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Canaveras v. Judge Gamboa – delos Santos

Atty. Adan, counsel for defendants in a criminal case for FOPDBPI, failed to appear during a scheduled hearing. The Respondent Judge ordered and ruled that Atty. Adan’s absence thereto is to be construed as a waiver on defense’s part to cross examine prosecution’s witness. 

For his part, and during the presentation of the prosecution’s second witness, Atty. Adan explained that he consulted a doctor during the date of the hearing because of the pain he experienced in his eyes. However, the Judge denied Atty. Adan’s MFR to the earlier order primarily because the medcert he presented was not notarized. Moreover, the accused invoked their right to cross-examine an adverse witness which was violated when the Judge construed their counsel’s absence as a waiver of said right. They also assailed the constitutionality of Sec. 10(b) of JA Rule, whose effect was the same as that of the Judge’s order.

On the other hand, the Judge said that she did not apply JA Rule in her order, but instead the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases.

ISSUE: Did Counsel’s failure to attend the hearing amounted to a waiver of the constitutional right to cross examine witnesses?

RULING: NO. The right of petitioners to cross-examine Nenita, being a basic and fundamental right, should be seen as paramount. While the State has the right to due process, such right should not prevail over the accused’s constitutional right to confront and cross-examine opposing witnesses when it is not shown that the accused applied machinations to unreasonably deny the prosecution of its ability to prove its case. 

Nonetheless, the constitutionality of the JA Rule, not being the lis mota of the case, was not passed upon. The Court ultimately resolved that the order was valid insofar as its ground is the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases, NOT the JA Rule.

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