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THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 131540. December 2, 1999]


BETTY KING, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

Under Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (BP 22), the prosecution must prove not only that the
accused issued a check that was subsequently dishonored. It must also establish that the accused
was actually notified that the check was dishonored, and that he or she failed, within five
banking days from receipt of the notice, to pay the holder of the check the amount due thereon or
to make arrangement for its payment. Absent proof that the accused received such notice, a
prosecution for violation of the Bouncing Checks Law cannot prosper.
The Case

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
assailing the January 30, 1997 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals[2] (CA) in CA-GR CR No.
18226 and its November 5, 1997 Resolution [3] denying reconsideration. The CA affirmed the
June 14, 1994 Decision[4] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati, Metro Manila [5] in
Criminal Case Nos. 93-3335 to 93-3345 which convicted petitioner of 11 counts of violation of
BP 22, otherwise known as the Bouncing Checks Law.
On April 28, 1993, Second Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jaime A. Adoc filed against
petitioner eleven separate Informations,[6] which are identically worded, except for the check
number, the amount and the date, as follows:

That in or about the month of January, 1992 in the Municipality of Las Pias, Metro
Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously make or
draw and issue to EILEEN FERNANDEZ herein represented by ________ to apply
on account or for value the check described below:
EQUITABLE BANK
Check No. 021711
In the amount of P50,000.00

Postdated July 24, 1992


said accused well knowing that at the time of issue she/he did not have sufficient funds in or
credit with the drawee bank for the payment in full of the face amount of such check upon their
presentment, which check when presented for payment within ninety (90) days from the date
thereof were subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for the reason Account Closed and
despite receipt of notice of such dishonor the accused failed to pay the face amount thereof or
make arrangement for the full payment thereof within five (5) working days after receiving
notice.[7]
When arraigned, petitioner, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty. After the prosecution
presented its evidence and rested its case, petitioner filed a Demurrer to Evidence without leave
of court, on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove her guilt beyond reasonable
doubt. The trial court denied the Demurrer in its assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of
which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the demurrer to evidence without prior leave of


court is DENIED for lack of merit.
Since accused has waived her right to present evidence, judgment is hereby rendered
finding accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Batas Pambansa
Bilang 22 in the eleven (11) above-entitled cases and is ordered to:
1. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P50,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P50,000.00 as
actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3335;
2. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P50,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P50,000.00 as
actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3336;
3. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P50,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P50,000.00 as
actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3337;
4. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P64,200.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P64,200.00 as
actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3338;

5. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P66,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P66,000.00 as
actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3339;
6. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P100,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P100,000.00
as actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3340;
7. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P150,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P150,000.00
as actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3341;
8. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P150,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P150,000.00
as actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3342;
9. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P130,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P130,000.00
as actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3343;
10. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount
of P130,000.00, and to pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P130,000.00
as actual damages in Criminal Case No. 93-3344; and,
11. Suffer imprisonment for thirty (30) days, to pay a fine in the amount of P130,000.00, and to
pay complainant Eileen Fernandez the amount of P130,000.00 as actual damages in Criminal
Case No. 93-3345.[8]
As already stated, the Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC in this wise:[9]

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is hereby affirmed [I]N TOTO. Costs against
appellant.
Hence, this Petition.[10]
The Facts

Evidence for the Prosecution

The Office of the Solicitor General[11] summarized the facts, as viewed by the prosecution, in
this wise:

On several occasions in January, 1992, at Las Pias, Metro Manila, petitioner


discounted with complainant Ellen Fernandez several Equitable Bank checks
postdated from July 23 to 29, 1992 in the total amount of P1,070,000.00 in exchange
for cash in the amount of P1,000,000.00. When the checks were deposited for
payment, they were dishonored by the drawee bank because they were drawn against
an account without sufficient funds. Petitioner failed to make good the checks despite
demand. (Memorandum dated April 7, 1993 of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor to the
Rizal Provincial Prosecutor)
During the hearing on the merits of this case on September 17, 1998, the prosecution offered in
evidence its documentary evidence. Petitioner admitted the genuineness and due execution of
the documents presented.[12]
Evidence for the Defense

