Jul 26, 2020 @ 13:40

Court reverses acquittal of lawyer Lorna Kapunan in unjust vexation case

The Manila regional trial court has reversed the acquittal of feisty lawyer Lorna Kapunan by the Metropolitan trial court in connection with the unjust vexation case filed by University of Santo Tomas College of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina against her in 2018.

In a four-page decision, Manila RTC Branch 11 Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. nullified on certiorari the orders of Manila MTC Branch 17 Judge Karla Funtila Abugan issued on January 2, 2020 and January 22, 2020 for grave abuse of discretion.

“The case at bar involves a judgment of acquittal. And needless to say, such judgment is covered by the” finality of acquittal doctrine. ” This principle is based on the fact that to reverse a judgment of acquittal and to enter a decision of conviction could put an accused in jeopardy twice…”

“The remedy of certiorari under Rule 65 envelops the instant petition. A judgment of acquittal may only be assailed in a petition for Certiorari under Rule 65…Furthermore, there must be a clear showing that the trial court unmistakably abused its authority to an extent, so grave, as to divest it of its power to administer justice, ” Judge Cicero’s decision reads in part.

Also, it explained that it was the task of a court to determine if the court a quo (court of origin) committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in the exercise of its judgment.

” After a meticulous perusal of the decision, order and records of the case, the Court is convinced that there is merits in the petition. It is apparent that private respondent’s (Kapunan) statement is annoying and vexations to petitioner Divina. The term ‘obstructionist’ is upsetting to him…, ” the decision read.

In reversing the ruling of the MTC, the RTC sentenced Kapunan to a penalty of arresto menor or imprisonment of one (1) day to 30 days.

Also, the court ordered Kapunan to pay Divina P1, 000,000 as moral damages, P1, 000,000 as exemplary damages, and P500, 000 as attorney’s fees.

In the assailed decision, Judge Abugan stressed the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of Kapunan, the lawyer of the family of hazing victim Horacio Castillo III.

Also, the court cleared Kapunan of any civil liability after the prosecution failed “to establish by preponderance of evidence the accused’s statement constitutes a culpable act of vexing Dean Divina.”

Divina accused Kapunan of issuing derogatory remarks when the latter was quoted to have said that the former knew of Castillo’s initiation rites but did nothing about it.

He stressed that Kapunan’s statement gave him “mental anguish, sleepless nights, and a damaged reputation.”

But the MTC said that “there is a possibility, no matter how slight or remote, that the statement was uttered in good faith and with good intentions.”

Also, the court noted that Kapunan, being the counsel of Castillo’s family, was authorized to” advance the interest of clients within the bounds of the law. ”

Castillo, then a 22-year-old freshman at the Faculty of Civil Law in the University of Santo Tomas, died of “severe blunt traumatic injuries” after allegedly
undergoing the initiation rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity on September 17, 2017.

At least 10 Aegis Juris fratmen are now facing charges before the Manila regional trial court.

SEE ATTACHMENT HERE:  Divina v Kapunan Decision

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