Judge acquits despite conclusion accused profited from crime

PRIVILEGE SPITS
By ATTY. BERTENI CATALUÑA CAUSING, CE

Judge acquits despite conclusion
accused profited from crime


It was like a judge rewarded the thieves for the thievery.

I have been saddened by the decision handed down last Friday (March 24, 2017) by Judge Luis Enriquez Reyes of the Municipal Trial Court of Guiguinto, Bulacan.

Judge Reyes acquitted scions of a rich Bulacan clan of the charge that the accused forged a signature of their dead sibling and made it appear that she was alive when in truth she was already dead at the time of the making of the affidavit styled and named as “Affidavit of Identity (of) Heirs.”

In the same affidavit, it was made to appear that these siblings were the heirs of Jose Chiong and they made to appear that they are entitled to inherit the lands of “Heirs of Jose Chiong” when in truth they are not heirs and they have no proofs they are heirs of Jose Chiong.

Judge Reyes even ruled that it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that the affidavit called “Affidavit of Identity Heirs” was falsified as it was successfully proved, at least, that one of the siblings was dead on the date the same affidavit was made to appear as having been signed.

Judge Reyes also ruled that the prosecution successfully proved that the siblings who are still alive are the ones who benefited from the false “Affidavit of Identity Heirs.”

It was proved that because of the “Affidavit of Identity (of) Heirs”, the lands in name of “Heirs of Jose Chiong” were transferred to the names of the accused.

During our presentation of more evidence for the rebuttal, we succeeded in proving that until that time of the presentation of the evidence the names in the certificates of title of those lands were still in the names of the accused.

The fact that the lands of the “Heirs of Jose Chiong” were transferred to the names of the accused meant that they benefited from the false affidavit.

If they were honestly innocent, the accused could have returned the lands to the real owners who are the real heirs of Jose Chiong.

Until the time of the rebuttal the accused, and in fact until the time of the promulgation of the judgment, the accused stubbornly stood on their clearly wrong and immoral ground that they have not returned the land to the real owner.

The non-return of the lands meant that the accused wilfully and deliberately took the ownership of the lands despite knowledge that the affidavit of identity of heirs was false and despite the fact that they knew they are not heirs.

In other words, the judge was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that we succeeded in proving the existence of the crime of falsification done by means of forgery.

Also, the judge was convinced that the presumption of guilt had already overcome the presumption of innocence because of the presumption that whoever profited from thievery is the author of the same, or whoever profited from the act of falsification is the author of the falsification.

As a lawyer having sufficient experience in trial prosecution, there is only one thing that can erase the presumption that the accused who profited are guilty.

This thing that can be considered as sufficient to remove the presumption of guilt is if the accused returned the profit to the victim early enough.   The return must be early, else the delay will be adjudged as nothing but an afterthought designed to cover the crime of falsification.

With these circumstances stated above—particularly that circumstance that the accused have never returned the land they acquired through false affidavit of identity of heirs—there is no other obligation for the judge to do, except for pronouncing that the accused were guilty.  Hence, it is clear that in not convicting the accused, the judge clearly was biased in favor of the accused.

Indeed, there is now a compelling need, more than ever, for the Filipinos to change the rotten justice system that offers opportunity for corrupt judges to sell their decisions.

The worst part of the story now is that it is prohibited for us to appeal from the judgment of acquittal, or from filing a motion for reconsideration.  That is because allowing the same appeal or motion for reconsideration is a violation of the Constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy.

First jeopardy occurs when the accused is charged with a criminal case and he is validly arraigned.

Second jeopardy comes if the same accused is charged with the same criminal case from which the same accused was acquitted or that the case was terminated on the merits or terminated without his consent.

In this case, Judge Reyes effectively protected the accused from getting convicted by acquitting them.



Unreasonable ‘reasonable doubt’



What was the reason used by Judge Reyes in acquitting?

In his decision, Judge Reyes claimed there was now this “reasonable doubt.”

Pardon the language. I call it as unreasonable “reasonable doubt.”

What was the “reasonable doubt” used by Judge Reyes?

In insisting there was reasonable doubt, Judge Reyes cited that in the Special Power of Attorney (SPA) that was presented by the defense, the signatures there of the accused look different from the signatures of the same accused as found in the “Affidavit of Identity Heirs.”

In trying to postulate his theory of reasonable doubt, Judge Reyes acted like a handwriting expert.  Although he disguised himself by stating that the judge can detect signatures that are forged and it does not need a handwriting expert to know.