As noted earlier, petitioner filed a Demurrer to Evidence without leave of court. In doing so,
she waived her right to present evidence and submitted the case for judgment on the basis of the
documentary exhibits adduced by the prosecution.[13]
Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In affirming the trial court, the Court of Appeals explained that the prosecution proved all
the elements of the crime. The CA also pointed out that the failure of petitioner to sign the
pretrial order was not fatal to the prosecution, because her conviction was based on the evidence
presented during the trial.
The Issues

Petitioner submits the following issues for the Court's consideration:

I
Whether or not the trial court and the Court of Appeals gravely erred in admitting in
evidence all the documentary evidence of the prosecution though their due execution
and genuineness were not duly established in evidence pursuant to the provisions of
the Rules of Court and prevailing jurisprudence;
II
Whether or not the trial court and the Court of Appeals gravely erred in declaring that
Rule 118, Section 4 of the Rules of Court, as applied in the case of Fule vs. Court of
Appeals, 162 SCRA 446, which states that no agreement or admission made or

entered during the pre-trial conference shall be used in evidence against the accused
unless reduced to writing and signed by him and his counsel, is inapplicable in the
case at bar;
III
Whether or not the trial court and the Court of Appeals gravely erred in ruling that the
burden of evidence has already been shifted from the prosecution to the defense
despite the definite factual issues in the pre-trial order; and
IV
Whether or not the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the prosecution has
proven the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt albeit the prosecution did not produce
any evidence.[14]
In the main, the resolution of the Petition hinges on (1) the admissibility and (2) the
sufficiency of the prosecution evidence.
This Courts Ruling

The Petition has merit insofar as it contends that the elements of the crime charged have not
all been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
First Issue:

Admissibility of Documentary Evidence

Because the first, the second and the third issues raised by petitioner all refer to the same
matter, they will be discussed together. She contends that the pieces of documentary evidence
presented by the prosecution during pretrial are inadmissible, because she did not sign the
pretrial agreement as required under Section 4 of Rule 118 of the Rules of Court. [15] Hence, she
argues that there is no basis for her conviction.
True, a pretrial agreement not signed by a party is inadmissible. However, the conviction of
petitioner was based not on that agreement but on the documents submitted during the trial, all of
which were admitted without any objection from her counsel. During the hearing on September
17, 1993, the prosecution offered as evidence the dishonored checks, the return check tickets
addressed to private complainant, the notice from complainant addressed to petitioner that the
checks had been dishonored, and the postmasters letter that the notice had been returned to
sender. Petitioner's counsel did not object to their admissibility. This is shown by the transcript
of stenographic notes taken during the hearing on September 17, 1993:

COURT:
You have no objection to the admissibility, not that the Court will believe it.
ATTY. MANGERA
No, Your Honor.
COURT:
Exhibits A to A to K are admitted.
ATTY. MAKALINTAL:
We offer Exhibit L, the return-check ticket dated July 27, 1992, relative to checks No. 021745
and 021746 indicating that these checks were returned DAIF, drawn against insufficient funds;
Exh. M, returned check ticket dated July 28, 1992, relative to Check No. 021727, 021711 and
021720 likewise indicating the said checks to have been drawn against insufficient funds, Your
Honor. Exhibit N, returned check ticket dated July 29, 1992, relative to Check Nos. 021749 and
021748, having the same indications;
Exhibits O, returned check ticket dated July 29, 1992 relative to Check Nos. 021750 and 021753,
with the same indications;
Exhibits P, returned check ticket dated August 4, 1992 relative to Check No. 021752, having the
same indication as being drawn against insufficient funds;
Exhibit Q, the demand letter sent to the accused by Atty. Horacio Makalintal dated August 3,
1992;
Exhibit R, the letter-request for certification addressed to the Postmaster General sent by the same
law office dated 17 September 1992, showing that the said letter was dispatched properly by the
Central Post Office of Makati;
Exhibit S, 1st Indorsement of the Makati Central Post Office dated 21 September 1992;
Exhibit T, the Philippine Postal Corporation Central Post Office letter dated 24 September 1992,
addressed to this representation showing that there were 3 notices sent to the herein accused who
received the said letter.
COURT:
Lets go to the third check slip; any objection to the third slip?
ATTY. MANGERA:
We have no objection as to the due execution and authenticity.

