An order of dismissal arising from the grant of a demurrer to evidence has the effect of an acquittal unless the order was issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
In criminal cases, the grant of a demurrer is tantamount to an acquittal and the dismissal order may not be appealed because this would place the accused in double jeopardy. Although the dismissal order is not subject to appeal, it is still reviewable but only through certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. For the writ to issue, the trial court must be shown to have acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction such as where the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham thus rendering the assailed judgment void. The burden is on the petitioner to clearly demonstrate that the trial court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice.
In United States v. Kilayko, the accused was charged with a violation under Section 12 of the Chattel Mortgage Law which prohibited the mortgagor from selling the mortgaged property without the consent of the mortgagee while the debt secured remained outstanding. The accused was arraigned for which he pleaded not guilty. Thereafter, he moved to dismiss the Information. After the prosecution and defense entered into a stipulation of facts, the trial court dismissed the case. On appeal by the prosecution to this Court, we acknowledged that the trial court erred in interpreting Section 12 when it ruled that the subsequent payment of the secured debt extinguished the accused’s criminal liability arising from the unlawful sale of the mortgaged property. Nonetheless, we ruled that the judgment dismissing the Information, although based upon an erroneous interpretation of the law, was in effect a judgment on the merits from which no appeal lay on the part of the prosecution as it would place the accused in double jeopardy.
In another case, People v. City Court of Silay, after the prosecution had presented its evidence and rested its case, the accused filed a motion to dismiss for insufficiency of evidence. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case. On appeal by the prosecution to this Court, we were of the view that the dismissal order was erroneous and resulted to a miscarriage of justice. However, we ruled that such error cannot be corrected because double jeopardy had already set in:
In the case of the herein respondents, however, the dismissal of the charge against them was one on the merits of the case which is to be distinguished from other dismissals at the instance of the accused. All the elements of double jeopardy are here present, to wit: (1) a valid information sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction of the crime charged, (2) a court of competent jurisdiction, and (3) an unconditional dismissal of the complaint after the prosecution had rested its case, amounting to the acquittal of the accused. The dismissal being one on the merits, the doctrine of waiver of the accused to a plea of double jeopardy cannot be invoked.
It is clear to Us that the dismissal of the criminal case against the private respondents was erroneous.
As correctly stated in the Comment of the Acting Solicitor General, the accused were not charged with substitution of genuine “tarjetas” with false ones. The basis for the accusation was that the accused entered false statements as to the weight of the sugar cane loaded in certain cane cars in “tarjetas” which were submitted to the laboratory section of the company. The act of making a false entry in the “tarjetas” is undoubtedly an act of falsification of a private document, the accused having made untruthful statements in a narration of facts which they were under obligation to accomplish as part of their duties – Ernesto de la Paz, as overseer of Hda. Malisbog, and the other accused as scalers of the offended party, the Hawaiian-Philippine Company, thereby causing damage to the latter.
However erroneous the order of respondent Court is, and although a miscarriage of justice resulted from said order, to paraphrase Justice Alex Reyes in People vs. Nieto, 103 Phil. 1133, such error cannot now be righted because of the timely plea of double jeopardy.