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468 Phil. 1


[ G.R. No. 142051, February 24, 2004 ]




Assailed in this petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is the judgment of acquittal rendered by the Court of Appeals dated December 29, 1999 in CA-G.R. CR No. 16423, which reversed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pili, Camarines Sur, Branch 32, convicting private respondents Claudio Francisco y Recto and Rudy Pacao y Parone of the crimes of homicide and attempted murder, respectively.

The essential and uncontroverted factual antecedents are as follows:

Claudio Francisco, Rudy Pacao, Capt. Rodolfo Malbarosa, Pfc. Catalino Bonganay, Sgt. Roberto Cana, Sgt. Virgilio Azucena, Sgt. Nathaniel Interino, Pat. David Valenciano, Pat. Cesar Quiambao, Joseph Pellas, and Gabriel Alosan were charged with Murder for the fatal shooting of one Marcial “Boyet” Azada in the following Information:
That on or about 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon of December 2, 1989, inside the Le Janni Restaurant, Municipality of Tigaon, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused conniving, confederating and helping one another, moved by one common interest and design to kill, did then and there with Pat. Pacao, using his service pistol caliber .38 TM Squire Bingham with Serial No. 179896 issued to him by the Philippine National Police as such member of the Police force of Tigaon and accused Claudio “Danny” Francisco, Jr. likewise using a gun TM Smith and Wesson, caliber .38 revolver with Serial No. 11327, with treachery shot one Marcial “Boyet” Azada y Garza while the latter had both arms raised and his back was turned against accused Pat. Rudy Pacao a means employed and consciously adopted by both accused to ensure the death of said Marcial “Boyet” Azada without danger to their persons and thereafter with criminal intent and design to conceal his (Pacao) criminal act did knowingly and willfully altered, tampered and/or attempted to destroy his service pistol, while accused Francisco did knowingly and deliberately planted the gun he used in shooting his victim on the latter’s (Azada) body, all of said acts of the herein accused were done with the sole aim and purpose to conceal and mislead the authorities as to the authorship of the crime.

That while accused Capt. Rodolfo Malbarosa, Pfc. Catalino Bonganay, Sgt. Roberto Cana, Sgt. Virgilio Azucena, Sgt. Nathaniel Interino, Pat. David Valenciano, Pat. Cesar Quiambao, Joseph Pellas, and Gabriel Alosan are being impleaded in the instant case as accessories under Art. 19 of the Revised Penal Code with grave abuse of their authority as peace officers, with full knowledge of the criminal act of both Francisco and Pat. Pacao, willfully, actively and knowingly cooperated, conspired and confederated with accused Francisco and Pat. Pacao to conceal the crime and the criminal thru the concerted efforts of all the herein accused by making it appear thru their false narration of facts in the Tigaon Police Blotter and in their individual sworn statement and/or narration of facts given before the agent of the National Bureau of Investigation, all of these acts are contrary to law.

That due to the untimely death of the deceased Marcial “Boyet” Azada, the heirs of said deceased suffered damages in the amount of no less than P500,000.00, Philippine Currency, and have incurred expenses necessary and incidental to this case in the amount of P200,000.00.

All the accused pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. On demurrer to evidence, the trial court dismissed the case against Pfc. Bonganay, Sgt. Cana, Sgt. Azucena, Sgt. Interino, Pat. Valenciano and Pat. Quiambao.  Upon the death of Capt. Malbarosa, the case against him was likewise dismissed.  Trial on the merits ensued.
The facts as found by the trial court:

At about 5:30 o’clock of the afternoon of 2 December 1989, at the Le Janni Restaurant in the Poblacion of Tigaon, Camarines Sur, Azada was seated at the eastern end of table 2 of the Le Janni Restaurant; to his right was Francisco, Jr.; to the right of Francisco, Jr. was Gabriel Alosan; directly across Francisco, Jr. was seated Joseph Pellas, who was to the left of Azada; while Francisco, Jr. and Azada were having a discussion, Alfredo Alarcon tapped Azada to stop the discussion, but the latter told Alarcon not to mind him, prompting Alarcon to withdraw to a seat nearby; Patrolman Bonganay approached the group of Azada, and directing his words to Azada, asked the latter to turn over his gun, simultaneously trying to hold the gun of Azada tucked to his waist; Azada parried the grabbing hand of Bonganay, at first refusing to surrender it, but Azada suddenly drew his .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver from his waist, stood up, and placed the revolver on the table; Francisco, Jr. took the revolver and pointed it to Azada, who raised both his arms; with both hands extended, holding the .38 revolver, Francisco, Jr. while face to face with Azada, fired a shot, which entered just below the left external auditory meatrus, directed backwards, upwards and laterally, fracturing comminutedly the upper maxilla; the slug of that first shot was recovered embedded in the sphenoid bone, right and was terribly deformed (Exh. C-21); several more shots were fired by Francisco, Jr., but they did not find their marks on Azada, he slowly fell backwards, grazing with his hand Bonganay, but finally he fell back on a chair and landed on the cemented floor of the restaurant; meanwhile, after the first shot was fired by Francisco, Jr., accused Rudy Pacao fired three shots in the direction of Azada, one of which found its mark 23 centimeters from the left elbow, upper third arm, left directed forward, producing an exit reentry wound just below the apex of the axilla, left, where a well-formed slug was recovered; at the time Pacao fired his shots, he was about four meters from Azada, and to the latter’s left; as Francisco continued firing after the first shot, he was pushed by Bonganay; Francisco, Jr. then threw the .38 caliber revolver under the table near where Azada lay sprawled on his back, with blood oozing from his mouth and ears; Francisco, Jr. after the shooting stopped was cowering, bended with both his hands on his head, and when confronted by Pacao, managed to utter the words, “why did it have to happen”; Pacao after the shooting stopped, frisked Pellas and Francisco, Jr. from whom no guns were found.

After Azada fell on his back, Alarcon approached him and cradled him, but he finally left the dying Azada when he heard a voice from behind him telling him to leave Azada alone as he was already dead, and warning Alarcon he might be involved; Francisco, Jr. left when he was fetched by his sister, but Pacao and the policemen remained behind, closing the restaurant, to the extent of preventing the widow of Azada from entering it; a little while later, Capt. Malbarosa arrived; he recovered the .38 caliber revolver and the improvised shotgun, .45 caliber type under the table near where Azada lay.

At the time Azada was shot, he still had his .45 type shotgun tucked to his waist, and he could have drawn it to protect himself from the gun pointed at him by Francisco, Jr.

On December 3, 1989, Azada was autopsied at the funeral parlor by Dr. Alnor de la Rosa, then medico-legal officer of NBI, Bicol, the result of which is Exh. C-21; during the time Azada lay in state, the accused Francisco, Jr., Pellas and Alosan attended the wake and the latter two even attended the funeral.

Marcial Azada is survived by his widow, Noela David vda. de Azada, and three minor children, and by his father, Victor; his widow felt sad and suffered serious anxiety for the future of her children, who are now deprived of support of their father; Victor Azada felt sad and suffered a great feeling of loss at the death of his only son, and is now without the helping hand of Marcial; he also paid for the funeral expenses for his son, is supporting his son’s family at the rate of P5,000.00 a month, and has spent for his lawyers in the prosecution of this case to the tune of not less than P75,000.00, exclusive of appearance fees of P1,000.00 for Atty. Rosales and Teoxon.[1]
In a decision dated February 7, 1994, the court a quo exonerated accused Pellas and Alosan and convicted respondents Francisco Jr. and Pacao for homicide and attempted murder, respectively, the decretal portion of which reads:[2]
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, judgment is hereby rendered:
     1.  Acquitting Joseph Pellas and Gabriel Alosan; consequently, their bail bonds are hereby cancelled; their counterclaims are dismissed;

    2.  Finding the accused Claudio Francisco Jr. y Recto, also known as Danilo and Danny Francisco, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide, defined and penalized under Art. 249 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentences him to suffer imprisonment, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and crediting him with the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, ranging from Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to Twelve (12) years, Ten (10) months, and Twenty (20) days of reclusion temporal, as maximum, with all the accessories of the law; to indemnify the heirs of Marcial Azada the sum of Fifty thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos, as indemnity for his death, actual damages of not less than P100,000.00, moral damages of P100,000.00, and to pay proportionate costs;

    3.  Finding the accused Rudy Pacao y Parone, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Attempted Murder, defined and penalized under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal code, in relation to Art. 6 thereof, and sentences him to suffer imprisonment, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, ranging from Four (4) years, Two (2) months and One (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to Six (6) years, One (1) month and Eleven days of prision mayor, as maximum, with all the accessories of the law, and to pay proportionate costs.
The accused Claudio Francisco Jr., and Rudy Pacao, are credited in full for their preventive detention.

