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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 120034. August 20, 1996.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOSEFINA A. ESPARAS and RODRIGO O. LIBED, Accused-Appellant.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; SUPREME COURT; POWER TO REVIEW DECISION IMPOSING DEATH PENALTY, NOT SUBJECT TO WAIVER. — As the accused remains at large up to the present time, the Issue that confronts the Court is whether or not it will proceed to automatically review her death sentence. The issue need not befuddle us. In the 1910 ground-breaking case of U.S. v. Laguna, Et Al., we already held thru Mr. Justice Moreland, that the power of this Court to review a decision imposing the death penalty cannot be waived either by the accused or by the courts. Our case law under the 1935 Constitution reiterated Laguna ruling. Thus, in the 1953 case of People v. Villanueva, we held that the withdrawal of an appeal by a death convict does not deprive this Court of its jurisdiction to review his conviction. The 1971 case of People v. Cornelio, Et Al., involves the escape of a death convict. In no uncertain terms, we held that the escape of a death convict does not relieve this Court of its duty of reviewing his conviction. Then came the 1973 Constitution which likewise did not prohibit the death penalty. Section 9, Role 122 continued to provide the procedure for review of death penalty cases by this Court. Finally, we have the 1978 Constitution which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes Congress so provides. On December 13, 1993, Congress reimposed the death penalty in cases involving the commission of heinous crimes. This revived the procedure by which this Court reviews death penalty cases pursuant to the Rules of Court. It remains automatic and does not depend on the whims of the death convict. It continues to be mandatory, and leaves this Court without any option.

2. ID.; ACTIONS; APPEALS; RULE AUTHORIZING DISMISSAL OF APPEAL WHEN APPELLANT JUMPS BAIL, NO APPLICATION WHERE DEATH PENALTY WAS IMPOSED. — With due respect to the dissenting opinions of our esteemed colleagues, Section 8 of Rule 124 of the Rules of Court which, inter alia, authorizes the dismissal of an appeal when the appellant jumps bail, has no application to cases where the death penalty has been imposed. In death penalty cases, automatic review is mandatory. This is the text and tone of section 12, Rule 122, which is the more applicable rule. No litigant can repudiate this power which is bestowed by the Constitution. The power is more of a sacred duty which we have to discharge to assure the People that the innocence of a citizen is our concern not only in crimes that slight but even more, in crimes that shock the conscience. This concern cannot be diluted.


R E S O L U T I O N


PUNO, J.:


Accused Josefina A. Esparas was charged, with violation of R.A. No. 6425 as amended by R.A. No. 759 for importing into the country twenty (20) kilograms of "shabu" in Criminal Case No. 94-5897 before the RTC of Pasay City, Br. 114.

After arraignment, the accused escaped from jail and was tried in absentia. On March 13, 1995, the trial court found her guilty as charged and imposed on her the death penalty.

As the accused remains at large up to the present time, the issue that confronts the Court is whether or not it will proceed to automatically review her death sentence. The issue need not befuddle us. In the 1910 ground-breaking case of U.S. v. Laguna, Et Al., 1 we already held thru Mr. Justice Moreland, that the power of this Court to review a decision imposing the death penalty cannot be waived either by the accused or by the courts, viz.:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"x       x       x

"It is apparent from these provisions that the judgment of conviction and sentence thereunder by the trial court does not, in reality, conclude the trial of the accused. Such trial is not terminated until the Supreme Court has reviewed the facts and the law as applied thereto by the court below. The judgment of conviction entered on the trial is not final, can not be executed, and is wholly without force or effect until the case has been passed upon by the Supreme Court. In a sense the trial court acts as a commissioner who takes the testimony and reports thereon to the Supreme Court with his recommendation. While in practice he enters a judgment of conviction and sentences the prisoner thereunder, in reality, until passed upon by the Supreme Court, it has none of the attributes of a final judgment and sentence. It is a mere recommendation to the Supreme Court, based upon the facts on the record which are presented with it. This is meant in no sense to detract from the dignity and power of Courts of First Instance. It means simply that the portion of Spanish procedure which related to cases where capital punishment was imposed still survives.

