April 5, 2016 G.R. No. 202124
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
IRENEO JUGUETA, Accused-Appellant.
Salient Facts: In Criminal Case No. 7698-G, appellant Ireneo Jugueta was charged with Double Murder, defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, allegedly committed as follows:
That on or about the 6th day of June 2002, at about 9:00 o’clock in the evening, at Barangay Caridad Ilaya, Municipality of Atimonan, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a caliber.22 firearm, with intent to kill, qualified by treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot with said firearm Mary Grace Divina, a minor, 13 years old and Claudine Divina, a minor, 3 ½ years of age. That the crime committed in the dwelling of the offended party who had not given provocation for the attack and the accused took advantage of nighttime to facilitate the commission of the offense.
In Criminal Case No. 7702-G, appellant, together with Gilbert Estores and Roger San Miguel, was charged with Multiple Attempted Murder, allegedly committed as follows:
That on or about 9:00 o’clock in the evening of 6th day of June, 2002, at Barangay Caridad Ilaya, Municipality of Atimonan, Province of Quezon, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another, armed with short firearms of undetermined calibres, with intent to kill, qualified by treachery, with evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and shoot with the said firearms the house occupied by the family of Norberto Divina, thereby commencing the commission of the crime of Murder, directly by overt acts, but did not perform all the acts of execution which would have produced it by reason of some cause or accident other than the spontaneous desistance of the accused, that is, the occupants Norberto Divina, his wife Maricel Divina and children Elizabeth Divina and Judy Ann Divina, both elementary pupils and who are minors, were not hit.
Roger San Miguel, however, moved for reinvestigation of the case against them. At said proceedings, one Danilo Fajarillo submitted his sworn statement stating that on June 6, 2002, he saw appellant with a certain “Hapon” and Gilbert Estores at the crime scene, but it was only appellant who was carrying a firearm while the other two had no participation in the shooting incident. Fajarillo further stated that Roger San Miguel was not present at the crime scene. Based on the sworn statement of Fajarillo, the Provincial Prosecutor found no prima facie case against Gilbert Estores and Roger San Miguel. Thus, upon motion of the prosecution, the case for Attempted Murder against Gilbert Estores and Roger San Miguel was dismissed, and trial proceeded only as to appellant.
The dispositive portion of the trial court’s judgment in Criminal Case No. 7698-G reads:
WHEREFORE and in view of all the foregoing, the Court finds accused Ireneo Jugueta guilty beyond reasonable doubt for Double Murder defined and punished under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced to suffer Reclusion Perpetua for the death of Mary Grace Divina and to indemnify her heirs in the amount of Php50,000.00 and another to suffer Reclusion Perpetua for the death of Claudine Divina and accused is further ordered to indemnify the heirs of Claudine Divina in the sum of Php50,000.00. In addition, he is hereby ordered to pay the heirs of the victims actual damages in the amount of Php16,150.00 and to pay for the costs.
On the other hand, the dispositive portion of the trial court’s judgment in Criminal Case No. 7702-G, reads:
WHEREFORE and in view of all the foregoing, the Court finds accused Ireneo Jugueta guilty beyond reasonable doubt for Multiple Attempted Murder defined and penalized under Article 248 in relation to Article 51 of the Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO (2) MONTHS of Prision Correccional as minimum to EIGHT (8) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of Prision Mayor as maximum for each of the offended parties; Norberto Divina, Maricel Divina, Elizabeth Divina and Judy Ann Divina. Further, accused is ordered to pay for the costs of the suit.
Aggrieved by the trial court’s judgments, appellant appealed to the CA. On January 30, 2012, the CA rendered a Decision affirming appellant’s conviction for the crimes charged.
The main issue advanced in the Appellant’s Brief deals with the inconsistencies in Norberto’s testimony, such as his failure to state from the beginning that all three assailants had guns, and to categorically identify appellant as the one holding the gun used to kill Norberto’s children.
The appeal is unmeritorious. The evidence on record fully supports the trial court’s factual finding, as affirmed by the CA, that appellant acted in concert with two other individuals, all three of them carrying firearms and simultaneously firing at Norberto and his family, killing his two young daughters. Norberto clearly saw all of the three assailants with their firearms as there is illumination coming from a lamp inside their house that had been laid bare after its walling was stripped off.
This resolves the appeal from the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated January 30, 2012 in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 03252. The CA affirmed the judgments of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 61, Gumaca, Quezon, finding accused-appellant Ireneo Jugueta y Flores guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Double Murder in Criminal Case No. 7698-G and Multiple Attempted Murder in Criminal Case No. 7702-G.
Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement regarding the commission of a crime and decide to commit it. Proof of a prior meeting between the perpetrators to discuss the commission of the crime is not necessary as long as their concerted acts reveal a common design and unity of purpose. In such case, the act of one is the act of all. Appellant and the two other malefactors are equally responsible for the death of Norberto’s daughters because, as ruled by the trial court, they clearly conspired to kill Norberto’s family. Here, the three men undoubtedly acted in concert as they went to the house of Norberto together, each with his own firearm. It is, therefore, no longer necessary to identify and prove that it is the bullet particularly fired from appellant’s firearm that killed the children.
Murder is defined under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code as the unlawful killing of a person, which is not parricide or infanticide, attended by circumstances such as treachery or evident premeditation. The presence of any one of the circumstances enumerated in Article 248 of the Code is sufficient to qualify a killing as murder. The trial court correctly ruled that appellant is liable for murder because treachery attended the killing of Norberto’s two children.
Verily, the presence of treachery qualified the killing of the hapless children to murder. As held in People v. Fallorina, the essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack on an unsuspecting victim without the slightest provocation on his part. Minor children, who by reason of their tender years, cannot be expected to put up a defense. When an adult person illegally attacks a child, treachery exists.
As to the charge of multiple attempted murder, the last paragraph of Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code states that a felony is attempted when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts, and does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.
In Esqueda v. People, the Court held: If one inflicts physical injuries on another but the latter survives, the crime committed is either consummated physical injuries, if the offender had no intention to kill the victim, or frustrated or attempted homicide or frustrated murder or attempted murder if the offender intends to kill the victim. Intent to kill may be proved by evidence of: (a) motive; (b) the nature or number of weapons used in the commission of the crime; (c) the nature and number of wounds inflicted on the victim; (d) the manner the crime was committed; and (e) the words uttered by the offender at the time the injuries are inflicted by him on the victim.
