Remedial Law; Admissibility of text messages as evidence. As to the admissibility of the text messages, the RTC admitted them in conformity with the Court’s earlier Resolution applying the Rules on Electronic Evidence to criminal actions. Text messages are to be proved by the testimony of a person who was a party to the same or has personal knowledge of them.
Remedial Law; Arrest without valid warrant is not a ground for acquittal. Accused lament that they were arrested without a valid warrant of arrest. But, assuming that this was so, it cannot be a ground for acquitting them of the crime charged but for rejecting any evidence that may have been taken from them after an unauthorized search as an incident of an unlawful arrest.
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Under the Department of Finance Department Order No. 12-2014, importers must secure an Importer Clearance Certificate from the BIR as part of their accreditation with the Bureau of Customs.
In turn, the BIR issued Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 10-2014 to prescribe the policies, guidelines and procedure to accredit and revoke the accreditation of importers and customs brokers. The documentary requirements in support of the Importer Clearance Certificate include: BIR Certificate of Registration, latest Annual Income Tax Return with Audited Financial Statements, latest Mayor’s Permit, and a Certificate of Good Standing issued by the SEC to prove compliance with reportorial requirements. To be eligible for accreditation, the applicant must satisfy criteria such as not having “stop-filer” cases, accounts receivable or delinquent accounts with the BIR. It should have no record of pending tax evasion cases or unresolved issues arising from discrepancies in its declared income or expenses as may be tagged under the BIR’s Reconciliation Lists for Enforcement (RELIEF) System and Tax Reconciliation System.
Accreditation shall be valid for three years from issuance but compliance with the criteria shall be verified on a semestral basis.
Legal Ethics; A judge cannot be subjected to liability for any of his official acts, no matter how erroneous, as long as he acts in good faith. To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment.
Administrative complaints against judges cannot be pursued simultaneously with the judicial remedies accorded to parties aggrieved by the erroneous orders or judgments of the former. Administrative remedies are neither alternative to judicial review nor do they cumulate thereto, where such review is still available to the aggrieved parties and the cases have not yet been resolved with finality. In the instant case, complainant had in fact availed of the remedy of a motion for reconsideration prior to his filing of the administrative complaint.
Undue delay. The rules and jurisprudence are clear on the matter of delay. Failure to decide cases and other matters within the reglementary period constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanction against the erring magistrate.9The penalty to be imposed on the judge varies depending on the attending circumstances of the case. In deciding the penalty to be imposed, the Court takes into consideration, among others, the period of delay, damage suffered by the parties as a result of the delay; complexity of the case; number of years the judge has been in the service; the health and age of the judge; and the case load of the court presided over by the judge.
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Civil law; Article 41 of the Family Code requires that the present spouse has a well-founded belief that the prior spouse was already dead. Mere absence of the spouse (even for such period required by the law), lack of any news that such absentee is still alive, failure to communicate or general presumption of absence under the Civil Code would not suffice. This conclusion proceeds from the premise that Article 41 of the Family Code places upon the present spouse the burden of proving the additional and more stringent requirement of “well-founded belief” which can only be discharged upon a showing of proper and honest-to-goodness inquiries and efforts to ascertain not only the absent spouse’s whereabouts but, more importantly, that the absent spouse is still alive or is already dead.
The law did not define what is meant by “well-founded belief.” It depends upon the circumstances of each particular case. Its determination, so to speak, remains on a case-to-case basis. To be able to comply with this requirement, the present spouse must prove that his/her belief was the result of diligent and reasonable efforts and inquiries to locate the absent spouse and that based on these efforts and inquiries, he/she believes that under the circumstances, the absent spouse is already dead. It requires exertion of active effort (not a mere passive one).
Strict standard prescribed under Article 41 of the Family Code is for the present spouse’s benefit. The requisite judicial declaration of presumptive death of the absent spouse (and consequently, the application of a stringent standard for its issuance) is also for the present spouse’s benefit. It is intended to protect him/her from a criminal prosecution of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code which might come into play if he/she would prematurely remarry sans the court’s declaration.
Upon the issuance of the decision declaring his/her absent spouse presumptively dead, the present spouse’s good faith in contracting a second marriage is effectively established. The decision of the competent court constitutes sufficient proof of his/her good faith and his/her criminal intent in case of remarriage is effectively negated. Thus, for purposes of remarriage, it is necessary to strictly comply with the stringent standard and have the absent spouse judicially declared presumptively dead.
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On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court issued a TRO in connection with a petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. In the suit, the IBP questioned the implementation of BIR Revenue Regulations No. 4-2014 which requires self-employed professionals to submit, among others, an affidavit indicating the rates, manner of billings, and the factors considered in determining service fees. The IBP argued that the Revenue Regulations violate attorney-client privilege and encroach upon the Supreme Court’s exclusive power to regulate members of the Bar.
Considering that only the IBP brought suit against the BIR, the coverage of the TRO is limited to lawyers.
Constitutional law; Unsolicited commercial communications, also known as “spam” is entitled to protection under freedom of expression. To prohibit the transmission of unsolicited ads would deny a person the right to read his emails, even unsolicited commercial ads addressed to him. Commercial speech is a separate category of speech which is not accorded the same level of protection as that given to other constitutionally guaranteed forms of expression but is nonetheless entitled to protection. The State cannot rob him of this right without violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Unsolicited advertisements are legitimate forms of expression.
Criminal law; Cyberlibel under Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Law is constitutional. The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that libel is not a constitutionally protected speech and that the government has an obligation to protect private individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is actually not a new crime since Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the Penal Code, already punishes it. In effect, Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes “similar means” for committing libel. But the Court’s acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the author of the libelous statement or article. Cyberlibel brings with it certain intricacies, unheard of when the Penal Code provisions on libel were enacted. The culture associated with internet media is distinct from that of print.
Criminal law; Section 5 of the Cybercrime Law that punishes “aiding or abetting” libel on the cyberspace is a nullity. The terms “aiding or abetting” constitute broad sweep that generates chilling effect on those who express themselves through cyberspace posts, comments, and other messages. Its vagueness raises apprehension on the part of internet users because of its obvious chilling effect on the freedom of expression, especially since the crime of aiding or abetting ensnares all the actors in the cyberspace front in a fuzzy way. What is more, as the petitioners point out, formal crimes such as libel are not punishable unless consummated. In the absence of legislation tracing the interaction of netizens and their level of responsibility such as in other countries, Section 5, in relation to Section 4(c)(4) on Libel, Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, cannot stand scrutiny.
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Taxation; The CTA has jurisdiction over a special civil action for certiorari assailing an interlocutory order issued by the RTC in a local tax case. In order for any appellate court to effectively exercise its appellate jurisdiction, it must have the authority to issue, among others, a writ of certiorari. In transferring exclusive jurisdiction over appealed tax cases to the CTA, it can reasonably be assumed that the law intended to transfer also such power as is deemed necessary, if not indispensable, in aid of such appellate jurisdiction. There is no perceivable reason why the transfer should only be considered as partial, not total.
Consistent with the above pronouncement, this Court has held as early as the case of J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Jaramillo, et al. [118 Phil. 1022 (1963)] that “if a case may be appealed to a particular court or judicial tribunal or body, then said court or judicial tribunal or body has jurisdiction to issue the extraordinary writ of certiorari, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.” This principle was affirmed in De Jesus v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 101630, August 24, 1992) where the Court stated that “a court may issue a writ of certiorari in aid of its appellate jurisdiction if said court has jurisdiction to review, by appeal or writ of error, the final orders or decisions of the lower court.
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