Avoid disaster: review the information before going to trial

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo

Have you checked the information in your case lately? Information as in indictment, that is.

That should seem routine. But a case we defended - purporting to be a violation of the Trust Receipts Law - was dismissed on demurrer because the prosecution did not see the need to prove criminal intent, apparently misapprehending the crime actually charged in the information. The prosecution went to trial thinking that since the charge was for violation of a special law, intent to commit the crime is not an element required for conviction.

In our motion to dimiss, we argued that, while the information was indeed captioned "For Violation of the Trust Receipts Law", the allegations in the information did not make out a violation of that law - it actually charged estafa, which is a violation of the Revised Penal Code, a general law. Therefore, criminal intent is an essential element which must be proved.

In a death penalty case which we handled pro bono, the death sentence was reduced to reclusion perpetua when it was on automatic review by the Supreme Court, the Court noting that since the information did not allege that the crime charged is qualified by the relationship of the victim with the convicted rapist (the victim was a niece of the accused), the crime can't come under the law on heinous crimes. The information did not allege the relationship as a qualifying circumstance, but was only proven during the trial.

Look at the information carefully; if there's anything in it which needs to be changed or added, it should ideally be done before the accused pleads on arraignment. Doing so after may prove difficult and may only delay the prosecution.