In this case, the prosecution has clearly established the intent to kill on the part of appellant as shown by the use of firearms, the words uttered during, as well as the manner of, the commission of the crime. The Court thus quotes with approval the trial court’s finding that appellant is liable for attempted murder, viz.:
In the case at bar, the perpetrators who acted in concert commenced the felony of murder first by suddenly stripping off the wall of their house, followed by successive firing at the intended victims when Norberto Divina refused to go out of the house as ordered by them. If only there were good in aiming their target, not only Mary Grace and Claudine had been killed but surely all the rest of the family would surely have died. Hence, perpetrators were liable for Murder of Mary Grace Divina and Claudine Divina but for Multiple Attempted Murder for Norberto Divina, Maricel Divina, Elizabeth Divina and Judy Ann Divina. But as [appellant] Ireneo Jugueta was the only one charged in this case, he alone is liable for the crime committed.
The supposed inconsistencies in Norberto’s testimony, i.e., that he failed to state from the very beginning that all three assailants were carrying firearms, and that it was the shots from appellant’s firearm that killed the children, are too trivial and inconsequential to put a dent on said witness’s credibility. An examination of Norberto’s testimony would show that there are no real inconsistencies to speak of. As ruled in People v. Cabtalan, “[m]inor inconsistencies and discrepancies pertaining to trivial matters do not affect the credibility of witnesses, as well as their positive identification of the accused as the perpetrators of the crime.” Both the trial court and the CA found Norberto’s candid and straightforward testimony to be worthy of belief and this Court sees no reason why it should not conform to the principle reiterated in Medina, Jr. v. People that:
Time and again, this Court has deferred to the trial court’s factual findings and evaluation of the credibility of witnesses, especially when affirmed by the CA, in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked or misconstrued cogent facts and circumstances that would justify altering or revising such findings and evaluation. This is because the trial court’s determination proceeds from its first-hand opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses, their conduct and attitude under grilling examination, thereby placing the trial court in unique position to assess the witnesses’ credibility and to appreciate their truthfulness, honesty and candor x x x.
The Court must make a clarification as to the nomenclature used by the trial court to identify the crimes for which appellant was penalized. There is some confusion caused by the trial court’s use of the terms “Double Murder” and “Multiple Attempted Murder” in convicting appellant, and yet imposing penalties which nevertheless show that the trial court meant to penalize appellant for two (2) separate counts of Murder and four (4) counts of Attempted Murder.
The facts, as alleged in the Information in Criminal Case No. 7698-G, and as proven during trial, show that appellant is guilty of 2 counts of the crime of Murder and not Double Murder, as the killing of the victims was not the result of a single act but of several acts of appellant and his cohorts. In the same vein, appellant is also guilty of 4 counts of the crime of Attempted Murder and not Multiple Attempted Murder in Criminal Case No. 7702-G. It bears stressing that the Informations in this case failed to comply with the requirement in Section 13, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Court that an information must charge only one offense.
In a complex crime, two or more crimes are actually committed, however, in the eyes of the law and in the conscience of the offender they constitute only one crime, thus, only one penalty is imposed. There are two kinds of complex crime. The first is known as a compound crime, or when a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies while the other is known as a complex crime proper, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other. The classic example of the first kind is when a single bullet results in the death of two or more persons. A different rule governs where separate and distinct acts result in a number killed. Deeply rooted is the doctrine that when various victims expire from separate shot, such acts constitute separate and distinct crimes.
Here, the facts surrounding the shooting incident clearly show that appellant and the two others, in firing successive and indiscriminate shots at the family of Norberto from their respective firearms, intended to kill not only Norberto, but his entire family. When several gunmen, as in this case, indiscriminately fire a series of shots at a group of people, it shows their intention to kill several individuals. Hence, they are committing not only one crime. What appellant and his cohorts committed cannot be classified as a complex crime because as held in People v. Nelmida, “each act by each gunman pulling the trigger of their respective firearms, aiming each particular moment at different persons constitute distinct and individual acts which cannot give rise to a complex crime.”
The Court notes that both the trial court and the CA failed to take into account dwelling as an ordinary, aggravating circumstance, despite the fact that the Informations in Criminal Case Nos. 7698-G and 7702-G contain sufficient allegations to that effect.
In People v. Agcanas, the Court stressed that “[i]t has been held in a long line of cases that dwelling is aggravating because of the sanctity of privacy which the law accords to human abode. He who goes to another’s house to hurt him or do him wrong is more guilty than he who offends him elsewhere.” Dwelling aggravates a felony where the crime is committed in the dwelling of the offended party provided that the latter has not given provocation therefor. The testimony of Norberto established the fact that the group of appellant violated the victims’ home by destroying the same and attacking his entire family therein, without provocation on the part of the latter. Hence, the trial court should have appreciated dwelling as an ordinary aggravating circumstance.
In view of the attendant ordinary aggravating circumstance, the Court must modify the penalties imposed on appellant. Murder is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death, thus, with an ordinary aggravating circumstance of dwelling, the imposable penalty is death for each of two (2) counts of murder. However, pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 9346, proscribing the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty to be imposed on appellant should be reclusion perpetua for each of the two (2) counts of murder without eligibility for parole. With regard to the four (4) counts of attempted murder, the penalty prescribed for each count is prision mayor. With one ordinary aggravating circumstance, the penalty should be imposed in its maximum period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum penalty should be from ten (10) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years of prision mayor, while the minimum shall be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, i.e., prision correccional, in any of its periods, or anywhere from six (6) months and one (1) day to six (6) years. This Court finds it apt to impose on appellant the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, for each of the four (4) counts of attempted murder.
The Court deems it proper to address the matter in detail as regards criminal cases where the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua to death. Generally, in these types of criminal cases, there are three kinds of damages awarded by the Court; namely: civil indemnity, moral, and exemplary damages. Likewise, actual damages may be awarded or temperate damages in some instances.
