appeal if the appellant escapes from prison or confinement, jumps bail or flees to a foreign country during the pendency of the appeal." The "appeal" contemplated in Section 8 of Rule 124 is a suit to review judgments of convictions.

On Double Jeopardy

The accused’s negative constitutional right not to be "twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense" protects him from, among others, post-conviction prosecution for the same offense, with the prior verdict rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction upon a valid information.

Petitioner adopts the affirmative view, submitting that the two cases concern the same offense of reckless imprudence. The MeTC ruled otherwise, finding that Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries is an entirely separate offense from Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property "as the [latter] requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not."

The two charges against petitioner, arising from the same facts, were prosecuted under the same provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, namely, Article 365 defining and penalizing quasi-offenses.

The provisions contained in this article shall not be applicable. Indeed, the notion that quasi-offenses, whether reckless or simple, are distinct species of crime, separately defined and penalized under the framework of our penal laws, is nothing new.

The doctrine that reckless imprudence under Article 365 is a single quasi-offense by itself and not merely a means to commit other crimes such that conviction or acquittal of such quasi-offense bars subsequent prosecution for the same quasi-offense, regardless of its various resulting acts, undergirded this Court’s unbroken chain of jurisprudence on double jeopardy as applied to Article 365.

These cases uniformly barred the second prosecutions as constitutionally impermissible under the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Our ruling today secures for the accused facing an Article 365 charge a stronger and simpler protection of their constitutional right under the Double Jeopardy Clause. True, they are thereby denied the beneficent effect of the favorable sentencing formula under Article 48, but any disadvantage thus caused is more than compensated by the certainty of non-prosecution for quasi-crime effects qualifying as "light offenses" (or, as here, for the more serious consequence prosecuted belatedly). If it is so minded, Congress can re-craft Article 365 by extending to quasi-crimes the sentencing formula of Article 48 so that only the most severe penalty shall be imposed under a single prosecution of all resulting acts, whether penalized as grave, less grave or light offenses. This will still keep intact the distinct concept of quasi-offenses. Meanwhile, the lenient schedule of penalties under Article 365, befitting crimes occupying a lower rung of culpability, should cushion the effect of this ruling.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. We REVERSE the Orders dated 2 February 2006 and 2 May 2006 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 157. We DISMISS the Information in Criminal Case No. 82366 against petitioner Jason Ivler y Aguilar pending with the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 71 on the ground of double jeopardy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

People vs Hubert Webb, Antonio Lejano, et. al.

Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!

G.R. No. 176389 December 14, 2010


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G.R. No. 176864


On June 30, 1991 Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela, nineteen years old, and xxx, seven, were brutally slain at their home in Parañaque City. Following an intense investigation, the police arrested a group of suspects, some of whom gave detailed confessions. But the trial court smelled a frame-up and eventually ordered them discharged. Thus, the identities of the real perpetrators remained a mystery especially to the public whose interests were aroused by the gripping details of what everybody referred to as the Vizconde massacre.

Four years later in 1995, the National Bureau of Investigation or NBI announced that it had solved the crime. It presented star-witness Jessica M. Alfaro, one of its informers, who claimed that she witnessed the crime. She pointed to accused Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio "Tony Boy" Lejano, Artemio "Dong" Ventura, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio "Pyke" Fernandez, Peter Estrada, Miguel "Ging" Rodriguez, and Joey Filart as the culprits. She also tagged accused police officer, Gerardo Biong, as an accessory after the fact. Relying primarily on Alfaro's testimony, on August 10, 1995 the public prosecutors filed an information for rape with homicide against Webb, et al.

The Regional Trial Court of Parañaque City, presided over by Judge Amelita G. Tolentino, tried only seven of the accused since Artemio Ventura and Joey Filart remained at large.

The prosecution presented Alfaro as its main witness with the others corroborating her testimony. These included the medico-legal officer who autopsied the bodies of the victims, the security guards of Pitong Daan Subdivision, the former laundrywoman of the Webb’s household, police officer Biong’s former girlfriend, and Lauro G. Vizconde, Estrellita’s husband.

Webb’s alibi appeared the strongest since he claimed that he was then across the ocean in the United States of America. He presented the testimonies of witnesses as well as documentary and object evidence to prove this. In addition, the defense presented witnesses to show Alfaro's bad reputation for truth and the incredible nature of her testimony.

But impressed by Alfaro’s detailed narration of the crime and the events surrounding it, the trial court found a credible witness in her. It noted her categorical, straightforward, spontaneous, and frank testimony, undamaged by grueling cross-examinations.

On January 4, 2000, after four years of arduous hearings, the trial court rendered judgment, finding all the accused guilty as charged and imposing on Webb, Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, and Rodriguez the penalty of reclusion perpetua and on Biong, an indeterminate prison term of eleven years, four months, and one day to twelve years. The trial court also awarded damages to Lauro Vizconde.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, modifying the penalty imposed on Biong to six years minimum and twelve years maximum and increasing the award of damages to Lauro Vizconde.

The appellate court did not agree that the accused were tried by publicity or that the trial judge was biased. It found sufficient evidence of conspiracy that rendered Rodriguez, Gatchalian, Fernandez, and Estrada equally guilty with those who had a part in raping and killing Carmela and in executing her mother and sister.

On April 20, 2010, as a result of its initial deliberation in this case, the Court issued a Resolution granting the request of Webb to submit for DNA analysis the semen specimen taken from Carmela’s cadaver, which specimen was then believed still under the safekeeping of the NBI.

The Court granted the request pursuant to section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence to give the accused and the prosecution access to scientific evidence that they might want to avail themselves of, leading to a correct decision in the case.

Unfortunately, on April 27, 2010 the NBI informed the Court that it no longer has custody of the specimen, the same having been turned over to the trial court. The trial record shows, however, that the specimen was not among the object evidence that the prosecution offered in evidence in the case.

This outcome prompted accused Webb to file an urgent motion to acquit on the ground that the government’s failure to preserve such vital evidence has resulted in the denial of his right to due process.

Controlling Issues:

1. Whether or not Alfaro’s testimony as eyewitness, describing the crime and identifying Webb, Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, and two others as the persons who committed it, is entitled to belief; and

2. Whether or not Webb presented sufficient evidence to prove his alibi and rebut Alfaro’s testimony that he led the others in committing the crime.

Other Issues:

1. Whether or not the Court should acquit him outright, given the government’s failure to produce the semen specimen that the NBI found on Carmela’s cadaver, thus depriving him of evidence that would prove his innocence; and

2. Whether or not Webb, acting in conspiracy with Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, Ventura, and Filart, raped and killed Carmela and put to death her mother and sister.


The Right to Acquittal Due to Loss of DNA Evidence

Webb claims, citing Brady v. Maryland, that he is entitled to outright acquittal on the ground of violation of his right to due process given the State’s failure to produce on order of the Court either by negligence or willful suppression the semen specimen taken from Carmela.

When Webb raised the DNA issue, the rule governing DNA evidence did not yet exist, the country did not yet have the technology for conducting the test, and no Philippine precedent had as yet recognized its admissibility as evidence.

