Philippine Supreme Court Resolutions


Philippine Supreme Court Resolutions > Year 2010 > October 2010 Resolutions > [G.R. No. 176389 : October 19, 2010] ANTONIO LEJANO, PETITIONER VERSUS PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT. [G.R. NO. 176864] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE VERSUS HUBERT JEFFREY P. WEBB, ANTONIO LEJANO, MICHAEL A. GATCHALIAN, HOSPICIO FERNANDEZ, MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ, PETER ESTRADA AND GERARDO BIONG, ACCUSED-APPELLANTS; ARTEMIO VENTURA, JOEY FILART AND JOHN DOES (AT-LARGE), ACCUSED. :




EN BANC

[G.R. No. 176389 : October 19, 2010]

ANTONIO LEJANO, PETITIONER VERSUS PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT

[G.R. NO. 176864]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE VERSUS HUBERT JEFFREY P. WEBB, ANTONIO LEJANO, MICHAEL A. GATCHALIAN, HOSPICIO FERNANDEZ, MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ, PETER ESTRADA AND GERARDO BIONG, ACCUSED-APPELLANTS; ARTEMIO VENTURA, JOEY FILART AND JOHN DOES (AT-LARGE), ACCUSED.


Sirs/Mesdames:

Please take notice that the Court en banc issued a Resolution dated OCTOBER 19, 2010, which reads as follows:

"G.R. No. 176389 - Antonio Lejano, petitioner versus People of the Philippines, respondent.

G.R. No. 176864 - People of the Philippines, plaintiff-appellee versus Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Gerardo Biong, accused-appellants; Artemio Ventura, Joey Filart and John Does (At-Large), accused.

RESOLUTION

By Resolution dated April 20, 2010, the Court granted appellant Webb's request to submit for DNA analysis the semen specimen taken from the cadaver of Carmela Vizconde under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). We ordered (1) the NBI to assist the parties in facilitating the submission of said specimen to the UP-Natural Science and Research Institute (UP-NSRI), Diliman, Quezon City; and (2) the NBI and UP-NSRI to report to this Court within fifteen (15) days from notice-regarding compliance with and implementation of the said resolution.

In his Compliance and Manifestation dated April 27, 2010, Atty. Reynaldo  O.  Esmeralda,  NBI  Deputy  Director for  Technical  Services, informed the Court that the semen specimen/vaginal smears taken from the cadaver of Carmela Vizconde y Nicolas and all original documents (autopsy and laboratory reports, and photographs) are no longer in the custody of the NBI as these were submitted as evidence to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Paranaque City, Branch 274 by then NBI Medico-Legal Chief, Prospero A. Cabanayan, M.D., when the latter testified on direct and cross-examination on January 30, 31, February 1, 5, 6 and 7, 1996. Attached thereto are certified true copies of Laboratory Report No. SN-91-17 (stating positive result for the presence of human spermatozoa), Autopsy Report No. N-91-1665 (with remarks: "Smear for presence of spermatozoa"), copy of the sworn statement of Dr. Cabanayan and certified true copy of the envelope bearing his signed handwritten notation that all original photographs have been submitted as evidence during the aforementioned hearing dates.[1]

On May 11, 2010, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Motion for Reconsideration of our Resolution dated April 20, 2010 on the following grounds: First, the DNA testing order was issued in disregard of Section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence, which requires prior hearing and notice to the parties to establish, among others, that a biological sample exists that is relevant to the case, the biological sample was not previously subjected to the type of DNA testing now requested or was previously subjected to such but the results may require confirmation for good reasons, and the DNA testing uses a scientifically valid technique; Second, a determination of propriety of DNA testing at this stage under the present Rule, separate from that filed by Webb before the trial court on October 6, 1997, is necessary as there was no opportunity back then to establish the requisites for a DNA testing order under the Rule which took effect only in 2007; Third, the result of the DNA testing will constitute new evidence, which cannot be received and appreciated for the first time on appeal; and Fourth, this Court failed to elucidate an exceptional circumstance to justify its decision to consider a question of fact, as this Court itself acknowledged in its April 20, 2010 Resolution that the result of DNA testing is not crucial or indispensable in the determination of appellant Webb's guilt for the crime charged.[2]

On May 21, 2010, Atty. Roberto Makalintal, Jr., Branch Clerk of RTC Paranaque City, Branch 274, submitted his Comment on The Compliance and Manifestation Dated April 27, 2010 of the NBI stating that: (a) There is no showing of actual receipt by RTC Branch 274 of the specimen/vaginal smear mentioned in Dr. Cabanayan's affidavit dated April 27, 2010; (b) Based on available records such as the TSN of January 31, 1996 and February 7, 1996 during which Dr. Cabanayan testified, no such specimen/vaginal smear was submitted to RTC Branch 274; (c) The TSN of January 31, 1996 on pages 57, 58 and 69 suggest that marked in evidence as Exhibits "S", T and "U" by then Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zu´┐Żo were only the photographs of the three slides containing the semen specimen; (c) In the hearing of February 7, 1996, Dr. Cabanayan's last testimony before RTC Branch 274 in this case, he testified that the last time he saw those slides was when he had the photographs thereof taken in 1995 (the first time was when he examined them in 1991), and as far as he knows, between 1991 and 1995, those slides were kept in the Pathology Laboratory of the NBI; and (d) The entire records of the cases were already forwarded to this Court a long time ago, including the evidence formally offered by the prosecution and the accused.[3]

Under our Resolution of June 15, 2010, we required the NBI to (a) show proof of the release of the semen specimen to the RTC of Paranaque City, Branch 274 in 1.996; and (b) comment on the alleged conflicting representations in its Compliance and Manifestation dated April 27, 2010, both within ten days from notice. To date, the NBI has not complied with said directive.