First, civil indemnity ex delicto is the indemnity authorized in our criminal law for the offended party, in the amount authorized by the prevailing judicial policy and apart from other proven actual damages, which itself is equivalent to actual or compensatory damages in civil law. This award stems from Article 100 of the RPC which states, “Every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable.” It is to be noted that civil indemnity is, technically, not a penalty or a fine; hence, it can be increased by the Court when appropriate. In our jurisdiction, civil indemnity is awarded to the offended party as a kind of monetary restitution or compensation to the victim for the damage or infraction that was done to the latter by the accused, which in a sense only covers the civil aspect. Precisely, it is civil indemnity. Thus, in a crime where a person dies, in addition to the penalty of imprisonment imposed to the offender, the accused is also ordered to pay the victim a sum of money as restitution.
- The second type of damages the Court awards are moral damages, which are also compensatory in nature. Del Mundo v. Court of Appeals expounded on the nature and purpose of moral damages, viz.:
Moral damages, upon the other hand, may be awarded to compensate one for manifold injuries such as physical suffering, mental anguish, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings and social humiliation. These damages must be understood to be in the concept of grants, not punitive or corrective in nature, calculated to compensate the claimant for the injury suffered. Although incapable of exactness and no proof of pecuniary loss is necessary in order that moral damages may be awarded, the amount of indemnity being left to the discretion of the court, it is imperative, nevertheless, that (1) injury must have been suffered by the claimant, and (2) such injury must have sprung from any of the cases expressed in Article 2219 and Article 2220 of the Civil Code. x x x.
The rationale for awarding moral damages has been explained in Lambert v. Heirs of Rey Castillon: “[T]he award of moral damages is aimed at a restoration, within the limits possible, of the spiritual status quo ante; and therefore, it must be proportionate to the suffering inflicted.”
Corollarily, moral damages under Article 2220 of the Civil Code also does not fix the amount of damages that can be awarded. It is discretionary upon the court, depending on the mental anguish or the suffering of the private offended party. The amount of moral damages can, in relation to civil indemnity, be adjusted so long as it does not exceed the award of civil indemnity.
- Also known as “punitive” or “vindictive” damages, exemplary or corrective damages are intended to serve as a deterrent to serious wrong doings, and as a vindication of undue sufferings and wanton invasion of the rights of an injured or a punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct. These terms are generally, but not always, used interchangeably. In common law, there is preference in the use of exemplary damages when the award is to account for injury to feelings and for the sense of indignity and humiliation suffered by a person as a result of an injury that has been maliciously and wantonly inflicted, the theory being that there should be compensation for the hurt caused by the highly reprehensible conduct of the defendant – associated with such circumstances as willfulness, wantonness, malice, gross negligence or recklessness, oppression, insult or fraud or gross fraud – that intensifies the injury. The terms punitive or vindictive damages are often used to refer to those species of damages that may be awarded against a person to punish him for his outrageous conduct. In either case, these damages are intended in good measure to deter the wrongdoer and others like him from similar conduct in the future. Being corrective in nature, exemplary damages, therefore, can be awarded, not only due to the presence of an aggravating circumstance, but also where the circumstances of the case show the highly reprehensible or outrageous conduct of the offender.
- When it comes to compound and complex crimes, although the single act done by the offender caused several crimes, the fact that those were the result of a single design, the amount of civil indemnity and moral damages will depend on the penalty and the number of victims. For each of the victims, the heirs should be properly compensated. If it is multiple murder without any ordinary aggravating circumstance but merely a qualifying aggravating circumstance, but the penalty imposed is death because of Art. 48 of the RPC wherein the maximum penalty shall be imposed, then, for every victim who dies, the heirs shall be indemnified with ₱100,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱100,000.00 as moral damages and ₱100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
- Appellants contend that the trial court erred in concluding that the aggravating circumstance of treachery is present. They aver that treachery applies to crimes against persons and not to crimes against property. However, we find that the trial court in this case correctly characterized treachery as a generic aggravating, rather than qualifying, circumstance. Miguel was rendered helpless by appellants in defending himself when his arms were held by two of the attackers before he was stabbed with a knife by appellant Macabales, as their other companions surrounded them. In People v. Salvatierra, we ruled that when alevosia (treachery) obtains in the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, such treachery is to be regarded as a generic aggravating circumstance.
- In awarding civil indemnity and moral damages, it is also important to determine the stage in which the crime was committed and proven during the trial.
- Lastly, this Court echoes the concern of the trial court regarding the dismissal of the charges against Gilberto Estores and Roger San Miguel who had been identified by Norberto Divina as the companions of appellant on the night the shooting occurred. Norberto had been very straightforward and unwavering in his identification of Estores and San Miguel as the two other people who fired the gunshots at his family. More significantly, as noted by the prosecutor, the testimonies of Estores and San Miguel, who insisted they were not at the crime scene, tended to conflict with the sworn statement of Danilo Fajarillo, which was the basis for the Provincial Prosecutor’s ruling that he finds no probable cause against the two. Danilo Fajarillo’s sworn statement said that on June 6, 2002, he saw appellant with a certain “Hapon” and Gilbert Estores at the crime scene, but it was only appellant who was carrying a firearm and the two other people with him had no participation in the shooting incident. Said circumstances bolster the credibility of Norberto Divina’s testimony that Estores and San Miguel may have been involved in the killing of his two young daughters.
After all, such reinvestigation would not subject Estores and San Miguel to double jeopardy because the same only attaches if the following requisites are present: (1) a first jeopardy has attached before the second; (2) the first jeopardy has been validly terminated; and (3) a second jeopardy is for the same offense as in the first. In turn, a first jeopardy attaches only (a) after a valid indictment; (b) before a competent court; (c) after arraignment; (d) when a valid plea has been entered; and (e) when the accused has been acquitted or convicted, or the case dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent. In this case, the case against Estores and San Miguel was dismissed before they were arraigned. Thus, there can be no double jeopardy to speak of. Let true justice be served by reinvestigating the real participation, if any, of Estores and San Miguel in the killing of Mary Grace and Claudine Divina.
