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VENUE

G.R. No. 229781

SENATOR LEILA M. DE LIMA, Petitioner


vs.
HON. JUANITA GUERRERO, in her capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court of
Muntinlupa City, Branch 204, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, P/DIR. GEN. RONALD M. DELA
ROSA, in his capacity as Chief of the Philippine National Police, PSUPT. PHILIP GIL M. PHILIPPS,
in his capacity as Director, Headquarters Support Service, SUPT. ARNEL JAMANDRON APUD, in
his capacity as Chief, PNP Custodial Service Unit, and ALL PERSONS ACTING UNDER THEIR
CONTROL, SUPERVISION, INSTRUCTION OR DIRECTION IN RELATION TO THE ORDERS THAT
MAY BE ISSUED BY THE COURT, Respondents

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

For consideration is the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Application for a Writ of Preliminary
Injunction, and Urgent Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Status Quo Ante Order 1 under Rule
65 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Senator Leila De Lima. In it, petitioner assails the following
orders and warrant issued by respondent judge Hon. Juanita Guerrero of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204, in Criminal Case No. 17-165, entitled "People vs. Leila De Lima, et
al.:" (1) the Order dated February 23, 2017 finding probable cause for the issuance of warrant of arrest
against petitioner De Lima; (2) the Warrant of Arrest against De Lima also dated February 23, 2017; (3)
the Order dated February 24, 2017 committing the petitioner to the custody of the PNP Custodial
Center; and finally, (4) the supposed omission of the respondent judge to act on petitioner's Motion to
Quash, through which she questioned the jurisdiction of the RTC. 2

Antecedents

The facts are undisputed. The Senate and the House of Representatives conducted several inquiries on
the proliferation of dangerous drugs syndicated at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), inviting inmates who
executed affidavits in support of their testimonies. 3 These legislative inquiries led to the filing of the
following complaints with the Department of Justice:

a) NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00313, entitled "Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC),
represented by Dante Jimenez vs. Senator Leila M. De Lima, et al.;"

b) NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00315, entitled "Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala vs. Senator Leila
De Lima, et al.;"

c) NPS No. XVI-INV-16K-00331, entitled "Jaybee Nifio Sebastian, represented by his wife
Roxanne Sebastian, vs. Senator Leila M De Lima, et al.;" and

d) NPS No. XVI-INV-16K-00336, entitled "National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) vs. Senator Leila
M. De Lima, et al. "4

Pursuant to DOJ Department Order No. 790, the four cases were consolidated and the DOJ Panel of
Prosecutors (DOJ Panel), 5 headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, was directed to
conduct the requisite preliminary investigation. 6

The DOJ Panel conducted a preliminary hearing on December 2, 2016, 7 wherein the petitioner, through
her counsel, filed an Omnibus Motion to Immediately Endorse the Cases to the Office of the Ombudsman
and for the Inhibition of the Panel of Prosecutors and the Secretary of Justice ("Omnibus Motion"). 8 In the
main, the petitioner argued that the Office of the Ombudsman has the exclusive authority and
jurisdiction to hear the four complaints against her. Further, alleging evident partiality on the part of
the DOJ Panel, the petitioner contended that the DOJ prosecutors should inhibit themselves and refer
the complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman.

A hearing on the Omnibus Motion was conducted on December 9, 2016, 9 wherein the complainants,
YACC, Reynaldo Esmeralda (Esmeralda) and Ruel Lasala (Lasala), filed a Joint Comment/Opposition to
the Omnibus Motion. 10

On December 12, 2016, petitioner, in turn, interposed a Reply to the Joint Comment/Opposition filed by
complainants VACC, Esmeralda and Lasala. In addition, petitioner submitted a Manifestation with
Motion to First Resolve Pending Incident and to Defer Further Proceedings. 11

During the hearing conducted on December 21, 2016, petitioner manifested that she has decided not to
submit her counter-affidavit citing the pendency of her two motions. 12 The DOJ Panel, however, ruled
that it will not entertain belatedly filed counter-affidavits, and declared all pending incidents and the
cases as submitted for resolution. Petitioner moved for but was denied reconsideration by the DOJ
Panel.13

On January 13, 2017, petitioner filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Prohibition and
Certiorari14assailing the jurisdiction of the DOJ Panel over the complaints against her. The petitions,
docketed as CA-G.R. No. 149097 and CA-G.R. No. SP No. 149385, are currently pending with the
Special 6th Division of the appellate court.15Meanwhile, in the absence of a restraining order issued by
the Court of Appeals, the DOJ Panel proceeded with the conduct of the preliminary investigation 16 and,
in its Joint Resolution dated February 14, 2017, 17 recommended the filing of Informations against
petitioner De Lima. Accordingly, on February 17, 2017, three Informations were filed against petitioner
De Lima and several co-accused before the RTC ofMuntinlupa City. One of the Infonnations was
docketed as Criminal Case No. 17-16518 and raffled off to Branch 204, presided by respondent judge.
This Information charging petitioner for violation of Section 5 in relation to Section (jj), Section 26(b),
and Section 28 of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165, contained the following averments:

That within the period from November 2012 to March 2013, in the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Leila M. De Lima, being then the Secretary of
the Department of Justice, and accused Rafael Marcos Z. Rages, being then the Officer-in-Charge of the
Bureau of Corrections, by taking advantage of their public office, conspiring and confederating with
accused Ronnie P. Dayan, being then an employee of the Department of Justice detailed to De Lima, all
of them having moral ascendancy or influence over inmates in the New Bilibid Prison, did then and
there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De Lima and Ragos, with the use of their
power, position, and authority, demand, solicit and extort money from the high profile inmates in the
New Bilibid Prison to support the senatorial bid of De Lima in the May 2016 election; by reason of
which, the inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and through the use of mobile phones and
other electronic devices, did then and there willfully and unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs,
and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through Ragos and Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug
trading amounting to Five Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five Million
(₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One Hundred Thousand (₱100,000.00) Pesos
weekly "tara" each from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison.19

On February 20, 2017, petitioner filed a Motion to Quash,20mainly raising the following: the RTC lacks
jurisdiction over the offense charged against petitioner; the DOJ Panel lacks authority to file the
Information; the Information charges more than one offense; the allegations and the recitals of facts do
not allege the corpus delicti of the charge; the Information is based on testimonies of witnesses who are
not qualified to be discharged as state witnesses; and the testimonies of these witnesses are hearsay. 21

On February 23, 2017, respondent judge issued the presently assailed Order 22finding probable cause
for the issuance of warrants of arrest against De Lima and her co-accused. The Order stated, viz.:

After a careful evaluation of the herein Information and all the evidence presented during the
preliminary investigation conducted in this case by the Department of Justice, Manila, the Court finds
sufficient probable cause for the issuance of Warrants of Arrest against all the accused LEILA M. DE
LIMA, RAFAEL MARCOS Z. RAGOS and RONNIE P ALISOC DAYAN.

WHEREFORE, let Warrants of Arrest be issued against the abovementioned accused.

SO ORDERED.23

Accordingly, the questioned Warrant of Arrest dated February 23, 2017 ,24 which contained no
recommendation for bail, was issued against petitioner.

On February 24, 2017, the PNP Investigation and Detection Group served the Warrant of Arrest on
petitioner and the respondent judge issued the assailed February 24, 2017 Order, 25 committing
petitioner to the custody of the PNP Custodial Center.

On February 27, 2017, petitioner repaired to this court via the present petition, praying for the following
reliefs:

a. Granting a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside the Order dated 23 February 2017,
the Warrant of Arrest dated the same date, and the Order dated 24 February 2017 of the Regional Trial
Court - Branch 204, Muntinlupa City, in Criminal Case No. 17-165 entitled People of the Philippines
versus Leila M De Lima, et al.;

b. Granting a writ of prohibition enjoining and prohibiting respondent judge from conducting further
proceedings until and unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality;

c. Issuing an order granting the application for the issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO) and a
writ of preliminary injunction to the proceedings; and

d. Issuing a Status Quo Ante Order restoring the parties to the status prior to the issuance of the Order
and Warrant of Arrest, both dated February 23, 201 7, thereby recalling both processes and restoring
petitioner to her liberty and freedom.26
On March 9, 2017, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), on behalf of the respondents, interposed its
Comment to the petition. 27 The OSG argued that the petition should be dismissed as De Lima failed to
show that she has no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy. Further, the OSG posited that the
petitioner did not observe the hierarchy of courts and violated the rule against forum shopping. On
substantive grounds, the OSG asserted inter alia that the RTC has jurisdiction over the offense charged
against the petitioner, that the respondent judge observed the constitutional and procedural rules, and
so did not commit grave abuse of discretion, in the issuance of the assailed orders and warrant. 28

On petitioner's motion, the Court directed the holding of oral arguments on the significant issues raised.
The Court then heard the parties in oral arguments on March 14, 21, and 28, 2017. 29

In the meantime, the OSG filed a Manifestation dated March 13, 2017,30 claiming that petitioner
falsified the juratsappearing in the: (1) Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping page of
her petition; and (2) Affidavit of Merit in support of her prayer for injunctive relief. The OSG alleged that
while the advertedjurats appeared to be notarized by a certain Atty. Maria Cecille C. Tresvalles-Cabalo
on February 24, 2017, the guest logbook31 in the PNP Custodial Center Unit in Camp Crame for
February 24, 2017 does not bear the name of Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo. Thus, so the OSG maintained,
petitioner De Lima did not actually appear and swear before the notary public on such date in Quezon
City, contrary to the allegations in the jurats. For the OSG, the petition should therefore be dismissed
outright for the falsity committed by petitioner De Lima.

In compliance with an Order of this Court, petitioner filed the Affidavit of Atty. Maria Cecille C.
Tresvalles-Cabalo dated March 20, 201732 to shed light on the allegations of falsity in petitioner'sjurats.

The parties simultaneously filed their respective Memoranda on April 17, 2017. 33

The Issues

From the pleadings and as delineated in this Court's Advisory dated March 10, 2017 34 and discussed by
the parties during the oral arguments, the issues for resolution by this Court are:

Procedural Issues:
A Whether or not petitioner is excused from compliance with the doctrine on hierarchy of courts
considering that the petition should first be filed with the Court of Appeals.

B. Whether or not the pendency of the Motion to Quash the Information before the trial court renders
the instant petition premature.

C. Whether or not petitioner, in filing the present petition, violated the rule against forum shopping
given the pendency of the Motion to Quash the Information before the Regional Trial Court of
Muntinlupa City in Criminal Case No. 17-165 and the Petition for Certiorari filed before the Court of
Appeals in C.A. G.R. SP No. 149097, assailing the preliminary investigation conducted by the DOJ
Panel.

Substantive Issues:
A. Whether the Regional Trial Court or the Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction over the violation of
Republic Act No. 9165 averred in the assailed Information.

B. Whether or not the respondent gravely abused her discretion in finding probable cause to issue the
Warrant of Arrest against petitioner.

