- Cabarles v. Maceda
- G.R. No. 161330
- QUISUMBING, J :
- Decision Date
G.R. No. 161330. February 20, 2007.
RENE CABARLES, petitioner,vs.HON. JUDGE BONIFACIO SANZ MACEDA AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
QUISUMBING, J p:
In an original action filed under Rule 65 of the issued by respondent Judge Bonifacio Sanz Maceda in Criminal Case No. 99-0878, entitled People of the Philippines v. Rene "Nonoy" Cabarles y Adizas,for murder, filed with the Regional Trial Court of Las Pi as City, Branch 275. The questioned Order dated April 1, 2003 cancelled the scheduled promulgation of judgment and reopened the case for reception of evidence from two prosecution witnesses who were not presented during trial.
The facts of the case are as follows:
On June 18, 1999, Cabarles was charged with murder under the following information:
The undersigned Prosecutor II accuses RENE "NONOY" CABARLES Y ADIZAS of the crime of Murder,committed as follows:
That on or about the 25th day of April, 1999,in the City of Las Pi as, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without justifiable motive with intent to kill and by means of treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and stab with a deadly weapon (fan knife) one Antonio Callosa,which directly caused his death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Cabarles pleaded not guilty. The trial court scheduled the case for hearing on the following dates, to wit: pre-trial on November 22, 2000; presentation of prosecution's evidence on April 18, May 4, 11, 18, and 23, 2001; and presentation of defense evidence on June 20 and 27, July 4 and 18, and August 1, 2001.
The prosecution had subpoenas issued to its witnesses: Flocerfina Callosa, the mother of the deceased; Imelda Pedrosa, the alleged eyewitness; Carlos Callosa, brother of the deceased; and Dr. Romeo T. Salen, Police Senior Inspector of the Southern Police District (SPD) Crime Laboratory to testify on the contents of the death certificate of Antonio Callosa. CSTcEI
Through no fault of its own, the prosecution was unable to present its evidence on the first four hearing dates. Instead, trial on the merits began only on May 23, 2001 when the prosecution called Carlos Callosa to the witness stand. Since defense counsel agreed to stipulate that Carlos would testify on matters in his May 13, 1999 Sinumpaang Salaysay,his testimony was dispensed with.
The second prosecution witness, Police Inspector Prudencio Parejos, was presented in court during the June 20, 2001 hearing. His testimony was likewise dispensed with after defense counsel agreed to stipulate that Police Inspector Parejos would testify on what was in the spot report of the stabbing incident. In the June 20, 2001 hearing, the prosecution said it would offer its evidence and rest its case should the People fail to present a witness at the next scheduled hearing.
When the case was called on June 27, 2001, the prosecution failed to present a witness. Neither Pedrosa nor Dr. Salen appeared during the said hearing. Records show that four subpoenas were issued to Pedrosa informing her that she had to appear on November 22, 2000, April 11 and 18, May 11 and June 20, and August 1, 2001. The first subpoena was personally received by her; the second subpoena by her husband, Salvador Pedrosa; and the third and fourth subpoenas had no proofs of service. Meanwhile, the three subpoenas issued to Dr. Salen requiring his attendance on May 11 and 23, June 20, and August 1, 2001, were all returned with the notation "addressee moved." There was no evidence, however, that subpoenas were issued to these two witnesses requiring their attendance for the June 27, 2001 hearing, which would explain why they were absent. Taking into consideration the absence of a subpoena issued to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen and notwithstanding the vehement objection registered by Cabarles, Judge Maceda gave the prosecution a last chance but warned:
...It is however understood whether the subpoena is actually issued and served or not upon the prosecution witnesses and service of such subpoena or notice will not relieved (sic) the prosecution to make a formal offer of evidence should the prosecution failed (sic) to present any witness in the next scheduled hearing.
With no witness for the August 1, 2001 hearing, the prosecution rested its case and formally offered its evidence.
Thereafter, Cabarles, with leave of court, filed a demurrer to evidence but it was denied by Judge Maceda. Two witnesses were called for the defense, accused Cabarles and Luisito Javier, a fisherman.
