G.R. No. 1329. April 15, 1904

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3 Phil. 691

[ G.R. No. 1329. April 15, 1904 ]




Under the inquisitorial system of criminal procedure, a judgment
rendered by a Court of First Instance in a criminal case did not become
final until the supreme court of the district to which the trial court
belonged had approved the judgment, as the law required every decision,
either of acquittal or conviction, to be reviewed by the supreme court,
whether the parties appealed or not. Consequently, in case of the
reversal of the judgment of the trial court whether on review or appeal
it was the decision of the supreme court which was executed.

This being so, it is evident that even although the accused or the
private prosecutor should withdraw an appeal from the judgment of the
court, the case would take the same course in the second instance, and
in case of an appeal by the prosecution, the appeal could not be
withdrawn because it was the duty of the prosecuting officer, under the
law, to appear for the Government in all criminal cases. Consequently,
under the inquisitorial system, the prosecuting officer could not
withdraw an appeal taken from a decision of the trial court.

It was the practice under that system if the attorney-general after
an examination of the record, became convinced that an appeal taken by
the district prosecuting attorney from an order directing the release
or imprisonment of an accused person was without merit, for him to
withdraw the appeal, and ask that the record be returned to the trial
court for the execution of the order appealed, which, by reason of such
withdrawal, became at once a finality, and could be executed.

These were the only cases in which the attorney-general could
withdraw an appeal from a final or interlocutory order. With respect to
such orders, it was also permissible for the accused or the prosecuting
witness to withdraw an appeal, the approval of the supreme court not
being indispensable to the validity of such orders.

After a criminal case had been prosecuted through both instances the
judgment of the local supreme court was a final judgment, and the
supreme court of Spain could only take jurisdiction over it by writ of
error, with the exception of cases in which the death penalty was
imposed, as to which a writ of error was allowed by operation of law
for the benefit of the accused.

In cases in which a writ of error was sued out by the local
attorney-general against the decision of the local supreme court, the
attorney-general of the supreme court of Spain, in case he was of the
opinion that the writ was not advisedly sued out, if it concerned a
question of law, communicated his decision to the attorney-general of
the court to which the writ was directed, so that he might so inform
the local court; but if the writ was based upon some breach of form,
and had been allowed, and the attorney-general of the supreme court of
Spain believed it to be unsustainable, he could dismiss the writ and
the corresponding, chamber of the supreme court would communicate to
the local court the order permitting such dismissal.

These are the provisions of articles 876 and 877 of the Law of
Criminal Procedure of 1872, to which reference is made by the provision
of the law for the application of the Penal Code under the
inquisitorial system which prevailed before the enactment in these
Islands of General Orders, No. 58. This order, which was dated April
23, 1900, established for the first time in this Archipelago the
accusatorial system, although with some modifications tending to
prevent the transition from being too violent, and to facilitate the
change from one system to another. The provisions of section 50 of
General Orders, No. 58, are the result of this modification. Under this
section the only cases which were brought before the Supreme Court in
accordance with the old system were those already appealed and those in
which the death penalty is imposed, or the judgment is for imprisonment
for a greater period than six years, or a fine of more than 1,250
pesos. If the penalty imposed was imprisonment exceeding one year or a
fine of over 250 pesos, section 50 provided for the procedure to be
followed. This has been done away with by Act No. 194, passed by the
Civil Commission.

Section 4 of Act No. 194 provides that it shall no longer be
necessary to forward to the Supreme Court or to the Attorney-General’s
department the records of criminal cases for revision or consideration,
except where the death penalty is imposed, unless such case shall have
been duly appealed as provided in General Orders, No. 58. But the
records of all cases in which the death penalty shall have been imposed
by any Court of First Instance, whether the defendant appeals or not,
are to be forwarded to the Supreme Court for investigation and
judgment, as the law and justice shall dictate.

