Ponente: MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.
This is a Petition for Review on certiorari of the Decision of respondent Appellate Court, which affirmed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court, Lucena City, Branch LIV, convicting petitioner (the accused-appellant) of Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (The Bouncing Checks Law) on the basis of the Stipulation of Facts entered into between the prosecution and the defense during the pre-trial conference in the Trial Court. At the hearing of August 23, 1985, only the prosecution presented its evidence. At the subsequent hearing on September 17, 1985, petitioner-appellant waived the right to present evidence and, in lieu thereof, submitted a Memorandum confirming the Stipulation of Facts. The Trial Court convicted petitioner-appellant.
On appeal, respondent Appellate Court upheld the Stipulation of Facts and affirmed the judgment of conviction. Hence, this recourse, with petitioner-appellant contending that the Honorable Respondent Court of Appeals erred in the decision of the Regional Trial Court convicting the petitioner of the offense charged, despite the cold fact that the basis of the conviction was based solely on the stipulation of facts made during the pre-trial on August 8, 1985, which was not signed by the petitioner, nor by his counsel. In Sec.4 of the Rules on Criminal Procedures:
SEC. 4. Pre-trial agreements must be signed. — No agreement or admission made or entered during the pre-trial conference shall be used in evidence against the accused unless reduced to writing and signed by him and his counsel. (Rule 118) [Emphasis supplied]
Having been effective since January 01, 1985, the above rule is applicable.
Whether or not the omission of the signature of the accused and his counsel, as mandatorily required by the Rules, renders the Stipulation of Facts inadmissible in evidence.
YES. Judgment of respondent Appellate Court is REVERSED and this case is hereby ordered RE-OPENED and REMANDED to the appropriate Branch of the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City, for further reception of evidence.
By its very language, the Rule is mandatory. Under the rule of statutory construction, negative words and phrases are to be regarded as mandatory while those in the affirmative are merely directory (McGee vs. Republic, 94 Phil. 820 ). The use of the term “shall” further emphasizes its mandatory character and means that it is imperative, operating to impose a duty which may be enforced (Bersabal vs. Salvador, No. L-35910, July 21, 1978, 84 SCRA 176). And more importantly, penal statutes whether substantive and remedial or procedural are, by consecrated rule, to be strictly applied against the government and liberally in favor of the accused (People vs. Terrado No. L-23625, November 25, 1983, 125 SCRA 648).