“The rule of ‘double jeopardy’ had a settled meaning in this jurisdiction… [i]t meant that when a person is charged with an offense and the case is terminated either by acquittal or conviction or in any other manner without the consent of the accused, the latter cannot again be charged with the same or identical offense” (Melo v. People, G.R. L-3580, March 22, 1950).
It is found in the common law of England, the Spanish law, the Constitution of the United States, and in our own Constitution as one of the fundamental rights of citizens.
“‘(T)he fundamental tenet animating the Double Jeopardy Clause is that the State should not be able to oppress individuals through the abuse of the criminal process.’ Because the innocence of the accused has been confirmed by a final judgment, the Constitution conclusively presumes that a second trial would be unfair” (People v. Arcega, G.R. 237489, August 27, 2020).
The protection of the Constitution against a person being put twice in jeopardy for the “same offense” extends to an act that is punished both by law and ordinance.
Hence, the “conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act” (see Section 21, Article III, 1987 Constitution).
“The phrase same offense… has always been construed to mean… that the second offense… is exactly the same as the one alleged in the first (criminal) information, [and] that the two offenses are identical. There is identity [of] offenses when the evidence to support a conviction for one offense would be sufficient to warrant a conviction for the other” (Melo v. People, G.R. L-3580, March 22, 1950).
“Under [the] Rules [of Court] there is identity between two offenses not only when the second offense is exactly the same as the first, but also when the second offense is an attempt to commit the first or a frustration thereof, or when it necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the first information” (Melo v. People, G.R. L-3580, March 22, 1950 citing U.S. v. Lim Suco, 11 Phil. 484).
“In other words, one who has been charged with an offense cannot be again charged with the same or identical offense though the latter be lesser or greater than the former… the Government cannot begin with the highest, and then go down step by step, bringing the man into jeopardy for every dereliction included therein…” (Melo v. People, G.R. L-3580, March 22, 1950).
However, “where after the first prosecution a new fact supervenes for which the defendant is responsible, which changes the character of the offense and, together with the facts existing at the time, constitutes a new and distinct offense…, the accused cannot be said to be in second jeopardy if indicted for the new offense.”
In the case of Melo v. People, Conrado Melo was charged with frustrated homicide for allegedly inflicting serious wounds upon Benjamin Obillo with the use of a kitchen knife, requiring medical attention for more than 30 days.
On the morning of December 29, 1949, the accused pleaded not guilty to the offense charged, and in the evening of the same day the victim Obillo died from his wounds (G.R. L-3580, March 22, 1950).
“In order that the protection against double jeopardy may inure in favor of an accused (defendant), the following requisites must [be present] in the original prosecution: (a) a valid complaint or information; (b) a competent court; (c) the defendant had pleaded to the charges; and (d) the defendant was acquitted, or convicted, or the case against him was dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent” (People v. Obsania, G.R. L-24447, June 29, 1968).
In the case of People v. Obsania, Willy Obsania, armed with a dagger, raped the complainant Erlinda Dollente, in the rice fields of Sitio Cawakalan, Barrio Capulaan, Pangasinan. The accused Obsania pleaded not guilty upon arraignment and moved for the dismissal of the case for the failure of the criminal information to allege “lewd designs” (G.R. L-24447, June 29, 1968).
Despite the inclusion of the allegation “lewd designs” in the criminal information, the accused claimed that it did not cure the jurisdictional infirmity.
The trial court granted the motion and ordered dismissal of the action, causing the prosecution to file an appeal.
The question to be answered was whether the appeal of the Government (through the prosecution) constitutes double jeopardy.
To answer this question, it must be determined whether the dismissal or termination of the original case was with or without the express consent of the defendant.
“[W]hen the case is dismissed with the express consent of the defendant, the dismissal will not be a bar to another prosecution for the same offense; because, [it]… constitutes a waiver of his constitutional right or privilege,… prevent[ing] the court from proceeding to the trial on [its] merits and rendering a judgment of conviction against him” (G.R. L-24447, June 29, 1968).
“In essence, this Court held that where a criminal case is dismissed provisionally not only with the express consent of the accused but even upon the urging of his counsel, there can be no double jeopardy… if the indictment against him is revived by the fiscal” (G.R. L-24447, June 29, 1968).
In the case of People v. Alejandro, the accused was charged with two counts of rape of a 12-year old minor, AAA.
After the prosecution presented AAA as witness, accused manifested in open court that he would no longer present any evidence for the defense and submitted the case for decision (G.R. 223099, January 11, 2018).
The Regional Trial Court promulgated a decision acquitting the accused.
On the same day, the RTC recalled the decision upon motion of the prosecution that there were Orders that were inadvertently placed in the record of the case involving the same accused but with a different private complainant-victim.
The accused filed a Motion for Reconsideration arguing “that a judgment of acquittal is immediately final and executory and can neither be withdrawn nor modified, because to do so would place him in double jeopardy.”
The motion was denied, and the accused was found guilty of two counts of rape.
“What is peculiar in this case is that a judgment of acquittal was rendered based on the mistaken notion that the private complainant failed to testify… allegedly because of the mix-up of orders with a different case involving the same accused-appellant” (G.R. 223099, January 11, 2018).
This, however, does not change the fact that a judgment of acquittal that had been promulgated is final, unappealable, and immediately executory.
“The rule on double jeopardy, however, is not without exceptions, which are: (1) Where there has been deprivation of due process and where there is a finding of a mistrial, or (2) Where there has been a grave abuse of discretion under exceptional circumstances.” The exceptions are not present because the prosecution was able to present their case and their witnesses.
In the case of People v. Arcega, accused Domingo Arcega was charged and convicted with attempted rape in the RTC of Iriga City.
The accused appealed to the Court of Appeals, which modified the judgment of the RTC, finding him guilty of acts of lasciviousness only (G.R. No. 237489, August 27, 2020).
The issue to be resolved was whether the Government may assail the Court of Appeals’ decision modifying the RTC Judgment from attempted rape to acts of lasciviousness.
The Supreme Court, citing People v. Balunsat, declared that “[w]e can no longer review the ‘downgrading’ of the crime by the appellate court without violating the right against double jeopardy, which proscribes an appeal from a judgment of acquittal or for the purpose of increasing the penalty imposed upon the accused” (G.R. 237489, August 27, 2020).
“(T)he underlying idea,… is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent, he may be found guilty” (G.R. 237489, August 27, 2020 citing People v. Hon. Velasco).