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Consti2_Section19_Prohibited Punishment
(1)(People v. Estoista, G.R. No. L-5793, August 27, 1953)
(4) People v. Esparas, G.R. No. 120034 (Resolution), August 20, 1996)
(9)(Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice, G.R. No. 132601, October 12, 1998)

Section20_Non-imprisonment of Debt
(18)(Serafin v. Lindayag, A.M. No. 297-MJ, September 30, 1975)
(22) (Lozano v. Martinez, G.R. No. L-63419, L-66839-42, 71654, 74524-25, 75122-49, 75812-13, 725765-67,
75789, December 18, 1986)

(People v. Estoista, G.R. No. L-5793, August 27, 1953) 4. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; CRUEL AND UNUSUAL
PUNISHMENT; PENALTY PROVIDED FOR IN Republic
EN BANC Act No. 4 DEEMED CONSTITUTIONAL. Without
deciding whether the prohibition of the Constitution
[G.R. No. L-5793. August 27, 1953.] against infliction of cruel and unusual punishment
applies both to the form of the penalty and the
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. duration of imprisonment, confinement from 5 to 10
ALBERTO ESTOISTA, defendant-appellant. years for possessing or carrying firearm is not cruel or
unusual, having due regard to the prevalent
Ramon Diokno and Jose W. Diokno for appellant. conditions which the law proposes to curb.
5. CRIMINAL LAW; PENALTIES; ILLEGAL POSSESSION
First Assistant Solicitor General Ruperto Kapunan Jr. OF FIREARM. As Republic Act No. 4 provides a
and Acting Solicitor Antonio Consing for appellee. penalty of from 5 to 10 years imprisonment for illegal
possession of a firearm, the court can not but
SYLLABUS impose upon the offender the minimum at least of
the penalty provided. In this case, however,
1. CRIMINAL LAW; ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF considering the degree of malice of the defendant,
FIREARMS. It being established that the application of the law to its full extent would be too
defendant was alone when he walked to the harsh, and a recommendation is made to the
plantation where he was to hunt with the rifle of his President to reduce to fix months the penalty
father, in whose name the firearm was licensed, imposed upon this defendant.
and that the son, away from his father's sight and 6. CRIMINAL LAW; ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF
control, carried the gun for the only purpose of FIREARMS; CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; CRUEL AND
using it, as in fact he did with fatal consequences, UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT; FIVE YEARS' IMPRISONMENT,
the evidence support the son's conviction for the NOT CRUEL AND UNUSUAL. To come under the
offense of illegal possession of firearm which was in constitutional ban against cruel and unusual
accordance with law. punishment, the penalty imposed must be
2. ID.; ID.; U. S. vs. SAMSON (16 Phil., 323), "flagrantly and plainly oppressive," "wholly
EXPLAINED. The implied holding in U. S. vs. disproportionate to the nature of the offense as to
Samson (16 Phil., 323) that the intention to possess is shock the moral sense of the community." (24 C. J.
an essential element of a violation of the Firearms S., 1187-1188.) Five years' confinement for
Law was not intended to imply title or right to the possessing firearms can not be said to be cruel and
weapon to the exclusion of everyone else. The unusual, barbarous, or excessive to the extent of
court did not mean only intention to own but also being shocking to public conscience.
intention to use. From the very nature of the subject 7. ID.; ID.; CONFISCATION OF FIREARMS BELONGING
matter of the prohibition, control or dominion of the TO A PERSON OTHER THAN THE DEFENDANT.
use of the weapon by the holder regardless of Section 1 of Republic Act No. 4 does not say that
ownership is, of necessity, the essential factor. firearms unlawfully possessed or carried are to be
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; MEANING OF THE TERMS "CONTROL" confiscated only if they belong to the defendant,
AND "DOMINION." The terms "control" and nor is such intention deducible from the language
"dominion" are relative terms not susceptible of of the Act. Except perhaps where the lawful owner
exact definition, and opinions on the degree and was innocent of, or without fault in, the use of his
character of control or dominion sufficient to property by another, confiscation accords with the
constitute a violation vary. The rule laid down by legislative intent. Ownership or possession of
United States courts - rule which we here adopt - is firearms is not a natural right protected by the
that temporary, incidental, casual or harmless constitutional prohibition against depriving one of
possession or control of a firearm is not violation of a his property without due process of law. Above the
statute prohibiting the possessing or carrying of this right to own property is the inherent attribute of
kind of weapon. A typical example of such sovereignty the police power of the state to
possession is where "a person picks up a weapon or protect its citizens and to provide for the safety and
hands it to another to examine or hold for a good order of society. (16 C. J. S., 539, 540.)
moment, or to shoot at some object." (Sanderson Pursuant to the exercise of police power, the right
vs. State, 5 S.W., 138; 68 C. J., 22.) to private property may be limited, restricted, and
impaired so as to promote the general welfare,
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public order and safety. (Id., 611). The power of the On his part, the defendant declared on the same
legislature to prohibit the possession of deadly occasion that Diragon Dima, after being shot,
weapon carries with it the power to provide for the requested to be taken to his (Dima's) house; that as
confiscation or forfeiture of weapons unlawfully the accused was able to carry the wounded man
used or allowed by the licensed owner to be used. on]y about 50 meters, Dima asked the defendant
DECISION to call Bruno "who was in the house" which
Alberto did. To the question who his companion
TUASON, J p: was when he shot at a rooster, Alberto said, "I was
alone."
Prosecuted in the Court of First Instance of Lanao There is not the slightest ground to believe that
for homicide through reckless imprudence and these affidavits contained anything but the truth,
illegal possession of firearm under one information, especially that part regarding Bruno's whereabouts
the appellant was acquitted of the first offense and when the defendant used the rifle. Both affiants are
found guilty of the second, for which he was very intelligent, the affidavits were executed
sentenced to one year imprisonment. This appeal is immediately upon their arrival at the Constabulary
from that sentence raising factual, legal and headquarters, there is no hint of any undue pressure
constitutional questions. The constitutional question, brought to bear upon either of them, and, above
set up after the submission of the briefs, has to do all, they stood to gain nothing from the statement
with the objection that the penalty from 5 to 10 that the accused was unaccompanied. In contrast,
years of imprisonment and fines provided by Bruno's testimony in court was interested, given with
Republic Act No. 4 is cruel and unusual. his son's acquittal in view. And especially is the
As to the facts. The firearm with which the appellant father's veracity in court to be distrusted because
was charged with having in his possession was a by Alberto's unsolicited admission, he had been in
rifle and belonged to his father, Bruno Estoista, who the habit of going out hunting in other places and
held a legal permit for it. Father and son lived in the for target practices, and because by Bruno's
same house, a little distance from a 27-hectare unwitting admission, his son, who had no gun of his
estate belonging to the family which was partly own, is a sharpshooter and shoots better.
covered with cogon grass, tall weeds and second It being established that the defendant was alone
growth trees. From a spot in the plantation 100 to when he walked to the plantation with his father's
120 meters from the house, the defendant took a gun, the next question that presents itself is: Does
shot at a wild rooster and hit Diragon Dima, a this evidence support conviction as a matter of
laborer of the family who was setting a trap for wild law?
chickens and whose presence was not perceived In United States vs. Samson (16 Phil., 323), cited by
by the accused. defense counsel, it was held that carrying a gun by
The evidence is somewhat conflicting on whether order of the owner does not constitute illegal
the owner of the rifle was with the accused at the possession of firearm. The facts in that case were
time of the accidental killing. that a shotgun and nine cartridges which belonged
Bruno Estoista testified that on the morning of the to one Pablo Padilla, who had a proper permit to
accident, February 10, 1949, his son told him that possess them, were seized by the police from
there were wild chickens on the plantation Samson while walking in the town of Santa Rosa,
"scratching palay and corn" plants and asked if he Nueva Ecija. Padilla was to use the shotgun in
might shoot them; that Bruno told his son to wait, hunting that day and, as he was coming along on
got the rifle from the house or locker, handed it horseback, sent Samson on ahead.
over to Alberto who is a "sharp- shooter" and "shoots Republic Act No. 4, amending section 2692 of the
better," and walked about 20 meters behind the Revised Administrative Code, in its pertinent
young man; that Bruno was that far from Alberto provision is directed against any person who
when the latter fired and accidentally wounded possesses any firearm, ammunition therefor, etc. A
their servant. point to consider in this connection is the meaning
The defendant's key testimony is: "When I heard wild of the word "possesses. "It goes without saying that
rooster crowing I told my father about the said wild this word was employed in its broad sense so as to
rooster crowing near our house and he told me to include "carries" and "holds." This has to be so if the
shoot the said wild rooster, so I went to shoot it." manifest intent of the Act is to be effective. The
Bruno's testimony at the trial is in direct same evils, the same perils to public security, which
contradiction to his and his son's statements at the the Act penalizes exist whether the unlicensed
Constabulary headquarters on the same morning holder of a prohibited weapon be its owner or a
of the shooting, and sworn to by them before the borrower. To accomplish the object of this law the
justice of the peace soon after. proprietary concept of the possession can have no
Bruno related on that occasion that Alberto "went bearing whatever. "Ownership of the weapon is
to hunt for wild roosters;" that "later on my son necessary only insofar as the ownership may tend
Alberto came to inform me that he had to establish the guilt or intention of the accused." It
accidentally hit our laborer;" that thereupon he is remarkable that in the United States, where the
"went with my son to see what happened." Queried right to bear arms for defense is ensured by the
"who was with Alberto when he went out hunting," federal and many state constitutions, legislation has
Bruno replied, "He was alone." been very generally enacted severely restricting

