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Case Digest: Norma de Joya vs. The Jail Warden of Batangas City – GR Nos. 159418-19

Case Title: Norma de Joya vs. The Jail Warden of Batangas City

Case Number: GR Nos. 159418-19, December 10, 2003

Doctrine/Relevant Topic: Theories of criminal law – Positivist of Realistic Theory

Facts:

       Norma de Joya filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus praying for her release from the Batangas City Jail on the claim that her detention was illegal. This case stemmed from two instances of bouncing checks issued by De Hoya. Separate violations of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (B.P. 22) were charged against the petitioner. During the trial, the petitioner jumped bail. Petitioner was found guilty in both criminal cases but failed to appear in court despite being given ample notice.

       She remained at large, and no appeals were filed against any of the aforementioned decisions, making the judgments final. During the time of her hiding, the Court issued Supreme Court Administrative Circular (AC) No. 12-2000 on November 21, 2000, enjoining all courts and judges concerned to take notice of the ruling and policy of the Court enunciated in Vaca v. Court of Appeals and Lim v. People with regard to the imposition of the penalty for violations of B.P. Blg. 22.

       Thereafter, following five years of hiding, the petitioner was apprehended while applying for an NBI clearance on December 3, 2002, where she was arrested and taken to the Batangas City Jail. On July 28, 2003, the petitioner filed an urgent motion with the Municipal Trial Court of Batangas City, asking the court to retroactively apply SC Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 in accordance with Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code and order her release from detention. The motion was opposed by the public prosecutor. The trial court denied the motion in an Order dated August 15, 2003.

Issues:

  1. Whether or not Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 can be applied retroactively in this case; and
  2. Whether or not the petition for writ of habeas corpus have merit.

Held:

       For the first issue, the court ruled that A.C. No. 12-2000 cannot be given retroactive application. Her plea that as provided for in Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code, A.C. No. 12-2000 as modified by A.C. No. 13-2001 should benefit her has no basis.

       Firstly, A.C.  No. 12-2000 is not a penal law; hence, Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code is not applicable. Second, as explained by the Court in A.C. No. 13-2001, A.C. No. 12-2000 merely lays down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties for violation of B.P. 22. It does not amend B.P. 22, nor defeat the legislative intent behind the law.

       The clear tenor and intention of A.C. 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. 22. The pursuit of this purpose clearly does not foreclose the possibility of imprisonment for violators of B.P. 22. Neither does it defeat the legislative intent behind the law.

       It merely establishes a rule of preference in the application of the penal provisions of B.P. 22 such that where the circumstances of both the offense and the offender clearly indicate good faith or a clear mistake of fact without the taint of negligence, the imposition of a fine alone should be considered as the more appropriate penalty.

       On the second issue, the Court ruled in the negative since the petitioner was arrested and detained as a result of the final judgment of the Municipal Trial Court of Batangas City convicting her of violating B.P. 22. Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, as amended, states that the writ of habeas corpus is not permitted if the person alleged to be deprived of 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.

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