On 20 may 1994, after the prosecution in the criminal case for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 rested its case, the defense asked orally for leave of court to file a written demurrer to evidence. Trial court judge made inferences to both the prosecution and defense and ruled to deny the demurrer; that if the defense would insist to file a written demurrer, they waive their right to present evidence, otherwise it will be dilatory; and if the defense will not present their evidence in that same day, their right to present evidence is deemed waived. Petitioner Bernardo filed the instant petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals on the ground that when it refused to allow petitioner to demur to the evidence the appellate court decided the matter not in accordance with law and applicable decisions of this Court. Petitioner submits that when her counsel moved for leave to file a demurrer to evidence on 20 May 1994 this meant that she intended to make a written demurrer after extensive research and with proper authorities to support the same; that when the trial court denied her motion, it was in effect a denial only of the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence and not the demurrer to evidence itself and, therefore, the order of respondent appellate court allowing petitioner to present her evidence was premature. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the petitioner.
ISSUE: Can the petitioner be allowed to present evidence to support its demurrer to evidence after her motion for leave to admit such demurrer was denied?
[T]he new rule on demurrer to evidence the accused has the right to file a demurrer to evidence after the prosecution has rested its case. If the accused obtained prior leave of court before filing his demurrer, he can still present evidence if his demurrer is denied. However, if he demurs without prior leave of court, or after his motion for leave is denied, he waives his right to present evidence and submits the case for decision on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution. This power to grant leave to the accused to file a demurrer is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. The purpose is to determine whether the accused in filing his demurrer is merely stalling the proceedings.
In the case at bar, petitioner admits that in the hearing of 20 May 1994 the trial court denied her motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence. In such case, the only right petitioner has under Sec. 15, Rule 119, of the Rules of Court after having been denied leave to submit a demurrer is to adduce evidence in her defense. However, even without express leave of the trial court, nay, after her motion for leave was denied, petitioner insisted on filing a demurrer instead of presenting evidence in her defense.
Judicial action to grant prior leave to file demurrer to evidence is discretionary upon the trial court. But to allow the accused to present evidence after he was denied prior leave to file demurrer is not discretionary. Once prior leave is denied and the accused still files his demurrer to evidence or motion to dismiss, the court no longer has discretion to allow the accused to present evidence. The only recourse left for the court is to decide the case on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution. And, unless there is grave abuse thereof amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, which is not present in the instant case, the trial court’s denial of prior leave to file demurrer to evidence or motion to dismiss may not be disturbed. However, any judgment of conviction by a trial court may still be elevated by the accused to the appellate court.