G.R. No. 199070, April 07, 2014
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. VICENTE R. ESPINOSA AND LINDSEY BUENAVISTA, Respondents.
G.R. NO. 199237
RAMON CAESAR T. ROJAS FOR HIMSELF AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HEIRS OF RAMON ROJAS JR., Petitioners, v. VICENTE R. ESPINOSA PROMULGATED: AND LINDSEY BUENAVISTA, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
[o]n May 27, 2007, at around 9:00 in the evening, [he] was inside the compound serving beer to Vicente Espinosa, “Aldan” Padilla and “Eddie” Aguillon (Barangay Kagawad and Barangay Secretary of Barangay Lanjagan, Ajuy, Iloilo). Also drinking with them were Dennis Cartagena alias “Totong” and Lindsey Buenavista alias “Bebe” who acted as bodyguards of Vicente Espinosa during the last elections. Vicente Espinosa, “Aldan” Padilla and “Eddie” Aguillon were talking about the last elections and how they could get even at the group of Mayor Juancho Alvarez and Vice–Mayor Ramon Rojas, Jr. Then, as [Iran] was leaving their table after serving them beer, [he] clearly heard Vicente Espinosa telling “Aldan” Padilla and “Eddie” Aguillon “Ipatumba naton sila. Unahon ta si Vice Ramon” (Let’s eliminate them. Let’s get Vice Ramon first.) Then [Iran] [also] heard Vicente Espinosa [say] “Ti ano Bebe kag Totong, kaya nyo si Vice” (How about it “Bebe” and “Patong”, can you do it to Vice?);
x x x x
In the evening of June 30, 2007 at the compound, [Iran] noticed that Vicente Espinosa was angry. Then suddenly he called me and asked “Kaya mo patyon si Juancho?” (Can you kill Juancho?), to which [Iran] answered “Noy, maluoy ka man, pangita–i lang sang iban dira. Indi ko kaya.” (Noy, have pity, just look for other persons. I can’t do it.) Vicente Espinosa then ordered me to [light] some “pwitis” (pyrotechnic rockets) and aim them at the house of Juancho Alvarez which is just 200 meters away from the compound. As [Iran fired] the rockets towards the house of Juancho Alvarez x x x Vicente Espinosa was laughing and enjoying[.]7
The evidence submitted falls short of the quantum of proof required for a finding of probable cause against Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista. Indeed, it is painful and heartbreaking for the Rojas family, however, the law must at all times be sustained. All doubts must be resolved in favor of the accused. The possibility of the guilt of Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista is not being ruled out, but the principle that [the] “insufficiency of evidence must be resolved consistent with the theory of innocence.”8
1. resolving the preliminary investigation based on degree of “proof beyond reasonable doubt” rather than degree of proof to establish “probable cause” against the appellees;
2. holding that the evidence of the appellants are purely circumstantial or indirect evidence;
3. refusing to give due credence to the straightforward, candid, positive and, most importantly, unrebutted declarations of the appellants’ witnesses, manifesting a clear bias in favor of appellees Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista; and
4. finding no probable cause against appellees Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenaventura.9
21. Can you tell me the reason why you and Edgar Cordero shot Vice Mayor Rojas?
Because Vicente “Etik” Espinosa alias “Bulldog” of Barangay Lanjagan, Ajuy, Iloilo paid us[.]
22. Do you really know Vicente “Etik” Espinosa alias “Bulldog”?
Yes. Because I was one of his bodyguards during the elections in May 2007.
23. You said that you are only one of his bodyguards. [D]o you know his other bodyguards?
Yes. They are Rey Peña, Lindsey Buenavista alias “Bebe” and certain alias “Remy”.
x x x x
26. When did Vicente “Etik” Espinosa tell you to murder Vice Mayor Rojas?
x x x the sworn statement of Dennis Cartagena x x x is only admissible against Cartagena and not against his co–accused or co–respondent. x x x [T]he exclusionary rule on admission and on confession as provided for under Section[s] 30 and 33 of the Rules of Court can be invoked during the preliminary investigation and reinvestigation of a case.
x x x x
x x x [T]he panel of investigators overstretched their authority and showed manifest partiality and bias, when in resolving the Motion for Reconsideration filed by respondent Espinosa, they took in consideration the affidavits of Renyl Iran and Fidel Lavega. Said affidavits were never submitted to the Panel by either party to form part of their evidence. The affiants were not even called to affirm their statements.18
Admission by a Conspirator – The act or declaration of a conspirator relating to the conspiracy and during its existence, may be given in evidence after the conspiracy is shown by evidence other than such act or declaration.