C. Whether or not petitioner is entitled to a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Status Quo Ante Order
in the interim until the instant petition is resolved or until the trial court rules on the Motion to Quash.

OUR RULING

Before proceeding to a discussion on the outlined issues, We shall first confront the issue of the alleged
falsification committed by petitioner in the jurats of her Verification and Certification against Forum
Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in support of her prayer for injunctive relief.

In her Affidavit, Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo disproves the OSG's allegation that she did not notarize the
petitioner's Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in this wise:

4. On February 24, 2017 at or around nine in the morning (9:00 AM), I went to PNP, CIDG, Camp
Crame, Quezon City to notarize the Petition as discussed the previous night.

5. I met Senator De Lima when she was brought to the CIDG at Camp Crame and I was informed that
the Petition was already signed and ready for notarization.

6. I was then provided the Petition by her staff. I examined the signature of Senator De Lima and
confirmed that it was signed by her. I have known the signature of the senator given our personal
relationship. Nonetheless, I still requested from her staff a photocopy of any of her government-issued
valid Identification Cards (ID) bearing her signature. A photocopy of her passport was presented to me. I
compared the signatures on the Petition and the Passport and I was able to verify that the Petition was
in fact signed by her. Afterwards, I attached the photocopy of her Passport to the Petition which I
appended to my Notarial Report/Record.

7. Since I already know that Sen. De Lima caused the preparation of the Petition and that it was her
who signed the same, I stamped and signed the same.

8. To confirm with Senator De Lima that I have already notarized the Petition, I sought entry to the
detention facility at or around three in the afternoon (3:00 PM). x x x

xxxx

11. Since I was never cleared after hours of waiting, I was not able to talk again to Senator De Lima to
confirm the notarization of the Petition. I then decided to leave Camp Crame. 35

At first glance, it is curious that Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo who claims to have "stamped and signed the
[Verification and Certification and Affidavit of Merit]" inside Camp Crame, presumably in De Lima's
presence, still found it necessary to, hours later, "confirm with Senator De Lima that [she had] already
notarized the Petition." Nonetheless, assuming the veracity of the allegations narrated in the Affidavit, it
is immediately clear that petitioner De Lima did not sign the Verification and Certification against
Forum Shopping and Affidavit of Merit in front of the notary public. This is contrary to the jurats
(i.e., the certifications of the notary public at the end of the instruments) signed by Atty. Tresvalles-
Cabalo that the documents were "SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before me."

Such clear breach of notarial protocol is highly censurable 36 as Section 6, Rule II of the 2004 Rules on
Notarial Practice requires the affiant, petitioner De Lima in this case, to sign the instrument or
document in the presence of the notary, viz.:

SECTION 6. Jurat. - "Jurat" refers to an act in which an individual on a single occasion:

(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents an instrument or document;

(b) is personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary public through competent
evidence of identity as defined by these Rules;

(c) signs the instrument or document in the presence of the notary; and

(d) takes an oath or affirmation before the notary public as to such instrument or document.(Emphasis
and underscoring supplied.)

While there is jurisprudence to the effect that "an irregular notarization merely reduces the evidentiary
value of a document to that of a private document, which requires /roof of its due execution and
authenticity to be admissible as evidence,"37 the same cannot be considered controlling in determining
compliance with the requirements of Sections 1 and 2, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. Both Sections 1
and 2 of Rule 6538 require that the petitions for certiorari and prohibition must be verified and
accompanied by a "sworn certificate of non-forum shopping."

In this regard, Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure states that "[a] pleading is verified by an
affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct of
his personal knowledge or based on authentic records." "A pleading required to be verified which x x x
lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading." Meanwhile, Section 5, Rule 7 of
the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[t]he plaintiff or principal party shall certify under oath in the
complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief, or in a sworn certification annexed
thereto and simultaneously filed therewith: (a) that he has not theretofore commenced any action or
filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to the best
of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending
action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he should thereafter learn
that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five
(5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed."
"Failure to comply with the foregoing requirements shall not be curable by mere amendment of the
complaint or other initiatory pleading but shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice,
unless otherwise provided x x x."

In this case, when petitioner De Lima failed to sign the Verification and Certification against Forum
Shopping in the presence of the notary, she has likewise failed to properly swear under oath the
contents thereof, thereby rendering false and null the jurat and invalidating the Verification and
Certification against Forum Shopping. The significance of a proper jurat and the effect of its invalidity
was elucidated in William Go Que Construction v. Court of Appeals, 39where this Court held that:

In .this case, it is undisputed that the Verification/Certification against Forum Shopping attached to
the petition for certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No. 109427 was not accompanied with a valid affidavit/properly
certified under oath. This was because the jurat thereof was defective in that it did not indicate the
pertinent details regarding the affiants' (i.e., private respondents) competent evidence of identities.
Under Section 6, Rule II of AM. No. 02-8-13-SC 63 dated July 6, 2004, entitled the "2004 Rules on
Notarial Practice" (2004 Rules on Notarial Practice), ajurat refers to an act in which an individual on a
single occasion:

xxxx

In Fernandez v. Villegas (Fernandez), the Court pronounced that noncompliance with the verification
requirement or a defect therein "does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective. The court
may order its submission or correction or act on the pleading if the attending circumstances are such
that strict compliance with the Rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be
served thereby." "Verification is deemed substantially complied with when one who has ample
knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the complaint or petition signs the verification, and
when matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct." Here, there
was no substantial compliance with the verification requirement as it cannot be ascertained that any of
the private respondents actually swore to the truth of the allegations in the petition for certiorari in CA-
G.R. SP No. 109427 given the lack of competent evidence of any of their identities. Because of this, the
fact that even one of the private respondents swore that the allegations in the pleading are true and
correct of his knowledge and belief is shrouded in doubt.

For the same reason, neither was there substantial compliance with the certification against forum
shopping requirement. In Fernandez, the Court explained that "non-compliance therewith or a defect
therein, unlike in verification, is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction
thereof, unless there is a need to relax the Rule on the ground of 'substantial compliance' or presence of
'special circumstances or compelling reasons."' Here, the CA did not mention - nor does there exist - any
perceivable special circumstance or compelling reason which justifies the rules' relaxation. At all events,
it is uncertain if any of the private respondents certified under oath that no similar action has been filed
or is pending in another forum.

xxxx

Case law states that "[v]erification is required to secure an assurance that the allegations in the petition
have been made in good faith or are true and correct, and not merely speculative." On the other hand,
"[t]he certification against forum shopping is required based on the principle that a party-litigant should
not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in different fora." The important purposes behind these
requirements cannot be simply brushed aside absent any sustainable explanation justifying their
relaxation. In this case, proper justification is especially called for in light of the serious allegations of
forgery as to the signatures of the remaining private respondents, i.e., Lominiqui and Andales. Thus, by
simply treating the insufficient submissions before it as compliance with its Resolution dated August
13, 2009 requiring anew the submission of a proper verification/certification against forum shopping,
the CA patently and grossly ignored settled procedural rules and, hence, gravely abused its discretion.
All things considered, the proper course of action was for it to dismiss the petition. 40 (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied.)

Without the presence of the notary upon the signing of the Verification and Certification against Forum
Shopping, there is no assurance that the petitioner swore under oath that the allegations in the petition
have been made in good faith or are true and correct, and not merely speculative. It must be noted that
verification is not an empty ritual or a meaningless formality. Its import must never be sacrificed in the
name of mere expedience or sheer caprice,41as what apparently happened in the present case. Similarly,
the absence of the notary public when petitioner allegedly affixed her signature also negates a proper
attestation that forum shopping has not been committed by the filing of the petition. Thus, the petition
is, for all intents and purposes, an unsigned pleading that does not deserve the cognizance of this
Court.42 In Salum bides, Jr. v. Office of the Ombudsman,43the Court held thus:

The Court has distinguished the effects of non-compliance with the requirement of verification and that
of certification against forum shopping. A defective verification shall be treated as an unsigned pleading
and thus produces no legal effect, subject to the discretion of the court to allow the deficiency to be
remedied, while the failure to certifv against forum shopping shall be cause for dismissal without
prejudice, unless otherwise provided, and is not curable by amendment of the initiatory pleading.
(Emphasis and italicization from the original.)

Notably, petitioner has not proffered any reason to justify her failure to sign the Verification and
Certification Against Forum Shopping in the presence of the notary. There is, therefore, no justification
to relax the rules and excuse the petitioner's non-compliance therewith. This Court had reminded
parties seeking the ultimate relief of certiorari to observe the rules, since nonobservance thereof cannot
be brushed aside as a "mere technicality."44 Procedural rules are not to be belittled or simply
disregarded, for these prescribed procedures ensure an orderly and speedy administration of
justice.45 Thus, as in William Go Que Construction, the proper course of action is to dismiss outright the
present petition.

Even if We set aside this procedural infirmity, the petition just the same merits denial on several other
grounds.

PETITIONER DISREGARDED THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS


Trifling with the rule on hierarchy of courts is looked upon with disfavor by this Court. 46 It will not
entertain direct resort to it when relief can be obtained in the lower courts.47 The Court has repeatedly
emphasized that the rule on hierarchy of courts is an important component of the orderly
administration of justice and not imposed merely for whimsical and arbitrary reasons. 48 In The Diocese
of Bacolod v. Commission on Elections, 49the Court explained the reason for the doctrine thusly:

The Court must enjoin the observance of the policy on the hierarchy of courts, and now affirms that the
policy is not to be ignored without serious consequences. The strictness of the policy is designed to
shield the Court from having to deal with causes that are also well within the competence of the lower
courts, and thus leave time for the Court to deal with the more fundamental and more essential tasks
that the Constitution has assigned to it. The Court may act on petitions for the extraordinary writs
of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus only when absolutely necessary or when serious and important
reasons exist to justify an exception to the policy.

xxxx

The doctrine that requires respect for the hierarchy of courts was created by this court to ensure that
every level of the judiciary performs its designated roles in an effective and efficient manner. Trial courts
do not only determine the facts from the evaluation of the evidence presented before them. They are
likewise competent to determine issues of law which may include the validity of an ordinance, statute,
or even an executive issuance in relation to the Constitution. To effectively perform these functions, they
are territorially organized into regions and then into branches. Their writs generally reach within those
territorial boundaries. Necessarily, they mostly perform the all-important task of inferring the facts from
the evidence as these are physically presented before them. In many instances, the facts occur within
their territorial jurisdiction, which properly present the "actual case" that makes ripe a determination of
the constitutionality of such action. The consequences, of course, would be national in scope. There are,
however, some cases where resort to courts at their level would not be practical considering their
decisions could still be appealed before the higher courts, such as the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals is primarily designed as an appellate court that reviews the determination of facts
and law made by the trial courts. It is collegiate in nature. This nature ensures more standpoints in the
review of the actions of the trial court. But the Court of Appeals also has original jurisdiction over most
special civil actions. Unlike the trial courts, its writs can have a nationwide scope. It is competent to
determine facts and, ideally, should act on constitutional issues that may not necessarily be novel
unless there are factual questions to determine.