On appeal, the trial court’s decision was reversed and respondents Francisco and Pacao were acquitted of the crime charged.[3]

In justifying its decision, the Court of Appeals relied on the following circumstances as indicative of the innocence of respondent Francisco, to wit: (1) the sitting position of respondent Francisco, who was seated at the right side of Azada, made it impossible for him to have fired the gun taking into account the points of entry of the bullets; (2) the inability of the experts to identify the bullet and the source from which firearm it was fired, it was unjust to conclude that the same came from the gun of the deceased which the prosecution alleged to have been fired by respondent Francisco; (3) the paraffin test conducted on respondent Francisco registered negative of gunpowder burns.[4]

In absolving respondent Pacao of any culpability, the Court of Appeals found that Azada, instead of surrendering peacefully to the apprehending police officers, resisted arrest and fired his gun towards their direction. Respondent Pacao was therefore acting in self-defense and in fulfillment of his duty as a police officer when he returned fire at the victim.

The prosecution, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, vehemently challenges the acquittal in a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, arguing that the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in exonerating the private respondents notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence of their guilt.

In support of its position, petitioner argues that the appellate court’s finding that it was impossible for Francisco Jr. to have fired the fatal shots because of his sitting position is belied by the testimony of prosecution witness Alarcon that Azada, who was seated obliquely to the right side of respondent, was virtually facing his alleged assailant. It also theorizes that the negative finding of powder burns on Francisco, Jr. and the presence of nitrates on the victim are inconclusive proof that respondent did not pull the trigger. It surmises that the nitrates must have naturally fallen off together with Francisco’s perspiration or was deliberately cleansed by him. Petitioner also insists that the appellate court erred in anchoring its judgment of acquittal on the inability of the ballistic experts to identify the bullet recovered.  It asserts that the appellate court’s view was discredited by the NBI agents’ independent finding that the bullet found was fired by Francisco Jr. using the victim’s firearm. It likewise assails the appellate court’s rejection of the incriminatory testimony of prosecution witness Alarcon because of his subsequent retraction affidavits executed on September 16, 1991 and October 28, 1991.  Petitioner claims that Alarcon retracted his accusatory statements against Francisco because he was pressured by the latter to do so.

Two core issues must be resolved in the instant petition.  First, whether or not the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court is the proper legal recourse for the reversal of the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals; and second, whether or not an appeal of the judgment of acquittal by the Court of Appeals violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution.

The special civil action for certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.  Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

As observed in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al.[5] “the special civil action for certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction and not errors of judgment.  The raison d’etre for the rule is when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprive it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed.  If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment.  In such a scenario, the administration of justice would not survive.  Hence, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision — not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision — the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. The proper recourse of the aggrieved party from a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court.”

While petitioner in the case at bar ostensibly alleges grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the discussions therein however ascribe to the Court of Appeals errors of judgment, not errors of jurisdiction. Specifically, petitioner delves on, among others, the testimonies relative to the positions of the victim vis-à-vis the accused, and the opinions of the expert witnesses in respect to certain physical evidence. Obviously, these are errors that goes deeply into the appellate court’s appreciation and assessment of the evidence proffered by the parties. These are findings that impinge on errors of judgment and not errors of jurisdiction, correctible by a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court and not a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the said Rules. On this score alone, the dismissal of the instant petition is called for.

In a long array of cases,[6] we dismissed similar petitions for erroneous application of the extraordinary writ of certiorari. Specifically in the case of People v. Maquiling,[7] we made the following observation:
It is quite obvious from the foregoing allegations that petitioner imputed grave abuse of discretion to Respondent Court because of the latter’s supposed misappreciation and wrongful assessment of factual evidence.  However, as earlier stressed, the present recourse is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.  It is a fundamental aphorism in law that a review of facts and evidence is not the province of the extraordinary remedy of certiorari, which is extra ordinem —  beyond the ambit of appeal. Stated elsewise, factual matters cannot normally be inquired into by the Supreme Court in a certiorari proceeding.  This Court cannot be tasked to go over the proofs presented by the parties and analyze, assess and weigh them again, in order to ascertain if the trial and the appellate courts were correct in according superior credit to this or that piece of evidence of one party or the other. The mere fact that a court erroneously decides a case does not necessarily deprived it of jurisdiction.  Thus, assuming arguendo that a court commits a mistake in its judgment, the error does not vitiate the decision, considering that it has jurisdiction over the case.
Although Maquiling does not foreclose availment of the remedy of certiorari to correct an erroneous acquittal, the petitioner must clearly demonstrate that the lower court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice. In the words of Maquiling: “if the petition, regardless of its nomenclature, merely calls for an ordinary review of the findings of the court a quo, the constitutional right against double jeopardy would be violated.  Such recourse is tantamount to converting the petition for certiorari into an appeal, contrary to the express injunction of the Constitution, the Rules of Court and prevailing jurisprudence on double jeopardy.”

