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G.R. No. L-66469 July 29, 1986 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and ALFREDO QUIJANO, petitioners, vs. HON.

BERNARDO SALAS (In his capacity as Presiding Judge of RTC, Cebu, Branch VIII), MARIO ABONG, ALFREDO DE LEON, ERIWADWIN MONTEBON, ROMEO DE GUZMAN, & EDUARDO MABUHAY, respondents. Basilio E. Duaban for accused. CRUZ, J.: Mario Abong was originally charged with homicide in the Court of First Instance of Cebu but before he could be arraigned the case was reinvestigated on motion of the prosecution. 1 As a result of the reinvestigation, an amended information was filed, with no bail recommended, to which he pleaded not guilty. 2 Trial commenced, but while it was in progress, the prisoner, taking advantage of the first information for homicide, succeeded in deceiving the city court of Cebu into granting him bail and ordering his release; and so he escaped. 3 The respondent judge, learning later of the trickery, cancelled the illegal bail bond and ordered Abong's re-arrest. 4 But he was gone. Nonetheless, the prosecution moved that the hearing continue in accordance with the constitutional provision authorizing trial in absentia under certain circumstances. 5 The respondent judge denied the motion, however, and suspended all proceedings until the return of the accused. 6 The order of the trial court is now before us on certiorari and mandamus. 7 The judge erred. He did not see the woods for the trees. He mistakenly allowed himself to be tethered by the literal reading of the rule when he should have viewed it from the broader perspective of its intendment. The rule is found in the last sentence of Article IV, Section 19, of the 1973 Constitution, reading in full as follows: Section 19. In all criminal prosecution, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to he informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustified. The purpose of this rule is to speed up the disposition of criminal cases, trial of which could in the past be indefinitely deferred, and many times completely abandoned, because of the defendant's escape. 8 The old case of People v. Avancea required his presence at certain stages of the trial which as a result, had to be discontinued as long as the defendant had not re-appeared or remained at large. As his right to be present at these stages was then held not waivable even by his escape, such escape thus operated to the fugitive's advantage, and in mockery of the authorities, insofar as the trial could not proceed as long as he had not been recaptured.

The doctrine laid down in that case has been modified by Section 19, which now allows trial in absentia, Now, the prisoner cannot by simply escaping thwart his continued prosecution and possibly eventual conviction provided only that: a) he has been arraigned; b) he has been duly notified of the trial; and c) his failure to appear is unjustified. The respondent judge was probably still thinking of the old doctrine when he ruled that trial in absentia of the escapee could not be held because he could not be duly notified under Section 19. He forgets that the fugitive is now deemed to have waived such notice precisely because he has escaped, and it is also this escape that makes his failure to appear at his trial unjustified. Escape can never be a legal justification. In the past, his escape "rewarded" him by postponing all further proceedings against him and in effect ultimately absolving him of the charge he was facing. Under the present rule, his escape will, legally speaking, operate to Ms disadvantage by preventing him from attending his trial, which will continue even in his absence and most likely result in his conviction. The right to be present at one's trial may now be waived except only at that stage where the prosecution intends to present witnesses who will Identify the accused. 9 Under Section 19, the defendant's escape will be considered a waiver of this right and the inability of the court to notify him of the subsequent hearings will not prevent it from continuing with his trial. He will be deemed to have received due notice. The same fact of his escape will make his failure to appear unjustified because he has, by escaping, placed himself beyond the pale, and protection, of the law. Trial in absentia was not allowed in Borja v. Mendoza 10 because it was held notwithstanding that the accused had not been previously arraigned. His subsequent conviction was properly set aside. But in the instant case, since all the requisites are present, there is absolutely no reason why the respondent judge should refuse to try the accused, who had already been arraigned at the time he was released on the illegal bail bond. Abong should be prepared to bear the consequences of his escape, including forfeiture of the right to be notified of the subsequent proceedings and of the right to adduce evidence on his behalf and refute the evidence of the prosecution, not to mention a possible or even probable conviction. We admonish against a too-literal reading of the law as this is apt to constrict rather than fulfill its purpose and defeat the intention of its authors. That intention is usually found not in "the letter that killeth but in the spirit that vivifieth," which is not really that evanescent or elusive. As judges, we must look beyond and not be bound by the language of the law, seeking to discover, by our own lights, the reason and the rhyme for its enactment. That we may properly apply it according to its ends, we need and must use not only learning but also vision. The trial judge is directed to investigate the lawyer who assisted Mario Abong in securing bail from the city court of Cebu on the basis of the withdrawn information for homicide and to report to us the result of his investigation within sixty days. WHEREFORE, the order of the trial court dated December 22, 1983, denying the motion for the trial in absentia of the accused is set aside. The respondent judge is directed to continue hearing the case against the respondent Mario Abong in absentia as long as he has not reappeared, until it is terminated. No costs. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-37933 April 15, 1988 FISCAL CELSO M. GIMENEZ and FEDERICO B. MERCADO, petitioners, vs. HON. RAMON E. NAZARENO, Presiding Judge, Court of First Instance of Cebu and TEODORO DE LA VEGA, JR., respondents. The Solicitor General for petitioners. Victor de la Serna for respondents. GANCAYCO, J.: Two basic issues are raised for Our resolution in this petition for certiorari and mandamus. The first is whether or not a court loses jurisdiction over an accused who after being arraigned, escapes from the custody of the law. The other issue is whether or not under Section 19, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, an accused who has been duly tried in absentia retains his right to present evidence on his own behalf and to confront and cross-examine witnesses who testified against him. The following facts are not in dispute: On August 3, 1973, Samson Suan, Alex Potot, Rogelio Mula, Fernando Cargando, Rogelio Baguio and the herein private respondent Teodoro de la Vega Jr., were charged with the crime of murder. On August 22, 1973 all the above-named. accused were arraigned and each of them pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. Following the arraignment, the respondent judge, Hon. Ramon E. Nazareno, set the hearing of the case for September 18, 1973 at 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon. All the acused including private respondent, were duly informed of this. Before the scheduled date of the first hearing the private respondent escaped from his detention center and on the said date, failed to appear in court. This prompted the fiscals handling the case (the petitioners herein) to file a motion with the lower court to proceed with the hearing of the case against all the accused praying that private respondent de la Vega, Jr. be tried in absentia invoking the application of Section 19, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution which provides: SEC. 19. In all criminal prosecution, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustified. (Emphasis supplied.) * Pursuant to the above-written provision, the lower court proceeded with the trial of the case but nevertheless gave the private respondent the opportunity to take the witness stand the moment he 1 shows up in court.

After due trial, or on November 6,1973, the lower court rendered a decision dismissing the case against the five accused while holding in abeyance the proceedings against the private respondent. The dispositive portion is as follows: WHEREFORE, insofar as the accused Samson Suan Alex Potot, Rogelio Mula Fernando Cargando and Rogelio Baguio are concerned, this case is hereby dismissed. The City Warden of Lapu-Lapu City is hereby ordered to release these accused if they are no longer serving sentence of conviction involving other crimes. The proceedings in this case against the accused Teodoro de la Vega, Jr. who has escaped on August 30,1973 shall remain pending, without prejudice on the part of the said accused to cross-examine the witnesses for the prosecution and to present his defense whenever the court acquires back the jurisdiction over his person. 2 On November 16,1973 the petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration questioning the above-quoted dispositive portion on the ground that it will render nugatory the constitutional provision on "trial in absentia" cited earlier. However, this was denied by the lower court in an Order dated November 22, 1973. Hence, this petition. The respondent court, in its Order denying the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the herein petitioners, expressed the opinion that under Section 19, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, the private respondent, who was tried in absentia, did not lose his right to cross-examine the witnesses for the prosecution and present his evidence. 3 The reasoning of the said court is that under the same provision, all accused should be presumed innocent. 4 Furthermore the lower court maintains that jurisdiction over private respondent de la Vega, Jr. was lost when he escaped and that his right to cross-examine and present evidence must not be denied him once jurisdiction over his person is reacquired. 5 We disagree. First of all, it is not disputed that the lower court acquired jurisdiction over the person of the accusedprivate respondent when he appeared during the arraignment on August 22,1973 and pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. In cases criminal, jurisdiction over the person of the accused is acquired either by his arrest for voluntary appearance in court. Such voluntary appearance is accomplished by appearing for arraignment as what accused-private respondent did in this case. But the question is this was that jurisdiction lost when the accused escaped from the custody of the law and failed to appear during the trial? We answer this question in the negative. As We have consistently ruled in several earlier cases,6 jurisdiction once acquired is not lost upon the instance of parties but continues until the case is terminated. To capsulize the foregoing discussion, suffice it to say that where the accused appears at the arraignment and pleads not guilty to the crime charged, jurisdiction is acquired by the court over his person and this continues until the termination of the case, notwithstanding his escape from the custody of the law.

Going to the second part of Section 19, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution aforecited a "trial in absentia"may be had when the following requisites are present: (1) that there has been an arraignment; (2) that the accused has been notified; and (3) that he fails to appear and his failure to do so is unjustified. In this case, all the above conditions were attendant calling for a trial in absentia. As the facts show, the private respondent was arraigned on August 22, 1973 and in the said arraignment he pleaded not guilty. He was also informed of the scheduled hearings set on September 18 and 19, 1973 and this is evidenced by his signature on the notice issued by the lower Court. 7 It was also proved by a certified copy of the Police Blotter 8 that private respondent escaped from his detention center. No explanation for his failure to appear in court in any of the scheduled hearings was given. Even the trial court considered his absence unjustified. The lower court in accordance with the aforestated provisions of the 1973 Constitution, correctly proceeded with the reception of the evidence of the prosecution and the other accused in the absence of private respondent, but it erred when it suspended the proceedings as to the private respondent and rendered a decision as to the other accused only. Upon the termination of a trial in absentia, the court has the duty to rule upon the evidence presented in court. The court need not wait for the time until the accused who who escape from custody finally decides to appear in court to present his evidence and moss e the witnesses against him. To allow the delay of proceedings for this purpose is to render ineffective the constitutional provision on trial in absentia. As it has been aptly explained: . . . The Constitutional Convention felt the need for such a provision as there were quite a number of reported instances where the proceedings against a defendant had to be stayed indefinitely because of his non- appearance. What the Constitution guarantees him is a fair trial, not continued enjoyment of his freedom even if his guilt could be proved. With the categorical statement in the fundamental law that his absence cannot justify a delay provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustified, such an abuse could be remedied. That is the way it should be, for both society and the offended party have a legitimate interest in seeing to it 9 that crime should not go unpunished. The contention of the respondent judge that the right of the accused to be presumed innocent will be violated if a judgment is rendered as to him is untenable. He is still presumed innocent. A judgment of conviction must still be based upon the evidence presented in court. Such evidence must prove him guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Also, there can be no violation of due process since the accused was given the opportunity to be heard. Nor can it be said that an escapee who has been tried in absentia retains his rights to cross-examine and to present evidence on his behalf. By his failure to appear during the trial of which he had notice, he virtually waived these rights. This Court has consistently held that the right of the accused to 10 confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses is a personal right and may be waived. In the same vein, his right to present evidence on his behalf, a right given to him for his own benefit and protection, may be waived by him.

