April 2004 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
People v. Odilao Jr : 155451 : April 14, 2004 : J. Austria-Martinez : Second Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 155451 : April 14, 2004]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. DAVID S. ODILAO, JR., Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by the People of the Philippines assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated September 27, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No. 71198 which directed Judge Caminade of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City (Branch 6), to defer the proceedings in Criminal Case No. CBU-55283 until the Petition for Review of the reinvestigation report of the Office of the City Prosecutor is resolved by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The antecedent facts are as follows.
Herein respondent David S. Odilao, Jr. together with Enrique Samonte and Mario Yares, was charged with Estafa in an Information2 filed by the Asst. City Prosecutor Feliciano with the RTC of Cebu City, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The undersigned Prosecutor I of Cebu City, accuses David Odilao, Jr., Enrique Samonte and Mario Yares of the crime of ESTAFA, committed as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
That sometime during the latter part of 1997, and for sometime
prior or subsequent thereto, in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, conniving, confederating
and mutually helping with one another, having received in trust from Trans
Eagle Corporation a luxury car known as Jeep Cherokee Sport 4wd valued at
P1,199,520.00 with the agreement that they would sign the document of sale if
they are interested to buy the same and with the obligation to return the said
car to Trans Eagle Corporation if they are not interested, the said accused,
once in possession of the said luxury car, far from complying with their
obligation, with deliberate intent, with intent to gain, with unfaithfulness
and grave abuse of confidence, did then and there misappropriate, misapply and
convert into their own personal use and benefit the same or the amount of
which is the equivalent value thereof, and inspite of repeated demands made
upon them to let them comply with their obligation to return the luxury car,
they have failed and refused and instead denied to have received the luxury car
known as Jeep Cherokee Sport 4WD and up to the present time still fail and refuse
to do so, to the damage and prejudice of Trans Eagle Corporation in the amount
CONTRARY TO LAW.
A warrant of arrest against respondent was then issued by the Executive Judge.Upon motion of respondent, the Executive Judge issued an Order3 dated September 28, 2000 directing the Office of the City Prosecutor to conduct reinvestigation of the case with a caveat that the reinvestigation will be terminated within ten days from receipt of the order and thereafter, submit appropriate recommendation to it.In the meantime the Executive Judge countermanded the service of the warrant of arrest.
Based on his reinvestigation report4 dated October 17, 2000 which found no probable cause, Asst. City Prosecutor Capacio filed with the trial court a Motion to Dismiss5 dated October 20, 2000.On October 27, 2000, private complainant Carmen G. Bugash filed an urgent motion to disregard the reinvestigation report.6 On November 3, 2000, private complainant filed with the DOJ a Petition for Review 7 seeking the reversal of the Reinvestigation Report.In an Order dated October 30, 2000, the trial court deferred the arraignment until the Petition for Review would have been finally resolved by the Department of Justice.8 On February 20, 2001, the trial court issued another order holding in abeyance the resolution of the motion to dismiss until the DOJ shall have resolved the Petition for Review .9 cralawred
More than one year later, private complainant filed with the trial court on March 14, 2002, a Motion to Suspend Resolution of the Motion to Dismiss.10 Thereafter, the trial court, acting on the prosecutions motion to dismiss filed on October 20, 2000 and private complainants motion to disregard the reinvestigation report, issued an Order11 dated May 21, 2002, (1) denying the motion to dismiss; and (2) declaring the motion to disregard the reinvestigation report to be moot and academic, rationalizing that [t]he Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which was approved on December 1, 2000 vests now authority to the trial court to rule on the presence or absence of probable cause.If the Court finds probable cause it will issue forthwith a warrant of arrest otherwise it will dismiss the case.Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration12 which was denied in the Order13 dated June 13, 2002 of the RTC which likewise directed the implementation of the existing warrant of arrest against him.
Respondent went up to the Court of Appeals by filing a Petition for Certiorari and prohibition,14 docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 91198, against the People of the Philippines, Presiding Judge Caminade and private complainant Carmen Bugash.On September 27, 2002, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision15 granting the petition and directing the trial court to defer the proceedings until the Petition for Review before the DOJ has been resolved.