Consequently, the idea of keeping the specimen secure even after the trial court rejected the motion for DNA testing did not come up. Indeed, neither Webb nor his co-accused brought up the matter of preserving the specimen in the meantime.

Parenthetically, after the trial court denied Webb’s application for DNA testing, he allowed the proceeding to move on when he had on at least two occasions gone up to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court to challenge alleged arbitrary actions taken against him and the other accused.

They raised the DNA issue before the Court of Appeals but merely as an error committed by the trial court in rendering its decision in the case. None of the accused filed a motion with the appeals court to have the DNA test done pending adjudication of their appeal. This, even when the Supreme Court had in the meantime passed the rules allowing such test. Considering the accused’s lack of interest in having such test done, the State cannot be deemed put on reasonable notice that it would be required to produce the semen specimen at some future time.

Suspicious Details

Alfaro had been hanging around at the NBI since November or December 1994 as an "asset." She supplied her handlers with information against drug pushers and other criminal elements. Some of this information led to the capture of notorious drug pushers like Christopher Cruz Santos and Orlando Bacquir. Alfaro’s tip led to the arrest of the leader of the "Martilyo gang" that killed a police officer. Because of her talent, the task force gave her "very special treatment" and she became its "darling," allowed the privilege of spending nights in one of the rooms at the NBI offices.

When Alfaro seemed unproductive for sometime, however, they teased her about it and she was piqued. One day, she unexpectedly told Sacaguing that she knew someone who had the real story behind the Vizconde massacre. Sacaguing showed interest. Alfaro promised to bring that someone to the NBI to tell his story. When this did not happen and Sacaguing continued to press her, she told him that she might as well assume the role of her informant.

Webb’s U.S. Alibi

Among the accused, Webb presented the strongest alibi through (a) the travel preparations; (b) the two immigration checks; (c) details of US sojourn; (d) the second immigration check; and (e) alibi versus positive identification; and (f) a documented alibi.

To establish alibi, the accused must prove by positive, clear, and satisfactory evidence that (a) he was present at another place at the time of the perpetration of the crime, and (b) that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime.

The trial court and the Court of Appeals expressed marked cynicism over the accuracy of travel documents like the passport as well as the domestic and foreign records of departures and arrivals from airports. They claim that it would not have been impossible for Webb to secretly return to the Philippines after he supposedly left it on March 9, 1991, commit the crime, go back to the U.S., and openly return to the Philippines again on October 26, 1992. Travel between the U.S. and the Philippines, said the lower courts took only about twelve to fourteen hours.

Effect of Webb’s alibi to others

Webb’s documented alibi altogether impeaches Alfaro's testimony, not only with respect to him, but also with respect to Lejano, Estrada, Fernandez, Gatchalian, Rodriguez, and Biong. For, if the Court accepts the proposition that Webb was in the U.S. when the crime took place, Alfaro’s testimony will not hold together. Webb’s participation is the anchor of Alfaro’s story. Without it, the evidence against the others must necessarily fall.


In our criminal justice system, what is important is, not whether the court entertains doubts about the innocence of the accused since an open mind is willing to explore all possibilities, but whether it entertains a reasonable, lingering doubt as to his guilt. For, it would be a serious mistake to send an innocent man to jail where such kind of doubt hangs on to one’s inner being, like a piece of meat lodged immovable between teeth.

Will the Court send the accused to spend the rest of their lives in prison on the testimony of an NBI asset who proposed to her handlers that she take the role of the witness to the Vizconde massacre that she could not produce?

The Supreme Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated December 15, 2005 and Resolution dated January 26, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. 00336 and ACQUITS accused-appellants Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Gerardo Biong of the crimes of which they were charged for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention unless they are confined for another lawful cause.

Biraogo vs Philippine Truth Commission of 2010

Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!

G.R. No. 192935 December 7, 2010


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G.R. No. 193036

When the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments; it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them. --- Justice Jose P. Laurel


The genesis of the foregoing cases can be traced to the events prior to the historic May 2010 elections, when then Senator Benigno Simeon Aquino III declared his staunch condemnation of graft and corruption with his slogan, "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap." The Filipino people, convinced of his sincerity and of his ability to carry out this noble objective, catapulted the good senator to the presidency.

The first case is G.R. No. 192935, a special civil action for prohibition instituted by petitioner Louis Biraogo (Biraogo) in his capacity as a citizen and taxpayer. Biraogo assails Executive Order No. 1 for being violative of the legislative power of Congress under Section 1, Article VI of the Constitution as it usurps the constitutional authority of the legislature to create a public office and to appropriate funds therefor.

The second case, G.R. No. 193036, is a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition filed by petitioners Edcel C. Lagman, Rodolfo B. Albano Jr., Simeon A. Datumanong, and Orlando B. Fua, Sr. (petitioners-legislators) as incumbent members of the House of Representatives.

Thus, at the dawn of his administration, the President on July 30, 2010, signed Executive Order No. 1 establishing the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 (Truth Commission).


1. Whether or not the petitioners have the legal standing to file their respective petitions and question Executive Order No. 1;

2. Whether or not Executive Order No. 1 violates the principle of separation of powers by usurping the powers of Congress to create and to appropriate funds for public offices, agencies and commissions;

3. Whether or not Executive Order No. 1 supplants the powers of the Ombudsman and the DOJ;

4. Whether or not Executive Order No. 1 violates the equal protection clause; and

5. Whether or not petitioners are entitled to injunctive relief.


Legal Standing of the Petitioners

The Court, however, finds reason in Biraogo’s assertion that the petition covers matters of transcendental importance to justify the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court. There are constitutional issues in the petition which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents. Where the issues are of transcendental and paramount importance not only to the public but also to the Bench and the Bar, they should be resolved for the guidance of all.Undoubtedly, the Filipino people are more than interested to know the status of the President’s first effort to bring about a promised change to the country. The Court takes cognizance of the petition not due to overwhelming political undertones that clothe the issue in the eyes of the public, but because the Court stands firm in its oath to perform its constitutional duty to settle legal controversies with overreaching significance to society.

Power of the President to Create the Truth Commission

The Chief Executive’s power to create the Ad hoc Investigating Committee cannot be doubted. Having been constitutionally granted full control of the Executive Department, to which respondents belong, the President has the obligation to ensure that all executive officials and employees faithfully comply with the law. With AO 298 as mandate, the legality of the investigation is sustained. Such validity is not affected by the fact that the investigating team and the PCAGC had the same composition, or that the former used the offices and facilities of the latter in conducting the inquiry.

Power of the Truth Commission to Investigate

The distinction between the power to investigate and the power to adjudicate was delineated by the Court in Cariño v. Commission on Human Rights.59 Thus:

The legal meaning of "investigate" is essentially the same: "(t)o follow up step by step by patient inquiry or observation. To trace or track; to search into; to examine and inquire into with care and accuracy; to find out by careful inquisition; examination; the taking of evidence; a legal inquiry;" "to inquire; to make an investigation," "investigation" being in turn described as "(a)n administrative function, the exercise of which ordinarily does not require a hearing. 2 Am J2d Adm L Sec. 257; x x an inquiry, judicial or otherwise, for the discovery and collection of facts concerning a certain matter or matters."

