PEOPLE v. PANFILO M. LACSON
the respondent and his co-accused were charged with multiple murder for the shooting and killing of eleven male person... bandied as members of the Kuratong Baleleng Gang.
The Court also held therein that although Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure could be given retroactive effect, there is still a need to determine whether the requirements for its... application are attendant.
It emphasized that the new rule fixes a time-bar to penalize the State for... its inexcusable delay in prosecuting cases already filed in court
In support of their Motion for Reconsideration, the petitioners contend that (a) Section 8, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is not applicable to Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689; and (b) the time-bar in said rule should not be applied... retroactively.
The petitioners contend that even on the assumption that the respondent expressly consented to a provisional dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 and all the heirs of the victims were notified of the respondent's motion before the hearing thereon and were... served with copies of the resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the eleven cases, the two-year bar in Section 8 of Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure should be applied prospectively and not retroactively against the State. To apply the time limit... retroactively to the criminal cases against the respondent and his co-accused would violate the right of the People to due process, and unduly impair, reduce, and diminish the State's substantive right to prosecute the accused for multiple murder.
They submit that in case of conflict between the Revised Penal Code and the new rule, the former should prevail. They also insist that the State had consistently relied on the prescriptive... periods under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code. It was not accorded a fair warning that it would forever be barred beyond the two-year period by a retroactive application of the new rule.[
For his part, the respondent asserts that the new rule under Section 8 of Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure may be applied retroactively since there is no substantive right of the State that may be impaired by its application to the criminal cases in question... since '[t]he State's witnesses were ready, willing and able to provide their testimony but the prosecution failed to act on these cases until it became politically expedient in April 2001 for them to do so.' According to the respondent, penal laws,... either procedural or substantive, may be retroactively applied so long as they favor the accused. He asserts that the two-year period commenced to run on March 29, 1999 and lapsed two years thereafter was more than reasonable opportunity for the State... to fairly indict him. In any event, the State is given the right under the Court's assailed Resolution to justify the filing of the Information in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 beyond the time-bar under the new rule.
The Court agrees with the respondent that procedural laws may be applied retroactively. As applied to criminal law, procedural law provides or regulates the steps by which one who has committed a crime is to be punished.
It further ruled therein that a procedural law may not be applied retroactively if to do so would work injustice or would involve intricate problems of due process or impair the independence of the Court.
whether the two (2) year period to revive it has already lapse... whether there is any... justification for the filing of the cases beyond the 2-year period
In this case, the Court agrees with the petitioners that the time-bar of two years under the new rule should not be applied retroactively against the State.
The Court agrees with the petitioners that to apply the time-bar retroactively so that the two-year period commenced to run on March 31, 1999 when the public prosecutor received his copy of the resolution of Judge Agnir, Jr. dismissing the criminal cases is inconsistent with the... intendment of the new rule. Instead of giving the State two years to revive provisionally dismissed cases, the State had considerably less than two years to do so.
If the Court applied the new time-bar retroactively, the State would have only one year and three months or until March 31, 2001 within which to revive these criminal cases.
The two-year period fixed in the new rule is for the benefit of both the State and the accused. It should not be emasculated and reduced by an inordinate retroactive application of the time-bar therein provided merely to benefit the accused. For to do so would cause an
"injustice of hardship" to the State and adversely affect the administration of justice in general and of criminal laws in particular.
The petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration is GRANTED.