Hence, the People of the Philippines filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals decision.Petitioner, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), claims:
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT FINDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT WAS JUSTIFIED IN RESOLVING THE MOTION TO DISMISS FILED BY THE OFFICE OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR DESPITE THE PENDENCY OF A PETITION FOR REVIEW BEFORE THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT FINDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT WAS JUSTIFIED IN DIRECTING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE WARRANT OF ARREST AFTER FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN GRANTING THE INJUNCTION SOUGHT BY THE RESPONDENT WHICH ENJOINED THE TRIAL COURT FROM IMPLEMENTING THE WARRANT OF ARREST AND FROM FURTHER CONDUCTING PROCEEDINGS IN THE CASE UNTIL THE PETITION FOR REVIEW OF THE REINVESTIGATION REPORT OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR IS RESOLVED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.
On December 11, 2002, we issued a Resolution16 requiring respondent to file his comment on the petition.In compliance therewith respondent filed his Comment/Opposition to Petitioners Application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction,17 which we duly noted.Respondent alleges:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
a.The Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, and wherein the Application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction is incorporated, is fatally defective, hence both Petition and Application should be dismissed and denied, respectively; andcralawlibrary
b.Petitioner-applicant failed to adequately and sufficiently show that it is entitled to the issuance of the temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction, while on the other hand, it is undeniable that the issuance of the temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction would undeniably cause irreparable damage to the person and rights of herein respondent.
Unknown to us, however, while herein petition was pending our resolution, private complainant Bugash filed a motion for reconsideration before the Court of Appeals, seeking reversal of its Decision dated September 27, 2002.The Court of Appeals granted private complainants motion for reconsideration per its Resolution dated June 12, 2003, thereby reversing its own Decision dated September 27, 2002.In said Resolution, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial courts Orders dated May 21, 2002 and June 13, 2002, denying the prosecutions motion to dismiss together with the implementation of the warrant of arrest against herein respondent is valid, pursuant to Section 11, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides that the suspension of arraignment shall not be more than sixty days from the filing of the Petition for Review of the resolution of the prosecutor.
It should be emphasized that the Resolution of June 12, 2003 was issued by the Court of Appeals despite the pendency of the Petition for Review on Certiorari before us.We were only apprised of such development when respondent furnished us with a copy of his Very Urgent Motion for Reconsideration18 filed with the Court of Appeals, where he sought reconsideration of its Resolution dated June 12, 2003.The records do not show whether the Court of Appeals had resolved said motion.
Respondent likewise filed with us an Urgent Manifestation19 dated June 16, 2003, informing us that the DOJ, acting on private complainant Carmen Bugashs Petition for Review , has issued a Resolution20 dated May 27, 2003, denying the Petition for Review; in effect, sustaining the filing of the motion to dismiss by the Assistant City Prosecutor.
Meanwhile, on October 6, 2003, we received petitioners Consolidated Reply and Comment,21 praying that the Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated June 12, 2003, finding the trial courts Orders to be valid, be affirmed and that a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction be issued to restrain respondent and any person acting in his behalf from implementing the Court of Appeals decision dated September 27, 2002 which directed the trial court to defer the proceedings before it until the DOJ shall have resolved the Petition for Review filed before the DOJ.
The main issue brought before us is whether or not the trial court was correct in denying the prosecutions motion to dismiss the estafa case and ordering the implementation of the warrant of arrest against herein respondent.
The petition is impressed with merit.
First, let us dispose of respondents argument that the petition should be dismissed for failure to comply with the requirements of a proper verification and proof of service; and that the petition was prematurely filed because it was filed even before we issued a resolution granting the motion for extension of time to file the petition.
With regard to the verification, we are convinced that the verification/certification appearing in the Petition for Review , although referring to a motion for extension to file is a valid verification/certification of the Petition for Review .The phrase motion for extension to file was merely a typographical error committed through sheer inadvertence.
As to the requirement of attaching an affidavit of service to the petition, a perusal of the rollo of this case will readily show that such an affidavit of service had been attached to the petition.22 cralawred
Moreover, the OSG may not be faulted in filing the Petition for Review before its receipt of our Resolution dated November 25, 2002 granting the motion for extension of time.Had petitioner waited to receive a resolution granting its motion for extension before filing the petition, the extended period for filing would have, by then, expired.Thus, there was nothing irregular with the procedure taken by petitioner, rather, such was the most prudent thing for it to have done.
We now come to the crux of the petition.
