This is a petition for review on certiorari
of orders dated June 9, 1995 and July 19, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati (Branch 64) sustaining an order of the Metropolitan Trial Court (Branch 65) for the reinstatement of the information for less serious physical injuries against petitioner Gerard S. Mosquera, which the MeTC had previously allowed to be withdrawn by the prosecution. The reinstatement of the case was made on motion of the offended party.
The prosecution in the MeTC arose out of a physical encounter between petitioner and private respondent Mark E. Jalandoni within the premises of the Ateneo Law School on June 21, 1993. Petitioner is a graduate of the law school and a member of a fraternity in that school. On the other hand, private respondent was then a third-year student enrolled in the law school. There is considerable dispute how the fight took place. Petitioner’s version was that he had gone to the law school and happened to meet respondent Jalandoni. Because Jalandoni had a previous altercation with another member of petitioner’s fraternity, petitioner tried to talk to Jalandoni, but the latter reacted belligerently and the two had a fight. On the other hand, Jalandoni claimed that petitioner and members of petitioner’s fraternity simply attacked him upon seeing him, for a remark which they claimed he (Jalandoni) had made, which caused a female student to cry. The female student was a friend of one of the fraternity members.
Be that as it may, as a result of the scuffle, a criminal complaint for frustrated homicide was filed by private respondent against petitioner and five others, namely, Gavino R. Meneses, Jr., Ronald B. Almeida, Alfredo B. Lagamon, Jr., Walter S. Ong, and Jayme A. Sy, Jr., before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Rizal.
After the usual preliminary investigation, Second Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Herminio T. Ubana, Sr. recommended the filing of an information for less serious physical injuries against petitioner, Gavino R. Meneses Jr., Ronald B. Almeida and Alfredo B. Lagamon, Jr. and the dismissal of the charges against Walter S. Ong and Jayme Sy, Jr. The recommendation was approved by Rizal Provincial Prosecutor Mauro M. Castro on January 10, 1994.
Accordingly, an information for less serious physical injuries was filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati, Metro Manila on January 17, 1994 against petitioner and Gavino R. Meneses, Jr., Ronaldo B. Almeida and Alfredo B. Lagamon, Jr. The case, docketed as Criminal Case No. 147366, was assigned to Branch 65 of the MeTC and tried in accordance with the Rule on Summary Procedure. The arraignment was set on July 29, 1994, at 8:30 A.M., but petitioner filed a motion before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for the reconsideration of the resolution finding probable cause against him. As his motion was denied by the Provincial Prosecutor, petitioner appealed to the Department of Justice which, on July 20, 1994, directed the Provincial Prosecutor to withdraw the information.
Accordingly, Second Assistant Prosecutor Benjamin R. Bautista filed a motion to withdraw the information in Criminal Case No. 147366. Private respondent in turn moved for reconsideration of the resolution of the Department of Justice but his motion was denied.
In its order dated October 13, 1994, 1 the MeTC, presided over by respondent Judge Felicidad Y. Navarro-Quiambao, granted the motion of the prosecution and considered the information against petitioner withdrawn. The MeTC stated in its order:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Considering the time limit given by the Court to said counsel in the order dated August 15, 1994 within which it pursue the motion for reconsideration [of DOJ Resolution No. 525, Series of 1994] and without said counsel having informed this Court of the outcome of the same, 2 it can safely be concluded that private counsel had lost interest to further prosecute the case. Moreover, Atty. Valdez acting as private counsel in the prosecution of the instant criminal case is under the direct control and supervision of the Trial Fiscal, who by virtue of the Department of Justice resolution was impliedly ordered to desist from prosecuting the case for lack of probable cause. In view thereof, the Court is of the opinion that the motion of the Trial Fiscal should be accorded weight and significance, as it was premised on the findings that the filing of the information in question has no legal basis.