JAMES M. IMBONG AND LOVELY-ANN C. IMBONG, for themselves and in behalf of their minor children, LUCIA CARLOS IMBONG and BERNADETTE CARLOS IMBONG and MAGNIFICAT CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER, INC., Petitioners,
HON. PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., EXECUTIVE Secretary, HON. FLORENCIO B. ABAD, Secretary, Department of Budget and Management, HON. ENRIQUE T. ONA, Secretary, Department of Education, Culture and Sports and HON. MANUEL A. ROXAS II, Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government, Respondents.
G.R. No. 204819 April 8, 2014
Shortly after the President placed his imprimatur on Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10354, otherwise known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law), challengers from various sectors of society came knocking on the doors of the Court, beckoning it to wield the sword that strikes down constitutional disobedience. Aware of the profound and lasting impact that its decision may produce, the Court now faces the controversy, as presented in fourteen (14) petitions and two (2) petitions-in-intervention.
The petitioners are one in praying that the entire RH Law be declared unconstitutional.
After a scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties, the Court has synthesized and refined them to the following principal issues:
- PROCEDURAL: Whether the Court may exercise its power of judicial review over the controversy.
- Power of Judicial Review
- Actual Case or Controversy
- Facial Challenge
- Locus Standi
- Declaratory Relief
- One Subject/One Title Rule
2. SUBSTANTIVE: Whether the RH law is unconstitutional:
- Right to Life
- Right to Health
- Freedom of Religion and the Right to Free Speech
- The Family
- Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom
- Due Process
- Equal Protection
- Involuntary Servitude
- Delegation of Authority to the FDA
- Autonomy of Local Governments / ARMM
- Before delving into the constitutionality of the RH Law and its implementing rules, it behooves the Court to resolve some procedural impediments.
- The petition no doubt raises a justiciable controversy. Where an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute. “The question thus posed is judicial rather than political. The duty (to adjudicate) remains to assure that the supremacy of the Constitution is upheld. Once a controversy as to the application or interpretation of constitutional provision is raised before this Court (as in the instant case), it becomes a legal issue which the Court is bound by constitutional mandate to decide. In the scholarly estimation of former Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano, “judicial review is essential for the maintenance and enforcement of the separation of powers and the balancing of powers among the three great departments of government through the definition and maintenance of the boundaries of authority and control between them.” To him, judicial review is the chief, indeed the only, medium of participation – or instrument of intervention – of the judiciary in that balancing operation. Lest it be misunderstood, it bears emphasizing that the Court does not have the unbridled authority to rule on just any and every claim of constitutional violation. Jurisprudence is replete with the rule that the power of judicial review is limited by four exacting requisites, viz : (a) there must be an actual case or controversy; (b) the petitioners must possess locus standi; (c) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and (d) the issue of constitutionality must be the lis mota of the case.
- Even a singular violation of the Constitution and/or the law is enough to awaken judicial duty. In this case, the Court is of the view that an actual case or controversy exists and that the same is ripe for judicial determination. Considering that the RH Law and its implementing rules have already taken effect and that budgetary measures to carry out the law have already been passed, it is evident that the subject petitions present a justiciable controversy. When an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it not only becomes a right, but also a duty of the Judiciary to settle the dispute.
- The Court is not persuaded. In United States (US) constitutional law, a facial challenge, also known as a First Amendment Challenge, is one that is launched to assail the validity of statutes concerning not only protected speech, but also all other rights in the First Amendment. These include religious freedom, freedom of the press, and the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. After all, the fundamental right to religious freedom, freedom of the press and peaceful assembly are but component rights of the right to one’s freedom of expression, as they are modes which one’s thoughts are externalized. In this jurisdiction, the application of doctrines originating from the U.S. has been generally maintained, albeit with some modifications. While this Court has withheld the application of facial challenges to strictly penal statues, it has expanded its scope to cover statutes not only regulating free speech, but also those involving religious freedom, and other fundamental rights. Verily, the framers of Our Constitution envisioned a proactive Judiciary, ever vigilant with its duty to maintain the supremacy of the Constitution.
- The transcendental importance of the issues involved in this case warrants that we set aside the technical defects and take primary jurisdiction over the petition at bar. One cannot deny that the issues raised herein have potentially pervasive influence on the social and moral well being of this nation, specially the youth; hence, their proper and just determination is an imperative need. This is in accordance with the well-entrenched principle that rules of procedure are not inflexible tools designed to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate, rather than promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed. Considering that it is the right to life of the mother and the unborn which is primarily at issue, the Court need not wait for a life to be taken away before taking action.
- Where the case has far-reaching implications and prays for injunctive reliefs, the Court may consider them as petitions for prohibition under Rule 65.
- The RH Law does not violate the one subject/one bill rule. It is well-settled that the “one title-one subject” rule does not require the Congress to employ in the title of the enactment language of such precision as to mirror, fully index or catalogue all the contents and the minute details therein. The rule is sufficiently complied with if the title is comprehensive enough as to include the general object which the statute seeks to effect, and where, as here, the persons interested are informed of the nature, scope and consequences of the proposed law and its operation. Moreover, this Court has invariably adopted a liberal rather than technical construction of the rule “so as not to cripple or impede legislation.” In this case, a textual analysis of the various provisions of the law shows that both “reproductive health” and “responsible parenthood” are interrelated and germane to the overriding objective to control the population growth.
- SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES:
- The Court cannot subscribe to the theory advocated by Hon. Lagman that life begins at implantation. According to him, “fertilization and conception are two distinct and successive stages in the reproductive process. They are not identical and synonymous.” Citing a letter of the WHO, he wrote that medical authorities confirm that the implantation of the fertilized ovum is the commencement of conception and it is only after implantation that pregnancy can be medically detected. This theory of implantation as the beginning of life is devoid of any legal or scientific mooring. It does not pertain to the beginning of life but to the viability of the fetus. The fertilized ovum/zygote is not an inanimate object – it is a living human being complete with DNA and 46 chromosomes. Implantation has been conceptualized only for convenience by those who had population control in mind. To adopt it would constitute textual infidelity not only to the RH Law but also to the Constitution. It is the Court’s position that life begins at fertilization, not at implantation. When a fertilized ovum is implanted in the uterine wall, its viability is sustained but that instance of implantation is not the point of beginning of life.
