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Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court
Baguio Cit y

THIRD DIVISION

FERDIN AND A. CRUZ, G.R. No. 154207


Petit ioner,

Present:

- versus - YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,


Chairperson,
AUSTRI A- MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR.,
ALBERTO MIN A, CHICO-NAZARIO, and
HON. ELEUTERIO F NACHURA, JJ.
GUERRERO and HON.
ZEN AI D A L AG UILLES, Promulgated:
Respondents. April 27, 2007
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

D E C I S I O N

AUSTRI A- MARTINEZ, J.:

Bef ore the Court is a Pet ition f or Certior ari under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court, grounded on pure questions of law, with Prayer f or Preliminar y Injunction
assailing the Resolution dated May 3, 2002 promulgated by the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 116, Pasay Cit y, in Civil Case No. 02 -0137, which denied
the issuance of a writ of preliminar y inj unction against the Metropolitan Trial
Court ( MeTC), Branch 45, Pasay Cit y, in Crim inal Case No. 00 -1705; [ 1 ] and the
RTCs Order dated June 5, 2002 denying the Mot ion f or Reconsideration. No
wr it of preliminar y injunction was issued by this Court .

The antecedents:

On September 25, 2000, Fer dinand A. Cruz ( petit ioner) f iled bef ore the MeTC a
f ormal Entr y of Appearance, as private prosecutor, in Crim inal Case No. 00 -
1705 f or Grave Threats, where his f ather, Mariano Cruz, is the complaining
witness.

The petitioner, d escribing himself as a third year law st udent, justif ies his
appearance as private prosecutor on the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the
Rules of Court and the ruling of the Court En Banc in Cantimbuhan v. Judge
Cru z, Jr. [ 2 ] that a non-lawyer may appear bef ore the inf erior courts as an agent
or f riend of a party lit igant. The petitioner f urthermore avers that his
appearance was wit h the prior conf ormity of the public prosecutor and a wr itten
author it y of Mar iano Cruz appoint ing him to be his agent in the prosecut ion of
the said crim inal case.

However, in an Order dated Februar y 1, 2002, the MeTC denied permission f or


petit ioner to appear as private prosec ut or on the ground that Circular No. 19
governing lim ited law student pr actice in conjunction wit h Rule 138 -A of the
Rules of Court (Law Student Practice Rule) should take precedence over the
ruling of the Court laid down in Cantimbuhan; and set the case f or continuation
of trial. [ 3 ]

On Februar y 13, 2002, petit ioner f iled bef ore the MeTC a Mot ion f or
Reconsiderat ion seeking to reverse the Februar y 1, 2002 O rder alleging that
Rule 138-A, or the Law Student Pr actice Rule, does not have the ef f ect of
superseding Section 34 of Rule 138, f or the author it y to inter pret the rule is the
source itself of the rule, which is the Supreme Court alone.

In an Order dat ed March 4, 2002, the MeTC denied the Motion f or


Reconsiderat ion.
On April 2, 2002, the petit ioner filed bef ore the RTC a Pet ition
f or Certiorari and Mandamus with Prayer f or Preliminar y Injunction and
Temporary Restraining Order against the pr ivate responde nt and the public
respondent MeTC.

Af ter hearing the prayer f or prelim inary injunct ion t o r estrain public
respondent MeTC Judge f rom proceeding with Crim inal Case No. 00 -1705
pending the Certior ari proceedings, the RTC, in a Resolution dated May 3,
2002, resolved to deny the issuance of an injunct ive wr it on the ground that the
crime of Grave Threats, the subject of Criminal Case No. 00 -1705, is one that
can be prosecuted de oficio, there being no c laim f or civil indemnit y, and that
theref ore, the inter vention of a private pr osecutor is not legally tenable.

On May 9, 2002, the petitioner f iled bef ore the RTC a Mot ion f or
Reconsiderat ion. The petit ioner argues t hat nowhere does the law provide that
the crime of Grave Threats has no civil aspect. And last, petitioner cites Bar
Matter No. 730 dated June 10, 1997 which expressly provides f or the
appearance of a non -lawyer bef ore the inf erior courts, as an agent or f riend of
a part y litigant, even withou t the super vision of a member of the bar.

Pending the resolut ion of the f oregoing Mot ion f or Reconsideration bef ore the
RTC, the petit ioner f iled a Second Mot ion f or Reconsiderat ion dated June 7,
2002 wit h the MeTC seeking the reversal of the March 4, 20 02 Denial Order of
the said court, on the strength of Bar Matter No. 730, and a Mot ion to Hold In
Abeyance the Trial dated June 10, 2002 of Criminal Case No. 00 -1705 pending
the outcome of the certiorar i proceedings bef ore the RTC.
On June 5, 2002, the RTC issued its Or der denying the petitioners Motion f or
Reconsiderat ion.