Finally, at this point, We note that Our pronouncement in this case is buttressed by the provisions of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, particularly Section 1 (c) of Rule 115 which clearly reflects the intention of the framers of our Constitution, to wit: ... The absence of the accused without any justifiable cause at the trial on a particular date of which he had notice shall be considered a waiver of his right to be present during that trial. When an accused under custody had been notified of the date of the trail and escapes, he shall be deemed to have waived his right to be present on said date and on all subsequent trial dates until custody in regained.... Accordingly, it is Our considered opinion, and We so hold, that an escapee who has been duly tried in absentiawaives his right to present evidence on his own behalf and to confront and cross-examine witnesses who testified against him. 11 WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the judgment of the trial court in Criminal Case No. 112-L in so far as it suspends the proceedings against the herein private respondent Teodoro de la Vega, Jr. is reversed and set aside. The respondent judge is hereby directed to render judgment upon the innocence or guilt of the herein private respondent Teodoro de la Vega, Jr. in accordance with the evidence adduced and the applicable law. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 157331

April 12, 2006

ARNOLD ALVA, Petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Respondent. DECISION CHICO-NAZARIO, J.: Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as amended, assailing the twin Resolutions of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated 18 October 20021 and 19 February 2 2003, respectively, in CA-G.R. CR No. 24077, entitled People of the Philippines v. Arnold Alva. The CA, in the assailed resolutions, dismissed petitioners appeal of the trial courts judgment of conviction for failing to post a new bail bond to secure his provisional liberty on appeal. The Facts The present petition stemmed from an Information3 charging petitioner with having committed the crime of estafa defined under Article 315, Paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code, alleging as follows:

The undersigned accuses ARNOLD ALVA of the crime of ESTAFA, committed as follows: That in or about and during the period covered between October 18, 1993 up to December 18, 1993, inclusive, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, did then and there willfully (sic), unlawfully and feloniously defraud YUMI VERANGA y HERVERA in the following manner, to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestation and fraudulent representation which he made to said YUMI VERANGA y HERVERA to the effect that he could process the latters application for U.S. Visa provided she would give the amount of P120,000.00, and by means of other similar deceit, induced and succeeded in inducing said YUMI VERANGA y HERVERA to give and deliver, as in fact she gave and delivered to said accused the amount of P120,000.00 on the strength of said manifestation and representation said accused well knowing that the same were false and untrue for the reason that the U.S. Visa is not genuine and were made solely to obtain, as in fact he did obtain the amount ofP120,000.00 which amount once in his possession with intent to defraud, he wilfully (sic), unlawfully and feloniously misappropriated, misapplied and converted the said amount to his own personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the said YUMI VERANGA y HERVERA in the aforesaid amount of P120,000.00, Philippine Currency. CONTRARY TO LAW. The resultant criminal case was filed and docketed as Criminal Case No. 95-143803 and raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 54, presided by Judge Manuel T. Muro. On 5 September 1995, the RTC issued a Recall Order 4 of the Warrant of Arrest issued on 18 July 1995 against petitioner in view of the approval of his bail bond by Hon. William Bayhon, then Executive Judge of the RTC of Manila. Upon arraignment on 7 December 1995, petitioner, duly assisted by counsel,5 pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. After the trial on the merits, in an Order 6 dated 6 April 1998, the RTC considered the case submitted for decision. On 4 May 1999, petitioners counsel filed an Urgent Motion to Cancel Promulgation 7 praying for the resetting of the 5 May 1999 schedule of promulgation of the RTCs decision to 17 June 1999 in view of the fact that said counsel already had a prior commitment on subject date. The RTC granted the motion. The promulgation, however, was deferred only until 19 May 1999. A day before the rescheduled date of promulgation, or on 18 May 1999, petitioners counsel again moved for the deferment of the promulgation, due to prior "undertakings of similar importance."8 On 19 May 1999, petitioner and counsel both failed to appear in court despite due notice. In his stead, claiming to be petitioners representative, a certain Joey Perez personally delivered to the RTC a hand 9 written medical certificate expressing petitioners inability to attend the days hearing due to hypertension. In response to the aforestated acts of petitioner and counsel, the RTC issued an Order directing the promulgation of its decision in absentia and the issuance of a bench warrant of arrest against petitioner for his failure to appear before it despite due notice.
10

In its decision dated 25 March 1999,11 the RTC found petitioner guilty of the crime of estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code, the decretal part of which reads: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered: finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of estafa under Article 315, No. 2(a) of the RPC and sentences him to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of nine (9) years and one (1) day as minimum of prision mayor to seventeen (17) years as maximum of reclusion temporalin accordance with the provisions of Article 315, first, and the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and further for the accused to return the P120,000.00 to the complainant with an interest at the rate of twelve percent (12%) compounded annually from January 1, 1994 (the amount has been given to the accused in October and December 1993). Meanwhile, as appearing in the records of the RTC, immediately following an original duplicate copy of the aforequoted decision, a document entitled Personal Bail Bond12 dated 21 May 1999 issued by Mega Pacific Insurance Corporation, seemed to have been filed before and approved by the RTC as evidenced by the signature of Judge Muro on the face of said bail bond. 13 For such reason, petitioner appeared to have been admitted to bail anew after his conviction. Incongruous to the above inference, however, in an Order14 dated 25 May 1999, judgment was rendered against Eastern Insurance and Surety Corporation, the bonding company that issued petitioners original bail bond, in the amount of P17,000.00, for failure to produce the person of petitioner within the 10 day period earlier provided and to explain why the amount of its undertaking should not be forfeited. In the interregnum, Police Superintendent Ramon Flores De Jesus, Chief of Warrant and Subpoena Section,15manifested to the RTC the return of the unexecuted Warrant of Arrest issued on 19 May 1999 "for the reason that the address of the accused (petitioner) is not within our area of responsibility. x x x" Nevertheless, De Jesus reassured the RTC that "the name of the accused will be included in our list of wanted persons for our future reference." Examination of the records of the case revealed that petitioner already moved out of his address on record without informing the RTC. On 15 July 1999, hand delivered by a certain Remedios Caneda, petitioner wrote16 the RTC requesting for a certified photocopy of his exhibits submitted to it during trial. On 21 July 1999, a Termination of Legal Services was filed by petitioner before the RTC informing it of his decision to terminate the services of his counsel and that he was currently in the process of hiring a new one. On 26 July 1999,17 petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration before the RTC. In an Order dated 30 August 1999, the RTC declined to give due course to said motion for failure to set it for hearing; thus, treating it as a mere scrap of paper. On 2 September 1999, petitioner received the above Order. The next day, or on 3 September 1999, petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal 19 before the RTC. In an Order dated 20 September 1999, the RTC again declined to give due course to the Notice of Appeal, ratiocinating thus:
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The "Notice of Appeal" filed by accused cannot be given due course as it was filed out of time. Although accused filed a "Motion for Reconsideration" dated 23 July 1999, the Court considered it as a mere scrap of paper and was not acted upon as the same was not set for hearing, hence, it did not stop the reglementary period to file appeal. On 25 November 1999, petitioner filed anew a motion praying for the RTCs categorical resolution of his 23 July 1999 Motion for Reconsideration. In an Order dated 7 December 1999, the RTC granted the abovestated motion, the full text of which states: The Motion to Resolve the Motion for Reconsideration of the accused, dated November 20, 1999 is granted in the interest of justice, considering that the one who prepared the Motion for Reconsideration appears to be the accused himself, who may not appear to be a lawyer and may not be conversant with the rules, among others, governing motions. Acting on the said Motion for Reconsideration itself, same is denied for lack of merit. The Decision has examined and discussed the evidence presented and the merits of the case. Because of the pendency of the Motion for Reconsideration, the appeal is deemed filed on time, and the appeal is given due course. Let the records of the case, together with three (3) copies of the transcripts of stenographic notes be transmitted to the Hon. Court of Appeals. On appeal before the Court of Appeals, in a Resolution21 dated 16 October 2001, the appellate court required petitioner to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed it appearing that no new bail bond for his provisional liberty on appeal had been posted, to wit: Considering the arrest warrant issued by the trial court against the accused who failed to appear at the promulgation of the judgment, and it appearing from the record that no new bond for his provisional liberty on appeal has been posted, appellant is ORDERED to SHOW CAUSE within ten (10) days from notice why his appeal should not be dismissed outright. On 29 October 2001, petitioner, through new counsel, filed a Compliance that: xxxx 3. Upon learning of the course of action taken by the presiding judge, and for purposes of appealing the decision subject of the instant case, on May 21, 1999, accused immediately posted a new bond for his provisional liberty. The presiding judge of the lower court, which issued the questioned decision, duly approved the new bond.1avvphil.netCertified true copy of the bond is hereto attached as Annex "3" and made an integral part hereof; x x x x.
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In a Resolution23 dated 18 October 2002, the Court of Appeals, nonetheless dismissed the appeal filed by petitioner for "appellants failure to post a new bond for his provisional liberty on appeal despite our directive as contained in our Resolution dated October 16, 2001, and in view of the fact that his personal bail bond posted in the lower court had already expired, x x x." Undaunted, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration24 thereto seeking its reversal. According to petitioners counsel, he was of the understanding that the "Show Cause" Resolution of 16 October 2001 merely sought an explanation vis--vis the absence of a bail bond guaranteeing petitioners provisional liberty while his conviction was on appeal. All the same, petitioners counsel manifested that Mega Pacific Insurance Corporation, had already extended the period covered by its 21 May 1999 bail bond. Attached to said motion was a Bond Endorsement 25extending the coverage of the bail bond from 21 May 1999 to 21 May 2003. Asked to comment on the Motion for Reconsideration, respondent People of the Philippines (People), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), interposed objections. In its Comment, 26 respondent People raised two arguments: 1) that "an application for bail can only be availed of by a person who is in the custody of the law or otherwise deprived of his liberty;" and 2) that "bail on appeal is a matter of discretion when the penalty imposed by the trial court is imprisonment exceeding six (6) years." On 19 February 2003, the Court of Appeals issued the second assailed Resolution, petitioners motion as follows:
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disposing of

Finding no merit in appellants motion for reconsideration (citation omitted) filed on November 12, 2002, the same is hereby DENIED. We agree with the appellee that appellant has failed to submit himself under the jurisdiction of the court or under the custody of the law since his conviction in 1999 and that there was no valid bail bond in place when appellant took his appeal. WHEREFORE, appellants motion for reconsideration is DENIED. [Emphasis supplied.] Hence, this petition. The Issues Petitioner now comes to this Court via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court alleging the following errors:28 I. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED QUESTIONS OF SUBSTANCE IN A WAY NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW OR WITH APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE SUPREME COURT; II. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT DISMISSED THE PETITION DOCKETED AS CA G.R. CR NO. 24077 ON THE GROUND OF ALLEGED FAILURE TO POST A

essentially stating therein

NEW BOND FOR PETITIONERS PROVISIONAL LIBERTY AND THAT THE PERSONAL BAIL BOND POSTED IN THE LOWER COURT HAD ALLEGEDLY ALREADY EXPIRED; III. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED OR ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER AS SUBSTANTIAL, THE COMPLAINCE FILED BY THE PETITIONER WHICH SHOWED THE FACT THAT INDEED THERE WAS A BAIL BOND FILED FOR THE PROVISIONAL LIBERTY OF THE ACCUSED DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE APPEAL; IV. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED OR ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT IGNORED THE RECENT BAIL BOND EXTENSION ATTACHED TO THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION FILED BY THE PETITIONER; V. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED OR ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT THE PETITIONER FAILED TO SUBMIT TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT OR TO THE CUSTODY OF LAW DESPITE THE BAIL BOND POSTED ON MAY 21, 1999; and VI. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED OR ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT THERE WAS NO VALID BAIL BOND IN PLACE WHEN THE PETITIONER TOOK HIS APPEAL. The bombardment of errors notwithstanding, only two issues are raised in this petition: 1) with the exception of the fifth assignment of error, all six can be encapsulated in one solitary question, that is, whether or not the Court of Appeals committed reversible error in dismissing the appeal in view of petitioners alleged failure to post a valid bail bond to secure his provisional liberty on appeal; and 2) whether or not petitioner failed to submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court or to the custody of the law despite the posting of the subject bail bond. The Courts Ruling Petitioner faults the appellate court for expressing "x x x in its questioned resolutions that herein petitioner did not submit to the jurisdiction of the court or custody of the law, or that there was no valid bail bond when the appeal was taken when the records of the case would readily prove the 29 contrary." In issuing said resolution, petitioner concludes that the Court of Appeals made "x x x no careful examination of the records x x x." Petitioner rationalizes his deduction in the following manner: x x x [T]he records of the case readily reveals (sic) that several pleadings were filed by the petitioner before the lower court even after the promulgation of judgment was made. Right after the promulgation of the decision in the lower court, herein petitioner went to the court and posted a bail bond. If the