- A component to the right to life is the constitutional right to health. In this regard, the Constitution is replete with provisions protecting and promoting the right to health. These provisions are self-executing. Unless the provisions clearly express the contrary, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executory. There is no need for legislation to implement these self-executing provisions. In Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, it was stated:
x x x Hence, unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law. This can be cataclysmic. That is why the prevailing view is, as it has always been, that –… in case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing. . . .
Unless the contrary is clearly intended, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executing, as a contrary rule would give the legislature discretion to determine when, or whether, they shall be effective. These provisions would be subordinated to the will of the lawmaking body, which could make them entirely meaningless by simply refusing to pass the needed implementing statute.
- It is not within the province of the Court to determine whether the use of contraceptives or one’s participation in the support of modem reproductive health measures is moral from a religious standpoint or whether the same is right or wrong according to one’s dogma or belief. For the Court has declared that matters dealing with “faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law, custom and rule of a church … are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts.” The jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and secular morality. Whatever pronouncement the Court makes in the case at bench should be understood only in this realm where it has authority. Stated otherwise, while the Court stands without authority to rule on ecclesiastical matters, as vanguard of the Constitution, it does have authority to determine whether the RH Law contravenes the guarantee of religious freedom. Consequently, the petitioners are misguided in their supposition that the State cannot enhance its population control program through the RH Law simply because the promotion of contraceptive use is contrary to their religious beliefs. Indeed, the State is not precluded to pursue its legitimate secular objectives without being dictated upon by the policies of any one religion. One cannot refuse to pay his taxes simply because it will cloud his conscience. The demarcation line between Church and State demands that one render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. The Court is of the view that the obligation to refer imposed by the RH Law violates the religious belief and conviction of a conscientious objector. Once the medical practitioner, against his will, refers a patient seeking information on modem reproductive health products, services, procedures and methods, his conscience is immediately burdened as he has been compelled to perform an act against his beliefs. As Commissioner Joaquin A. Bernas (Commissioner Bernas) has written, “at the basis of the free exercise clause is the respect for the inviolability of the human conscience.
- The Court is of the strong view that the religious freedom of health providers, whether public or private, should be accorded primacy. Accordingly, a conscientious objector should be exempt from compliance with the mandates of the RH Law. If he would be compelled to act contrary to his religious belief and conviction, it would be violative of “the principle of non-coercion” enshrined in the constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
- The same holds true with respect to non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group and health care service providers. Considering that Section 24 of the RH Law penalizes such institutions should they fail or refuse to comply with their duty to refer under Section 7 and Section 23(a)(3), the Court deems that it must be struck down for being violative of the freedom of religion.
- The same applies to Section 23(a)(l) and (a)(2) in relation to Section 24, considering that in the dissemination of information regarding programs and services and in the performance of reproductive health procedures, the religious freedom of health care service providers should be respected. The punishment of a healthcare service provider, who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient to another, or who declines to perform reproductive health procedure on a patient because incompatible religious beliefs, is a clear inhibition of a constitutional guarantee which the Court cannot allow.
- The State cannot, without a compelling state interest, take over the role of parents in the care and custody of a minor child, whether or not the latter is already a parent or has had a miscarriage. Only a compelling state interest can justify a state substitution of their parental authority.
- Any attack on the validity of Section 14 of the RH Law is premature because the Department of Education, Culture and Sports has yet to formulate a curriculum on age-appropriate reproductive health education. One can only speculate on the content, manner and medium of instruction that will be used to educate the adolescents and whether they will contradict the religious beliefs of the petitioners and validate their apprehensions. Thus, considering the premature nature of this particular issue, the Court declines to rule on its constitutionality or validity.
- A statute or act suffers from the defect of vagueness when it lacks comprehensible standards that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess its meaning and differ as to its application. It is repugnant to the Constitution in two respects: (1) it violates due process for failure to accord persons, especially the parties targeted by it, fair notice of the conduct to avoid; and (2) it leaves law enforcers unbridled discretion in carrying out its provisions and becomes an arbitrary flexing of the Government muscle. Moreover, in determining whether the words used in a statute are vague, words must not only be taken in accordance with their plain meaning alone, but also in relation to other parts of the statute. It is a rule that every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context, that is, every part of it must be construed together with the other parts and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment.
- To provide that the poor are to be given priority in the government’s reproductive health care program is not a violation of the equal protection clause. In fact, it is pursuant to Section 11, Article XIII of the Constitution which recognizes the distinct necessity to address the needs of the underprivileged by providing that they be given priority in addressing the health development of the people. Thus: Section 11. The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. There shall be priority for the needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children. The State shall endeavor to provide free medical care to paupers. It should be noted that Section 7 of the RH Law prioritizes poor and marginalized couples who are suffering from fertility issues and desire to have children. There is, therefore, no merit to the contention that the RH Law only seeks to target the poor to reduce their number. While the RH Law admits the use of contraceptives, it does not, as elucidated above, sanction abortion. As Section 3(1) explains, the “promotion and/or stabilization of the population growth rate is incidental to the advancement of reproductive health.”
- The notion of involuntary servitude connotes the presence of force, threats, intimidation or other similar means of coercion and compulsion. A reading of the assailed provision, however, reveals that it only encourages private and non- government reproductive healthcare service providers to render pro bono service. Other than non-accreditation with PhilHealth, no penalty is imposed should they choose to do otherwise. Private and non-government reproductive healthcare service providers also enjoy the liberty to choose which kind of health service they wish to provide, when, where and how to provide it or whether to provide it all. Clearly, therefore, no compulsion, force or threat is made upon them to render pro bono service against their will. While the rendering of such service was made a prerequisite to accreditation with PhilHealth, the Court does not consider the same to be an unreasonable burden, but rather, a necessary incentive imposed by Congress in the furtherance of a perceived legitimate state interest. Consistent with what the Court had earlier discussed, however, it should be emphasized that conscientious objectors are exempt from this provision as long as their religious beliefs and convictions do not allow them to render reproductive health service, pro bona or otherwise.
