G.R. No. 166510 People of the Philippines v. Benjamin Kokoy T. Romualdez and the Sandiganbayan (First Division)

 

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

 

 

 

DISSENTING OPINION

 

 

CARPIO, J.:

 

 

I dissent. I reiterate my view on the matter of prescription, as expressed in my dissenting opinion in Romualdez v. Marcelo.[1]

 

Private respondent cannot claim that prescription has set in in his favor despite his voluntary absence from this jurisdiction from 1986 to April 2000 or for a period of nearly fourteen (14) years. A person who commits a crime cannot simply flee from this jurisdiction, wait out for the prescriptive period to expire, then come back to move for the dismissal of the charge against him on the ground of prescription.

 

First, there is a law, Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which clearly provides that [t]he term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine Archipelago.

 

Both Romualdez v. Marcelo and the present case involve a violation of a special law, i.e., Republic Act No. 3019 (RA 3019), otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Section 11 of RA 3019 provides that, All offenses punishable under this Act shall prescribe in fifteen years. This special law, however, does not specifically provide for a procedure for computing the prescriptive period.

In People v. Pacificador,[2] the Court held that Section 2 of Act No. 3326[3] governs the computation of prescriptive period of offenses defined and penalized by special laws. Accordingly, in Presidential Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Committee on Behest Loans v. Desierto,[4] the Court ruled that since the law involved, RA 3019, is a special law, the applicable rule in the computation of the prescriptive period is that provided in Section 2 of Act No. 3326, to wit:

 

Sec. 2. Prescription shall begin to run from the day of the commission of the violation of the law, and if the same be not known at the time, from the discovery thereof and the institution of judicial proceedings for its investigation and punishment.

 

The prescription shall be interrupted when proceedings are instituted against the guilty person, and shall begin to run again if  the proceedings are dismissed for reasons not constituting jeopardy.

 

In this connection, although the Revised Penal Code (RPC) expressly states in Article 10 thereof that [o]ffenses which are or in the future may be punishable under special laws are not subject to the provisions of [the RPC], it likewise provides that the RPC shall be supplementary to such laws, unless the latter should specially provide the contrary. Verily, in a long line of court decisions,[5] provisions of the RPC have been applied suppletorily to resolve cases where special laws are silent on the matters in issue. The law on the applicability of Article 10 of the RPC is thus well-settled.

 

In computing the prescription of offenses, Article 91 of the RPC provides:

 

ART. 91. Computation of prescription of offenses.- The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him.

The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine Archipelago. (Emphasis supplied)

 

Applying Article 10 of the RPC, the provisions of Article 91 may be applied suppletorily to cases involving violations of special laws where the latter are silent on the matters in issue. The only exception supplied by Article 10 is unless the [special laws] should specially provide the contrary.

 

As can be gleaned from Section 2 of Act No. 3326, said provision is silent as to whether the absence of the offender from the Philippines bars the running of the prescriptive period fixed in the special law, RA 3019 in this case. This silence has been interpreted by the majority in Romualdez v. Marcelo to mean that Section 2 of Act No. 3326 did not intend an interruption of the prescription by the absence of the offender from Philippine soil, unlike the explicit mandate of Article 91 of the RPC. Further, the majority concluded that the legislature, in enacting Act No. 3326, did not consider the absence of the accused from the Philippines as a hindrance to the running of the prescriptive period. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius. x x x Had the legislature intended to include the accuseds absence from the Philippines as a ground for the interruption of the prescriptive period in special laws, the same could have been expressly provided in Act No. 3326.

 

I cannot subscribe to this view.

 

It is conceded that both RA 3019 and Act No. 3326 are silent on whether the absence of the offender from the Philippines bar the running of the prescriptive period. Ineluctably, this silence calls for the suppletory application of related provisions of the RPC, pursuant to Article 10 thereof. Article 10 is clear: This Code (RPC) shall be supplementary to such laws (special laws), unless the latter should specially provide the contrary. Thus, RPC provisions which are applicable shall supplement or supply what is lacking in the special law unless prohibited by the latter. In this regard, it must be emphasized that nothing in RA 3019 or in Act No. 3326 prohibits the suppletory application of Article 91 of the RPC. Hence, there is no bar to the application to these special laws of Article 91 regarding the tolling of the prescriptive period during the absence of the offender from Philippine jurisdiction.

 

The silence of Act No. 3326 should not be interpreted as that law restricting itself to its own provisions in determining when the prescriptive period should be considered interrupted. The rule of expressio unius est exclusio alterius[6] is no more than an auxiliary rule of interpretation which may be ignored where other circumstances indicate that the enumeration was not intended to be exclusive.[7] This maxim may be disregarded if adherence thereto would cause inconvenience, hardship, and injury to public interest.[8] Certainly, to consider the absence of an offender from the Philippine jurisdiction as not a bar to the running of prescriptive period would inevitably cause injury to public interest, and thus, warrants a disregard of this auxiliary rule.

 

I believe that more befitting in this case is the rule that where an interpretation of law would endanger or sacrifice great public interest, such interpretation should be avoided.[9] The courts should presume that such construction was not intended by the makers of the law, unless required by clear and unequivocal words.[10]

 

Second, the accused should not have the sole discretion of preventing his own prosecution by the simple expedient of fleeing from the States jurisdiction.

