Intermediate review of death penalty cases by the Court of Appeals.


Q —    May the Supreme Court provide that such cases shall first be reviewed by the Court of Appeals? Why?


ANS:   Yes, because the Constitution is not preclusive in character. While the Constitution requires a mandatory review by the Supreme Court of cases where the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment, or death, nowhere, however, has it proscribed an intermediate review. If only to ensure utmost circumspection before the penalty of death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment is imposed, the Court now deemed it wise and compelling to provide in these cases a review by the Court of Appeals before the case is elevated to the Supreme Court. Where life and liberty are at stake, all possible avenues to determine his guilt or innocence must be accorded an accused, and no care in the evaluation of the facts can ever be overdone. A prior determination by the Court of Appeals on, particularly, the factual issues, would minimize the possibility of an error of judgment. If the Court of Appeals should affirm the penalty of death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, it could then render judgment imposing the corresponding penalty as the circumstances so warrant, refrain from entering judgment and elevate the entire records of the case to the Supreme Court for its final disposition. In this instance, then, the Supreme Court may exercise its “exclusive appellate jurisdiction” over all cases where the penalty of death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment is imposed by lower courts, under applicable laws like Republic Act No. 296 and Batas Pambansa Blg. 129. (People vs. Mateo, 433 SCRA 64, [2004]).