- The Court finds nothing wrong with the delegation. The FDA does not only have the power but also the competency to evaluate, register and cover health services and methods. It is the only government entity empowered to render such services and highly proficient to do so. It should be understood that health services and methods fall under the gamut of terms that are associated with what is ordinarily understood as “health products.” Being the country’s premiere and sole agency that ensures the safety of food and medicines available to the public, the FDA was equipped with the necessary powers and functions to make it effective. Pursuant to the principle of necessary implication, the mandate by Congress to the FDA to ensure public health and safety by permitting only food and medicines that are safe includes “service” and “methods.” From the declared policy of the RH Law, it is clear that Congress intended that the public be given only those medicines that are proven medically safe, legal, non-abortifacient, and effective in accordance with scientific and evidence-based medical research standards. The philosophy behind the permitted delegation was explained in Echagaray v. Secretary of Justice, as follows:
The reason is the increasing complexity of the task of the government and the growing inability of the legislature to cope directly with the many problems demanding its attention. The growth of society has ramified its activities and created peculiar and sophisticated problems that the legislature cannot be expected reasonably to comprehend. Specialization even in legislation has become necessary. To many of the problems attendant upon present day undertakings, the legislature may not have the competence, let alone the interest and the time, to provide the required direct and efficacious, not to say specific solutions.
- A reading of the RH Law clearly shows that whether it pertains to the establishment of health care facilities, the hiring of skilled health professionals, or the training of barangay health workers, it will be the national government that will provide for the funding of its implementation. Local autonomy is not absolute. The national government still has the say when it comes to national priority programs which the local government is called upon to implement like the RH Law.
Jose Jesus M. Disini, JR., Rowena S. Disini, Lianne Ivy P. Medina, Janette Toral and Ernesto Sonido, JR., Petitioners
The Secretary of Justice, The Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local government, The Executive Director of the Information and Communications Technology Office, The Chief of the Philippine National Police, and The Director of the National Bureau of Investigation, Respondents.
(The Disini Case) GR No. 203335 11 February 2014
These consolidated petitions seek to declare several provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, unconstitutional and void.
The cybercrime law aims to regulate access to and use of the cyberspace. The cyberspace is a boon to the need of a current generation for greater information and facility of communication. But all is not well with the system since it could not filter out a number of persons of ill will who would want to use cyberspace technology for mischiefs and crimes. One of them can, for instance, avail himself of the system to unjustly ruin the reputation of another or bully the latter by posting defamatory statements against him that people can read.
And because linking with the internet opens up a user to communication from others, the ill-motivated can use the cyberspace for committing theft by hacking into or surreptitiously accessing his bank account or credit card or defrauding him through false representations.
The wicked can use the cyberspace, too, for illicit trafficking in sex or for exposing to pornography guileless children who have access to the internet.
For these reasons, the government has a legitimate right to regulate the use of cyberspace and contain and punish wrongdoings. The government certainly has the duty and the right to prevent these tomfooleries from happening and punish their perpetrators, hence the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
But petitioners claim that the means adopted by the cybercrime law for regulating undesirable cyberspace activities violate certain of their constitutional rights.
Pending hearing and adjudication of the issues presented in these cases, on February 5, 2013, the Court extended the original 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) that it earlier issued on October 9, 2012, enjoining respondent government agencies from implementing the cybercrime law until further orders.
- The petitioners contend that Section 4(a)(1) fails to meet the strict scrutiny standard required of laws that interfere with the fundamental rights of the people. Is Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access unconstitutional?
- Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(3) suffers from overbreadth in that, while is seeks to discourage data interference, it intrudes into the area of protected speech and expression, creating a chilling and deterrent effect on these guaranteed freedoms.
- Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(6) or cyber-squatting violates the equal protection clause in that, not being narrowly tailored, it will cause a user using his real name to suffer the same fate as those who use aliases or take the name of another in satire, parody, or any other literary device.
- Petitioners claim that Section 4(b)(3) violates the constitutional rights to due process and to privacy and correspondence, and transgresses the freedom of the press.
- Petitioners claim that cybersex violates the freedom of expression clause of the Constitution.
- Petitioners are wary that a person who merely doodles on paper and imagines a sexual abuse of a 16-year old is not criminally liable for producing child pornography but one who formulates the idea on his laptop would be.
- Is Section 4(c)(3) unconstitutional for penalizing the transmission of unsolicited commercial communications?
- Petitioners dispute the constitutionality of both the penal code provisions on libel as well as Section4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act on cyberlibel.
- Petitioners assail the constitutionality of Section 5 that renders criminally liable any person who wilfully abets or aids in the commission or attempts to commit any of the offenses enumerated as cybercrimes. It suffers from overbreadth, creating a chilling and deterrent effect on protected expression.
- Is Section 6 on the penalty of one degree higher constitutional?
- Is Section 7 on the prosecution under both the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and RA 10175 constitutional?
- Is Section 8 valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 12 on Real-Time collection of traffic data valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 13 on preservation of computer data valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 14 on disclosure of computer data valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 15 on search, seizure and examination of computer data valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 17 on destruction of computer data valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 19 on restricting or blocking access to computer data valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 20 on obstruction of justice valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 24 on Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) valid and constitutional?
- Is Section 26(a) on CICC’s power and functions valid and constitutional?
- No. The strict scrutiny standard, an American constitutional construct, is useful in determining the constitutionality of laws that tend to target a class of things or persons. According to this standard, a legislative classification that impermissibly interferes with the exercise of fundamental right or operates to the peculiar class disadvantage of a suspect class is presumed unconstitutional. The Court finds nothing in Section 4(a)(1) that calls for the application of the strict scrutiny standard since no fundamental freedom, like speech, is involved in punishing what is essentially a condemnable act – accessing the computer system of another without right. It is a universally condemnable act.
- Under the overbreadth doctrine, a proper governmental purpose, constitutionally subject to state regulation, may not be achieved by means that unnecessarily sweep its subject broadly, thereby invading the area of protected speech. Section 4(a)(3) does not encroach on these freedoms at all. It simply punishes what essentially is a form of vandalism, the act of wilfully destroying without right the things that belong to others, in this case their computer data, electronic document, or electronic data message. Such act has no connection to guaranteed freedoms. Ergo, there is no freedom to destroy other people’s computer systems and private documents. All penal laws, like the cybercrime law, have of course an inherent chilling effect, an in terrorem effect, or the fear of possible prosecution that hangs on the heads of citizens who are minded to step beyond the boundaries of what is proper. But to prevent the State from legislating criminal laws because they instil such kind of fear is to render the state powerless in addressing and penalizing socially harmful conduct.