 

The majority opinion in Romualdez v. Marcelo cited the 1923 case of People v. Moran,[11] which in turn quoted from Whartons 1889 Criminal Pleading and Practice, to justify its liberal interpretation of the law on prescription in criminal cases. The majority emphasized this excerpt from the Moran ruling:

 

x x x The statute is not a statute of process, to be scantily and grudgingly applied, but an amnesty, declaring that after a certain time oblivion shall be cast over the offence; that the offender shall be at liberty to return to his country, and resume his immunities as a citizen and that from henceforth he may cease to preserve the proofs of his innocence, for the proofs of his guilt are blotted out.[12]

 

 

 

This Courts position was soundly rejected by the legislature when it enacted the Revised Penal Code in 1930. A more exacting rule on prescription was embodied in the Code, Article 91 of which was plain and categorical: The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine Archipelago. Besides, it must be noted that even the cases involving liberal interpretation of the statute of limitations in favor of the accused relate only to the following issues: (1) retroactive[13] or prospective[14] application of laws providing or extending the prescriptive period; (2) the determination of the nature of the felony committed vis a vis the applicable prescriptive period;[15] and (3) the reckoning of when the prescriptive period runs.[16] Thus, contrary to the opinion of the majority in Romualdez, these cases are no authority to support the conclusion that the prescriptive period in a special law runs while the accused is abroad.

 

I reiterate my dissenting opinion in the Romualdez case:

 

There is good reason for the rule freezing the prescriptive period while the accused is abroad. The accused should not have the sole discretion of preventing his own prosecution by the simple expedient of escaping from the State's jurisdiction. This should be the rule even in the absence of a law tolling the running of the prescriptive period while the accused is abroad and beyond the State's jurisdiction. An accused cannot acquire legal immunity by being a fugitive from the State's jurisdiction. In this case, there is even a law - Article 91 of the RPC, which Article 10 of the RPC expressly makes applicable to special laws like RA 3019 - tolling the running of the prescriptive period while the accused is abroad.

To allow an accused to prevent his prosecution by simply leaving this jurisdiction unjustifiably tilts the balance of criminal justice in favor of the accused to the detriment of the State's ability to investigate and prosecute crimes. In this age of cheap and accessible global travel, this Court should not encourage individuals facing investigation or prosecution for violation of special laws to leave Philippine jurisdiction to sit-out abroad the prescriptive period. The majority opinion unfortunately chooses to lay the basis for such anomalous practice. (Emphasis supplied)

I maintain that an accused cannot acquire legal immunity by fleeing from the States jurisdiction. To allow such a loophole will make a mockery of our criminal laws. Contrary to private respondents claim, prescription has not set in.

 

Accordingly, I vote to DENY the motion for reconsideration.

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

 



[1] G.R. Nos. 165510-33, 28 July 2006, 497 SCRA 89.

[2] 406 Phil. 774 (2001).

[3] An Act To Establish Periods of Prescription for Violations Penalized by Special Acts and Municipal Ordinances and To Provide When Prescription Shall Begin To Run.

[4] 415 Phil. 723, 729 (2001).

[5] In People v. Parel [44 Phil. 437 (1923)], Article 22 of the RPC, which concerns the retroactive effect of penal laws if they favor the accused, was applied suppletorily by the Court to violations of Act No. 3030, the Election Law; In U.S. v. Ponte [20 Phil. 379 (1911)], Article 17 of the RPC, regarding the participation of principals in the commission of a crime, was applied suppletorily in the case of misappropriation of public funds as defined and penalized under Act No. 1740; In U.S. v. Bruhez [28 Phil. 305 (1914)], Article 45 of the RPC, which concerns the confiscation of the instruments used in a crime, was applied in the case for violation of Act No. 1461, the Opium Law; In People v. Moreno [60 Phil. 712 (1934)], the Court applied suppletorily Article 39 of the RPC on subsidiary penalty to cases of violations of Act No. 3992, or the Revised Motor Vehicle Law; In People v. Li Wai Cheung [G.R. Nos. 90440-42, 13 October 1992, 214 SCRA 504], the Court applied suppletorily the rules on the service of sentences provided in Article 70 of the RPC in favor of the accused who was found guilty of multiple violations of R.A. No. 6425, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972; In People v. Chowdury [382 Phil. 459 (2000)], the Court applied suppletorily Articles 17, 18 and 19 of the RPC to define the words principal, accomplices and accessories under R.A. No. 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, because said words were not defined therein, although the special law referred to the same terms in enumerating the persons liable for the crime of illegal recruitment; In Yu v. People [G.R. No. 134172, 20 September 2004, 438 SCRA 431], the Court applied suppletorily the provisions on subsidiary imprisonment under Article 39 of the RPC to Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 22, otherwise known as the Bouncing Checks Law; In Ladonga v. People [G.R. No. 141066, 17 February 2005, 451 SCRA 673], the Court applied suppletorily the principle of conspiracy under Article 8 of the RPC to B.P. Blg. 22 in the absence of a contrary provision therein; In the more recent case of Go-Tan v. Tan [G.R. No. 168852, 30 September 2008], the principle of conspiracy under Article 8 of the RPC was applied suppletorily to Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.

[6] The express mention of one person, thing or consequence implies the exclusion of all others.

[7] Escribano v. Avila, 174 Phil. 490 (1978), citing Manabat v. De Aquino, 92 Phil. 1025, 1027 (1953).

[8] Javellano v. Tayo, G.R. No. L-18919, 29 December 1962, 6 SCRA 1042, 1050.

[9] Co Kim Cham v. Valdez Tan Keh, 75 Phil. 113, 134 (1945).

[10] Id.

[11] 44 Phil. 387 (1923).

[12] Id. at 405.

[13] People v. Parel, supra note 5.

[14] People v. Pacificador, supra note 2.

[15] People v. Yu Hai, 99 Phil. 725 (1956).

[16] People v. Reyes, G.R Nos. 74226-27, 27 July 1989, 175 SCRA 597.