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People v. Sandiganbayan
On May 21, 2004, private respondent was charged with violation of Section 89 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 14452 before the Sandiganbayan. On October 20, 2004, private respondent was arraigned for which he pleaded not guilty. The prosecution presented its lone witness, Manolo Tulibao Villad, Commission on Audit (COA) State Auditor. Thereafter, the prosecution filed its formal offer of evidence and rested its case. On April 20, 2006, private respondent filed a motion4 for leave to file demurrer to evidence. On June 16, 2006, the Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution5 granting the motion. On June 30, 2006, private respondent filed his demurrer6 to evidence. The Sandiganbayan granted the demurrer to evidence. The Petitioner filed a Petition for Ceritorari contending that the prosecution was able to establish all the elements of the offense. Private respondent counters that the grant of a demurrer to evidence is equivalent to an acquittal from which the prosecution cannot appeal as it would place the accused in double jeopardy. Further, assuming that the Sandiganbayan erroneously granted the demurrer, this would, at most, constitute an error of judgment and not an error of jurisdiction. Thus, certiorari does not lie to correct the grant of the demurrer to evidence by the Sandiganbayan.
Whether or not the grant of a demurrer to evidence in this case has the effect of an acquittal.
Yes. In criminal cases, the grant of a demurrer is tantamount to an acquittal and the dismissal order may not be appealed because this would place the accused in double jeopardy. Although the dismissal order is not subject to appeal, it is still reviewable but only through certiorari on the ground of 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 thus rendering the assailed judgment void. In the case at bar, the Sandiganbayan granted the demurrer to evidence on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove that the government suffered any damage from private respondent’s non-liquidation of the subject cash advance. Actual damage to the government arising from the non-liquidation of the cash advance is not an essential element of the offense. The Sandiganbayan proceeded from an erroneous interpretation of the law and its implementing rules, the error committed was an error of judgment and not of jurisdiction. Petitioner failed to establish that the dismissal order was tainted with grave abuse of discretion such as the denial of the prosecution’s right to due process or the conduct of a sham trial. In fine, the error committed by the Sandiganbayan is of such a nature that can no longer be rectified on appeal by the prosecution because it would place the accused in double jeopardy. It is clear that the dismissal of the criminal case against the private respondents was erroneous. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruled that the judgment dismissing the Information, although based upon an erroneous interpretation of the law, was in effect a judgment on the merits from which no appeal lay on the part of the prosecution as it would place the accused in double jeopardy. However erroneous the order of respondent Court is, and although a miscarriage of justice resulted from said order, such error cannot now be righted because of the timely plea of double jeopardy.