A day before the scheduled promulgation of judgment on April 2, 2003, Judge Maceda motu proprio issued the questioned order reopening the case. In it, he observed that the prosecution may not have been given its day in court resulting in a miscarriage of justice. He explained that because there was a mix-up in the dates specified in the subpoena and the hearing dates of when the case was actually heard, the prosecution was unable to present its evidence on the first four of the five hearing dates: April 18, May 4, 11 and 18, 2001 assigned to it. Judge Maceda found that there was no hearing conducted on April 18, 2001. Thereafter, the subpoena issued to Pedrosa required her to appear on April 11, 2001, which was not a date assigned for the prosecution but May 11, 2001. Also, Judge Maceda noted that another subpoena was issued to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen requiring them to appear on May 11 and June 20, 2001. But, the May 11, 2001 hearing was reset to May 25, 2001 because the judge was indisposed, and insofar as the June 20, 2001 setting was concerned, it was not one of the days set by the court for the prosecution. Judge Maceda further observed that the May 18, 2001 hearing was never scheduled and May 25, 2001 was likewise not a hearing date set by the court. According to Judge Maceda, since the prosecution was not able to present its evidence on the first four hearing dates and there was either no return on the subpoenas subsequently issued or there was no subpoena issued at all to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen, the prosecution should have been given a last chance to present the alleged eyewitness and the doctor. His order in part read:
...As a consequence, the promulgation set tomorrow, April 2, is canceled. Set the reception of the testimony of the eye witness and the doctor on May 1, 2003 at 2:00 p.m. to enable the prosecution to avail of the last chance granted by this Court. caITAC
Issue the corresponding subpoena to Imelda Pedrosa and Dr. Romeo T. Salen directing them to appear on the aforesaid date and time, to be served by the Branch Sheriff who is required to make a prompt return thereof.
Judge Maceda denied Cabarles's motion for reconsideration in an Order dated April 25, 2003 and set the case for hearing on May 8, 2003 to hear the testimonies of Pedrosa and Dr. Salen. The subpoena issued to Pedrosa for that hearing was duly served, but service upon Dr. Salen failed since the doctor was no longer assigned to the SPD Crime Laboratory. Notwithstanding the service upon Pedrosa, the prosecution still failed to present a witness during the May 8, 2003 hearing. Nonetheless, Judge Maceda, upon motion, again decided to extend to the prosecution another chance, giving the People June 19 and July 3, 2003 as additional hearing dates.
Finally, on June 19, 2003, Pedrosa took the witness stand and completed her direct examination. A few days thereafter, Cabarles filed the present petition questioning Judge Maceda's order, alleging that it was issued with grave abuse of discretion. Since trial in the lower court continued, on July 3, 2003, the Public Attorney's Office conducted its cross-examination of Pedrosa.
On July 24, 2003, the defense counsel agreed on the facts contained in the death certificate of the victim, so the testimony of Dr. Salen was dispensed with. Thereafter, Judge Maceda set the date for the reception of evidence on the civil aspect of the criminal case on August 14, 2003, when Carlos, the deceased's brother, was recalled to the witness stand.
Cabarles was then given a chance to adduce further evidence on his behalf.
On August 9, 2004, Judge Maceda deferred the promulgation of judgment and ordered the case archived pending this Court's resolution of the case.
In his petition, Cabarles raises as issues the following:
1 WHETHER THE RESPONDENT HONORABLE JUDGE GRAVELY ABUSED HIS DISCRETION WHEN HE ISSUED THE QUESTIONED ORDER DESPITE THE ABSENCE OF A FINAL JUDGMENT OF CONVICTION.
2 WHETHER PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AND SPEEDY DISPOSITION OF HIS CASE WAS VIOLATED.
Did Judge Maceda act with grave abuse of discretion in issuing motu proprio the April 1, 2003 Order reopening the case, before judgment was rendered, to receive the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses after both parties had rested their case? Did the said order violate Cabarles's right to due process and speedy disposition of his case?