"x       x       x

"The requirement that the Supreme Court pass on 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 highest penalty which the law imposes, he is entitled under the 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 provision of the law that crooks no interference and tolerates no evasions." (Emphasis supplied)

The Laguna case interpreted section 50 of General Orders No. 58 as amended, which provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"x       x       x

"It shall not be necessary to forward to the Supreme Court the record, or any part thereof, of any case in which there shall have been an acquittal, or in which the sentence imposed is not death, unless such case shall have been duly appealed; but such sentence shall be executed upon the order of the court in which the trial was had. The records of all cases in which the death penalty shall have been imposed by any Court of First Instance, whether the defendant shall have appealed or not, and of all cases in which appeals shall have been taken shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court for investigation and judgment as law and justice shall dictate. The records of such cases shall be forwarded to the clerk of the Supreme Court within twenty days, but not earlier than fifteen days after the rendition of sentence."cralaw virtua1aw library

The 1935 Constitution did not prohibit the imposition of the death penalty. Its section 2(4) of Article VIII provided for review by this Court of death penalty cases. Both our Rules of Court of 1940 2 and 1964 3 require the transmission to this Court of the records of all cases in which the death penalty shall have been imposed by the trial court, whether the defendant shall have appealed or not, for review and judgment as the law and justice shall dictate. It will be noted that these rules were taken from the second part of General Orders were taken from the second part of General Orders No. 58, as amended by Section 4 Act No. 194. 4

Necessarily, our case law under the 1935 Constitution reiterated the Laguna ruling. Thus, in the 1953 case of People v. Villanueva, 5 we held that the withdrawal of an appeal by a death convict does not deprive this Court of its jurisdiction to review his conviction, viz.:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"An accused appealing from a decision sentencing him to death may be allowed to withdraw his appeal like any other appellant, in an ordinary criminal case before the briefs are filed, but his withdrawal of the appeal does not remove the case from the jurisdiction of this court which under the law is authorized and called upon to review the decision though unappealed. Consequently, the withdrawal of the appeal in this case could not serve to render the decision of the People’s Court final. In fact, as was said by this court through Justice Moreland in the case of U.S. v. Laguna, 17 Phil. 532, speaking on the matter of review by this court of a decision imposing the death penalty, the judgment of conviction entered in the trial court is not final, and cannot be executed and is wholly without force or effect until the case has been passed upon by the Supreme Court en consulta; that although a judgment of conviction is entered by the trial court, said decision has none of the attributes of a final judgment and sentence; that until it has been reviewed by the Supreme Court which finally passes upon it, the same is not final and conclusive; and that this automatic review by the Supreme Court of decisions imposing the death penalty is something which neither the court nor the accused could waive or evade."cralaw virtua1aw library

The 1971 case of People v. Cornelio, Et Al., 6 involves the escape of a death convict. In no uncertain terms, we held that the escape of a death convict does not relieve this Court of its duty of reviewing his conviction. In the 1972 case of People v. Daban, Et Al., 7 the ponencia of former Chief Justice Fernando further stressed, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"x       x       x"

"Now, as to the law. It would appear that respondent Demaisip is unaware of Section 9 of Rule 122. Thus: ‘The records of all cases in which the death penalty shall been imposed by any Court of First Instance, whether the defendant shall have appealed or not, shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court fore review and judgment as law and justice shall dictate. The records of such cases shall be forwarded to the clerk of the Supreme Court within twenty (20) days but not earlier than fifteen (15) days, after rendition or promulgation of the sentence in the form prescribed by section 11 of Rule 41. The transcript shall also be forwarded as provided in section 12 of Rule 41 within five (5) days after the filing thereof by the stenographer.’ The penalty imposed on appellant Daban y Ganzon in the judgment of November 21, 1969 being one of death, the case was properly elevated to this Court. Moreover, until after this Court has spoken, no finality could be attached to the lower court decision. As explained in former Chief Justice Moran’s Comments on the Rules of Court: ‘In this connection, it must be emphasized that the judgment of conviction imposing the death penalty entered in the trial court, is not final, and cannot be executed and is wholly without force or effect until the case has been passed upon by the Supreme Court en consulta; that although a judgment of conviction is entered by the trial court, said decision has none of the attributes of a final judgment and sentence; and that until is has been reviewed by the Supreme Court which finally passes upon it, the same is not final and conclusive; and this automatic review by the Supreme Court is something which neither the court nor the accused could waive or evade.’ The mere fact of escape of appellant, therefore, could not be relied upon by respondent Demaisip as sufficient cause for his failure to file appellant’s brief."cralaw virtua1aw library

Then came the 1973 Constitution which likewise did not prohibit the death penalty. 8 Section 9, Rule 122 continued to provide the procedure for review of death penalty cases by this Court. Section 10, Rule 122 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure even reenacted this procedure of review. Significantly, it expressly used the term "automatic review and judgment" by this Court. Our case law continued its fealty to the Laguna rule. Thus, in the 1976 case of People v. Saliling, Et Al., 9 we held, thru former Chief Justice Aquino, that this Court is not precluded from reviewing the death sentence of an accused who is at large. In the 1984 case of People v. Buynay, Et Al., 10 we reiterated the rule that the escape of a death convict will not automatically result in the dismissal of his appeal.

