People v. De Grano
An Information for murder was filed against Joven de Grano (Joven), Armando de Grano (Armando), and Estanislao Lacaba (Estanislao), together with their co-accused Leonides Landicho (Leonides), Domingo Landicho (Domingo), and Leonardo Genil (Leonardo), who were at-large. The respondents filed a motion for bail which was granted by the trial court. The prosecution then filed a petition for certiorari on the order of bail which the Supreme Court granted and order cancellation of bail. As a result, Estanislao was re-arrested, but Joven and Armando were not. The case was remanded to the RTC for trial on merits. The RTC rendered a Decision finding several accused guilty of the offense as charged but those who remained at large (Joven, Domingo and Amando) were not present during trial and on the promulgation of judgment. Thereafter, Joven, Domingo, Amando and Estanislao filed a Joint Motion for Reconsideration. In its Opposition, the prosecution pointed out the accused who were at-large (Joven, Domingo and Amando), having opted to become fugitives and be beyond the judicial ambit, lost their right to file such motion for reconsideration and to ask for whatever relief from the court. However, the RTC issued an Order modifying its earlier decision by acquitting Joven and Armando, and downgrading the conviction of Domingo and Estanislao from murder to homicide. Petitioner then filed a Petition for certiorari before the CA. The CA, however, denied the petition on the ground of double jeopardy.
Whether or not there is double jeopardy that warrants dismissal of the petition.
The dismissal was improper. The court ruled that there is no double jeopardy in this case because the trial court lacked jurisdiction with regard to the person of Joven, Domingo and Armando. Hence, any acquittal or conviction before a court having no jurisdiction would not violate the principle of double jeopardy since it failed to attach in the first place. Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution, authorizing trials in absentia, allows the accused to be absent at the trial but not at certain stages of the proceedings, to wit: (a) at arraignment and plea, whether of innocence or of guilt; (b) during trial, whenever necessary for identification purposes; and (c) at the promulgation of sentence. At such stages of the proceedings, his presence is required and cannot be waived. The RTC clearly exceeded its jurisdiction when it entertained the joint Motion for Reconsideration with respect to the respondents who were at large. It should have considered the joint motion as a motion for reconsideration that was solely filed by Estanislao. Being at large, Joven and Domingo have not regained their standing in court. Once an accused jumps bail or flees to a foreign country, or escapes from prison or confinement, he loses his standing in court; and unless he surrenders or submits to the jurisdiction of the court, he is deemed to have waived any right to seek relief from the court. Thus, Joven, Armando, and Domingo, were not placed in double jeopardy because, from the very beginning, the lower tribunal had acted without jurisdiction. Verily, any ruling issued without jurisdiction is, in legal contemplation, necessarily null and void and does not exist. In criminal cases, it cannot be the source of an acquittal.