Likewise, in an Order dated June 13, 2002, the MeTC denied the pet itioners
Second Mot ion f or Reconsiderat ion and his Motion to Hold in Abeyance the
Trial on the ground t hat the RTC had already denied the Entr y of Appearance of
petit ioner bef ore the MeTC.

On July 30, 2002, the petit ioner directly f iled with this Court, the instant
Petit ion and assigns the f ollowing errors:

I.

THE RESPONDENT REGIO NAL TRIAL COURT ABUS ED ITS


DISCRETION W HEN IT RESOLVED T O DENY THE PRAYER FO R
THE W RIT OF INJUNCTI ON OF THE HEREIN PET ITIONER
DESPITE PETITIONER H AVI NG ESTABLISHED TH E NECESSITY
OF GRANTING THE W RIT ;
II.

THE RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DI SCRETION,


TANTAMOUNT TO IGNORA NCE OF THE LAW , W HEN IT
RESOLVED TO DENY THE PRAYER FOR THE W RIT OF
PRELI MI NARY I NJUNCTI ON AND THE SUBSEQUEN T MOTION
FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE HEREIN PETITI ONER ON THE
BASI S THAT [GRAVE] T HREATS HAS NO CIVIL ASPECT, FOR
THE SAID BASIS OF DE NI AL IS NOT IN ACCOR D W ITH THE LAW ;

III.

THE RESPONDENT METRO POLITAN TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS


DISCRETION W HEN IT D ENIED THE MOTION TO HOLD IN
ABEYANCE TRIAL, W HEN W HAT W AS DENIED BY THE
RESPONDENT REG IONAL TRIAL COURT IS THE I SSUANCE OF
THE W RIT OF PRELI MI N ARY I NJUNCTION AND W HEN THE
RESPONDENT REG IONAL TRIAL COURT IS YET T O DECI DE ON
THE MERITS OF THE PE TITION FOR CERTIORARI ;

IV.

THE RESPONDENT COURT [S] ARE CLEARLY IGNO RING THE LAW
W HEN THEY PATENTLY R EFUSED TO HEED TO [sic] THE CLEAR
MANDATE OF THE LAPUT , CANTIMBUHAN AND BULACAN
CASES, AS W ELL AS BA R MATTER NO. 730, PR O VIDING FOR
THE APPEARANCE OF NO N-LAW YERS BEFORE THE LOW ER
COURTS ( MTCS). [ 4 ]

This Court, in except ional c ases, and f or compelling reasons, or if warrant ed by


the nature of the issues reviewed, may take cognizance of petitions f iled
direct ly bef ore it. [ 5 ]

Considering that this case involves the interpretation, clarif icat ion, and
implementat ion of Section 34, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Bar Matter No.
730, Circular No. 19 governing law student practice and Rule 138 - A of the
Rules of Court, and the ruling of the Court in Cantimbuhan , the Court takes
cognizance of herein petition.

The basic quest ion is whether the petit ioner, a law student, may appear bef ore
an inf erior court as an agent or f riend of a part y litigant.

The courts a quo held that the Law Student Pract ice Rule as encapsulated in
Rule 138- A of the Rules of Court, prohibits the petit ioner, as a law student,
f rom entering his appearance in behalf of his f ather, the private complainant in
the criminal case without the super vis ion of an attorney duly accr edited by the
law school.

Rule 138-A or the Law Student Pract ice Rule, provides:

RULE 138-A

LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Section 1. Condit ions for Student Pr actice. A law student who


has successf ully completed his 3rd year of the regular f our -year
prescribed law curr iculum and is enrolled in a recognized law
school's clinical legal education program approved by the Supreme
Court, may appear without compensation in any civil, crim inal or
administrat ive case bef ore any trial c our t, tribunal, boar d or off icer,
to represent indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law
school.

Sec. 2. Appearance. The appear ance of the law student


author ized by this rule, shall be under the direct super vision and
control of a member o f the Integrated Bar of the Philippines duly
accredited by the law school. Any and all pleadings, motions,
brief s, memoranda or other papers to be f iled, must be signed by
the super vising attor ney f or and in behalf of the legal clinic.

