Sunday, January 3, 2016

The demurrer to evidence was premature because it was filed before the prosecution rested its case.

A.M. No. RTJ-12-2336 November 12, 2014
(Formerly A.M. OCA-IPl No. 11-3695-RTJ)
ESTHER P. MAGLEO, Complainant, 

"x x x.

This Court is convinced that respondent judge acted in accordance with the law and jurisprudence. It was the February 2, 2011 Omnibus Order26 which elucidated the clear legal basis why respondent judge continued the criminal casedespite the earlier order granting the demurrer to evidence. Generally, if the trial court finds that the prosecution evidence is not sufficient and grants the accused's Demurrer to Evidence, the ruling is an adjudication on the merits of the casewhich is tantamount to an acquittal and may no longer be appealed.27

The current scenario, however, is an exception to the general rule. The demurrer to evidence was premature because it was filed before the prosecution rested its case. The RTC had not yet ruled on the admissibility of the formal offer of evidence of the prosecution when complainant filed her demurrer to evidence.28 Hence, respondent judge had legal basis to overturn the order granting the demurrer to evidence as there was no proper acquittal. The complainant elevated the matter to the CA via a petition for certioraribut it sustained her ruling.29 The CA decision reads:

Indubitably, an order granting an accused’s demurrer to evidence is a resolution of the caseon the merits, and it amounts to an acquittal. Generally, any further prosecution of the accused after an acquittal would violate the constitutional proscription on double jeopardy. To this general rule, however, the Court has previously made some exceptions.30

People v. Tan31 eruditely instructs that double jeopardy will not attach when the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, such as where the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham. In addition, in People v. Bocar,32 this Court rule that there is no double jeopardy when the prosecution was not allowed to complete its presentation of evidence by the trial court.

The circumstances obtaining in this controversy placed it within the realm of the exception.

The records demonstrate that the prosecution, with respondent Oilink International Corporation as private complainant, had not yet rested its case when the Demurrer to Evidence was filed and eventually granted by the RTC Branch 161.

x x x x

The RTC Branch 161 should have ruled on the prosecution’s Formal Offer of Evidence before acting on petitioner’s Demurrer to Evidence. Having failed to do so, there is nary a doubt that no double jeopardy attached. Petitioner’s blind insistence that she is made to face trial after having been acquitted carries no conviction.33

Though the CA decision has not reached finality, it only goes to show that the respondent judge acted in good faith as she merely followed precedents.

x x x."