Finally, we have the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes Congress so provides. 11 On December 13, 1993, Congress reimposed the death penalty in cases involving the commission of heinous crimes. This revived the procedure by which this Court reviews death penalty cases pursuant to the Rules of Court. It remains automatic and does not depend on the whims of the death convict. It continues to be mandatory, and leaves this Court without any option. 12

With due respect to the dissenting opinions of our esteemed colleagues, section 8 of Rule 124 of the Rules of Court which, inter alia, authorizes the dismissal of an appeal when the appellant jumps bail, has no application to cases where the death penalty has been imposed. In death penalty cases, automatic review is mandatory. This is the text and tone of section 10, Rule 122, which is the more applicable rule, viz.:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Section 10. Transmission of Records in Case of Death Penalty. — In all cases where the death penalty is imposed by he trial court, the records shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment, within twenty (20) days but not earlier than (15) days after promulgation of the judgment or notice of denial of any motion for new trial or reconsideration. The transcript shall also be forwarded within ten (10) days after the filing thereof by the stenographic reporter."cralaw virtua1aw library

Similarly, the reliance in People v. Codilla, 13 by our dissenting colleagues is misplaced. Codilla is not a death penalty case. Only the penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed on appellant. Consequently, we ruled that the escape of the appellant or his refusal to surrender to the proper authorities justifies dismissal of his appeal.

Our dissenting brethren also make a distinct cut between." . . a death convict, i. e. one convicted to death by a trial court who remains in the custody of the law, and who voluntarily withdraws his appeal and a death convict, i.e., one convicted to death by the trial court but who escapes from the custody of the law during the pendency of the appeal." They rationalize the distinction by holding:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"It should be clear in the first case, that even if the death convict withdraws his appeal from the trial court’s judgment convicting him to death, the appellate court may still and nonetheless review the judgment of conviction for the convict-appellant has at least remained in the custody of the law to await final verdict in his case. In the second case, however, the accused no longer recognizes and respects the authority of law and the duly-constituted authorities in general and this Court in particular. Such supercilious conduct of an escapee cannot and should not be taken lightly by the Court. Respect for and recognition of the authority of the Court is an essential and implicit element in an effective and credible judicial system.

"No, one, it should be stressed, should be allowed to make a mockery of the justice system by, in one breath, seeking its protection and even vindication via an automatic review of a death sentence and, in another breath, continuing to be a fugitive from justice and repudiating the very authority of the system whose protection he seeks and invokes."cralaw virtua1aw library

We hold, however, that there is more wisdom in our existing jurisprudence mandating our review of all death penalty cases, regardless of the wish of the convict and regardless of the will of the court. Nothing less than life is at stake and any court decision authorizing the State to take life must be as error-free as possible. We must strive to realize this objective, however, elusive it may be, and our efforts must not depend on whether appellant has withdrawn his appeal or has escaped. Indeed, an appellant may withdraw his appeal not because he is guilty but because of his wrong perception of the law. Or because he may want to avail of the more speedy remedy of pardon. Or because of his frustration and misapprehension that he will not get justice from the authorities. Nor should the Court be influenced by the seeming repudiation of its jurisdiction when a convict escapes. Ours is not only the power but the duty to review all death penalty cases. No litigant can repudiate this power which is bestowed by the Constitution. The power is more of a sacred duty which we have to discharge to assure the People that the innocence of a citizen is our concern not only in crimes that slight but even more, in crimes that shock the conscience. This concern cannot be diluted.

The Court is not espousing a "soft, bended, approach" to heinous crimes for as discussed above, we have always reviewed the imposition of the death penalty regardless of the will of the convict. 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 concern 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 this Court 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 the majority, even if overwhelming, has no right to be wrong.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the counsel for the accused is given a new period of thirty (30) days from notice hereof within which to file the Brief of the accused Josefina A. Esparas.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Kapunan and Hermosisima, JJ., concur.

