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G.R. No. 183994, June 30, 2014 - WILLIAM CO A.K.A. XU QUING HE, Petitioner, v. NEW PROSPERITY PLASTIC PRODUCTS, REPRESENTED BY ELIZABETH UY, Respondent.

G.R. No. 183994, June 30, 2014 - WILLIAM CO A.K.A. XU QUING HE, Petitioner, v. NEW PROSPERITY PLASTIC PRODUCTS, REPRESENTED BY ELIZABETH UY, Respondent.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 183994, June 30, 2014

WILLIAM CO A.K.A. XU QUING HE, Petitioner, v. NEW PROSPERITY PLASTIC PRODUCTS, REPRESENTED BY ELIZABETH UY,1Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Revised Rules on Civil Procedure (Rules) are the April 30, 20082 and August 1, 20083 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 102975, which dismissed the petition and denied the motion for reconsideration, respectively. In effect, the CA affirmed the January 28, 2008 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 121 of Caloocan City, which annulled and set aside the Orders dated September 4, 20065 and November 16, 20066 of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Branch 50 of Caloocan City, permanently dismissing Criminal Case Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634.

The facts are simple and undisputed:

Respondent New Prosperity Plastic Products, represented by Elizabeth Uy (Uy), is the private complainant in Criminal Case Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634 for Violation of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Bilang 22 filed against petitioner William Co (Co), which were raffled to the MeTC Branch. 49 of Caloocan City. In the absence of Uy and the private counsel, the cases were provisionally dismissed on June 9, 2003 in open court pursuant to Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (Rules).7 Uy received a copy of the June 9, 2003 Order on July 2, 2003, while her counsel-of-record received a copy a day after.8 On July 2, 2004, Uy, through counsel, filed a Motion to Revive the Criminal Cases.9 Hon. Belen B. Ortiz, then Presiding Judge of the MeTC Branch 49, granted the motion on October 14, 2004 and denied Co’s motion for reconsideration.10 When Co moved for recusation, Judge Ortiz inhibited herself from handling the criminal cases per Order dated January 10, 2005.11 The cases were, thereafter, raffled to the MeTC Branch 50 of Caloocan City. On March 17, 2005, Co filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO)/writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) before the RTC of Caloocan City challenging the revival of the criminal cases.12 It was, however, dismissed for lack of merit on May 23, 2005.13 Co’s motion for reconsideration was, subsequently, denied on December 16, 2005.14 Co then filed a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 before the Supreme Court, which was docketed as G.R. No. 171096.15 We dismissed the petition per Resolution dated February 13, 2006.16 There being no motion for reconsideration filed, the dismissal became final and executory on March 20, 2006.17cralawred

Before the MeTC Branch 50 where Criminal Case Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634 were re-raffled after the inhibition of Judge Ortiz, Co filed a “Motion for Permanent Dismissal” on July 13, 2006.18 Uy opposed the motion, contending that the motion raised the same issues already resolved with finality by this Court in G.R. No. 171096.19 In spite of this, Judge Esteban V. Gonzaga issued an Order dated September 4, 2006 granting Co’s motion.20 When the court subsequently denied Uy’s motion for reconsideration on November 16, 2006,21 Uy filed a petition for certiorari before the RTC of Caloocan City. On January 28, 2008, Hon. Judge Adoracion G. Angeles of the RTC Branch 121 acted favorably on the petition, annulling and setting aside the Orders dated September 4, 2006 and November 16, 2006 and directing the MeTC Branch 50 to proceed with the trial of the criminal cases.22 Co then filed a petition for certiorari before the CA, which, as aforesaid, dismissed the petition and denied his motion for reconsideration. Hence, this present petition with prayer for TRO/WPI.

According to Co, the following issues need to be resolved in this petition:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

  1. WHETHER OR NOT THE DISMISSAL OF THE CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST PETITIONER ON THE GROUND OF DENIAL OF HIS RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL CONSTITUTES FINAL DISMISSAL OF THESE CASES;

  2. WHETHER OR NOT THE METC ACTED WITH JURISDICTION IN REVIVING THE CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST PETITIONER WHICH WERE DISMISSED ON THE GROUND OF DENIAL OF HIS RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL; and