posting of the bond which was approved by the same Regional Trial Court who rendered the decision subject of appeal is not yet a submission to the jurisdiction of the court, then the respondent Hon. Court of Appeals must have been thinking of another matter beyond the comprehension of the petitioner and obviously outside the matters being contemplated by law and the Rules of Court. Equally, petitioner further posits that: x x x Although it is respectfully submitted that an accused shall be denied bail or his bail shall be cancelled if sentenced to an imprisonment exceeding six (6) years as provided in Section 5, Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, just the same, there must be a showing by the prosecution with notice to the accused of the fact that, the accused is a recidivist, has previously escaped from confinement, evaded sentence, has committed an offense while under probation, there are circumstances indicating the probability of flight if released on bail, etc. But there was none of the said instances that may be attributable to herein petitioner.30 Respondent People, in contrast, counters that "x x x [a]lthough a personal bail bond dated May 21, 1999 was executed in favor of petitioner by Mega Pacific Insurance Corporation two days after the promulgation of the Decision, there is nothing on record which shows that petitioner had surrendered, was arrested or otherwise deprived of his liberty after the promulgation of the judgment of his conviction in his absence. x x x." To illustrate its point, respondent People cites the following facts: 1) the return of the Warrant of Arrest issued on May 19, 1999 signed by P/Superintendent Ramon Flores De Jesus, Chief of Warrant and Subpoena Section, which states in full: Respectfully returned this unexecuted Warrant of Arrest for the reason that the address of the accused is not within our area of responsibility. Further request that the warrant of Arrest be forwarded to the Police Station which has Jurisdiction over the address of the accused. However, the name of the accused will be included in our list of wanted persons for our future reference. 2) the fact that six days after the decision of the RTC was promulgated, or on 25 May 1999, said court rendered judgment against the bail bond issued by Eastern Assurance and Surety Corporation executed to secure petitioners provisional liberty during the trial, for the bondsmans failure to produce petitioner before the court, to wit: In view of the failure of Eastern Insurance & Surety Corporation, bondsman of herein accused, to produce the herein accused within the period granted it by this Court, judgment is hereby rendered against said bond in the amount of Seventeen Thousand (P17,000.00) Pesos. 31 Respondent People explains that the first two facts make it improbable to conclude that there existed a valid bail bond securing petitioners provisional liberty even after conviction. Stated in another way, petitioners admission to bail presumes that the latter surrendered, was arrested or he had otherwise submitted himself under the custody of the law. And, 3) "that petitioner belatedly attached a bond endorsement to his motion for reconsideration dated November 7, 2002 submitted before the Court of Appeals, purportedly to extend the expired personal bond dated May 21, 1999 x x x, did not automatically confer on petitioner the benefits of an effective bail 32 bond," as petitioner made no extension of the previous personal bond before the same expired.

We disagree in petitioners assertions; hence, the petition must fail. A definitive disposition of the issue relating to the existence and validity of petitioners bail bond on appeal presupposes that the latter was allowed by law to post bail notwithstanding the RTCs judgment of conviction and the imposition of the penalty of imprisonment for an indeterminate period of nine (9) years and one (1) day as minimum of prision mayor to seventeen (17) years as maximum of reclusion temporal. Section 5 of Rule 114 of the 1994 Rules of Court, as amended, intrinsically addresses the foregoing prefatory matter viz: SEC. 5. Bail, when discretionary. Upon conviction by the Regional Trial Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, the court, on application, may admit the accused to bail. The court, in its discretion, may allow the accused to continue on provisional liberty under the same bail bond during the period to appeal subject to the consent of the bondsman. If the court imposed a penalty of imprisonment exceeding six (6) years, but not more than twenty (20) years, the accused shall be denied bail, or his bail previously granted shall be cancelled, upon a showing by the prosecution, with notice to the accused, of the following or other similar circumstances: (a) That the accused is a recidivist, quasi-recidivist, or habitual delinquent, or has committed the crime aggravated by the circumstances of reiteration; (b) That the accused is found to have previously escaped from legal confinement, evaded sentence, or has violated the conditions of his bail without valid justification; (c) That the accused committed the offense while on probation, parole, or under conditional pardon; (d) That the circumstances of the accused or his case indicate the probability of flight if released on bail; or (e) That there is undue risk that during the pendency of the appeal, the accused may commit another crime. The appellate court may review the resolution of the Regional Trial Court, on motion and with notice to the adverse party. [Emphasis supplied.] From the preceding quoted provision, the RTC is given the discretion to admit to bail an accused even after the latter has been convicted to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a term of more than six (6) years but less than twenty (20) years. However, the same also provides for the cancellation of bail bonds already granted or the denial of a bail bond application upon the concurrence of two points: 1) if the judgment of the Regional Trial Court exceeds six (6) years but not more than twenty (20) years; and 2) upon a showing by the prosecution, with notice to the accused, of the presence of any of the five circumstances therein enumerated or other similar circumstances.

In the case at bar, petitioner was convicted by the RTC to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for an indeterminate term of nine (9) years and one (1) day as minimum of prision mayor to seventeen (17) years as maximum ofreclusion temporal. Quite clearly, the approval of petitioners application for bail was discretionary upon the RTC. It is incongruous, to say the least, that the posting of a bail presupposes that the accused and/ or accused-appellant is detained or in the custody of the law.33 In the case at bar, the bench warrant issued by the RTC on 19 May 1999 still remains unserved. Nothing in the records of the case, neither in the RTC nor the Court of Appeals, demonstrates that petitioner was ever arrested, as there has been no related Order of Release issued by any court, or that he voluntarily surrendered or at the very least placed himself under the custody of the law. Basic is the principle that that the right to bail can only be availed of by a person who is in custody of the law or otherwise deprived of his liberty and it would be premature, x x x, to file a petition for bail for someone whose freedom has yet to be curtailed. 34 All told, no bail should have been granted petitioner. It is beyond dispute that the subject bail bond issued by Mega Pacific Insurance Corporation was irregularly approved. Worth noting is the fact that nowhere in the records of the case is it shown that petitioner applied for bail through a motion duly filed for such purpose nor is there showing that the RTC issued an Order of Approval or any other court process acknowledging such document. Be that as it may, even granting for the sake of argument that it was indeed approved by Judge Muro, such approval did not render the subject bail bond valid and binding for it has been established that petitioner was not entitled to bail on appeal. That the prosecution appears not to have been given the chance to object, as evidently required under the quoted rule, to the application or approval of the subject bail bond (with notice to the accused), fortifies the declaration as to its invalidity. Nowhere in the original records of the RTC does it even show that the prosecution was informed of petitioners application for bail, much less the approval of such application. Noting that the raison d'tre for such requirement is the discretionary nature of the admission to bail of an accused after conviction, though discretionary, such assessment must be exercised in accordance with applicable legal principles. As when there is a concurrence of the enumerated circumstances and the range of penalty imposed, the prosecution must first be accorded an opportunity to object and present evidence, if necessary, with notice to the accused. It is on this basis that judicial discretion is balanced in determining whether or not an accused-appellant should be admitted to bail pending appeal of his conviction vis--vis the increased possibility or likelihood of flight. Approval of an application for bail on appeal, absent the knowledge of the prosecution of such application or, at the very least, failing to allow it to object, is not the product of sound judicial discretion but of impulse and arbitrariness, not to mention violative of respondent Peoples right of procedural due process. This is especially true in this case as a close scrutiny of the original records of the case at bar reveals that petitioner violated the conditions of his bail without valid justification his failure to appear before the RTC, despite due notice, on the day of the promulgation of the latters judgment, absent any justifiable reason. His absence was a clear contravention of the conditions of his bail bond to say the least. As evidenced by the undertaking printed on the face of the bond issued by Eastern Insurance and 35 Surety Corporation and likewise required under Section 6 of Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, petitioner

must present himself before the court for the reading of the judgment of the RTC in order to render himself to the execution thereof. While, indeed, a medical certificate was hand delivered and filed by a certain Joey Perez, allegedly a representative of petitioner, stating therein the reason for the latters absence, the RTC found insubstantial the explanation proffered. Appropriately, it ordered the promulgation of its judgment in absentia. It also issued a bench warrant of arrest against petitioner. Upon examination, the subject medical certificate36 merely states that petitioner was diagnosed to be suffering from hypertension. It failed to elucidate further any concomitant conditions necessitating petitioners physical incapability to present himself before the court even for an hour or two; thus, it considered the absence of petitioner unjustified. What's more, though notarized, the subject document failed to indicate evidence of affiants37 identity making its due execution doubtful. Further, it should be recalled as well, that as early as 4 May 1999, petitioner and counsel had already been notified of the 19 May 1999 schedule of promulgation. The first having been postponed in view of the Urgent Motion to Cancel Promulgation (on 5 May 1999) filed by petitioners counsel. Another telling evidence of the violation of petitioners original bail bond is revealed by the Process 38 Servers Return, indicated at the dorsal portion of the RTCs Produce Order, indicating petitioners change of address without prior notice to the RTC, it states: PROCESS SERVERS RETURN This certifies that on the 17th day of May, (sic) 1999, undersigned return (sic) again to Fersal Apartelle located at 130 Kalayaan Ave. (sic) Diliman, Quezon City for confirmation and indeed the addressee, Arnold Alva, had no (sic) longer been residing nor holding office at the aforementioned address. By failing to inform the RTC of his change of address, petitioner failed to hold himself amenable to the orders and processes of the RTC. It was an unmistakable arrant breach of the conditions of his bail bond. Prescinding from the above discussion, the conviction of petitioner to a period beyond six (6) years but less than twenty (20) years in tandem with attendant circumstances effectively violating his bail without valid justification should have effectively precluded him from being admitted to bail on appeal. The issue of the validity of petitioners bail bond on appeal having been laid to rest by Section 5 of Rule 114 of the 1994 Rules of Court, as amended, petitioners alleged failure to post a bail bond on appeal is, therefore, inconsequential as, under the circumstances, he is disallowed by law to be admitted to bail on appeal. Thus, for all legal intents and purposes, there can be no other conclusion than that at the time petitioner filed his notice of appeal and during the pendency of his appeal even until now he remains at large, placing himself beyond the pale, and protection of the law. Inexorably, having jumped bail and eluded arrest until the present, the issue of whether or not petitioner has lost his right to appeal his conviction now ensues.

The m anner of review of petitioners conviction is governed by the Rules of Court. Appropriately, Rule 124 of the Rules of Court presents the procedural requirements regarding appeals taken to the Court of Appeals. Section 8 of said Rule finds application to the case at bar, viz: SEC. 8. Dismissal of appeal for abandonment or failure to prosecute. The appellate court may, upon motion of the appellee or its own motion and notice to the appellant, dismiss the appeal if the appellant fails to file his brief within the time prescribed by this Rule, except in case the appellant is represented by a counsel de oficio. The court may also, upon motion of the appellee or on its own motion, dismiss the appeal if the appellant escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country during the pendency of the appeal. [Emphasis supplied.] By virtue of the second paragraph of the abovequoted provision, the act of jumping bail, among otherthings, will result in the outright dismissal of petitioners appeal. As pointed out by the Court in the case of People v. Mapalao,39 the reason for said rule is that: [O]nce an accused escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country, he losses his standing in court and unless he surrenders or submits to the jurisdiction of the court he is deemed to have waived any right to seek relief from the court. Thus, the Court of Appeals committed no reversi ble error in dismissing petitioners appeal. Within the meaning of the principles governing the prevailing criminal procedure, petitioner impliedly withdrew his appeal by jumping bail and thereby made the judgment of the RTC final and executory. 40 By putting himself beyond the reach and application of the legal processes of the land, petitioner revealed his contempt of the law and placed himself in a position to speculate at his pleasure his chances for a reversal. This, we cannot condone. Once more, by jumping bail, petitioner has waived his 41 right to appeal. In the case of People v. Ang Gioc, we enunciated that: There are certain fundamental rights which cannot be waived even by the accused himself, but the right of appeal is not one of them. This right is granted solely for the benefit of the accused. He may avail of it or not, as he pleases. He may waive it either expressly or by implication. When the accused flees after the case has been submitted to the court for decision, he will be deemed to have waived his right to appeal from the judgment rendered against him x x x. Coming now to the second issue of whether or not petitioner failed to submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court or to the custody of the law, despite the posting of the subject bail bond, petitioner argues that his act of filing several pleadings after the promulgation of the RTCs judgment plus his filing of the application for his admission to bail should be considered a submission to the courts jurisdiction. He rationalizes that: [T]he records of the case readily reveals that several pleadings were filed by the petitioner before the lower court even after the promulgation of judgment was made. Right after the promulgation of the decision in the lower court, herein petitioner went to the court and posted a bail bond. If the posting of the bond which was approved by the same Regional Trial Court who rendered the decision subject of appeal is not yet a submission to the jurisdiction of the court, then the respondent Hon. Court of Appeals must have been thinking of another matter beyond the comprehension of the petitioner and obviously outside the matters being contemplated by law and the Rules of Court.