On motion of private respondent, however, the MeTC reconsidered its order. In its order dated December 29, 1994, the MeTC said: 3
After carefully weighing the arguments of the parties in support of their respective claims, the Court believes that the weight of the evidence and the jurisprudence on the matter which is now presented for resolution heavily leaned in favor of complainant’s contention. As held in the cases recently decided by the Hon. Supreme Court, once a case is filed in Court, the latter acquires complete jurisdiction over the same without regard to technicalities and personal beliefs.
That while there is merit in the accused Gerard A. Mosquera’s claim that the institution of a criminal action depends upon the sound discretion of the Fiscal who may or may not file the complaint or information, when in his opinion the evidence is insufficient to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the same is true only when the case is not in Court yet because after the case is already forwarded, raffled and assigned to a particular branch the Public Prosecutor loses control over the case.
It required the parties to appear before it on January 20, 1995, at 9:00 A.M.
Petitioner moved for reconsideration but his motion was denied. 4 In its order, dated April 24, 1995, the MeTC also set the arraignment of petitioner and Meneses, Jr. on May 19, 1995.
Petitioner then filed a petition for certiorari
and prohibition in the Regional Trial Court of Makati. The case, docketed as Special Civil Case No. 95-718, was assigned to Branch 65, presided over by respondent Judge Delia H. Panganiban.
Initially the RTC issued a temporary restraining order but, on June 9, 1995, 5 it denied petitioner’s application for preliminary injunction. The RTC upheld the reinstatement of the information against petitioner and the other accused. With its denial of injunction the RTC considered the petition for certiorari
and prohibition as having been rendered moot and academic. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration which the RTC denied in its order of July 19, 1995.
Hence this petition for review on certiorari
and for an order:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
a. Reversing the Orders dated 09 June 1995 and 19 July 1995 (cf. Annexes "A" and "B") issued by respondent Judge Panganiban;
b. Setting aside, as null and void, the Orders dated 29 December 1994 and 24 April 1995 (cf . Annexes "R" and "T") issued by respondent Judge Quiambao;
c. Making the preliminary injunction final;
d. Prohibiting respondent Judge Quiambao from trying and hearing Criminal Case No. 147366; and
e. Declaring the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 147366 as final and executory in accordance with the Order dated 13 October 1994 issued by respondent Judge Quiambao.
Petitioner’s contention is that, because the direction and control of criminal prosecutions are vested in the public prosecutor, the motion for reconsideration of the order of October 13, 1994, which the private prosecutor filed without the conformity by the public prosecutor, was a nullity and did not prevent the order of dismissal from becoming final. Consequently, the MeTC gravely abused its discretion in afterward reinstating the information.
Undoubtedly private respondent, as complainant, has an interest in the maintenance of the criminal prosecution. The right of offended parties to appeal an order of the trial court which deprives them of due process has always been recognized, the only limitation being that they cannot appeal any adverse ruling if to do so would place the accused in double jeopardy. 6 We recently had occasion to reiterate this rule in Martinez v. Court of Appeals, 7 where, through the Chief Justice, we held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Under Section 2, Rule 122 of the 1988 Rules of Criminal Procedure, the right to appeal from a final judgment or order in a criminal case is granted to "any party," except when the accused is placed thereby in double jeopardy.
In People v. Guido, [57 Phil. 52 (1932)] this Court ruled that the word "party" must be understood to mean not only the government and the accused, but also other persons who may be affected by the judgment rendered in the criminal proceeding. Thus, the party injured by the crime has been held to have the right to appeal from a resolution of the court which is derogatory to his right to demand civil liability arising from the offense. The right of the offended party to file a special civil action of prohibition and certiorari
from an [interlocutory] order rendered in a criminal case was likewise recognized in the cases of Paredes v. Gopengco [29 SCRA 688 (1969)] and People v. Calo, Jr., [186 SCRA 620 (1990)] which held that "offended parties in criminal cases have sufficient interest and personality as "person(s) aggrieved" to file the special civil action of prohibition and certiorari
under Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 65 in line with the underlying spirit of the liberal construction of the Rules of Court in order to promote their object. . . .