  3. ASSUMING POR GRATIA ARGUMENTI THE CASES WERE ONLY PROVISIONALLY DISMISSED:

    1. WHETHER THE ONE-YEAR TIME BAR OF THEIR REVIVAL IS COMPUTED FROM ISSUANCE OF THE ORDER OF PROVISIONAL DISMISSAL;
    2. WHETHER THE ACTUAL NUMBER OF DAYS IN A YEAR IS THE BASIS FOR COMPUTING THE ONE-YEAR TIME BAR;
    3. WHETHER THE PROVISIONALLY DISMISSED CASES AGAINST PETITIONER ARE REVIVED IPSO FACTO BY THE FILING OF MOTION TO REVIVE THESE CASES.23

Co argues that the June 9, 2003 Order provisionally dismissing Criminal Case Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634 should be considered as a final dismissal on the ground that his right to speedy trial was denied. He reasons out that from his arraignment on March 4, 2002 until the initial trial on June 9, 2003, there was already a “vexatious, capricious and oppressive” delay, which is in violation of Section 6 of Republic Act 8493 (Speedy Trial Act of 1998)24 and Section 2, Paragraph 2, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure25 mandating that the entire trial period should not exceed 180 days from the first day of trial. As the dismissal is deemed final, Co contends that the MeTC lost its jurisdiction over the cases and cannot reacquire jurisdiction over the same based on a mere motion because its revival would already put him in double jeopardy.

Assuming that the criminal cases were only provisionally dismissed, Co further posits that such dismissal became permanent one year after the issuance of the June 9, 2003 Order, not after notice to the offended party. He also insists that both the filing of the motion to revive and the trial court’s issuance of the order granting the revival must be within the one-year period. Lastly, even assuming that the one-year period to revive the criminal cases started on July 2, 2003 when Uy received the June 9, 2003 Order, Co asserts that the motion was filed one day late since year 2004 was a leap year.

The petition is unmeritorious.

At the outset, it must be noted that the issues raised in this petition were also the meat of the controversy in Co’s previous petition in G.R. No. 171096, which We dismissed per Resolution dated February 13, 2006. Such dismissal became final and executory on March 20, 2006. While the first petition was dismissed mainly due to procedural infirmities, this Court nonetheless stated therein that “[i]n any event, the petition lacks sufficient showing that respondent court had committed any reversible error in the questioned judgment to warrant the exercise by this Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction in this case.” Hence, upon the finality of Our February 13, 2006 Resolution in G.R. No. 171096, the same already constitutes as res judicata between the parties. On this ground alone, this petition should have been dismissed outright.

Even if We are to squarely resolve the issues repeatedly raised in the present petition, Co’s arguments are nonetheless untenable on the grounds as follows:

First, Co’s charge that his right to a speedy trial was violated is baseless. Obviously, he failed to show any evidence that the alleged “vexatious, capricious and oppressive” delay in the trial was attended with malice or that the same was made without good cause or justifiable motive on the part of the prosecution. This Court has emphasized that “‘speedy trial’ is a relative term and necessarily a flexible concept.”26 In determining whether the accused's right to speedy trial was violated, the delay should be considered in view of the entirety of the proceedings.27 The factors to balance are the following: (a) duration of the delay; (b) reason therefor; (c) assertion of the right or failure to assert it; and (d) prejudice caused by such delay.28 Surely, mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved would not suffice as the realities of everyday life must be regarded in judicial proceedings which, after all, do not exist in a vacuum, and that particular regard must be given to the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.29 “While the Court recognizes the accused's right to speedy trial and adheres to a policy of speedy administration of justice, we cannot deprive the State of a reasonable opportunity to fairly prosecute criminals. Unjustified postponements which prolong the trial for an unreasonable length of time are what offend the right of the accused to speedy trial.”30cralawred

Second, Co is burdened to establish the essential requisites of the first paragraph of Section 8, Rule 117 of the Rules, which are conditions sine qua non to the application of the time-bar in the second paragraph thereof, to wit: (1) the prosecution with the express conformity of the accused or the accused moves for a provisional (sin perjuicio) dismissal of the case; or both the prosecution and the accused move for a provisional dismissal of the case; (2) the offended party is notified of the motion for a provisional dismissal of the case; (3) the court issues an order granting the motion and dismissing the case provisionally; and (4) the public prosecutor is served with a copy of the order of provisional dismissal of the case.31 In this case, it is apparent from the records that there is no notice of any motion for the provisional dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634 or of the hearing thereon which was served on the private complainant at least three days before said hearing as mandated by Section 4, Rule 15 of the Rules.32 The fact is that it was only in open court that Co moved for provisional dismissal “considering that, as per records, complainant had not shown any interest to pursue her complaint.33 The importance of a prior notice to the offended party of a motion for provisional dismissal is aptly explained in People v. Lacson:34cralawred