Likewise, in People v. Velasco,[8] it was held that “Philippine jurisprudence has been consistent in its application of the Double Jeopardy Clause such that it has viewed with suspicion, and not without good reason, applications for the extraordinary writ questioning decisions acquitting an accused on ground of grave abuse of discretion. It further noted that the petition at hand which seeks to nullify the decision of respondent judge acquitting the accused Honorato Galvez goes deeply into the trial court’s appreciation and evaluation in esse of the evidence adduced by the parties. This consequently exempts the act from the writ’s limiting requirement of excess or lack of jurisdiction.  As such, it becomes an improper object of and therefore non-reviewable by certiorari.  To reiterate, errors of judgment are not to be confused with errors in the exercise of jurisdiction.”

As earlier mentioned the circumstances of the case at bar call for a judicial inquiry on the permissibility of appeal after a verdict of acquittal in view of the constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy.

In our jurisdiction, the finality-of-acquittal doctrine as a safeguard against double jeopardy faithfully adheres to the principle first enunciated in Kepner v. United States.[9]  In this case, verdicts of acquittal are to be regarded as absolutely final and irreviewable. The cases of United States v. Yam Tung Way,[10] People v. Bringas,[11] Gandicela v. Lutero,[12] People v. Cabarles,[13] People v. Bao,[14] to name a few, are illustrative cases. The fundamental philosophy behind the constitutional proscription against double jeopardy is to afford the defendant, who has been acquitted, final repose and safeguard him from government oppression through the abuse of criminal processes.  As succinctly observed in Green v. United States[15] “(t)he underlying idea, one that is deeply ingrained in at least the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence, is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent, he may be found guilty.”

Noteworthy is the case of People v. Velasco[16] where the Court likewise dismissed a similar petition not only on the ground that the acquittal of the defendant by the lower court was not reviewable via the extraordinary writ of certiorari, but more importantly, the grant of said petition would constitute a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution.  In Velasco, we clarified that in the absence of a finding of mistrial, i.e. the criminal trial was a sham, as in Galman v. Sandiganbayan,[17] a judgment of acquittal is final and unappealable on the ground of double jeopardy, whether it happens at the trial court level or at the Court of Appeals.[18]

We are not inclined to rule differently.  Respondents Francisco and Pacao, after having been found not guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, must be afforded rest and tranquility from repeated attempts by the State at conviction and their anxiety finally laid to rest. Their acquittal must therefore be accorded finality in faithful adherence to the rule against double jeopardy.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DISMISSED.


Davide, Jr., C.J. (Chairman), Panganiban, Carpio and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

[1] Original Records, pp. 144-145.

[2] Decision penned by Judge Nilo A. Malanyaon, RTC-Branch 32, Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur; Original Records, p. 148.

[3] Decision penned by Associate Justice B.A. Adefuin-De la Cruz, concurred in by Associate Justices Fermin A. Martin, Jr. and Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Fourth Division, Court of Appeals.

[4] Rollo, p. 40.

[5] G.R. No. 129368, 25 August 2003.

[6] Desamparado v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 98045, 26 June 1996; Santiago Land Development Company v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 103922, 9 July 1996; Sempio v. Development Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 115953, 28 October 1996; Chua v. Samaco, G.R. No. 112948, 18 April 1997; People v. Velasco, G.R. No. 127444, 13 September 2000.

[7] G.R. No. 128986, 21 June 1999.

[8] G.R. No. 127444, 13 September 2000, 340 SCRA 207.

[9] 195 US 100, 130.

[10] 21 Phil. 67.

[11] 70 Phil. 528 (1940).

[12] 88 Phil. 299 (1951).

[13] 102 Phil. 926 (1958).

[14] 106 Phil. 243 (1959).

[15] 355 US 184, 2 L. Ed. 199, 78 S Ct 221, 61 ALR 2d 1119.

[16] Supra.

[17] G.R. No. 72670, 12 September 1986, 144 SCRA 43.

[18] See note 14, p. 238.

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