I am a domestic helper. I was charged with qualified theft by my boss in December 2017. The Office of the Prosecutor, however, dismissed the complaint for lack of evidence. Today, I received another complaint for robbery. I consulted a friend of my mother who is a law student. She advised me that my boss can no longer charge me for another crime, considering that double jeopardy has set in. I raised it with the handling prosecutor but the latter ignored me. Now, I am confused. Can you please enlighten me about the concept of double jeopardy, and is it applicable to my case?
Thank you very much,
Section 21, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “no person shall be put twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense xxx.” In its bare essence, the double jeopardy clause provided by the Bill of Rights of our Constitution is a form of protection for individuals from endless litigation.
Moreover, the Rules of Criminal Procedure, particularly Section 7, Rule 117, illustrates when the right of the accused against double jeopardy may be invoked, to wit:
“Section 7. Former conviction or acquittal; double jeopardy. — When an accused has been convicted or acquitted, or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to another prosecution for the offense charged, or for any attempt to commit the same or frustration thereof, or for any offense which necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the former complaint or information.
This was emphasized in a decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Sally Go Banyagan vs. Resally De Asis Delfin penned by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza (G.R. No. 172792, October 19, 2011), which states that double jeopardy attaches if the following elements are present: (1) a valid complaint or information; (2) a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) the defendant had pleaded to the charge; and (4) the defendant was acquitted or convicted, or the case against him was dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent.
Applying the foregoing to your case, it may be noted that your right against double jeopardy may not be invoked for the reason that: first, there was no information filed in a court of competent jurisdiction; second, you have not yet pleaded to the charge filed against you; lastly, the dismissal of the case was not done by the court of competent jurisdiction. To reiterate the foregoing, the case for qualified theft was dismissed by the prosecutor for lack of evidence and before the same has been filed in a court of competent jurisdiction. Clearly, the above-mentioned enumerations were met.
We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.