502 Phil. 318
As culled from the pleadings on record, the following are the undisputed factual antecedents:
- Resolution dated September 14, 1999, dismissing the Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order filed by the petitioner against the Honorable Manuel F. Lorenzo, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Manila, Branch 43 for refusing to retroactively apply in his favor Republic Act No. 8294; and,
- Resolution dated February 8, 2000, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
On arraignment, petitioner pleaded "Not Guilty" to both charges. Thereafter, the two (2) cases were tried jointly.CRIMINAL CASE NO. 96-149820
That on or about April 27, 1996 in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully, knowingly have in possession and under his custody and control, One (1) .38 cal. Rev. without serial no. with four (4) live bullets. Without first having secured from the proper authorities the necessary license therefor.
CONTRARY TO LAW.CRIMINAL CASE NO. 96-149821
That on or about April 27, 1996, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his possession and under his custody and control one (1) .38 cal. Rev. without serial number, with four (4) live ammunition/bullets in the chamber, by then and there carrying the same along V. Mapa Ext. Sta. Mesa, this City, which is a public place on the aforesaid date which is covered by an election period, without first securing the written authority from the COMELEC, as provided for by the COMELEC Resolution No. 2828, in relation to RA No. 7166 (Gun Ban).
CONTRARY TO LAW.
While the law (R.A. 8294) is indeed favorable to the accused and therefore should be made retroactive we are also guided by Art. 4 of the Civil Code which states that laws shall have no retroactive effect, unless the contrary is provided. Republic Act 8294 did not so provide that it shall have a retroactive effect. The Supreme Court likewise in the case of Padilla vs. CA declared: `The trial court and the respondent court are bound to apply the governing law at the time of the appellant's commission of the offense for it is a rule that laws are repealed only by subsequent ones. Indeed, it is the duty of judicial officers to respect and apply the law as it stands.Therefrom, petitioner went to the Court of Appeals on a petition for certiorari with prayer for a temporary restraining order, thereat docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 2991-UDK.
For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any one of them. And the distinction is well-known: there is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts; there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of the facts alleged.Considering that "judgments of regional trial courts in the exercise of their original jurisdiction are to be elevated to the Court of Appeals in cases when appellant raises questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law", while "appeals from judgments of the [same courts] in the exercise of their original jurisdiction must be brought directly to the Supreme Court in cases where the appellant raises only questions of law", petitioner should have appealed the trial court's ruling to this Court by way of a petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, pursuant to Rule 41, Section 2 (c) of the same Rules, viz:
SEC. 2. Modes of appeal. -By reason, then, of the availability to petitioner of the remedy of a petition for review under Rule 45, his right to resort to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 was effectively foreclosed, precisely because one of the requirements for the availment of the latter remedy is that "there should be no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law", the remedies of appeal and certiorari being mutually exclusive and not alternative or successive.
(a) xxx xxx xxx
(b) xxx xxx xxx
(c) Appeal by certiorari. - In all cases where only questions of law are raised or involved, the appeal shall be to the Supreme Court by petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Rule 45.
Unquestionably, the Court has the power to suspend procedural rules in the exercise of its inherent power, as expressly recognized in the Constitution, to promulgate rules concerning `pleading, practice and procedure in all courts.' In proper cases, procedural rules may be relaxed or suspended in the interest of substantial justice, which otherwise may be miscarried because of a rigid and formalistic adherence to such rules. xxxWe shall now proceed to determine whether the provisions of Rep. Act No. 8294 amending P.D. No. 1866 can be retroactively applied to this case.xxx xxx xxx
We have made similar rulings in other cases, thus:Be it remembered that rules of procedure are but mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be avoided. xxx Time and again, this Court has suspended its own rules and excepted a particular case from their operation whenever the higher interests of justice so require.
SECTION 1. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition or Instruments Used or Intended to be Used in the Manufacture of Firearms of Ammunition. — The penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully manufacture, deal in, acquire, dispose, or possess any firearm, part of firearm, ammunition or machinery, tool or instrument used or intended to be used in the manufacture of any firearm or ammunition. (Emphasis supplied)When Rep. Act No. 8294 took effect on July 6, 1997, the penalty for illegal possession of firearms was lowered, depending on the class of firearm possessed, viz:
SECTION 1. Section 1 of Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:Based on the foregoing, petitioner contends that the reduced penalty under Rep. Act No. 8294 should be the one imposed on him. Significantly, in its Manifestation In Lieu of Comment, the Office of the Solicitor General agrees with the petitioner, positing further that the statement made by this Court in People vs. Jayson to the effect that the provisions for a lighter penalty under Rep. Act No. 8294 does not apply if another crime has been committed, should not be applied to this case because the proviso in Section 1 of said law that "no other crime was committed" must refer only to those crimes committed with the use of an unlicensed firearm and not when the other crime is not related to the use thereof or where the law violated merely criminalizes the possession of the same, like in the case of election gun ban, as here.`SECTION 1. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition or Instruments Used or Intended to be Used in the Manufacture of Firearms or Ammunition. — The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period and a fine of not less than Fifteen thousand pesos (P15,000) shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully manufacture, deal in, acquire, dispose, or possess any low powered firearm, such as rimfire handgun, .380 or .32 and other firearm of similar firepower, part of firearm, ammunition, or machinery, tool or instrument used or intended to be used in the manufacture of any firearm or ammunition: Provided, That no other crime was committed.