However, in Resolution [ 6 ] dated June 10, 1997 in Bar Matter No. 730, the
Court En Banc clarif ied:

The rule, how ever, is different if the l aw student appears


before an inferior court, w here the issues and procedure are
relativel y simpl e. In inferior court s, a law student may appear
in his personal capacit y w ithout the supervision of a
law yer. Section 34, Rule 138 provides:

Sec. 34. By whom lit igation is conducted. - In


the court of a justice of the peace , a part y may
conduct his lit igation in person, with t he aid of an
agent or friend appointed by him f or that purpose, or
with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party
may conduct his lit igation personally or by aid of an
attorney, and his appearance must be either personal
or by a duly authorized member of the bar.
Thus, a law student may appear before an inferior court
as an agent or friend of a part y w ithout the supervision of a
member of the bar. [ 7 ] (Emphasis supplied)

The phrase In the court of a justice of the peace in Bar Matt er No. 730 is
subsequently chang ed to In the court of a municipalit y as it now appears in
Section 34 of Rule 138, thus: [ 8 ]

SEC. 34. By whom litigat ion is conducted . In the Court of a


municipalit y a party may conduct his litigation i n person, wit h the
aid of an agent or friend appointed by him f or that purpose, or with
the aid of an attorney. In any other court , a part y may conduct his
lit igation personally or by aid of an attorney and his appearance
must be either personal or by a du ly authorized member of the bar.
(Emphasis supplied)
which is the prevailing rule at the t ime the petit ioner f iled his Entr y of
Appearance with t he MeTC on Septem ber 25, 2000. No real dist inct ion exists
f or under Section 6, Rule 5 of the Rules of Court, th e term "Municipal Trial
Courts" as used in these Rules shall include Metropolitan Trial Courts,
Municipal Trial Cour ts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit
Trial Courts.
There is really no pr oblem as to the applicat ion of Sect ion 34 of Rule 138
and Rule 138-A. In the f ormer, the appearance of a non -lawyer, as an agent or
f riend of a part y lit igant, is expressly allowed, while the latter rule provides f or
conditions when a law student, not as an agent or a f riend of a party litigant,
may appear bef ore the courts.

Petit ioner expressly anchored his appearance on Section 34 of Rule 138. The
court a quo must have been conf used by the f act that petit ioner ref erred to
himself as a law student in his entr y of appearance. Rule 138 -A should not h ave
been used by the courts a quo in denying permission to act as pr ivate
prosecut or against petitioner f or the simple reason that Rule 138 -A is not the
basis f or the petitioners appearance.

Section 34, Rule 138 is clear that appearance bef ore the inf eri or courts by a
non- lawyer is allowed, irrespect ive of whether or not he is a law student. As
succinct ly clar if ied in Bar Matter No. 730, by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a
law student may appear, as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without the
super vision of a lawyer bef ore inf erior courts.
Petitioner f urther argues that the RTC erroneously held that, by its very nature,
no civil liabilit y may f low f rom the crime of Grave Threats, and, f or this reason,
the inter vent ion of a private prosecutor is not possible.

It is clear f rom the RTC Decision that no such conclusion had been
intended by the RT C. In denying the issuance of the injunctive court, the RTC
stated in its Decision that ther e was no claim f or civil liabilit y by the pr ivate
complainant f or damages, and that the records of the case do not provide f or a
claim f or indemnit y; and that theref ore, petitioners appearance as private
prosecut or appears t o be legally untenable.

Under Art icle 100 of the Revised Penal Code, ever y person criminally liable f or
a f elony is also civilly liable except in instances when no actual damage results
f rom an off ense, such as espionage, violat ion of neutralit y, f light to an enemy
countr y, and cr ime against popular repr esentat ion. [ 9 ] The basic rule applies in
the instant case, such that when a cr iminal action is institut ed, the civil act ion
f or the recover y of civil liabilit y ar ising f rom the off ense charged shall b e
deemed instituted with cr iminal act ion, unless the of f ended part y waives t he
civil action, reser ves the right to instit ute it separ ately or institut es the civil
action prior to the criminal act ion. [ 1 0 ]
The petitioner is cor rect in stating that there being no reser vat ion, waiver, nor
prior institut ion of the civil aspect in Criminal Case No. 00 -1705, it f ollows that
the civil aspect arising f rom Grave Threa ts is deemed instituted with the
criminal act ion, and, hence, the private prosecut or may r ightf ully inter vene to
prosecut e the civil aspect.

WHEREFORE, the Petit ion is GR ANTE D. The assailed Resolution and


Order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
116, Pasay Cit y are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Metropolitan Trial Court,
Branch 45, Pasay Cit y is DIRECTED to ADMI T the Entry of Appearance of
petit ioner in Cr iminal Case No. 00 -1705 as a private prosecut or under the direct
control and super vision of the public prosecutor.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
M A. ALICI A AUSTRI A- M AR TI NEZ
Associate Justice

W E CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ROMEO J. C ALLEJO, SR. MINITA V. CHICO-NAZ ARIO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANTO NIO EDU ARD O B. N ACHUR A


Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultat ion bef ore the case was assig ned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

CONSUELO YN ARE S-S ANTI AGO


Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Sect ion 13, Article VIII of the Constitut ion, and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certif ied that the conclusions in the above
Decision had been r eached in consultation bef ore the case was assigned to the
wr iter of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYN ATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice