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De Joya vs. Jail Warden of Batangas City

Habeas Corpus Special Proceedings Case Digests

Facts: Petitioner Norma De Joya was charged separately with violations of BP 22. When arraigned in both cases, petitioner pleaded not guilty. While trial was going on, petitioner jumped bail.  No evidence was thereby adduced in her defense in any of the two cases. The Court found the her guilty. Petitioner remained at large and no appeal was filed from any of the said decisions. After five years, petitioner was finally arrested while she was applying for an NBI clearance. She was forthwith detained at the Batangas City Jail. Subsequently, she filed an urgent motion with the MTC of Batangas City asking the court to apply SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 retroactively pursuant to Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code and to order her release from detention. In an Order dated August 15, 2003, the trial court denied the motion on three grounds: (a) its decision convicting the petitioner of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 had long become final and executory; hence, could no longer be amended to change the penalty imposed therein; (b) the SC Circular should be applied prospectively; and (c) the SC Circular did not amend B.P. Blg. 22, a substantive law, but merely encourages trial court judges to have a uniform imposition of fine. Petitioner thus filed a petition for habeas corpus before the Supreme Court praying for her release from the Batangas City Jail on the claim that her detention was illegal.


Issue: Is petitioner entitled to a writ habeas corpus?


Held:  No. Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, as amended, provides that the writ of habeas corpus is not allowed if the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record:

Sec. 4.  When writ not allowed or discharged authorized. If it appears that the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that the court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment; or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if the jurisdiction appears after the writ is allowed, the person shall not be discharged by reason of any informality or defect in the process, judgment, or order.  Nor shall anything in this rule be held to authorize the discharge of a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the Philippines, or of a person suffering imprisonment under lawful judgment.

In this case, the petitioner was arrested and detained pursuant to the final judgment of the MTC of Batangas City, convicting her of violation of B.P. Blg. 22. Irrefragably then, the petitioner is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus.

Petitioners reliance of our ruling in Ordonez v. Vinarao that a convicted person is entitled to benefit from the reduction of penalty introduced by the new law, citing People v. Simon, is misplaced.  Thus, her plea that as provided for in Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code, SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 as modified by SC Admin. Circular No. 13-2001 should benefit her has no basis.

First.  SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 is not a penal law; hence, Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code is not applicable. The circular applies only to those cases pending as of the date of its effectivity and not to cases already terminated by final judgment.

Second.  As explained by the Court in SC Admin. Circular No. 13-2001, SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 merely lays down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.  It does not amend B.P. Blg. 22, nor defeat the legislative intent behind the law.  SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 merely urges the courts to take into account not only the purpose of the law but also the circumstances of the accused whether he acted in good faith or on a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence and such other circumstance which the trial court or the appellate court believes relevant to the penalty to be imposed.

The clear tenor and intention of Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 is not to remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty, but to lay down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties provided for in B.P. Blg. 22. The pursuit of this purpose clearly does not foreclose the possibility of imprisonment for violators of B.P. Blg. 22.  Neither does it defeat the legislative intent behind the law. (De Joya vs. Jail Warden of Batangas City, G.R. Nos. 159418-19.  December 10, 2003)

 

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