x x x It must be borne in mind that in crimes involving private interests, the new rule requires that the offended party or parties or the heirs of the victims must be given adequate a priori notice of any motion for the provisional dismissal of the criminal case. Such notice may be served on the offended party or the heirs of the victim through the private prosecutor, if there is one, or through the public prosecutor who in turn must relay the notice to the offended party or the heirs of the victim to enable them to confer with him before the hearing or appear in court during the hearing. The proof of such service must be shown during the hearing on the motion, otherwise, the requirement of the new rule will become illusory. Such notice will enable the offended party or the heirs of the victim the opportunity to seasonably and effectively comment on or object to the motion on valid grounds, including: (a) the collusion between the prosecution and the accused for the provisional dismissal of a criminal case thereby depriving the State of its right to due process; (b) attempts to make witnesses unavailable; or (c) the provisional dismissal of the case with the consequent release of the accused from detention would enable him to threaten and kill the offended party or the other prosecution witnesses or flee from Philippine jurisdiction, provide opportunity for the destruction or loss of the prosecution’s physical and other evidence and prejudice the rights of the offended party to recover on the civil liability of the accused by his concealment or furtive disposition of his property or the consequent lifting of the writ of preliminary attachment against his property.35

Third, there is evident want of jurisprudential support on Co’s supposition that the dismissal of the cases became permanent one year after the issuance of the June 9, 2003 Order and not after notice to the offended party. When the Rules states that the provisional dismissal shall become permanent one year after the issuance of the order temporarily dismissing the case, it should not be literally interpreted as such. Of course, there is a vital need to satisfy the basic requirements of due process; thus, said in one case:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Although the second paragraph of the new rule states that the order of dismissal shall become permanent one year after the issuance thereof without the case having been revived, the provision should be construed to mean that the order of dismissal shall become permanent one year after service of the order of dismissal on the public prosecutor who has control of the prosecution without the criminal case having been revived. The public prosecutor cannot be expected to comply with the timeline unless he is served with a copy of the order of dismissal.36

We hasten to add though that if the offended party is represented by a private counsel the better rule is that the reckoning period should commence to run from the time such private counsel was actually notified of the order of provisional dismissal. When a party is represented by a counsel, notices of all kinds emanating from the court should be sent to the latter at his/her given address.37 Section 2, Rule 13 of the Rules analogously provides that if any party has appeared by counsel, service upon the former shall be made upon the latter.38cralawred

Fourth, the contention that both the filing of the motion to revive the case and the court order reviving it must be made prior to the expiration of the one-year period is unsustainable. Such interpretation is not found in the Rules. Moreover, to permit otherwise would definitely put the offended party at the mercy of the trial court, which may wittingly or unwittingly not comply. Judicial notice must be taken of the fact that most, if not all, of our trial court judges have to deal with clogged dockets in addition to their administrative duties and functions. Hence, they could not be expected to act at all times on all pending decisions, incidents, and related matters within the prescribed period of time. It is likewise possible that some of them, motivated by ill-will or malice, may simply exercise their whims and caprices in not issuing the order of revival on time.

Fifth, the fact that year 2004 was a leap year is inconsequential to determine the timeliness of Uy’s motion to revive the criminal cases. What is material instead is Co’s categorical admission that Uy is represented by a private counsel who only received a copy of the June 9, 2003 Order on July 3, 2003. Therefore, the motion was not belatedly filed on July 2, 2004. Since the period for filing a motion to revive is reckoned from the private counsel's receipt of the order of provisional dismissal, it necessarily follows that the reckoning period for the permanent dismissal is likewise the private counsel's date of receipt of the order of provisional dismissal.