Vitug, J., concurs in the result.

Separate Opinions


PANGANIBAN, J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

This normally run-off-the-mill matter of granting an extension of time to file brief for the accused has merited vigorous and in-depth discussion in the Court because two monumental and hallowed doctrines appear to collide in its disposition.

On the one hand, there is historically entrenched principle that impels this Court to review a decision imposing the death penalty. 1 Such historicity is reinforced by the pro-life provisions of our 1987 Constitution, one of which 2 had in fact prohibited the imposition of the death penalty, "unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it."cralaw virtua1aw library

Upon the other, there is the legal, equitable and logical tenet that a person convicted by the lower courts must first submit himself to the jurisdiction of the appellate court before he/she can plead for the exercise of the said tribunal’s power of review. 3 An escapee mocks the law and puts himself outside the protection of the judiciary.

Without repeating the legal arguments pro and con, as these were already eloquently presented by Mr. Justice Puno, Mr. Justice Padilla and Mr. Justice Francisco, I hold that the judicial taking of life cannot be left to mere legal logic. Life is too precious to be settled by legalisms, however exalted. I believe that this Court cannot abandon its sacred duty to God and country to see to it that a lower court judgment that takes away life is ERROR FREE and can stand THE MOST SEARCHING SCRUTINY . 4 And at the same time, this Court must not enable an escaped convict to make a mockery of the foundations of human justice. Consequently, I believe we must combine the sacred with the human.

After prayer, study, reflection and discernment, I am thoroughly convinced that this Court has the inescapable duty to review this and similar life-taking decisions, but only after the accused is re-arrested and taken back into the custody of the law.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, I vote to grant the accused’s motion for extension to file brief and in view of the delay in the disposition of such motion due to the lengthy court deliberation thereon, to give her a new period of thirty (30) days from notice within which to file her Brief.

PADILLA, J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

After a careful study of the issue submitted for resolution, I am constrained, based on considerations of justice and fairness not only for the accused but for society in general as well, to register my dissent from the majority opinion.

The factual antecedents upon which this Court is called to decide whether or not to dismiss the appeal of the accused in this case, are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Accused Josefina A. Esparas was convicted on 13 March 1995 by the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 114 in Criminal Case No. 94-5897, for violation of Rep. Act No. 6425 as amended by Rep. Act No. 7659, more specifically, for importing into the country twenty (20) kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride commonly known as "shabu." She was sentenced to death. Prior to conviction by the trial court, but after arraignment, Accused escaped from confinement. The records of the case (Criminal Case No. 94-5897) were nonetheless elevated to this Court for automatic review, involving as it does the imposition of the death penalty.

On 14 November 1955, the Court required counsel for accused to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed given the fact that she had escaped from confinement even prior to judgment by the trial court and remains at-large since her escape from detention.

Counsel for accused has failed to show cause, as required. Instead, he has filed motions for extension of time to file appellant’s brief, which the Court has not acted upon, as there has been failure to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed.

The Solicitor General was required by this Court to comment on the effect of accused’s escape from confinement on the present appeal. The Solicitor General, in his comment dated 9 January 1996, recommends that the Court proceed with the appeal and review the judgment of conviction despite the accused’s escape, as the penalty involved is the death penalty.

It is basic in procedural law that one who seeks positive relief from a court of law should submit to its jurisdiction. In criminal law and procedure, it is likewise settled that the trial court has to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the accused before it can proceed to try the case and render judgment against him. Thus, in the present case, trial proceeded only as to accused Josefina A. Esparas, who earlier entered a plea of not guilty, while her co-accused Rodrigo O. Libed has remained at large and has not been arraigned or tried.

Jurisdiction over the person of the accused is also required by the Rules of Court during the pendency of an appeal from a judgment of conviction in the trial court so that, in the event of an accused’s escape from detention during his appeal, the appeal may be dismissed outright by the appellate court.

Section 8, Rule 124 of the Rules of Court gives the appellate court the authority to dismiss an appeal when the appellant escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country during the pendency of the appeal. It provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 8. Dismissal of appeal for abandonment for failure to prosecute. — The appellate court may, upon motion of the appellee or on 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."cralaw virtua1aw library

In People v. Codilla (G.R. Nos. 100720-23, 30 June 1993, 224 SCRA 104), the Court reiterated the sound doctrine that the escape of the accused-appellant or his refusal to surrender to the proper authorities justifies dismissal of his appeal.