In the legal sense, "adjudicate" means: "To settle in the exercise of judicial authority. To determine finally. Synonymous with adjudge in its strictest sense;" and "adjudge" means: "To pass on judicially, to decide, settle or decree, or to sentence or condemn. x x. Implies a judicial determination of a fact, and the entry of a judgment."

Finally, nowhere in Executive Order No. 1 can it be inferred that the findings of the PTC are to be accorded conclusiveness. Much like its predecessors, the Davide Commission, the Feliciano Commission and the Zenarosa Commission, its findings would, at best, be recommendatory in nature. And being so, the Ombudsman and the DOJ have a wider degree of latitude to decide whether or not to reject the recommendation. These offices, therefore, are not deprived of their mandated duties but will instead be aided by the reports of the PTC for possible indictments for violations of graft laws.

Violation of the Equal Protection Clause

The petitioners assail Executive Order No. 1 because it is violative of this constitutional safeguard. They contend that it does not apply equally to all members of the same class such that the intent of singling out the "previous administration" as its sole object makes the PTC an "adventure in partisan hostility." Thus, in order to be accorded with validity, the commission must also cover reports of graft and corruption in virtually all administrations previous to that of former President Arroyo.

The equal protection clause is aimed at all official state actions, not just those of the legislature. Its inhibitions cover all the departments of the government including the political and executive departments, and extend to all actions of a state denying equal protection of the laws, through whatever agency or whatever guise is taken.

Applying these precepts to this case, Executive Order No. 1 should be struck down as violative of the equal protection clause. The clear mandate of the envisioned truth commission is to investigate and find out the truth "concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration"only. The intent to single out the previous administration is plain, patent and manifest. Mention of it has been made in at least three portions of the questioned executive order.


The issue that seems to take center stage at present is - whether or not the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its constitutionally mandated power of Judicial Review with respect to recent initiatives of the legislature and the executive department, is exercising undue interference. Is the Highest Tribunal, which is expected to be the protector of the Constitution, itself guilty of violating fundamental tenets like the doctrine of separation of powers? Time and again, this issue has been addressed by the Court, but it seems that the present political situation calls for it to once again explain the legal basis of its action lest it continually be accused of being a hindrance to the nation’s thrust to progress.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are GRANTED. Executive Order No. 1 is hereby declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it is violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

As also prayed for, the respondents are hereby ordered to cease and desist from carrying out the provisions of Executive Order No. 1.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Alexander Krivenko vs Register of Deeds

Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!

G.R. No. L-630 November 15, 1947

ALEXANDER A. KRIVENKO, petitioner-appellant,
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS, CITY OF MANILA, respondent and appellee.



Alenxander A. Kriventor is an alien (foreigner) who bought a residential lot from the Magdalena Estate, Inc., in December of 1941. The registration of which was interrupted by the war.

In May 1945, he registered the lot but was denied by the register of deeds of Manila on the ground that, being an alien, he cannot acquire land in this jurisdiction. Krivenko then brought the case to the fourth branch of the Court of First Instance of Manila by means of a consulta, and that court rendered judgment sustaining the refusal of the register of deeds, from which Krivenko appealed to this Court.


Whether or not an alien under our Constitution may acquire residential land?


According to Rule 52, section 4, of the Rules of Court, it is discretionary upon this Court to grant a withdrawal of appeal after the briefs have been presented. At the time the motion for withdrawal was filed in this case, not only had the briefs been presented, but the case had already been voted and the majority decision was being prepared. The motion for withdrawal stated no reason whatsoever, and the Solicitor General was agreeable to it. While the motion was pending in this Court, there came the new circular of the Department of Justice, instructing all register of deeds to accept for registration all transfers of residential lots to aliens.

The herein respondent-appellee was naturally one of the registers of deeds to obey the new circular, as against his own stand in this case which had been maintained by the trial court and firmly defended in this Court by the Solicitor General.

If the Court grants the withdrawal, the result would be that petitioner-appellant Alexander A. Krivenko wins his case, not by a decision of this Court, but by the decision or circular of the Department of Justice, issued while this case was pending before this Court.

For it is but natural that the new circular be taken full advantage of by many, with the circumstance that perhaps the constitutional question may never come up again before this court, because both vendors and vendees will have no interest but to uphold the validity of their transactions, and very unlikely will the register of deeds venture to disobey the orders of their superior. Thus, the possibility for this court to voice its conviction in a future case may be remote, with the result that our indifference of today might signify a permanent offense to the Constitution.

All these circumstances were thoroughly considered and weighted by this Court for a number of days and the legal result of the last vote was a denial of the motion withdrawing the appeal. We are thus confronted, at this stage of the proceedings, with our duty, the constitutional question becomes unavoidable. We shall then proceed to decide that question.

Article XIII. — Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources.

The scope of this constitutional provision, according to its heading and its language, embraces all lands of any kind of the public domain, its purpose being to establish a permanent and fundamental policy for the conservation and utilization of all natural resources of the Nation. When, therefore, this provision, with reference to lands of the public domain, makes mention of only agricultural, timber and mineral lands, it means that all lands of the public domain are classified into said three groups, namely, agricultural, timber and mineral. And this classification finds corroboration in the circumstance that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, that was the basic classification existing in the public laws and judicial decisions in the Philippines, and the term "public agricultural lands" under said classification had then acquired a technical meaning that was well-known to the members of the Constitutional Convention who were mostly members of the legal profession.

As early as 1908, in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil., 175, 182), this Court said that the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined in the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, which phrase is also to be found in several sections of the Public Land Act (No. 926), means "those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither mineral for timber lands."

Scope of Public Agricultural Lands

This definition has been followed in long line of decisions of this Court. And with respect to residential lands, it has been held that since they are neither mineral nor timber lands, of necessity they must be classified as agricultural. In Ibañez de Aldecoa vs. Insular Government (13 Phil., 159, 163), this Court said:

Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may be converted into a field, and planted with all kinds of vegetation; for this reason, where land is not mining or forestal in its nature, it must necessarily be included within the classification of agricultural land, not because it is actually used for the purposes of agriculture, but because it was originally agricultural and may again become so under other circumstances; besides, the Act of Congress contains only three classification, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots or urban lands that have ceased to be agricultural land.

In other words, the Court ruled that in determining whether a parcel of land is agricultural, the test is not only whether it is actually agricultural, but also its susceptibility to cultivation for agricultural purposes. But whatever the test might be, the fact remains that at the time the Constitution was adopted, lands of the public domain were classified in our laws and jurisprudence into agricultural, mineral, and timber, and that the term "public agricultural lands" was construed as referring to those lands that were not timber or mineral, and as including residential lands. It may safely be presumed, therefore, that what the members of the Constitutional Convention had in mind when they drafted the Constitution was this well-known classification and its technical meaning then prevailing.

