[A.M. No. MTJ-02-1437. August 20, 2003.]
(Formerly OCA IPI No. 01-1094-MTJ)
PROSECUTOR JAIME E. CONTRERAS, Complainant, v. JUDGE EDDIE P. MONSERATE, MCTC-Magarao, Camarines Sur, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Charges of "gross ignorance of the law" and "gross neglect of duty" were filed by the Provincial Prosecution Office of Camarines Sur, signed by 2nd Asst. Provincial Prosecutor and approved by the Provincial Prosecutor, against respondent Judge Eddie P. Monserate, of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Magarao-Canaman, Camarines Sur.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Specifically, respondent is charged of forwarding Criminal Case No. 3222, entitled "People of the Philippines v. Mario Zabaldica y Morandarte," to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor without first conducting the requisite preliminary investigation.
It appears that on November 27, 2000, SPO4 Prudente A. Belleza of Philippine National Police (PNP) filed a criminal complaint for frustrated homicide, docketed as Criminal Case No. 3222, against one Mario Zabaldica with the MCTC of Magarao-Canaman. The next day, Accused
through counsel, filed an Ex Parte Motion to Fix Bail, which the respondent judge granted.
On December 5, 2000, Judge Monserate ordered the release of Zabaldica from PNP custody for having posted corporate bond. That same day he also issued the following order:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
It appearing from the complaint that the accused was lawfully arrested without a warrant for an offense cognizable by the Regional Trial Court, and that accused failed to avail of his right to a preliminary investigation pursuant to Sec. 7 of Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, the information may now be filed with the proper court.
Send the records of this case to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for the filing of information. 1
Complainant laments that said order of respondent judge violated Section 3, 2 Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, which requires that in all criminal cases cognizable by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), but filed before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), the latter must always conduct a preliminary investigation to determine probable cause. According to complainant, respondent’s failure to conduct a preliminary investigation manifests his gross ignorance of the law and is a willful abdication of a duty imposed by law. Complainant further avers that Judge Monserate erred in relying upon Section 7, 3 Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure as said provision applies only to cases where it is the offended party, peace-officer, or the prosecutor who files a case before a court of competent jurisdiction, i.e., the RTC. Hence, according to complainant, said rule does not apply to cases filed before the MTC for the sole purpose of conducting a preliminary investigation, the results of which shall then be forwarded to the prosecutor who will then determine whether or not an information must be filed with the RTC.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In his Letter-Comment dated July 17, 2001, respondent judge vehemently denies the material allegations in the complaint. In justifying his actions, respondent judge insists that what really happened in Criminal Case No. 3222 is as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The stabbing incident occurred November 25, 2000 at around 10:00 P.M. Several hours after, the accused voluntarily gave himself up to the police at their residence. Since November 25, was a Saturday, the following day (Sunday) a complaint for frustrated homicide was made duly subscribed on that day but was officially filed [i]n Court on November 27, 2000. On November 28, 2000 the accused filed a motion to fix bail which the Court granted the very same day. On December 5, 2000, the records of the case was forwarded to Provincial Prosecution Office for the filing of an information without the Court conducting the preliminary investigation for failure of the accused to avail of his right pursuant to Sec. 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. On January 19, 2001, the records of the case was returned to the Court with an Order from Prosecutor Contreras [for Judge Eddie P. Monserate] to conduct a preliminary investigation and at the same time threatening the Presiding Judge that he will file an administrative charge for gross ignorance of the law if he will refuse. In spite of the threat, [Judge Monserate] returned the records of the case to the Provincial Prosecution Office for reason that preliminary investigation is not necessary under the rules and that accused himself has not requested for a preliminary investigation despite his knowledge that a complaint was filed against him. . . . 4
Relying on the above narration, respondent judge contends that he committed no error since pursuant to Section 7, Rule 112, an accused’s failure to avail of his right to preliminary investigation could be deemed a waiver thereof. In view of said "waiver," respondent judge concluded, it was but logical that he should forward the records of the case to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for the filing of the necessary information.
In its Evaluation, Report and Recommendation dated April 11, 2002, the Office of the Court Administrator found that respondent judge erred in invoking Section 7, Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure. According to the OCA, despite an accused’s failure to insist on his right to preliminary investigation, the respondent judge was still mandated to examine the complainant and his witnesses under oath to determine whether they had voluntarily appeared before him. If statements were given to a police investigator, he should examine the affiants personally to determine whether the evidence presented sufficed to engender a well-founded belief as to the fact of the commission of the crime, and that the accused is probably guilty thereof. After the conclusion of the preliminary investigation, the municipal judge is tasked with preparing a resolution, stating briefly the findings of facts and the law supporting his action, which together with the entire records should then be forwarded to the prosecutorial arm, according to OCA.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
We agree with the OCA’s findings and observations. Respondent judge’s reliance on Section 7, Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure 5 to justify his refusal to conduct a preliminary investigation is misplaced. Under the similarly entitled section now of Rule 112 already effective December 1, 2000, just before the December 5, 2000 Order of respondent judge was issued 6 , the only instance where an information for an offense which requires a preliminary investigation may be filed directly with the court is when an accused is lawfully detained without a warrant and he expressly refuses to waive in writing the provisions of Art. 125 7 of the Revised Penal Code. 8 If the accused refuses or fails to sign the requisite waiver, an information shall forthwith be filed against him, subject to his right to move for reinvestigation within five (5) days from the time he learns of the filing of said information. The right to have a preliminary investigation conducted before being bound over for trial for a criminal offense and hence at the risk of incarceration or some other penalty is not a mere formal or technical right but a substantive right. 9 Hence, any exception to the enjoyment of said right must be strictly construed. In the instant case, nowhere is it shown or indicated in the assailed order that the accused in Criminal Case No. 3222 refused to waive, expressly and in writing, the provisions of Art. 125. Moreover, that said accused did not resist arrest is immaterial, as voluntary surrender is not among the exceptions to the mandatory requirement of preliminary investigation in criminal prosecution. Respondent judge, therefore, had no valid reason to refuse conducting the preliminary investigation.