And Sixth, granting for the sake of argument that this Court should take into account 2004 as a leap year and that the one-year period to revive the case should be reckoned from the date of receipt of the order of provisional dismissal by Uy, We still hold that the motion to revive the criminal cases against Co was timely filed. A year is equivalent to 365 days regardless of whether it is a regular year or a leap year.39 Equally so, under the Administrative Code of 1987, a year is composed of 12 calendar months. The number of days is irrelevant. This was our ruling in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Primetown Property Group, Inc.,40 which was subsequently reiterated in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Aichi Forging Company of Asia, Inc.,41 thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

x x x [In] 1987, EO 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 was enacted. Section 31, Chapter VIII, Book I thereof provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Sec. 31. Legal Periods. - "Year" shall be understood to be twelve calendar months; "month" of thirty days, unless it refers to a specific calendar month in which case it shall be computed according to the number of days the specific month contains; "day", to a day of twenty-four hours and; "night" from sunrise to sunset. (emphasis supplied)
A calendar month is "a month designated in the calendar without regard to the number of days it may contain." It is the "period of time running from the beginning of a certain numbered day up to, but not including, the corresponding numbered day of the next month, and if there is not a sufficient number of days in the next month, then up to and including the last day of that month." To illustrate, one calendar month from December 31, 2007 will be from January 1, 2008 to January 31, 2008; one calendar month from January 31, 2008 will be from February 1, 2008 until February 29, 2008.42

Applying Section 31, Chapter VIII, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1987 to this case, the one-year period reckoned from the time Uy received the order of dismissal on July 2, 2003 consisted of 24 calendar months, computed as follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

1st calendar month
July 3, 2003 to
August 2, 2003
2nd calendar month
August 3, 2003 to

September 2, 2003

3rd calendar month
September 3, 2003 to
October 2, 2003
4th calendar month
October 3, 2003 to
November 2, 2003
5th calendar month
November 3, 2003 to
December 2, 2003
6th calendar month
December 3, 2003 to
January 2, 2004
7th calendar month
January 3, 2004 to
February 2, 2004
8th calendar month
February 3, 2004 to
March 2, 2004
9th calendar month
March 3, 2004 to
April 2, 2004
10th calendar month
April 3, 2004 to
May 2, 2004
11th calendar month
May 3, 2004 to
June 2, 2004
12th calendar month
June 3, 2004 to
July 2, 2004

In the end, We find it hard to disregard the thought that the instant petition was filed as a dilatory tactic to prosecute Criminal Case Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634. As correctly pointed out by Uy since the time when the “Motion for Permanent Dismissal” was filed, the issues raised herein were already resolved with finality by this Court in G.R. No. 171096. Verily, Co, acting through the guidance and advice of his counsel, Atty. Oscar C. Maglaque, adopted a worthless and vexatious legal maneuver for no purpose other than to delay the trial court proceedings. It appears that Atty. Maglaque’s conduct contravened the Code of Professional Responsibility which enjoins lawyers to observe the rules of procedure and not to misuse them to defeat the ends of justice (Rule 10.03, Canon 10) as well as not to unduly delay a case or misuse court processes (Rule 12.04, Canon 12). The Lawyer’s Oath also upholds in particular:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

x x x I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients x x x.

This Court has repeatedly impressed upon counsels that the need for the prompt termination of litigation is essential to an effective and efficient administration of justice. In Spouses Aguilar v. Manila Banking Corporation,43 We said:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The Court reminds petitioners' counsel of the duty of lawyers who, as officers of the court, must see to it that the orderly administration of justice must not be unduly impeded. It is the duty of a counsel to advise his client, ordinarily a layman on the intricacies and vagaries of the law, on the merit or lack of merit of his case. If he finds that his client's cause is defenseless, then it is his bounden duty to advise the latter to acquiesce and submit, rather than traverse the incontrovertible. A lawyer must resist the whims and caprices of his client, and temper his client's propensity to litigate. A lawyer’s oath to uphold the cause of justice is superior to his duty to his client; its primacy is indisputable.44

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is DENIED. The April 30, 2008 and August 1, 2008 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 102975, which affirmed the January 28, 2008 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 121 of Caloocan City, annulling and setting aside the Orders dated September 4, 2006 and November 16, 2006 of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 50 of Caloocan City that permanently dismissed Criminal Case Nos. 206655-59, 206661-77 and 209634, are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs of suit to be paid by the petitioner.

The Commission on Bar Discipline-Integrated Bar of the Philippines is DIRECTED to investigate Atty. Oscar C. Maglaque for his acts that appear to have violated the Lawyer’s Oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Rule on Forum Shopping.

SO ORDERED.