Therefore, the phrase "public agricultural lands" appearing in section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution must be construed as including residential lands, and this is in conformity with a legislative interpretation given after the adoption of the Constitution.

It is true that in section 9 of said Commonwealth Act No. 141, "alienable or disposable public lands" which are the same "public agriculture lands" under the Constitution, are classified into agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial and for other purposes.

Section 1, Article XII (now XIII) of the Constitution classifies lands of the public domain in the Philippines into agricultural, timber and mineral. This is the basic classification adopted since the enactment of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the Philippines, the term 'agricultural public lands' and, therefore, acquired a technical meaning in our public laws. The Supreme Court of the Philippines in the leading case of Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, held that the phrase 'agricultural public lands' means those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither timber nor mineral lands. This definition has been followed by our Supreme Court in much subsequent case.

Residential, commercial, or industrial lots forming part of the public domain must have to be included in one or more of these classes. Clearly, they are neither timber nor mineral, of necessity, therefore, they must be classified as agricultural.

It is thus clear that the three great departments of the Government — judicial, legislative and executive — have always maintained that lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, mineral and timber, and that agricultural lands include residential lots.

Scope of Private Agricultural Lands

Sec. 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land will be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines.
This constitutional provision closes the only remaining avenue through which agricultural resources may leak into aliens' hands. It would certainly be futile to prohibit the alienation of public agricultural lands to aliens if, after all, they may be freely so alienated upon their becoming private agricultural lands in the hands of Filipino citizens.

Undoubtedly, as above indicated, section 5 is intended to insure the policy of nationalization contained in section 1. Both sections must, therefore, be read together for they have the same purpose and the same subject matter. It must be noticed that the persons against whom the prohibition is directed in section 5 are the very same persons who under section 1 are disqualified "to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines."

The subject matter of both sections is the same, namely, the non-transferability of "agricultural land" to aliens. Since "agricultural land" under section 1 includes residential lots, the same technical meaning should be attached to "agricultural land under section 5.

If the term "private agricultural lands" is to be construed as not including residential lots or lands not strictly agricultural, the result would be that "aliens may freely acquire and possess not only residential lots and houses for themselves but entire subdivisions, and whole towns and cities," and that "they may validly buy and hold in their names lands of any area for building homes, factories, industrial plants, fisheries, hatcheries, schools, health and vacation resorts, markets, golf courses, playgrounds, airfields, and a host of other uses and purposes that are not, in appellant's words, strictly agricultural." (Solicitor General's Brief, p. 6.) That this is obnoxious to the conservative spirit of the Constitution is beyond question.

One of the fundamental principles underlying the provision of Article XIII of the Constitution and which was embodied in the report of the Committee on Nationalization and Preservation of Lands and other Natural Resources of the Constitutional Convention, is "that lands, minerals, forests, and other natural resources constitute the exclusive heritage of the Filipino nation. They should, therefore, be preserved for those under the sovereign authority of that nation and for their posterity." (2 Aruego, Framing of the Filipino Constitution, p. 595.)

Lands and natural resources are immovables and as such can be compared to the vital organs of a person's body, the lack of possession of which may cause instant death or the shortening of life. If we do not completely nationalize these two of our most important belongings, I am afraid that the time will come when we shall be sorry for the time we were born. Our independence will be just a mockery, for what kind of independence are we going to have if a part of our country is not in our hands but in those of foreigners?" (Emphasis ours.)

Approval of R.A. No. 133

And, finally, on June 14, 1947, the Congress approved Republic Act No. 133 which allows mortgage of "private real property" of any kind in favor of aliens but with a qualification consisting of expressly prohibiting aliens to bid or take part in any sale of such real property as a consequence of the mortgage. This prohibition makes no distinction between private lands that are strictly agricultural and private lands that are residential or commercial. The prohibition embraces the sale of private lands of any kind in favor of aliens, which is again a clear implementation and a legislative interpretation of the constitutional prohibition. Had the Congress been of opinion that private residential lands may be sold to aliens under the Constitution, no legislative measure would have been found necessary to authorize mortgage which would have been deemed also permissible under the Constitution. But clearly it was the opinion of the Congress that such sale is forbidden by the Constitution and it was such opinion that prompted the legislative measure intended to clarify that mortgage is not within the constitutional prohibition.

We are satisfied, however, that aliens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from the use of lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in the Philippines is temporary, they may be granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is not forbidden by the Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes and misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire.

For all the foregoing, we hold that under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public agricultural lands, including residential lands, and, accordingly, judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Frenzel vs Catito

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G.R. No. 143958. July 11, 2003

ALFRED FRITZ FRENZEL, petitioner, vs. EDERLINA P. CATITO, respondent.


Petitioner Alfred Fritz Frenzel is an Australian citizen of German descent. He is an electrical engineer by profession, but worked as a pilot with the New Guinea Airlines. He arrived in the Philippines in 1974, started engaging in business in the country; two years thereafter, he married Teresita Santos, a Filipino citizen.

In 1981, Alfred and Teresita separated from bed and board without obtaining a divorce.

In 1983, Alfred arrived in Sydney, Australia for a vacation. He went to King’s Cross, a night spot in Sydney, for a massage where he met Ederlina Catito, a Filipina and a native of Bajada, Davao City.

Unknown to Alfred, she resided for a time in Germany and was married to Klaus Muller, a German national. She left Germany and tried her luck in Sydney, Australia, where she found employment as a masseuse in the King’s Cross nightclub.

Alfred was so enamored with Ederlina that he persuaded her to stop working at King’s Cross, return to the Philippines, and engage in a wholesome business of her own. He also proposed that they meet in Manila, to which she assented. Alfred gave her money for her plane fare to the Philippines. Within two weeks of Ederlina’s arrival in Manila, Alfred joined her. Alfred reiterated his proposal for Ederlina to stay in the Philippines and engage in business, even offering to finance her business venture. Ederlina was delighted at the idea and proposed to put up a beauty parlor. Alfred happily agreed.

Alfred told Ederlina that he was married but that he was eager to divorce his wife in Australia. Alfred proposed marriage to Ederlina, but she replied that they should wait a little bit longer.

Alfred went back to Papua New Guinea to resume his work as a pilot.
Since Alfred knew that as an alien he was disqualified from owning lands in the Philippines, he agreed that only Ederlina’s name would appear in the deed of sale as the buyer of the property, as well as in the title covering the same. After all, he was planning to marry Ederlina and he believed that after their marriage, the two of them would jointly own the property.

When Ederlina left for Germany to visit Klaus, she had her father Narciso Catito and her two sisters occupy the property.

Alfred decided to stay in the Philippines for good and live with Ederlina. He returned to Australia and sold his fiber glass pleasure boat to John Reid in 1984. He also sold his television and video business in Papua New Guinea. He had his personal properties shipped to the Philippines and stored at San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City.

On July 28, 1984, while Alfred was in Papua New Guinea, he received a Letter dated December 7, 1983 from Klaus Muller who was then residing in Berlin, Germany. Klaus informed Alfred that he and Ederlina had been married on October 16, 1978 and had a blissful married life until Alfred intruded therein.