On the first issue, Cabarles insists that Judge Maceda gravely abused his discretion when he ordered the reopening of the case before promulgation of judgment although both parties had already rested their case. Cabarles argues that a case may only be reopened after a judgment of conviction has been made but before its finality, as provided in Section 24, Rule 119 of the aCSHDI
For Judge Maceda, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) contends that Section 24 is a new provision which merely formalized the long accepted practice of judges of reopening a case to avoid a miscarriage of justice. This being the case, jurisprudence providing that a judge has the discretion to reopen a case even before promulgation of judgment still holds.
After a thorough consideration of the submissions by the parties, we find that the petition is meritorious.
A motion to reopen a case to receive further proofs was not in the old rules but it was nonetheless a recognized procedural recourse, deriving validity and acceptance from long, established usage. This lack of a specific provision covering motions to reopen was remedied by the
The April 1, 2003 Order was issued under the
Generally, after the parties have produced their respective direct proofs, they are allowed to offer rebutting evidence only. However, the court, for good reasons, in the furtherance of justice, may allow new evidence upon their original case, and its ruling will not be disturbed in the appellate court where no abuse of discretion appears. A motion to reopen may thus properly be presented only after either or both parties had formally offered and closed their evidence, but before judgment is rendered, and even after promulgation but before finality of judgment and the only controlling guideline governing a motion to reopen is the paramount interest of justice. This remedy of reopening a case was meant to prevent a miscarriage of justice.
However, while Judge Maceda is allowed to reopen the case before judgment is rendered, Section 24 requires that a hearing must first be conducted. Judge Maceda issued the April 1, 2003 Order without notice and hearing and without giving the prosecution and accused an opportunity to manifest their position on the matter. This failure, to our mind, constitutes grave abuse of discretion and goes against the due process clause of the The issuance of the said order, without the benefit of a hearing, is contrary to the express language of Section 24, Rule 119.
Although the defense counsel had cross-examined Pedrosa and had participated in the proceedings after the case was reopened by Judge Maceda, the same does not amount to a waiver of Cabarles's objection to the April 1, 2003 Order. To be effective, a waiver must be certain and unequivocal. Here, Cabarles filed the present petition seeking for a writ of certiorari against Judge Maceda before Pedrosa was cross-examined. Also, when asked to comment on the prosecution's formal offer of evidence taken after the case was reopened, Cabarles objected to its admission on the ground that the same was inadmissible having been received by the court after Judge Maceda issued the questioned order.
On the second issue, Cabarles maintains that contrary to Judge Maceda's observation, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present its case as seen by the issuance of several subpoenas to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen. Cabarles argues that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty and should not be made to wait indefinitely for prosecution witnesses to testify. To do so would violate his constitutional right to due process and a speedy disposition of his case. According to Cabarles, the reopening of the case is clearly detrimental to him since it meant another day in prison.
The OSG counters that the reopening of the case was made in accordance with Section 24 since the prosecution is entitled to the reopening of the case to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Furthermore, Cabarles's right to a speedy trial had not been violated since delays caused by the absence of a prosecution witness are excluded when computing the time within which trial should start under Section 3, Rule 119 of the
Although the matter of reopening a case for reception of further evidence is largely a matter of discretion on the part of the trial court judge, this judicial action must not, however, be done whimsically, capriciously and/or unreasonably. In this particular case, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present all its witnesses but it failed to do so. The failure of the prosecution to take full advantage of the opportunities given does not change the fact that it was accorded such opportunities. Contrary to the justification stated in the April 1, 2003 Order, the prosecution was not deprived of its day in court. While it may be true that due to some confusion with the trial court's calendar, some of the trial dates assigned to the prosecution did not push through and some of the subpoenas issued to Pedrosa and/or Dr. Salen pertained to hearing dates which were different from those assigned for reception of prosecution's evidence, still the prosecution had a total of four hearing dates when it was given the chance to prove its case: May 23, June 20 and 27, and August 1, 2001. The presence of prosecution witnesses in court is the responsibility of the public prosecutor and it is incumbent upon him to take the initiative of ensuring the attendance of his witnesses at the trial.