The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period and a fine of Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000) shall be imposed if the firearm is classified as high powered firearm which includes those with bores bigger in diameter than .38 caliber and 9 millimeter such as caliber .40, .41, .44, .45 and also lesser calibered firearms but considered powerful such as caliber .357 and caliber .22 center-fire magnum and other firearms with firing capability of full automatic and by burst of two or three: Provided, however, That no other crime was committed by the person arrested. (Emphasis supplied)
Furthermore, in any event, the Court has ruled in previous cases that in view of the enactment of Republic Act No. 8294, there can be no separate offense of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition if there is another crime committed such as, in this case, that of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. (Emphasis supplied)In Almeida, it should be noted that the unlicensed firearm was merely found lying around, together with the prohibited drugs, and therefore, was not being "used" in the commission of an offense.
xxx A simple reading thereof shows that if an unlicensed firearm is used in the commission of any crime, there can be no separate offense of simple illegal possession of firearms. Hence, if the `other crime' is murder or homicide, illegal possession of firearms becomes merely an aggravating circumstance, not a separate offense. Since direct assault with multiple attempted homicide was committed in this case, appellant can no longer be held liable for illegal possession of firearms.The aforementioned ruling was reiterated and applied in the subsequent cases of People vs. Garcia, where the judgment of conviction of the accused-appellants for illegal possession of firearms was set aside there being another crime - kidnapping for ransom - which they were perpetrating at the same time; People vs. Bernal, where the Court retroactively applied Rep. Act No. 8294 in accused-appellant's favor because it would mean his acquittal from the separate offense of illegal possession of firearms; and People vs. Bustamante, where, in refusing to convict the accused-appellant of the separate offense of illegal possession of firearms, the Court declared that insofar as it is favorable to the appellant, the provisions of Rep. Act No. 8294 should be applied liberally and retroactively in that appellant must be acquitted of the charge of illegal possession of firearms.
Moreover, penal laws are construed liberally in favor of the accused. In this case, the plain meaning of RA 8294's simple language is most favorable to herein appellant. Verily, no other interpretation is justified, for the language of the new law demonstrates the legislative intent to favor the accused. Accordingly, appellant cannot be convicted of two separate offenses of illegal possession of firearms and direct assault with attempted homicide. xxxxxx xxx xxx
xxx The law is clear: the accused can be convicted of simple illegal possession of firearms, provided that `no other crime was committed by the person arrested'. If the intention of the law in the second paragraph were to refer only to homicide and murder, it should have expressly said so, as it did in the third paragraph. Verily, where the law does not distinguish, neither should we.(Emphasis supplied).
xxx Indeed, the accused may evade conviction for illegal possession of firearms by using such weapons in committing an even lighter offense, like alarm and scandal or slight physical injuries, both of which are punishable by arresto menor. This consequence, however, necessarily arises from the language of RA 8294, whose wisdom is not subject to the Court's review. Any perception that the result reached here appears unwise should be addressed to Congress. Indeed, the Court has no discretion to give statutes a new meaning detached from the manifest intendment and language of the legislature. Our task is constitutionally confined only to applying the law and jurisprudence to the proven facts, and we have done so in this case.The solemn power and duty of the Court to interpret and apply the law does not include the power to correct by reading into the law what is not written therein. While we understand respondent People's contention that the "use" of the firearm seemed to have been the main consideration during the deliberations of the subject provision of Rep. Act No. 8294, the fact remains that the word "use" never found its way into the final version of the bill which eventually became Rep. Act No. 8294. The Court's hands are now tied and it cannot supply the perceived deficiency in the final version without contravening the most basic principles in the interpretation of penal laws which had always leaned in favor of the accused. Under our system of government where powers are allocated to the three (3) great branches, only the Legislature can remedy such deficiency, if any, by proper amendment of Sec. 1 of Rep. Act No. 8294.