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the carrying of deadly weapons, and the power of imprisonment from 5 to 10 years is out of proportion
state legislatures to do so has been upheld. to the present case in view of certain
circumstances, the law is not to be declared
In the light of these considerations, it is a mistake to unconstitutional for this reason. The constitutionality
point to United States vs. Samson, supra, as of an act of the legislature is not to be judged in the
authority for the appellant's plea for acquittal. The light of exceptional cases. Small transgressors for
implied holding in that case that the intention to which the heavy net was not spread are, like small
possess is an essential element of a violation of the fishes, bound to be caught, and it is to meet such a
Firearms Law was not intended to imply title or right situation as this that courts are advised to make a
to the weapon to the exclusion of everyone else. recommendation to the Chief Executive for
The court did not mean only intention to own but clemency or reduction of the penalty. (Art. 5,
also intention to use. From the very nature of the Revised Penal Code; People vs. De la Cruz, 92 Phil.
subject matter of the prohibition control or 906.)
dominion of the use of the weapon by the holder The sentence imposed by the lower court is much
regardless of ownership is, of necessity, the essential below the penalty authorized by Republic Act No.
factor. 4. The judgment is therefore modified so as to
The terms "control" and "dominion" themselves are sentence the accused to imprisonment for five
relative terms not susceptible of exact definition, years. However, considering the degree of malice
and opinions on the degree and character of of the defendant, application of the law to its full
control or dominion sufficient to constitute a extent would be too harsh and, accordingly, it is
violation vary. The rule laid down by United States ordered that copy of this decision be furnished to
courts rule which we here adopt is that the President, thru the Secretary of Justice, with the
temporary, incidental, casual or harmless possession recommendation that the imprisonment herein
or control of a firearm is not a violation of a statute imposed be reduced to six months. The appellant
prohibiting the possessing or carrying of this kind of will pay the costs of both instances.
weapon. A typical example of such possession is Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor,
where "a person picks up a weapon or hands it to Reyes, Jugo, Bautista Angelo and Labrador, JJ.,
another to examine or hold for a moment, or to concur.
shoot at some object." (Sanderson vs. State, 5 S.W., RESOLUTION
138; 68 C.J., 22) December 3, 1953
Appellant's case does not meet the above test. His TUASON, J.:
holding or carrying of his father's gun was not The constitutionality of Republic Act No. 4, with
incidental, casual, temporary or harmless. Away reference to the penalty therein provided, was
from his father's sight and control, he carried the carefully considered. In branding imprisonment for
gun for the only purpose of using it, as in fact he five years too harsh and out of proportion in this
did, with fatal consequences. case, we had in mind that six months was
Incidentally, herein lies a fundamental difference commensurate and just for the appellant's offense,
between the case at bar and the Samson case. taking into consideration his intention and the
Although Samson had physical control of his degree of his malice, rather than that it infringes the
employer's shotgun and cartridges, his possession constitutional prohibition against the infliction of
thereof was undoubtedly harmless and innocent, as cruel and unusual punishment.
evidenced by the fact that, apparently, he bore It takes more than merely being harsh, excessive,
them in full view of the people he met and of the out of proportion, or severe for a penalty to be
authorities. Unlike the appellant herein, Samson obnoxious to the Constitution. "The fact that the
carried the gun solely in obedience to its owners punishment authorized by the statute is severe does
order or request without any inferable intention to not make it cruel and unusual." (24 C. J. S., 1187-
use it as a weapon. It is of interest to note that even 1188.) Expressed in other terms, it has been held
in the United States where, as stated, the right to that to come under the ban, the punishment must
bear arms as a means of defense is guaranteed, be "flagrantly and plainly oppressive," "wholly
possession such as that by Samson is by the weight disproportionate to the nature of the offense as to
of authority considered a violation of similar shock the moral sense of the community."(Idem.)
statutes. Having in mind the necessity for a radical measure
Without deciding whether the prohibition of the and the public interest at stake, we do not believe
Constitution against infliction of cruel and unusual that five years' confinement for possessing firearms,
punishment applies both to the form of the penalty even as applied to appellant's and similar cases,
and the duration of imprisonment, it is our opinion can be said to be cruel and unusual, barbarous, or
that confinement from 6 to 10 years for possessing excessive to the extent of being shocking to public
or carrying firearm is not cruel or unusual, having conscience. It is of interest to note that the validity
due regard to the prevalent conditions which the on constitutional grounds of the Act in question was
law proposes to suppress or curb. The rampant contested neither at the trial nor in the elaborate
lawlessness against property, person, and even the printed brief for the appellant; it was raised for the
very security of the Government, directly traceable first time in the course of the oral argument in the
in large measure to promiscuous carrying and use Court of Appeals. It is also noteworthy, as possible
of powerful weapons, justify imprisonment which in gauge of popular and judicial reaction to the
normal circumstances might appear excessive. If duration of the imprisonment stipulated in the
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statute, that some members of the court at first deducible from the language of the act. We are
expressed opposition to any recommendation for inclined to, and do, believe that, except perhaps
executive clemency for the appellant, believing where the lawful owner was innocent of, or without
that he deserved imprisonment within the fault in, the use of his property by another,
prescribed range. confiscation accords with the legislative intent.
The sufficiency of the evidence for appellant's We can foresee the objection that such legislation
conviction under Republic Act No. 4 likewise had deprives one of his property without due process of
received close attention and study. There is no law. The answer to this is that ownership or
need on our part to add anything to what has possession of firearms is not a natural right
been said, except to point out for clarification that protected by the Constitution. Above the right to
the references to defendant's previous uses of his own property is the inherent attribute of sovereignty
father's gun and the fatal consequences of his last - the police power of the state to protect its citizens
use of it, were made simply to emphasize that his and to provide for the safety and good order of
possession of the prohibited weapon was not society. (16 C. J. S., 539, 540.) Pursuant to the
casual, incidental, or harmless. His previous conduct exercise of police power, the right to private
was relevant in determining his motive and property may be limited, restricted, and impaired so
intention, and to disprove the claim that his father as to promote the general welfare, public order
followed his son so as not to lose control of the and safety. (Id., 611.) The power of the legislature to
firearm. It was far from the thought of the court to prohibit the possession of deadly weapon carries
condemn the appellant for acts with which he had with it the power to provide for the confiscation or
not been charged or of which he had been forfeiture of weapons unlawfully used or allowed by
pronounced innocent. the licensed owner to be used.
The confiscation of the gun is, in our opinion, in
accordance with section 1 of Republic Act No. 4, Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor,
which reads: Reyes, Jugo, Bautista Angelo and Labrador, JJ.,
"SECTION 1. Section twenty-six hundred and ninety- concur.
two of the Revised Administrative Code, as
amended by Commonwealth Act Numbered fifty- (People v. Esparas, G.R. No. 120034 (Resolution),
six, is hereby further amended to read as follows: August 20, 1996)
"SEC. 2692. Unlawful manufacture, dealing in,
acquisition, disposition, or possession of firearms, or EN BANC
ammunition therefor, or instrument used or intended
to be used in the manufacture of firearms or [G.R. No. 120034. August 20, 1996.]
ammunition. Any person who manufactures,
deals in, acquires, disposes, or possesses, any PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs.
firearm, parts of firearms, or ammunition therefor, or JOSEFINA A. ESPARAS and RODRIGO O. LIBED,
instrument or implement used or intended to be accused-appellant.
used in the manufacture of firearms or ammunition
in violation of any provision of sections eight Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
hundred and seventy-seven to nine hundred and
six, inclusive, of this Code, as amended, shall, upon Florencio V. Aghijvas for accused-appellants.
conviction, be punished by imprisonment for a
period of not less than one year and one day nor SYLLABUS
more than five years, or both such imprisonment
and a fine of not less than one thousand pesos nor 1. REMEDIAL LAW; SUPREME COURT; POWER TO
more than five thousand pesos, in the discretion of REVIEW DECISION IMPOSING DEATH PENALTY, NOT
the court. If the article illegally possessed is a rifle, SUBJECT TO WAIVER. As the accused remains at
carbine, grease gun, bazooka, machine gun, large up to the present time, the Issue that
submachine gun, hand grenade, bomb, artillery of confronts the Court is whether or not it will proceed
any kind or ammunition exclusively intended for to automatically review her death sentence. The
such weapons, such period of imprisonment shall issue need not befuddle us. In the 1910 ground-
be not less than five years nor more than ten years. breaking case of U.S. vs. Laguna, et al., we already
A conviction under this section shall carry with it the held thru Mr. Justice Moreland, that the power of
forfeiture of the prohibited article or articles to the this Court to review a decision imposing the death
Philippine Government. penalty cannot be waived either by the accused
"The possession of any instrument or implement or by the courts. Our case law under the 1935
which is directly useful in the manufacture of Constitution reiterated Laguna ruling. Thus, in the
firearms or ammunition on the part of any person 1953 case of People vs. Villanueva, we held that
whose business or employment does not deal with the withdrawal of an appeal by a death convict
such instrument or implement shall be prima facie does not deprive this Court of its jurisdiction to
proof that such article is intended to be used in the review his conviction. The 1971 case of People vs.
manufacture of firearms or ammunition." Cornelio, et al., involves the escape of a death
This provision does not say that firearms unlawfully convict. In no uncertain terms, we held that the
possessed or carried are to be confiscated only if escape of a death convict does not relieve this
they belong to the defendant, nor is such intention Court of its duty of reviewing his conviction. Then
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came the 1973 Constitution which likewise did not authorities, thus she must be deemed to have
prohibit the death penalty. Section 9, Rule 122 abandoned the appeal (see People v. Quiritan, 197
continued to provide the procedure for review of SCRA 32; People v. Acol, 232 SCRA 406; People v.
death penalty cases by this Court. Finally, we have Codilla, 224 SCRA 104).
the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the imposition
of the death penalty unless for compelling reasons 3. ID.; ID.; ID.; RULE APPLIES TO THREE (3) METHODS
involving heinous crimes Congress so provides. On OF APPEAL TO THE SUPREME COURT IN CRIMINAL
December 13, 1993, Congress reimposed the death CASES. In criminal cases, appeal may be taken to
penalty in cases involving the commission of the Supreme Court via the following steps: by filing
heinous crimes. This revived the procedure by which a notice of appeal in those cases where the
this Court reviews death penalty cases pursuant to penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed, by
the Rules of Court. It remains automatic and does filing a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45
not depend on the whims of the death convict. It where the penalty imposed is not reclusion
continues to be mandatory, and leaves this Court perpetua and the appeal would involve only
without any option. question of law (People v. Pagsanjan, 221 SCRA
735), and by automatic review where the penalty
2. ID.; ACTIONS; APPEALS; RULE AUTHORIZING imposed is death (R.A. NO. 7659, Sec. 22; Rule 122,
DISMISSAL OF APPEAL WHEN APPELLANT JUMPS BAIL, Sec. 10, Revised Rules of Court). An appeal has "for
NOT APPLIED WHERE DEATH PENALTY WAS IMPOSED. its object simply and solely the protection of the
With due respect to the dissenting opinions of our accused." Appeal by way of automatic review is
esteemed colleagues, Section 8 of Rule 124 of the plainly another mode of appeal and has an
Rules of Court which, inter alia, authorizes the objective similar to any other modes of appeal, i.e.,
dismissal of an appeal when the appellant jumps the protection of the accused. If the accused has
bail, has no application to cases where the death escaped, then he refuses to avail of the protection
penalty has been imposed. In death penalty cases, of the Court why then should the Court insist in
automatic review is mandatory. This is the text and protecting him. In the same vein, "the law providing
tone of section 12, Rule 122, which is the more for automatic review of death sentence seeks to
applicable rule. No litigant can repudiate this favor the [accused]." If the accused has
power which is bestowed by the Constitution. The absconded or escaped from confinement then
power is more of a sacred duty which we have to who is to be favored by the automatic review a
discharge to assure the People that the innocence fugitive from justice? Hence, if the escape of the
of a citizen is our concern not only in crimes that accused may be deemed waiver of the right to
slight but even more, in crimes that shock the appeal in any other mode of appeal, then the
conscience. This concern cannot be diluted. same must apply to an appeal by way of
automatic review. I fail to see, in this connection,
FRANCISCO, J., separate opinion: any cogent reason why an automatic review
should be given status different from the other
1. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; APPEAL; PRESUPPOSES modes of appeal. I thus find, and with due respect
JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON OF THE to my esteemed colleague Mr. Justice Puno,
ACCUSED. An appeal is a statutory remedy for unacceptable the proposition that an appeal by
the correction of errors which might have been way of automatic review is not subject to waiver. If
committed. With the accused lies the power and the constitutional rights of the accused enshrined
option to avail of the remedy, and with the under Artice III of the 1987 Constitution, such as right
appellate court belongs the power to affirm or against unreasonable searches and seizures, right
reverse the accused's conviction. Appeal, against self-incrimination, right to remain silent,
however, presupposes jurisdiction over the person among others, can be waived, then with more
of the accused. reason with the right to appeal which is merely of
statutory origin.
2. ID.; ID., ESCAPE BY ACCUSED CONSIDERED
WAIVER OF APPEAL. Since appeal is a mere PANGANIBAN, J., separate opinion
statutory privilege and is not a natural right nor part
of the due process, it may only be exercised in the REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; APPEAL; ESCAPE OF
manner and in acordance with the provisions of the ACCUSED CONSTITUTES ABANDONMENT OF APPEAL;
law. Thus, an accused who escapes from prison or HIGH COURT WITH INESCAPABLE DUTY TO REVIEW
confinement loses his standing in court and unless DECISIONS UPON RE-ARREST OF THE ACCUSED.
he surrenders or submits to the jurisdiction of the Without repeating the legal arguments pro and
court he is deemed to have waived any right to con, as these were already eloquently presented
seek relief from the court (People v. Agbulos, 222 by Mr. Justice Puno, Mr. Justice Padilla and Mr.
SCRA 196; People v. Mapalao, 197 SCRA 79). A Justice Francisco, I hold that the judicial taking of
contrary view would encourage the accused to life cannot be left to mere legal logic. Life is too
trifle with the administration of justice, and provide precious to be settled against legalism, however
means for guilty parties to escape punishment exalted. I believe that this Court cannot abandon
(People v. Ang Gioc, 73 Phil 366). In this case, the its sacred duty to God and country to see to it that
accused escaped from confinement and a lower court judgment that takes away life is
heretofore refuses to surrender to the proper ERROR FREE and can stand THE MOST SEARCHING
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SCRUTINY. At the same time, this Court must not case, however, the accused no longer recognizes
enable an escaped convict to make a mockery of and respects the authority of law and the duly-
the foundations of human justice. Consequently, i constituted authorities in general and this Court in
believe we must combine the sacred with the particular. Such superlicious conduct of an
human. After prayer, study, reflection and escapee cannot and should not be taken lightly by
discernment, I am thoroughly convinced that this the court. Respect for and recognition of the
Court has the inescapable duty to review this and authority of the court are essential and implicit
similar life-taking decisions, but only after the elements in an effective and credible judicial
accused's is re-arrested and taken back into the system. No one, it should be stressed, should be
custody of law. In view of the foregoing, I vote to allowed to make a mockery of the justice system
grant the accused's motion for extension to file brief by, in one breadth, seeking its protection and even
and in view of the delay in the disposition of such vindication via an automatic review of death
motion due to the lengthy court deliberation sentence and, in another breath, continuing to be
thereon, to give her a new period of thirty (30) days a fugitive from justice and repudiating the very
from notice within which to file her Brief. authority of the system whose protection he seeks
and invokes. "Mandatory jurisdiction" of the
PADILLA, J., dissenting opinion: Supreme Court to review death penalty cases and
"automatic review" of death penalty cases have to
1. REMEDIAL LAW; ACTIONS; ONE WHO SEEKS assume implicitly that the accused in his person is
POSITIVE RELIEF FROM A COURT OF LAW SHOULD subject to the processes and jurisdiction of the
SUBMIT TO ITS JURISDICTION. It is basic in Supreme Court if it is to review his conviction to
procedural law that one who seeks positive relief death by the trial court.
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 RESOLUTION
to try the case and render judgment against him.
Thus, in the present case, trial proceeded only as to PUNO, J p:
the accused Josefina A. Esparas, who earlier
entered a plea of not guilty, while her co-accused Accused Josefina A. Esparas was charged, with
Rodrigo O. Libed has remained at large and has violation of R.A. No. 6425 as amended by R.A. No.
been arraigned or tried. 759 for importing into the country twenty (20)
kilograms of "shabu" in Criminal Case No. 94-5897
2. ID.; ID.; APPEAL; JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON before the RTC of Pasay City, Br. 114.
OF THE ACCUSED REQUIRED DURING PENDENCY
THEREOF; APPEAL MAY BE DISMISSED WHERE After arraignment, the accused escaped from jail
ACCUSED ESCAPES. Jurisdiction over the person and was tried in absentia. On March 13, 1995, the
of the accused is also required by the Rules of Court trial court found her guilty as charged and imposed
during the pendency of an appeal from a on her the death penalty.
judgment of conviction in the trial court so that, in
the event of an accused's escape from detention As the accused remains at large up to the present
during his appeal, the appeal may be dismissed time, the issue that confronts the Court is whether or
outright by the appellate court. Section 8, Rule 124 not it will proceed to automatically review her
of the Rules of Court gives the appellate court the death sentence. The issue need not befuddle us. In
authority to dismiss an appeal when the appellant the 1910 ground-breaking case of U.S. vs. Laguna,
escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or et al., 1 we already held thru Mr. Justice Moreland,
flees to a foreign country during the pendency of that the power of this Court to review a decision
the appeal. imposing the death penalty cannot be waived
either by the accused or by the courts, viz.:
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; RULES WHERE ACCUSED IS A
DEATH CONVICT. It is my considered view "xxx xxx xxx
however that a distinction should be made
between a death convict, i.e., one sentenced to "It is apparent from these provisions that the
death by a trial court, who remains in the custody judgment of conviction and sentence thereunder
of law, but who voluntarily withdraws his appeal by the trial court does not, in reality, conclude the
and a death convict, i.e., one sentenced to death trial of the accused. Such trial is not terminated until
by the trial court but who escapes from the custody the Supreme Court has reviewed the facts and the
of the law during the pendency of the appeal. It law as applied thereto by the court below. The
should be clear in the first case, that even if the judgment of conviction entered on the trial is not
death convict withdraws his appeal from the trial final, can not be executed, and is wholly without
court's judgment sentencing him to death, the force or effect until the case has been passed upon
appellate court may still and nonetheless review by the Supreme Court. In a sense the trial court acts
the judgment of conviction for the convict- as a commissioner who takes the testimony and
appellant has at least remained in the custody of reports thereon to the Supreme Court with his
law to await final verdict of the case. In the second recommendation. While in practice he enters a
6|Consti2_Section19_Prohibited Punishment_Section 20_Non -
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judgment of conviction and sentences the prisoner
thereunder, in reality, until passed upon by the Necessarily, our case law under the 1935
Supreme Court, it has none of the attributes of a Constitution reiterated the Laguna ruling. Thus, in
final judgment and sentence. It is a mere the 1953 case of People vs. Villanueva, 5 we held
recommendation to the Supreme Court, based that the withdrawal of an appeal by a death
upon the facts on the record which are presented convict does not deprive this Court of its jurisdiction
with it. This is meant in no sense to detract from the to review his conviction, viz.:
dignity and power of Courts of First Instance. It
means simply that the portion of Spanish procedure "An accused appealing from a decision sentencing
which related to cases where capital punishment him to death may be allowed to withdraw his
was imposed still survives. appeal like any other appellant, in an ordinary
criminal case before the briefs are filed, but his
"xxx xxx xxx withdrawal of the appeal does not remove the
case from the jurisdiction of this court which under
"The requirement that the Supreme Court pass on a the law is authorized and called upon to review the
case in which capital punishment has been decision though unappealed. Consequently, the
imposed by the sentence of the trial court is one withdrawal of the appeal in this case could not
having for its object simply and solely the protection serve to render the decision of the People's Court
of the accused. Having received the highest final. In fact, as was said by this court through
penalty which the law imposes, he is entitled under Justice Moreland in the case of U.S. vs. Laguna, 17
the law to have the sentence and all the facts and Phil. 532, speaking on the matter of review by this