COURT:
Admitted.
ATTY. MAKALINTAL:
We are offering Exhibits Q, R, S and T, for the purpose of showing that there was demand duly
made on the accused and that the same had been appropriately served by the Central Post Office
Services of Manila.
ATTY. MANGERA:
We admit as to the due execution and authenticity only as to that portion, Your Honor.
COURT:
We are talking of admissibility now, so admitted. In other words, at this point, he makes an offer
and the Court will either grant admission, [admit] it in evidence or deny it. It can deny admission
if it is not properly identified etcetera.
ATTY. MANGERA:
I think it is already provided.
COURT:
So, admitted.
ATTY. MAKALINTAL:

With the admission of our offer, Your Honor, the prosecution rests.[16]
From the foregoing, it is clear that the prosecution evidence consisted of documents offered
and admitted during the trial. In view of this, the CA correctly ruled that Fule v. Court of
Appeals[17] would not apply to the present controversy. In that case, a hearing was conducted
during which the prosecution presented three exhibits. However, Fule's conviction was based
solely on the stipulation of facts made during the pre-trial on August 8, 1985, which was not
signed by the petitioner, nor by his counsel. Because the stipulation was inadmissible in
evidence under Section 4 of Rule 118, the Court held that there was no proof of his guilt.
In the present case, petitioners conviction was based on the evidence presented during trial,
and not on the stipulations made during the pretrial. Hence, petitioners admissions during the
trial are governed not by the Fule ruling or by Section 4 of Rule 118, but by Section 4 of Rule
129 which reads:

SEC. 4. Judicial Admissions. --- An admission, verbal or written, made by a party in


the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof. The admission
may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable mistake or
that no such admission was made.
Hence, the trial court and the Court of Appeals did not err in taking cognizance of the said
documentary evidence.
Second Issue:

Sufficiency of Prosecution Evidence

Petitioner argues that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the elements
of the offense. After a careful consideration of the records of this case, we believe and so rule
that the totality of the evidence presented does not support petitioners conviction for violation of
BP 22.
Section 1 of BP 22 defines the offense as follows:

Section 1. Checks without sufficient funds. -- Any person who makes or draws and
issues any check to apply on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he
does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of
such check in full upon its presentment, which check is subsequently dishonored by
the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or would have been dishonored
for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to
stop payment, shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than thirty days but not
more than one (1) year or by a fine of not less than but not more than double the
amount of the check which fine shall in no case exceed Two hundred thousand pesos,
or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.
The same penalty shall be imposed upon any person who having sufficient funds in
or credit with the drawee bank when he makes or draws and issues a check, shall fail
to keep sufficient funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check if
presented within a period of ninety (90) days from the date appearing thereon, for
which reason it is dishonored by the drawee bank.
Where the check is drawn by a corporation, company or entity, the person or persons
who actually signed the check in behalf of such drawer shall be liable under this Act.
Accordingly, this Court has held that the elements of the crime are as follows:[18]

1. The accused makes, draws or issues any check to apply to account or for value.
2. The check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or
credit; or it would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any
valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment.
3. The accused knows at the time of the issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds
in, or credit with, drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment.

We shall analyze the evidence, purportedly establishing each of the aforementioned elements
which the trial and the appellate courts relied upon.
Issuance of the Questioned Checks

Contending that the prosecution failed to prove the first element, petitioner maintains that
she merely signed the questioned checks without indicating therein the date and the amount
involved. She adds that they were improperly filled up by Eileen Fernandez. Thus, she
concludes, she did not issue the dishonored checks in the context of the Negotiable
Instruments Law, which defines issue as the first delivery of the instrument complete in form
to a person who takes it as a holder.[19]
Petitioners contentions are not meritorious. The questioned checks, marked as Exhibits A
to K, contained the date of issue and the amount involved. In fact, petitioner even admitted
that she signed those checks. On the other hand, no proof was adduced to show that petitioner
merely signed them in blank, or that complainant filled them up in violation of the former's
instructions or their previous agreement. The evidence on record is clear that petitioner issued
eleven checks, all of which were duly filled up and signed by her.
Checks Dishonored