This court, on the other hand, leads the judiciary by breaking new ground or further reiterating - in the
light of new circumstances or in the light of some confusion of bench or bar - existing precedents.
Rather than a court of first instance or as a repetition of the actions of the Court of Appeals, this court
promulgates these doctrinal devices in order that it truly performs that role. 50 (Emphasis supplied.)

Nonetheless, there are recognized exceptions to this rule and direct resort to this Court were allowed in
some instances. These exceptions were summarized in a case of recent vintage, Aala v. Uy, as follows:

In a fairly recent case, we summarized other well-defined exceptions to the doctrine on hierarchy of
courts. Immediate resort to this Court may be allowed when any of the following grounds are present:
(1) when genuine issues of constitutionality are raised that must be addressed immediately; (2) when
the case involves transcendental importance; (3) when the case is novel; (4) when the constitutional
issues raised are better decided by this Court; (5) when time is of the essence; (6) when the subject of
review involves acts of a constitutional organ; (7) when there is no other plain, speedy, adequate remedy
in the ordinary course of law; (8) when the petition includes questions that may affect public welfare,
public policy, or demanded by the broader interest of justice; (9) when the order complained of was a
patent nullity; and (10) when the appeal was considered as an inappropriate remedy. 51

Unfortunately, none of these exceptions were sufficiently established in the present petition so as to
convince this court to brush aside the rules on the hierarchy of courts.

Petitioner's allegation that her case has sparked national and international interest is obviously not
covered by the exceptions to the rules on hierarchy of courts. The notoriety of a case, without more, is
not and will not be a reason for this Court's decisions. Neither will this Court be swayed to relax its
rules on the bare fact that the petitioner belongs to the minority party in the present administration. A
primary hallmark of an independent judiciary is its political neutrality. This Court is thus loath to
perceive and consider the issues before it through the warped prisms of political partisanships.

That the petitioner is a senator of the republic does not also merit a special treatment of her case. The
right to equal treatment before the law accorded to every Filipino also forbids the elevation of petitioner's
cause on account of her position and status in the government.

Further, contrary to her position, the matter presented before the Court is not of first impression.
Petitioner is not the first public official accused of violating RA 9165 nor is she the first defendant to
question the finding of probable cause for her arrest. In fact, stripped of all political complexions, the
controversy involves run-of-the mill matters that could have been resolved with ease by the lower court
had it been given a chance to do so in the first place.
In like manner, petitioner's argument that the rule on the hierarchy of court should be disregarded as
her case involves pure questions of law does not obtain. One of the grounds upon which petitioner
anchors her case is that the respondent judge erred and committed grave abuse of discretion in finding
probable cause to issue her arrest. By itself, this ground removes the case from the ambit of cases
involving pure questions of law. It is established that the issue of whether or not probable cause exists
for the issuance of warrants for the arrest of the accused is a question of fact, determinable as it is from
a review of the allegations in the Information, the Resolution of the Investigating Prosecutor, including
other documents and/ or evidence appended to the Information.52 This matter, therefore, should have
first been brought before the appellate court, which is in the better position to review and determine
factual matters.

Yet, petitioner harps on the supposed judicial efficiency and economy of abandoning the rule on the
hierarchy of courts in the present case. Indeed, the Court has considered the practical aspects of the
administration of justice in deciding to apply the exceptions rather than the rule. However, it is all the
more for these practical considerations that the Court must insist on the application of the rule and not
the exceptions in this case. As petitioner herself alleges, with the President having declared the fight
against illegal drugs and corruption as central to his platform of government, there will be a spike of
cases brought before the courts involving drugs and public officers. 53 As it now stands, there are
232,557 criminal cases involving drugs, and around 260,796 criminal cases involving other offenses
pending before the R TCs.54 This Court cannot thus allow a precedent allowing public officers assailing
the finding of probable cause for the issuance of arrest warrants to be brought directly to this Court,
bypassing the appellate court, without any compelling reason.

THE PRESENT PETITION IS PREMATURE

The prematurity of the present petition is at once betrayed in the reliefs sought by petitioner's Prayer,
which to restate for added emphasis, provides:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, and in the interest of substantial justice and fair play, Petitioner
respectfully prays the Honorable Court that judgment be rendered:

a. Granting a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside the Order dated 23 February 2017,
the Warrant of Arrest dated the same date, and the Order dated 24 February 2017 of the Regional Trial
CourtBranch 204, Muntinlupa City, in Criminal Case No. 17-165 entitled People of the Philippines
versus Leila M De Lima et al.;

b. Granting a writ of prohibition enjoining and prohibiting respondent judge from conducting further
proceedings until and unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality;

c. Issuing an order granting the application for the issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO) and a
writ of preliminary injunction to the proceedings; and

d. Issuing a Status Quo Ante Order restoring the parties to the status prior to the issuance of the Order
and Warrant of Arrest, both dated February 23, 201 7, thereby recalling both processes and restoring
petitioner to her liberty and freedom.55 (Emphasis supplied)

Under paragraph (a), petitioner asks for a writ of certiorari annulling the Order dated February 23, 2017
finding probable cause, the warrant of arrest and the Order dated February 24, 2017 committing
petitioner to the custody of the PNP Custodial Center. Clearly petitioner seeks the recall of said orders to
effectuate her release from detention and restore her liberty. She did not ask for the dismissal of the
subject criminal case.

More importantly, her request for the issuance of a writ of prohibition under paragraph (b) of the prayer
"until and unless the Motion to Quash is resolved with finality," is an unmistakable admission that the
RTC has yet to rule on her Motion to Quash and the existence of the RTC's authority to rule on the said
motion. This admission against interest binds the petitioner; an admission against interest being the
best evidence that affords the greatest certainty of the facts in dispute.56 It is based on the presumption
that "no man would declare anything against himself unless such declaration is true. " 57 It can be
presumed then that the declaration corresponds with the truth, and it is her fault if it does not. 58

Moreover, petitioner under paragraphs (c) and (d) prayed for a TRO and writ of preliminary injunction
and a status quo ante order which easily reveal her real motive in filing the instant petition-to restore to
"petitioner her liberty and freedom."

Nowhere in the prayer did petitioner explicitly ask for the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 17-165. What
is clear is she merely asked the respondent judge to rule on her Motion to Quash before issuing the
warrant of arrest.

In view of the foregoing, there is no other course of action to take than to dismiss the petition on the
ground of prematurity and allow respondent Judge to rule on the Motion to Quash according to the
desire of petitioner.

This Court, in Solid Builders Inc. v. China Banking Corp., explained why a party should not pre-empt the
action of a trial court:
Even Article 1229 of the Civil Code, which SBI and MFII invoke, works against them. Under that
provision, the equitable reduction of the penalty stipulated by the parties in their contract will be based
on a finding by the court that such penalty is iniquitous or unconscionable. Here, the trial court has not
yet made a ruling as to whether the penalty agreed upon by CBC with SBI and MFII is unconscionable.
Such finding will be made by the trial court only after it has heard both parties and weighed their
respective evidence in light of all relevant circumstances. Hence, for SBI and MFII to claim any right or
benefit under that provision at this point is premature. 59 (Emphasis supplied)

In State of Investment House, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 60the Court likewise held that a petition
for certiorari can be resorted to only after the court a quo has already and actually rendered its decision.
It held, viz.:

We note, however, that the appellate court never actually ruled on whether or not petitioner's right had
prescribed. It merely declared that it was in a position to so rule and thereafter required the parties to
submit memoranda. In making such a declaration, did the CA commit grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of jurisdiction? It did not.

xxxx

All things considered, this petition is premature. The CA has decided nothing and whatever petitioner's
vehement objections may be (to any eventual ruling on the issue of prescription) should be raised only
after such ruling shall have actually been promulgated.

The situation evidently does not yet call for a recourse to a petition for certiorari under Rule
65.61(Italicization from the original. Emphasis supplied.)

An analogous ruling was made by this Court in Diaz v. Nora, where it ruled in this wise:

x x x In the case of the respondent labor arbiter, he has not denied the motion for execution filed by the
petitioner. He merely did not act on the same. Neither had petitioner urged the immediate resolution of
his motion for execution by said arbiter. In the case of the respondent NLRC, it was not even given the
opportunity to pass upon the question raised by petitioner as to whether or not it has jurisdiction over
the appeal, so the records of the case can be remanded to the respondent labor arbiter for execution of
the decision.

Obviously, petitioner had a plain, speedy and adequate remedy to seek relief from public respondents
but he failed to avail himself of the same before coming to this Court. To say the least, the petition is
premature and must be struck down. 62 (Emphasis supplied.)

The dissents would deny the applicability of the foregoing on the ground that these were not criminal
cases that involved a pending motion to quash. However, it should be obvious from the afore-quoted
excerpts that the nature of the cases had nothing to do with this Court's finding of prematurity in those
cases. Instead, what was stressed therein was that the lower courts had not yet made, nor was not
given the opportunity to make, a ruling before the parties came before this forum.

Indeed, the prematurity of the present petition cannot be over-emphasized considering that petitioner is
actually asking the Court to rule on some of the grounds subject of her Motion to Quash. The Court, if it
rules positively in favor of petitioner regarding the grounds of the Motion to Quash, will be preempting
the respondent Judge from doing her duty to resolve the said motion and even prejudge the case. This is
clearly outside of the ambit of orderly and expeditious rules of procedure. This, without a doubt, causes
an inevitable delay in the proceedings in the trial court, as the latter abstains from resolving the
incidents until this Court rules with finality on the instant petition.

Without such order, the present petition cannot satisfy the requirements set before this Court can
exercise its review powers. Section 5 (2)(C) of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution explicitly requires the
existence of "final judgments and orders of lower courts" before the Court can exercise its power to
"review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari" in "all cases in which the jurisdiction of
any lower court is in issue," viz.:

SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls,
and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may
provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:

(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement,
law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.

(b) All cases involving the legality of any tax, impost, assessment, or toll, or any penalty imposed in
relation thereto.

(c) All cases in which the jurisdiction of any lower court is in issue.
(d) All criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or higher.

(e) All cases in which only an error or question of law is involved. (Emphasis supplied.)

In the palpable absence of a ruling on the Motion to Quash -- which puts the jurisdiction of the lower
court in issue -- there is no controversy for this Court to resolve; there is simply no final judgment or
order of the lower court to review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm. As per the block letter provision of
the Constitution, this Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction in a vacuum nor issue a definitive ruling on
mere suppositions.