Section 6 (a), Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2000, provides thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
SEC. 6.When warrant of arrest may issue. (a) By the Regional Trial Court. Within ten (10) days from the filing of the complaint or information, the judge shall personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence.He may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause.If he finds probable cause, he shall issue a warrant of arrest, or a commitment order if the accused has already been arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by the judge who conducted the preliminary investigation or when the complaint or information was filed pursuant to section 7 of this Rule.In case of doubt on the existence of probable cause, the judge may order the prosecutor to present additional evidence within five (5) days from notice and the issue must be resolved by the court within thirty (30) days from the filing of the complaint or information.
Pursuant to the aforequoted rule, the judge of the trial court is mandated to personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence to determine whether probable cause exists and pursuant to its own findings, either dismiss the case immediately if no probable cause exists, or to issue the warrant of arrest in the absence of probable cause.
Even before the effectivity of the aforequoted rule, the Court enunciated the following ruling in Crespo v. Mogul,23 to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The preliminary investigation conducted by the fiscal for the purpose of determining whether a prima facie case exists warranting the prosecution of the accused is terminated upon the filing of the information in the proper court.In turn, as above stated, the filing of said information sets in motion the criminal action against the accused in Court.Should the fiscal find it proper to conduct a reinvestigation of the case, at such stage, the permission of the Court must be secured.After such reinvestigation the finding and recommendations of the fiscal should be submitted to the Court for appropriate action.While it is true that the fiscal has the quasi judicial discretion to determine whether or not a criminal case should be filed in court or not, once the case had already been brought to Court whatever disposition the fiscal may feel should be proper in the case thereafter should be addressed for the consideration of the Court.The only qualification is that the action of the Court must not impair the substantial rights of the accused or the right of the People to due process of law.
Whether the accused had been arraigned or not and whether it was due to a reinvestigation by the fiscal or a review by the Secretary of Justice whereby a motion to dismiss was submitted to the Court, the Court in the exercise of its discretion may grant the motion or deny it and require that the trial on the merits proceed for the proper determination of the case.
However, one may ask, if the trial court refuses to grant the motion to dismiss filed by the fiscal upon the directive of the Secretary of Justice will there not be a vacuum in the prosecution?.. .
The answer is simple.The role of the fiscal or prosecutor as We all know is to see that justice is done and not necessarily to secure the conviction of the person accused before the Courts.Thus, in spite of his opinion to the contrary, it is the duty of the fiscal to proceed with the presentation of evidence of the prosecution to the Court to enable the Court to arrive at its own independent judgment as to whether the accused should be convicted or acquitted... .
The rule therefore in this jurisdiction is that once 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 instructions of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the records of the investigation.
Thus, in Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc. ,24 the Court held that the trial court judges reliance on the prosecutors averment that the Secretary of Justice had recommended the dismissal of the case against the petitioner was, to say the least, an abdication of the trial courts duty and jurisdiction to determine a prima facie case, in blatant violation of this Courts pronouncement in Crespo v. Mogul.. .This was reiterated in Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. Hon. Rolando How, 25 where the Court held thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
It bears stressing that the court is however not bound to adopt the resolution of the Secretary of Justice since the court is mandated to independently evaluate or assess the merits of the case, and may either agree or disagree with the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice.Reliance alone on the resolution of the Secretary of Justice would be an abdication of the trial courts duty and jurisdiction to determine prima facie case.
Evidently, when the trial court issued the Orders dated May 21, 2002 and June 13, 2002, respectively, the trial court judge was merely performing his mandated duty to personally determine the existence of probable cause and thus arrive at a resolution of the motion to dismiss.Having found probable cause, the trial court acted well within its authority in denying said motion to dismiss and, since in the present case, a warrant of arrest had already been issued and only the service thereof had been countermanded, the trial court judge was also correct in ordering the implementation of the previously issued warrant of arrest.
Verily, the proceedings in the criminal case pending in the trial court had been held in abeyance long enough.Under Section 11, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the suspension of arraignment of an accused in cases where a Petition for Review of the resolution of the prosecutor is pending at either the Department of Justice or the Office of the President shall not exceed sixty days counted from the filing of the petition with the reviewing office.Although in this case, at the time that the trial court deferred the arraignment in its Order dated October 30, 2000, the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure had not yet taken effect and there was as yet no prescribed period of time for the suspension of arraignment, we believe that the period of one and a half years from October 30, 2000 to June 13, 2002, when the trial court ordered the implementation of the warrant of arrest, was more than ample time to give private complainant the opportunity to obtain aresolution of her Petition for Review from the DOJ.Indeed, with more than three years having elapsed, it is now high time for the continuation of the trial on the merits in the criminal case below as the sixty-day period counted from the filing of the Petition for Review with the DOJ, provided for in Section 11, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure now applicable to the case at bar, had long lapsed.
