G.R. No. 121180 July 5, 1996
GERARDO A. MOSQUERA, Petitioner, v. HON. DELIA H. PANGANIBAN, in her capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, City of Makati, Metro Manila, HON. FELICIDAD Y. NAVARRO-QUIAMBAO, in her capacity as Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 65, City of Makati, Metro Manila, and MARK F. JALANDONI, Respondents.
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for less serious physical injuries against petitioner Gerard S. Mosquera, which the MeTC had previously allowed to be withdrawn by the prosecution.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 lawschool. 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:
On motion of private respondent, however, the MeTC reconsidered its order . In its order dated December 29, 1994, the MeTC said: 3
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:
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 recently had occasion to reiterate this rule in Martinez v. Court of Appeals, 7 where, through the Chief Justice, we held:
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:
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:
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."
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 in formation 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., concur.
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