Susan Go filed BP 22 cases against Fernando Dimagiba. In 1999, Baguio MTCC 4 convicted Fernando. Fernando appealed his conviction but Baguio RTC 5 affirmed the conviction. Fernando did not appeal to the Court of Appeals hence, his conviction became final. Thereafter, Baguio MTCC 4 ordered the arrest of Fernando. Meanwhile, Fernando’s counsel by way of motion filed with MTCC 4, sought to have the penalty amended. Fernando invoked SC-AC No. 12-2000 (Re: Penalty for Violation of B. P. Blg. 22) which imposed fine as penalty to first time offenders in lieu of imprisonment. MTCC 4 denied the motion on the ground that it cannot modify the judgment of the RTC. Fernando was eventually arrested and placed in jail.
After his commitment in jail, Fernando filed a petition for habeas corpus which was raffled to Baguio RTC 5. Fernando argued that under SC-AC No. 12-2000, the penalty imposable to first time offenders convicted under BP 22 is fine and not imprisonment; that penal laws may be given retroactive effect if favorable to the accused (here, Fernando was convicted in 1999 and the circular was issued in 2000) RTC 5 agreed with Fernando and it ordered Fernando to pay a fine of Php100k in lieu of imprisonment. Fernando was subsequently released.
1. Whether or not the petition for habeas corpus is proper in this case.
2. Whether or not SC-AC No. 12-2000 must be given retroactive effect
1. No. The rule is: The writ of habeas corpus may not be availed of when the person in custody is under a judicial process or by virtue of a valid judgment. Hence, habeas corpus is not a post-conviction remedy. Exceptions to his rule are:
(1) there has been a deprivation of a constitutional right resulting in the restraint of a person;
(2) the court had no jurisdiction to impose the sentence; or
(3) the imposed penalty has been excessive, thus voiding the sentence as to such excess
On its face, the petition for habeas corpus had basis because it was seeking for the retroactive effect of SC-AC No. 12-2000. However, based on the record, it is more apparent that the petition for habeas corpus is a misused remedy because Fernando’s motion to amend his penalty was already denied by the MTCC. Instead of appealing the denial, he filed a habeas corpus case with the intent of finding a favorable court.
2. No. SC-AC No. 12-2000 is not a penal law. It merely lays down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties for violation of B.P. Blg. 22. It does not amend B.P. Blg. 22, nor defeat the legislative intent behind the law. SC Admin. Circular No. 12-2000 merely urges the courts to take into account not only the purpose of the law but also the circumstances of the accused – – whether he acted in good faith or on a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence – – and such other circumstance which the trial court or the appellate court believes relevant to the penalty to be imposed.
The case was remanded to MTCC 4 for the re-arrest of Fernando.