Klaus stated that he knew of Alfred and Ederlina’s amorous relationship, and discovered the same sometime in November 1983 when he arrived in Manila. He also begged Alfred to leave Ederlina alone and to return her to him, saying that Alfred could not possibly build his future on his (Klaus’) misfortune.

Alfred had occasion to talk to Sally MacCarron, a close friend of Ederlina. He inquired if there was any truth to Klaus’ statements and Sally confirmed that Klaus was married to Ederlina.

When Alfred confronted Ederlina, she admitted that she and Klaus were, indeed, married. But she assured Alfred that she would divorce Klaus. Alfred was appeased. He agreed to continue the amorous relationship and wait for the outcome of Ederlina’s petition for divorce. After all, he intended to marry her. He retained the services of Rechtsanwältin Banzhaf with offices in Berlin, as her counsel who informed her of the progress of the proceedings. Alfred paid for the services of the lawyer.

Ederlina often wrote letters to her family informing them of her life with Alfred. In a Letter dated January 21, 1985, she wrote about how Alfred had financed the purchases of some real properties, the establishment of her beauty parlor business, and her petition to divorce Klaus.

In the meantime, Ederlina’s petition for divorce was denied because Klaus opposed the same. A second petition filed by her met the same fate. Klaus wanted half of all the properties owned by Ederlina in the Philippines before he would agree to a divorce. Worse, Klaus threatened to file a bigamy case against Ederlina.

Alfred proposed the creation of a partnership to Ederlina, or as an alternative, the establishment of a corporation, with Ederlina owning 30% of the equity thereof. She initially agreed to put up a corporation and contacted Atty. Armando Dominguez to prepare the necessary documents. Ederlina changed her mind at the last minute when she was advised to insist on claiming ownership over the properties acquired by them during their coverture.

Alfred and Ederlina’s relationship started deteriorating. Ederlina had not been able to secure a divorce from Klaus. The latter could charge her for bigamy and could even involve Alfred, who himself was still married. To avoid complications, Alfred decided to live separately from Ederlina and cut off all contacts with her. In one of her letters to Alfred, Ederlina complained that he had ruined her life. She admitted that the money used for the purchase of the properties in Davao were his. She offered to convey the properties deeded to her by Atty. Mardoecheo Camporedondo and Rodolfo Morelos, asking Alfred to prepare her affidavit for the said purpose and send it to her for her signature. The last straw for Alfred came on September 2, 1985, when someone smashed the front and rear windshields of Alfred’s car and damaged the windows. Alfred thereafter executed an affidavit-complaint charging Ederlina and Sally MacCarron with malicious mischief.

On October 15, 1985, Alfred wrote to Ederlina’s father, complaining that Ederlina had taken all his life savings and because of this, he was virtually penniless. He further accused the Catito family of acquiring for themselves the properties he had purchased with his own money. He demanded the return of all the amounts that Ederlina and her family had “stolen” and turn over all the properties acquired by him and Ederlina during their coverture.

Alfred filed a Complaint dated October 28, 1985, against Ederlina, with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, for recovery of real and personal properties located in Quezon City and Manila. In his complaint, Alfred alleged, inter alia, that Ederlina, without his knowledge and consent, managed to transfer funds from their joint account in HSBC Hong Kong, to her own account with the same bank. Using the said funds, Ederlina was able to purchase the properties subject of the complaints. He also alleged that the beauty parlor in Ermita was established with his own funds, and that the Quezon City property was likewise acquired by him with his personal funds.

Ederlina failed to file her answer and was declared in default. Alfred adduced his evidence ex-parte.

Alfred prayed that after hearing, judgment be rendered in his favor.


a) Whether the Court of Appeals erred in applying the rule of In Pari Delicto since both parties are not equally guilty but rather it was the respondent who employed fraud when she did not inform petitioner that she was already married?

b) Whether the intention of the petitioner is not to own real properties in the Philippines but to sell them as public auction to be able to recover his money used in purchasing them?


The trial court ruled that based on documentary evidence, the purchaser of the three parcels of land subject of the complaint was Ederlina. The court further stated that even if Alfred was the buyer of the properties, he had no cause of action against Ederlina for the recovery of the same because as an alien, he was disqualified from acquiring and owning lands in the Philippines.

The sale of the three parcels of land to the petitioner was null and void ab initio. Applying the pari delicto doctrine, the petitioner was precluded from recovering the properties from the respondent.

Alfred appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals in which the petitioner posited the view that although he prayed in his complaint in the court a quo that he be declared the owner of the three parcels of land, he had no intention of owning the same permanently.

His principal intention therein was to be declared the transient owner for the purpose of selling the properties at public auction, ultimately enabling him to recover the money he had spent for the purchase thereof.

On March 8, 2000, the CA rendered a decision affirming in toto the decision of the RTC. The appellate court ruled that the petitioner knowingly violated the Constitution; hence, was barred from recovering the money used in the purchase of the three parcels of land. It held that to allow the petitioner to recover the money used for the purchase of the properties would embolden aliens to violate the Constitution, and defeat, rather than enhance, the public policy.

Even if, as claimed by the petitioner, the sales in question were entered into by him as the real vendee, the said transactions are in violation of the Constitution; hence, are null and void ab initio.

A contract that violates the Constitution and the law, is null and void and vests no rights and creates no obligations. It produces no legal effect at all. The petitioner, being a party to an illegal contract, cannot come into a court of law and ask to have his illegal objective carried out. One who loses his money or property by knowingly engaging in a contract or transaction which involves his own moral turpitude may not maintain an action for his losses. To him who moves in deliberation and premeditation, the law is unyielding. The law will not aid either party to an illegal contract or agreement; it leaves the parties where it finds them.

Under Article 1412 of the New Civil Code, the petitioner cannot have the subject properties deeded to him or allow him to recover the money he had spent for the purchase thereof. Equity as a rule will follow the law and will not permit that to be done indirectly which, because of public policy, cannot be done directly. Where the wrong of one party equals that of the other, the defendant is in the stronger position ... it signifies that in such a situation, neither a court of equity nor a court of law will administer a remedy. The rule is expressed in the maxims: EX DOLO MALO NON ORITUR ACTIO and IN PARI DELICTO POTIOR EST CONDITIO DEFENDENTIS.

Futile, too, is petitioner’s reliance on Article 22 of the New Civil Code which reads:

Art. 22. Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return the same to him.

The provision is expressed in the maxim: “MEMO CUM ALTERIUS DETER DETREMENTO PROTEST” (No person should unjustly enrich himself at the expense of another). An action for recovery of what has been paid without just cause has been designated as an accion in rem verso. This provision does not apply if, as in this case, the action is proscribed by the Constitution or by the application of the pari delicto doctrine. It may be unfair and unjust to bar the petitioner from filing an accion in rem verso over the subject properties, or from recovering the money he paid for the said properties, but, as Lord Mansfield stated in the early case of Holman vs. Johnson: “The objection that a contract is immoral or illegal as between the plaintiff and the defendant, sounds at all times very ill in the mouth of the defendant. It is not for his sake, however, that the objection is ever allowed; but it is founded in general principles of policy, which the defendant has the advantage of, contrary to the real justice, as between him and the plaintiff.”

