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VILLAREAL vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
In February 1991, seven freshmen law students (all neophytes) of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law signified their intention to join the Aquila Legis Juris Fraternity (Aquila Fraternity). The latter were informed that there would be physical beatings, and that they could quit at any time. Their initiation rites were scheduled to last for three days. During the 2nd day of initiation, non-resident or alumni fraternity members Villareal, subjected the neophytes to "paddling" and to additional rounds of physical pain which cause the death of Leonardo Villa. Consequently, a criminal case for homicide was filed against the 35 Aquilans. Four of the accused (Tecson, et. al.) were found to be guilty of homicide by the trial court but was reduced to crime of slight physical injuries and sentenced to 20 days of arresto menor by the Court of Appeals. However, upon appeal to the Supreme Court by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Supreme Court ruled that they should be liable for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide instead. In Motions for Clarification or Reconsideration, Tecson et. al. clarified the effect of the decision of the Supreme Court to their criminal liability. According to Tecson et. al., they immediately applied for probation after the CA rendered its Decision lowering their criminal liability from the crime of homicide, which carries a non-probationable sentence, to slight physical injuries, which carries a probationable sentence. Hence, they have already been discharged from their criminal liability and the cases against them closed and terminated by virtue of their granted Applications for Probation for which the terms therein are already been complied with.
Whether or not, Tecson can be covered or eligible by the Probation Law despite their appeal of conviction.
Yes. Tecson are eligible to apply or reapply for probation in view of recent ruling in Colinares v. People of the Philippines, without prejudice to their remaining civil liability, if any. First, the Court in resolving this issue ruled that the RTC Branch 130 had no jurisdiction to act on the probation applications of Tecson et. al. for the law requires that an application for probation be filed with the trial court that convicted and sentenced the defendant, meaning the court of origin (Branch 121). Hence, its grant of probation with Tecson et. al. is void. However, the Court abandoning its previous stance on ineligibility of those who have appealed their conviction to probation, citing the then recent case of Colinares vs. People that the Probation Law never intended to deny an accused his right to probation through no fault of his. Had the RTC done what was right and imposed the correct penalty, he would have had the right to apply for probation. Moreover, the Court was quick to clarify that it remains that those who will appeal from judgments of conviction, when they have the option to try for probation, forfeit their right to apply for that privilege.
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