Although it is clear that the Court of Appeals earlier erred in granting the Petition for Certiorari and prohibition filed before it by herein respondent, the Court of Appeals remedied such error by reversing its Decision dated September 27, 2002 in its Resolution dated June 12, 2003, and sustained the trial courts Orders dated May 21, 2002 and June 13, 2002 denying the prosecutions motion to dismiss.
However, it cannot be avoided that we remind the Court of Appeals of the provisions of Section 15, Rule VI of the 2002 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals (effective August 22, 2002), which explicitly provides thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
SEC. 15.Effect of Filing an Appeal in the Supreme Court.-No motion for reconsideration or rehearing shall be acted upon if the movant has previously filed in the Supreme Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari or a motion for extension of time to file such petition.If such petition or motion is subsequently filed, the motion for reconsideration pending in this Court shall be deemed abandoned.
We are, therefore, quite perplexed why the Court of Appeals did not act in accord with the aforequoted Rule and instead resolved the motion for reconsideration of its Decision dated September 27, 2002, filed by private complainant, despite service on it of a copy of the Motion For Extension To File Petition For Review dated October 15, 2002, filed by the OSG.
At the very least, prudence dictates that the Court of Appeals should have first required private complainant to secure the conformity of the OSG; or required the latter to comment on the motion for reconsideration of the private complainant.The positions taken by the Office of the Solicitor General and private complainant Bugash are practically identical.
In any event, the Court of Appeals ought not to have acted on the said motion for reconsideration of private complainant Bugash.It should have considered said motion which, in the first place, was without the conformity of the OSG, the representative of petitioner People of the Philippines, as having been abandoned by the filing of herein petition by the OSG, pursuant to the aforequoted Section 15, Rule VI of the 2002 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals.
Nevertheless, in the interest of speedy and orderly administration of justice, we deem it expedient to uphold in the present petition, the Orders dated May 21, 2002 and June 13, 2002, of the RTC denying the motion to dismiss of the assistant city prosecutor and directing the implementation of the warrant of arrest against respondent, for being in accordance with our rulings in Crespo v. Mogul, Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc. and Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. Hon. Rolando How, as we have discussed in the early part of our decision.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.The Court of Appeals Decision dated September 27, 2002 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.Its Resolution dated June 12, 2003 correcting its own error is AFFIRMED with ADMONITION that the Court of Appeals should act with more circumspection and comply with its 2002 Internal Rules.
The Orders dated May 21, 2002 and June 23, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City (Branch 6) are AFFIRMED and the said Regional Trial Court is directed to proceed, with immediate dispatch, with the arraignment of herein respondent and trial on the merits of Criminal Case No. CBU-55283.
Puno, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Callejo, Sr., and TINGA, JJ., concur.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Eliezer R. De los Santos and concurred in by Associate Justices Roberto A. Barrios and Danilo B. Pine.2 Rollo, pp. 60-61.3 Rollo, p. 62.4 Rollo, pp. 63-69.5 Rollo, p. 70.6 See page 4 of the Order dated May 21, 2002, Rollo, p. 95.7 Rollo, pp. 73-91.8 See page 4 of the Order dated May 21, 2002, Rollo, p. 95.9 See paragraph 1 of Motion to Suspend Resolution of the Motion to Dismiss, Rollo, p. 71.10 Rollo, pp. 71-72.11 Rollo, pp. 92-104.12 Rollo, pp. 105-114.13 Rollo, pp. 115-117.14 Rollo, pp. 118-126.15 Rollo, pp. 55-59.16 Rollo, pp. 127-128.17 Rollo, pp. 178-209.18 Rollo, pp. 258-26419 Rollo, pp. 239-245.20 Rollo, pp. 246-25121 Rollo, pp. 285-321.22 Rollo, p. 54.23 151 SCRA 462, 469-471 (1987).24 327 SCRA 588, 597 (2000).25 338 SCRA 511, 518 (2000).