We are not unaware of the ruling of the Court in People v. Cornelio (G.R. No. L-1289, 10 June 1971 SCRA 435) stating that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The escape of the accused does not relieve the Court of the burden of automatically reviewing the case, in the same manner that a withdrawal of appeal by a death convict would not remove the case from jurisdiction of the Court. Hence, the court will no longer permit the case to remain further in its docket and will proceed to discharge its task of passing upon the case en consulta and reviewing the facts and the law as applied thereto by the trial court, and determining the propriety of its imposition of the death penalty." (reference to footnotes omitted)

It is my considered view however that a distinction should be made between a death convict, i.e. one sentenced to death by a trial court, who remains in the custody of the law, but who voluntarily withdraws his appeal and a death convict, i.e. one sentenced to death by the trial court but who escapes from the custody of the law during the pendency of the appeal. It should be clear in the first case, that even if the death convict withdraws his appeal from the trial court’s judgment sentencing him to death, the appellate court may still and nonetheless review the judgment of conviction for the convict-appellant has at least remained in the custody of the law to await final verdict in his case. In the second case, however, the accused no longer recognizes and respects the authority of law and the duly-constituted authorities in general and this Court in particular. Such supercilious conduct of an escapee cannot and should not be taken lightly by the Court. Respect for and recognition of the authority of the Court are essential and implicit elements in an effective and credible judicial system.

No one, it should be stressed, should be allowed to make a mockery of the justice system by, in one breath, seeking its protection and even vindication via an automatic review of a death sentence and, in another breath, continuing to be a fugitive from justice and repudiating the very authority of the system whose protection he seeks and invokes.

A soft, bended approach whereby an sentenced to death by a trial court for a heinous crime may escape from confinement and, still require the Supreme Court just the same to review his conviction, will shatter to pieces the present drive against heinous crimes punishable with death. All that the accused in such cases has to do — after being sentenced to death by the trial court — is to arrange for an escape since, in any case, such escape will not be taken as admission of guilt and the Supreme Court will have, in any event, to review his conviction.

If the accused, upon review by the Supreme Court, is acquitted or meted out a penalty lower than death, then he can re-surface. If his death sentence is affirmed by the Supreme Court, then he will most likely remain a fugitive from justice.

I do not believe that this is the wish or intention of the general public now outraged by the still-rising incidence of heinous crimes punishable with death. To infuse sense, nay, sanity into the system, I submit that "mandatory jurisdiction" of the Supreme Court to review death penalty cases and "automatic review" of death penalty cases have to assume implicitly that the accused in his person is subject to the processes and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court if it is to review his conviction to death by the trial court.

It is therefore my considered opinion that accused Josefina A. Esparas should be given a non-extendible period of thirty (30) days from receipt by her counsel of record of the Court’s resolution. to surrender to the proper authorities and remain in the custody of the law, failing in which, this appeal should be deemed and stand dismissed and, thereupon, the judgment of the trial court convicting and sentencing her to death should be final ordered remanded to the court of origin for appropriate execution, after re-arrest of the accused.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Melo and Mendoza, JJ., dissent.

FRANCISCO, J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I fully agree with Mr. Justice Padilla’s opinion that if the accused fails to surrender to the proper authorities and remain in the custody of the law then her right to appeal is deemed waived and forfeited. I wish to express, nonetheless, my observations on this issue.

An appeal is a statutory remedy for the correction of errors which might have been committed. With the accused lies the power and option to avail of the remedy, and with the appellate court belongs the power to affirm or reverse the accused’s conviction. Appeal, however, presupposes jurisdiction over the person of the accused. And since appeal is a mere statutory privilege and is not a natural right nor part of the due process, it may only be exercised in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of the law (Bello v. Fernando, 4 SCRA 135, citing Aguila v. Navarro, 55 Phil. 898, and Santiago v. Valenzuela, 78 Phil. 397; Villanueva v. Court of Appeals, 205 SCRA 537; Borre v. Court of Appeals, 158 SCRA 560; Ravelo v. Court of Appeals, 207 SCRA 254; U.S. v. Yu Ten, 33 Phil. 122). Thus, an accused who escapes from prison or confinement loses 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 (People v. Agbulos, 222 SCRA 196; People v. Mapalao, 197 SCRA 79). A contrary view would encourage the accused to trifle with the administration of justice, and provide means for guilty parties to escape punishment (People v. Ang Gioc, 73 Phil. 366). In this case, the accused escaped from confinement and heretofore refuses to surrender to the proper authorities, thus she must be deemed to have abandoned the appeal (See People v. Quiritan, 197 SCRA 32; People v. Acol, 232 SCRA 406; People v. Codilla, 224 SCRA 104).