Petitioner cites the following statement in Cabral v. Puno 8 in support of his contention that private respondent has no personality to file the motion in question:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
While it is true that the offended party, Silvino San Diego, through the private prosecutor, filed a motion for reconsideration within the reglementary fifteen-day period, such move did not stop the running of the period for appeal [from the order of dismissal of the information]. He did not have the legal personality to appeal or file the motion for reconsideration on his behalf. The prosecution in a criminal case through the private prosecutor is under the direction and control of the Fiscal, and only the motion for reconsideration or appeal filed by the Fiscal could have interrupted the period for appeal.
The case of Cabral, however, differs materially from this case. In Cabral, the offended party had lost his right to intervene because prior to the filing of the criminal case, he had instituted a civil action arising from the same act subject of the criminal case. On the other hand, in the case at bar, the right of private respondent to intervene in the criminal prosecution is well nigh beyond question as he had neither instituted a separate civil action nor reserved or waived the right to do so. 9
For the foregoing reasons, we hold that private respondent has the legal personality to file the motion for reconsideration in the trial court.
Beyond the personality of the private respondent to seek a reconsideration of the order of dismissal of the MeTC, the central issue in this case is whether in ordering the reinstatement of the information, the MeTC acted with grave abuse of discretion.
The MeTC invoked its authority under Crespo v. Mogul 10 to approve the withdrawal of informations after they have been filed in court, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
[O]nce a complaint or information is filed in Court any disposition of the case as its dismissal or the conviction or acquittal of the accused rests in the sound discretion of the Court. Although the fiscal retains the direction and control of the prosecution of criminal cases even while the case is already in Court he cannot impose his opinion on the trial court. The Court is the best and sole judge on what to do with the case before it. The determination of the case is within its exclusive jurisdiction and competence. A motion to dismiss the case filed by the fiscal should be addressed to the Court who has the option to grant or deny the same. It does not matter if this is done before or after the arraignment of the accused or that the motion was filed after a reinvestigation or upon instruction of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the records of the investigation.
Petitioner argues that by its order of October 13, 1994, the MeTC already exercised its authority under the Mogul doctrine to grant or deny the public prosecutor’s motion to withdraw the information and was thereafter precluded from changing its mind in absence of a motion for reconsideration filed by the public prosecutor.
This argument is untenable. The court could have denied the public prosecutor’s motion for the withdrawal of the information against petitioner, and there would have been no question of its power to do so. If it could do that, so could it reconsider what it had ordered. Every court has the power and indeed the duty to review and amend or reverse its findings and conclusions when its attention is timely called to any error or defect therein. 11 In this case, the motion for reconsideration was timely filed by the private prosecutor who, as already discussed, has the legal personality to do so.
Indeed, the MeTC must have realized that it had surrendered its exclusive prerogative regarding the withdrawal of informations by accepting public prosecutor’s say-so that the prosecution had no basis to prosecute petitioner. 12 Its order of October 13, 1994 was based mainly on its notion that "the motion of the Trial Fiscal should be accorded weight and significance as it was premised on the findings [of the Department of Justice] that the filing of the information in question has no legal basis."cralaw virtua1aw library
This certainly was not the exercise of discretion. As we said in Martinez, "whether to approve or disapprove the stand taken by the prosecution is not the exercise of discretion required in cases like this [under the Mogul ruling] . . . What was imperatively required was the trial judge’s own assessment of such evidence, it not being sufficient for the valid and proper exercise of judicial discretion merely to accept the prosecution’s word for its supposed insufficiency." 13
Unfortunately, just as in allowing the withdrawal of the information by the public prosecutor, the MeTC did not make an independent evaluation of the evidence, neither did it do so in granting the private prosecutor’s motion for reconsideration. In its order dated December 29, 1994, the MeTC simply stated that it was reinstating the case against petitioner because" [a]fter carefully weighing the arguments of the parties in support of their respective claims, the Court believes that the weight of the evidence and the jurisprudence on the matter which is now presented for resolution heavily leaned in favor of complainant’s contention" and that after a case has already been "forwarded, raffled, and assigned to a particular branch, the Public Prosecutor loses control over the case." The order contains no evaluation of the parties’ evidence for the purpose of determining whether there was probable cause to proceed against petitioner. The statement that the "weight of evidence . . . lean[s] heavily in favor of complainant’s [Jalandoni’s] contention" is nothing but the statement of a conclusion.