This act of the Civil Commission, which modified General Orders, No.
58, has established the radical effects of final judgments under the
accusatorial system in criminal cases, as every decision, whether of
conviction or acquittal, with the exception of those imposing the death
penalty, becomes final by operation of law if an appeal is not taken
from it within fifteen days from the date of its rendition.

In case the district attorney has appealed from a judgment of
acquittal by the trial court, and the Attorney-General or the
Solicitor-General see fit to withdraw the appeal, it is within their
authority to do so under the present system of procedure. Is it the
duty of the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General to state in a
notice of the withdrawal of an appeal the reasons upon which the action
is based, and can the court require him to give those reasons? We
believe not, for the Attorney-General Or the Solicitor-General are at
liberty to act in such matters at their discretion, and such a
withdrawal is equivalent to the consent of those officers to the
judgment appealed—it is equivalent to a statement on the part of the
Attorney-General that in his judgment the decision of the court below
is correct, and the opinion of the district attorney erroneous.

It must be remembered that under the inquisitorial system it was the
duty of the district attorneys to interpose appeals in due time and
form, subject to the decision of their immediate superiors as to the subsequent progress of the appeal. (Art. 166 of the royal cedula of January 30, 1855, and art. 458, par. 5, of the decretal law of January 5, 1891.)

If the power of the attorney-general of the old supreme court was
ample with respect to the control of appeals taken by his subordinates
under the inquisitorial regime, it is evident that those powers are
much greater under the accusatorial system, in which the mere silence
of the parties, including the fiscal, is sufficient to give finality to
an unappealed decision.

We consider that the statement made by the Attorney-General or the
Solicitor-General in the notice of withdrawal of appeal, that it is not
considered that the appeal is sustainable, is quite sufficient. We do
not think it necessary to require an expression of the reasons upon
which the conclusion is based, as the statement implies a concurrence
in the view taken by the trial court. Under the accusatorial system the
sphere of action of the prosecuting officers has been greatly widened.
They not only represent the law, with the right to inspect the action
of the court on behalf of the Government, but have a more direct and
active participation in the proceedings at the
trial; upon them devolves the defense of the public interests,
threatened by crime, as though the prosecuting officer were the person
directly injured by the offense. But it is also of interest to society
that an innocent person be free from molestation, and therefore the
prosecuting attorneys should only institute proceedings and make use of
the machinery of the law when in their opinion justice requires such

In criminal cases there are always two opposing interests, that of
society, which demands that the crime be punished, and that of the
accused, who has an absolute right to his defense. Upon the supposition
that in accordance with the fundamental principles underlying the
accusatorial system, courts and judges should be passive and neutral in
the contest between the prosecution and the defense, it must be
admitted that the fate of the accused and the success of the
prosecution depend upon the good
faith, the. zeal, skill, and intelligence of the prosecuting attorney.
The present system has placed in the hands of the prosecuting attorneys
the power to prosecute and punish every crime and offense, with the
exception of those of a private character, and consequently upon them
depends the realization of the purposes of the law.

If the provincial fiscal might have consented to the judgment
appealed, without having taken any appeal whatever from it, the
prosecuting officers are also entitled to withdraw the appeal upon
reaching the conclusion that the provincial fiscal was not justified in

If the Supreme Court of these Islands is without jurisdiction to
examine or revise a criminal case in which a final judgment has been
rendered and the parties have not appealed, we do not think that it has
jurisdiction to discuss the propriety or impropriety of the withdrawal
by the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General of an appeal deemed to
have been improperly taken by a provincial fiscal. The officer who may
before trial withdraw the information may also, in our opinion,
withdraw an appeal, and the court, in conformity with the principles of
the accusatorial system and the express provisions Of section 4 of Act
No. 194, feels constrained to permit the withdrawal of this appeal.

For the reasons stated we are of the opinion that the
Solicitor-General should be permitted to withdraw the appeal in
question, and that the case should be remanded to the trial court. So

Arellano, C. J., Willard, Mapa, and McDonough, JJ., concur.

Cooper, J., dissents.

Date created: December 05, 2018


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