Neither are we persuaded by petitioners argument that there appears no evidence on record
that the subject checks were unpaid and dishonored. [20] Under Section 3 of BP 22, the
introduction in evidence of any unpaid and dishonored check, having the drawees refusal to
pay stamped or written thereon, or attached thereto, with the reason therefor as aforesaid, shall
be prima facie evidence of the making or issuance of said check, and the due presentment to the
drawee for payment and the dishonor thereof, and that the same was properly dishonored for the
reason written, stamped, or attached by the drawee on such dishonored check.
In the present case, the fact that the checks were dishonored was sufficiently shown by the
checks themselves, which were stamped with the words ACCOUNT CLOSED. This was
further supported by the returned check tickets issued by PCI Bank, the depository bank, stating
that the checks had been dishonored.

Clearly, these documents constitute prima facie evidence that the drawee bank dishonored
the checks. Again, no evidence was presented to rebut the prosecutions claim.
Knowledge of Insufficiency of Funds

To hold a person liable under BP 22, it is not enough to establish that a check issued was
subsequently dishonored. It must be shown further that the person who issued the check knew
at the time of issue that that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank
for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment. Because this element involves a
state of mind which is difficult to establish, Section 2 of the law creates a prima
facie presumption of such knowledge, as follows:[21]

Sec. 2. Evidence of knowledge of insufficient funds. --- The making, drawing and
issuance of a check payment of which is refused by the drawee because of insufficient
funds in or credit with such bank, when presented within ninety (90) days from the
date of the check, shall be prima facie evidence of knowledge of such insufficiency of
funds or credit unless such maker or drawer pays the holder thereof the amount due
thereon, or makes arrangements for payment in full by the drawee of such check
within five (5) banking days after receiving notice that such check has not been paid
by the drawee.
In other words, the prima facie presumption arises when a check is issued. But the law also
provides that the presumption does not arise when the issuer pays the amount of the check or
makes arrangement for its payment within five banking days after receiving notice that such
check has not been paid by the drawee. Verily, BP 22 gives the accused an opportunity to satisfy
the amount indicated in the check and thus avert prosecution. As the Court held in Lozano v.
Martinez, the aforecited provision serves to mitigate the harshness of the law in its
application.[22] This opportunity, however, can be used only upon receipt by the accused of a
notice of dishonor. This point was underscored by the Court in Lina Lim Lao v. Court of
Appeals:[23]

It has been observed that the State, under this statute, actually offers the violator a
compromise by allowing him to perform some act which operates to preempt the
criminal action, and if he opts to perform it the action is abated. This was also
compared to certain laws allowing illegal possessors of firearms a certain period of
time to surrender the illegally possessed firearms to the Government, without
incurring any criminal liability. In this light, the full payment of the amount appearing
in the check within five banking days from notice of dishonor is a complete defense.
The absence of a notice of dishonor necessarily deprives an accused an opportunity to
preclude a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, procedural due process clearly enjoins
that a notice of dishonor be actually served on petitioner. Petitioner has a right to

demand and the basic postulates of fairness require -- that the notice of dishonor be
actually sent to and received by her to afford her the opportunity to avert prosecution
under BP 22.
Thus, in order to create the prima facie presumption that the issuer knew of the insufficiency
of funds, it must be shown that he or she received a notice of dishonor and, within five banking
days thereafter, failed to satisfy the amount of the check or make arrangement for its payment.
To prove that petitioner knew of the insufficiency of her funds, the prosecution presented
Exhibits Q to T. Based on these documents, the Court of Appeals concluded that [p]rivate
complainant sent a demand letter to appellant to make good said checks x x x. Appellant failed
to pay the face value of the eleven checks or make arrangement for the full payment thereof
within 90 days after receiving the notice.[24]
Upon closer examination of these documents, we find no evidentiary basis for the holding of
the trial court and the Court of Appeals that petitioner received a notice that the checks had been
dishonored.
True, complainant sent petitioner
latter that the checks had
petitioner did not receive it. In fact,
complainants counsel certified that
September 22, 1992 x x x.[25]

a registered mail, as shown in Exhibit "Q," informing the


been dishonored. But the records show that
Postmaster Wilfredo Ulibarris letter addressed to
the subject registered mail was returned to sender on

