Remedial Law

People of the Philippines vs Cristina Hernandez

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G.R. No. 108028 – 328 Phil. 1123 – 260 SCRA 36 – 93 OG No. 36 – Remedial Law – Criminal Procedure – Rule 118; Pre-Trial; Stipulations – Trial; Stipulations

Evidence – Admissions; Judicial Admissions – Admissions by Counsel – Admissions of Fact

Cristina Hernandez was convicted of large scale illegal recruitment and was sentence to life imprisonment. She is now appealing her conviction on the ground that one of the elements of the crime – that she was not authorized by the POEA to engage in recruitment – was not proven during trial. What happened during trial was that, the prosecution and the defense merely stipulated on this fact – that she was not licensed by the POEA. The prosecution did not present any witnesses from the POEA by reason of this stipulation. Cristina now argues that such stipulation should not be the basis of her conviction because it is the duty of the prosecution to prove all elements of the crime and not rely on stipulations entered into between the parties.

ISSUE: Whether or not Cristina Hernandez’ conviction is proper.

HELD: Yes. In the earlier cases (during the American occupation), it was strictly prohibited for a court to convict an accused based on stipulations. However, under the Rules on Pre-Trial in Criminal Cases (Rule 118), facts may already be stipulated on.

Will such stipulations be the basis of convicting an accused?

Yes. A stipulation of facts by the parties in criminal cases has long been allowed and recognized as declarations constituting judicial admissions, hence, binding upon the parties. (Note: Admissions during pre-trial are judicial admissions. In fact, parties and their counsels are required to sign the pre-trial order.)

Suppose the stipulations were made not during pre-trial but during trial are they still judicial admissions considering the fact that no order, like a pre-trial order, is subsequently issued to be signed by the parties?

Yes. Under Section 4, Rule 129. The stipulation of facts proposed during trial by prosecution and admitted by defense counsel is tantamount to a judicial admission by the appellant of the facts stipulated on. Controlling, therefore, is Section 4, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court which provides that:

An admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof. The admission may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable mistake or that no such admission was made.

But such admissions during trial are usually made by the counsel, why should it bind the accused?

The general rule is: a client is bound by the acts of his counsel who represents him. For all intents and purposes, the acts of a lawyer in the defense of a case are the acts of his client. The rule extends even to the mistakes and negligence committed by the lawyer except only when such mistakes would result in serious injustice to the client.

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Note: Hence, if the stipulation pertains to an element of the crime, it is best not to admit. Let the prosecution prove the element. If there was an admission, your remedy is to present evidence to prove that the admission was a mistake but you must do so before judgment by the trial court.

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