For the resolution of the second issue, it should have been sufficient to state that for reasons stated in the foregoing discussion, the question posed has now become academic. However, to diminish the confusion brought about by ostensibly equating the term "jurisdiction of the court (over the person of the accused)" with that of "custody of the law", it is fundamental to differentiate the two. The term: Custody of the law is accomplished either by arrest or voluntary surrender (citation omitted); while (the term) jurisdiction over the person of the accused is acquired upon his arrest or voluntary appearance (citation omitted). One can be under the custody of the law but not yet subject to the jurisdiction of the court over his person, such as when a person arrested by virtue of a warrant files a motion before arraignment to quash the warrant. On the other hand, one can be subject to the jurisdiction of the court over his person, and yet not be in the custody of the law, such as when an accused escapes custody 42 after his trial has commenced (citation omitted). Moreover, jurisdiction, once acquired, is not lost at the instance of parties, as when an accused escapes from the custody of the law, but continues until the case is terminated.43 Evidently, petitioner is correct in that there is no doubt that the RTC already acquired jurisdiction over the person of the accused petitioner when he appeared at the arraignment and pleaded not guilty to the crime charged notwithstanding the fact that he jumped bail and is now considered a fugitive. As to whether or not petitioner has placed himself under the custody of the CA, alas, we cannot say the same for "[b]eing in the custody of the law signifies restraint on the person, who is thereby deprived of his own will and liberty, binding him to become obedient to the will of the law (citation omitted). Custody of the law is literally custody over the body of the accused. It includes, but is not limited to, 44 detention." In the case at bar, petitioner, being a fugitive, until and unless he submits himself to the custody of the law, in the manner of being under the jurisdiction of the courts, he cannot be granted any relief by the CA. Parenthetically, we cannot end this ponencia without calling attention to a very disturbing fact that petitioner admits of being the author of a falsified public document was treated nonchalantly by authorities. In fine, the petitioner has remained at large even as he hopes that his appeal, and consequently, this petition, will succeed and he can then appear before the Court to claim his victory. He hopes in vain. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Resolutions of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. CR No. 24077, which dismissed petitioners appeal, are hereby AFFIRMED. In this connection, Judge Manuel Muro is DIRECTED to issue forthwith a warrant of arrest for the apprehension of Petitioner Arnold Alva and for proper disposition of the case in line with the foregoing discussion. Costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED.

ELIAS CARREDO, petitioner, vs. THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, VICTORIA CATOSTOS, and HON. GENEROSO A. JUABAN (Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu, Branch VII), respondents. Amado G. Olis for petitioner. Pedro L. Albino for private respondent. GANCAYCO, J.: The issue in this case is whether or not an accused who, after arraignment, waives his further appearance during the trial can be ordered arrested by the court for non-appearance upon summons to appear for purposes of identification. On February 3, 1983, petitioner was charged with malicious mischief before the Municipal Trial Court of Malabuyoc, Cebu City. He deposited a cash bond for his provisional liberty. Upon arraignment, he entered a plea of not guilty and thereafter he filed a written waiver of appearance dated May 14, 1984 which reads as follows: IN COMPLIANCE with the Letter of Institution No. 40, dated November 10, 1972, the undersigned accused hereby waives his appearance during the trial or any stage thereof and he agrees that in case he fails to appear for trial despite due notice, his absence will be deemed as express waiver of his right to be present, and the Honorable Court may proceed with the trial of his case as if he were present. In this connection, he admits that he could be identified by witnesses who are testifying at the time that said accused was not present. (Emphasis supplied) SO ORDERED. At the hearing on August 14, 1985 the prosecution moved for the recall of its principal witness for the purpose of identifying the accused-petitioner who was not then present. Hence, the hearing was rescheduled on October 9, 1985 and a subpoena was issued to petitioner who failed to appear on said date. The defense counsel justified petitioner's absence in that the latter's presence can no longer be required as he already filed a written waiver of appearance. Nevertheless, the municipal judge issued an order dated May 27, 1986 ordering the arrest of petitioner, the confiscation of the cash bond, and at the same time ordering the bondsman, who is the petitioner himself, to show cause why no judgment should be rendered against the bondsman. A motion for reconsideration thereof having been denied, petitioner elevated the matter to the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City through a petition for certiorari and prohibition. In an order dated January 28, 1987, the said trial court denied the same. Hence, the herein petition for review on certiorari questioning the dismissal of the petition by the trial court and submitting for determination the issue of whether or not petitioner can be compelled, on pain of being arrested and his cash bond getting confiscated, to be present during the trial for purposes of his identification by the prosecution witnesses in a complaint for malicious mischief despite his written waiver of appearance. The issue is not new. Section 19, Article 4 of the 1973 Constitution which was then in force provides as follows:

G.R. No. 77542 March 19, 1990

Sec. 19. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him to have a speedy, impartial and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustified. 1 It is the proper interpretation and application of this constitutional provision on which the resolution of this petition depends. In Aquino, Jr. vs. Military Commission No. 2 2 where a similar issue was presented, six justices were of the view that petitioner may waive his right to be present at all stages of the proceedings, while five justices were in agreement that he may so waive such right, except when he is to be identified. The result was that the order of the respondent military commission requiring his presence at all times during the proceedings before it should be modified in the sense that petitioner's presence shall be required only in the instance just indicated. 3 In People vs. Presiding Judge, the accused was charged with murder before the Regional Trial Court of Pangasinan. Upon his arraignment he manifested orally in open court that he is waiving his right to be present during the trial. The prosecuting fiscal moved that the accused be compelled to appear and be present at the trial so that he can be identified by the prosecution witnesses. This court sustained the position of the accused on the strength of the ruling of this Court in Aquino. However, this Court made the following disquisition: In the case of People vs. Prieto, Sr., 84 SCRA 198, it was held that "[r]espondent Judge unfortunately assumed that thereby a defendant was thus conferred a fundamental right to ignore the terms of the bond posted by him in accordance with his constitutional right to bail. The present Constitution certainly has not made a dent on the traditional and correct concept of a bail as given to allow the release of a person in the custody of the law on condition that he would appear before any court whenever so required. Upon failure to do so, the warrant of arrest previously issued can be a sufficient justification for his confinement." Further, in Aquino, Jr. vs. Military Commission No. 2, et al., 63 SCRA 546, the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro, in his concurring and dissenting opinion, clearly stated that "the accused may waive his presence in the criminal proceedings except at the stages where identification of his person by the prosecution witnesses is necessary. I might agree to the proposition of "total" waiver in any case where the accused agrees explicitly and unequivocally in writing signed by him or personally manifests clearly and indubitably in open court and such manifestation is recorded, that whenever a prosecution witness mentions a name by which the accused is known, the witness is referring to him and to no one else." Stated differently, the 1973 Constitution now unqualifiedly permits trial in absentia even of capital offenses, provided that after arraignment he may be compelled to appear for the purpose of identification by the witnesses of the prosecution, or provided he unqualifiedly admits in open court after his arraignment that he is the person named as the defendant in the case on trial. The reason for requiring the presence of the accused, despite his waiver, is, if allowed to be absent in all the stages of the proceedings without giving the People's witnesses the opportunity to identify him in court, he may in his defense say that he was never
4

identified as the person charged in the information and, therefore, is entitled to an acquittal. Furthermore, it is possible that a witness may not know the name of the culprit but can identify him if he sees him again, in which case the latter's presence in court is necessary. 5 Thus, in People vs. Presiding Judge, 6 this Court reiterated the rule in Aquino that the accused may waive his presence at the trial of the case his presence may be compelled when he is to be identified. Petitioner, however, argues that he should not be ordered arrested for non-appearance since he filed a written waiver that "he admits that he could be identified by witnesses who have testified at the time that said accused was not present" following the ruling of this Court in People vs. Presiding Judge. The aforestated statement in the waiver of appearance of petitioner that he admits he could be identified by the witnesses for the prosecution even in his absence is not such unqualified admission contemplated in Presiding Judge. What is stated in Presiding Judge as an exception is when the accused "unqualifiedly admits in open court after his arraingment the he is the person named as defendant in the case on trial," no more no less. In the present case petitioner only admits that he can be identified by the prosecution witnesses in his absence. He did not admit that he is the very person named as defendant in the case on trial. His admission is vague and far from unqualified. He cannot therefore seek the benefit of the exception recognized in Presiding Judge. It is important to state that the provision of the Constitution authorizing the trial in absentia of the accused in case of his non-appearance after arraignment despite due notice simply means that he thereby waives his right to meet the witnesses face to face among others. An express waiver of appearance after arraignment, as in this case, is of the same effect. However, such waiver of appearance and trial in absentia does not mean that the prosecution is thereby deprived of its right to require the presence of the accused for purposes of identification by its witnesses which is vital for the conviction of the accused. Such waiver of a right of the accused does not mean a release of the accused from his obligation under the bond to appear in court whenever so required. 7 The accused may waive his right but not his duty or obligation to the court. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED without pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 138456

October 23, 2003

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. ROLANDO DEDUYO Y PIRYO alias "BATMAN" AND ISAGANI MAAGO (ACQUITTED), accused. ROLANDO DEDUYO Y PIRYO alias "BATMAN," appellant. DECISION PER CURIAM:

This is an appeal from the decision,1 dated February 20, 1998, of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, Branch 71, in Criminal Case No. 94-10874 finding the appellant, Rolando Deduyo alias Batman, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. The information charged the appellant, Rolando Deduyo, and his co-accused, Isagani Maago, with the crime of kidnapping for ransom, as follows: That on or about the 30th day of January 1994, in the Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused, including one alias "Bayani" who is still at large, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnap and detain thereby restraining the liberty of one Johnny Mauricio y Patasin, a minor 16 years of age, with threats to kill him while carrying knives, for the purpose of extorting ransom in the amount of P100,000 or P50,000 from his parents. CONTRARY TO LAW.2 Upon arraignment on June 7, 1994, the appellant, Rolando Deduyo, and his co-accused, Isagani Maago, with the assistance of counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. 3 Before the trial proper which was scheduled to start on September 20, 1994, the appellant escaped from the Rizal Provincial Jail in a mass jailbreak at dawn on July 29, 1994.4 As he had already been arraigned, trial on the merits ensued (trial in absentia). On February 19, 1998, the warden of the Rizal Provincial Jail informed the court of appellants re-arrest and detention. On March 30, 1998, in the presence of the appellant and his counsel, the court promulgated its decision dated February 20, 1998: WHEREFORE, the Court finds that the guilt of the accused Isagani Maago has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt and he is hereby ACQUITTED from the charge. However, the Court finds the accused Rolando Deduyo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as principal, and he is hereby sentenced to suffer and undergo imprisonment of reclusion perpertua, and to pay the costs. Let alias warrants of his arrest be issued furnishing with copies thereof the NBI Director, Manila; the Chief, CIG, Camp Crame, Quezon City; the PNP Provincial Director, Hilltop, Taytay, Rizal; the PNP Station Commander, Sariaya, Quezon and the Station Commander, Antipolo PNP Station, Antipolo, Rizal. SO ORDERED.
5