Succinctly, the present petition is immediately dismissible for this Court lacks jurisdiction to review a
non-existent court action. It can only act to protect a party from a real and actual ruling by a lower
tribunal. Surely, it is not for this Court to negate "uncertain contingent future event that may not occur
as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all," as the lower court's feared denial of the subject Motion
to Quash.63

The established rule is that courts of justice will take cognizance only of controversies "wherein actual
and not merely hypothetical issues are involved." 64 The reason underlying the rule is "to prevent the
courts through avoidance of premature adjudication from entangling themselves in abstract
disagreements, and for us to be satisfied that the case does not present a hypothetical injury or a claim
contingent upon some event that has not and indeed may never transpire." 65

Even granting arguendo that what is invoked is the original jurisdiction of this Court under Section 5 (1)
of Article VIII, the petition nonetheless falls short of the Constitutional requirements and of Rule 65 of
the Rules of Court. In the absence of a final judgment, order, or ruling on the Motion to Quash
challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court, there is no occasion for this Court to issue the
extraordinary writ of certiorari. Without a judgment or ruling, there is nothing for this Court to declare
as having been issued without jurisdiction or in grave abuse of discretion.

Furthermore, it is a basic requirement under Rule 65 that there be "[no] other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy found in law."66 Thus, the failure to exhaust all other remedies, as will be later
discussed, before a premature resort to this Court is fatal to the petitioner's cause of action.

Petitioner even failed to move for the reconsideration of the February 23 and 24, 2017 Orders she is
currently assailing in this Petition. As this Court held in Estrada v. Office of the Ombudsman, "[a] motion
for reconsideration allows the public respondent an opportunity to correct its factual and legal errors x
x x [it] is mandatory before the filing of a petition for certiorari."67The reasons proffered by petitioner fail
to justify her present premature recourse.

Various policies and rules have been issued to curb the tendencies of litigants to disregard, nay violate,
the rule enunciated in Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution to allow the Court to devote its time
and attention to matters within its jurisdiction and prevent the overcrowding of its docket. There is no
reason to consider the proceedings at bar as an exception.

PETITIONER VIOLATED THE RULE AGAINST FORUM SHOPPING

It is settled that forum shopping exists when a party repetitively avails himself of several judicial
remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same
transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same
issues either pending in, or already resolved adversely by, some other court. It is considered an act of
malpractice as it trifles with the courts and abuses their processes. 68 Thus, as elucidated in Luzon Iron
Development Group Corporation v. Bridgestone Mining and Development Corporation,69forum shopping
warrants the immediate dismissal of the suits filed:

Forum shopping is the act of litigants who repetitively avail themselves of multiple judicial remedies in
different fora, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same transactions and
the same essential facts and circumstances; and raising substantially similar issues either pending in
or already resolved adversely by some other court; or for the purpose of increasing their chances of
obtaining a favorable decision, if not in one court, then in another. The rationale against forum-
shopping is that a party should not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in two different courts,
for to do so would constitute abuse of court processes which tends to degrade the administration of
justice, wreaks havoc upon orderly judicial procedure, and adds to the congestion of the heavily
burdened dockets of the courts.

xxxx

What is essential in determining the existence of forum-shopping is the vexation caused the courts and
litigants by a party who asks different courts and/or administrative agencies to rule on similar or
related causes and/or grant the same or substantially similar reliefs, in the process creating the
possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered upon the same issues.

xxxx
We emphasize that the grave evil sought to be avoided by the rule against forum-shopping is the
rendition by two competent tribunals of two separate and contradictory decisions. To avoid any
confusion, this Court adheres strictly to the rules against forum shopping, and any violation of these
rules results in the dismissal of a case. The acts committed and described herein can possibly
constitute direct contempt.70

This policy echoes the last sentence of Section 5, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court, which states that "[i]f the
acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same shall
be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt as well as a cause
for administrative sanctions."

The test to determine the existence of forum shopping is whether the elements of litis pendentia, or
whether a final judgment in one case amounts to res judicata in the other. Forum shopping therefore
exists when the following elements are present: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties
representing the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the
relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two preceding particulars, such that
any judgment rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res
judicata in the action under consideration.71

Anent the first requisite, there is an identity of parties when the parties in both actions are the same, or
there is privity between them, or they are successors-in-interest by title subsequent to the
commencement of the action litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same
capacity.72

Meanwhile, the second and third requisites obtain where the same evidence necessary to sustain the
second cause of action is sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms or the nature of
the two (2) actions are different from each other. If the same facts or evidence would sustain both, the
two (2) actions are considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the former is a bar to the
subsequent action; otherwise, it is not.73

All these requisites are present in this case.

The presence of the first requisite is at once apparent. The petitioner is an accused in the criminal case
below, while the respondents in this case, all represented by the Solicitor General, have substantial
identity with the complainant in the criminal case still pending before the trial court.

As for the second requisite, even a cursory reading of the petition and the Motion to Quash will reveal
that the arguments and the reliefs prayed for are essentially the same. In both, petitioner advances the
RTC's supposed lack of jurisdiction over the offense, the alleged multiplicity of offenses included in the
Information; the purported lack of the corpus delicti of the charge, and, basically, the non-existence of
probable cause to indict her. And, removed of all non-essentials, she essentially prays for the same
thing in both the present petition and the Motion to Quash: the nullification of the Information and her
restoration to liberty and freedom. Thus, our ruling in Jent v. Tullet Prebon (Philippines), Inc. 74 does not
apply in the present case as the petition at bar and the motion to quash pending before the court a
quo involve similar if not the same reliefs. What is more, while Justice Caguioa highlights our
pronouncement in Jent excepting an "appeal or special civil action for certiorari" from the rule against
the violation of forum shopping, the good justice overlooks that the phrase had been used with respect
to forum shopping committed through successive actions by a "party, against whom an adverse
judgment or order has [already] been rendered in one forum." 75 The exception with respect to an "appeal
or special civil action for certiorari" does not apply where the forum shopping is committed
by simultaneous actions where no judgment or order has yet been rendered by either forum. To restate
for emphasis, the RTC has yet to rule on the Motion to Quash. Thus, the present petition and the
motion to quash before the R TC are simultaneous actions that do not exempt petitions
for certiorari from the rule against forum shopping.

With the presence of the first two requisites, the third one necessarily obtains in the present case.
Should we grant the petition and declare the RTC without jurisdiction over the offense, the RTC is
bound to grant De Lima's Motion to Quash in deference to this Court's authority. In the alternative, if
the trial court rules on the Motion to Quash in the interim, the instant petition will be rendered moot
and academic.

In situations like the factual milieu of this instant petition, while nobody can restrain a party to a case
before the trial court to institute a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, still such
petition must be rejected outright because petitions that cover simultaneous actions are anathema to
the orderly and expeditious processing and adjudication of cases.

On the ground of forum shopping alone, the petition merits immediate dismissal.

THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT HAS JURISDICTION

Even discounting the petitioner's procedural lapses, this Court is still wont to deny the instant petition
on substantive grounds.
Petitioner argues that, based on the allegations of the Information in Criminal Case No. 17-165, the
Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction to try and hear the case against her. She posits that the
Information charges her not with violation of RA 9165 but with Direct Bribery-a felony within the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan given her rank as the former Secretary of Justice with
Salary Grade 31. For the petitioner, even assuming that the crime described in the Information is a
violation of RA 9165, the Sandiganbayan still has the exclusive jurisdiction to try the case considering
that the acts described in the Information were intimately related to her position as the Secretary of
Justice. Some justices of this Court would even adopt the petitioner's view, declaring that the
Information charged against the petitioner is Direct Bribery.

The respondents, on the other hand, maintain that the R TC has exclusive jurisdiction to try violations
of RA 9165, including the acts described in the Information against the petitioner. The Sandiganbayan,
so the respondents contend, was specifically created as an anti-graft court. It was never conferred with
the power to try drug-related cases even those committed by public officials. In fact, respondents point
out that the history of the laws enabling and governing the Sandiganbayan will reveal that its
jurisdiction was streamlined to address specific cases of graft and corruption, plunder, and acquisition
of ill-gotten wealth.

Before discussing the issue on jurisdiction over the subject matter, it is necessary to clarify the crime
with which the petitioner is being charged. For ease of reference, the Information filed with the R TC is
restated below:

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Plaintiff,

Versus Criminal Case No. 17-165

LEILA M. DE LIMA (NPS No. XVI-INV-16J-00315 and NPS No.


XVl-INV-16K-00336) For: Violation of the
(66 Laguna de Bay corner Subic Bay Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
Drive, South Bay Village, Paraiiaque City 2002,Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj),
and/or Room 502, GSIS Building, Section 26 (b), and Section 28, Republic Act
Financial Center, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay No. 9165 (lllegal Drug Trading)
City), RAFAEL MARCOS Z. RAGOS (c/o
National Bureau of Investigation, Taft
Avenue, Manila) and RONNIE P ALISOC
DAY AN, (Barangay Galarin, Urbiztondo,
Pangasinan), Accused

x-------------------------------------x

INFORMATION

The undersigned Prosecutors, constituted as a Panel pursuant to Department Orders 706 and 790
dated October 14, 2016 and November 11, 2016, respectively, accuse LEILA M. DE LIMA, RAFAEL
MARCOS Z. RAGOS and RONNIE P ALISOC DAY AN, for violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 3
(jj), Section 26 (b) and Section 28, Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive
Dangerous Act of 2002, committed as follows:

That within the period from November 2012 to March 2013, in the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Leila M. De Lima, being then the Secretary of
the Department of Justice, and accused Rafael Marcos Z. Ragos, being then the Officer-in-Charge of the
Bureau of Corrections, by taking advantage of their public office, conspiring and confederating with
accused Ronnie P. Dayan, being then the employee of the Department of Justice detailed to De Lima, all
of them having moral ascendancy or influence over inmates in the New Bilibid Prison, did then and
there commit illegal drug trading, in the following manner: De Lima and Ragos, with the use of their
power, position, and authority demand, solicit and extort money from the high profile inmates in the
New Bilibid Prison to support the Senatorial bid of De Lima in the May 2016 election; by reason of
which, the inmates, not being lawfully authorized by law and through the use of mobile phones and
other electronic devices, did then and there willfully and unlawfully trade and traffic dangerous drugs,
and thereafter give and deliver to De Lima, through Ragos and Dayan, the proceeds of illegal drug
trading amounting to Five Million (₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 24 November 2012, Five Million
(₱5,000,000.00) Pesos on 15 December 2012, and One Hundred Thousand (₱l00,000.00) Pesos
weekly "tara" each from the high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison.

CONTRARY TO LAW.76

Notably, the designation, the prefatory statements and the accusatory portions of the Information
repeatedly provide that the petitioner is charged with "Violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs
Act of 2002, Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28, Republic Act No. 9165."
From the very designation of the crime in the Information itself, it should be plain that the crime with
which the petitioner is charged is a violation of RA 9165. As this Court clarified in Quimvel v.
People, 77 the designation of the offense in the Information is a critical element required under Section 6,
Rule 110 of the Rules of Court in apprising the accused of the offense being charged, viz.:

The offense charged can also be elucidated by consulting the designation of the offense as appearing in
the Information. The designation of the offense is a critical element required under Sec. 6, Rule 110 of
the Rules of Court for it assists in apprising the accused of the offense being charged. Its inclusion in
the Information is imperative to avoid surprise on the accused and to afford him of the opportunity to
prepare his defense accordingly. Its import is underscored in this case where the preamble states that
the crime charged is of "Acts of Lasciviousness in relation to Section 5(b) of R.A. No.7610."78(Emphasis
supplied.)