x x x In order that the admission of a conspirator may be received against his or her co–conspirators, it is necessary that:
a.) The conspiracy must first be proved by evidence other than the admission itself;
b.) The admission relates to the common object; and
c.) It has been made while the declarant was engaged in carrying out the conspiracy.
x x x x
Considering that the extrajudicial confession of accused Dennis Cartagena is not corroborated by independent evidence, it is therefore inadmissible and it would be unfair to hold accused Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista for trial. Cartagena’s confession is binding only on him and is not admissible against his co–accused Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista. By the rule, his confession is considered hearsay against his x x x co–accused.20
Wherefore, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration, the motion for inhibition and motion to expunge are hereby denied, respectively.
However, in order to discontinue the lack of faith and trust of complainants private and public, and petitioner on the impartiality and objectivity of the Presiding Judge, he voluntarily inhibits himself from further hearing the case following the opinion of the Supreme Court that “at the very first sign of lack of faith and trust in his actions, whether well–grounded or not, the judge has no other alternative but to inhibit himself from the case.” (Gutang vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124760, July 8, 1998, 292 SCRA 76). On the other hand, the Supreme Court cannot tolerate acts of litigants who for any conceivable reason seek to disqualify a judge for their own purposes under a plea of bias, hostility, prejudice or prejudgment.” (People v. Serrano, G.R. No. 44712, October 28, 1991, 203 SCRA 171)
Let these cases be therefore returned/forwarded to the Office of the Clerk of Court for their proper disposition by the Executive Judge.
- x x x when he ordered the dismissal of [the] amended information against accused Espinosa and Buenavista despite the [extrajudicial] confession of their co–accused Dennis Cartagena and corroborating [evidence] on record establishing their participation in the crime charged;
- x x x in holding that the [extrajudicial] confession of Cartagena is inadmissible x x x under Section 30 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court;
- x x x for excluding the extrajudicial confession in his determination of the assailed orders.26
A perusal of the Petition revealed there were congenital infirmities:
1. the Petition was filed one day after the 60–day regl[e]mentary period for filing the Petition for Certiorari , in violation of Section 4, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure;
2. there was no proper proof of service of the Petition to the court a quo and to private respondents. Certainly, registry receipts can hardly be considered sufficient proof of receipt by the addressee of registered mail[;]
3. the Petition failed to incorporate therein a written explanation why the preferred personal mode of filing and service as mandated under Section 11, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure was not availed of. Verily, the Explanation referred to ‘… Motion for Extension...’;
4. there was no competent evidence regarding petitioners’ identity on the attached Verifications and Certifications Against Forum Shopping as required by Section 12, Rule II of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice; and
5. the Notarial Certificate in the Verification and Certification Against Forum Shopping of private complainant did not contain the office address of the notary public, in violation of Section 2(c), Rule VIII of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.30
Sec. 6. Construction. – These Rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.
x x x the resort to a liberal application, or suspension of the application of procedural rules, must remain as the exception to the well–settled principle that rules must be complied with for the orderly administration of justice.32
SECTION 4. When and Where to File the Petition. — The petition shall be filed not later than sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment, order or resolution. In case a motion for reconsideration or new trial is timely filed, whether such motion is required or not, the petition shall be filed not later than sixty (60) days counted from the notice of the denial of the motion.
x x x x
Nevertheless, in the more recent case of Domdom v. Sandiganbayan, we ruled that the deletion of the clause in Section 4, Rule 65 by A.M. No. 07–7–12–SC did not, ipso facto, make the filing of a motion for extension to file a Rule 65 petition absolutely prohibited. We held in – that if absolute proscription were intended, the deleted portion could have just simply been reworded to specifically prohibit an extension of time to file such petition. Thus, because of the lack of an express prohibition, we held that motions for extension may be allowed, subject to this Court’s sound discretion, and only under exceptional and meritorious cases.
