Online petition asks to reopen Chiong sisters case

PROJECT JURISPRUDENCE'S NOTE: An allegation of mistrial, something that defeats justice and due process, may be used as a ground to reopen a case. However, certain rules such as immutability of judgments, speedy disposition of cases and double jeopardy must be taken into consideration. Also, one of the requisites for the reopening of a case is that the motion to reopen must be filed before the finality of judgment.

THE CASE: The Chiong murder case was an incident on July 16, 1997 in Cebu, in which sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong allegedly were kidnapped, raped, and murdered.

THE PETITION: Due to the alleged mistrial and unfair conviction of the suspects, several netizens called to revisit the case of the Chiong sisters, allegedly kidnapped, raped and one of them murdered in 1997. ( on Facebook)

Online petition urges Duterte, SC to reopen ‘Chiong sisters’ case; Rosette Adel ( - July 19, 2018 - 6:40pm; Read more at

How often does a movie spark outrage and reignite the consciousness of a new generation of Filipinos about the miscarriage of justice? Not often, but it happened this week. The film is called Jacqueline Comes Home starring Meg Imperial and Donnalyn Bartolome, and it is based on a sensational case from the late 1990s.

CABARLES vs. JUDGE MACEDA ON REOPENING OF CRIMINAL CASES: Did Judge Maceda act with grave abuse of discretion in issuing motu proprio the April 1, 2003 Order reopening the case, before judgment was rendered, to receive the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses after both parties had rested their case? Did the said order violate Cabarles’s right to due process and speedy disposition of his case?

On the first issue, Cabarles insists that Judge Maceda gravely abused his discretion when he ordered the reopening of the case before promulgation of judgment although both parties had already rested their case. Cabarles argues that a case may only be reopened after a judgment of conviction has been made but before its finality, as provided in Section 24, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Cabarles insists that the reopening of a case under Section 24 presupposes that judgment has already been promulgated, which is not the case here. According to petitioner, the cases cited by the People are not at all applicable in this case since they were tried and decided before the introduction of Section 24 under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

For Judge Maceda, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) contends that Section 24 is a new provision which merely formalized the long accepted practice of judges of reopening a case to avoid a miscarriage of justice. This being the case, jurisprudence providing that a judge has the discretion to reopen a case even before promulgation of judgment still holds.

After a thorough consideration of the submissions by the parties, we find that the petition is meritorious.

A motion to reopen a case to receive further proofs was not in the old rules but it was nonetheless a recognized procedural recourse, deriving validity and acceptance from long, established usage. This lack of a specific provision covering motions to reopen was remedied by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which took effect on December 1, 2000.

The April 1, 2003 Order was issued under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Section 24, Rule 119 and existing jurisprudence stress the following requirements for reopening a case: (1) the reopening must be before the finality of a judgment of conviction; (2) the order is issued by the judge on his own initiative or upon motion; (3) the order is issued only after a hearing is conducted; (4) the order intends to prevent a miscarriage of justice; and (5) the presentation of additional and/or further evidence should be terminated within thirty days from the issuance of the order.

Generally, after the parties have produced their respective direct proofs, they are allowed to offer rebutting evidence only. However, the court, for good reasons, in the furtherance of justice, may allow new evidence upon their original case, and its ruling will not be disturbed in the appellate court where no abuse of discretion appears. A motion to reopen may thus properly be presented only after either or both parties had formally offered and closed their evidence, but before judgment is rendered, and even after promulgation but before finality of judgment and the only controlling guideline governing a motion to reopen is the paramount interest of justice. This remedy of reopening a case was meant to prevent a miscarriage of justice.

However, while Judge Maceda is allowed to reopen the case before judgment is rendered, Section 24 requires that a hearing must first be conducted. Judge Maceda issued the April 1, 2003 Order without notice and hearing and without giving the prosecution and accused an opportunity to manifest their position on the matter. This failure, to our mind, constitutes grave abuse of discretion and goes against the due process clause of the Constitution which requires notice and opportunity to be heard. The issuance of the said order, without the benefit of a hearing, is contrary to the express language of Section 24, Rule 119.

Although the defense counsel had cross-examined Pedrosa and had participated in the proceedings after the case was reopened by Judge Maceda, the same does not amount to a waiver of Cabarles’s objection to the April 1, 2003 Order. To be effective, a waiver must be certain and unequivocal. Here, Cabarles filed the present petition seeking for a writ of certiorari against Judge Maceda before Pedrosa was cross-examined. Also, when asked to comment on the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence taken after the case was reopened, Cabarles objected to its admission on the ground that the same was inadmissible having been received by the court after Judge Maceda issued the questioned order.
On the second issue, Cabarles maintains that contrary to Judge Maceda’s observation, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present its case as seen by the issuance of several subpoenas to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen. Cabarles argues that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty and should not be made to wait indefinitely for prosecution witnesses to testify. To do so would violate his constitutional right to due process and a speedy disposition of his case. According to Cabarles, the reopening of the case is clearly detrimental to him since it meant another day in prison.

The OSG counters that the reopening of the case was made in accordance with Section 24 since the prosecution is entitled to the reopening of the case to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Furthermore, Cabarles’s right to a speedy trial had not been violated since delays caused by the absence of a prosecution witness are excluded when computing the time within which trial should start under Section 3, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Although the matter of reopening a case for reception of further evidence is largely a matter of discretion on the part of the trial court judge, this judicial action must not, however, be done whimsically, capriciously and/or unreasonably. In this particular case, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present all its witnesses but it failed to do so. The failure of the prosecution to take full advantage of the opportunities given does not change the fact that it was accorded such opportunities. Contrary to the justification stated in the April 1, 2003 Order, the prosecution was not deprived of its day in court. While it may be true that due to some confusion with the trial court’s calendar, some of the trial dates assigned to the prosecution did not push through and some of the subpoenas issued to Pedrosa and/or Dr. Salen pertained to hearing dates which were different from those assigned for reception of prosecution’s evidence, still the prosecution had a total of four hearing dates when it was given the chance to prove its case: May 23, June 20 and 27, and August 1, 2001. The presence of prosecution witnesses in court is the responsibility of the public prosecutor and it is incumbent upon him to take the initiative of ensuring the attendance of his witnesses at the trial.

Since Judge Maceda issued the questioned order without complying with the third requirement of Section 24, that there be a hearing conducted before the order to reopen is issued, then the assailed order must be annulled and set aside for having been issued contrary to law and consequently with grave abuse of discretion.

On Cabarles’s right to a speedy disposition of his case, we agree that under the Constitution, all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases. Nowhere is this guaranty more significant and meaningful than in criminal cases where not only the fortune, but the life and liberty of the accused as well, are at stake. (G.R. No. 161330; February 20, 2007)