Notwithstanding the clear import of the postmasters certification, the prosecution failed to
adduce any other proof that petitioner received the post office notice but unjustifiably refused to
claim the registered mail. It is possible that the drawee bank sent petitioner a notice of dishonor,
but the prosecution did not present evidence that the bank did send it, or that petitioner actually
received it. It was also possible that she was trying to flee from complainant by staying in
different addresses. Speculations and possibilities, however, cannot take the place of
proof. Conviction must rest on proof beyond reasonable doubt. Clearly, the evidence on hand
demonstrates the indelible fact that petitioner did not receive notice that the checks had been
dishonored. Necessarily, the presumption that she knew of the insufficiency of funds cannot
arise.
Be that as it may, the Court must point out that it cannot rule on petitioners civil liability,
for the issue was not raised in the pleadings submitted before us.
We must stress that BP 22, like all penal statutes, is construed strictly against the State and
liberally in favor of the accused.[26] Likewise, the prosecution has the burden to prove beyond
reasonable doubt each element of the crime. Hence, the prosecutions case must rise or fall on
the strength of its own evidence, never on the weakness or even absence of that of the defense.

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals is


hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Betty King is ACQUITTED for failure of the
prosecution to prove all the elements of the crimes charged. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN,
Petitioner,

G.R. Nos. 163972-77


Present:

- versus -

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.,
Acting Chairperson,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
REYES, JJ.

THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN


(Fourth Division),
Promulgated:
Respondent.
March 28, 2008
x------------------------------------------------ ---------x

DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Joselito Raniero J. Daan (petitioner), one of the accused in Criminal Cases Nos.
24167-24170, 24195-24196,[1] questions the denial by the Sandiganbayan of his plea
bargaining
proposal.

The antecedents facts are laid down by Sandiganbayan in its Resolution


dated March 25, 2004, as follows:
Said accused,[2] together with accused Benedicto E. Kuizon, were
charged before this Court for three counts of malversation of public funds
involving the sums of P3,293.00, P1,869.00, and P13,528.00, respectively,
which they purportedly tried to conceal by falsifying the time book and payrolls
for given period making it appear that some laborers worked on the construction
of the new municipal hall building ofBato, Leyte and collected their respective
salaries thereon when, in truth and in fact, they did not. Thus, in addition to the
charge for malversation, the accused were also indicted before this Court for
three counts of falsification of public document by a public officer or employee.
In the falsification cases, the accused offered to withdraw their plea
of not guilty and substitute the same with a plea of guilty, provided, the
mitigating circumstances of confession or plea of guilt and voluntary surrender
will be appreciated in their favor. In the alternative, if such proposal is not
acceptable, said accused proposed instead to substitute their plea of not guilty
to the crime of falsification of public document by a public officer or employee
with a plea of guilty, but to the lesser crime of falsification of a public
document by a private individual. On the other hand, in the malversation cases,
the accused offered to substitute their plea of not guilty thereto with a plea of
guilty, but to the lesser crime of failure of an accountable officer to render
accounts.
Insofar as the falsification cases are concerned, the prosecution found
as acceptable the proposal of the accused to plead guilty to the lesser crime of
falsification of public document by a private individual. The prosecution
explained:
With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned,
it appears that the act of the accused in pleading guilty for a lesser
offense of falsification by a private individual defined and
penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal code will
strengthen our cases against the principal accused, Municipal

