Tuesday, February 21, 2012

People vs. Beriales [No. L-39962 April 7, 1976]

Facts: Ricardo Beriales, Benedicto Custodio and Pablito Custodio were convicted of the crime of murder by CFI of Leyte. They have allegedly murdered one Saturnina Gonzales Porcadilla on September 14, 1974. Upon the hearing, appellants’ counsel moved for a reinvestigation of the case which was granted. Trial court postponed hearing until December 17 and 18, 1974. The fiscal filed a motion to defer the hearing until such time as the reinvestigation shall have terminated. The trial court, however, motu proprio cancelled the Dec. 17 & 18 hearing and reset the arraignment and trial to December 10 and 11, 1974. At the December 10 hearing, counsel of appellants manifested to the court that the city fiscal had set the reinvestigation on December 12, 1974 and had already sent subpoenas to the witnesses. The court nevertheless proceeded to hearing the next day, December 11. Upon appellants’ counsels insistence, the court relying on constitutional mandate of the right to a speedy trial, re-scheduled the hearing to December 13. 

On the day of the trial, counsel asked to the court to wait for the City Fiscal to appear since the Fiscal might be able to report on the reinvestigation. However, the court insisted on arraigning the appellants. Appelants refused to give a plea because they are waiting for the fiscal, the trial court entered a plea of “Not Guilty” for each of them. Appellants counsel manifested that they could not go to trial without the City Fiscal. For the same reason, counsel refused to cross-examine the witnesses presented. Counsel reiterated that they do not agree with the trial when defense was called to present evidence. Trial court considered the case to be submitted for decision and announced promulgation of the decision on December 17. 

Issues: 
(1) Whether or not the trial court should hold the trial until after the reinvestigation 

(2) Whether or not appellants were denied due process 

(3) Whether or not the fiscal should be present during proceedings 

Held: 
(1) After the trial court granted the appellants’ motion for reinvestigation, it became incumbent upon the court to hold in abeyance the arraignment and trial of the case until the City Fiscal shall have conducted and made his report on the result of such reinvestigation. 

(2) When the trial court ignored the appellants’ manifestations objecting to the arraignment and trial of the case, it committed a serious irregularity which nullifies the proceedings because such procedure is repugnant to the due process clause of the Constitution. 

(3) Although fiscal turns over active conduct of trial to private prosecutor, he should be present during the proceedings. While there is nothing in the rule of practice and procedure in criminal cases which denies the right of the fiscal to turn over the active conduct of the trial to a private prosecutor, nevertheless, his duty to direct and control the prosecution of criminal cases requires that he must be present during the proceeding.

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