Assuming that indeed it was correct that the signatures found in the “Affidavit of Identity Heirs” are clearly different in strokes, where Judge Reyes even used the term “roundish” to describe the manner the strokes of the writing was done, as against the signatures found in another document called “Special Power of Attorney,” it does not change the fact that the accused benefited from the falsified “Affidavit of Identity Heirs” and it does not also change the fact that until today the accused have not returned the lands they took using the falsified affidavit of identity of heirs.

If Judge Reyes acquitted the accused just because the signatures found in the falsified affidavit are different from the signatures found in the document found in the SPA, then Judge Reyes was rewarding the accused for that successful act of transferring to their name that title to the property from the victim.

Additionally, our theory is that the presumption of guilt of the accused because they benefited from the falsified documents has ripened into a proof beyond reasonable doubt because they did not show any counter-proof that they did not profit from the falsified document by returning the lands to the victim.

Simple as that.


Eerie atmosphere


As early as 1:50 p.m. of 24 March 2017, I arrived at the Municipal Trial Court of Guiguinto, Bulacan found at the ground floor of the Municipal Hall of Guiguinto.

I found all the accused were present, except for one who was at large.

They were all exuding an aura of confidence.

I did not detect any tremble in their heart.

A normal person who does not know if the decision is for his conviction or acquittal is normally trembling while waiting for the judgment to be read.

But in the case of the accused in this case, they appear to be knowing what was forthcoming: that they will all be acquitted.

Indeed, when the judge in a cane arrived, he banged the gavel and directed the reading of the dispositive portion (conclusion of the judgment) only.

My hunch was confirmed, the accused were all acquitted on “reasonable doubt.”

I did not ask from the judge for any explanation.  I just kept my quiet. Judge Reyes made a quick explanation to me and said: “Wala tayong magagawa panyero, may reasonable doubt e.”

 Why did the judge made an explanation to me when I did not require him to do so?



Jury system is better



This judgment promulgated by Judge Reyes is a classic example of judgments that give strong indications money changed hands if only to buy justice.

This is also one of the biggest proofs why I am arguing that the justice system in the Philippines is rotting to the core and must now be overhauled. 

And I have been proposing that jury system should be put in place.

In jury system, it is almost impossible to buy a decision because mainly of the fact that there are 12 persons who will decide all questions of what really happened.

Until these dozens voted unanimously on questions as to facts or as to what happened, the presiding judge shall apply the law on the facts established by the jury.

These 12 persons to compose the jury are determined after about 50 persons were picked by random from the community where the trial of either a criminal or civil case, is to occur. 

Those chosen shall be subpoenaed secretly for a secret interview whose purpose is to know who among the persons randomly chosen have the capability to discern witnesses who are telling the truth from those who were telling a lie.   Finally, those trimmed down are submitted to a challenge procedure where lawyers of both sides are given the opportunity to challenge any possible juror with the objective of trimming them down to 13 persons where 12 will sit as the jury members and one will act as the alternate in case one is absent.



The US jury experience


In the experience for more than 200 years, the United States has been successful dispensing justice that is generally rated by the Blacks, the Whites and Colored as fair enough.

Trials under the jury system are completed normally in three days.   In complicated ones, they last a week or two.  Very seldom that the trial will end in one month.   However, trial begins only after all issues on validity of the criminal informations and jurisdictions of the courts are resolved.  So that there is no danger that witnesses may not appear as what always happens in the Philippines.

What makes the judgments fairer and more just is the fact that the jurors or judges of facts are not allowed to go home after the trial.  They can go home only after they hand out their judgment that must be unanimous for acquittal or for the finding of guilt.  Normally, the jurors complete their deliberations in three hours.

Compare the same to the single judge system in the Philippines.

The judges here in the Philippines wait up to the end of three months before they can hand down the decision.  As in the case of Judge Reyes, he waited for too long a time.

During the waiting time for the judgment to be rendered, big opportunities come for those who buy judgments.

Is it not that now is the time to revolt to change the justice system and put in place the people themselves as the ones directly exercising the power to judge?

If the people directly exercise the power to decide who the President is, who the Senators will be, who the congressmen will be in their respective districts, who the governors and vice-governors as well as board members will be in their respective provinces, who the mayors and vice-mayors as well as the councilors in their respective towns or cities, who the barangay chairmen and kagawads will be in their respective barangays, WHY IS IT THAT THE PEOPLE HAVE NO POWER TO WHO WILL BE THE JUDGE?

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