Mayor Benedicto Kuizon, who appears to be the master mind of


these criminal acts.
Insofar as the malversation cases are concerned, the prosecution was
likewise amenable to the offer of said accused to plead guilty to the lesser
crime of failure of an accountable officer to render accounts because:
x x x JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has already restituted
the total amount of P18,860.00 as per official receipt issued by
the provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In
short, the damage caused to the government has already been
restituted x x x.[3]

The Sandiganbayan, in the herein assailed Resolution,[4] dated March 25, 2004,
denied petitioners Motion to Plea Bargain, despite favorable recommendation by the
prosecution, on the main ground that no cogent reason was presented to justify its approval.
[5]

The Sandiganbayan likewise denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration in a


Resolution dated May 31, 2004.
This compelled petitioner to file the present case for certiorari and prohibition
with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/ or writ of preliminary
injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.
Petitioner argues that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in
denying his plea bargaining offer on the following grounds: first, petitioner is not an
accountable officer and he merely affixed his signature on the payrolls on a
routinary basis, negating any criminal intent; and that the amount involved is
only P18,860.00, which he already restituted.[6]
The petition is meritorious.
Plea bargaining in criminal cases is a process whereby the accused and the
prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court

approval. It usually involves the defendant's pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only
one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than
that for the graver charge.[7]
Plea bargaining is authorized under Section 2, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, to wit:
SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. At arraignment, the
accused, with the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor, may be
allowed by the trial court to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily
included in the offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the accused
may still be allowed to plead guilty to said lesser offense after withdrawing his
plea of not guilty. No amendment of the complaint or information is
necessary. (sec. 4, cir. 38-98)

Ordinarily, plea bargaining is made during the pre-trial stage of the


proceedings. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 118 of the Rules of Court, require plea bargaining to
be considered by the trial court at the pre-trial conference,[8] viz:
SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. In all criminal
cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan
Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court and
Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the court shall, after arraignment and within thirty
(30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the
accused, unless a shorter period is provided for in special laws or circulars of the
Supreme Court, order a pre-trial conference to consider the following:
(a)

plea bargaining;

(b)

stipulation of facts;

(c)

marking for identification of evidence of the parties;

(d)

waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;

(e)
modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge
but interposes a lawful defense; and
(f)
such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the
criminal and civil aspects of the case.

SEC. 2. Pre-trial agreement. All agreements or admissions made or


entered during the pre-trial conference shall be reduced in writing and signed by
the accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot be used against the
accused. The agreements covering the matters referred to in section 1 of this
Rule shall be approved by the court. (Emphasis supplied)

But it may also be made during the trial proper and even after the prosecution has
finished presenting its evidence and rested its case. Thus, the Court has held that it is
immaterial that plea bargaining was not made during the pre-trial stage or that it was made
only after the prosecution already presented several witnesses.[9]
Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court presents the basic requisites upon which
plea bargaining may be made, i.e., that it should be with the consent of the offended party
and the prosecutor,[10] and that the plea of guilt should be to a lesser offense which is
necessarily included in the offense charged. The rules however use word may in the
second sentence of Section 2, denoting an exercise of discretion upon the trial court on
whether to allow the accused to make such plea.[11] Trial courts are exhorted to keep in
mind that a plea of guilty for a lighter offense than that actually charged is not supposed to
be allowed as a matter of bargaining or compromise for the convenience of the accused.[12]
In People of the Philippines v. Villarama,[13] the Court ruled that the acceptance of
an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense is not demandable by the accused as a matter of
right but is a matter that is addressed entirely to the sound discretion of the trial court,
[14]
viz:
x x x In such situation, jurisprudence has provided the trial court and
the Office of the Prosecutor with a yardstick within which their discretion may
be properly exercised. Thus, in People v. Kayanan (L-39355, May 31, 1978, 83
SCRA 437, 450), We held that the rules allow such a plea only when the
prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of the crime
charged. In his concurring opinion in People v. Parohinog (G.R. No. L47462, February 28, 1980, 96 SCRA 373, 377), then Justice
Antonio Barredo explained clearly and tersely the rationale or the law:

x x x (A)fter the prosecution had already rested, the only basis


on which the fiscal and the court could rightfully act in allowing the appellant
to change his former plea of not guilty to murder to guilty to the lesser crime of
homicide could be nothing more nothing less than the evidence already in the
record. The reason for this being that Section 4 of Rule 118 (now Section 2,
Rule 116) under which a plea for a lesser offense is allowed was not and could
not have been intended as a procedure for compromise, much less bargaining.
[15]
(Emphasis supplied)