Appellant and Johnny boarded a passenger jeep and alighted at Barangay Bagong Ilog, Pasig City. They proceeded to a house where two persons were drinking gin. The two persons were appellants coaccused, Isagani Maago, and a certain Bayani. Appellant joined the drinking session. An hour after, appellant told Johnny that he and Isagani would be the ones to get the baggage at the airport. Johnny asked permission to go home but appellant told him to stay behind and wait for the baggage. Johnny was left with Bayani who continued drinking alone. While drinking, Bayani took out his fan knife, played with it and threatened Johnny that "ang puma pasok dito ay hindi na nakakalabas ng buhay" ("whoever enters this house will never come out alive"). Johnny was afraid of what he heard but he did not run away because Bayani might do what he had just said.8 An hour after, appellant and Isagani returned. They resumed drinking with Bayani and some people in the neighborhood. Appellant introduced Johnny as his nephew. Around 10:00 p.m., they went to sleep. There was no partition or bed in the small house which measured only about 3 x 4 square meters. They slept on the floor with Johnny between appellant and Isagani, and Bayani beside the door. Johnny noticed that Bayanis knife was tucked in his waist. When Johnny woke up the next day, Isagani, Bayani and the appellant were already awake, talking to each other. Johnny again asked permission from the appellant to go home but the appellant assured him that they would go back together to Antipolo with 9 the baggage. Johnny wanted to go home but he did not have any money. While Bayani was preparing their meal, he noticed that the door was closed. When he asked permission to urinate, Bayani accompanied him outside the house. He was afraid of Bayani because of what latter had told him the night before. 10 Around noontime, appellant and Isagani again left "to get the baggage at the airport." Around 3:00 p.m., appellant returned without Isagani. He first talked to Bayani alone and thereafter called Johnny and gave him P12 as his fare to go back to Antipolo. He accompanied Johnny to where he could take a ride 11 home. Once home, Johnny was surprised to know that the appellant demanded ransom from his family. In his anger, Johnny went wild and threw all his clothes. The victim did not even know he had been kidnapped. The police fetched Johnny and brought him to the police station where they took his statement. During trial, Johnny identified and affirmed his sworn statement. 12 Johnnys mother, Salvacion Mauricio testified that around 5:00 p.m. on January 30, 1994, she was tending her clothing store at the second floor of the Antipolo public market when her co-vendor handed her a handwritten letter. The letter demanded a ransom of P100,000, or at least P50,000, otherwise she would not see her son again. The letter instructed her to be ready with the money the next day and bring it to the Antipolo Church around noontime. The letter warned her not to tell the police otherwise "itutumba namin kayong lahat" ("we will kill all of you"). The kidnap group claimed that they were members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and warned Salvacion that her house and store were being watched by them. Salvacion was too frightened to report the incident to the police. However, after 13 conferring with her family, they secretly alerted the police. The next day, as instructed in the ransom letter, Salvacion proceeded to the Antipolo Church around noontime. She brought money with her but only in the amount of P5,100 because that was all she was able to borrow. She waited inside the Church but nobody approached her. On her way out at around 1:30 p.m., a man wearing a green shirt walked besi de her and asked "lnang, dala mo bang pera?" She answered yes but asked to see her son first. But the man immediately ran away. He was chased by a 14 police officer in plain clothes. The man was later identified as Isagani Maago.

The facts of the case follow. At about 4:00 p.m. on January 30, 1994, Johnny Mauricio, a sixteen-year-old boy, was on board his tricycle waiting for passengers beside Mercury Drug Store, Sumulong St., Antipolo, Rizal. Appellant Rolando Deduyo alias Batman approached and asked Johnny to accompany him to the airport "to get a 6 baggage" which they would bring back to Johnnys house. Johnny refused because he had not asked permission from his mother. Appellant told him that he already did on his behalf. Since Johnny knew the appellant, a former lessee of their other house at General Luna St., Antipolo, Rizal for more than a year, he trustingly went with the appellant and left his tricycle with an acquaintance named Baby. 7

When asked by Salvacion who kidnapped her son, Isagani told her that it was Batman (the appellant). Thereafter, Salvacion and the police officers proceeded to Bagong Ilog, Pasig to look for Johnny. They did not find him there but they were able to catch and arrest the appellant who was about to escape on board a tricycle. Appellant told Salvacion that Johnny was already in Antipolo. Salvacion knew the appellant since he used to rent their other house in Gen. Luna St., Antipolo, Rizal from 1991 to 1992 and he was the husband of her store helper. Appellant and Johnny were close friends. At about 1:00 p.m. on January 30, 1994, Salvacion recalled that she saw the appellant at the second floor of the Antipolo Public Market. He even went to her store and asked about the whereabouts of her brother. 15 PO3 Eduardo Salabit testified that he was a member of the surveillance team which monitored the kidnapping. He positioned himself in front of the Antipolo Church at about 11:00 a.m. on January 31, 1994. He saw Salvacion Mauricio enter the church and when she came out two hours later, a man followed her closely and talked to her. As the man was acting suspiciously, he called his attention but he immediately ran away. He gave chase and, together with Police Officer Dominador Demdam, he caught the man later identified as Isagani Maago. He handcuffed and frisked the man, and retrieved a fan knife from him. He turned over the knife to their investigator, SPO2 Delfin Grutta. At the station, lsagani Maago told them that he had companions and the mastermind was the appellant. He told them they could find the appellant in Barangay Bagong Ilog, Pasig. Upon proceeding there, they caught the appellant in the act of escaping on board a tricycle. His team was able to identify the appellant as one of them knew him.16 SPO3 Dominador Demdam corroborated the testimony of PO3 Eduardo Salabit. Their surveillance team positioned themselves near the church. After a short while, he noticed PO3 Salabit running after a man. He joined the chase and together they caught the man who was later identified as Isagani Maago. They recovered a fan knife from him which they turned over to the custodian of Rizal Provincial Prosecutors Office in Pasig City. During investigation at the police station, Maago told them he had other companions who were in Barangay Bagong Ilog, Pasig. With this information, they immediately conducted a follow-up operation in Bagong Ilog where they caught the appellant while trying to escape. He frisked the appellant and recovered a fan knife which his team turned over to the custodian of the Prosecutors Office.17 SPO2 Delfin Grutta testified that he was the one who took the sworn statements of the victim, his mother Salvacion Mauricio, and Police Officers Salabit and Demdam. He identified in court the statements he took. He presented in court the ransom note and the knife turned over to him by the apprehending officers. He kept the note and the knife in a locked filing cabinet to which only himself and 18 their chief investigator had access. Appellant was at large during the trial so he was not presented to testify. The defense presented appellants co-accused, Isagani Maago, and Romulo Amargo. Romulo Amargo testified that he was a resident of Muntingbayan, Sariaya, Quezon for about ten years. He had known lsagani Maago for the same period of time as the latter was also a resident of Sariaya, Quezon. In the afternoon of January 29, 1994, he was with Isagani on their way home from work. Isaganis house was along his route in going to and from work. When they arrived at Isaganis house at around 6:00 p.m., appellant was there waiting. He heard appellant ask Isagani to accompany him to pick up a package at the airport in Manila. After a short while, Amargo went home and did not see either Isagani or the appellant anymore the following day. He remembered the day he saw the appellant with 19 Isagani Maago because it was the day he paid for the installment of his pants and t-shirt.

Isagani Maago denied participation in the kidnapping. He testified that, on January 30, 1994, he was with the appellant in the house of Bayani at Bagong Ilog, Pasig. He arrived there with the appellant at around 8:00 a.m. from his hometown in Quezon Province. Appellant left and returned in the afternoon with Johnny Mauricio whom he introduced as his nephew. The next day, appellant asked lsagani to accompany him to Antipolo to get a package. They arrived in Antipolo around lunchtime. Appellant told Isagani to wait for him in front of the Antipolo Church. When appellant failed to return, he decided to go back to Bagong Ilog, Pasig but, on his way to the jeepney terminal, he heard somebody shouting at him. When he looked, a man was running towards him holding a gun. He ran but the man caught up with him and boxed him. He told the man he did not do anything wrong but they still brought him to the PNP headquarters at Hilltop, Taytay, Rizal. Upon investigation by the police, he told them the appellant could be found in Pasig. He was made to go to Pasig with the policemen and, once there, he saw appellant 20 inside a mobile car lying face down with his mouth bleeding. After weighing the evidence presented, the trial court found the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of kidnapping for ransom but acquitted appellants co-accused, Isagani Maago: The court believes that the conspiracy of accused Deduyo and Maago as alleged in the Information was not convincingly established. The only damaging circumstance against accused Maago was that he accompanied Deduyo from Sariaya, Quezon to Pasig, Metro Manila and that he was apprehended near the Antipolo Church after asking Salvacion Mauricio if she had the money. What bothers the mind of the court was the manner Maago testified. He appeared so frank and confident in denying the charge against him. He did not stammer during his entire testimony, and the court did not observe any mannerism that would betray his innocence. He claimed that he did not do anything wrong - that he did not know anything about the whole incident. However, with regard to the prosecution evidence against accused Rolando Deduyo who was tried in absentia the court is convinced that he masterminded the crime charged - and he alone appears to be criminally liable. The court is moreover convinced of his guilt, because of his escape from Rizal Provincial jail during the pendency of this case. His flight is clearly indicative of his guilt. The ransom note (Exh. C) demanding for the sum of P100,000 for the safety of Johnny Mauricio characterizes the crime as one of kidnapping for ransom. Aggrieved, appellant Rolando Deduyo filed the instant appeal with a lone assigned error: THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM. The appeal has no merit. The crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention is defined and penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659. The elements are: (1) that the offender is a private individual; (2) that he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) that the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal and (4) in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (a) that the kidnapping or detention lasts for more than three days or (b) that it is committed simulating public authority or (c) that any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained or threats to kill him are made or (d) that the person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female or public officer. It is not necessary that any of the foregoing circumstances (letters a to d) be present if the kidnapping is committed for the purpose of extorting 21 ransom.

The primary element of the crime of kidnapping is the actual confinement or restraint of the victim, or the deprivation of his liberty. It is not necessary for the victim to be locked up or placed in an enclosure; 22 it is sufficient for him to be detained or deprived of his liberty in any manner. In the present case, the testimony and sworn statement of the victim showed that he was effectively restrained of his liberty. He candidly testified that he went with the appellant in the belief that, with his mothers permission, they were going to get a baggage from the airport and bring it back to their house in Antipolo. When they proceeded instead to Pasig, the victim thought they would just be dropping by. When the appellant told him to stay in the house in Pasig while he and his friend, Isagani Maago, instead "got the baggage," the victim immediately asked permission to go home. To make him stay, the appellant assured him twice that they would return to Antipolo together with the baggage - first, on the night of January 30, 1994 and second, in the morning of January 31, 1994. In addition to being tricked by the appellant to stay in Bayanis house in Pasig, the victim was also so afraid of Bayani that he could not leave the pl ace even if he wanted to. Bayani had a knife in his waist even while sleeping and even threatened the victim "ang pumapasok dito ay di na nakakalabas ng buhay." Bayani guarded him on the two occasions that appellant left, even accompanying the victim to urinate outside the house. Given all these circumstances, the victim was effectively restrained of his liberty - the primary element of the offense of kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Pertinent portions of his sworn statement and testimony follow. SWORN STATEMENT: "Tanong Ng ikaw ay mapilitang sumama kay Batman, siya ba ay may hawak na anumang uri ng patalim? Sagot Wala po.

S Hindi ho ako makaalis dahil binabantayan ako ni Bayani at isa pa ay wala akong perang pamasahe dahil kinuha lahat ni Batman ang aking pera pati na ang aking singsing. xxx xxx xxx T Ng ikaw ay magising hindi ka ba nagsabi sa kanila na ikaw ay uuwi na? S Nagsabi ako sa kanila na uuwi na, subalit ang sabi nila ay isasabay ako pauwi sa Antipolo kapag nakuha na nila ang bagahe sa airport. T Ang ibig mong sabihin ay umalis uli sila papuntang airport? S Oho, si Batman at si Isagani. T Bumalik ba silang dalawa? S Si Batman lang ho ang bumalik. T Ng makabalik si Batman, anong oras ito? S Mga magaalas-3:00 :00 ng hapon. T Sinabi ba niya kung bakit hindi niya kasama si Isagani?