circumstances upon which it is founded placed court of a decision imposing the death penalty, the
before the highest tribunal of the land to the end judgment of conviction entered in the trial court is
that its justice and legality may be clearly and not final, and cannot be executed and is wholly
conclusively determined. Such procedure is without force or effect until the case has been
merciful. It gives a second chance for life. Neither passed upon by the Supreme Court en consulta;
the courts nor the accused can waive it. It is a that although a judgment of conviction is entered
provision of the law that brooks no interference and by the trial court, said decision has none of the
tolerates no evasions." (Emphasis supplied) attributes of a final judgment and sentence; that
until it has been reviewed by the Supreme Court
The Laguna case interpreted section 50 of General which finally passes upon it, the same is not final
Orders No. 58 as amended, which provides: and conclusive; and that this automatic review by
the Supreme Court of decisions imposing the death
"xxx xxx xxx penalty is something which neither the court nor the
accused could waive or evade."
"It shall not be necessary to forward to the Supreme
Court the record, or any part thereof, of any case in The 1971 case of People vs. Cornelio, et al., 6
which there shall have been an acquittal, or in involves the escape of a death convict. In no
which the sentence imposed is not death, unless uncertain terms, we held that the escape of a
such case shall have been duly appealed; but such death convict does not relieve this Court of its duty
sentence shall be executed upon the order of the of reviewing his conviction. In the 1972 case of
court in which the trial was had. The records of all People vs. Daban, et al., 7 the ponencia of former
cases in which the death penalty shall have been Chief Justice Fernando further stressed, to wit:
imposed by any Court of First Instance, whether the
defendant shall have appealed or not, and of all "xxx xxx xxx"
cases in which appeals shall have been taken shall
be forwarded to the Supreme Court for "Now, as to the law. It would appear that
investigation and judgment as law and justice shall respondent Demaisip is unaware of Section 9 of
dictate. The records of such cases shall be Rule 122. Thus: 'The records of all cases in which the
forwarded to the clerk of the Supreme Court within death penalty shall been imposed by any Court of
twenty days, but not earlier than fifteen days after First Instance, whether the defendant shall have
the rendition of sentence." appealed or not, shall be forwarded to the
Supreme Court fore review and judgment as law
The 1935 Constitution did not prohibit the imposition and justice shall dictate. The records of such cases
of the death penalty. Its section 2(4) of Article VIII shall be forwarded to the clerk of the Supreme
provided for review by this Court of death penalty Court within twenty (20) days but not earlier than
cases. Both our Rules of Court of 1940 2 and 1964 3 fifteen (15) days, after rendition or promulgation of
require the transmission to this Court of the records the sentence in the form prescribed by section 11
of all cases in which the death penalty shall have of Rule 41. The transcript shall also be forwarded as
been imposed by the trial court, whether the provided in section 12 of Rule 41 within five (5) days
defendant shall have appealed or not, for review after the filing thereof by the stenographer.' The
and judgment as the law and justice shall dictate. It penalty imposed on appellant Daban y Ganzon in
will be noted that these rules were taken from the the judgment of November 21, 1969 being one of
second part of General Orders No. 58, as amended death, the case was properly elevated to this
by Section 4, Act No. 194. 4 Court. Moreover, until after this Court has spoken,
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no finality could be attached to the lower court penalty is imposed by he trial court, the records
decision. As explained in former Chief Justice shall be forwarded to the Supreme Court for
Moran's Comments on the Rules of Court: 'In this automatic review and judgment, within twenty (20)
connection, it must be emphasized that the days but not earlier than (15) days after
judgment of conviction imposing the death penalty promulgation of the judgment or notice of denial of
entered in the trial court, is not final, and cannot be any motion for new trial or reconsideration. The
executed and is wholly without force or effect until transcript shall also be forwarded within ten (10)
the case has been passed upon by the Supreme days after the filing thereof by the stenographic
Court en consulta; that although a judgment of reporter."
conviction is entered by the trial court, said decision
has none of the attributes of a final judgment and Similarly, the reliance in People vs. Codilla, 13 by our
sentence; and that until is has been reviewed by dissenting colleagues is misplaced. Codilla is not a
the Supreme Court which finally passes upon it, the death penalty case. Only the penalty of reclusion
same is not final and conclusive; and this automatic perpetua was imposed on appellant.
review by the Supreme Court is something which Consequently, we ruled that the escape of the
neither the court nor the accused could waive or appellant or his refusal to surrender to the proper
evade.' The mere fact of escape of appellant, authorities justifies dismissal of his appeal.
therefore, could not be relied upon by respondent
Demaisip as sufficient cause for his failure to file Our dissenting brethren also make a distinct cut
appellants brief." between ". . . a death convict, i. e. one convicted
to death by a trial court who remains in the custody
Then came the 1973 Constitution which likewise did of the law, and who voluntarily withdraws his
not prohibit the death penalty. 8 Section 9, Rule 122 appeal and a death convict, i.e., one convicted to
continued to provide the procedure for review of death by the trial court but who escapes from the
death penalty cases by this Court. Section 10, Rule custody of the law during the pendency of the
122 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure even appeal." They rationalize the distinction by holding:
reenacted this procedure of review. Significantly, it
expressly used the term "automatic review and "It should be clear in the first case, that even if the
judgment" by this Court. Our case law continued its death convict withdraws his appeal from the trial
fealty to the Laguna rule. Thus, in the 1976 case of court's judgment convicting him to death, the
People vs. Saliling, et al., 9 we held, thru former appellate court may still and nonetheless review
Chief Justice Aquino, that this Court is not the judgment of conviction for the convict-
precluded from reviewing the death sentence of appellant has at least remained in the custody of
an accused who is at large. In the 1984 case of the law to await final verdict in his case. In the
People vs. Buynay, et al., 10 we reiterated the rule second case, however, the accused no longer
that the escape of a death convict will not recognizes and respects the authority of law and
automatically result in the dismissal of his appeal. the duly-constituted authorities in general and this
Court in particular. Such supercilious conduct of an
Finally, we have the 1987 Constitution which escapee cannot and should not be taken lightly by
prohibits the imposition of the death penalty unless the Court. Respect for and recognition of the
for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes authority of the Court is an essential and implicit
Congress so provides. 11 On December 13, 1993, element in an effective and credible judicial
Congress reimposed the death penalty in cases system.
involving the commission of heinous crimes. This
revived the procedure by which this Court reviews "No, one, it should be stressed, should be allowed to
death penalty cases pursuant to the Rules of Court. make a mockery of the justice system by, in one
It remains automatic and does not depend on the breath, seeking its protection and even vindication
whims of the death convict. It continues to be via an automatic review of a death sentence and,
mandatory, and leaves this Court without any in another breath, continuing to be a fugitive from
option. 12 justice and repudiating the very authority of the
system whose protection he seeks and invokes."
With due respect to the dissenting opinions of our
esteemed colleagues, section 8 of Rule 124 of the We hold, however, that there is more wisdom in our
Rules of Court which, inter alia, authorizes the existing jurisprudence mandating our review of all
dismissal of an appeal when the appellant jumps death penalty cases, regardless of the wish of the
bail, has no application to cases where the death convict and regardless of the will of the court.
penalty has been imposed. In death penalty cases, Nothing less than life is at stake and any court
automatic review is mandatory. This is the text and decision authorizing the State to take life must be as
tone of section 10, Rule 122, which is the more error-free as possible. We must strive to realize this
applicable rule, viz.: 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
"Section 10. Transmission of Records in Case of he is guilty but because of his wrong perception of
Death Penalty. In all cases where the death the law. Or because he may want to avail of the
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more speedy remedy of pardon. Or because of his AND THE PRESIDING JUDGE OF REGIONAL TRIAL
frustration and misapprehension that he will not get COURT OF QUEZON CITY, BRANCH 104, respondents.
justice from the authorities. Nor should the Court be
influenced by the seeming repudiation of its SYLLABUS
jurisdiction when a convict escapes. Ours is not only
the power but the duty to review all death penalty 1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS;
cases. No litigant can repudiate this power which is PROSCRIPTION AGAINST CRUEL, DEGRADING OR
bestowed by the Constitution. The power is more of INHUMAN PUNISHMENT; DEATH PER SE, NOT CRUEL,
a sacred duty which we have to discharge to DEGRADING OR INHUMAN. The death penalty
assure the People that the innocence of a citizen is per se is not a cruel, degrading or inhuman
our concern not only in crimes that slight but even punishment. In the oft-cited case of Harden vs.
more, in crimes that shock the conscience. This Director of Prisons, this Court held that
concern cannot be diluted. "[p]unishments are cruel when they involve torture
or a lingering death; but the punishment of death is
The Court is not espousing a "soft, bended, not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used
approach" to heinous crimes for as discussed in the constitution .It implies there something
above, we have always reviewed the imposition of inhuman and barbarous, something more than the
the death penalty regardless of the will of the mere extinguishment of life."
convict. Our unyielding stance is dictated by the
policy that the State should not be given the 2. ID; ID; ID; DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION,
license to kill without the final determination of this CONSTITUTIONAL; INFLICTION OF PAIN, MERELY
Highest Tribunal whose collective wisdom is the last; INCIDENTAL. Any infliction of pain in lethal
effective hedge against an erroneous judgment of injection is merely in carrying out the execution of
a one-judge trial court. This enlightened policy the death penalty and does not fall within the
ought to continue as our beacon light for the taking constitutional prescription against cruel, degrading
of life ends all rights, a matter of societal concern or inhuman punishment. "In a limited sense,
that transcends the personal interest of a convict. anything is cruel which is calculated to give pain or
The importance of this societal value should not be distress, and since punishment imports pain of
blurred by the escape of a convict which is a suffering to the convict, it may be said that all
problem of law enforcement. Neither should this punishment are cruel. But of course the Constitution
Court be moved alone by the outrage of the public does not mean that crime, for this reason, is to go
in the multiplication of heinous crimes for our unpunished." The cruelty against which the
decisions should not be directed by the changing Constitution protects a convicted man is cruelty
winds of the social weather. Let us not for a inherent in the method of punishment, not the
moment forget that an accused does not cease to necessary suffering involved in any method
have rights just because of his conviction. This employed to extinguish life humanely.
principle is implicit in our Constitution which
recognizes that an accused, even if he belongs to 3. ID.; ID.; REIMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY DOES
a minority of one has the right to be right, while the NOT VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL TREATY OBLIGATIONS.
majority, even if overwhelming, has no right to be Petitioner assiduously argues that the
wrong. reimposition of the death penalty law violates our
international obligations, in particular, the
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the counsel for the accused is International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
given a new period of thirty (30) days from notice which was adopted by the General Assembly of
hereof within which to file the Brief of the accused the United Nations on December 16, 1966, signed
Josefina A. Esparas. and ratified by the Philippines on December 19,
1966 and October 23, 1986, respectively.
SO ORDERED. Indisputably, Article 6 of the Covenant enshrines the
individual's right to life. Nevertheless, Article 6 (2) of
Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Kapunan and the Covenant explicitly recognizes that capital
Hermosisima, JJ ., concur. punishment is an allowable limitation on the right to
life, subject to the limitation that it be imposed for
Vitug, J ., concurs in the result. the "most serious crimes." On the other hand, the
Second Optional Protocol to the International
(Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice, G.R. No. 132601, Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Aiming at the
October 12, 1998) Abolition of the Death Penalty was adopted by the
General Assembly on December 15, 1989. The
EN BANC Philippines neither signed nor ratified said
document. Evidently, petitioner's assertion of our
[G.R. No. 132601. October 12, 1998.] obligation under Second Optional Protocol is
misplaced.
LEO ECHEGARAY y PILO, petitioner, vs. THE
SECRETARY OF JUSTICE and THE DIRECTOR OF THE 4. POLITICAL LAW; SEPARATION OF POWERS;
BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS, THE EXECUTIVE JUDGE CONSTRUED. The separation of powers is a
OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON CITY fundamental principle in our system of government.
9|Consti2_Section19_Prohibited Punishment_Section 20_Non -
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It obtains not through express provision but by Justice is tasked, among others, to take charge of
actual division in the framing of our Constitution. the "administration of correctional system." Hence,
each department of the government has exclusive the import of the phraseology of the law is that the
cognizance of matters placed within its jurisdiction, Secretary of Justice should supervise the Director of
and is supreme within its own sphere. ACETSa the Bureau of Corrections in promulgating the
Lethal Injection Manual, in consultation with the
5. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; NON-DELEGATION OF Department of Health. CaAIES
POWERS; EXCEPTIONS. Corollary to the doctrine
of separation of powers is the principle of non- 8. ID.; ID.; RULES AND REGULATIONS TO IMPLEMENT
delegation of powers. "The rule is that what has R.A. No. 8177, AN UNDUE DELEGATION OF POWER.
been delegated, cannot be delegated or as The Rules and Regulations to Implement Republic
expressed in Latin maxim: potestas delegata non Act No. 8177 suffer serious flaws that could not be
delegari potest." The recognized exceptions to the overlooked. the Court finds in the first paragraph of
rule are as follows: (1) Delegation of tariff powers to Section 19 of the implementing rules a veritable
the President under Section 28 (2) of Article VI of the vacuum. The Secretary of Justice has practically
Constitution; (2) Delegation of emergency powers abdicated the power to promulgate the manual
to the President under Section 23 (2) of Article VI of on the execution procedure to the Director of the
the Constitution; (3) Delegation to the people at Bureau of Corrections, by not providing for a mode
large; (4) Delegation to local governments; and (5) of review and approval thereof. Being a mere
Delegation of administrative bodies. constituent unit of the Department of Justice, the
Bureau of Corrections could not promulgate a
6. ID.; DELEGATION OF POWERS; REQUISITES. manual that would not bear the imprimatur of the
Although Congress may delegate to another administrative superior, the Secretary of Justice as
branch of the Government the power to fill in the the rule-making authority under R.A. No. 8177. Such
details in the execution, enforcement or apparent abdication of departmental responsibility
administration of a law, it is essential, to forestall a renders the said paragraph invalid. As to the
violation of the principle of separation of powers, second paragraph of Section 19, the Court finds
that said law: (a) be complete in itself it must set the requirement of confidentiality of the contents of
forth therein the policy to be executed, carried out the manual even with respect to the convict unduly
or implemented by the delegate and (b) fix a suppressive. It sees no legal impediment for the
standard the limits of which are sufficiently convict, should he so desire, to obtain, a copy of
determinate or determinable to which the the manual. The contents of the manual are
delegate must conform in the performance of his matters of public concern, "which the public may
functions. aEHASI want to know, either because these directly affect
their lives, or simply because such matters naturally
7. ID.; ID.; R.A. 8177, VALID DELEGATION OF arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen."
AUTHORITY TO SECRETARY OF JUSTICE.
Empowering the Secretary of Justice in conjunction 9. ID.; BILL OF RIGHTS; FREE ACCESS TO
with the Secretary of Health and the Director of the INFORMATION OF PUBLIC CONCERN; A
Bureau of Corrections, to promulgate rules and RECOGNITION OF ESSENTIALITY OF THE FREE FLOW
regulations on the subject of lethal injection is a OF IDEAS AND INFORMATION. The incorporation
form of delegation of legislative authority to in the Constitution of a guarantee of access to
administrative bodies. Considering the scope and information of public concern is a recognition of
the definiteness of R.A. No. 8177, which changed the essentiality of the free flow of ideas and
the mode of carrying out the death penalty, the information in a democracy. In the same way that
Court finds that the law sufficiently describes what free discussion enables members of society to cope
job must be done, who is to do it and what is the with the exigencies of their time, access to
scope of his authority. R.A No. 8177 likewise provides information of general interest aids the people in
the standards which define the legislative policy, democratic decision-making by giving them a
marks its limits, map out its boundaries and specify better perspective of the vital issues confronting the
the public agencies which will apply it. Thus, the nation. caIDSH
Court finds that the existence of an area for
exercise of discretion by the Secretary of Justice 10. ID.; DELEGATION OF POWER; RULES AND
and the Director of the Bureau of Corrections under REGULATIONS TO IMPLEMENT R.A. No. 8177; SECTION
delegated legislative power is proper where 17 THEREOF ADDING A GROUND FOR SUSPENSION
standards are formulated for the guidance and the OF DEATH SENTENCE, DISCRIMINATORY. While
exercise of limited discretion, which though general, Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended
are capable of reasonable application. A careful by Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, suspends
reading of R.A. No. 8177 would show that there is no the implementation of the death penalty while a
undue delegation of legislative power from the woman is pregnant or within one (1) year after
Secretary of Justice to the Director of the Bureau of delivery, Section 17 of the implementing rules omits
Corrections for the simple reason that under the the one (1) year period following delivery as an
Administrative Code of 1987, the Bureau of instance when the death sentence is suspended,
Corrections is a mere constituent unit of the and adds a ground for suspension of sentence no
Department of Justice. Further, the Department of longer found under Article 83 of the Revised Penal
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Code as amended, which is the three-year reprieve rules") 6 and directed the Director of the Bureau of
after a woman is sentenced. This addition is, in Corrections to prepare the Lethal Injection Manual.
petitioner's review, tantamount to a gender-based 7
discrimination sans statutory basis, while the
omission is an impermissible contravention of the On March 2, 1998, petitioner filed a Petition 8 for
applicable law. Prohibition, Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining
Order to enjoin respondents Secretary of Justice
11. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW; ADMINISTRATIVE RULES and Director of the Bureau of Prisons from carrying
AND REGULATIONS; CANNOT SUPPLANT OR MODIFY out the execution by lethal injection of petitioner
LAW; CASE AT BAR. Being merely an under R.A. No. 8177 and its implementing rules as
implementing rule, Section 17 aforecited must not these are unconstitutional and void for being: (a)
override, but instead remain consistent and in cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment per se
harmony with the law it seeks to apply and as well as by reason of its being (b) arbitrary,
implement. Administrative rules and regulations are unreasonable and a violation of due process, (c) a
intended to carry out, neither to supplant nor to violation of the Philippines' obligations under
modify, the law. An administrative agency cannot international covenants, (d) an undue delegation
amend an act of Congress. In case of discrepancy of legislative power by Congress, (e) an unlawful
between a provision of statute and a rule or exercise by respondent Secretary of the power to
regulation issued to implement said statute, the legislate, and (f) an unlawful delegation of
statutory provision prevails. Since the cited clause in delegated powers by the Secretary of Justice to
Section 17 which suspends the execution of a respondent Director.
woman within the three years (3) next following the
date of sentence finds no support in Article 83 of On March 3, 1998, petitioner, through counsel, filed
the Revised Penal Code as amended, perforce a Motion for Leave of Court 9 to Amend and
Section 17 must be declared invalid. ETAICc Supplement Petition with the Amended and
Supplemental Petition 10 attached thereto,
invoking the additional ground of violation of equal
protection, and impleading the Executive Judge of
DECISION the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City and the
Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
PER CURIAM p: 104, in order to enjoin said public respondents from
acting under the questioned rules by setting a date
On June 25, 1996, this Court affirmed 1 the for petitioner's execution.
conviction of petitioner Leo Echegaray y Pilo for the
crime of rape of the 10 year-old daughter of his On March 3, 1998, the Court resolved, without
common-law spouse and the imposition upon him giving due course to the petition, to require the
of the death penalty for the said crime. LexLib respondents to COMMENT thereon within a non-
extendible period of ten (10) days from notice, and
Petitioner duly filed a Motion for Reconsideration directed the parties "to MAINTAIN the status quo
raising mainly factual issues, and on its heels, a prevailing at the time of the filing of this petition."
Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration raising for
the first time the issue of the constitutionality of On March 10, 1998, the Court granted the Motion
Republic Act No. 7659 2 (the death penalty law) for Leave of Court to Amend and Supplement
and the imposition of the death penalty for the Petition, and required respondents to COMMENT
crime of rape. thereon within ten (10) days from notice.