In criminal cases, appeal may be taken to the Supreme Court via the following steps: by filing a notice of appeal in those cases where the penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed, by filing a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 where the penalty imposed is not reclusion perpetua and the appeal would involve only questions of law (People v. Pagsanjan, 221 SCRA 735), and by automatic review where the penalty imposed is death (R.A. No. 7659, Sec. 22; Rule 122, Sec. 10, Revised Rules of Court). An appeal has "for its object simply and solely the protection of the accused." 1 Appeal by way of automatic review is plainly another mode of appeal and has an objective similar to any other modes of appeal, i.e., the protection of the accused. If the accused has escaped, then he refuses to avail of the protection of the Court. Why then should the Court insist in protecting him. In the same vein, "the law providing for automatic review of a death sentence seeks to favor the [accused]." 2 If the accused has absconded or escaped from confinement then who is to be favored by the automatic review — a fugitive from justice? Hence, if the escape of the accused may be deemed waiver of the right to appeal in any other mode of appeal, then the same must apply to an appeal by way of automatic review. I fail to see, in this connection, any cogent reason why an automatic review should be given a status different from the other modes of appeal. I thus find, and with due respect to my esteemed colleague Mr. Justice Puno, unacceptable the proposition that an appeal by way of automatic review is not subject to waiver. If the constitutional rights of the accused enshrined under Article III of the 1987 Constitution, such as right against unreasonable searches and seizures, right against self-incrimination, right to remain silent, among others, can be waived, then with more reason with the right to appeal which is merely statutory origin.

I am not unaware of the cases cited by my esteemed colleague Mr. Justice Puno establishing the rule that the Court is not precluded from reviewing the death sentence of an accused who is at large. But in the words of a known author," [e]ven those Justices most opposed to overruling constitutional decisions have acknowledged that the ‘law may grow to meet changing conditions’ and that the doctrine of stare decisis should not required a ‘slavish adherence to authority where new conditions require new rules of "conduct." 3 Considering the manifest intent of the legislature in enacting the death penalty law to rationalize and harmonize the penal sanctions for heinous crimes and to serve as effective deterrence, it is high time for the Court to depart from the old doctrine which, to my mind, promotes nothing except disobedience to and repudiation of our judicial system.

Endnotes:



1. 17 Phil. Rep. 533 [1910]; see also U.S. v. Binayoh, 35 Phil. Rep. 23 [1916].

2. See section 9, Rule 118.

3. See section 9, Rule 122.

4. Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. IV, 1980 ed., pp. 360-61.

5. 93 Phil. Rep. 937 [1953]; see also People v. Bocar, Et Al., 97 Phil. 398 [1955].

6. No. L-1289, June 10, 1971, 39 SCRA 435.

7. No. L-31429, January 31, 1972, 43 SCRA 185.

8. See section 5(2) (d), Article X.

9. No. L-27974, February 27, 1976, 69 SCRA 427.

10. No. L-39960-61, March 5, 1984, 128 SCRA 31; see also People v. Vallente, No. L-37937, September 30, 1986, 144 SCRA 495.

11. Section 19(1), Article III.

12. Section 22, R.A. 7659.

13. G.R. Nos. 100720-23, June 30, 1993, 224 SCRA 104.

PANGANIBAN, J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. See U.S. v. Laguna, 17 Phil. 533 (1910) and other cases cited in the ponencia.

2. Art. III, Sec. 19(1).

3. Sec. 8, Rule 124, Rules of Court provides:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


"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."cralaw virtua1aw library

4. In its review of death sentences, this Court has thus far affirmed only one; reversed another; commuted to reclusion perpetua two others; and remanded three cases for further proceedings. By refusing to review death cases of escaped convicts, this Court would be abetting executions of conceivably erroneous death sentences. This we must not allow.

FRANCISCO, J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. U.S. v. Laguna, 17 Phil. 532, 540.

2. People v. Bocar, et. al., 97 Phil. 398, 404.

3. Gideon v. Wainright: The "Art" of Overruling, 1963, by Israel in Appellate Judicial Opinions, Ed. by Leflar, 1974, pp. 134-135.

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