T Bakit ka sumama sa kanya (Batman)? S Dahil sa nagpapasama siya na may kukuning baggage sa airport at di umano ay dadalhin sa bahay namin sa Carigma St., Antipolo, Rizal. xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx T Kayo ba ay nakarating sa airport? T Ng ikaw ay makauwi, ano ang nalaman mo? S Hindi ho, dahil niloko lang nila ako na pupunta sa airport pero sa Pasig lang pala ang punta namin. T Ng nalaman mong sa Pasig lang pala ang punta ninyo, ano ang ginawa mo? DIRECT TESTIMONY: S Ang ginawa ko ho ng sabihin ko sa kanilang uuwi na ako ng Antipolo ay hindi ako pinaalis at ang sabi nila Batman at Isagani ay hindi ako pwedeng makaalis at sila ang pupunta sa airport. T Nakaalis ba naman sila Batman? S Oho. T Ng makaalis sila Batman, bakit hindi ka umalis din para makauwi? "ATTY. CORNAGO: Q: What time was it when you arrived at that house in Bagong Ilog? A: At about six oclock in the evening. Q: You were referring at the same day January 30, 1994? S Nalaman ko na lang ng makauwi ako na ako pala ay ipinatutubos ng isandaang libong piso."23 S Sangayon sa kanya ay iniwan siya ni Isagani at tinawag niya si Bayani subalit hindi nila ako pinapalapit at nag-usap sila ng mga ilang sandali at narinig kong sinabi ni Bayani na pupunta siya sa Makati at si Batman naman ay tinawag ako at binigyan ako ng P12.00 pamasahe pauwi sa Antipolo at di umano ay pupunta siya ng Olongapo.

A: Yes sir. Q: How long did the drinking last? A: About an hour, sir. xxx xxx xxx Q: After that what happened then, if any? A: Batman and Isagani left. Q: Did you know where they leave for (sic)? A: According to them, they were going to get the baggage. Q: Did you go with them to get the baggage? A: They did not let me go with them. Q: Why? A: According to them they will be the ones to get the baggage.

Q: At about ten oclock in the evening what happened then? A: Bayani invited us to go to sleep. xxx xxx xxx Q: Where? A: We slept together and I was surrounded by them when we sleep (Sic). Q: What do you mean you were cornered? A: I was placed in the middle when we went to sleep. xxx xxx xxx Q: How about the three, Batman, Bayani, and Isagani where did they lie down to sleep also? A: Isagani and Batman were beside me, I was in the middle while Bayani was near the door. Q: At the time you lied (sic) down did you notice where the knife of Bayani, which you was (sic) shown earlier was (sic)? A: It was still stuck to his waist. xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx

Q: And when Rolando Deduyo and Isagani Maago left to get the baggage purpotedly (sic) who was left with you in that house? A: Bayani, sir. Q: When you were left with Bayani what did Bayani do? A: He put out a knife and told me that "Ang pumapasok dito ay hindi na nakakalabas ng buhay." xxx xxx xxx

Q: And how far was Bayani in relation to the door of the house where you slept? A: Bayani was beside the door. xxx xxx xxx Q: When did you wake up? A: About seven oclock of the following morning. Q: When you woke up where were the three, Batman, Isagani, and Bayani?

Q: Was Batman or Rolando Deduyo and Isagani able to return that same day? A: We were still beside each other. A: Yes sir. Q: What were they doing if they were doing anything? xxx xxx xxx A: They were talking with each other.

xxx xxx xxx COURT: Why? Did you not try to go home in Antipolo at that time? A: Because Bayani told me not to and I felt threatened when Bayani uttered "ang pumapasok dito ay hindi na lumalabas ng buhay." Also, I did not have the money for my fare. ATTY. CORNAGO: That morning of January 31, what did Bayani, Isagani and Batman do if they did anything? xxx xxx xxx A: Batman and Isagani leave (sic) again and Bayani was left with me. Q: When you were left alone with Bayani what happened if any? A: We stayed inside the house, sir. Q: For how long was (sic) Isagani and Batman away? A: Batman arrived at about three oclock in the afternoon. xxx xxx xxx Q: You said that you were brought to a house at Bagong Ilog in the evening of January 30, 1994, for how long did you stay in that house? A: Up to January 31, in the afternoon.

A: Yes sir. Q: He did not open the said knife in front of you? A: He opened the knife and he also played with it. Q: At that time Bayani in your opinion was drinking, is that correct? A: Yes sir. Q: And when he uttered the statement "ang pumapasok dito ay hindi nakakalabas ng buhay" He did it jokingly, is that correct? A: He was serious when he uttered those remarks. xxx xxx xxx Q: From the time you arrived in that house up to the time you left you did not urinate? A: I did. Q: Where did you urinate? A: Just outside the door. Q: While you were urinating where were Bayani, lsagani Maago and Rolando Deduyo? A: Bayani was following me. xxx xxx xxx Q: While Bayani was cooking lunch in the kitchen you remained in the sala?

Q: You stayed there up to the afternoon of January 31 why did you not leave that house earlier? A: I was afraid because of the threat of Bayani. CROSS-EXAMINATION: ATTY. MENDOZA: xxx xxx xxx Q: You said Bayani pulled out a small knife?

A: Yes sir. Q: Why did you not ran away from Bayani and shouted that you were being kidnapped? A: I could not ran (sic) because the door was closed."
24

(emphasis ours)

The appellant contends that there was no kidnapping because the victim voluntarily went with him. This 25 contention holds no water. In the case of People vs. Santos, we ruled that the fact that the victim voluntarily went with the accused did not remove the element of deprivation of liberty because the victim went with the accused on a false inducement without which the victim would not have done so. Such is the situation in the present case - the victim, a boy 16 years of age, would not have voluntarily left with the appellant if not for the false assurance that his mother had supposedly permitted him to accompany

the appellant to the airport "to get the baggage" and bring it back to the victims house. Moreover, it is important to emphasize that, in kidnapping, the victim need not be taken by the accused forcibly or against his will. What is controlling is the act of the accused in detaining the victim against his or her will after the offender is able to take the victim in his custody. In short, the carrying away of the victim in the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention can either be made forcibly or fraudulently. 26 Since the crime charged is kidnapping in its qualified form, that is, committed for the purpose of exacting ransom, the abduction must in addition be shown to have been committed for such purpose. Actual demand for, or payment of, ransom is not necessary; it is enough if the crime is committed "for the purpose of extorting ransom."27 In the present case, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence on record to prove that appellant abducted the victim for ransom, thus: 1. in the afternoon of January 30, 1994, appellant tricked Johnny into accompanying him to the airport allegedly to get a baggage; 2. instead of going to the airport, appellant brought Johnny to his friends house in Pasig where his co-accused Isagani Maago was waiting; 3. at the same time that appellant enticed Johnny to go with him, Johnnys mother received a ransom letter demanding P100,000, or at least P50,000, for Johnnys release; 4. before the mother received the ransom letter, she saw appellant at the public market; he even talked to her, looking for her brother; 5. around noon the next day, appellant and his co-accused Isagani Maago, left allegedly to go to the airport leaving Johnny behind in the house of Bayani; 6. at around the same time, Johnnys mother, as instructed in the ransom letter, went to the Antipolo church; 7. after she had waited for two hours inside the church, she went out and Isagani approached her asking if she brought the money; 8. Isagani ran away when a police officer shouted at him; 9. when apprehended, Isagani pleaded innocence and pointed at the appellant as the mastermind, revealing where he could be found, and 10. the police went to Bagong Ilog, Pasig where they caught the appellant as he was about to escape on board a tricycle. While appellant was not the one who approached Johnnys mother at the Antipolo Church to get the ransom, there was enough circumstantial evidence that it was the appellant who planned the entire kidnapping for the purpose of extorting ransom from the victims parents. The defense evidence itself showed that the appellant went to Sariaya, Quezon Province, the day before the kidnapping to persuade his co-accused, Isagani Maago, to help him carry out the kidnapping. This the appellant did not controvert nor deny in his appeal before us. And, as aptly observed by the trial court, appellant was

in a position to know the financial capacity of the victims family since he was the husband of their store helper and he stayed in their other house for more than a year. All these circumstances, coupled with the victims positive testimony that it was the appellant who kidnapped him, lead us to no other reasonable conclusion than that it was the appellant who planned and executed the kidnapping for ransom. It is well settled that direct evidence of the commission of the crime is not the only matrix from which the court may draw its conclusion and make a finding of guilt. Conviction can just as well be had on the basis of circumstantial evidence if the established circumstances constitute an unbroken chain leading to the fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused is the author of the crime, to the exclusion of all others.28 Such is the situation here. Moreover, the flight of the appellant only served to strengthen the finding of guilt. He escaped from jail and was able to evade arrest for nearly three years (July 29, 1994 to March 26, 1997). His flight clearly evinced a consciousness of guilt and a silent admission of culpability. Indeed, "the wicked flee, when no man pursueth, but the innocent are as bold as a lion."29 Because the appellant escaped, trial in absentia proceeded against him. Sec. 14 (2) of the Constitution allows trial in absentia provided the accused has been arraigned and his failure to appear after due notice is unjustifiable. In the present case, trial in absentia was properly conducted by the trial court inasmuch as the appellant had already been arraigned when he escaped. By escaping, the appellant waived his right to be present on all subsequent trial dates until his custody was regained.30 The crime was committed after the death penalty was reimposed by RA 7659 on December 31, 1993. Since kidnapping for ransom carries the penalty of death under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659, no other penalty can be imposed on the appellant. Thus, we modify the penalty imposed by the trial court from reclusion perpetua to death. Lastly, the trial court correctly did not award any damages. Article 2219, paragraph 5, of the Civil Code provides that moral damages may be granted in cases of illegal or arbitrary detention. Nothing in the records, however, shows that the victim or his family suffered sleepless nights, serious anxiety or other similar injury. Inasmuch as moral damages are granted not to enrich but rather to compensate the victim for the injury suffered, proof of moral suffering must be introduced, failing in which such an award is not proper.31 Three members of the Court maintain their position that RA 7659, insofar as it prescribes the death penalty, is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the Court, by a majority vote, that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty should be accordingly imposed. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, Branch 71, in Criminal Case No. 94-1 0874 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in the penalty imposed. The appellant, Rolando Deduyo alias Batman, is hereby sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of death. In accordance with Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 25 of RA 7659, upon finality of this decision, let the records of these case be forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of executive clemency. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 148821

July 18, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. JERRY FERRER, appellant. DAVIDE, JR., C.J.: Before us for automatic review1 is the decision2 of 28 November 2000 of the Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Sur, Branch 9, Marawi City, in Criminal Case No. 2969-98, finding appellant Jerry Ferrer guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape committed against Mary Grace Belonio and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of death and to pay the sum of P100,000 as moral damages and P30,000 as attorneys fees, as well as the costs. Appellant was tried under an information3 for rape which was filed on 17 February 1998. Its accusatory portion reads: That on or sometime in October 1995 and continuously thereafter in the Municipality of Wao, Province of Lanao del Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused with lewd design, did then and there willfully and feloniously and by means of force, violence and intimidation and taking advantage of his ascendancy as stepfather of an eleven (11) years [sic] old and studying Grade V [sic] at the Katutungan Elementary School by the name of Mary Grace Pataksil Belonio by pointing [to] her a scythe (garab) and ordering her to remove her clothes and then to lay down, remove her panty and successfully have [ sic] sexual intercourse with her against her will and consent and continuously repeated the same thereafter when she is alone at home and while her mother is out. CONTRARY to and in violation of Article 335, par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code. When arraigned on 16 June 1998, appellant pleaded not guilty.4 Subsequently, appellant, through counsel Atty. Moh'd Hassan Macabanding of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), filed an undated Urgent Motion for Medical Treatment. He alleged that he was suffering from an unknown internal sickness which had already claimed the life of another detention prisoner. Afraid that he would suffer the same fate, appellant prayed for his immediate medical treatment at the Provincial or City Hospital.5 On 22 June 1998, the trial court granted appellant's Urgent Motion for Medical Treatment and ordered his temporary release to the custody of Ustadj Sinoding Langcoa, a trusted member of the society, who has the responsibility of bringing the former to any government physician or to the clinic of Dr. Saprola Dipatuan. The court also ordered appellant to submit to the court the findings and record of his treatment by Dr. Dipatuan. It likewise set the pre-trial and the trial of the case on 21 and 22 July 6 1998, respectively. On the scheduled 21 July 1998 pre-trial hearing, appellant and his PAO counsel, Atty. Moh'd Hassan Macabanding, failed to appear in court. Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Abubakar Barambangan