On February 7, 1998, this Court denied 3 petitioner's On March 16, 1998, petitioner filed a Very Urgent
Motion for Reconsideration and Supplemental Motion (1) To Clarify Status Quo Order, and (2) For
Motion for Reconsideration with a finding that the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order
Congress duly complied with the requirements for expressly enjoining public respondents from taking
the reimposition of the death penalty and therefore any action to carry out petitioner's execution until
the death penalty law is not unconstitutional. the petition is resolved.

In the meantime, Congress had seen it fit to On March 16, 1998, the Office of the Solicitor
change the mode of execution of the death General 11 filed a Comment (On the Petition and
penalty from electrocution to lethal injection, 4 and the Amended Supplemental Petition) 12 stating
passed Republic Act No. 8177, AN ACT that (1) this Court has already upheld the
DESIGNATING DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION AS THE constitutionality of the Death Penalty Law, and has
METHOD OF CARRYING OUT CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, repeatedly declared that the death penalty is not
AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE ARTICLE 81 OF THE cruel, unjust, excessive or unusual punishment; (2)
REVISED PENAL CODE, AS AMENDED BY SECTION 24 execution by lethal injection, as authorized under
OF Republic Act No. 7659. 5 Pursuant to the R.A. No. 8177 and the questioned rules, is
provisions of said law, the Secretary of Justice constitutional, lethal injection being the most
promulgated the Rules and Regulations to modern, more humane, more economical, safer
Implement Republic Act No. 8177 ("implementing and easier to apply (than electrocution or the gas
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chamber); (3) the International Covenant on Civil penalty violates the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights does not expressly or impliedly and Political Rights considering that the Philippines
prohibit the imposition of the death penalty; (4) R.A. participated in the deliberations of and voted for
No. 8177 properly delegated legislative power to the Second Optional Protocol.
respondent Director; and that (5) R.A. No. 8177
confers the power to promulgate the implementing After deliberating on the pleadings, the Court gave
rules to the Secretary of Justice, Secretary of Health due course to the petition, which it now resolves on
and the Bureau of Corrections. the merits.

On March 17, 1998, the Court required the In the Amended and Supplemental Petition,
petitioner to file a REPLY thereto within a non- petitioner assails the constitutionality of the mode of
extendible period of ten days from notice. carrying out his death sentence by lethal injection
on the following grounds: 18
On March 25, 1998, the Commission on Human
Rights 13 filed a Motion for Leave of Court to I.
Intervene and/or Appear as Amicus Curiae 14 with
the attached Petition to Intervene and/or Appear DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
as Amicus Curiae 15 alleging that the death FOR BEING A CRUEL, DEGRADING AND INHUMAN
penalty imposed under R.A. NO. 7659 which is to be PUNISHMENT.
implemented by R.A. No. 8177 is cruel, degrading
and outside the limits of civil society standards, and II.
further invoking (a) Article II, Section 11 of the
Constitution which provides: "The State values the THE DEATH PENALTY VIOLATES THE INTERNATIONAL
dignity of every human person and guarantees full COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS,
respect for human rights."; (b) Article III of the WHICH IS PART OF THE LAW OF THE LAND.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states
that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and III.
security of person," and Article V thereof, which
states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or LETHAL INJECTION, AS AUTHORIZED UNDER Republic
to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or Act No. 8177 AND THE QUESTIONED RULES, IS
punishment."; (c) The International Covenant on UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE IT IS AN UNNECESSARY
Civil and Political Rights, in particular, Article 6 AND WANTON INFLICTION OF PAIN ON A PERSON
thereof, and the Second Optional Protocol to the AND IS, THUS, A CRUEL, DEGRADING, AND INHUMAN
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights PUNISHMENT.
Aiming At The Abolition of The Death Penalty; (d)
Amnesty International statistics showing that as of IV.
October 1996, 58 countries have abolished the
death penalty for all crimes, 15 countries have Republic Act No. 8177 UNDULY DELEGATES
abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes, LEGISLATIVE POWER TO RESPONDENT DIRECTOR.
and 26 countries are abolitionists de facto, which
means that they have retained the death penalty V.
for ordinary crimes but are considered abolitionists
in practice in that they have not executed anyone RESPONDENT SECRETARY UNLAWFULLY DELEGATED
during the past ten (10) years or more, or in that THE LEGISLATIVE POWERS DELEGATED TO HIM UNDER
they have made an international commitment not Republic Act No. 8177 T O RESPONDENT DIRECTOR.
to carry out executions, for a total of 99 countries
which are total abolitionists in law or practice, and VI.
95 countries as retentionists; 16 and (e) Pope John
Paul II's encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae." In a RESPONDENT SECRETARY EXCEEDED THE AUTHORITY
Resolution dated April 3, 1998, the Court duly noted DELEGATED TO HIM UNDER Republic Act No. 8177
the motion. AND UNLAWFULLY USURPED THE POWER TO
LEGISLATE IN PROMULGATING THE QUESTIONED
On March 27, 1998, petitioner filed a Reply 17 RULES.
stating that (1) this Court is not barred from
exercising judicial review over the death penalty VII.
per se, the death penalty for rape and lethal
injection as a mode of carrying out the death SECTION 17 OF THE QUESTIONED RULES IS
penalty; (2) capital punishment is a cruel, UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR BEING DISCRIMINATORY AS
degrading and inhuman punishment; (3) lethal WELL AS FOR BEING AN INVALID EXERCISE BY
injection is cruel, degrading and inhuman RESPONDENT SECRETARY OF THE POWER TO
punishment, and that being the "most modern" LEGISLATE.
does not make it less cruel or more humane, and
that the Solicitor General's "aesthetic" criteria is VIII.
short-sighted, and that lethal injection is not risk free
nor is it easier to implement; and (4) the death
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INJUNCTION MUST ISSUE TO PREVENT IRREPARABLE will fix the date of execution, which uncertainties
DAMAGE AND INJURY TO PETITIONER'S RIGHTS BY cause the greatest pain and suffering for the
REASON OF THE EXISTENCE, OPERATION AND convict; and (3) the possibility of "botched
IMPLEMENTATION OF AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL executions" or mistakes in administering the drugs
STATUTE AND EQUALLY INVALID IMPLEMENTING renders lethal injection inherently cruel.
RULES.
Before the Court proceeds any further, a brief
Concisely put, petitioner argues that R.A. No. 8177 explanation of the process of administering lethal
and its implementing rules do not pass injection is in order.
constitutional muster for: (a) violation of the
constitutional proscription against cruel, degrading In lethal injection, the condemned inmate is
or inhuman punishment, (b) violation of our strapped on a hospital gurney and wheeled into
international treaty obligations, (c) being an undue the execution room. A trained technician inserts a
delegation of legislative power, and (d) being needle into a vein in the inmate's arm and begins
discriminatory. an intravenous flow of saline solution. At the
warden's signal, a lethal combination of drugs is
The Court shall now proceed to discuss these issues injected into the intravenous line. The deadly
in seriatim. concoction typically includes three drugs: (1) a
nonlethal dose of sodium thiopenthotal, a sleep
I. LETHAL INJECTION, NOT CRUEL, DEGRADING OR inducing barbiturate; (2) lethal doses of
INHUMAN PUNISHMENT UNDER SECTION 19, ARTICLE pancuronium bromide, a drug that paralyzes the
III OF THE 1987 Constitution muscles; and (3) potassium chloride, which stops
The main challenge to R.A. No. 8177 and its the heart within seconds. The first two drugs are
implementing rules is anchored on Article III, Section commonly used during surgery to put the patient to
19 (1) of the 1987 Constitution which proscribes the sleep and relax muscles; the third is used in heart
imposition of "cruel, degrading or inhuman" bypass surgery. 21
punishment. "The prohibition in the Philippine Bill
against cruel and unusual punishments is an Anglo- Now it is well-settled in jurisprudence that the death
Saxon safeguard against governmental oppression penalty per se is not a cruel, degrading or inhuman
of the subject, which made its first appearance in punishment. 22 In the oft-cited case of Harden v.
the reign of William and Mary of England in 'An Act Director of Prisons, 23 this Court held that
declaring the rights and liberties of the subject, and "[p]unishments are cruel when they involve torture
settling the succession of the crown,' passed in the or a lingering death; but the punishment of death is
year 1689. It has been incorporated into the not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used
Constitution of the United States (of America) and in the constitution. It implies there something
into most constitutions of the various States in inhuman and barbarous, something more than the
substantially the same language as that used in the mere extinguishment of life." Would the lack in
original statute. The exact language of the particularity then as to the details involved in the
Constitution of the United States is used in the execution by lethal injection render said law "cruel,
Philippine Bill." 19 "The counterpart of Section 19 (1) degrading or inhuman"? The Court believes not. For
in the 1935 Constitution reads: 'Excessive fines shall reasons hereafter discussed, the implementing
not be imposed, nor cruel and inhuman punishment details of R.A. No. 8177 are matters which are
inflicted.' . . . In the 1973 Constitution the phrase properly left to the competence and expertise of
became 'cruel or unusual punishment.' The Bill of administrative officials. 24
Rights Committee of the 1986 Constitutional
Commission read the 1973 modification as Petitioner contends that Sec. 16 25 of R.A. No. 8177
prohibiting 'unusual' punishment even if not 'cruel.' It is uncertain as to which "court" will fix the time and
was thus seen as an obstacle to experimentation in date of execution, and the date of execution and
penology. Consequently, the Committee reported time of notification of the death convict. As
out the present text which prohibits 'cruel, petitioner already knows, the "court" which
degrading or inhuman punishment' as more designates the date of execution is the trial court
consonant with the meaning desired and with which convicted the accused, that is, after this
jurisprudence on the subject." 20 Court has reviewed the entire records of the case
26 and has affirmed the judgment of the lower
court. Thereupon, the procedure is that the
"judgment is entered fifteen (15) days after its
Petitioner contends that death by lethal injection promulgation, and 10 days thereafter, the records
constitutes cruel, degrading and inhuman are remanded to the court below including a
punishment considering that (1) R.A. No. 8177 fails certified copy of the judgment for execution." 27
to provide for the drugs to be used in carrying out Neither is there any uncertainty as to the date of
lethal injection, the dosage for each drug to be execution nor the time of notification. As to the
administered, and the procedure in administering date of execution, Section 15 of the implementing
said drug/s into the accused; (2) R.A. No. 8177 and rules must be read in conjunction with the last
its implementing rules are uncertain as to the date sentence of Section 1 of R.A. No. 8177 which
of execution, time of notification, the court which provides that the death sentence shall be carried
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out "not earlier than one (1) year nor later than the Eighth Amendment claims. Without exception,
eighteen (18) months after the judgment has these courts have found that lethal injection does
become final and executory, without prejudice to not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. After
the exercise by the President of his executive reviewing medical evidence that indicates that
clemency powers at all times." Hence, the death improper doses or improper administration of the
convict is in effect assured of eighteen (18) months drugs causes severe pain and that prison officials
from the time the judgment imposing the death tend to have little training in the administration of
penalty became final and executory 28 wherein he the drugs, the courts have found that the few
can seek executive clemency 29 and attend to all minutes of pain does not rise to a constitutional
his temporal and spiritual affairs. 30 violation. 37

Petitioner further contends that the infliction of What is cruel and unusual "is not fastened to the
"wanton pain" in case of possible complications in obsolete but may acquire meaning as public
the intravenous injection, considering and as opinion becomes enlightened by a humane justice"
petitioner claims, that respondent Director is an and "must draw its meaning from the evolving
untrained and untested person insofar as the standards of decency that mark the progress of a
choice and administration of lethal injection is maturing society." 38 Indeed, "[o]ther (U.S.) courts
concerned, renders lethal injection a cruel, have focused on 'standards of decency' finding
degrading and inhuman punishment. Such that the widespread use of lethal injections
supposition is highly speculative and indicates that it comports with contemporary
unsubstantiated. norms." 39 The primary indicator of society's
standard of decency with regard to capital
First. Petitioner has neither alleged nor presented punishment is the response of the country's
evidence that lethal injection requires the expertise legislatures to the sanction. 40 Hence, for as long as
only of phlebotomists and not trained personnel the death penalty remains in our statute books and
and that the drugs to be administered are unsafe or meets the most stringent requirements provided by
ineffective. 31 Petitioner simply cites situations in the the Constitution, we must confine our inquiry to the
United States wherein execution by lethal injection legality of R.A. No. 8177, whose constitutionality we
allegedly resulted in prolonged and agonizing duly sustain in the face of petitioner's challenge. We
death for the convict, 32 without any other find that the legislature's substitution of the mode of
evidence whatsoever. cdrep carrying out the death penalty from electrocution
to lethal injection infringes no constitutional rights of
Second. Petitioner overlooked Section 1, third petitioner herein.
paragraph of R.A. No. 8177 which requires that all
personnel involved in the execution proceedings II. REIMPOSITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY LAW DOES
should be trained prior to the performance of such NOT VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL TREATY OBLIGATIONS
task. We must presume that the public officials Petitioner assiduously argues that the reimposition of
entrusted with the implementation of the death the death penalty law violates our international
penalty (by lethal injection) will carefully avoid obligations, in particular, the International
inflicting cruel punishment. 33 Covenant on Civil And Political Rights, which was
adopted by the General Assembly of the United
Third. Any infliction of pain in lethal injection is Nations on December 16, 1966, signed and ratified
merely incidental in carrying out the execution of by the Philippines on December 19, 1966 and
the death penalty and does not fall within the October 23, 1986, 41 respectively.
constitutional proscription against cruel, degrading
or inhuman punishment. "In a limited sense, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and
anything is cruel which is calculated to give pain or Political Rights provides:
distress, and since punishment imports pain or
suffering to the convict, it may be said that all "1. Every human being has the inherent right to life.
punishments are cruel. But of course the This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be
Constitution does not mean that crime, for this arbitrarily deprived of his life.
reason, is to go unpunished." 34 The cruelty against
which the Constitution protects a convicted man is 2. In countries which have not abolished the death
cruelty inherent in the method of punishment, not penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only
the necessary suffering involved in any method for the most serious crimes in accordance with the
employed to extinguish life humanely. 35 Numerous law in force at the time of the commission of the
federal and state courts of the United States have crime and not contrary to the provisions of the
been asked to review whether lethal injections present Covenant and to the Convention on the
constitute cruel and unusual punishment. No court Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
has found lethal injections to implicate prisoners' Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out
Eighth Amendment rights. In fact, most courts that pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a
have addressed the issue state in one or two competent court." (emphasis supplied)
sentences that lethal injection clearly is a
constitutional form of execution. 36 A few 3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of
jurisdictions, however, have addressed the merits of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article
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shall authorize any State Party to the present 1989, 43 respectively. The Optional Protocol
Covenant to derogate in any way from any provides that the Human Rights Committee shall
obligation assumed under the provisions of the receive and consider communications from
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of individuals claiming to be victims of violations of
the Crime of Genocide. any of the rights set forth in the Covenant.