Since Judge Maceda issued the questioned order without complying with the third requirement of Section 24, that there be a hearing conducted before the order to reopen is issued, then the assailed order must be annulled and set aside for having been issued contrary to law and consequently with grave abuse of discretion.
On Cabarles's right to a speedy disposition of his case, we agree that under the
Although a discussion on the right to speedy disposition of the case is mooted by our nullification of Judge Maceda's April 1, 2003 Order as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion, we are constrained to reiterate that the concept of speedy disposition is relative or flexible. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is not sufficient. Particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. The right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured; or when without cause or justifiable motive, a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried.
With regard to the OSG's allegation in its Comment and Memorandum, that Cabarles failed to observe the rule on hierarchy of courts since the petition for certiorari was filed directly with the Supreme Court, Cabarles insists that he is a detention prisoner needing immediate resolution of his case. He also argues that this case not only involves grave abuse of discretion but also a pure question of law involving the application of Section 24, which is a new provision.
It is necessary to stress that a direct recourse to this Court is highly improper for it violates the established policy of strict observance of the hierarchy of courts. This Court's original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is concurrent with the Court of Appeals and with the regional trial courts in proper cases within their respective regions. However, this concurrence of jurisdiction does not grant a party seeking any of the extraordinary writs the absolute freedom to file his petition with the court of his choice. This Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by the
Under the present circumstances however, we are willing to take cognizance of this case as an exception to the principle of hierarchy of courts. Cabarles invokes the jurisdiction of this Court in the interest of speedy justice since the information against him was filed way back in June 1999, and almost eight years thereafter, no judgment has yet been rendered. Any further delay in the resolution of the instant petition will be prejudicial to Cabarles. Also, the Court has full discretionary power to take cognizance of the petition filed directly to it for compelling reasons or if warranted by the nature of the issues raised. Since Section 24 is a new provision, and considering the irregularities in the issuance of the April 1, 2003 Order, it is necessary to resolve the issues raised in this petition. TCcIaA
As a final word, we find the Supreme Court's pronouncement in the case of instructive:
A proposal has been expressed for the remand of this case to the trial court for further proceedings, apparently to enable the prosecution to prove again what it failed to prove in the first instance. We cannot agree because it will set a dangerous precedent. Aside from its being unprocedural, it would open the floodgates to endless litigations because whenever an accused is on the brink of acquittal after trial, and realizing its inadequacy, the prosecution would insist to be allowed to augment its evidence which should have been presented much earlier. This is a criminal prosecution, and to order the remand of this case to the court a quo to enable the prosecution to present additional evidence would violate the constitutional right of the accused to due process, and to speedy determination of his case. The lamentable failure of the prosecution to fill the vital gaps in its evidence, while prejudicial to the State and the private offended party, should not be treated by this Court with indulgence, to the extent of affording the prosecution a fresh opportunity to refurbish its evidence.
In fine, we are not unmindful of the gravity of the crime charged; but justice must be dispensed with an even hand. Regardless of how much we want to punish the perpetrators of this ghastly crime and give justice to the victim and her family, the protection provided by the Bill of Rights is bestowed upon all individuals, without exception, regardless of race, color, creed, gender or political persuasion whether privileged or less privileged to be invoked without fear or favor. Hence, the accused deserves no less than an acquittal; ergo, he is not called upon to disprove what the prosecution has not proved.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. We hold that the assailed Order dated April 1, 2003 was issued with grave abuse of discretion. Said Order is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, any evidence received and offered in this case as a result of the April 1, 2003 Order is hereby stricken off the record. Let the records of this case be REMANDED immediately to the trial court concerned for its appropriate action without further delay. No pronouncement as to costs.
Carpio, Carpio-Morales, Tinga and Velasco, Jr.,JJ., concur.
