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G.R. No. 172716 November 17, 2010
JASON IVLER y AGUILAR, Petitioner,
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.