4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right On the other hand, the Second Optional Protocol
to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence Rights, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty
of death may be granted in all cases. was adopted by the General Assembly on
December 15, 1989. The Philippines neither signed
5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for nor ratified said document. 44 Evidently, petitioner's
crimes committed by persons below eighteen years assertion of our obligation under the Second
of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant Optional Protocol is misplaced.
women.
III. THERE IS NO UNDUE DELEGATION OF LEGISLATIVE
6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or POWER IN R.A. No. 8177 TO THE SECRETARY OF
to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by JUSTICE AND THE DIRECTOR OF BUREAU OF
any State Party to the present Covenant." CORRECTIONS, BUT SECTION 19 OF THE RULES AND
REGULATIONS TO IMPLEMENT R.A. No. 8177 IS
Indisputably, Article 6 of the Covenant enshrines the INVALID.
individual's right to life. Nevertheless, Article 6 (2) of The separation of powers is a fundamental principle
the Covenant explicitly recognizes that capital in our system of government. It obtains not through
punishment is an allowable limitation on the right to express provision but by actual division in the
life, subject to the limitation that it be imposed for framing of our Constitution. Each department of the
the "most serious crimes". Pursuant to Article 28 of government has exclusive cognizance of matters
the Covenant, a Human Rights Committee was placed within its jurisdiction, and is supreme within
established and under Article 40 of the Covenant, its own sphere. 45 Corollary to the doctrine of
States Parties to the Covenant are required to separation of powers is the principle of non-
submit an initial report to the Committee on the delegation of powers. "The rule is that what has
measures they have adopted which give effect to been delegated, cannot be delegated or as
the rights recognized within the Covenant and on expressed in a Latin maxim: potestas delegata non
the progress made on the enjoyment of those rights delegari potest." 46 The recognized exceptions to
within one year of its entry into force for the State the rule are as follows:
Party concerned and thereafter, after five years.
On July 27, 1982, the Human Rights Committee (1) Delegation of tariff powers to the President
issued General Comment No. 6 interpreting Article 6 under Section 28 (2) of Article VI of the Constitution;
of the Covenant stating that "(while) it follows from
Article 6 (2) to (6) that State parties are not obliged (2) Delegation of emergency powers to the
to abolish the death penalty totally, they are President under Section 23(2) of Article VI of the
obliged to limit its use and, in particular, to abolish it Constitution;
for other than the 'most serious crimes.' Accordingly,
they ought to consider reviewing their criminal laws (3) Delegation to the people at large;
in this light and, in any event, are obliged to restrict
the application of the death penalty to the most (4) Delegation to local governments; and
serious crimes.' The article strongly suggests (pars. 2
(2) and (6)) that abolition is desirable. . . . The (5) Delegation to administrative bodies. 47
Committee is of the opinion that the expression
'most serious crimes' must be read restrictively to Empowering the Secretary of Justice in conjunction
mean that the death penalty should be a quite with the Secretary of Health and the Director of the
exceptional measure." Further, The Safeguards Bureau of Corrections, to promulgate rules and
Guaranteeing Protection of Those Facing the Death regulations on the subject of lethal injection is a
Penalty 42 adopted by the Economic and Social form of delegation of legislative authority to
Council of the United Nations declare that the administrative bodies.
ambit of the term 'most serious crimes' should not
go beyond intentional crimes, with lethal or other The reason for delegation of authority to
extremely grave consequences. administrative agencies is the increasing complexity
of the task of government requiring expertise as well
as the growing inability of the legislature to cope
directly with the myriad problems demanding its
The Optional Protocol to the International attention. The growth of society has ramified its
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted activities and created peculiar and sophisticated
by the General Assembly of the United Nations on problems that the legislature cannot be expected
December 16, 1966, and signed and ratified by the to attend to by itself. Specialization even in
Philippines on December 19, 1966 and August 22 legislation has become necessary. On many
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problems involving day-to-day undertakings, the It is also noteworthy that Article 81 of the Revised
legislature may not have the needed competence Penal Code which originally provided for the death
to provide the required direct and efficacious, not penalty by electrocution was not subjected to
to say, specific solutions. These solutions may, attack on the ground that it failed to provide for
however, be expected from its delegates, who are details such as the kind of chair to be used, the
supposed to be experts in the particular fields amount of voltage, volume of amperage or place
assigned to them. 48 of attachment of electrodes on the death convict.
Hence, petitioner's analogous argument with
Although Congress may delegate to another respect to lethal injection must fail.
branch of the Government the power to fill in the
details in the execution, enforcement or A careful reading of R.A. No. 8177 would show that
administration of a law, it is essential, to forestall a there is no undue delegation of legislative power
violation of the principle of separation of powers, from the Secretary of Justice to the Director of the
that said law: (a) be complete in itself it must set Bureau of Corrections for the simple reason that
forth therein the policy to be executed, carried out under the Administrative Code of 1987, the Bureau
or implemented by the delegate 49 and (b) fix a of Corrections is a mere constituent unit of the
standard the limits of which are sufficiently Department of Justice. 59 Further, the Department
determinate or determinable to which the of Justice is tasked, among others, to take charge
delegate must conform in the performance of his of the "administration of the correctional system." 60
functions. 50 Hence, the import of the phraseology of the law is
that the Secretary of Justice should supervise the
Considering the scope and the definiteness of R.A. Director of the Bureau of Corrections in
No. 8177, which changed the mode of carrying out promulgating the Lethal Injection Manual, in
the death penalty, the Court finds that the law consultation with the Department of Health. 61
sufficiently describes what job must be done, who is
to do it, and what is the scope of his authority. 51 However, the Rules and Regulations to Implement
Republic Act No. No. 8177 suffer serious flaws that
R.A. No. 8177 likewise provides the standards which could not be overlooked. To begin with, something
define the legislative policy, mark its limits, map out basic appears missing in Section 19 of the
its boundaries, and specify the public agencies implementing rules which provides:
which will apply it. It indicates the circumstances
under which the legislative purpose may be carried "SEC. 19. EXECUTION PROCEDURE. Details of the
out. 52 R.A. No. 8177 specifically requires that "[t]he procedure prior to, during and after administering
death sentence shall be executed under the the lethal injection shall be set forth in a manual to
authority of the Director of the Bureau of be prepared by the Director. The manual shall
Corrections, endeavoring so far as possible to contain details of, among others, the sequence of
mitigate the sufferings of the person under the events before and after execution; procedures in
sentence during the lethal injection as well as setting up the intravenous line; the administration of
during the proceedings prior to the execution." 53 the lethal drugs; the pronouncement of death; and
Further, "[t]he Director of the Bureau of Corrections the removal of the intravenous system.
shall take steps to ensure that the lethal injection to
be administered is sufficient to cause the Said manual shall be confidential and its distribution
instantaneous death of the convict." 54 The shall be limited to authorized prison personnel."
legislature also mandated that "all personnel
involved in the administration of lethal injection shall Thus, the Court finds in the first paragraph of Section
be trained prior to the performance of such task." 19 of the implementing rules a veritable vacuum.
55 The Court cannot see that any useful purpose The Secretary of Justice has practically abdicated
would be served by requiring greater detail. 56 The the power to promulgate the manual on the
question raised is not the definition of what execution procedure to the Director of the Bureau
constitutes a criminal offense, 57 but the mode of of Corrections, by not providing for a mode of
carrying out the penalty already imposed by the review and approval thereof. Being a mere
Courts. In this sense, R.A. No. 8177 is sufficiently constituent unit of the Department of Justice, the
definite and the exercise of discretion by the Bureau of Corrections could not promulgate a
administrative officials concerned is, to use the manual that would not bear the imprimatur of the
words of Justice Benjamin Cardozo, canalized administrative superior, the Secretary of Justice as
within banks that keep it from overflowing. the rule-making authority under R.A. No. 8177. Such
apparent abdication of departmental responsibility
Thus, the Court finds that the existence of an area renders the said paragraph invalid.
for exercise of discretion by the Secretary of Justice
and the Director of the Bureau of Corrections under As to the second paragraph of section 19, the
delegated legislative power is proper where Court finds the requirement of confidentiality of the
standards are formulated for the guidance and the contents of the manual even with respect to the
exercise of limited discretion, which though general, convict unduly suppressive. It sees no legal
are capable of reasonable application. 58 impediment for the convict, should he so desire, to
obtain a copy of the manual. The contents of the
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manual are matters of public concern "which the penalty of reclusion perpetua with the accessory
public may want to know, either because these penalty provided in Article 40. . .".
directly affect their lives, or simply because such
matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary On this point, the Court finds petitioner's contention
citizen." 62 Section 7 of Article III of the 1987 impressed with merit. While Article 83 of the Revised
Constitution provides: Penal Code, as amended by Section 25 of Republic
Act No. 7659, suspends the implementation of the
"SEC. 7. The right of the people to information on death penalty while a woman is pregnant or within
matters of public concern shall be recognized. one (1) year after delivery, Section 17 of the
Access to official records, and to documents and implementing rules omits the one (1) year period
papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or following delivery as an instance when the death
decisions, as well as to government research data sentence is suspended, and adds a ground for
used as a basis for policy development, shall be suspension of sentence no longer found under
afforded the citizen, subject to such limitation as Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code as amended,
may be provided by law." which is the three-year reprieve after a woman is
sentenced. This addition is, in petitioner's view,
The incorporation in the Constitution of a guarantee tantamount to a gender-based discrimination sans
of access to information of public concern is a statutory basis, while the omission is an impermissible
recognition of the essentiality of the free flow of contravention of the applicable law.
ideas and information in a democracy. 63 In the
same way that free discussion enables members of Being merely an implementing rule, Section 17
society to cope with the exigencies of their time, 64 aforecited must not override, but instead remain
access to information of general interest aids the consistent and in harmony with the law it seeks to
people in democratic decision-making 65 by giving apply and implement. Administrative rules and
them a better perspective of the vital issues regulations are intended to carry out, neither to
confronting the nation. 66 supplant nor to modify, the law." 67 An
administrative agency cannot amend an act of
D. SECTION 17 OF THE RULES AND REGULATIONS TO Congress. 68 In case of discrepancy between a
IMPLEMENT R.A. No. 8177 IS INVALID FOR BEING provision of statute and a rule or regulation issued
DISCRIMINATORY AND CONTRARY TO LAW. to implement said statute, the statutory provision
Even more seriously flawed than Section 19 is prevails. Since the cited clause in Section 17 which
Section 17 of the implementing rules which suspends the execution of a woman within the
provides: three (3) years next following the date of sentence
finds no support in Article 83 of the Revised Penal
Code as amended, perforce Section 17 must be
declared invalid.
"SEC. 17. SUSPENSION OF THE EXECUTION OF THE
DEATH SENTENCE. Execution by lethal injection One member of the Court voted to declare
shall not be inflicted upon a woman within the Republic Act No. 8177 as unconstitutional insofar as
three years next following the date of the sentence it delegates the power to make rules over the same
or while she is pregnant, nor upon any person over subject matter to two persons (the Secretary of
seventy (70) years of age. In this latter case, the Justice and the Director of the Bureau of
death penalty shall be commuted to the penalty of Corrections) and constitutes a violation of the
reclusion perpetua with the accessory penalties international norm towards the abolition of the
provided in Article 40 of the Revised Penal Code." death penalty. One member of the Court,
consistent with his view in People v. Echegaray, 267
Petitioner contends that Section 17 is SCRA 682, 734-758 (1997) that the death penalty
unconstitutional for being discriminatory as well as law (Republic Act No. 7659) is itself unconstitutional,
for being an invalid exercise of the power to believes that Republic Act No. 8177 which provides
legislate by respondent Secretary. Petitioner insists for the means of carrying out the death sentence, is
that Section 17 amends the instances when lethal likewise unconstitutional. Two other members of the
injection may be suspended, without an express court concurred in the aforesaid Separate Opinions
amendment of Article 83 of the Revised Penal in that the death penalty law (Republic Act No.
Code, as amended by section 25 of R.A. NO. 7659. 7659) together with the assailed statute (Republic
Act No. 8177) are unconstitutional. In sum, four
Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended members of the Court voted to declare Republic
by section 25 of R.A. NO. 7659 now reads as follows: Act No. 8177 as unconstitutional. These Separate
Opinions are hereto annexed, infra.
"ART. 83. Suspension of the execution of the death
sentence. The death sentence shall not be WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED insofar as
inflicted upon a woman while she is pregnant or petitioner seeks to declare the assailed statute
within one (1) year after delivery, nor upon any (Republic Act No. 8177) as unconstitutional; but
person over seventy years of age. In this last case, GRANTED insofar as Sections 17 and 19 of the Rules
the death sentence shall be commuted to the and Regulations to Implement Republic Act No.
8177 are concerned, which are hereby declared
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INVALID because (a) Section 17 contravenes Article The Supreme Court, finding respondent guilty as
83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by charged aggravated by the latter's submission of
Section 25 of Republic Act. No. 7659; and (b) spurious evidence i e., the alleged complaint and
Section 19 fails to provide for review and approval the purported notes on preliminary examination to
of the Lethal Injection Manual by the Secretary of cover up his liability, dismissed respondent from
Justice, and unjustifiably makes the manual office and directed the endorsement of the original
confidential, hence unavailable to interested and amended complaints to the National Bureau
parties including the accused/convict and counsel. of Investigation to determine the genuineness of
Respondents are hereby enjoined from enforcing the signatures and to file the proper criminal
and implementing Republic Act No. 8177 until the proceedings when warranted.
aforesaid Sections 17 and 19 of the Rules and
Regulations to Implement Republic Act No. 8177 SYLLABUS
are appropriately amended, revised and/or
corrected in accordance with this Decision. 1. JUDICIARY ACT (R.A. NO. 296); WARRANT OF
ARREST; ISSUANCE. The Judiciary Act, Republic
NO COSTS. Cdpr Act no. 296, precisely requires in section 87 thereof
that "(N)o warrant of arrest shall be issued by any
SO ORDERED. municipal judge in any criminal case filed with him
unless he first examines the witness or witnesses
Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, personally, and the examination shall be under
Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, oath and reduced to writing in the form of
Martinez, Quisumbing and Purisima, JJ ., concur. searching questions and answers."

Pardo, J ., took no part. 2. ID.; ID.; ISSUANCE THEREOF IN CASE AT BAR A


BETRAYAL OF OATH OF OFFICE. Where
Narvasa, C .J ., on official leave. respondent utterly failed to comply with the
requirement of searching questions and answers in
(Serafin v. Lindayag, A.M. No. 297-MJ, September examining the complaining witness and worse the
30, 1975) one question propounded by him shows that he did
comprehend that the "criminal" complaint involved
EN BANC a mere failure to pay a simple indebtedness and
yet found probable cause of the complainant's
[A.M. No. 297-MJ. September 30, 1975.] guilt of estafa and forthwith issued the warrant of
arrest against complainant indicating that either he
AVELINA SERAFIN, complainant, vs. MUNICIPAL believed that non-payment of an indebtedness
JUDGE SANTIAGO LINDAYAG, respondent. constitutes the crime of estafa which would make
him guilty of gross ignorance of the law or although
SYNOPSIS knowing the law, of nevertheless, disregarding it
and giving due course to the town police chief's
Despite the fact that the criminal complaint for "prosecution" on behalf of the municipal secretary,
estafa against complainant did not charge on its his actuations constitute an utter betrayal of his
face any crime but merely recited complainant's oath of office to render justice to every man.
failure to pay a simple indebtedness of P1,500, that
the supporting statements showed that the 3. JUDGES; DISMISSAL; SUBMISSION OF SPURIOUS
complaint was about a simple debt of P1,500 EVIDENCE SHOWS RESPONDENT'S UNWORTHINESS
borrowed by complainant which she failed to pay FOR OFFICE. Respondent's crass attempt at
despite her promise to do so, and that the notes exculpation and cover-up by the submission of
taken during the preliminary examination showed spurious evidence, i.e., an amended complaint
that there was no vestige of the essential elements allegedly signed by the Chief of Police and the
of estafa as provided in Article 315 of the Revised purported notes on the preliminary examination, as
Penal Code, respondent judge admitted the supposed records of the criminal case, is more
"criminal complaint" and issued the corresponding reprehensible than the estafa charged under the
warrant of arrest. By reason thereof, complainant complaint and shows respondent's unworthiness for
filed an administrative complaint against the office, calling for his dismissal.
respondent which was endorsed by the executive
judge to the Department of Justice. The latter 4. ID.; ID.; IGNORANCE OF THE LAW. A judge who
forwarded the complaint to the Supreme Court, disregards deliberately or is ignorant of the basic
which has administrative supervision over all courts fundamentals of the law and justice is unfit to
and the power to discipline and dismiss judges continue in office.
under the 1973 Constitution. Referred for further
investigation, the administrative complaint with its DECISION
documentary evidence was found to be amply
substantiated. TEEHANKEE, J p:

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imprisonment of Debt
The Court finds from the documentary evidence at the hearing and submitted the documentary
and established facts of the case that respondent evidence supporting her complaint, pursuant to the
municipal judge grossly failed to perform his duties process issued by the Investigating Judge for her
properly and is unfit for the office and therefore attendance.
orders his separation from the service. It is self-
evident from the very face of the "criminal The criminal complaint for estafa against
complaint" for estafa, and the supporting sworn complainant (docketed as Criminal Case No. 1602)
statements filed with and sworn to before him as was filed on July 21, 1971 with respondent judge by
well as the very notes of preliminary examination then Guiguinto chief of police Juan P. Estrella at the
taken by him that the "criminal" charge against instance of Carmelito Mendoza, then municipal
complainant showed no vestige of the essential secretary and his wife Corazon Mendoza. Said
elements of estafa but simply recited complainant's complaint sworn to by said police chief before
failure to pay the creditors as alleged offended respondent judge on its face does not charge any
parties a simple indebtedness. Respondent judge's crime but merely recites complainant's failure to
subsequent crass attempt at exculpation by the pay a simple indebtedness, thus:
submission of spurious evidence to cover up his
liability is more reprehensible than his guilt under the "That on or about the 20th day of July 1971, in the
charge and shows his unworthiness for the office. Municipality of Guiguinto, Province of Bulacan,
Philippines and within the preliminary jurisdiction of
Complainant originally filed on October 19, 1971 this Honorable Court, the above-named accused
with the Secretary of Justice the instant with intent of gain did then and there willfully,
administrative complaint for capricious and unlawfully and feloniously owe the sum of ONE
malicious admission in his court of a criminal THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED (P1,500.00) PESOS,
complaint for estafa against complainant and Philippine Currency, that said amount has long
causing her wrongful arrest and detention, against been due since January 28, 1971 and Mrs. Avelina
respondent Santiago Lindayag, municipal judge of N. Serafin failed to pay her account in spite of due
Guiguinto, Bulacan. On December 28, 1971, then notice sent by registered mail and up to the present
Executive Judge Andres Sta. Maria to whom the she failed to settle her obligation." 3
administrative complaint had been referred sent his
indorsement to the Department of Justice The supporting statements 4 executed and sworn to
recommending the exoneration of respondent on by the Mendoza spouses as offended parties
the ground that complainant, assisted by her before respondent judge likewise show on their very
counsel, had filed a motion to withdraw her face that their complaint was about a simple debt
complaint. of P1,500.00 borrowed by complainant from Mrs.
Mendoza and which she had failed to repay
No further action was taken until January 29, 1973 despite her promise to do so by January and
when the Department of Justice forwarded the February, 1971. (Both sworn statements recite that
record of the case to this Court. After the transfer to complainant borrowed the amount "ay umutang
this Court of the power of administrative supervision . . . si ginang Avelina N. Serafin" and did not pay the
over all inferior courts with the power to discipline same.).
and dismiss judges under the 1973 Constitution, 1
the Court, in view of the gravity of the charges as The notes taken during the preliminary examination
borne out by the documentary evidence, referred conducted by respondent 5 , consisting of seven
anew on October 29, 1973 the complaint to the simple questions propounded by police chief
District Judge of Baliwag, Bulacan for investigation Estrella as "private prosecutor" and of seven simple
and report, notwithstanding the previously reported answers thereto given by Carmelito Mendoza show
withdrawal of the complaint. The Court per its beyond doubt that there is no vestige of the
Resolution of December 19, 1973 denied essential elements of estafa as provided in Article
respondent's petition to "consider the matter closed 315 of the Revised Penal Code but that they had
and terminated" by virtue of the previous simply lent complainant the sum of P1,500.00
recommendation in 1971 of Judge Sta. Maria and without any collateral or security because
directed the District Judge to proceed with the complainant was an old friend ("sapagkat matagal
investigation. na naming siyang kaibigan"), that they believe her
to be a good person ("at ang paniwala namin ay
On February 11, 1974, the Court received the overly mabuti siyong tao") and that when they wrote her a
long and detailed 34-page (single-space) report 2 letter of demand, she promised to pay them and
of the investigation conducted by Judge Juan F. said that if she failed to keep her promise, they
Echiverri of the Baliwag court of first instance. The could get her valuable things at her home.
complaint with its documentary evidence, the
Investigator's Report and record of the proceedings In the same notes of preliminary examination, there
and the evidence of record amply substantiate the is recorded as one "searching question and (sic)
complaint, notwithstanding complainant's provided for by Republic Act sec. (sic) 6" 6 what
desistance because the afterwards took pity on appears to be respondent's question as to whether
respondent and no longer wanted to be involved in complainant had paid the money taken by her
the case, as manifested by her when she appeared and Mendoza's answer in the negative, stating that
19 | C o n s t i 2 _ S e c t i o n 1 9 _ P r o h i b i t e d P u n i s h m e n t _ S e c t i o n 2 0 _ N o n -
imprisonment of Debt
such non-payment was the reason why they filed non-payment of an indebtedness constitutes the
the complaint so that she would be punished! 7 crime of estafa which would make him guilty of
gross ignorance of the law or although knowing the
In admitting such a "criminal complaint" that was law, of nevertheless disregarding it and giving due
plainly civil in aspects from the very face of the course to the town police chief's "prosecution" on
complaint and the "evidence" presented, and behalf of the municipal secretary which would
issuing on the same day the warrant of arrest upon constitute an utter betrayal of his oath of office to
his utterly baseless finding "that the accused is render justice to every man.
probably guilty of the crime charged," respondent
grossly failed to perform his duties properly - which It should also be noted that the Court directed the
in this instance was to dismiss the complaint outright Investigating Judge to include in his report of
since it is elementary that non-payment of an investigation certified true copies of the complete
indebtedness is not a criminal act, much less estafa; records of the criminal case thus filed against
and that no one may be criminally charged and complainant This could not be wholly complied
punished for non-payment of a loan of a sum of with, due to the loss of some of the records of the
money. said Criminal Case No. 1602, attributed by
respondent to damage wrought by the 1972 floods.

Strangely enough, however, the motion to quash


In recklessly issuing the warrant of arrest on July 22, filed by complainant through counsel which was
1971, respondent further enabled police chief eventually granted by respondent after two months
Estrella as "private prosecutor" of complainant's was allegedly never found. Said motion to quash
creditors, the Mendozas, to avail of the despicable would have been most likely on the self-evident
practice of some police officers to use the warrant ground that the facts charged do not constitute an
as a means of harassment and serve it on Saturdays offense since no evidence whatever was presented
when the person arrested cannot raise bail, as in by herein complainant in support thereof and
fact complainant was arrested on a Saturday, July respondent's order of September 30, 1971 granting
25, 1971 at a time when the bonding companies the same and dismissing the case made no
were closed for business and she consequently had mention of any counter-evidence from
to undergo the humiliation of being detained for complainant but simply granted the same as
three days in the municipal jail up to July 28, 1971 "meritorious and well-taken". 9 If so, the motion to
when she finally succeeded in putting up the quash would have further reinforced the complaint
P1,000.-bail bond fixed for her release. 8 that respondent either out of ignorance or partiality
and malice issued the baseless warrant of arrest.
A modicum of circumspection on the part of Respondent, notwithstanding the hearing given him
respondent could have easily prevented such an on September 12, 1974, by the Court and a further
injustice and trampling upon of the complainant's opportunity to submit a memorandum which was
basic rights. Indeed, two months afterwards, upon filed by him on November 11, 1974, did never clarify
the merit of complainant's counsel's motion to or explain to the Court's satisfaction this matter as
quash the criminal complaint (which motion, well as his other anomalous actions, as set forth in
however, somehow and notably got lost from the this decision.
record of the case, infra) respondent in an Order
dated September 30, 1971 ultimately found the The alleged loss of some records of the case
quashal motion as "well taken" and ordered the furthermore furnished respondent the occasion to
dismissal of the case. include in the records of the case (as submitted by
him to the Investigator) a purported Amended
The Judiciary Act, Republic Act No. 296, precisely Complaint 10 allegedly executed and sworn to
requires in section 87 thereof that "(N)o warrant of before him by police chief Estrella on the same
arrest shall be issued by any municipal judge in any date as the original criminal complaint (which
criminal case filed with him unless he first examines would introduce the element of estafa by alleging
the witness or witnesses personally, and the that complainant borrowed the sum of P1,500.00
examination shall be under oath and reduced to from the Mendozas on the promise to buy on their
writing in the form of searching questions and behalf some ornamental lamps but that she
answers." Respondent utterly failed to comply with defrauded them, neither buying the lamps nor
this requirement of searching questions and returning the money) and another set of purported
answers in his examination of the complaining notes of preliminary examination 11 based on the
witness. Amended Complaint which respondent allegedly
conducted within 30 minutes of the examination
Worse, the one question propounded by him shows conducted by him as per the original notes of
that he did comprehend that the "criminal" preliminary examination, 12 supra, (which would
complaint involved a mere failure to pay a simple apparently justify his finding of probable cause and
indebtedness and yet he found probable cause of issuance of the warrant of arrest) but both
the herein complainant's guilt of estafa and documents were found by the Investigator to be
forthwith issued the warrant of arrest against her spurious. From an examination of the record and
which would indicate that either he believed that
20 | C o n s t i 2 _ S e c t i o n 1 9 _ P r o h i b i t e d P u n i s h m e n t _ S e c t i o n 2 0 _ N o n -
imprisonment of Debt
the evidence, the Court finds in order the evident dissimilarity and disparity thereof, to the
Investigator's findings and conclusion, as follows: naked eye, with his admittedly genuine signature
on the original complaint. This matter shall be
"Indeed, the alleged amendment (Exh. 2) and the referred to the National Bureau of Investigation for
Notes of the Preliminary Examination (Exhs. 1, 1-a, 1- the determination of the genuineness of said
B, 1-c and 1-d) if admitted as genuine and signature on the purported Amended Complaint,
authentic part of the records of Crim. Case 1602 as now belatedly claimed by Estrella in his affidavit
would find the charges of the complainant herein and contrary to the Investigator's finding, which
entirely baseless. But, as indicated in pages 17-18 claim if determined to be untrue, would warrant his
herein, even only a superficial examination of the criminal prosecution.
appearance and condition of these documents,
the manner it was probably treated and dirtied, the This referral, however, can in no way affect the
alleged signature of Chief of Police Juan P. Estrella, disposition of the case at bar. Such belated
as well as the absence of 'staple-holes on the top affidavit of Estrella can not be admitted at this
and sides of these documents' which are present in stage. Nevertheless, assuming that there were such
the admitted genuine and authentic records of a purported amended complaint and a second
said Crim. Case 1602, would lead us to the preliminary examination conducted by respondent
inescapable conclusion that these Exhibits (1, 1-a, on the basis thereof, still a judge of discernment
1-b, 1-c, 1-d and 2) are definitely not genuine and and circumspection would have been wary of such
authentic parts of the records of Crim. Case No. a second sworn complaint on the very same day
1602. totally contradictory of the first complaint which
referred to a plain indebtedness and was manifestly
"It is conceivable that preliminary examinations of a oblivious of the sacredness of an oath and
criminal case could take place within the space of intended to make out a case of instant estafa
30 minutes after the first one was taken. regardless of the true facts, as recited by the
alleged offended parties in their original sworn
"Painful as it may be, we feel duty bound to statements and demand letter for payment.
conclude and so find that respondent acted
whimsically, and capriciously in giving due course Even prescinding from the aggravation of the
to the estafa complaint (Exh. 1-D), and issuing the cover-up, the Court finds that the penalty of
warrant for the arrest of Avelina N. Serafin, dismissal is called for, in line with the precedents
complainant herein, especially considering that and standards set by it.
later on Sept. 30, 1971, said respondent found that
the Motion to Quash filed by counsel for the In the analogous case of Carreon vs. Flores, 16 the
accused was 'Meritorious and well taken the same Court ordered therein respondent municipal judge's
is granted' and consequently the case was separation from the service for having rendered a
dismissed." 13 verdict of conviction against therein complainant
for alleged theft of about a cavan of palay which
In the Court's view, such a crass attempt at could in no way be factually or legally justified, in
exculpation and cover-up by the submission of that the essential elements of unlawful taking and
spurious evidence as supposed records of the that the property stolen belonged to another were
criminal case is more reprehensible than his guilt lacking.
under the charge and shows his unworthiness for
the office. As stressed therein by the Court citing other
precedents, "(A) judge who disregards deliberately
A word as to then police chief Juan P. Estrella. The or is ignorant of the basic fundamentals of law and
Court has examined the two complaints allegedly justice is unfit to continue in office. Respondent's
executed by him as of the same date, July 21, 1971 separation from the service is thus called for, in line
and fully concurs with the Investigator's observation with the Court's action in Tadiar vs. Caces 17
that a comparison of Estrella's alleged signature on (dismissing therein respondent judge for dereliction
the purported Amended Complaint with his of duty in resolving a motion to dismiss a criminal
admittedly genuine signature on the original case only after 18 months and failing to file the
complaint (Exh. A and D) 14 would show that the same and serve a copy thereof on the prosecution)
former alleged signature is "NOT GENUINE". 15 and in Municipal Council of Casiguran Quezon vs.
Respondent never presented Estrella at the Morales 18 (dismissing therein respondent judge for
investigation to testify as to the authenticity of his unjustified absences from his station and being
alleged signature or the alleged second preliminary 'unmindful of the exigencies of the public service
examination based on the purported Amended and neglectful of his duties to the prejudice of the
Complaint. In respondent's memorandum residents of Casiguran')."
submitted to this Court on November 11, 1974, there
is, however, submitted as Annex "A" a photocopy of
an affidavit purportedly executed on September
30, 1974 by Estrella attesting to his having executed ACCORDINGLY, respondent is hereby dismissed
an Amended Complaint and as to the genuineness from the office of municipal judge of Guiguinto,
of his signature thereon, notwithstanding the Bulacan.
21 | C o n s t i 2 _ S e c t i o n 1 9 _ P r o h i b i t e d P u n i s h m e n t _ S e c t i o n 2 0 _ N o n -
imprisonment of Debt
[G.R. Nos. 75122-49. December 18, 1986.]
The Clerk of Court is directed to endorse to the
Chief, National Bureau of Investigation, the original ELINOR ABAD, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE
complaint and purported amended complaint NICOLAS A. GEROCHI, JR., in his capacity as
both allegedly executed by former Guiguinto chief Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, National
of police Juan P. Estrella as per his affidavit Capital Judicial Region, Branch 139, Makati and
submitted with respondent's memorandum of FEDERICO L. MELOCOTTON, JR., in his capacity as
November 11, 1974 as well as other pertinent Trial Fiscal Regional Trial Court, Branch 139, Makati,
documents and exhibits for comparison and respondents.
determination of the genuineness of said signatures
and for the filing of the proper criminal prosecution [G.R. Nos. 75812-13. December 18, 1986.]
should the findings of the National Bureau of
Investigation so warrant. AMABLE R. AGUILUZ VII and SYLVIA V. AGUILUZ,
spouses, petitioners, vs. HONORABLE PRESIDING
SO ORDERED. JUDGE OF BRANCH 154, now vacant but
temporarily presided by HONORABLE ASAALI S.
Castro, Acting C.J., Fernando, Makasiar, Antonio, ISNANI, Branch 153, Court of First Instance of Pasig,
Muoz Palma, Aquino and Martin, JJ., concur. Metro Manila, respondent.

Barredo, J., did not take part. [G.R. Nos. 725765-67. December 18, 1986.]

Concepcion, Jr., J., is on leave. LUIS M. HOJAS, petitioner, vs. HON. JUDGE SENEN
PENARANDA, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court
Makalintal, C.J. and Esguerra, J., are on official of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch XX, HONORABLE
leave. JUDGE ALFREDO LAGAMON, Presiding Judge,
Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City,
(Lozano v. Martinez, G.R. No. L-63419, L-66839-42, Branch XXII, HONORABLE CITY FISCAL NOLI T. CATHI,
71654, 74524-25, 75122-49, 75812-13, 725765-67, City Fiscal of Cagayan de Oro City, respondents.
75789, December 18, 1986)
[G.R. No. 75789. December 18, 1986.]
EN BANC
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. HON.
[G.R. No. L-63419. December 18, 1986.] DAVID G. NITAFAN, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial
Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 52,
FLORENTINA A. LOZANO, petitioner, vs. THE Manila and THELMA SARMIENTO, respondents.
HONORABLE ANTONIO M. MARTINEZ, in his capacity
as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, National R.R. Nogales Law Office for petitioner in G.R. No.
Capital Judicial Region, Branch XX, Manila, and the 63419, G.R. Nos. 74524-25, G.R. Nos. 75812-13, G.R.
HONORABLE JOSE B. FLAMINIANO, in his capacity as Nos. 75765-67 and counsel for respondent in G.R.
City Fiscal of Manila, respondents. No. 75789.