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DISMISSED. The decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Francisco Chavez vs Raul Gonzales and NTC

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G.R. No. 168338 February 15, 2008

RAUL M. GONZALES, in his capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Justice; and NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (NTC), respondents.

In this jurisdiction, it is established that freedom of the press is crucial and so inextricably woven into the right to free speech and free expression, that any attempt to restrict it must be met with an examination so critical that only a danger that is clear and present would be allowed to curtail it.


On June 5, 2005, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye told reporters that the opposition was planning to destabilize the administration by releasing an audiotape of a mobile phone conversation allegedly between the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and a high-ranking official of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). The conversation was audiotaped allegedly through wire-tapping.

Later, in a Malacañang press briefing, Secretary Bunye produced two versions of the tape, one supposedly the complete version, and the other, a spliced, "doctored" or altered version, which would suggest that the President had instructed the COMELEC official to manipulate the election results in the President’s favor.

It seems that Secretary Bunye admitted that the voice was that of President Arroyo, but subsequently made a retraction.

On June 7, 2005, former counsel of deposed President Joseph Estrada, Atty. Alan Paguia, subsequently released an alleged authentic tape recording of the wiretap. Included in the tapes were purported conversations of the President, the First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, COMELEC Commissioner Garcillano, and the late Senator Barbers.

Respondent Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Raul Gonzales warned reporters that those who had copies of the compact disc (CD) and those broadcasting or publishing its contents could be held liable under the Anti-Wiretapping Act. These persons included Secretary Bunye and Atty. Paguia. He also stated that persons possessing or airing said tapes were committing a continuing offense, subject to arrest by anybody who had personal knowledge if the crime was committed or was being committed in their presence.

In another press briefing, Secretary Gonzales ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to go after media organizations "found to have caused the spread, the playing and the printing of the contents of a tape" of an alleged wiretapped conversation involving the President about fixing votes in the 2004 national elections.

Gonzales said that he was going to start with Inq7.net, a joint venture between the Philippine Daily Inquirer and GMA7 television network, because by the very nature of the Internet medium, it was able to disseminate the contents of the tape more widely. He then expressed his intention of inviting the editors and managers of Inq7.net and GMA7 to a probe, and supposedly declared, "I [have] asked the NBI to conduct a tactical interrogation of all concerned."


NTC held a dialogue with the Board of Directors of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP). NTC allegedly assured the KBP that the press release did not violate the constitutional freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press, and the right to information. Accordingly, NTC and KBP issued a Joint Press Statement.
Petitioner Chavez filed a petition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court against respondents Secretary Gonzales and the NTC, "praying for the issuance of the writs of certiorari and prohibition, as extraordinary legal remedies, to annul void proceedings, and to prevent the unlawful, unconstitutional and oppressive exercise of authority by the respondents.


(a) Does the petitioner has a legal standing of the case?

(b) What is the extent of the right to information of the public?

(c) Whether free speech and freedom of the press have been infringed?


The Procedural Threshold: Legal Standing

Petitioner, who is not a member of the broadcast media, prays that we strike down the acts and statements made by respondents as violations of the right to free speech, free expression and a free press. For another, the recipients of the press statements have not come forward—neither intervening nor joining petitioner in this action. Indeed, as a group, they issued a joint statement with respondent NTC that does not complain about restraints on freedom of the press.

This Court has repeatedly and consistently refused to wield procedural barriers as impediments to its addressing and resolving serious legal questions that greatly impact on public interest, in keeping with the Court's duty under the 1987 Constitution to determine whether or not other branches of government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution and the laws and that they have not abused the discretion given to them.

Thus, in line with the liberal policy of this Court on locus standi when a case involves an issue of overarching significance to our society, it brushes aside technicalities of procedure and take cognizance of this petition, seeing as it involves a challenge to the most exalted of all the civil rights, the freedom of expression.

Re-examining the law on freedom of speech, of expression and of the press

Freedom of expression has gained recognition as a fundamental principle of every democratic government, and given a preferred right that stands on a higher level than substantive economic freedom or other liberties.

This preferred status of free speech has also been codified at the international level, its recognition now enshrined in international law as a customary norm that binds all nations.

In the Philippines, the primacy and high esteem accorded freedom of expression is a fundamental postulate of our constitutional system. This right was elevated to constitutional status in the 1935, the 1973 and the 1987 Constitutions, reflecting our own lesson of history, both political and legal, that freedom of speech is an indispensable condition for nearly every other form of freedom. Moreover, our history shows that the struggle to protect the freedom of speech, expression and the press was, at bottom, the struggle for the indispensable preconditions for the exercise of other freedoms. For it is only when the people have unbridled access to information and the press that they will be capable of rendering enlightened judgments.

Abstraction of Free Speech

Freedom of speech and of the press means something more than the right to approve existing political beliefs or economic arrangements, to lend support to official measures, and to take refuge in the existing climate of opinion on any matter of public consequence.

To be truly meaningful, freedom of speech and of the press should allow and even encourage the articulation of the unorthodox view, though it be hostile to or derided by others; or though such view "induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger."

The scope of freedom of expression is so broad that it extends protection to nearly all forms of communication. It protects speech, print and assembly regarding secular as well as political causes, and is not confined to any particular field of human interest. The protection covers myriad matters of public interest or concern embracing all issues, about which information is needed or appropriate, so as to enable members of society to cope with the exigencies of their period. The constitutional protection assures the broadest possible exercise of free speech and free press for religious, political, economic, scientific, news, or informational ends, inasmuch as the Constitution's basic guarantee of freedom to advocate ideas is not confined to the expression of ideas that are conventional or shared by a majority.

While all forms of communication are entitled to the broad protection of freedom of expression clause, the freedom of film, television and radio broadcasting is somewhat lesser in scope than the freedom accorded to newspapers and other print media, as will be subsequently discussed.

Differentiation: The Limits & Restraints of Free Speech

From the language of the specific constitutional provision, it would appear that the right to free speech and a free press is not susceptible of any limitation. But the realities of life in a complex society preclude a literal interpretation of the provision prohibiting the passage of a law that would abridge such freedom. For freedom of expression is not an absolute, nor is it an "unbridled license that gives immunity for every possible use of language and prevents the punishment of those who abuse this freedom."

Thus, all speech are not treated the same. Some types of speech may be subjected to some regulation by the State under its pervasive police power, in order that it may not be injurious to the equal right of others or those of the community or society.
Distinctions have therefore been made in the treatment, analysis, and evaluation of the permissible scope of restrictions on various categories of speech.

A study of free speech jurisprudence—whether here or abroad—will reveal that courts have developed different tests as to specific types or categories of speech in concrete situations; i.e., subversive speech; obscene speech; the speech of the broadcast media and of the traditional print media; libelous speech; speech affecting associational rights; speech before hostile audiences; symbolic speech; speech that affects the right to a fair trial; and speech associated with rights of assembly and petition.