Indeed, we have relaxed the procedural technicalities introduced under A.M. No. 07–7–12–SC in order to serve substantial justice and safeguard strong public interest.35 (Emphasis supplied)
1. most persuasive and weighty reasons;
2. to relieve a litigant from an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure;
3. good faith of the defaulting party by immediately paying within a reasonable time from the time of the default;
4. the existence of special or compelling circumstances;
5. the merits of the case;
6. a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules;
7. a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory;
8. the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby;
9. fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence without appellant’s fault;
10. peculiar legal and equitable circumstances attendant to each case;
11. in the name of substantial justice and fair play;
12. importance of the issues involved; and
13. exercise of sound discretion by the judge guided by all the attendant circumstances. Thus, there should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to advance a reasonable or meritorious explanation for his/her failure to comply with the rules.37
On or about December 23, 2010, the private prosecutors in Iloilo City received by registered mail copies of the x x x petition for Certiorari signed by AS Melissa A. Santos and Assistant Solicitor General John Emmanuel F. Madamba which appeared to have been filed with the Honorable Court through registered mail on December 14, 2010;
It was then that the private prosecutors noticed on Page 39 of the petition under the “Copy furnished:” portion that the names of the private respondents Vicente Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista were not among the list of parties who were furnished with copies of the petition as required by Rule 65. The copies sent to the private prosecutors also did not include a copy of the OSG’s Affidavit of Service. Thereupon, Atty. Penetrante in a letter dated January 12, 2011 brought this matter to the attention of the OSG thru ASG John Emmanuel F. Madamba as AS Melissa A. Santos x x x.
Thereafter, in a reply letter dated January 14, 2011 ASG Madamba and AS Santos informed Atty. Penetrante (a) that they have actually furnished the private respondents with copies of the petition but the Affidavit of Services was attached to the original of the petition that was filed with the [CA–Cebu], and (b) that they will thereafter furnish her with the proof of service to private respondents as soon as they have received the registry return receipts from the post office. x x x.39
Indeed the actual date of filing of the petition as well as compliance with the rest of the formal and procedural requirements of a petition for Certiorari under Rule 65, namely – OSG’s verification and certification on non–forum shopping, the “Copy Furnished” portion showing service of copies of the petition on the public and private respondent[s] by registered mail and the required “Explanation” why personal service of the petition on the respondents was not resorted to –were all in the hands of the OSG. [These] were beyond the control or intervention of the private petitioners and private prosecutors. After all, the OSG [is the] chief legal counsel of the State and the People of the Philippines in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.40
x x x [W]hile it is settled that negligence of counsel binds the client, this rule is not without exception. In cases where reckless or gross negligence of counsel, like in this case, deprives the client of due process of law, or when the application would result in outright deprivation of the client’s liberty or property, or where the interest of justice so requires, relief is accorded to the client who suffered by reason of the lawyer’s gross or palpable mistake or negligence.42
x x x respondent nor her former counsel gave any explanation or reason citing extraordinary circumstances for her lawyer’s failure to abide by the rules for filing an appeal. Respondent merely insisted that she had not been remiss in following up her case with said lawyer.43
1 Rollo (G.R. No. 199070), pp. 69–71. Penned by Justice Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr. with Justices Edgardo L. Delos Santos and Agnes Reyes–Carpio, concurring.
2 Id. at 72–74. Penned by Justice Eduardo B. Peralta with Justices Edgardo L. Delos Santos and Victoria Isabel A. Paredes, concurring.
3 Id. at 18.
4 Id. at 19.
5Rollo (G.R. No. 199237), pp. 164–165.
6 Id. at 166–169.
7 Id. at 180–181.
8 Id. at 207.
9 Id. at 213.
10 Rollo (G.R. No. 199070), p. 20.
11 Id. at 75–80.
12 Id. at 77.
13 Id. at 80.
14 Id. at 21.
15 Id. at 21–22.
16 Id. at 23.
17Rollo (G.R. No. 199237), pp. 327–344.
18 Id. at 332–334.
19Rollo (G.R. No. 199237), p. 441.
20 Id. at 441–442.
21 Id. at 510.
22 Id. at 507–508.
23 Id. at 117.
24 Id. at 42–43.
25 Id. at 43.
26 Rollo (G.R. No. 199070), p. 178.
27Rollo (G.R. No. 199237), p. 44.
29Rollo (G.R. No. 199070), pp. 69–71.
30 Id. at 70–71.
31 G.R. No. 198357, 10 December 2012, 687 SCRA 643.
32 Id. at 647.
33Republic v. St. Vincent de Paul Colleges, Inc., G.R. No. 192908, 22 August 2012, 678 SCRA 738.
35 Id. at 749.
36 G.R. No. 187984, 15 November 2010, 634 SCRA 723.
37 Id. at 732.
38Rollo (G.R. No. 199237), pp. 42–43.
39 Id. at 44.
40 Id. at 46–47.
41 608 Phil. 478 (2009).
42 Id. at 492–493.
43 G.R. No. 198357, 10 December 2012, 687 SCRA 643, 648