Respondent judge asserts that the Provincial Prosecution Office has no authority to order him to conduct a preliminary investigation inasmuch as the court’s primary duty is to hold trial and render decisions, and not to conduct preliminary investigations. His assertion is far from accurate. Respondent judge must be reminded of the duty imposed upon him by Section 1(a), 10 Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. Said provision speaks of the "proper officer" who shall conduct the "requisite preliminary investigation." Under Section 2 11 , Rule 112 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, a municipal court judge, like herein respondent, is a "proper officer" authorized to conduct a preliminary investigation. Further, a preliminary investigation is not a judicial function, and as such the findings of the investigating judge are subject to the oversight powers of the public prosecutor. Thus, in Cabarloc v. Cabusora, 12 we held that:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
When a municipal judge conducts a preliminary investigation, he performs a non-judicial function. His function is merely executive in nature. As such, the findings of an investigating judge are subject to review by the Provincial Fiscal whose findings in turn may also be reviewed by the Secretary of Justice in appropriate cases.chanrob1es virtua1 law library
Clearly, therefore, Provincial Prosecutor Agapito B. Rosales, 13 through his Second Asst. Provincial Prosecutor, had the authority to compel respondent judge to conduct a preliminary investigation in Criminal Case No. 3222.
Respondent’s failure to conduct a preliminary hearing is further compounded by his order granting bail to the accused in Criminal Case No. 3222, without the requisite hearing. In this jurisdiction, an application for bail requires that a reasonable notice of hearing be given to the public prosecutor or, at least, he must be asked for his recommendation. 14 As a judge, respondent is expected to comply with this elementary requirement.
Gross ignorance of the law, incompetence, and inefficiency are characteristics impermissible in a judge. 15 This Court has exhorted judges to possess more than a cursory knowledge of the rules on preliminary investigation, on bail, and the law governing the jurisdiction of the court. 16 Failure to observe the basic laws and rules is not only inexcusable, but also renders a judge susceptible to administrative sanction for gross ignorance of the law. In Arcilla v. Palaypayon, 17 we imposed a fine upon respondent judge for conducting a preliminary investigation and for issuing a warrant of arrest without notifying the accused. In Padua v. Molina, 18 a judge was fined by this Court for flouting the laws and rules governing preliminary investigation. And, in Dizon v. Calimag, 19 the respondent judge was found liable for gross ignorance of the law and fined in the amount of P2,000.00.
As to the penalty, the OCA recommends that Judge Monserate be reprimanded with a warning that the commission of a similar act would be dealt with more severely. We note that the administrative offense took place before the amendment of Rule 140, Rules of Court, by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC on September 11, 2001. However, in view of the nature of respondent’s infraction which prejudiced the prosecution as well as the accused, and considering further his disregard of a legally mandated duty, a fine of P2,000.00 is appropriate.
WHEREFORE, respondent JUDGE EDDIE P. MONSERATE of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Magarao-Canaman, Camarines Sur, is found LIABLE for manifest gross ignorance of the law and neglect of duty. He is hereby ORDERED to pay a FINE of Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos, with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or a similar act shall be dealt with more severely.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Bellosillo, Austria-Martinez and Tinga, JJ.
Callejo, Sr., J.
, is on leave.
1. Rollo, p. 12.
2. Sec. 3. Procedure. — Except as provided for in Section 7 hereof, no complaint or information for an offense cognizable by the Regional Trial Court shall be filed without a preliminary investigation having been first conducted in the following manner:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(a) The complaint shall state the known address of the respondent and be accompanied by affidavits of the complainant and his witnesses as well as other supporting documents, in such number of copies as there are respondents, plus two (2) copies for the official file. The said affidavits shall be sworn to before any fiscal, state prosecutor or government official authorized to administer oath, or, in their absence or unavailability, a notary public, who must certify that he has personally examined the affiants and that he is satisfied that they voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.
(b) If the investigating officer finds no ground to continue with the inquiry, he shall dismiss the complaint. Otherwise, he shall issue a subpoena to the respondent, attaching thereto a copy of the complaint, affidavits and other supporting documents and granting him ten (10) days from receipt within which he may submit counter-affidavits and other supporting documents. The respondent shall have the right to examine all other evidence submitted by the complainant.