[G.R. Nos. L-66839-42. December 18, 1986.] Pio S. Canta for petitioner in G.R. Nos. 66839-42.

LUZVIMINDA F. LOBATON, petitioner, vs. HONORABLE Hermogenes Datuin, Jr. for petitioner in G.R. No.
GLICERIO L. CRUZ, in his capacity as Presiding 71654.
Executive Judge, Branch V, Region IV, Regional Trial
Court, sitting at Lemery, Batangas, THE PROVINCIAL Abinoja, Tabalingcos, Villalon & Associates for
FISCAL OF BATANGAS, and MARIA LUISA petitioner in G.R. Nos. 75122-49.
TORDECILLA, respondents.
The Solicitor General for respondent in G.R. No.
[G.R. No. 71654. December 18, 1986.] 63419, G.R. Nos. 66839-42, G.R. No. 71654, G.R. Nos.
74524-25, G.R. Nos. 75122-49, G.R. Nos. 75812-13,
ANTONIO DATUIN and SUSAN DATUIN, petitioners, G.R. Nos. 75765-67 and counsel for petitioner in G.R.
vs. HONORABLE JUDGE ERNANI C. PANO, Regional No. 75789.
Trial Court, Quezon City, Branch LXXXVIII,
HONORABLE CITY FISCAL OF QUEZON CITY, SYLLABUS
respondents.
1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; B.P. 22 (BOUNCING CHECK
[G.R. Nos. 74524-25. December 18, 1986.] LAW); COVERS ALL KINDS OF CHECKS. The
language of BP 22 is broad enough to cover all
OSCAR VIOLAGO, petitioner, vs. HONORABLE kinds of checks, whether present dated or
JUDGE ERNANI C. PAO, Regional Trial Court, postdated, or whether issued in payment of pre-
Quezon City, Branch LXXXVIII, HONORABLE CITY existing obligations or given in mutual or
FISCAL OF QUEZON CITY, respondents. simultaneous exchange for something of value.

22 | C o n s t i 2 _ S e c t i o n 1 9 _ P r o h i b i t e d P u n i s h m e n t _ S e c t i o n 2 0 _ N o n -
imprisonment of Debt
2. CRIMINAL LAW; BOUNCING CHECKS LAW (B.P. causing the defraudation must be prior to or
22); ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF KNOWLEDGE; PRIMA simultaneous with the commission of the fraud. In
FACIE PRESUMED BY REFUSAL OF DRAWEE TO PAY issuing a check as payment for a pre-existing debt,
UPON PRESENTMENT. An essential element of the the drawer does not derive any material benefit in
offense is "knowledge" on the part of the maker or return or as consideration for its issuance. On the
drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds part of the payee, he had already parted with his
in or credit with the bank to cover the check upon money or property before the check is issued to
its presentment. Since this involves a state of mind him, hence, he is not defrauded by means of any
difficult to establish, the statute itself creates a "prior" or "simultaneous" deceit perpetrated on him,
prima facie presumption of such knowledge where by the drawer of the check.
payment of the check "is refused by the drawee
because of insufficient funds in or credit with such 6. ID.; ARTICLE 315, Revised Penal Code AS
bank when presented within ninety (90) days from AMENDED BY R.A. 4885; PAYMENT OF PRE-EXISTING
the date of the check. OBLIGATIONS NOT COVERED. Article 315, as
amended by Republic Act 4885, does not cover
3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; SHALL NOT ARISE WHEN PAYMENT checks issued in payment of pre-existing
IS MADE WITHIN FIVE (5) DAYS FROM RECEIPT OF obligations, again relying on the concept
DISHONOR. To mitigate the harshness of the law underlying the crime of estafa through false
in its application, the statute provides that such pretense or deceit - which is, that the deceit or false
presumption shall not arise if within five (5) banking pretense must be prior to or simultaneous with the
days from receipt of the notice of dishonor, the commission of the fraud.
maker or drawer makes arrangements for payment
of the check by the bank or pays the holder the 7. ID.; BATASANG PAMBANSA 22 (BOUNCING
amount of the check. CHECK LAW;) THRUST OF LAW; PUNISHES ACT OF
MAKING OR ISSUING WORTHLESS CHECK AS AN
4. ID.; ID.; DISHONOR OF CHECK BY DRAWEE BANK; OFFENSE AGAINST PUBLIC ORDER. The gravamen
PRIMA FACIE PROOF OF MAKING OR ISSUANCE OF of the offense punished by B.P. 22 is the act of
CHECK AND DUE PRESENTMENT THEREOF. Another making and issuing a worthless check or a check
provision of the statute, also in the nature of a rule that is dishonored upon its presentation for
of evidence, provides that the introduction in payment. It is not the non-payment of an obligation
evidence of the unpaid and dishonored check with which the law punishes. The law is not intended or
the drawee bank's refusal to pay "stamped or designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The
written thereon or attached thereto, giving the thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of
reason therefore, shall constitute prima facie proof sanctions, the making of worthless checks and
of "the making or issuance of said check, and the putting them is circulation. Because of its
due presentment to the drawee for payment and deleterious effects on the public interest, the
the dishonor thereof . . . for the reason written, practice is proscribed by the law. The law punishes
stamped or attached by the drawer on such the act not as an offense against property, but an
dishonored check." The presumptions being merely offense against public order.
prima facie, it is open to the accused of course to
present proof to the contrary to overcome the said 8. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BATASANG PAMBANSA;
presumptions. MAY PRESCRIBE CRIMINAL PUNISHMENT FOR ACTS
INIMICAL TO PUBLIC WELFARE; MALUM PROHIBITUM.
5. ID.; ID.; DISTINGUISHED FROM ARTICLE 315, It may be constitutionally impermissible for the
Revised Penal Code. Article 315 of the Revised legislature to penalize a person for non-payment of
Penal Code defining the crime of estafa reads as a debt excontractu. But certainly it is within the
follows: "Article 315. Swindling (estafa). - Any person prerogative of the lawmaking body to proscribe
who shall defraud another by any of the means certain acts deemed pernicious and inimical to
mentioned herein below shall be punished by . . . 2. public welfare. Acts mala in se are not the only
By means of any of the following false pretenses or facts which the law can punish. An act may not be
fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously considered by society as inherently wrong, hence
with the commission of the fraud: (a) By using not malum in se, but because of the harm that it
fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess inflicts on the community, it can be outlawed and
power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, criminally punished as malum prohibitum. The state
agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by can do this in the exercise of its police power.
means of other similar deceits; . . . (d) By postdating
a check, or issuing a check in payment of an 9. ID.; ID.; POLICE POWER; BATASANG PAMBANSA
obligation the offender knowing that at the time he 22; VALID EXERCISE THEREOF; NOT REPUGNANT TO
had no funds in the bank, or the funds deposited by CONSTITUTIONAL INHIBITION AGAINST
him were not sufficient to cover the amount of the IMPRISONMENT FOR DEBT. The police power of
check without informing the payee of such the state has been described as "the most essential,
circumstances." The scope of paragraph 2 (d), insistent and illimitable of powers" which enables it
however, was deemed to exclude checks issued in to prohibit all things hurtful to the comfort, safety
payment of pre-existing obligations. The rationale of and welfare of society. It is power not emanating
this interpretation is that in estafa, the deceit from or conferred by the constitution, but inherent
23 | C o n s t i 2 _ S e c t i o n 1 9 _ P r o h i b i t e d P u n i s h m e n t _ S e c t i o n 2 0 _ N o n -
imprisonment of Debt
in the state, plenary, "suitably vague and far from The constitutionality of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22
precisely defined, rooted in the conception that (BP 22 for short), popularly known as the Bouncing
man in organizing the state and imposing upon the Check Law, which was approved on April 3, 1979, is
government limitations to safeguard constitutional the sole issue presented by these petitions for
rights did not intend thereby to enable individual decision. The question is definitely one of first
citizens or group of citizens to obstruct unreason impression in our jurisdiction.
able the enactment of such salutary measures to
ensure communal peace, safety, good order and These petitions arose from cases involving
welfare." The enactment of B.P. 22 is a declaration prosecution of offenses under the statute. The
by the legislature that, as a matter of public policy, defendants in those cases moved seasonably to
the making and issuance of a worthless check is quash the informations on the ground that the acts
deemed a public nuisance to be abated by the charged did not constitute an offense, the statute
imposition of penal sanctions. The effect of the being unconstitutional. The motions were denied by
issuance of a worthless checks transcends the the respondent trial courts, except in one case,
private interests of the parties directly involved in which is the subject of G.R. No. 75789, wherein the
the transaction and touches the interests of the trial court declared the law unconstitutional and
community at large. The mischief it creates is not dismissed the case. The parties adversely affected
only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an have come to us for relief.
injury to the public. In sum, we find the enactment
of B.P. 22 a valid exercise of the police power and is As a threshold issue the former Solicitor General, in
not repugnant to the constitutional inhibition his comment on the petitions, maintained the
against imprisonment for debt. posture that it was premature for the accused to
elevate to this Court the orders denying their
motions to quash, these orders being interlocutory.
While this is correct as a general rule, we have in
10. ID.; B.P. 22; FREEDOM OF CONTRACT NOT justifiable cases intervened to review the lower
IMPAIRED CHECKS NOT CATEGORIZED AS court's denial of a motion to quash. 1 In view of the
CONTRACTS. We find not valid ground to sustain importance of the issue involved here, there is no
the contention that B.P. 22 impairs freedom of doubt in our mind that the instant petitions should
contract. The freedom of contract which is be entertained and the constitutional challenge to
constitutionally protected is freedom to enter into BP 22 resolved promptly, one way or the other, in
"lawful" contracts. Contracts which contravene order to put to rest the doubts and uncertainty that
public policy are not lawful. We must bear in mind exist in legal and judicial circles and the general
that checks can not be categorized as mere public which have unnecessarily caused a delay in
contracts. It is a commercial instrument which, in the disposition of cases involving the enforcement
this modern day and age, has become a of the statute.
convenient substitute for money; it form part of the
banking system and therefore not entirely free from For the purpose of resolving the constitutional issue
the regulatory power of the state. presented here, we do not find it necessary to
delve into the specifics of the informations involved
11. ID.; BILL OF RIGHTS; EQUAL PROTECTION OF LAW in the cases which are the subject of the petitions
DOES NOT PRECLUDE CLASSIFICATION OF before us. 2 The language of BP 22 is broad enough
INDIVIDUALS; CASE AT BAR. Neither do we find to cover all kinds of checks, whether present dated
substance in the claim that the statute in question or postdated, or whether issued in payment of pre-
denies equal protection of the laws or is existing obligations or given in mutual or
discriminatory, since it penalizes the drawer of the simultaneous exchange for something of value.
check, but not the payee. It is contended that the
payee is just as responsible for the crime as the I
drawer of the check, since without the BP 22 punishes a person "who makes or draws and
indispensable participation of the payee by his issues any check on account or for value, knowing
acceptance of the check there would be no at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient
crime. This argument is tantamount to saying that, funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the
to give equal protection, the law should punish payment of said check in full upon presentment,
both the swindler and the swindled. The petitioners' which check is subsequently dishonored by the
posture ignores the well-accepted meaning of the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or
clause "equal protection of the laws". The clause would have been dishonored for the same reason
does not preclude classification of individuals, who had not the drawer, without any valid reason,
may be accorded different treatment under the ordered the bank to stop payment." The penalty
law as long as the classification is not unreasonable prescribed for the offense is imprisonment of not less
or arbitrary. than 30 days nor more than one year or a fine or
not less than the amount of the check nor more
DECISION than double said amount, but in no case to exceed
P200,000.00, or both such fine and imprisonment at
YAP, J p: the discretion of the court. 3

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imprisonment of Debt
The statute likewise imposes the same penalty on person who defrauded another "by falsely
"any person who, having sufficient funds in or credit pretending to possess any power, influence,
with the drawee bank when he makes or draws qualification, property, credit, agency or business,
and issues a check, shall fail to keep sufficient funds or by means of similar deceit." Although no explicit
or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of mention was made therein regarding checks, this
the check if presented within a period of ninety (90) provision was deemed to cover within its ambit the
days from the date appearing thereon, for which issuance of worthless or bogus checks in exchange
reason it is dishonored by the drawee bank. 4 for money. 7