Further, a reading of the provisions of RA 9165 under which the petitioner is prosecuted would convey
that De Lima is being charged as a conspirator in the crime of Illegal Drug Trading. The pertinent
provisions of RA 9165 read:

SECTION 3. Definitions. - As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxxx

(jj) Trading. - Transactions involving the illegal trafficking of dangerous drugs and/or controlled
precursors and essential chemicals using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text messages,
e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms or acting as a
broker in any of such transactions whether for money or any other consideration in violation of this Act.

xxxx

SECTION 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of


Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - The penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (₱500,000.00) to Ten
million pesos (₱10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall
sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or
transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity
and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.

xxxx

SECTION 26. Attempt or Conspiracy. - Any attempt or conspiracy to commit the following unlawful acts
shall be penalized by the same penalty prescribed for the commission of the same as provided under
this Act:

xxxx

(b) Sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of any
dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical;

xxxx

SECTION 28. Criminal Liability of Government Officials and Employees. - The maximum penalties of the
unlawful acts provided for in this Act shall be imposed, in addition to absolute perpetual
disqualification from any public office, if those found guilty of such unlawful acts are government
officials and employees.

While it may be argued that some facts may be taken as constitutive of some elements of Direct Bribery
under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), these facts taken together with the other allegations in the
Information portray a much bigger picture, Illegal Drug Trading. The latter crime, described by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as "a global illicit trade involving the cultivation,
manufacture, distribution and sale of substances," 79necessarily involves various component crimes, not
the least of which is the bribery and corruption of government officials. An example would be reports of
recent vintage regarding billions of pesos' worth of illegal drugs allowed to enter Philippine ports without
the scrutiny of Customs officials. Any money and bribery that may have changed hands to allow the
importation of the confiscated drugs are certainly but trivial contributions in the furtherance of the
transnational illegal drug trading - the offense for which the persons involved should be penalized.

Read as a whole, and not picked apart with each word or phrase construed separately, the Information
against De Lima goes beyond an indictment for Direct Bribery under Article 210 of the RPC. 80 As Justice
Martires articulately explained, the averments on solicitation of money in the Information, which may be
taken as constitutive of bribery, form "part of the description on how illegal drug trading took place at
the NBP." The averments on how petitioner asked for and received money from the NBP inmates simply
complete the links of conspiracy between her, Ragos, Dayan and the NBP inmates in willfully and
unlawfully trading dangerous drugs through the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices
under Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28, of RA 9165.

On this score, that it has not been alleged that petitioner actually participated in the actual trafficking
of dangerous drugs and had simply allowed the NBP inmates to do so is non sequitur given that the
allegation of conspiracymakes her liable for the acts of her co-conspirators. As this Court elucidated, it
is not indispensable for a co-conspirator to take a direct part in every act of the crime. A conspirator
need not even know of all the parts which the others have to perform, 81 as conspiracy is the common
design to commit a felony; it is not participation in all the details of the execution of the
crime. 82 As long as the accused, in one way or another, helped and cooperated in the consummation of
a felony, she is liable as a co-principal.83 As the Information provides, De Lima's participation and
cooperation was instrumental in the trading of dangerous drugs by the NBP inmates. The minute details
of this participation and cooperation are matters of evidence that need not be specified in the
Information but presented and threshed out during trial.

Yet, some justices remain adamant in their position that the Information fails to allege the necessary
elements of Illegal Drug Trading. Justice Carpio, in particular, would cite cases supposedly enumerating
the elements necessary for a valid Information for Illegal Drug Trading. However, it should be noted that
the subject of these cases was "Illegal Sale" of dangerous drugs -- a crime separate and distinct from
"Illegal Trading" averred in the Information against De Lima. The elements of "Illegal Sale" will
necessary differ from the elements of Illegal Trading under Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj), of RA
9165. The definitions of these two separate acts are reproduced below for easy reference:

SECTION 3. Definitions. - As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxxx

(ii) Sell. - Any act of giving away any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential
chemical whether for money or any other consideration.

(jj) Trading. - Transactions involving the illegal trafficking of dangerous drugs and/or controlled
precursors and essential chemicals using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text messages,
e-mail, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms or acting as a
broker in any of such transactions whether for money or any other consideration in violation of this Act.

It is obvious from the foregoing that the crime of illegal trading has been written in strokes much
broader than that for illegal sale. In fact, an illegal sale of drugs may be considered as only one of the
possible component acts of illegal trading which may be committed through two modes: (1) illegal
trafficking using electronic devices; or (2) acting as a broker in any transactions involved in the illegal
trafficking of dangerous drugs.

On this score, the crime of "illegal trafficking" embraces various other offenses punishable by RA 9165.
Section 3(r) of RA 9165 provides:

(r) Illegal Trafficking. - The illegal cultivation, culture, delivery, administration, dispensation,
manufacture, sale, trading, transportation, distribution, importation, exportation and possession of any
dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical.

In turn, the crimes included in the definition of Illegal Trafficking of drugs are defined as follows:

(a) Administer. - Any act of introducing any dangerous drug into the body of any person, with or without
his/her knowledge, by injection, inhalation, ingestion or other means, or of committing any act of
indispensable assistance to a person in administering a dangerous drug to himself/herself unless
administered by a duly licensed practitioner for purposes of medication.

xxxx

(d) Chemical Diversion. - The sale, distribution, supply or transport of legitimately imported, in-transit,
manufactured or procured controlled precursors and essential chemicals, in diluted, mixtures or in
concentrated form, to any person or entity engaged in the manufacture of any dangerous drug, and
shall include packaging, repackaging, labeling, relabeling or concealment of such transaction through
fraud, destruction of documents, fraudulent use of permits, misdeclaration, use of front companies or
mail fraud.

xxxx

(i) Cultivate or Culture. - Any act of knowingly planting, growing, raising, or permitting the planting,
growing or raising of any plant which is the source of a dangerous drug.

xxxx

(k) Deliver. - Any act of knowingly passing a dangerous drug to another, personally or otherwise, and by
any means, with or without consideration.

xxxx

(m) Dispense. - Any act of giving away, selling or distributing medicine or any dangerous drug with or
without the use of prescription.
xxxx

(u) Manufacture. - The production, preparation, compounding or processing of any dangerous drug
and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical, either directly or indirectly or by extraction from
substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis or by a combination of
extraction and chemical synthesis, and shall include any packaging or repackaging of such substances,
design or configuration of its form, or labeling or relabeling of its container; except that such terms do
not include the preparation, compounding, packaging or labeling of a drug or other substances by a
duly authorized practitioner as an incident to his/her administration or dispensation of such drug or
substance in the course of his/her professional practice including research, teaching and chemical
analysis of dangerous drugs or such substances that are not intended for sale or for any other purpose.

xxxx

(kk) Use. - Any act of injecting, intravenously or intramuscularly, of consuming, either by chewing,
smoking, sniffing, eating, swallowing, drinking or otherwise introducing into the physiological system of
the body, any of the dangerous drugs.

With the complexity of the operations involved in Illegal Trading of drugs, as recognized and defined in
RA 9165, it will be quite myopic and restrictive to require the elements of Illegal Sale-a mere component
act-in the prosecution for Illegal Trading.

More so, that which qualifies the crime of Illegal Trafficking to Illegal Trading may make it impossible to
provide the details of the elements of Illegal Sale. By "using electronic devices such as, but not limited
to, text messages, email, mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat
rooms," the Illegal Trading can be remotely perpetrated away from where the drugs are actually being
sold; away from the subject of the illegal sale. With the proliferation of digital technology coupled with
ride sharing and delivery services, Illegal Trading under RA 9165 can be committed without getting
one's hand on the substances or knowing and meeting the seller or buyer. To require the elements of
Illegal Sale (the identities of the buyer, seller, the object and consideration, in Illegal Trade) would be
impractical.

The same may be said of the second mode for committing Illegal Trading, or trading by "acting as a
broker" in transactions involved in Illegal Trafficking. In this instance, the accused may neither have
physical possession of the drugs nor meet the buyer and seller and yet violate RA 9165. As pointed out
by Justice Perlas-Bernabe, as early as 1916, jurisprudence has defined a broker as one who is simply a
middleman, negotiating contracts relative to property with which he has no custody, viz.:

A broker is generally defined as one who is engaged, for others, on a commission, negotiating contracts
relative to property with the custody of which he has no concern; the negotiator between other parties,
never acting in his own name, but in the name of those who employed him; he is strictly a middleman
and for some purposes the agent of both parties. 84 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

In some cases, this Court even acknowledged persons as brokers even "where they actually took no part
in the negotiations, never saw the customer."85 For the Court, the primary occupation of a broker is
simply bringing "the buyer and the seller together, even if no sale is eventually made. "86 Hence, in
indictments for Illegal Trading, it is illogical to require the elements of Illegal Sale of drugs, such as the
identities of the buyer and the seller, the object and consideration. 87 For the prosecution of Illegal
Trading of drugs to prosper, proof that the accused "act[ed] as a broker" or brought together the buyer
and seller of illegal drugs "using electronic devices such as, but not limited to, text messages, e-mail,
mobile or landlines, two-way radios, internet, instant messengers and chat rooms" is sufficient.

The DOJ' s designation of the charge as one for Illegal Drug Trading thus holds sway. After all, the
prosecution is vested with a wide range of discretion-including the discretion of whether, what, and
whom to charge.88 The exercise of this discretion depends on a smorgasboard of factors, which are best
appreciated by the prosecutors. 89

As such, with the designation of the offense, the recital of facts in the Information, there can be no other
conclusion than that petitioner is being charged not with Direct Bribery but with violation of RA 9165.

Granting without conceding that the information contains averments which constitute the elements of
Direct Bribery or that more than one offence is charged or as ill this case, possibly bribery and violation
of RA 9165, still the prosecution has the authority to amend the information at any time before
arraignment. Since petitioner has not yet been arraigned, then the information subject of Criminal Case
No. 17-165 can still be amended pursuant to Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court which reads:

SECTION 14. Amendment or Substitution. - A complaint or information may be amended, in form or in


substance, without leave of court, at any time before the accused enters his plea. After the plea and
during the trial, a formal amendment may only be made with leave of court and when it can be done
without causing prejudice to the rights of the accused.