- No, the challenge to the constitutionality of Section 4(a)(6) is baseless. The law is reasonable in penalizing the act of acquiring the domain name in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy reputation, or deprive others who are not ill-motivated of the rightful opportunity of registering the same. It is the evil purpose for which one uses the name that the law condemns.
- No. In assessing the challenge that the State has impermissibly intruded into these zones of privacy, a court must determine whether a person has exhibited a reasonable expectation of privacy and, if so, whether that expectation has been violated by unreasonable government intrusion. The law punishes those who acquire or use identifying information without right, implicitly to cause damage. Petitioners fail to show how government effort to curb computer-related identity theft violates the right to privacy and correspondence as well as the right to due process. There is no fundamental right to acquire another’s personal right. The Court has defined intent to gain as an internal act which can be established through overt acts of the offender, and it may be presumed from the furtive taking of useful property pertaining to another, unless special circumstances reveal a different intent on the part of the perpetrator. As such, the press, whether in the quest of news reporting or social investigation, has nothing to fear since a special circumstance is present to negate intent to gain which is required by this Section.
- The Court will not declare Section 4(c)(1) unconstitutional where it stands a construction that makes it apply only to persons engaged in the business of maintaining, controlling, or operating, directly or indirectly, the lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity with the aid of a computer system as Congress has intended.
- The constitutionality of Section 4(c)(3) is not successfully challenged. The law makes the penalty higher by one degree when the crime is committed in cyberspace. But no one can complain since the intensity or duration of penalty is a legislative prerogative and there is a rational basis for such higher penalty.
- Yes, because to prohibit the transmission of unsolicited ads would deny a person the right to read his emails, even unsolicited commercial ads addressed to him. Commercial speech is a separate category of speech which us not accorded the same level of protection as that given to other constitutionally guaranteed forms of expression but is nonetheless entitled to protection. The State cannot rob him of this right without violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Thus, unsolicited advertisements are legitimate forms of expression.
- Since the penal code and implicitly, the cybercrime law, mainly target libel against private persons, the Court recognizes that these laws imply a stricter standard of malice to convict the author of a defamatory statement where the offended party is a public figure. The elements of libel are: (a) the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another; (b) publication of the charge; (c) identity of the person defamed; and (d) existence of malice.There is actual malice or malice in fact when the offender makes the defamatory statement with the knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. The reckless disregard standard used here required a high degree of awareness of probable falsity. There must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the accused in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the statement he published. Gross or even extreme negligence is not sufficient to establish actual malice. The defense of absence of actual malice, even when the statement turns out to be false, is available where the offended party is a public official or a public figure. But, where the offended party is a private individual, the prosecution need not prove the presence of actual malice. For his defense, the accused must show that he has a justifiable reason for the defamatory statement even if it was in fact true.
- A governmental purpose, which seeks to regulate the use of cyberspace communication technology to protect a person’s reputation and peace of mind, cannot adopt means that will unnecessarily and broadly sweep, invading the area of protected freedoms. If such means are adopted, self-inhibition borne of fear of what sinister predicaments await internet users will suppress otherwise robust discussion of public issues. Democracy will be threatened and with it, all liberties. Penal laws should provide reasonably clear guidelines for law enforcement officials and triers of facts to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. The terms “aiding or abetting” constitute broad sweep that generates chilling effect on those who express themselves through cyberspace posts, comments, and other messages. Hence, Section 5 of the cybercrime law that punishes “aiding or abetting” libel on the cyberspace is a nullity.
- Yes, because there exists a substantial distinction between crimes committed through the use of information and communication technology and similar crimes committed using other means. In using the technology in question, the offender often evades identification and is able to reach far more victims or cause greater harm.
- The Court resolves to leave the determination of the correct application of Section 7 that authorizes prosecution of the offender under both the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 10175 to actual cases, with the exception of the crimes of:
- Online libel as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 and Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code constitutes a violation of the proscription against double jeopardy; as well as
- Child pornography committed online as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(2) of Republic Act 10175 and Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 also constitutes a violation of the same proscription, and, in respect to these, is void and unconstitutional.
- Valid and constitutional, because the matter of fixing penalties for the commission of crimes is as a rule a legislative prerogative.
- Void and unconstitutional, because Section 12 does not permit law enforcement authorities to look into the contents of the messages and uncover the identities of the sender and the recipient. Thus, the authority that Section 12 gives law enforcement agencies is too sweeping and lacks restraint.
- Valid and constitutional, because the user ought to have kept a copy of that data when it crossed his computer if he was so minded. There was no undue deprivation of property since the data that service providers preserve on orders of law enforcement authorities are not made accessible to users by reasons of the issuance of such orders.
- Valid and constitutional, because what Section 14 envisions is merely the enforcement of a duly issued court warrant. Disclosure can be made only after judicial intervention.
- Valid and constitutional, because Section 15 merely enumerates the duties of law enforcement authorities that would ensure proper collection, preservation, and use of computer system or data that have been seized by virtue of a court warrant.
- Valid and constitutional, because it is unclear that the user has a demandable right to require the service provider to have that copy of data saved indefinitely for him in its storage system.
- Void and unconstitutional, because Section 19 not only precludes any judicial intervention but it also disregards jurisprudential guidelines established to determine the validity of restrictions on speech.
- Valid and constitutional insofar as it applies to the provisions of Chapter IV which are not struck down by the Court.
- and 21. Valid and constitutional, because cybercrime law is complete in itself when it directed the CICC to formulate and implement a national cybersecurity plan. The law gave sufficient standards for the CICC to follow when it provided a definition of cybersecurity.
Philippine Steel Coating, Corp. vs. Eduard Quinones (G.R. No. 194533) April 19, 2017
Facts: A complaint for damages was filed by respondent Quinones (owner of Amianan Motors) against petitioner PhilSteel. Richard Lopez, a sales engineer of PhilSteel, offered Quinones their new product: primer-coated, long-span, rolled galvanized iron (G.I.) sheets. The latter showed interest but asked if the primer-coated sheets were compatible with the Guilder acrylic paint process used by Amianan Motors in the finishing of its assembled buses. Uncertain, Lopez referred the query to his immediate superior, Ferdinand Angbengco, PhilSteel’s sales manager.
