G.R. No. 2423. December 19, 1905

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5 Phil. 442

[ G.R. No. 2423. December 19, 1905 ]




The death penalty having been imposed upon defendant by the court
below, this case has been submitted to this court for revision (en consulta),
without appeal on the part of said defendant. The crime charged in the
information is that of brigandage, of which he has been found guilty by
the court below.

The defense in this case neither denies nor discusses the guilt of
defendant.; but requests that the trial be declared null and void, on
the ground that the rules of procedure were infringed during the same.

The facts on which this,petition is based are as follows: Upon being
asked whether he pleaded guilty to the crime of which he had been
accused, the defendant replied literally that it was true that he was accompanying the pulajanes; but that he had been kidnapped. The judge, considering this reply a plea of “guilty,” ordered it to be substituted for that of “not guilty,
and directed that the trial continue, it being suspended immediately
thereafter, by request of the fiscal. Upon the reopening of the trial,
and previous to the taking of evidence, the attorney for defendant
requested that the plea of not guilty be changed to that of guilty,
which petition was denied by the judge as contrary to the law. The
defense took no exception to this decision, and the trial continued
without any protest or objection on the part of the same.

The defense now argues that the judge committed an error of law,
violating one of the essential rights of the defendant, in denying the
aforesaid request that the plea of not guilty be changed to that of
guilty, and that such error vitiates and annuls the whole trial.

We do not concur in the opinion of the judge, considering said
petition in absolute terms as illegal and contrary to law. In fact, we
see no reason why the defendant should not be allowed to plead guilty
after having entered a plea of not guilty, as such plea can
not in any event injure anybody except himself. We do not know of any
law prohibiting this, and the mere fact that there is no provision of
law expressly authorizing it can not be understood as a prohibition. By
this we do not wish to say that after having entered a plea of not guilty, the defendant has the right to change the same to a plea of guilty
at all times and in all cases, because after a plea to the charge has
been entered in due form, it is in the power and discretion of the
judge to allow the substitution of the plea entered for another. We
therefore have here not an absolute right of the defendant, but a
right, if we may call it so, subject to the discretion of the court.

Although the judge could permit the substitution of one plea for
another without infringing any provision of law thereby, as seems to
have been his belief when he declared that such substitution was
contrary to law, nevertheless no essential right of the defendant was
violated by the denial of his petition, because the action thereon
depended, as we have said, on the discretion of the court. For this
reason, as well as in view of the fact that it has not been proved that
harm of any kind has been caused thereby to the defendant, the
allegation of the nullity of the trial, made in the brief of the
defense, is unfounded and improper.

Considering the merits of the case, the death penalty imposed upon
the defendant seems excessive to us. We consider the penalty of life
imprisonment (prision perpetua) more adequate to the crime, which we declare sufficiently established.

Reversing the sentence submitted for revision, we sentence the defendant to the penalty of life imprisonment (prision perpetua)
with the costs of this instance against defendant. Judgment to this
effect to be rendered after the lapse of twenty days, and this case to
be returned to the court below for the execution thereof. So ordered.

Arellano, C. J., Johnson, Carson, and Willard, JJ., concur.

Date created: April 28, 2014


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