An essential element of the offense is "knowledge" In 1926, an amendment was introduced by the
on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of Philippine Legislature, which added a new clause
the insufficiency of his funds in or credit with the (paragraph 10) to Article 335 of the old Penal
bank to cover the check upon its presentment. Code, this time referring in explicit terms to the
Since this involves a state of mind difficult to issuance of worthless checks. The amendment
establish, the statute itself creates a prima facie penalized any person who: 1) issues a check in
presumption of such knowledge where payment of payment of a debt or for other valuable
the check "is refused by the drawee because of consideration, knowing at the time of its issuance
insufficient funds in or credit with such bank when that he does not have sufficient funds in the bank
presented within ninety (90) days from the date of to cover its amount, or 2) maliciously signs the
the check. 5 To mitigate the harshness of the law in check differently from his authentic signature as
its application, the statute provides that such registered at the bank in order that the latter would
presumption shall not arise if within five (5) banking refuse to honor it; or 3) issues a postdated check
days from receipt of the notice of dishonor, the and, at the date set for its payment, does not have
maker or drawer makes arrangements for payment sufficient deposit to cover the same. 8
of the check by the bank or pays the holder the
amount of the check. In 1932, as already adverted to, the old Penal Code
was superseded by the Revised Penal Code. 9 The
Another provision of the statute, also in the nature above provisions, in amended form, were
of a rule of evidence, provides that the introduction incorporated in Article 315 of the Revised Penal
in evidence of the unpaid and dishonored check Code defining the crime of estafa. The revised text
with the drawee bank's refusal to pay "stamped or of the provision read as follows:
written thereon or attached thereto, giving the
reason therefor," shall constitute prima facie proof "Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). Any person who shall
of "the making or issuance of said check, and the defraud another by any of the means mentioned
due presentment to the drawee for payment and hereinbelow shall be punished by:
the dishonor thereof . . . for the reason written,
stamped or attached by the drawee on such xxx xxx xxx
dishonored check." 6
2. By means of any of the following false pretenses
The presumptions being merely prima facie, it is or fraudulent acts executed prior to or
open to the accused of course to present proof to simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:
the contrary to overcome the said presumptions.
(a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to
II possess power, influence, qualifications, property,
BP 22 is aimed at putting a stop to or curbing the credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions,
practice of issuing checks that are worthless, i.e. or by means of other similar deceits;
checks that end up being rejected or dishonored xxx xxx xxx
for payment. The practice, as discussed later, is
proscribed by the state because of the injury it (d) By postdating a check, or issuing a check in
causes to the public interests. payment of an obligation the offender knowing
that at the time he had no funds in the bank, or the
Before the enactment of BP 22, provisions already funds deposited by him were not sufficient to cover
existed in our statute books which penalize the the amount of the check without informing the
issuance of bouncing or rubber checks. Criminal payee of such circumstances."
law has dealth with the problem within the context The scope of paragraph 2 (d), however, was
of crimes against property punished as "estafa" or deemed to exclude checks issued in payment of
crimes involving fraud and deceit. The focus of pre-existing obligations. 10 The rationale of this
these penal provisions is on the damage caused to interpretation is that in estafa, the deceit causing
the property rights of the victim. the defraudation must be prior to or simultaneous
with the commission of the fraud. In issuing a check
The Penal Code of Spain, which was in force in the as payment for a pre-existing debt, the drawer
Philippines from 1887 until it was replaced by the does not derive any material benefit in return or as
Revised Penal Code in 1932, contained provisions consideration for its issuance. On the part of the
penalizing, among others, the act of defrauding payee, he had already parted with his money or
another through false pretenses. Art. 335 punished a property before the check is issued to him, hence,
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imprisonment of Debt
he is not defrauded by means of any "prior" or forbidding imprisonment for debt; (2) it impairs
"simultaneous" deceit perpetrated on him by the freedom of contract; (3) it contravenes the equal
drawer of the check. protection clause; (4) it unduly delegates legislative
and executive powers; and (5) its enactment is
flawed in that during its passage the Interim
Batasan violated the constitutional provision
With the intention of remedying the situation and prohibiting amendments to a bill on Third Reading.
solving the problem of how to bring checks issued in
payment of pre-existing debts within the ambit of The constitutional challenge to BP 22 posed by
Art. 315, an amendment was introduced by the petitioners deserves a searching and thorough
Congress of the Philippines in 1967, 11 which was scrutiny and the most deliberate consideration by
enacted into law as Republic Act No. 4885, revising the Court, involving as it does the exercise of what
the aforesaid proviso to read as follows: has been described as "the highest and most
delicate function which belongs to the judicial
"(d) By postdating a check, or issuing a check in department of the government." 15
payment of an obligation when the offender had
no funds in the bank, or his funds deposited therein As we enter upon the task of passing on the validity
were not sufficient to cover the amount of the of an act of a co-equal and coordinate branch of
check. The failure of the drawer of the check to the government, we need not be reminded of the
deposit the amount necessary to cover his check time-honored principle, deeply ingrained in our
within three (3) days from receipt of notice from the jurisprudence, that a statute is presumed to be
bank and/or the payee or holder that said check valid. Every presumption must be indulged in favor
has been dishonored for lack or insufficiency of of its constitutionality. This is not to say that we
funds shall be prima facie evidence of deceit approach our task with diffidence or timidity. Where
constituting false pretense or fraudulent act." it is clear that the legislature has overstepped the
limits of its authority under the constitution, we
However, the adoption of the amendment did not should not hesitate to wield the axe and let it fall
alter the situation materially. A divided Court held in heavily, as fall it must, on the offending statute.
People vs. Sabio, Jr. 12 that Article 315, as
amended by Republic Act 4885, does not cover III
checks issued in payment of pre-existing Among the constitutional objections raised against
obligations, again relying on the concept BP 22, the most serious is the alleged conflict
underlying the crime of estafa through false between the statute and the constitutional
pretenses or deceit which is, that the deceit or provision forbidding imprisonment for debt. It is
false pretense must be prior to or simultaneous with contended that the statute runs counter to the
the commission of the fraud. inhibition in the Bill of Rights which states, "No person
shall be imprisoned for debt or non-payment of a
Since statistically it had been shown that the poll tax." 16 Petitioners insist that, since the offense
greater bulk of dishonored checks consisted of under BP 22 is consummated only upon the
those issued in payment of pre-existing debts, 13 dishonor or non-payment of the check when it is
the amended provision evidently failed to cope presented to the drawee bank, the statute is really
with the real problem and to deal effectively with a "bad debt law" rather than a "bad check law."
the evil that it was intended to eliminate or What it punishes is the non-payment of the check,
minimize. not the act of issuing it. The statute, it is claimed, is
nothing more than a veiled device to coerce
With the foregoing factual and legal antecedents payment of a debt under the threat of penal
as a backdrop, the then Interim Batasan sanction.
confronted the problem squarely. It opted to take a
bold step and decided to enact a law dealing with First of all, it is essential to grasp the essence and
the problem of bouncing or worthless checks, scope of the constitutional inhibition invoked by
without attaching the law's umbilical cord to the petitioners. Viewed in its historical context, the
existing penal provisions on estafa. BP 22 addresses constitutional prohibition against imprisonment for
the problem directly and frontally and makes the debt is a safeguard that evolved gradually during
act of issuing a worthless check malum prohibitum. the early part of the nineteenth century in the
14 various states of the American Union as a result of
the people's revulsion at the cruel and inhumane
The question now arises: Is BP 22 a valid law? practice, sanctioned by common law, which
permitted creditors to cause the incarceration of
Previous efforts to deal with the problem of debtors who could not pay their debts. At common
bouncing checks within the ambit of the law on law, money judgments arising from actions for the
estafa did not evoke any constitutional challenge. recovery of a debt or for damages from breach of
In contrast, BP 22 was challenged promptly. a contract could be enforced against the person or
body of the debtor by writ of capias ad
Those who question the constitutionality of BP 22 satisfaciendum. By means of this writ, a debtor
insist that: (1) it offends the constitutional provision could be seized and imprisoned at the instance of
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the creditor until he makes the satisfaction paying them the salaries agreed upon for their
awarded. As a consequence of the popular services, thus causing them financial difficulties." The
ground swell against such a barbarous practice, law was viewed not as a measure to coerce
provisions forbidding imprisonment for debt came payment of an obligation, although obviously such
to be generally enshrined in the constitutions of could be its effect, but to banish a practice
various states of the Union. 17 considered harmful to public welfare.

This humanitarian provision was transported to our IV


shores by the Americans at the turn of the century Has BP 22 transgressed the constitutional inhibition
and embodied in our organic laws. 18 Later, our against imprisonment for debt? To answer the
fundamental law outlawed not only imprisonment question, it is necessary to examine what the
for debt, but also the infamous practice, native to statute prohibits and punishes as an offense. Is it the
our shore, of throwing people in jail for non- failure of the maker of the check to pay a debt? Or
payment of the cedula or poll tax. 19 is it the making and issuance of a worthless check in
payment of a debt? What is the gravamen of the
The reach and scope of this constitutional offense? This question lies at the heart of the issue
safeguard have been the subject of judicial before us.
definition, both by our Supreme Court 20 and by
American state courts. 21 Mr. Justice Malcolm, The gravamen of the offense punished by BP 22 is
speaking for the Supreme Court in Ganaway vs. the act of making and issuing a worthless check or
Quillen, 22 stated: "The 'debt' intended to be a check that is dishonored upon its presentation for
covered by the constitutional guaranty has a well- payment. It is not the non-payment of an obligation
defined meaning. Organic provisions relieving from which the law punishes. The law is not intended or
imprisonment for debt, were intended to prevent designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The
commitment of debtors to prison for liabilities arising thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of penal
from actions ex contractu. The inhibition was never sanctions, the making of worthless checks and
meant to include damages arising in actions ex putting them in circulation. Because of its
delicto, for the reason that damages recoverable deleterious effects on the public interest, the
therein do not arise from any contract entered into practice is proscribed by the law. The law punishes
between the parties but are imposed upon the the act not as an offense against property, but an
defendant for the wrong he has done and are offense against public order.
considered as punishment, nor to fines and
penalties imposed by the courts in criminal Admittedly, the distinction may seem at first blush to
proceedings as punishments for crime." appear elusive and difficult to conceptualize. But
precisely in the failure to perceive the vital
The law involved in Ganaway was not a criminal distinction lies the error of those who challenge the
statute but the Code of Procedure in Civil Actions validity of BP 22.
(1909) which authorized the arrest of the defendant
in a civil case on grounds akin to those which justify It may be constitutionally impermissible for the
the issuance of a writ of attachment under our legislature to penalize a person for non-payment of
present Rules of Court, such as imminent departure a debt ex contractu. But certainly it is within the
of the defendant from the Philippines with intent to prerogative of the lawmaking body to proscribe
defraud his creditors, or concealment, removal or certain acts deemed pernicious and inimical to
disposition of properties in fraud of creditors, etc. public welfare. Acts mala in se are not the only acts
The Court, in that case, declared the detention of which the law can punish. An act may not be
the defendant unlawful, being violative of the considered by society as inherently wrong, hence,
constitutional inhibition against imprisonment for not malum in se, but because of the harm that it
debt, and ordered his release. The Court, however, inflicts on the community, it can be outlawed and
refrained from declaring the statutory provision in criminally punished as malum prohibitum. The state
question unconstitutional. can do this in the exercise of its police power.

Closer to the case at bar is People v. Vera Reyes, 23


wherein a statutory provision which made illegal
and punishable the refusal of an employer to pay, The police power of the state has been described
when he can do so, the salaries of his employees or as "the most essential, insistent and illimitable of
laborers on the fifteenth or last day of every month powers" which enables it to prohibit all things hurtful
or on Saturday every week, was challenged for to the comfort, safety and welfare of society. 24 It is
being violative of the constitutional prohibition a power not emanating from or conferred by the
against imprisonment for debt. The constitutionality constitution, but inherent in the state, plenary,
of the law in question was upheld by the Court, it suitably vague and far from precisely defined,
being within the authority of the legislature to enact rooted in the conception that man in organizing
such a law in the exercise of the police power. It the state and imposing upon the government
was held that "one of the purposes of the law is to limitations to safeguard constitutional rights did not
suppress possible abuses on the part of the intend thereby to enable individual citizens or
employers who hire laborers or employees without group of citizens to obstruct unreasonably the
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enactment of such salutary measures to ensure
communal peace, safety, good order and welfare." The effects of the issuance of a worthless check
25 transcends the private interests of the parties
directly involved in the transaction and touches the
The enactment of BP 22 is a declaration by the interests of the community at large. The mischief it
legislature that, as a matter of public policy, the creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder,
making and issuance of a worthless check is but also an injury to the public. The harmful practice
deemed a public nuisance to be abated by the of putting valueless commercial papers in
imposition of penal sanctions. circulation, multiplied a thousandfold, can very well
pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure
It is not for us to question the wisdom or impolicy of the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare
the statute. It is sufficient that a reasonable nexus of society and the public interest. As aptly stated
exists between means and end. Considering the 30
factual and legal antecedents that led to the
adoption of the statute, it is not difficult to "The 'check flasher' does a great deal more than
understand the public concern which prompted its contract a debt; he shakes the pillars of business;
enactment. It had been reported that the and to my mind, it is a mistaken charity of judgment
approximate value of bouncing checks per day to place him in the same category with the honest
was close to 200 million pesos, and thereafter when man who is unable to pay his debts, and for whom
overdrafts were banned by the Central Bank, it the constitutional inhibition against `imprisonment
averaged between 50 million to 80 million pesos a for debt, except in cases of fraud' was intended as
day. 26 a shield and not a sword."

By definition, a check is a bill of exchange drawn In sum, we find the enactment of BP 22 a valid
on a bank and payable on demand. 27 It is a exercise of the police power and is not repugnant
written order on a bank, purporting to be drawn to the constitutional inhibition against imprisonment
against a deposit of funds for the payment of all for debt.
events, of a sum of money to a certain person
therein named or to his order or to cash, and This Court is not unaware of the conflicting
payable on demand. 28 Unlike a promissory note, a jurisprudence obtaining in the various states of the
check is not a mere undertaking to pay an amount United States on the constitutionality of the
of money. It is an order addressed to a bank and "worthless check" acts. 31 It is needless to warn that
partakes of a representation that the drawer has foreign jurisprudence must be taken with abundant
funds on deposit against which the check is drawn, caution. A caveat to be observed is that substantial
sufficient to ensure payment upon its presentation differences exist between our statute and the
to the bank. There is therefore an element of worthless check acts of those states where the
certainty or assurance that the instrument will be jurisprudence have evolved. One thing to
paid upon presentation. For this reason, checks remember is that BP 22 was not lifted bodily from
have become widely accepted as a medium of any existing statute. Furthermore, we have to
payment in trade and commerce. Although not consider that judicial decisions must be read in the
legal tender, checks have come to be perceived context of the facts and the law involved and, in a
as convenient substitutes for currency in broader sense, of the social, economic and
commercial and financial transactions. The basis or political environment in short, the milieu under
foundation of such perception is confidence. If which they were made. We recognize the wisdom
such confidence is shaken, the usefulness of checks of the old saying that what is sauce for the goose
as currency substitutes would be greatly diminished may not be sauce for the gander.
or may become nil. Any practice therefore tending
to destroy that confidence should be deterred, for As stated elsewhere, police power is a dynamic
the proliferation of worthless checks can only force that enables the state to meet the exigencies
create havoc in trade circles and the banking of changing times. There are occasions when the
community. police power of the state may even override a
constitutional guaranty. For example, there have
Recent statistics of the Central Bank show that one- been cases wherein we held that the constitutional
third of the entire money supply of the country, provision on non-impairment of contracts must yield
roughly totalling P32.3 billion, consists of peso to the police power of the state. 32 Whether the
demand deposits; the remaining two-thirds consists police power may override the constitutional
of currency in circulation. 29 These demand inhibition against imprisonment for debt is an issue
deposits in the banks constitute the funds against we do not have to address. This bridge has not
which, among others, commercial papers like been reached, so there is no occasion to cross it.
checks, are drawn. The magnitude of the amount
involved amply justifies the legitimate concern of We hold that BP 22 does not conflict with the
the state in preserving the integrity of the banking constitutional inhibition against imprisonment for
system. Flooding the system with worthless checks is debt.
like pouring garbage into the bloodstream of the
nation's economy. V
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imprisonment of Debt
We need not detain ourselves lengthily in the Reading, the bill which eventually became BP 22
examination of the other constitutional objections was amended in that the text of the second
raised by petitioners, some of which are rather paragraph of Section 1 of the bill as adopted on
flimsy. Second Reading was altered or changed in the
printed text of the bill submitted for approval on
We find no valid ground to sustain the contention Third Reading.
that BP 22 impairs freedom of contract. The
freedom of contract which is constitutionally A careful review of the record of the proceedings
protected is freedom to enter into "lawful" of the Interim Batasan on this matter shows that,
contracts. Contracts which contravene public indeed, there was some confusion among Batasan
policy are not lawful. 33 Besides, we must bear in Members on what was the exact text of the
mind that checks can not be categorized as mere paragraph in question which the body approved
contracts. It is a commercial instrument which, in on Second Reading. 36 Part of the confusion was
this modern day and age, has become a due apparently to the fact that during the
convenient substitute for money; it forms part of the deliberations on Second Reading (the amendment
banking system and therefore not entirely free from period), amendments were proposed orally and
the regulatory power of the state. approved by the body or accepted by the sponsor,
hence, some members might not have gotten the
Neither do we find substance in the claim that the complete text of the provisions of the bill as
statute in question denies equal protection of the amended and approved on Second Reading.
laws or is discriminatory, since it penalizes the However, it is clear from the records that the text of
drawer of the check, but not the payee. It is the second paragraph of Section 1 of BP 22 is the
contended that the payee is just as responsible for text which was actually approved by the body on
the crime as the drawer of the check, since without Second Reading on February 7, 1979, as reflected
the indispensable participation of the payee by his in the approved Minutes for that day. In any event,
acceptance of the check there would be no before the bill was submitted for final approval on
crime. This argument is tantamount to saying that, Third Reading, the Interim Batasan created a
to give equal protection, the law should punish Special Committee to investigate the matter, and
both the swindler and the swindled. The petitioners' the Committee in its report, which was approved by
posture ignores the well-accepted meaning of the the entire body on March 22, 1979, stated that "the
clause "equal protection of the laws." The clause clause in question was . . . an authorized
does not preclude classification of individuals, who amendment of the bill and the printed copy
may be accorded different treatment under the thereof reflects accurately the provision in question
law as long as the classification is not unreasonable as approved on Second Reading. 37 We therefore,
or arbitrary. 34 find no merit in the petitioners' claim that in the
enactment of BP 22 the provisions of Section 9 (2) of
It is also suggested that BP 22 constitutes undue or Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution were violated.
improper delegation of legislative powers, on the
theory that the offense is not completed by the sole
act of the maker or drawer but is made to depend
on the will of the payee. If the payee does not WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered granting the
present the check to the bank for payment but petition in G.R. No. 75789 and setting aside the
instead keeps it, there would be no crime. The logic order of the respondent Judge dated August 19,
of the argument stretches to absurdity the meaning 1986. The petitions in G.R. Nos. 63419, 66839-42,
of "delegation of legislative power." What cannot 71654, 74524-25, 75122-49, 75812-13 and 75765-67
be delegated is the power to legislate, or the are hereby dismissed and the temporary restraining
power to make laws, 35 which means, as applied to order issued in G.R. Nos. 74524-25 is lifted. With costs
the present case, the power to define the offense against private petitioners.
sought to be punished and to prescribe the
penalty. By no stretch of logic or imagination can it SO ORDERED.
be said that the power to define the crime and
prescribe the penalty therefor has been in any Teehankee, C . J ., Feria, Fernan, Narvasa,
manner delegated to the payee. Neither is there Melencio-Herrera, Alampay, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz,
any provision in the statute that can be construed, Paras and Feliciano, JJ ., concur.
no matter how remotely, as undue delegation of
executive power. The suggestion that the statute
unlawfully delegates its enforcement to the
offended party is farfetched.

Lastly, the objection has been raised that Section 9


(2) of Article VII of the 1973 Constitution was
violated by the legislative body when it enacted BP
22 into law. This constitutional provision prohibits the
introduction of amendments to a bill during the
Third Reading. It is claimed that during its Third
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