Angbengco assured Quinones that the quality of their new product was superior to that of the non-primer coated G.I. sheets being used by the latter in his business. He further guaranteed that a laboratory test had in fact been conducted by PhilSteel, and that the results proved that the two products were compatible.
However, Quinones received several complaints from customers who had bought bus units, claiming that the paint or finish used on the purchased vehicles was breaking and peeling off. Quinones sent a letter-complaint to PhilSteel claiming that the damage to the vehicles was attributable to the hidden defects of the primer-coated sheets and/or their incompatibility with the Guilder acrylic paint process used by the Amianan Motors. Because of the barrage of complaints, Quinones was forced to repair the damaged buses.
PhilSteel counters that that the breaking and peeling off of the paint was caused by the erroneous painting application done by Quinones.
The RTC rendered a Decision in favor of Quinones and ordered PhilSteel to pay damages. The trial court concluded that the paint blistering and peeling off were due to the incompatibility of the painting process with the primer-coated G.I. sheets. It also found out that the assurance made by Angbengco constituted an express warranty under Article 1546.
The CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC in toto.
- Were the oral statements made by Angbengco a case of express warranty under Article 1546 of the Civil Code that may be invoked to warrant payment of damages?
- Is non-payment of price justified on allegations of breach of warranty?
- Yes. Article 1546 of the Civil Code provides that any affirmation of fact or any promise by the seller relating to the thing is an express warranty if the natural tendency of such affirmation or promise if to induce the buyer to purchase the same, and if the buyer purchases the thing relying thereon. As held in Carrascoso, Jr. vs. CA, the following requisites must be established in order to prove that there is an express warranty in a contract of sale: (1) the express warranty must be an affirmation of fact or any promise by the seller relating to the subject matter of the sale; (2) the natural effect of the affirmation or promise is to induce the buyer to purchase the thing; and (3) the buyer purchases the thing relying on that affirmation or promise. Here, the oral statements of Angbengco created an express warranty. hey were positive affirmations of fact that the buyer relied on, and that induced him to buy petitioner’s primer-coated G.I. sheets. Seller is expert in the eyes of the buyer.
- Yes, the non-payment of the unpaid purchase price was justified since a breach of warranty was proven. Quinones has opted for a reduction in price or non-payment of the unpaid balance of the purchase price. According to Article 1599, Civil Code, recoupment refers to the reduction of extinction of the price of the same item, unit, transaction or contract upon which a plaintiff’s claim is founded.
MEDICARD PHILIPPINES, INC VS. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (GR NO. 222743) April 5, 2017
FACTS: MEDICARD is a health maintenance organization (HMO) that provides prepaid health and medical insurance coverage to its clients. Individuals enrolled in its health care programs pay an annual membership fee and are entitled to various preventive, diagnostic and curative medical services provided by duly licensed physicians, specialists, and other professional technical staff participating in the group practice health delivery system at a hospital or clinic owned, operated or accredited by it.
MEDICARD filed it first, second, and third quarterly VAT Returns through Electronic Filing and Payment System (EFPS) on April 20, July 25, and October 25, 2006, respectively, and its fourth quarterly VAT Return on January 25, 2007.
Upon finding some discrepancies between MEDICARD’s Income Tax Returns (ITR) and VAT Returns, the CIR issued a Letter Notice (LN) dated September 20, 2007. Subsequently, the CIR also issued a Preliminary Assessment Notice (PAN) against MEDICARD for deficiency VAT. MEDICARD received CIR’s FAN dated December 10, 2007 for allegedly deficiency VAT for taxable year 2006 including penalties.
MEDICARD filed a protest arguing, among others, that that the services it render is not limited merely to arranging for the provision of medical and/or hospitalization services but include actual and direct rendition of medical and laboratory services. On June 19, 2009, MEDICARD received CIR’s Final Decision denying its protest. The petitioner MEDICARD proceeded to file a petition for review before the CTA.
The CTA Division held that the determination of deficiency VAT is not limited to the issuance of Letter of Authority (LOA) alone and that in lieu of an LOA, an LN was issued to MEDICARD informing it if the discrepancies between its ITRs and VAT Returns and this procedure is authorized under Revenue Memorandum Order (RMO) No. 30-2003 and 42-2003. Also, the amounts that MEDICARD earmarked and eventually paid to doctors, hospitals and clinics cannot be excluded from the computation of its gross receipts because the act of earmarking or allocation is by itself an act of ownership and management over the funds by MEDICARD which is beyond the contemplation of RR No. 4-2007. Furthermore, MEDICARD’s earnings from its clinics and laboratory facilities cannot be excluded from its gross receipts because the operation of these clinics and laboratory is merely an incident to MEDICARD’s line of business as an HMO.
MEDICARD filed a Motion for Reconsideration but it was denied. Petitioner elevated the matter to the CTA en banc.
CTA en banc partially granted the petition only insofar as 10% VAT rate for January 2006 is concerned but sustained the findings of the CTA Division.
- Is the absence of the Letter of Authority fatal?
- Should the amounts that MEDICARD earmarked and eventually paid to the medical service providers still form part of its gross receipts for VAT purposes?
- Yes. The absence of the LOA violated MEDICARD’s right to due process. An LOA is the authority given to the appropriate revenue officer assigned to perform assessment functions. Under the NLRC, unless authorized by the CIR himself or by his duly authorized representative, through an LOA, an examination of the taxpayer cannot ordinarily be undertaken. An LOA is premised on the fact that the examination of a taxpayer who has already filed his tax returns is a power that statutorily belongs only to the CIR himself or his duly authorized representatives. In this case, there is no dispute that no LOA was issued prior to the issuance of a PAN and FAN against MEDICARD. Therefore, no LOA was also served on MEDICARD.
- No. The VAT is a tax on the value added by the performance of the service by the taxpayer. It is, thus, this service and the value charged thereof by the taxpayer that is taxable under the NLRC.