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G.R. No. 140285 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

G.R. No. 140285 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 140285 : September 27, 2006]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS (15th Division) and WILFRED N. CHIOK, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Resolution1 dated September 20, 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 53340, entitled "Wilfred N. Chiok, Petitioner, v. Hon. Marietta Legazpi, People of the Philippines, and Rufina Chua, Respondents."

The factual antecedents as borne by the records are:

Sometime in 1989, Rufina Chua met respondent Wilfred Chiok. He represented himself as a licensed stockbroker and an expert in the stock market. He then encouraged Rufina to invest her money in stocks, requesting her to designate him as her stockbroker. On respondent's prodding, she agreed.

For several years, respondent acted as Rufina's stockbroker. She made a profit out of their transactions, prompting her to trust respondent in handling her stock investments.

In 1995, respondent encouraged Rufina to purchase shares in bulk as this will increase her earning. Hence, in June 1995, she entrusted to him the amount of P9,563,900.00 for the purpose of buying shares of stocks in bulk. She deposited the amount of P7,100,000.00 in respondent's account. With respect to the remaining P2,463,900.00, she personally gave it to him. Thereupon, he told her to wait for one week. A week elapsed, but she did not hear from him. Upon her inquiry, he advised her to wait for another week, but still there was no news from him. Finally, when she was able to contact him, he admitted that he spent the money. At any rate, he issued two checks as payment but when she deposited them in the drawee bank, they were dishonored for insufficient funds.

In a letter dated October 25, 1995, Rufina demanded payment from respondent, but this remained unheeded.

Upon inquiry, Rufina came to know that respondent was not a licensed stockbroker but only a telephone clerk at Bernard Securities, Inc. Immediately, she caused the filing of an information for estafa against him with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 165, Pasig City, docketed therein as Criminal Case No. 109927.

During the arraignment, respondent, assisted by his counsel de parte, pleaded not guilty and posted bail. Trial ensued.

Respondent denied the charge against him. He testified that he was not an employee of Bernard Securities, Inc.; that he buys and sells U.S. dollars and that Rufina used to buy dollars from him; that what actually existed between them was an unregistered partnership; and that he received the amount of P9,563,900.00 as her investment in their partnership.

After the presentation of the parties' evidence, the trial court set the promulgation of judgment on January 26, 1999. However, respondent and his counsel failed to appear on said date. The promulgation was re-set to February 1, 1999.

On February 1, 1999, the trial court rendered a Decision convicting respondent of estafa and sentencing him to suffer twelve (12) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as maximum. During the promulgation of the judgment, respondent and his counsel failed to appear despite notice. Consequently, the prosecution filed a Motion for Cancellation of Bail on the ground that there is an indication that respondent might flee or commit another crime.

On May 28, 1999, the trial court issued an Omnibus Order granting the prosecution's motion, thus:

WHEREFORE, the bail of the accused is cancelled. The accused is given five (5) days from receipt of this order within which to surrender before this Court, otherwise his arrest will be ordered.

SO ORDERED.

On June 18, 1999, respondent interposed an appeal from the Decision of the trial court to the Court of Appeals, docketed therein as CA-G.R. CR No. 23309.

The following day or on June 19, 1999, respondent filed with the Court of Appeals a Special Civil Action for Certiorari with Very Urgent Application for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or Injunction assailing the trial court's May 28, 1999 Omnibus Order canceling his bail. The petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 53340.

Meanwhile, or on June 25, 1999, the trial court issued a warrant of arrest against respondent for the reason that "he has not surrendered despite the lapse of the given period (five days) as provided in the Omnibus Order dated May 28, 1999." The said warrant was returned unserved because he could not be found at his given address.

Going back to CA-G.R. SP No. 53340, the Court of Appeals issued a TRO enjoining the implementation of the trial court's Omnibus Order.

Subsequently, in a Resolution dated September 20, 1999, the appellate court issued a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the arrest of respondent, holding that the latter should not be deprived of his liberty pending resolution of his appeal as the offense for which he was convicted is a non-capital offense; and that the probability of flight by respondent during the pendency of his appeal is merely conjectural.

Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari . The People of the Philippines, petitioner, contends that the Court of Appeals committed a grave abuse of discretion in issuing the writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the arrest of respondent.

Respondent, on the other hand, maintains that the appellate court committed no grave abuse of discretion when it issued the assailed Resolution of September 20, 1999.

The sole issue here is whether the Court of Appeals erred when it rendered its assailed Resolution of September 20, 1999 directing the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the arrest of respondent.

The trial court correctly cancelled respondent's bail because of his failure to appear during the promulgation of judgment despite notice. He violated the condition of his bail that he must appear before the proper court whenever so required by that court or the Rules.2 Simply stated, he jumped bail. As such, his arrest, as ordered by the trial court, is proper.3 This is in accordance with Section 6, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure which provides in part, thus:

SEC. 6. Promulgation of judgment. - The judgment is promulgated by reading it in the presence of the accused and any judge of the court in which it was rendered. x x x

The proper clerk of court shall give notice to the accused personally or through his bondsman or warden and counsel, requiring him to be present at the promulgation of the decision. x x x

If the judgment is for conviction and the failure of the accused to appear was without justifiable cause, he shall lose the remedies available in these rules against the judgment and the court shall order his arrest. Within fifteen (15) days from promulgation of judgment, however, the accused may surrender and file a motion for leave of court to avail of these remedies. He shall state the reasons for his absence at the scheduled promulgation and if he proves that his absence was for a justifiable cause, he shall be allowed to avail of said remedies within fifteen (15) days from notice. (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary

The last paragraph of Section 6 quoted above authorizes the promulgation of judgment in absentia in view of respondent's failure to appear despite notice. It bears stressing that the rule authorizing promulgation in absentia is intended to obviate the situation where the judicial process could be subverted by the accused jumping bail to frustrate the promulgation of judgment.4

Here, respondent tried in vain to subvert the judicial process by not appearing during the promulgation of judgment. Thus, he lost his remedies against the judgment. In fact, he cannot challenge successfully the cancellation of his bail by the trial court. The Court of Appeals certainly erred in enjoining the arrest of respondent. Its declaration that respondent might flee or commit another crime is conjectural utterly lacks merit. Respondent already demonstrated that he is a fugitive from justice.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the instant petition. The challenged Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 53340 directing the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the arrest of respondent is REVERSED.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Chairperson, Corona, Azcuna, Garcia, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1 Penned by Associate Justice Omar U. Amin and concurred in by Associate Justice Hector L. Hofileña (both retired) and Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr., Rollo, pp. 43-46.

2 Section 2(b), Rule 114, Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.

3 Maguddatu v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 139599, February 23, 2000, 326 SCRA 362.

4 Agpalo, Handbook on Criminal Procedure (Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, effective December 1, 2000), citing Florendo v. Court of Appeals, 239 SCRA 325 (1994); People v. Prades, 293 SCRA 411 (1998).

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