1. Rollo,pp. 14-15.
2. Id. at 13.
3. Records, p. 37.
4. Id. at 66.
5. Id. at 41.
6. Id. at 47.
7. Supra note 5.
8. Id. at 55.
9. Id. at 72.
10. Id. at 52.
11. Id. at 59.
12. Supra note 10.
13. Id. at 70.
14. Id. at 68.
15. Id. at 74.
16. Id. at 91.
17. Rollo,p. 15.
18. Records, pp. 133-134.
19. Id. at 136.
20. Id. at 172.
21. Id. at 223.
22. Rollo,p. 85.
23. SEC. 24. Reopening. At any time before finality of the judgment of conviction, the judge may, motu proprio or upon motion, with hearing in either case, reopen the proceedings to avoid a miscarriage of justice. The proceedings shall be terminated within thirty (30) days from the order granting it.
24. ,No. L-56923, May 9, 1988, 161 SCRA 226, 231.
25. ,A.M. No. RTJ-99-1483 (OCA-IPI No. 98-578-RTJ),September 17, 1999, 314 SCRA 682, 694; ,G.R. No. 45037, November 21, 1991, 204 SCRA 38, 42.
26. note 24; II F. Regalado, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM 551 (10th ed.,2004),citing ,84 Phil. 787, 788 (1949).
28. ,G.R. Nos. 140546-47, January 20, 2003, 395 SCRA 419, 444.
29. II F. Regalado, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM, supra.
30. See ,G.R. No. 131286, March 18, 2004, 426 SCRA 29, 40.
31. ,G.R. No. 130644, March 13, 1998, 287 SCRA 581, 591.
32. SEC. 3. Exclusions. The following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing the time within which trial must commence:
(a) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the accused, including but not limited to the following:
(1) Delay resulting from an examination of the physical and mental condition of the accused;
(2) Delay resulting from proceedings with respect to other criminal charges against the accused;
(3) Delay resulting from extraordinary remedies against interlocutory orders;
(4) Delay resulting from pre-trial proceedings; provided, that the delay does not exceed thirty (30) days;
(5) Delay resulting from orders of inhibition, or proceedings relating to change of venue of cases or transfer from other courts;
(6) Delay resulting from a finding of the existence of a prejudicial question; and
(7) Delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty (30) days, during which any proceeding concerning the accused is actually under advisement.
(b) Any period of delay resulting from the absence or unavailability of an essential witness.
For purposes of this subparagraph, an essential witness shall be considered absent when his whereabouts are unknown or his whereabouts cannot be determined by due diligence. He shall be considered unavailable whenever his whereabouts are known but his presence for trial cannot be obtained by due diligence.
(c) Any period of delay resulting from the mental incompetence or physical inability of the accused to stand trial.
(d) If the information is dismissed upon motion of the prosecution and thereafter a charge is filed against the accused for the same offense, any period of delay from the date the charge was dismissed to the date the time limitation would commence to run as to the subsequent charge had there been no previous charge.
(e) A reasonable period of delay when the accused is joined for trial with a co-accused over whom the court has not acquired jurisdiction, or, as to whom the time for trial has not run and no motion for separate trial has been granted.
(f) Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by any court motu proprio,or on motion of either the accused or his counsel, or the prosecution, if the court granted the continuance on the basis of its findings set forth in the order that the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the accused in a speedy trial.
33. note 25, at 695.
34. ,G.R. No. 146689, September 27, 2002, 390 SCRA 160, 174.
35. See ,G.R. No. 159139, January 13, 2004, 419 SCRA 141, 148.
36. Clave v. Sandiganbayan, et al.,G.R. No. 102502 and Cruz, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, et al.,G.R. No. 103143, June 19, 2001, p. 5 (Unsigned Resolution).
37. ,G.R. No. 144542, June 29, 2001, 360 SCRA 478, 485.
38. ,G.R. No. 116945, February 9, 1996, 253 SCRA 499, 504, citing ,G.R. No. 94750, July 16, 1991, 199 SCRA 298, 307.
39. Rollo,pp. 51-52, 100-102.
40. ,G.R. No. 138490, November 24, 2004, 443 SCRA 560, 567-568.
41. Records, p. 1; Rollo,p. 13.
42. ,G.R. No. 137010, August 29, 2003, 410 SCRA 148, 157.
43. Supra note 34, at 179-180.