Meanwhile, appellants Hospicio Fernandez, Antonio Lejano and Hubert Jeffrey Webb filed their respective Comments on the OSG's Motion for Reconsideration.

Appellant Fernandez argues that when this Court, in the higher interest of justice, relaxed the Rule on DNA Evidence to afford Webb the fullest extent of his constitutional rights, the prosecution was not thereby denied its equally important right to due process. Contrary to the OSG's claim that this Court immediately granted DNA testing without observing the requisites under Section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence, and without due notice and hearing, appellant asserts that the Resolution dated April 20, 2010 clearly defines the parameters of the DNA analysis to be conducted by the UP-NSRI assisted by the NBI. Indeed, there are ample safeguards in the Rule to assure the reliability and acceptability of the results of the DNA testing. However, appellant objects to the statement of the OSG that "in the light of positive identification" of appellant Webb by the principal witness for the prosecution, Jessica Alfaro, the existing circumstances more than warrant the affirmation of Webb's guilt. Her cross-examination exposed Alfaro as an "out-and-out perjurer, a bold and intentional liar under oath" and a "fake witness" whose account of the incident is "shot-through with fatal omissions, self-contradictions, inconsistencies and inherent improbabilities.[4]

Appellant Lejano points out that the trial court denied Webb's motion to direct the NBI to submit semen specimen for DNA analysis on November 25, 1997 only after lengthy exchange of pleadings between the defense and prosecution, the latter having properly opposed said motion. Hence, the People cannot now rightfully claim that there was no notice or hearing on the issue of submitting the semen specimen for DNA analysis. Citing Brady v. Maryland,[5] it is contended that the suppression of exculpatory evidence -or evidence that will show reasonable probability that the verdict would have been different had the evidence been disclosed - grossly violates an accused's right to due process. In this case, the evidence needs only to be subjected to DNA analysis to establish the innocence of appellant Webb, as well as of petitioner and appellant Lejano. Moreover, appellant asserts that the semen specimen was already existing at the time of the trial, and hence can hardly be considered as "new evidence." DNA testing of said semen specimen taken from the victim Carmela Vizconde "has the scientific potential to produce new information that is relevant to the proper resolution of the case" (Section 4 [d], Rule on DNA Evidence).[6]

On his part, appellant Webb stresses that there are exceptional circumstances that justify this Court's order to immediately conduct the DNA analysis. He has been behind bars for more than fifteen (15) years. He has filed a motion for DNA analysis as early as 1997 or thirteen (13) years ago. The result of such test could yield evidence that could acquit him. No damage will be suffered by the prosecution as this Court emphasized in its Resolution of April 20, 2010 that the prosecution's evidences and concerns regarding the proper preservation of evidence in the custody of the NBI would have to be addressed in the light of the requirements laid down by the Rule on DNA Evidence. As to the prosecution's argument that this Court cannot receive and appreciate "new evidence," Section 4 of the Ride states that "the appropriate court may, at any time, either motu proprio or on application of any person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, order a DNA testing"; DNA testing is even available post-conviction (Ibid, Sec. 6). The Court, in accordance with proper procedure, decided to receive DNA evidence in order not to further delay the case, appellants after all, were convicted more than ten (10) years ago in 2000 and have been incarcerated for fifteen (15) years now. Where the evidence has not been offered, it is the prosecution who should have the legal custody and responsibility over it.[7] The NBI's letter dated April 23, 1997 confirmed that the semen specimen was in its custody. The NBI's repudiation of such fact is belied by the records; the Prosecution's Formal Offer of Evidence shows that Exhibits "S", 'T and "U" were merely photographs of the slides containing the vaginal smear. Also, nowhere in the transcript of stenographic notes taken during Dr. Cabanayan's testimony shows that he turned over the actual slides to the trial court. On the contrary, Dr. Cabanayan was asked on February 6, 1996 to produce the slides, which he had promised to bring during the previous hearing, he admitted that he "forgot all about it" when he came to the hearing. Thus, it appears from the record that from the time the semen specimen was taken from Carmela Vizconde's cadaver, it has always been in the custody of the NBI.[8]

From the foregoing, it is evident that the NBI could no longer produce the semen specimen/vaginal smears taken from the cadaver of Carmela Vizconde y Nicolas. Consequently, the DNA analysis ordered by this Court upon the request of appellant Webb, can no longer be done. The Court may now proceed to resolve the issues raised in the petition/appeal on the basis of existing evidence which have been formally offered by the parties and/or made part of the records.

ACCORDINGLY, the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the OSG is GRANTED. The Resolution dated April 20, 2010 is SET ASIDE. The arguments of appellants Fernandez, Lejano and Webb in their respective Comments shall be duly considered in the decision to be promulgated by the Court." Carpio, J., no part. Carpio Morales, J., on leave. Velasco, Jr., J., no part. Abad, J., on leave.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) ENRIQUETA E. VIDAL
Clerk of Court

Endnotes:


[1] Rollo (G.R. No. 176389), pp. 531-542.

[2] Id. at 543-554.

[3] Id. at 560-563.

[4] Id. at 580-585.

[5] 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

[6] Id. at 586-592.

[7] City Prosecution of General Santos City v. Bersales, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1522, June 9, 2004, 431 SCRA 430.

[8]
Id. Not paginated yet.



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