Peralta, (Acting Chairperson),* Vill Villarama, Jr.,** Mendoza, Reyes,*** and Leonen, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:


1 Surnamed Yu in some parts of the records.

* Per Special Order No. 1707 dated June 17, 2014.

** Designated Acting Member, per Special Order No. 1691 dated May 22, 2014.

*** Designated Acting Member in lieu of Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., per Special Order No. 1704 dated June 17, 2014.

2Rollo, p. 36.

3 Penned by Associate Justice Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., with Associate Justices Rebecca De Guia-Salvador and Vicente S.E. Veloso concurring; id. at 38-40, 307-309.

4Rollo, pp. 243-246.

5 Id. at 172-174.

6 Id. at 206.

7 Id. at 44. Sec. 8, Rule 117 of the Rules states:

Sec. 8. Provisional dismissal. – A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express consent of the accused and with notice to the offended party.

The provisional dismissal of offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of any amount, or both, shall become permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case having been revived. With respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years, their provisional dismissal shall become permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the case having been revived.

8Rollo, p. 57.

9Id. at 50, 58.

10Id. at 56-58, 69-71.

11Id. at 244.

12Id. at 72-87.

13Id. at 116-117, 292-293.

14Id. at 128, 294.

15Id. at 129-144.

16Id. at 147-148, 295-296.

17Id. at 297-298.

18Id. at 149-165.

19Id. at 166-171.

20Id. at 172-174, 299-301.

21Id. at 206.

22Id. at 243-246, 302-305.

23Id. at 12-13.

24 Section 6. Time Limit for Trial. - In criminal cases involving persons charged of a crime, except those subject to the Rules on Summary Procedure, or where the penalty prescribed by law does not exceed six (6) months imprisonment, or a fine of One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) or both, irrespective of other imposable penalties, the justice or judge shall, after consultation with the public prosecutor and the counsel for the accused, set the case for continuous trial on a weekly or other short-term trial calendar at the earliest possible time so as to ensure speedy trial. In no case shall the entire trial period exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the first day of trial, except as otherwise authorized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court pursuant to Section 3, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court.

25 SEC. 2. Continuous trial until terminated; postponements.—Trial once commenced shall continue from day to day as far as practicable until terminated. It may be postponed for a reasonable period of time for good cause.

The court shall, after consultation with the prosecutor and defense counsel, set the case for continuous trial on a weekly or other short-term trial calendar at the earliest possible time so as to ensure speedy trial. In no case shall the entire trial period exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the first day of trial, except as otherwise authorized by the Supreme Court.

The time limitations provided under this section and the preceding section shall not apply where special laws or circulars of the Supreme Court provide for a shorter period of trial.

26Jacob v. Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, G.R. No. 162206, November 17, 2010, 635 SCRA 94, 106.

27 Id.; People v. Rama, 403 Phil. 155, 168 (2001).

28Tan v. People of the Philippines, 604 Phil. 68, 81 (2009).

29 Id.; Jacob v. Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, supra note 26, at 106-107.

30 People v. Rama, supra note 27.

31 People v. Lacson, 448 Phil. 317, 370-371 (2003), as cited in Los Baños v. Pedro, 604 Phil. 215, 229 (2009).

32 Sec. 4. Hearing of motion. – Except for motions which the court may act upon without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party, every written motion shall be set for hearing by the applicant.

Every written motion required to be heard and the notice of the hearing thereof shall be served in such a manner as to ensure its receipt by the other party at least three (3) days before the date of hearing, unless the court for good cause sets the hearing on shorter notice.

33 See Order dated June 9, 2003 (Rollo, p. 44).

34 448 Phil. 317 (2003).

35People v. Lacson, supra note 31, at 378-379.

36 Id. at 371.

37 See Sy v. Fairland Knitcraft Co., Inc., G.R. No. 182915 and G.R. No. 189658, December 12, 2011, 662 SCRA 67, 100 and Bello v. National Labor Relations Commission, 559 Phil. 20, 27 (2007), citing Ginete v. Sunrise Manning Agency, 411 Phil. 953, 957-958 (2001).

38 Id.

39Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Primetown Property Group, Inc., 558 Phil. 182, 189 (2007).

40 558 Phil. 182 (2007).

41 G.R. No. 184823, October 6, 2010, 632 SCRA 422.

42Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Primetown Property Group, Inc., supra note 39.

43 533 Phil. 645 (2006).

44Spouses Aguilar v. Manila Banking Corporation, supra, at 669.
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