However, Villarama involved plea bargaining after the prosecution had already
rested its case.
As regards plea bargaining during the pre-trial stage, as in the present case, the
trial court's exercise of its discretion should neither be arbitrary nor should it amount to a
capricious and whimsical exercise of discretion. Grave abuse of discretion implies such
capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in
other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion,
prejudice, or personal hostility; and it must be so patent or gross as to amount to an evasion
of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by law, or to act at all
in contemplation of law.[16]
In the present case, the Sandiganbayan rejected petitioner's plea offer on the
ground that petitioner and the prosecution failed to demonstrate that the proposal would
redound to the benefit of the public. The Sandiganbayan believes that approving the
proposal would only serve to trivialize the seriousness of the charges against them and
send the wrong signal to potential grafters in public office that the penalties they are likely
to face would be lighter than what their criminal acts would have merited or that the
economic benefits they are likely to derive from their criminal activities far outweigh the
risks they face in committing them; thus, setting to naught the deterrent value of the laws
intended to curb graft and corruption in government.[17]

Apparently, the Sandiganbayan has proffered valid reasons in rejecting petitioner's


plea offer. However, subsequent events and higher interests of justice and fair play dictate
that petitioner's plea offer should be accepted. The present case calls for the judicious
exercise of this Court's equity jurisdiction Equity as the complement of legal jurisdiction seeks to reach and do complete
justice where courts of law, through the inflexibility of their rules and want of power to
adapt their judgments to the special circumstances of cases, are incompetent so to
do. Equity regards the spirit of and not the letter, the intent and not the form, the substance
rather than the circumstance, as it is variously expressed by different courts.[18]

and of its power of control and supervision over the proceedings of lower courts, [19] in
order to afford equal justice to petitioner.
In People of the Philippines v. Estrada,[20] the Sandiganbayan, in its Resolution
dated March 14, 2007, approved the Plea Bargaining Agreement entered into by the
prosecution and one of the accused, Charlie Atong Ang. The agreement provided that
the accused undertakes to assist in the prosecution of the case and promises to return the
amount of P25,000,000.00. In approving the Plea Bargaining Agreement,
the Sandiganbayan took into consideration the timeliness of the plea bargaining and
whether the agreement complied with the requirements of Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules
of Court. The Sandigabayan noted that the accused had already withdrawn his earlier plea
of not guilty; and that the prosecution consented to the plea of guilt to a lesser offense;
and the lesser offense, which is Corruption of Public Officials in relation to Indirect
Bribery, is necessarily included in the offense charged, which is Plunder.[21]
The Court sees no reason why the standards applied by
the Sandiganbayan to Estrada should not be applied to the present case. Records show
that there was a favorable recommendation by the Office of the Special Prosecutor to
approve petitioner's motion to plea bargain. Thus, in its Memorandum dated August 16,
2002, the Office of the Special Prosecutor rationalized:

In the cases at bar, there is no dispute that JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has
already restituted the total amount of P18,860.00 as per official receipt issued by the
provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In short, the damage caused to
the government has already been restituted by the accused.
There is also no dispute that accused DAAN voluntarily surrendered in the
instant cases. Moreover, the accused is also willing to plead guilty to a lesser offense
which to our mind, merits consideration.
With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act of
the accused in pleading guilty for a lesser offense of falsification by private individual
defined and penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code will strengthen our
cases against the principal accused, the Municipal Mayor Benedicto Kuizon, who appears
to be the master mind of these criminal acts. After all, the movants herein JOSELITO
RANIERO J. DAAN was merely designated as draftsman detailed as foreman/timekeeper
of the Municipality of Bato, Leyte.[22]

