Political Law

Bernardino Marcelino vs Judge Fernando Cruz, Jr.

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G.R. No. L-42428 – 121 SCRA 51 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Rights of the Accused; Right to Speedy Trial – Promulgation vs Rendition of Judgment – Constitutional Period to Decide not Mandatory

Bernardino Marcelino was indicted for rape. On August 4, 1975, the prosecution finished presenting evidence against Marcelino and rested its case. On the same date, the attorneys of both parties in the criminal case moved for time within which to submit their respective memoranda. The presiding judge, Fernando Cruz, Jr., gave them 30 days or until September 4, 1975. Only Marcelino submitted a memoranda.

On November 28, 1975, Judge Cruz filed with the Clerk of Court a copy of his decision, his decision bears the same date of November 28, 1975. The promulgation of the decision was scheduled in January 1976. Marcelino is now contending that the court can no longer promulgate judgment because by January 1976, the 3-month period (90 day period) within which lower courts must decide on cases had already lapsed, thus, the lower court lost its jurisdiction over the case.

ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Cruz had resolved the case within the allotted period.

HELD: Yes. The case is deemed submitted for decision on September 4, 1975 (date of last day of filing of the memoranda by the respective parties). From that day, the 3-month period begins to run so Judge Cruz had until December 4, 1975 to rule on the case. Judge Cruz made a rendition of his decision on November 28, 1975. The date of rendition is the date of filing of the decision with the clerk of court. Hence, Judge Cruz was able to rule on the case within the 3-month period because November 28, 1975 was merely the 85th day from September 4, 1975.

The date of promulgation of a decision, in this case it was set in January 1976, could not serve as the reckoning date because the same necessarily comes at a later date.

Is the period to decide provided for by the Constitution mandatory?

Section 11 (1), Art 10 of the 1987 Constitution provides that “upon the effectivity of this constitution, the maximum period within which case or matter shall be decided or resolved from the date of its submission shall be; 18 months for the Supreme Court, 12 months for the inferior courts and 3 months for lower courts. In practice, the Supreme Court is liberal when it comes to this provision. The provision is not mandatory, it is merely directive. Extensions can be granted in meritorious cases. To interpret such provision as mandatory will only be detrimental to the justice system. Nevertheless, the SC warned lower court judges to resolve cases within the prescribed period and not take this liberal construction as an excuse to dispose of cases at later periods.

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