Generally, restraints on freedom of speech and expression are evaluated by either or a combination of three tests, i.e., (a) the dangerous tendency doctrine which permits limitations on speech once a rational connection has been established between the speech restrained and the danger contemplated; (b) the balancing of interests tests, used as a standard when courts need to balance conflicting social values and individual interests, and requires a conscious and detailed consideration of the interplay of interests observable in a given situation of type of situation; and (c) the clear and present danger rule which rests on the premise that speech may be restrained because there is substantial danger that the speech will likely lead to an evil the government has a right to prevent. This rule requires that the evil consequences sought to be prevented must be substantive, "extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high."

As articulated in our jurisprudence, we have applied either the dangerous tendency doctrine or clear and present danger test to resolve free speech challenges. More recently, we have concluded that we have generally adhered to the clear and present danger test.

In Focus: Freedom of the Press

The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public affairs. Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of clear conscience.
Its contribution to the public weal makes freedom of the press deserving of extra protection. Indeed, the press benefits from certain ancillary rights. The productions of writers are classified as intellectual and proprietary. Persons who interfere or defeat the freedom to write for the press or to maintain a periodical publication are liable for damages, be they private individuals or public officials.

Anatomy of Restrictions: Prior Restraint, Content-Neutral and Content-Based Regulations

Philippine jurisprudence, even as early as the period under the 1935 Constitution, has recognized four aspects of freedom of the press. These are (1) freedom from prior restraint; (2) freedom from punishment subsequent to publication; (3) freedom of access to information; and (4) freedom of circulation.

At this point, it should be noted that respondents in this case deny that their acts constitute prior restraints. This presents a unique tinge to the present challenge, considering that the cases in our jurisdiction involving prior restrictions on speech never had any issue of whether the governmental act or issuance actually constituted prior restraint. Rather, the determinations were always about whether the restraint was justified by the Constitution.

And in its application in our jurisdiction, the parameters of this principle have been etched on a case-to-case basis, always tested by scrutinizing the governmental issuance or act against the circumstances in which they operate, and then determining the appropriate test with which to evaluate.

Dichotomy of Free Press: Print v. Broadcast Media

Finally, comes respondents’ argument that the challenged act is valid on the ground that broadcast media enjoys free speech rights that are lesser in scope to that of print media.

The regimes presently in place for each type of media differ from one other. Contrasted with the regime in respect of books, newspapers, magazines and traditional printed matter, broadcasting, film and video have been subjected to regulatory schemes.

The three major reasons why broadcast media stands apart from print media are: (a) the scarcity of the frequencies by which the medium operates [i.e., airwaves are physically limited while print medium may be limitless]; (b) its "pervasiveness" as a medium; and (c) its unique accessibility to children. Because cases involving broadcast media need not follow "precisely the same approach that [U.S. courts] have applied to other media," nor go "so far as to demand that such regulations serve ‘compelling’ government interests," they are decided on whether the "governmental restriction" is narrowly tailored to further a substantial governmental interest,"or the intermediate test.

Philippine jurisprudence has also echoed a differentiation in treatment between broadcast and print media. Nevertheless, a review of Philippine case law on broadcast media will show that—as we have deviated with the American conception of the Bill of Rights— we likewise did not adopt en masse the U.S. conception of free speech as it relates to broadcast media, particularly as to which test would govern content-based prior restraints.

Our cases show two distinct features of this dichotomy. First, the difference in treatment, in the main, is in the regulatory scheme applied to broadcast media that is not imposed on traditional print media, and narrowly confined to unprotected speech (e.g., obscenity, pornography, seditious and inciting speech), or is based on a compelling government interest that also has constitutional protection, such as national security or the electoral process.

Second, regardless of the regulatory schemes that broadcast media is subjected to, the Court has consistently held that the clear and present danger test applies to content-based restrictions on media, without making a distinction as to traditional print or broadcast media.

This is not to suggest, however, that the clear and present danger rule has been applied to all cases that involve the broadcast media. The rule applies to all media, including broadcast, but only when the challenged act is a content-based regulation that infringes on free speech, expression and the press.
That broadcast media is subject to a regulatory regime absent in print media is observed also in other jurisdictions, where the statutory regimes in place over broadcast media include elements of licensing, regulation by administrative bodies, and censorship.

Ruling in the Case At Bar

To recapitulate, a governmental action that restricts freedom of speech or of the press based on content is given the strictest scrutiny, with the government having the burden of overcoming the presumed unconstitutionality by the clear and present danger rule. This rule applies equally to all kinds of media, including broadcast media.

This outlines the procedural map to follow in cases like the one at bar as it spells out the following: (a) the test; (b) the presumption; (c) the burden of proof; (d) the party to discharge the burden; and (e) the quantum of evidence necessary.
The Court ruled that not every violation of a law will justify straitjacketing the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press. Our laws are of different kinds and doubtless, some of them provide norms of conduct which even if violated have only an adverse effect on a person’s private comfort but does not endanger national security.

There is enough evidence of chilling effect of the complained acts on record. The warnings given to media came from no less the NTC, a regulatory agency that can cancel the Certificate of Authority of the radio and broadcast media. They also came from the Secretary of Justice, the alter ego of the Executive, who wields the awesome power to prosecute those perceived to be violating the laws of the land. After the warnings, the KBP inexplicably joined the NTC in issuing an ambivalent Joint Press Statement. After the warnings, petitioner Chavez was left alone to fight this battle for freedom of speech and of the press. This silence on the sidelines on the part of some media practitioners is too deafening to be the subject of misinterpretation.

The constitutional imperative for us to strike down unconstitutional acts should always be exercised with care and in light of the distinct facts of each case. For there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to slippery constitutional questions, and the limits and construct of relative freedoms are never set in stone.

In VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is GRANTED. The writs of certiorari and prohibition are hereby issued, nullifying the official statements made by respondents on June 8, and 11, 2005 warning the media on airing the alleged wiretapped conversation between the President and other personalities, for constituting unconstitutional prior restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press.


Brief History of the National Defense College of the Philippines

The Philippine Constitution declares that "the defense of the state is the prime duty of every citizen." The National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) was created to be the key educational institution for training the country's sectoral leaders in various aspects of national defense, strategy, and security.

Since its founding more than four decades ago, the College has evolved into a premier academic institution for defense and security studies in the Philippines and the Asia region.

In August 1963, the staunch nationalist, then President Diosdado Macapagal, established the defense policy school to turn the cream of Filipino public servant into world class statesmen.

The College is at the forefront in propagating a fresh and contemporary perspective and focus in this vital field of knowledge. Its robust network of institutional affiliation with numerous local and foreign entities, both in public and private agencies has provided it with a plethora of academic resources, both human and material, thus enriching its experiences in the history of public service.

The NDCP consistently adhered to the vision to become a highly reputable educational and doctrinal center for national defense and security, strategic thinking and leadership development that is dynamic and responsive.