(c) Such counter-affidavits and other supporting evidence submitted by the respondent shall also be sworn to and certified as prescribed in paragraph (a) hereof and copies thereof shall be furnished by him to the complainant.
(d) If the respondent cannot be subpoenaed, or if subpoenaed, does not submit counter-affidavits within the ten (10) day period, the investigating officer shall base his resolution on the evidence presented by the complainant.
(e) If the investigating officer believes that there are matters to be clarified, he may set a hearing to propound clarificatory questions to the parties or their witnesses, during which the parties shall be afforded an opportunity to be present but without the right to examine or cross-examine. If the parties so desire, they may submit questions to the investigating officer which the latter may propound to the parties or witnesses concerned.
(f) Thereafter, the investigation shall be deemed concluded and the investigating officer shall resolve the case within ten (10) days therefrom. Upon the evidence thus adduced the investigating officer shall determine whether or not there is sufficient ground to hold the respondent for trial.
3. Sec. 7. When accused lawfully arrested without warrant. — When a person is lawfully arrested without a warrant for an offense cognizable by the Regional Trial Court the complaint or information may be filed by the offended party, peace officer or fiscal without a preliminary investigation having been first conducted, on the basis of the affidavit of the offended party or arresting officer or person.
However, before the filing of such complaint or information, the person arrested may ask for a preliminary investigation by a proper officer in accordance with this Rule, but he must sign a waiver of the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, with the assistance of a lawyer and in case of non-availability of a lawyer, a responsible person of his choice. Notwithstanding such waiver, he may apply for bail as provided in the corresponding rule and the investigation must be terminated within fifteen (15) days from its inception.
If the case has been filed in court without a preliminary investigation having been first conducted, the accused may within five (5) days from the time he learns of the filing of the information, ask for a preliminary investigation with the same right to adduce evidence in his favor in the manner prescribed in this Rule.
4. Rollo, pp. 1–2.
5. Superseded by Section 7, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure effective December 1, 2000, which now reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
SEC. 7. When accused lawfully arrested without warrant. — When a person is lawfully arrested without a warrant involving an offense which requires a preliminary investigation, the complaint or information may be filed by a prosecutor without need of such investigation provided an inquest has been conducted in accordance with existing rules. In the absence or unavailability of an inquest prosecutor, the complaint may be filed by the offended party or a peace officer directly with the proper court on the basis of the affidavit of the offended party or arresting officer or person.
Before the complaint or information is filed, the person arrested may ask for a preliminary investigation in accordance with this Rule, but he must sign a waiver of the provision of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in the presence of his counsel. Notwithstanding the waiver, he may apply for bail and the investigation must be terminated within fifteen (15) days from its inception.
After the filing of the complaint or information in court without a preliminary investigation, the accused may, within five (5) days from the time he learns of its filing, ask for a preliminary investigation with the same right to adduce evidence in his defense as provided in this Rule.
6. Rollo, p. 21.
7. ART. 125. Delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities. — The penalties provided in the next preceding article shall be imposed upon the public officer or employee who shall detain any person for some legal ground and shall fail to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the period of: twelve (12) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties, or their equivalent; eighteen (18) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by correctional penalties, or their equivalent; and thirty-six (36) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by afflictive or capital penalties, or their equivalent.
In every case, the person detained shall be informed of the cause of his detention and shall be allowed, upon his request, to communicate and confer at any time with his attorney or counsel.
8. REGALADO, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM II, 7th Ed., p. 312.
9. Sales v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 143802, 16 November 2001, 369 SCRA 293, 301; Mondia, Jr. v. Deputy Ombudsman/Visayas Area, G.R. No. 132977, 29 November 2000, 346 SCRA 365, 370–371.
10. SEC. 1. Institution of criminal actions. — Criminal actions shall be instituted as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(a) For offenses where a preliminary investigation is required pursuant to section 1 of Rule 112, by filing the complaint with the proper officer for the purpose of conducting the requisite preliminary investigation.
x x x
11. SEC. 2. Officers authorized to conduct preliminary investigation. —
The following may conduct a preliminary investigation:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(a) Provincial or City Prosecutors and their assistants;
(b) Judges of the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;
(c) National and Regional State Prosecutors; and
(d) Other officers as may be authorized by law.
Their authority to conduct preliminary investigations shall include all crimes cognizable by the proper court in their respective territorial jurisdictions. (Emphasis supplied.)
12. A.M. No. MTJ-00-1256, 15 December 2000, 348 SCRA 217, 225.
13. Rollo, p. 11.
14. Comia v. Antona, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1518, 14 August 2000, 337 SCRA 656, 669.
15. Garganera v. Jocson, A.M. No. RTJ-88-227, 1 September 1992, 213 SCRA 149, 162.
16. Dizon v. Calimag, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1472, 20 September 2001, 365 SCRA 448, 454.
17. A.M. No. MTJ-01-1344, 5 September 2001, 364 SCRA 464, 471-472.
18. A.M. No. MTJ-00-1248, 1 December 2000, 346 SCRA 592, 599.
19. Supra, note 16 at 455.
Back to Home | Back to Main