Now the question that irresistibly demands an answer is whether it is the Sandiganbayan or the RTC
that has jurisdiction over the subject matter of Criminal Case No. 17-165, i.e., violation of RA 9165.
It is basic that jurisdiction over the subject matter in a criminal case is given only by law in the manner
and form prescribed by law.90 It is determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement
of the action.91 Indeed, Congress has the plenary power to define, prescribe and apportion the
jurisdiction of various courts. It follows then that Congress may also, by law, provide that a certain
class of cases should be exclusively heard and determined by one court. Such would be a special law
that is construed as an exception to the general law on jurisdiction of courts. 92

The pertinent special law governing drug-related cases is RA 9165, which updated the rules provided in
RA 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. A plain reading of RA 9165, as of RA
6425, will reveal that jurisdiction over drug-related cases is exclusively vested with the Regional Trial
Court and no other. The designation of the RTC as the court with the exclusive jurisdiction over drug-
related cases is apparent in the following provisions where it was expressly mentioned and recognized
as the only court with the authority to hear drug-related cases:

Section 20. Confiscation and Forfeiture of the Proceeds or Instruments of the Unlawful Act, Including the
Properties or Proceeds Derived from the Illegal Trafficking of Dangerous Drugs and/or Precursors and
Essential Chemicals. - x x x x

After conviction in the Regional Trial Court in the appropriate criminal case filed, the Court shall
immediately schedule a hearing for the confiscation and forfeiture of all the proceeds of the offense and
all the assets and properties of the accused either owned or held by him or in the name of some other
persons if the same shall be found to be manifestly out of proportion to his/her lawful income:

xxxx

During the pendency of the case in the Regional Trial Court, no property, or income derived therefrom,
which may be confiscated and forfeited, shall be disposed, alienated or transferred and the same shall
be in custodia legis and no bond shall be admitted for the release of the same.

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Section 61. Compulsory Confinement of a Drug Dependent Who Refuses to Apply Under the Voluntary
Submission Program. - x x x

A petition for the confinement of a person alleged to be dependent on dangerous drugs to a Center may
be filed by any person authorized by the Board with the Regional Trial Court of the province or city
where such person is found.

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Section 62. Compulsory Submission of a Drug Dependent Charged with an Offense to Treatment and
Rehabilitation. - If a person charged with an offense where the imposable penalty is imprisonment of
less than six (6) years and one (1) day, and is found by the prosecutor or by the court, at any stage of
the proceedings, to be a drug dependent, the prosecutor or the court as the case may be, shall suspend
all further proceedings and transmit copies of the record of the case to the Board.

In the event the Board determines, after medical examination, that public interest requires that such
drug dependent be committed to a center for treatment and rehabilitation, it shall file a petition for
his/her commitment with the regional trial court of the province or city where he/she is being
investigated or tried: x x x

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Section 90. Jurisdiction. - The Supreme Court shall designate special courts from among the existing
Regional Trial Courts in each judicial region to exclusively try and hear cases involving violations of this
Act. The number of courts designated in each judicial region shall be based on the population and the
number of cases pending in their respective jurisdiction.

The DOJ shall designate special prosecutors to exclusively handle cases involving violations of this Act.

Notably, no other trial court was mentioned in RA 9165 as having the authority to take cognizance of
drug-related cases. Thus, in Morales v. Court of Appeals,93this Court categorically named the RTC as the
court with jurisdiction over drug related-cases, as follows:

Applying by analogy the ruling in People v. Simon, People v. De Lara, People v. Santos, and Ordonez v.
Vinarao, the imposable penalty in this case which involves 0.4587 grams of shabu should not
exceed prision correccional. We say by analogy because these cases involved marijuana, not
methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu). In Section 20 of RA. No. 6425, as amended by Section 17 of
RA No. 7659, the maximum quantities of marijuana and methamphetamine hydrochloride for purposes
of imposing the maximum penalties are not the same. For the latter, if the quantity involved is 200
grams or more, the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from ₱500,000 to PIO
million shall be imposed. Accordingly, if the quantity involved is below 200 grams, the imposable
penalties should be as follows:
xxxx

Clearly, the penalty which may be imposed for the offense charged in Criminal Case No. 96-8443 would
at most be only prision correccional duration is from six (6) months and one (1) day to six (6) years. Does
it follow then that, as the petitioner insists, the RTC has no jurisdiction thereon in view of the
amendment of Section 32 of B.P. Big. 129 by R.A. No. 7691, which vested upon Metropolitan Trial
Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts exclusive original jurisdiction over
all offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years irrespective of the amount of fine
and regardless of other imposable accessory or other penalties? This Section 32 as thus amended now
reads:

xxxx

The exception in the opening sentence is of special significance which we cannot disregard. x xx The
aforementioned exception refers not only to Section 20 of B.P. Blg. 129 providing for the jurisdiction of
Regional Trial Courts in criminal cases, but also to other laws which specifically lodge in Regional Trial
Courts exclusive jurisdiction over specific criminal cases, e. g., (a) Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code,
as amended by R.A. Nos. 1289 and 4363 on written defamation or libel; (b) Decree on Intellectual
Property (P. D. No. 49, as amended), which vests upon Courts of First Instance exclusive jurisdiction
over the cases therein mentioned regardless of the imposable penalty; and (c) more appropriately for the
case at bar, Section 39 of RA No. 6425, as amended by P.D. No. 44, which vests on Courts of First
Instance, Circuit Criminal Courts, and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts concurrent
exclusive original jurisdiction over all cases involving violations of said Act.

xxxx

That Congress indeed did not intend to repeal these special laws vesting exclusive jurisdiction in the
Regional Trial Courts over certain cases is clearly evident from the exception provided for in the opening
sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by RA No. 7691. These special laws are not,
therefore, covered by the repealing clause (Section 6) of RA No. 7691.

Neither can it be successfully argued that Section 39 of RA. No. 6425, as amended by P.D. No. 44, is no
longer operative because Section 44 of B.P. Big. 129 abolished the Courts of First Instance, Circuit
Criminal Courts, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts. While, indeed, Section 44 provides that
these courts were to be "deemed automatically abolished" upon the declaration by the President that the
reorganization provided in B.P. Blg. 129 had been completed, this Court should not lose sight of the fact
that the Regional Trial Courts merely replaced the Courts of First Instance as clearly borne out by the
last two sentences of Section 44, to wit:

xxxx

Consequently, it is not accurate to state that the "abolition" of the Courts of First Instance carried with
it the abolition of their exclusive original jurisdiction in drug cases vested by Section 39 of R.A. No.
6425, as amended by P. D. No. 44. If that were so, then so must it be with respect to Article 360 of the
Revised Penal Code and Section 57 of the Decree on Intellectual Property. On the contrary, in the
resolution of 19 June 1996 in Caro v. Court of Appeals and in the resolution of 26 February 1997
in Villalon v. Ba/dado, this Court expressly ruled that Regional Trial Courts have the exclusive original
jurisdiction over libel cases pursuant to Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code. In Administrative Order
No. 104-96 this Court mandates that:

xxxx

The same Administrative Order recognizes that violations of RA. No. 6425, as amended, regardless of
the quantity involved, are to be tried and decided by the Regional Trial Courts therein designated as
special courts.94 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Yet, much has been made of the terminology used in Section 90 of RA 9165. The dissents would
highlight the provision's departure from Section 39 of RA 6425 - the erstwhile drugs law, which
provides:

SECTION 39. Jurisdiction of the Circuit Criminal Court. - The Circuit Criminal Court shall have
exclusive original jurisdiction over all cases involving offenses punishable under this Act.

For those in the dissent, the failure to reproduce the phrase "exclusive original jurisdiction" is a clear
indication that no court, least of all the RTC, has been vested with such "exclusive original jurisdiction"
so that even the Sandiganbayan can take cognizance and resolve a criminal prosecution for violation of
RA 9165.

As thoroughly discussed by Justice Peralta in his Concurring Opinion, such deduction is unwarranted
given the clear intent of the legislature not only to retain the "exclusive original jurisdiction" of the RTCs
over violations of the drugs law but to segregate from among the several RTCs of each judicial region
some RTCs that will "exclusively try and hear cases involving violations of [RA 9165)." If at all, the
change introduced by the new phraseology of Section 90, RA 9165 is not the deprivation of the RTCs'
"exclusive original jurisdiction" but the further restriction of this "exclusive original jurisdiction" to
select RTCs of each judicial region. This intent can be clearly gleaned from the interpellation on House
Bill No. 4433, entitled "An Act Instituting the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, repealing Republic Act No.
6425, as amended:"

Initially, Rep. Dilangalen referred to the fact sheet attached to the Bill which states that the measure
will undertake a comprehensive amendment to the existing law on dangerous drugs -- RA No. 6425, as
amended. Adverting to Section 64 of the Bill on the repealing clause, he then asked whether the
Committee is in effect amending or repealing the aforecited law. Rep. Cuenco replied that any provision
of law which is in conflict with the provisions of the Bill is repealed and/or modified accordingly.

In this regard, Rep. Dilangalen suggested that if the Committee's intention was only to amend RA No.
6425, then the wording used should be "to amend" and not "to repeal" with regard to the provisions that
are contrary to the provisions of the Bill.

Adverting to Article VIII, Section 60, on Jurisdiction Over Dangerous Drugs Case, which provides that
"the Supreme Court shall designate regional trial courts to have original jurisdiction over all offenses
punishable by this Act," Rep. Dilangalen inquired whether it is the Committee's intention that certain
RTC salas will be designated by the Supreme Court to try drug-related offenses, although all RTCs have
original jurisdiction over those offenses.

Rep. Cuenco replied in the affirmative. He pointed that at present, the Supreme Court's assignment of
drug cases to certain judges is not exclusive because the latter can still handle cases other than drug-
related cases. He added that the Committee's intention is to assign drug-related cases to judges who will
handle exclusively these cases assigned to them.

In this regard, Rep. Dilangalen stated that, at the appropriate time, he would like to propose the
following amendment; "The Supreme Court shall designate specific salas of the RTC to try exclusively
offenses related to drugs."

Rep. Cuenca agreed therewith, adding that the Body is proposing the creation of exclusive drug courts
because at present, almost all of the judges are besieged by a lot of drug cases some of which have been
pending for almost 20 years.95 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Per the "Records of the Bilateral Conference Committee on the Disagreeing Provisions of Senate Bill No.
1858 and House Bill No. 4433," the term "designation" of R TCs that will exclusively handle drug-related
offenses was used to skirt the budgetary requirements that might accrue by the "creation" of exclusive
drugs courts. It was never intended to divest the R TCs of their exclusive original jurisdiction over drug-
related cases. The Records are clear:

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). x x x [W]e would like to propose the creation of drug courts to handle
exclusively drug cases; the imposition of a 60-day deadline on courts within which to decide drug cases;
and No. 3, provide penalties on officers of the law and government prosecutors for mishandling and
delaying drugs cases.

We will address these concerns one by one.

1. The possible creation of drugs courts to handle exclusively drug cases. Any comments?

xxxx

THE CHAIRMAN (SEN. BARBERS). We have no objection to this proposal, Mr. Chairman. As a matter of
fact, this is one of the areas where we come into an agreement when we were in Japan. However, I just
would like to add a paragraph after the word "Act" in Section 86 of the Senate versions, Mr. Chairman.
And this is in connection with the designation of special courts by "The Supreme Court shall designate
special courts from among the existing Regional Trial Courts in each judicial region to exclusively try
and hear cases involving violations of this Act. The number of court designated in each judicial region
shall be based on the population and the number of pending cases in their respective jurisdiction." That
is my proposal, Mr. Chairman.