Today, the College exemplifies its role in proactively producing highly qualified and technically competent graduates to manage and administer the defense and security policies of the country through the offering of its multi-disciplinary degree program, Master in National Security Administration (MNSA). NDCP has produced thousands of graduates who have risen to the top ranks of the Philippine bureaucracy.

The graduates of the College have been recruited from leaders in the military and defense establishments, the foreign service, the judiciary and legislature, the local government and even the private sector.

The College is proud to produce illustrious alumni, including a former Philippine President, a Vice President of the Republic, and some of the country's legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives.

Acknowledgment: Lifted from NDCP Primer.

Amante vs Serwelas

Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!

Gregorio Amante vs
Bibiano Serwelas
471 SCRA 348


Danilo Bicomong, a plant supervisor of Amante Motors, was the registered owner of a 1990 Isuzu Jitney. In 1992, he sold the vehicle to respondent Bibiano Serwelas for P200,000 in a deed of absolute sale. The respondent had the vehicle registered in his name, which was later used as a common carrier, on a boundary system.

On December 9, 1993, the vehicle was seized by the police highway patrol group in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite without a warrant, upon the request of petitioner Gregorio Amante, the manager of Amante Motors. The vehicle was brought to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna and, after being subjected to macro-etching examination by SPO1 Elfin B. Rico of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory Service, was later released to petitioner Gregorio Amante.

Despite respondent's demand, Gregorio Amante refused to return the vehicle. Hence, respondent instituted a replevin suit with the trial court. Asserting ownership of the vehicle, petitioner Vicente Amante, the proprietor of Amante Motors, intervened in the suit. But the trial court rendered a decision stating that respondent Serwelas is the lawful owner of the vehicle. The court also awarded damages to respondent for lost earnings as premium for the replevin bond of respondent.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision holding respondent as the rightful owner of the vehicle. It ruled that respondent had established ownership of the vehicle to the exclusion of the whole world. It also affirmed the award of damages as unrealized earnings but deleted the award for replevin bond premium since no claim for it was made in the complaint.

Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied.


Is there a violation of the right against unreasonable seizure of a moving vehicle in this case?


The resolution of San Pablo City Assistant Prosecutor Esperidion Gajitos could not but strengthen respondent's claim of good faith. Petitioner Gregorio Amante's criminal complaint for violation of RA 6539 and the Anti-Fencing Law was filed in court only against Bicomong. Respondent was exonerated of any liability whatsoever.

As to the issue of damages, we concur with the Court of Appeals that only petitioner Gregorio Amante should be held liable for the unrealized rentals of respondent during the period he was deprived of the vehicle's possession. Petitioner Vicente Amante was not privy to the unlawful seizure and detention of the vehicle.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Court of Appeals dated December 28, 1999 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Respondent Bibiano Serwelas is hereby declared the owner of the disputed vehicle. Petitioner Gregorio Amante is hereby ordered to pay respondent the amount of P103,200 as unrealized rentals plus P37,963 as premium for the replevin bond.

Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED.

Monday, December 6, 2010

GMA Network, Inc. vs ABS-CBN, et. al.

Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!

GMA Network, Inc. vs. ABS-CBN, et al.
G.R. No. 160703
September 23, 2005


Petitioner GMA Network, Inc. (GMA') filed on May 6, 2003 before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City a complaint for damages against respondents ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (ABS-CBN'), Central CATV, Inc. (SkyCable'), Philippine Home Cable Holdings, Inc. (Home Cable') and Pilipino Cable Corporation (Sun Cable').

In its complaint, GMA alleged that respondents engaged in unfair competition when the cable companies arbitrarily re-channeled petitioner's cable television broadcast on February 1, 2003, in order to arrest and destroy its upswing performance in the television industry.

GMA argued that respondents were able to perpetrate such unfair business practice through a common ownership and interlocking businesses. SkyCable and Sun Cable are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Sky Vision Corporation (Sky Vision') which is allegedly controlled by Lopez, Inc. On the other hand, Home Cable is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilink Communications Corporation (Unilink'), which is owned by Mediaquest Holdings, Inc., a company controlled by the Pension Trust Fund of the PLDT Employees (PLDT Group').

Pursuant to a Master Consolidation Agreement, the ownership, rights and interests in Sky Vision and Unilink were purportedly placed under a holding company known as 'Beyond Cable', 66.5 % of which is owned by the Benpres Group, composed of Lopez Inc., Benpres Holdings and ABS-CBN, while 33.5% thereof is owned by the PLDT Group. As a result of this business combination, respondents have cornered at least 71% of the total cable television market in Mega Manila. They are thus able to dictate the signal transmission, channel position, and the airing of shows, programs, and broadcast of non-cable companies like ABS-CBN and GMA, which the law requires them to carry.

GMA alleged that the re-channeling of its cable television broadcast resulted in damage to its business operations.


(a) Should the complaint be adjudicated under the jurisdiction of the trial court or the NTC?

(b) Is GMA entitled to an award of damages, it would have to initially ascertain whether there was arbitrary re-channeling which distorted and downgraded GMA's signal?


Jurisdiction of the National Telecommunications Commission

Consequently, while it is true that the regular courts are possessed of general jurisdiction over actions for damages, it would nonetheless be proper for the courts to yield its jurisdiction in favor of an administrative body when the determination of underlying factual issues requires the special competence or knowledge of the latter. In this era of clogged court dockets, administrative boards or commissions with special knowledge, experience and capability to promptly hear and determine disputes on technical matters or intricate questions of facts, subject to judicial review in case of grave abuse of discretion, are well nigh indispensable. Between the power lodged in an administrative body and a court, therefore, the unmistakable trend is to refer it to the former.

In this regard, we note that there is a pending case before the NTC in which the factual issues raised in petitioner's complaint have also been pleaded. Although petitioner prays in the NTC case for the administrative remedy of cancellation of the cable companies' certificates of authority, licenses and permits, it is inevitable that, in granting or denying this prayer, the NTC would have to pass upon the same factual issues posed in petitioner's complaint before the trial court. The latter was thus correct in applying the doctrine of primary jurisdiction if only to avoid conflicting factual findings between the court and the NTC.

The regulation of ownership of television and cable television companies is likewise within the exclusive concern of the NTC, pursuant to its broader regulatory power of ensuring and promoting a 'larger and more effective use of communications, radio and television broadcasting facilities' in order that the public interest may well be served. The NTC is mandated to maintain effective competition among private entities engaged in the operation of public service communications. It is also the agency tasked to grant certificates of authority to cable television operators, provided that the same 'does not infringe on the television and broadcast markets.

Ruling on Damages

Finally, the complaint failed to state a cause of action against ABS-CBN and the other respondents, considering that the ultimate facts upon which the complaint for damages depends fall within the technical competence of an administrative body. Otherwise stated, pending determination by the NTC of the factual questions involved in the case, petitioner's complaint, which is founded upon such factual issues, would be premature.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed resolution dated October 30, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 97, is AFFIRMED.