vigorously opposed the motion for postponement7 which was filed by Atty. Macabanding the previous day, 20 July 1998. In denying the motion for postponement, the trial court took into consideration of the fact that Prosecutor Barambangan was not notified of the motion, the failure of appellant and Atty. Macabanding to appear at the pre-trial despite due notice and appellant's blatant disregard of its order dated 22 June 1998, requiring him to submit the medical findings of Dr. Dipatuan. The trial court then ordered the immediate issuance of a warrant to arrest appellant and allowed the prosecution to present evidence in absentia.8 Trial in absentia followed. The prosecution presented as witnesses Glorita Tugade, Mary Grace Belonio, Felipa Pataksil Belonio and Dr. Benjamin B. Bajarla. Their testimonies tended to establish the facts we now narrate. Mary Grace was born on 6 July 1984 to spouses Felix Belonio and Felipa Pataksil Belonio at Banisilan, North Cotabato.9 The Belonio spouses were lawfully married sometime in 197810 and out of such union, four (4) children were born, one of whom is Mary Grace. The couple, however, separated. When Mary Grace was barely one (1) year and six (6) months old, Felipa Belonio started to live-in with appellant at Mother Catutungan, Wao, Lanao del Sur. 11 She brought her children with her. From then on, life for Felipa Belonio started at 3:00 a.m. to peddle her sari-sari items and ended at 7:00 p.m. when she returned home. In contrast, appellant was a freelance blacksmith who usually stayed home.12 Sometime in October 1995, a Monday, when Mary Grace was already 11 years old, she was to experience the first of a series of sexual abuses from appellant. Around 2:00 p.m., appellant called Mary Grace to go upstairs at their house. With appellant's previous lascivious acts etched in her mind, Mary Grace hesitated but she had no choice except to obey because appellant had placed a scythe on her neck. Against Mary Grace's pleas of "don't kill me daddy," appellant ordered her to undress. Mary Grace did not remove her clothes. Furious by her disobedience, appellant pulled down her shorts and panty. She resisted and covered her private parts with her hands. Her efforts, however, proved futile. Still threatening her with the scythe, appellant pushed her to lie down, pulled out his penis, placed himself on top of her and then inserted his penis into her vagina. Thereafter, he released her. She felt pain in her vagina when she was dressing up.13 Friday night of the same week, while Felipa Belonio was visiting her sister Glorita Tugade, appellant again had carnal knowledge of Mary Grace. She felt excruciating pain in her vagina. Thus, from October 1995 to 11 December 1997, appellant sexually abused Mary Grace, repeatedly and continuously. He imposed his lechery on her three to four times a week whenever her mother was out of 14 the house. Mary Grace initially kept to herself the sexual abuses as she was afraid that appellant might make good his threat to kill her mother.15 But Mary Grace finally found the courage to reveal to her Aunt Glorita Tugade what appellant had done to her. It was on 14 December 1997 when Glorita Tugade and her brother-in-law Pablito Malagamba confronted Felipa Belonio about Mary Grace's revelation. Thereafter, they reported the incident to the Wao Police Headquarters as a result of which appellant was immediately arrested.16 On 17 December 1997, Dr. Benjamin Bajarla, Medical Officer IV of the Wao District Hospital, Lanao del Sur, physically examined Mary Grace He found in Mary Grace's hymen old and healed lacerations at 3,

6 and 9 o'clock positions17 which he opined could have been caused by sexual intercourse. He said that 18 Mary Grace told him that the last sexual abuse took place on 11 December 1997. On 23 August 1999, the prosecution made its formal offer of evidence. 19 Thereafter, the trial court set the dates for the presentation by the defense of its evidence. Notices were sent for the following scheduled hearing dates: 23 September 1999,20 21 October 1999,21 29 November 1999,22 31 January 2000,23 7 April 2000,24 24 April 2000,25 23 May 2000,26 26 June 2000,27 and 24 July 2000.28 However, neither appellant nor his counsel appeared on said dates. Thus, at the hearing of 24 July 2000, the trial court granted the prosecution's motion to submit the case for decision, since the prosecution had long rested its case and the defense had no witnesses to present. The trial court also considered appellant as having jumped bail since he did not show up in court.29 Thus, the trial court rendered on 28 November 2000, a decision which consisted of a five-page summary of the testimonial and documentary evidence and which abruptly concluded, that based on said evidence, the prosecution proved the guilt of appellant beyond reasonable doubt requiring the imposition of the death penalty. In his Appellant's Brief,30 appellant assails the decision of the trial court as res ipsa loquitor violative of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution. He argues that the decision failed to distinctly point out the applicable law on which it is based and that there is nothing in the decision that would show how the trial court arrived at its conclusion convicting him of the crime charged. Appellant also asserts that granting without admitting that he committed the alleged rape, the trial court erred in imposing the death penalty. He claims that while the prosecution may have proved that Mary Grace was 11 years old at the time of the rape, it failed to prove that he was her stepfather as alleged in the information. In the Appellee's Brief,31 the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) contends that the evidence on record support appellant's conviction for statutory rape. It maintains that the prosecution successfully proved that in October 1995, appellant had carnal knowledge of Mary Grace who was then 11 years old. The OSG submits, however, that the trial court erred in imposing the death penalty. While the information alleged that appellant was Mary Grace's stepfather, the evidence adduced however showed that he was merely the common-law spouse of Mary Grace's mother. Under these circumstances, the penalty of reclusion perpetua and not the death penalty should be imposed upon him. Similarly, the OSG asserts that the trial court failed to award civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000 and exemplary damages in the amount of P20,000. The OSG insists that exemplary damages should be awarded considering that the generic aggravating circumstance of abuse of confidence is present as seen in the relation of trust and confidence between Mary Grace and appellant. While abuse of confidence could not have been properly appreciated in the determination of the appropriate penalty, it was nonetheless proven at the trial. As such, it should be the basis of the award for exemplary damages. As to the award of P100,000 as moral damages, the OSG proposes its reduction to P50,000. Upon careful examination of the records of the case, we find that the decision of the trial court failed to comply with the rudimentary requirements of due process and the constitutional provisions that vouchsafe the same. Let us first quote in full the trial court's decision.

Accused Jerry Ferrer is charged of the commission of the crime of Rape committed as follows: xxx [Information is quoted] xxx

On arraignment, the accused assisted by his counsel pleaded not guilty. In the trial after the termination of the pre-trial, the prosecution presented both testimonial and documentary evidences consisting of the testimonies of Mrs. Glorieta Tugade, Mary Grace Belonio, Felipa Belonio and Dr. Benjamin Bajarla as well as Exhibits "A" (Certificate of Live Birth of the victim; "B" (Baptismal Certificate); "C" (Medical Certificate showing laceration of hymen; "D" (Microbiological result of such examination; and "E" (Sketch of the Female External Genetalia). Trial was conducted in absentia in view of the escape from confinement of the accused. From the evidence, it appears that Mary Grace Belonio was born on July 6, 1984, at Banisilan, North Cotabato. Her father is Felix Belonio while her mother is Felipa Pataksil Belonio. Said spouses were lawfully married to each other in 1978 and out of such union, four (4) children were born one of whom is Mary Grace (the victim in this case). The couple were however separated and when Mary Grace was barely one (1) year and six (6) months old, Felipa started living as a common law wife of the accused Jerry Ferrer together with Mary Grace and her other children in one house at Mother Catutungan, Wao, Lanao del Sur. Felipa was a "sarisari" item vendor and normally left home as early as 3:00 o'clock in the morning for said business and return home at 7:00 o'clock in the evening. Jerry Ferrer (common law husband) is a blacksmith and stay home with the child victim Mary Grace. In October of 1995 while the mother (Felipa) was away attending to her business, the accused Jerry started his criminal design to have carnal knowledge by committing rape on Mary Grace. It was Monday afternoon at 2:00 o'clock in October 1995 that Jerry called his step-daughter Mary Grace [to] go upstairs of their house at Catutungan, Wao, Lanao del Sur. With the use of his scythe in intimidating the girl, Jerry started touching the girl who was resisting but was no match to the strength of her step-father who was at the same time placing his scythe at the neck of the girl to prevent resistance. The accused undressed the girl by pulling the latter's short pant[s] down and her panty. The accused pushed the girl to lie down. The accused, then pulled down his short pant[s] and took out his penis into the girl's vagina. The girl felt the pain that day. On Friday of that same week in the evening while his common law wife Felipa (mother of the victim) was away, the accused succeeded in consummating the crime of rape upon Mary Grace. The accused repeatedly did the sexual assault upon Mary Grace until in 1977, the victim got the courage to reveal the said rape to her mother that resulted in the filing of this case. The Medical Certificate issued by Dr. Benjamin Bajarla following [the] medical and physical examination on the victim on December 17, 1997 showed laceration of the girl's hymen at 3:00 o'clock; 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. It further appears from the evidence that Mary Grace was born on July 6, 1984 and [that] the crime of rape was committed upon her by the accused in 1995 and [the] subsequent year. The victim was therefore 11 years old at the time of the commission of rape upon her.

This Court was constrained to decide this case after trial in absentia for reason of the accused escaping from imprisonment after arraignment. From all the foregoing evidences, the prosecution proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered: 1. Convicting the accused JERRY FERRER of the crime of Rape committed upon the person of his stepdaughter Mary Grace Belonio who was only 11 years old at the time of the commission of said crime. 2. Sentencing the said accused JERRY FERRER of the supreme penalty of death under Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code. 3. Ordering the accused JERRY FERRER to pay to the victim the sum of One hundred thousand (P100,000) Pesos in moral damages; and the further sum of Thirty thousand (P30,000) Pesos as Attorney's fee and the costs. 32 Violating the Constitutional requirements, the five-page decision failed to express therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. After a summation of the evidence presented, which consisted only of the prosecution's considering that the defense failed to adduce evidence in its behalf, the trial court immediately declared, in a most sweeping manner, the guilt of appellant. In Yao v. Court of Appeals,33 we had occasion to caution magistrates to be more circumspect and diligent in heeding the demand of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution which states: Section 14. No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. and its statutory expression in Section 1, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, viz.: Section 1. Judgment; definition and form. Judgment is the adjudication by the court that the accused is guilty or not guilty of the offense charged and the imposition on him of the proper penalty and civil liability, if any. It must be written in the official language, personally and directly prepared by the judge and signed by him and shall contain clearly and distinctly a statement of the facts and the law upon which it is based. We reiterate our ruling in Yao v. Court of Appeals,34 thus: We have sustained decisions of lower courts as having substantially or sufficiently complied with the constitutional injunction notwithstanding the laconic and terse manner in which they were written and even if "there (was left) much to be desired in terms of (their) clarity, coherence and comprehensibility" provided that they eventually set out the facts and the law on which they were based, as when they stated the legal qualifications of the offense constituted by the facts proved, the modifying circumstances, the participation of the accused, the penalty imposed and the civil liability; or discussed the facts comprising the elements of the offense that was charged in the information, and accordingly rendered a verdict and imposed the corresponding penalty; or quoted the facts narrated in the prosecution's memorandum but