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). We adopt the same proposal.

xxxx

THE CHAIRMAN (SEN. BARBERS). I have no problem with that, Mr. Chairman, but I'd like to call your
attention to the fact that my proposal is only for designation because if it is for a creation that would
entail another budget, Mr. Chairman. And almost always, the Department of Budget would tell us at the
budget hearing that we lack funds, we do not have money. So that might delay the very purpose why we
want the RTC or the municipal courts to handle exclusively the drug cases. That's why my proposal is
designation not creation.

THE CHAIRMAN (REP. CUENCO). Areglado. No problem, designation. Approved. 96

The exclusive original jurisdiction over violations of RA 9165 is not transferred to the Sandiganbayan
whenever the accused occupies a position classified as Grade 27 or higher, regardless of whether the
violation is alleged as committed in relation to office. The power of the Sandiganbayan to sit in judgment
of high-ranking government officials is not omnipotent. The Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction is
circumscribed by law and its limits are currently defined and prescribed by RA 10660, 97 which amended
Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1606.98 As it now stands, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the
following:

SEC. 4. Jurisdiction. - The Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases
involving:

a. Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt
Practices Act, Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII, Book II of the Revised Penal
Code, where one or more of the accused are officials occupying the following positions in the
government, whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the
offense:

(1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of regional director and higher, otherwise
classified as Grade '27' and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989
(Republic Act No. 6758), specifically including:

xxxx

(2) Members of Congress and officials thereof classified as Grade '27' and higher under the
Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989;

(3) Members of the judiciary without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution;

(4) Chairmen and members of the Constitutional Commissions, without prejudice to the provisions of
the Constitution; and

(5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade '27' and higher under the Compensation and
Position Classification Act of 1989.

b. Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed with other crimes committed by the public
officials and employees mentioned in subsection a. of this section in relation to their office.

c. Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection with Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and
14-A, issued in 1986. Provided, That the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction
where the information: (a) does not allege any damage to the government or any bribery; or (b) alleges
damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts in an
amount not exceeding One Million pesos (₱l,000,000.00).

The foregoing immediately betrays that the Sandiganbayan primarily sits as a special anti-graft
court pursuant to a specific injunction in the 1973 Constitution. 99 Its characterization and
continuation as such was expressly given a constitutional fiat under Section 4, Article XI of the 1987
Constitution, which states:

SECTION 4. The present anti-graft court known as the Sandiganbayan shall continue to function and
exercise its jurisdiction as now or hereafter may be provided by law.

It should occasion no surprise, therefore, that the Sandiganbayan is without jurisdiction to hear drug-
related cases. Even Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, touted by the petitioner and the
dissents as a catchall provision, does not operate to strip the R TCs of its exclusive original jurisdiction
over violations of RA 9165. As pointed out by Justices Tijam and Martires, a perusal of the drugs law
will reveal that public officials were never considered excluded from its scope. Hence, Section 27 of RA
9165 punishes government officials found to have benefited from the trafficking of dangerous drugs,
while Section 28 of the law imposes the maximum penalty on such government officials and employees.
The adverted sections read:

SECTION 27. Criminal Liability of a Public Officer or Employee for Misappropriation, Misapplication or
Failure to Account for the Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or
Laborat01y Equipment Including the Proceeds or Properties Obtained from the Unlawful Act Committed -
The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos
(P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (Pl0,000,000.00), in addition to absolute perpetual disqualification
from any public office, shall be imposed upon any public officer or employee who misappropriates,
misapplies or fails to account for confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of
dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or
laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties obtained from the unlawful acts as provided
for in this Act.

Any elective local or national official found to have benefited from the proceeds of the trafficking of
dangerous drugs as prescribed in this Act, or have received any financial or material contributions or
donations from natural or juridical persons found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs as prescribed in
this Act, shall be removed from office and perpetually disqualified from holding any elective or
appointive positions in the government, its divisions, subdivisions, and intermediaries, including
government-owned or -controlled corporations.

SECTION 28. Criminal Liability of Government Officials and Employees. - The maximum penalties of the
unlawful acts provided for in this Act shall be imposed, in addition to absolute perpetual
disqualification from any public office, if those found guilty of such unlawful acts are government
officials and employees. (Emphasis supplied)

Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, provides but the general rule, couched in a "broad
and general phraseology. "100 Exceptions abound. Besides the jurisdiction on written defamations and
libel, as illustrated in Morales 101and People v. Benipayo, 102 the RTC is likewise given "exclusive original
jurisdiction to try and decide any criminal action or proceedings for violation of the Omnibus Election
Code,"103 regardless of whether such violation was committed by public officers occupying positions
classified as Grade 27 or higher in relation to their offices. In fact, offenses committed by members of
the Armed Forces in relation to their office, i.e., in the words of RA 7055, 104"service-connected crimes or
offenses," are not cognizable by the Sandiganbayan but by court-martial.

Certainly, jurisdiction over offenses and felonies committed by public officers is not determined solely by
the pay scale or by the fact that they were committed "in relation to their office." In determining the
forum vested with the jurisdiction to try and decide criminal actions, the laws governing the subject
matter of the criminal prosecution must likewise be considered.

In this case, RA 9165 specifies the RTC as the court with the jurisdiction to "exclusively try and
hear cases involving violations of [RA 9165)." This is an exception, couched in the special law on
dangerous drugs, to the general rule under Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660. It
is a canon of statutory construction that a special law prevails over a general law and the latter is to be
considered as an exception to the general.105

Parenthetically, it has been advanced that RA 10660 has repealed Section 90 of RA 9165. However, a
closer look at the repealing clause of RA 10660 will show that there is no express repeal of Section 90 of
RA 9165 and well-entrenched is the rule that an implied repeal is disfavored. It is only accepted upon
the clearest proof of inconsistency so repugnant that the two laws cannot be enforced. 106 The
presumption against implied repeal is stronger when of two laws involved one is special and the other
general.107 The mentioned rule in statutory construction that a special law prevails over a general law
applies regardless of the laws' respective dates of passage. Thus, this Court ruled:

x x x [I]t is a canon of statutory construction that a special law prevails over a general law - regardless
of their dates of passage - and the special is to be considered as remaining an exception to the general.

So also, every effort must be exerted to avoid a conflict between statutes. If reasonable construction is
possible, the laws must be reconciled in that manner.

Repeals of laws by implication moreover are not favored, and the mere repugnancy between two statutes
should be very clear to warrant the court in holding that the later in time repeals the other.108

To reiterate for emphasis, Section 4(b) of PD 1606, as amended by RA 10660, is the general law on
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over crimes and offenses committed by high-ranking public officers in
relation to their office; Section 90, RA 9165 is the special law excluding from the Sandiganbayan's
jurisdiction violations of RA 9165 committed by such public officers. In the latter case, jurisdiction is
vested upon the RTCs designated by the Supreme Court as drugs court, regardless of whether the
violation of RA 9165 was committed in relation to the public officials' office.

The exceptional rule provided under Section 90, RA 9165 relegating original exclusive jurisdiction to
RTCs specially designated by the Supreme Court logically follows given the technical aspect of drug-
related cases. With the proliferation of cases involving violation of RA 9165, it is easy to dismiss them as
common and untechnical. However, narcotic substances possess unique characteristics that render
them not readily identifiable. 109 In fact, they must first be subjected to scientific analysis by forensic
chemists to determine their composition and nature.110Thus, judges presiding over designated drugs
courts are specially trained by the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJa) and given scientific instructions
to equip them with the proper tools to appreciate pharmacological evidence and give analytical insight
upon this esoteric subject. After all, the primary consideration of RA 9165 is the fact that the
substances involved are, in fact, dangerous drugs, their plant sources, or their controlled precursors
and essential chemicals. Without a doubt, not one of the Sandiganbayan justices were provided with
knowledge and technical expertise on matters relating to prohibited substances.

Hard figures likewise support the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the RTCs over violations of RA
9165. As previously stated, as of June 30, 2017, there are 232,557 drugs cases pending before the
RTCs. On the other hand, not even a single case filed before the Sandiganbayan from February 1979 to
June 30, 2017 dealt with violations of the drugs law. Instead, true to its designation as an anti-graft
court, the bulk of the cases filed before the Sandiganbayan involve violations of RA 3019, entitled the
"Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act" and malversation. 111 With these, it would not only be unwise but
reckless to allow the tribunal uninstructed and inexperienced with the intricacies of drugs cases to hear
and decide violations of RA 9165 solely on account of the pay scale of the accused.
Likewise of special significance is the proviso introduced by RA 10660 which, to reiterate for emphasis,
states:

Provided, That the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction where the information:
(a) does not allege any damage to the government or any bribery; or (b) alleges damage to the
government or bribery arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts in an amount not
exceeding One million pesos (₱l,000,000.00).

The clear import of the new paragraph introduced by RA 10660 is to streamline the cases handled by
the Sandiganbayan by delegating to the RTCs some cases involving high-ranking public officials. With
the dissents' proposition, opening the Sandiganbayan to the influx of drug-related cases, RA 10660
which was intended to unclog the dockets of the Sandiganbayan would all be for naught. Hence,
sustaining the RTC's jurisdiction over drug-related cases despite the accused's high-ranking position, as
in this case, is all the more proper.

Even granting arguendo that the Court declares the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the
information subject of Criminal Case No. 17-165, still it will not automatically result in the release from
detention and restore the liberty and freedom of petitioner. The R TC has several options if it dismisses
the criminal case based on the grounds raised by petitioner in her Motion to Quash.

Under Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, the trial court has three (3) possible alternative actions when
confronted with a Motion to Quash:

1. Order the amendment of the Infonnation;

2. Sustain the Motion to Quash; or

3. Deny the Motion to Quash.

The first two options are available to the trial court where the motion to quash is meritorious.
Specifically, as to the first option, this court had held that should the Information be deficient or lacking
in any material allegation, the trial court can order the amendment of the Information under Section 4,
Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, which states:

SECTION 4. Amendment of Complaint or Information. - If the motion to quash is based on an alleged


defect of the complaint or information which can be cured by amendment, the court shall order that an
amendment be made.

If it is based on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, the prosecution shall be
given by the court an opportunity to correct the defect by amendment. The motion shall be granted if
the prosecution fails to make the amendment, or the complaint or information still suffers from the
same defect despite the amendment.

The failure of the trial court to order the correction of a defect in the Information curable by an
amendment amounts to an arbitrary exercise of power. So, this Court held in Dio v. People:

This Court has held that failure to provide the prosecution with the opportunity to amend is an
arbitrary exercise of power. In People v. Sandiganbayan (Fourth Division): When a motion to quash is
filed challenging the validity and sufficiency of an Information, and the defect may be cured by
amendment, courts must deny the motion to quash and order the prosecution to file an amended
Information. Generally, a defect pertaining to the failure of an Information to charge facts constituting
an offense is one that may be corrected by an amendment. In such instances, courts are mandated not
to automatically quash the Information; rather, it should grant the prosecution the opportunity to cure
the defect through an amendment. This rule allows a case to proceed without undue delay. By allowing
the defect to be cured by simple amendment, unnecessary appeals based on technical grounds, which
only result to prolonging the proceedings, are avoided.