Moreover, the lesser offenses of Falsification by Private Individuals and Failure


to Render Account by an Accountable Officer are necessarily included in the crimes of
Falsification of Public Documents and Malversation of Public Funds, respectively, with
which petitioner was originally charged.
Under Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, for the crime of
Falsification of Public Documents through an untruthful narration of facts to be
established, the following elements must concur: (a) the offender makes in a document
untruthful statements in a narration of facts; (b) the offender has a legal obligation to
disclose the truth of the facts narrated; (c) the facts narrated by the offender are absolutely
false; and (d) the perversion of truth in the narration of facts was made with the wrongful
intent of injuring a third person.[23]

On the other hand, Falsification by Private Individuals penalized under Article 172,
paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code has the following elements: (a) the offender is a
private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his
official position; (b) the offender committed any of the acts of falsification enumerated
under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code; and (c) the falsification was committed in a
public or official or commercial document.[24]
As regards the crime of Malversation of Public Funds defined and penalized under
Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, with which petitioner was also charged, the
elements are as follows: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) he has custody or control
of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office; (c) the funds or property involved
are public funds or property for which he is accountable; and (d) he has appropriated,
taken or misappropriated, or has consented to, or through abandonment or negligence
permitted, the taking by another person of such funds or property.[25] Article 217 also
provides that the failure of the public officer to have duly forthcoming such public funds
or property, upon demand by a duly authorized officer, shall be prima facie evidence that
he has put such missing funds or property to personal use. In this regard, it has been ruled
that once such presumption is rebutted, then it is completely destroyed; in fact,
thepresumption is never deemed to have existed at all.[26]
Meanwhile, under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code, Failure to Render
Account by an Accountable Officer, the lesser offense which petitioner seeks to plead
guilty of, the following elements must concur: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) the
offender must be an accountable officer for public funds or property; (c) the offender is
required by law or regulation to render accounts to the COA or to a provincial auditor; and
(d) the offender fails to render an account for a period of two months after such accounts
should be rendered.[27]

Section 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court states when an offense includes or is
included in the other, to wit:
SEC. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. An
offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the
essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or
information, constitute the latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included
in the offense proved, when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or
form part of those constituting the latter.

An offense may be said to necessarily include another when some of the essential
elements or ingredients of the former as alleged in the complaint or information
constitute the latter. And vice versa, an offense may be said to be necessarily included in
another when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those
constituting the latter.[28]
In this case, the allegations in the Informations filed against petitioner are
sufficient to hold petitioner liable for the lesser offenses. Thus, in the charge for
Falsification of Public Documents, petitioner may plead guilty to the lesser offense of
Falsification by Private Individuals inasmuch as it does not appear that petitioner took
advantage of his official position in allegedly falsifying the timebook and payroll of
the Municipality of Bato, Leyte. In the same vein, with regard to the crime
of Malversation of Public Funds, while the Informations contain allegations which make
out a case for Malversation against petitioner, nevertheless, absent the element of
conversion, theoretically, petitioner may still be held liable for Failure to Render Account
by an Accountable Officer if it is shown that the failure to render account was in violation
of a law or regulation that requires him to render such an accounting within the prescribed
period.
Given, therefore, that some of the essential elements of offenses charged in this
case likewise constitute the lesser offenses, then petitioner may plead guilty to such lesser
offenses.

Finally, as propounded by petitioner, indeed, he is not an accountable officer in that


the nature of his duty as foreman/timekeeper does not permit or require possession or
custody of local government funds,[29] not to mention that petitioner has already restituted
the amount of P18,860.00 involved in this case. Unlike Estrada which involves a crime
punishable by reclusionperpetua to death,[30] and a whopping P25,000,000.00 taken from
the public coffers, this case tremendously pales in comparison.
Under the peculiar circumstances of the present case, where gross inequity will
result in a discriminatory dispensation of justice, the Court will not hesitate to intervene in
order to equalize the imbalance.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated March 25,
2004 and May
31,
2004 are SET ASIDE. The Sandiganbayan is
hereby ORDERED to grant petitioner's Motion to Plea Bargain. Let records of this
case be REMANDED to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings in accordance with
this Decision.
SO ORDERED.