made their own findings and assessment of evidence, before finally agreeing with the prosecution's evaluation of the case. We therefore reiterate our admonition in Nicos Industrial Corporation v. Court of Appeals, in that while we conceded that brevity in the writing of decisions is an admirable trait, it should not and cannot be substituted for substance; and again in Francisco v. Permskul, where we cautioned that expediency alone, no matter how compelling, cannot excuse non-compliance with the constitutional requirements. xxx This is not to discourage the lower courts to write abbreviated and concise decisions, but never at the expense of scholarly analysis, and more significantly, of justice and fair play, lest the fears expressed by Justice Feria as the ponente in Romero v. Court of Appeals come true, i.e., if an appellate court failed to provide the appeal the attention it rightfully deserved, said court deprived the appellant of due process since he was not accorded a fair opportunity to be heard by a fair and responsible magistrate. This situation becomes more ominous in criminal cases, as in this case, where not only property rights are at stake but also the liberty if not the life of a human being. Faithful adherence to the requirements of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution is indisputably a paramount component of due process and fair play. It is likewise demanded by the due process clause of the Constitution. The parties to a litigation should be informed of how it was decided, with an explanation of the factual and legal reasons that led to the conclusions of the court. The court cannot simply say that judgment is rendered in favor of X and against Y and just leave it at that without any justification whatsoever for its action. The losing party is entitled to know why he lost, so he may appeal to the higher court, if permitted, should he believe that the decision should be reversed. A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is precisely prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to pinpoint the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal. More than that, the requirement is an assurance to the parties that, in reaching judgment, the judge did so through the processes of legal reasoning. It is, thus, a safeguard against the impetuosity of the judge, preventing him from deciding ipse dixit. Vouchsafed neither the sword nor the purse by the Constitution but nonetheless vested with the sovereign prerogative of passing judgment on the life, liberty or property of his fellowmen, the judge must ultimately depend on the power of reason for sustained public confidence in the justness of his decision. Thus the Court has struck down as void, decisions of lower courts and even of the Court of Appeals whose careless disregard of the constitutional behest exposed their sometimes cavalier attitude not only to their magisterial responsibilities but likewise to their avowed fealty to the Constitution. Thus, we nullified or deemed to have failed to comply with Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution, a decision, resolution or order which: contained no analysis of the evidence of the parties nor reference to any legal basis in reaching its conclusions; contained nothing more than a summary of the testimonies of the witnesses of both parties; convicted the accused of libel but failed to cite any legal authority or principle to support conclusions that the letter in question was libelous; consisted merely of one (1) paragraph with mostly sweeping generalizations and failed to support its conclusion of parricide; consisted of five (5) pages,

three (3) pages of which were quotations from the labor arbiter's decision including the dispositive portion and barely a page (two [2] short paragraphs of two [2] sentences each) of its own discussion or reasoning; was merely based on the findings of another court sans transcript of stenographic notes; or failed to explain the factual and legal bases for the award of moral damages. Tested against these standards, we withhold approbation on the trial court's decision at bar for its palpable failure to comply with the constitutional and legal mandates. Except for the narration of the prosecution's evidence, there is nothing to indicate the reason for the decision. There is no evaluation of the evidence and no reason given why it concluded that said evidence proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The trial court's decision is brief, starkly hallow, vacuous in its content and trite in its form. It achieved nothing and attempted at nothing. Its inadequacy speaks for itself. Inevitably, we agree with the appellant that the trial court decision res ipsa loquitor violates both Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution and Section 1, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court. While this transgression by itself justifies the remand of the case to the trial court, there is another and equally important reason why we are bent on taking that course of action. Appellant was deprived of his constitutional right to counsel as enshrined in Section 14, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution, viz.: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable. This constitutional requirement is also reflected in the Revised Rules of Criminal 35 Procedure particularly in Section 1(c), Rule 115 thereof, which provides that it is a right of the accused at the trial to be present and defend in person and by counsel at every stage of the proceedings, from the arraignment to the promulgation of the judgment. We find and must hold, most regrettably, that appellant Jerry Ferrer was not properly and effectively accorded the right to counsel. The records reveal that appellant's counsel of record was PAO's Atty. Moh'd Hassan Macabanding. The earliest pleading he filed and signed as counsel was a Motion for Reinvestigation for which he requested the Regional Trial Court of Marawi City to set the hearing thereof on 12 March 1998 at 9:00 p.m.36 The hearing did take place on 13 April 1998 with notices to the provincial prosecutor and Atty. Macabanding. A notation was made on the back of the notice by the process server that Atty. Macabanding was served on 13 April 1998 and that return was made on the 37 same day. He did not appear at the scheduled hearing; hence, the trial court denied the motion in its order of 13 April 1998. The trial court thereafter sent Atty. Macabanding a notice for the arraignment of appellant.38 Again, Atty. Macabanding did not appear, but appellant was assisted by another PAO 39 lawyer, Atty. Wenida Papandayan. Atty. Macabanding then filed an "Urgent Motion for the Medical Treatment of the Accused."40 As already narrated, the motion was granted by the trial court in its order of 22 June 1998 which also set the pretrial on 21 July 1998. But, Atty. Macabanding filed a motion to postpone the pre-trial because allegedly 41 he was subpoenaed to appear on the same date before the COMELEC. This was the last act and

appearance of Atty. Macabanding. He did not appear at the hearing he requested for the motion for reinvestigation, on the arraignment, on the pre-trial and all the subsequent hearings of the case against appellant. He did not inform the court of his whereabouts. For all intents, purposes and appearances, Atty. Macabanding abandoned his client, an accused who stands to face the death penalty. True, Atty. Macabanding was substituted by Atty. Avecina Alonto at the hearings when the prosecution presented its witnesses. But Atty. Alonto professed that she was merely representing Atty. Macabanding. She even claimed that she has to consult Atty. Macabanding when she reserved her right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses Mary Grace Belonio, Felipa Belonio and Glorita Tugade.42 But neither Atty. Alonto nor Atty. Macabanding cross-examined these witnesses upon whose testimonies hinged the determination of whether the incidents of rape were indeed committed. While Atty. Alonto cross-examined the physician who conducted the medical examination on Mary Grace, said testimony was at best corroborative. Further, a reading of the transcript of stenographic notes revealed her overall lackadaisical performance as defense counsel. Indeed, the right to confrontation, of cross-examination and presentation of evidence may be waived expressly or impliedly by conduct amounting to a renunciation of such right; 43 the circumstances of the case at bar, however, highlight a transgression of the more fundamental right to counsel. The presence and participation of counsel in the defense of an accused in criminal proceedings should never be taken lightly. Chief Justice Moran in People vs. Holgado,44 explained: In criminal cases there can be no fair hearing unless the accused be given an opportunity to be heard by counsel. The right to be heard would be of little avail if it does not include the right to be heard by counsel. Even the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of the law, particularly in the rules of procedure, and, without counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know how to establish his innocence. And this can happen more easily to persons who are ignorant or uneducated. It is for this reason that the right to be assisted by counsel is deemed so important that it has become a constitutional right and it so implemented that under our rules of procedure it is not enough for the Court to apprise an accused of his right to have an attorney, it is not enough to ask him whether he desires the aid of an attorney, but it is essential that the court should assign one de officio for him if he so desires and he is poor or grant him a reasonable time to procure an attorney of his own. In the oft-cited William v. Kaiser,45 the United States Supreme Court, through Justice Douglas, has rightly observed that the accused needs the aid of counsel lest he be the victim of overzealous prosecutors, of the law's complexity or of his own ignorance or bewilderment. An accused must be given the right to be represented by counsel for, unless so represented, there is great danger that any defense presented in his behalf would be inadequate considering the legal perquisites and skills needed in the court proceedings. The right to counsel proceeds from the fundamental principle of due process which basically means that a person must be heard before being condemned. The due process requirement is a part of a person's basic rights; it is not a mere formality that may be dispensed with or 46 performed perfunctorily. In the end, even Atty. Alonto followed Atty. Macabanding in his uncaring, insensitive and cavalier attitude towards an accused who had placed his life in their hands and whose protection and defense they have sworn to do. The notices sent to both Atty. Alonto and Atty. Macabanding on the succeeding hearings during which it should have been their turn as defense counsels to present evidence were received by the PAO as shown by the notations made by the process server on the back of the return of

service. But, the records glaringly show that they neither move for postponement of these hearings nor explained to the court their inability to present evidence. It may be stressed that the right to counsel must be more than just the presence of a lawyer in the courtroom or the mere propounding of standard questions and objections. The right to counsel means that the accused is amply accorded legal assistance extended by a counsel who commits himself to the cause for the defense and acts accordingly. The right assumes an active involvement by the lawyer in the proceedings, particularly at the trial of the case, his bearing constantly in mind of the basic rights of the accused, his being well-versed on the case, and his knowing the fundamental procedures, essential laws and existing jurisprudence. The right of an accused to counsel finds substance in the performance by the lawyer of his sworn duty of fidelity to his client. Tersely put, it means an efficient and truly 47 decisive legal assistance and not a simple perfunctory representation. No lawyer is to be excused from this responsibility except only for the most compelling and cogent reasons. While Atty. Alonto and Atty. Macabanding faced the daunting task of defending an accused who had jumped bail, this unfortunate development is not a justification to excuse themselves from giving their hearts and souls to the latter's defense. The exercise of their duties as counsel de oficio meant rendering full meaning and reality to the constitutional precepts protecting the rights of the accused. A counsel de oficio is expected to do his utmost. A mere pro forma appointment of a counsel de oficio who fails to genuinely protect the interests of the accused merits disapprobation. The exacting demands expected of a lawyer should be no less than stringent when one is a counsel de oficio. He must take the case not as a burden but as an opportunity to assist in the proper dispensation of justice.48 In People v. Sevilleno,49 we have made known our displeasure over the manner by which three PAO lawyers discharged their duties. All three displayed manifest disinterest on the plight of their client. We stressed that Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires every lawyer to serve his client with utmost dedication, competence and diligence. He must not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in this regard renders him administratively liable. In said case, the defense lawyers did not protect, much less uphold, the fundamental rights of the accused. Instead, they haphazardly performed their function as counsel de oficio to the detriment and prejudice of the accused, however guilty he might have been found to be after trial. Inevitably, we advised them to adhere closely and faithfully to the tenets espoused in the Code of Professional Responsibility; otherwise, commission of any similar act in the future will be severely sanctioned. We are making a similar advice to Atty. Alonto and Atty. Macabanding. Their deportment evinces an apparent disregard of their fidelity to their oaths as lawyers and responsibility as officers of the court to 50 aid in the administration and dispensation of justice. After all, the constitutional right of the accused to be heard in his defense is inviolable. If no court of justice under our system of government has the 51 power to deprive him of that right, then neither can lawyers appointed to defend him. As we have stressed in a number of decisions, we are not espousing a "soft, bended, approach" to heinous crimes. Our unyielding stance is dictated by the policy that the State should not be given the license to kill without the final determination of this Highest Tribunal whose collective wisdom is the last, effective hedge against an erroneous judgment of a one-judge trial court. This enlightened policy ought to continue as our beacon light for the taking of life ends all rights, a matter of societal value that transcends the personal interest of a convict. The importance of this societal value should not be blurred by the escape of a convict which is a problem of law enforcement. Neither should we be moved alone by the outrage of the public in the multiplication of heinous crimes for our decisions should not be directed by the changing winds of the social weather. Let us not for a moment forget that an accused

does not cease to have rights just because of his conviction. This principle is implicit in our Constitution which recognizes that an accused, even if he belongs to a minority of one has the right to be right, while 52 the majority, even if overwhelming, has no right to be wrong. The requirement that we pass upon on automatic review a case in which capital punishment has been imposed by the sentence of the trial court is one having for its object simply and solely the protection of the accused. Having received the supreme penalty which the law imposes, he is entitled under that law to have the sentence and all the facts and circumstances upon which it is founded placed before the Highest Tribunal of the land to the end that its justice and legality may be clearly and conclusively determined. Such procedure is merciful. It gives a second chance for life. Neither the courts nor the accused can waive it. It is a positive provision of the law that brooks no interference and tolerates no 53 evasion. Ultimately, we see no other choice but to order the remand of the case to the court a quo for continuation of the trial. WHEREFORE, the decision dated 28 November 2000 of the Regional Trial Court of Lanao del Sur, Branch 9, Marawi City, in Criminal Case No. 2969-98, finding accused-appellant JERRY FERRER guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape is hereby SET ASIDE. The records are hereby REMANDED to said court for further proceedings and for the proper rendition of judgment in accordance with Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution and Section 1, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court. Judge Abdulhakim Amer R. Ibrahim is hereby ADMONISHED to observe faithfully the provisions of Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution and Rule 120, Section 1 of the Rules of Court (Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure as amended). Atty. Moh'd Hassan Macabanding and Atty. Avecina Alonto of the Public Attorney's Office of Marawi City are hereby ADMONISHED for having fallen short of their responsibility as officers of the court and as members of the Bar and WARNED that any similar infraction shall be dealt with most severely. Costs de oficio. SO ORDERED.