EN BANC

 

 

ANTONIO LEJANO,                               G.R. No. 176389

Petitioner,

                                      Present:

                                                         

                                                                     CORONA, C.J.,

                                                                     CARPIO,

                                                                     CARPIO MORALES,

                                                            VELASCO, JR.,

  NACHURA,

                                                            LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

- versus -                                             BRION,

  PERALTA,

  BERSAMIN,

  DEL CASTILLO,

  ABAD,

  VILLARAMA, JR.,

  PEREZ,

  MENDOZA, and

  SERENO, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

                             Respondent.

 

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

 

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,           G.R. No. 176864

Appellee,

 

          - versus -

 

HUBERT JEFFREY P. WEBB,

ANTONIO LEJANO, MICHAEL

A. GATCHALIAN, HOSPICIO

FERNANDEZ, MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ,

PETER ESTRADA and GERARDO       Promulgated:

BIONG,    

                             Appellants.                      January 18, 2011                   

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

 

RESOLUTION

 

ABAD, J.:

 

 

On December 14, 2010 the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals (CA) and acquitted the accused in this case, Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada, and Gerardo Biong of the charges against them on the ground of lack of proof of their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

 

On December 28, 2010 complainant Lauro G. Vizconde, an immediate relative of the victims, asked the Court to reconsider its decision, claiming that it “denied the prosecution due process of law; seriously misappreciated the facts; unreasonably regarded Alfaro as lacking credibility; issued a tainted and erroneous decision; decided the case in a manner that resulted in the miscarriage of justice; or committed grave abuse in its treatment of the evidence and prosecution witnesses.”[1] 

 

          But, as a rule, a judgment of acquittal cannot be reconsidered because it places the accused under double jeopardy.  The Constitution provides in Section 21, Article III, that:

 

            Section 21.  No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.  x x x

 

To reconsider a judgment of acquittal places the accused twice in jeopardy of being punished for the crime of which he has already been absolved.  There is reason for this provision of the Constitution.  In criminal cases, the full power of the State is ranged against the accused.  If there is no limit to attempts to prosecute the accused for the same offense after he has been acquitted, the infinite power and capacity of the State for a sustained and repeated litigation would eventually overwhelm the accused in terms of resources, stamina, and the will to fight.  

 

As the Court said in People of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan:[2]

 

[A]t the heart of this policy is the concern that permitting the sovereign freely to subject the citizen to a second judgment for the same offense would arm the government with a potent instrument of oppression.  The provision therefore guarantees that the State shall not be permitted 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.  Society’s awareness of the heavy personal strain which a criminal trial represents for the individual defendant is manifested in the willingness to limit the government to a single criminal proceeding to vindicate its very vital interest in the enforcement of criminal laws.[3]

 

Of course, on occasions, a motion for reconsideration after an acquittal is possible.  But the grounds are exceptional and narrow as when the court that absolved the accused gravely abused its discretion, resulting in loss of jurisdiction, or when a mistrial has occurred. In any of such cases, the State may assail the decision by special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65.[4]

 

          Here, although complainant Vizconde invoked the exceptions, he has been unable to bring his pleas for reconsideration under such exceptions.  For instance, he avers that the Court “must ensure that due process is afforded to all parties and there is no grave abuse of discretion in the treatment of witnesses and the evidence.”[5]  But he has not specified the violations of due process or acts constituting grave abuse of discretion that the Court supposedly committed.  His claim that “the highly questionable and suspicious evidence for the defense taints with serious doubts the validity of the decision”[6] is, without more, a mere conclusion drawn from personal perception. 

 

Complainant Vizconde cites the decision in Galman v. Sandiganbayan[7] as authority that the Court can set aside the acquittal of the accused in the present case.  But the government proved in Galman that the prosecution was deprived of due process since the judgment of acquittal in that case was “dictated, coerced and scripted.”[8]  It was a sham trial.  Here, however, Vizconde does not allege that the Court held a sham review of the decision of the CA.  He has made out no case that the Court held a phony deliberation in this case such that the seven Justices who voted to acquit the accused, the four who dissented, and the four who inhibited themselves did not really go through the process. 

 

          Ultimately, what the complainant actually questions is the Court’s appreciation of the evidence and assessment of the prosecution witnesses’ credibility.  He ascribes grave error on the Court’s finding that Alfaro was not a credible witness and assails the value assigned by the Court to the evidence of the defense. In other words, private complainant wants the Court to review the evidence anew and render another judgment based on such a re-evaluation.  This is not constitutionally allowed as it is merely a repeated attempt to secure Webb, et al’s conviction.  The judgment acquitting Webb, et al is final and can no longer be disturbed.

 

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES for lack of merit complainant Lauro G. Vizconde’s motion for reconsideration dated December 28, 2010.

 

For essentially the same reason, the Court DENIES the motions for leave to intervene of Fr. Robert P. Reyes, Sister Mary John R. Mananzan, Bishop Evangelio L. Mercado, and Dante L.A. Jimenez, representing the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr.

 

No further pleadings shall be entertained in this case.

 

SO ORDERED.  

 

ROBERTO A. ABAD

                                                              Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                       I vote to grant the M.R.

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 

 

 

No part, prior inhibition

      ANTONIO T. CARPIO              CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES    

  Associate Justice                                              Associate Justice

 

 

 

No part due to relastionship to a party                No part; filed pleading as Sol Gen

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.     ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

               Associate Justice                                   Associate Justice

 

 

 

I vote to grant the motion for reconsideration               Same vote as J. Villarama

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO       ARTURO D. BRION

                     Associate Justice                                         Associate Justice

 

 

 

                      

       DIOSDADO M. PERALTA                    LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

                 Associate Justice                                    Associate Justice       

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

No part                                    I vote to grant the motion for reconsideration

 MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO            MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

              Associate Justice                                    Associate Justice

 

 

 

                                                                          

  JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ                           JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

            Associate Justice                                               Associate Justice

 

 

 

See concurring Opinion

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

CERTIFICATION

 

 

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

          Chief Justice

 



[1]  Private Complainant’s Motion for Reconsideration, p. 8.

[2]  G.R. Nos. 168188-89, June 16, 2006, 491 SCRA 185.

[3]  Id. at 207. 

[4]  Castro v. People, G.R. No. 180832, July 23, 2008, 559 SCRA 676, 683-684.

[5]  Supra note 1, at 7.

[6]  Id. at 12.

[7]  228 Phil. 42 (1986).

[8]  Id. at 89.