Nor could the MeTC rest its judgment solely on its authority under the Mogul doctrine to have the last word on whether an information should be withdrawn. The question in this case is not so much whether the MeTC has the authority to grant or not to grant the public prosecutor’s motion to withdraw the information — it does — but whether in the exercise of that discretion or authority it acted justly and fairly. In this case, the MeTC did not have good reason stated in its order for the reinstatement of the information against petitioner; just as it did not have good reason for granting the withdrawal of the information.
The matter should therefore be remanded to the MeTC so that it can make an independent evaluation of the evidence of the prosecution and on that basis decide whether to grant or not to grant the withdrawal of the information against petitioner.
WHEREFORE, the orders dated June 9, 1995 and July 19, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court are REVERSED and the orders of October 13, 1994 and December 29, 1994 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati, Branch 65 are SET ASIDE and the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati is ORDERED within ten (10) days from receipt of this decision to RESOLVE the public prosecutor’s motion to withdraw the information in Criminal Case No. 147366, stating in its order clearly the reason or reasons for its resolution, after due consideration of the evidence of the parties.
Regalado, Romero, Puno and Torres, Jr., JJ.
1. Petition, Annex M, Rollo, p. 223.
2. Apparently, unknown to the court, the Department of Justice had denied private respondent’s motion for reconsideration on October 4, 1994.
3. Petition, Annex. R, Rollo, pp. 278-279.
4. Petition, Annex T, Rollo, p. 295.
5. Petition, Annex A, Rollo, pp. 38-39.
6. Rule 122, §22. Thus an offended party has been held to have the right to (1) file a motion for reconsideration of a decision by the Supreme Court enjoining criminal prosecution (Guingona, Jr. v. City Fiscal of Manila, 137 SCRA 597 (1985)), or a special civil action for certiorari to question the validity of a judgment of acquittal (People v. Santiago, 174 SCRA 143 (1989)) or of an order granting the petition for bail (People v. Calo, Jr., 186 SCRA 620 (1990); People v. Dacudao, 170 SCRA 489 (1989)), or (2) furnish the trial court information material to the motion to dismiss filed by the fiscal (United States v. Barredo, 32 Phil. 442 (1915)), or (3) comment on a petition filed by the accused questioning the trial court’s order denying a motion to withdraw information (Dungog v. Court of Appeals, 159 SCRA 145 (1988)).
7. 237 SCRA 575, 581-82 (1994).
8. 70 SCRA 606, 610 (1976).
9. Rule 110, §16 provides: "Intervention of the offended party in criminal action. — Unless the offended party has waived the civil action or expressly reserved the right to institute it separately from the criminal action, and subject to the provision of Section 5 hereof, he may intervene by counsel in the prosecution of the offense."cralaw virtua1aw library
10. 151 SCRA 462, 471 (1987).
11. See Balayon Jr. v. Ocampo, 218 SCRA 13 (1993) citing Luzon Brokerage Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 176 SCRA 483 (1989).
12. Dee v. Court of Appeals, 238 SCRA 254 (1994); Martinez v. Court of Appeals, supra.
13. 237 SCRA at 585. Accord, Roberts v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113930, March 5, 1996.