More than this practical consideration, however, is the due process underpinnings of this rule. As
explained by this Court in People v. Andrade, the State, just like any other litigant, is entitled to its day
in court. Thus, a court's refusal to grant the prosecution the opportunity to amend an Information,
where such right is expressly granted under the Rules of Court and affirmed time and again in a string
of Supreme Court decisions, effectively curtails the State's right to due process.112

Notably, the defect involved in Dio was the Information's failure to establish the venue - a matter of
jurisdiction in criminal cases. Thus, in the case at bar where petitioner has not yet been arraigned, the
court a quo has the power to order the amendment of the February 17, 2017 Information filed against
the petitioner. This power to order the amendment is not reposed with this Court in the exercise of
its certiorari powers.

Nevertheless, should the trial court sustain the motion by actually ordering the quashal of the
Infonnation, the prosecution is not precluded from filing another information. An order sustaining the
motion to quash the information would neither bar another prosecution 113 or require the release of the
accused from custody. Instead, under Section 5, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, the trial court can
simply order that another complaint or information be filed without discharging the accused from
custody. Section 5, Rule 117 states, thus:

Section 5. Effect of sustaining the motion to quash. - If the motion to quash is sustained, the court may
order that another complaint or information be filed except as provided in Section 6 of this rule. If the
order is made, the accused, if in custody, shall not be discharged unless admitted to bail. If no order is
made or if having been made, no new information is filed within the time specified in the order or within
such further time as the court may allow for good cause, the accused, if in custody, shall be discharged
unless he is also in custody for another charge.

Section 6, Rule 117, adverted to in the foregoing provision, prevents the re-filing of an information on
only two grounds: that the criminal action or liability has already been extinguished, and that of double
jeopardy. Neither was invoked in petitioner's Motion to Quash filed before the court a quo.

The third option available to the trial court is the denial of the motion to quash. Even granting, for the
nonce, the petitioner's position that the trial court's issuance of the warrant for her arrest is an implied
denial of her Motion to Quash, the proper remedy against this court action is to proceed to trial, not to
file the present petition for certiorari. This Court in Galzote v. Briones reiterated this established
doctrine:

A preliminary consideration in this case relates to the propriety of the chosen legal remedies availed of
by the petitioner in the lower courts to question the denial of his motion to quash. In the usual course
of procedure, a denial of a motion to quash filed by the accused results in the continuation of the trial
and the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. If a judgment of conviction is rendered
and the lower court's decision of conviction is appealed, the accused can then raise the denial of his
motion to quash not only as an error committed by the trial court but as an added ground to overturn
the latter's ruling.

In this case, the petitioner did not proceed to trial but opted to immediately question the denial of his
motion to quash via a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

As a rule, the denial of a motion to quash is an interlocutory order and is not appealable; an appeal
from an interlocutory order is not allowed under Section 1 (b), Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. Neither
can it be a proper subject of a petition for certiorari which can be used only in the absence of an appeal
or any other adequate, plain and speedy remedy. The plain and speedy remedy upon denial of an
interlocutory order is to proceed to trial as discussed above. 114 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

At this juncture, it must be stressed yet again that the trial court has been denied the opportunity to
act and rule on petitioner's motion when the latter jumped the gun and prematurely repaired posthaste
to this Court, thereby immobilizing the trial court in its tracks. Verily, De Lima should have waited for
the decision on her motion to quash instead of prematurely filing the instant recourse.

In the light of the foregoing, the best course of action for the Court to take is to dismiss the petition and
direct the trial court to rule on the Motion to Quash and undertake all the necessary proceedings to
expedite the adjudication of the subject criminal case.

RESPONDENT JUDGE DID NOT ABUSE HER DISCRETION IN FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE TO ORDER
THE PETITIONER'S ARREST

The basis for petitioner's contention that respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion in
issuing the February 23, 2017 Order115 finding probable cause to arrest the petitioner is two-pronged:
respondent judge should have first resolved the pending Motion to Quash before ordering the petitioner's
arrest; and there is no probable cause to justify the petitioner's arrest.

Grave abuse of discretion is the capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment equivalent to an evasion
of positive duty or a virtual refusal to act at all in contemplation of the law.116

In the present case, the respondent judge had no positive duty to first resolve the Motion to Quash before
issuing a warrant of arrest. There is no rule of procedure, statute, or jurisprudence to support the
petitioner's claim. Rather, Sec.5(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court 117 required the respondent judge to
evaluate the prosecutor's resolution and its supporting evidence within a limited period of only ten (10)
days, viz.:

SEC. 5. 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 when the complaint or
information was filed pursuant to Section 6 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.
It is not far-fetched to conclude, therefore, that had the respondent judge waited longer and first
attended to the petitioner's Motion to Quash, she would have exposed herself to a possible
administrative liability for failure to observe Sec. 5(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Her exercise of
discretion was sound and in conformity with the provisions of the Rules of Court considering that
a Motion to Quash may be filed and, thus resolved by a trial court judge, at any time before the accused
petitioner enters her plea.118 What is more, it is in accord with this Court's ruling in Marcos v. Cabrera-
Faller119that "[a]s the presiding judge, it was her task, upon the filing of the Information, to first and
foremost determine the existence or non-existence of probable cause for the arrest of the accused."

This Court's ruling in Miranda v. Tuliao 120does not support the petitioner's position. Miranda does not
prevent a trial court from ordering the arrest of an accused even pending a motion to quash the
infonnation. At most, it simply explains that an accused can seek judicial relief even if he has not yet
been taken in the custody of law.

Undoubtedly, contrary to petitioner's postulation, there is no rule or basic principle requiring a trial
judge to first resolve a motion to quash, whether grounded on lack of jurisdiction or not, before issuing
a warrant of arrest. As such, respondent judge committed no grave abuse of discretion in issuing the
assailed February 23, 2017 Order even before resolving petitioner's Motion to Quash. There is certainly
no indication that respondent judge deviated from the usual procedure in finding probable cause to
issue the petitioner's arrest.

And yet, petitioner further contends that the language of the February 23, 2017 Order violated her
constitutional rights and is contrary to the doctrine in Soliven v. Makasiar. 121Petitioner maintains that
respondent judge failed to personally determine the probable cause for the issuance of the warrant of
arrest since, as stated in the assailed Order, respondent judge based her findings on the evidence
presented during the preliminary investigation and not on the report and supporting documents
submitted by the prosecutor.122 This hardly deserves serious consideration.

Personal determination of the existence of probable cause by the judge is required before a warrant of
arrest may issue. The Constitution123 and the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure124 command the
judge "to refrain from making a mindless acquiescence to the prosecutor's findings and to conduct his
own examination of the facts and circumstances presented by both parties. " 125 This much is clear from
this Court's n1ling in Soliven cited by the petitioner, viz.:

What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to
satisfy himself the existence of probable cause. In satisfying himself of the existence of probable cause
for the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant
and his witnesses. Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1) personally evaluate the
report and the supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence of probable cause
and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no probable
cause, he may disregard the fiscal's report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of
witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable cause. 126

It must be emphasized, however, that in determining the probable cause to issue the warrant of arrest
against the petitioner, respondent judge evaluated the Information and "all the evidence presented
during the preliminary investigation conducted in this case." The assailed February 23, 2017 Order is
here restated for easy reference and provides, thusly:

After a careful evaluation of the herein Information and all the evidence presented during the
preliminary investigation conducted in this case by the Department of Justice, Manila, the Court finds
sufficient probable cause for the issuance of Warrants of Arrest against all the accused LEILA M. DE
LIMA x x x.127 (Emphasis supplied.)

As the prosecutor's report/resolution precisely finds support from the evidence presented during the
preliminary investigation, this Court cannot consider the respondent judge to have evaded her duty or
refused to perform her obligation to satisfy herself that substantial basis exists for the petitioner's
arrest. "All the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation" encompasses a broader
category than the "supporting evidence" required to be evaluated in Soliven. It may perhaps even be
stated that respondent judge performed her duty in a manner that far exceeds what is required of her
by the rules when she reviewed all the evidence, not just the supporting documents. At the very least,
she certainly discharged a judge's duty in finding probable cause for the issuance of a warrant, as
described in Ho v. People:

The above rulings in Soliven, Inting and Lim, Sr. were iterated in Allado v. Diokno, where we explained
again what probable cause means. Probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest is the
existence of such facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent person to
believe that an offense has been committed by the person sought to be arrested. Hence, the judge,
before issuing a warrant of arrest, 'must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is
sufficient proof that a crime has been committed and that the person to be arrested is probably guilty
thereof' At this stage of the criminal proceeding, the judge is not yet tasked to review in detail the
evidence submitted during the preliminary investigation. It is sufficient that he personally evaluates
such evidence in determining probable cause. In Webb v. De Leon we stressed that the judge merely
determines the probability, not the certainty, of guilt of the accused and, in doing so, he need not
conduct a de novo hearing. He simply personally reviews the prosecutor's initial determination finding
probable cause to see if it is supported by substantial evidence."
xxxx

x x x [T]he judge cannot rely solely on the report of the prosecutor in finding probable cause to justify
the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Obviously and understandably, the contents of the prosecutor's
report will support his own conclusion that there is reason to charge the accused for an offense and
hold him for trial. However, the judge must decide independently. Hence, he must have supporting
evidence, other than the prosecutor's bare report, upon which to legally sustain his own findings on the
existence (or non-existence) of probable cause to issue an arrest order. This responsibility of
determining personally and independently the existence or nonexistence of probable cause is lodged in
him by no less than the most basic law of the land. Parenthetically, the prosecutor could ease the
burden of the judge and speed up the litigation process by forwarding to the latter not only the
information and his bare resolution finding probable cause, but also so much of the records and the
evidence on hand as to enable His Honor to make his personal and separate judicial finding on whether
to issue a warrant of arrest.

Lastly, it is not required that the complete or entire records of the case during the preliminary
investigation be submitted to and examined by the judge. We do not intend to unduly burden trial
courts by obliging them to examine the complete records of every case all the time simply for the
purpose of ordering the arrest of an accused. What is required, rather, is that the judge must have
sufficient supporting documents (such as the complaint, affidavits, counter-affidavits, sworn statements
of witnesses or transcript of stenographic notes, if any) upon which to make his independent judgment
or, at the very least, upon which to verify the findings of the prosecutor as to the existence of probable
cause. The point is: he cannot rely solely and entirely on the prosecutor's recommendation, as
Respondent Court did in this case. Although the prosecutor enjoys the legal presumption of regularity
in the performance of his official duties and functions, which in turn gives his report the presumption of
accuracy, the Constitution, we repeat, commands the judge to personally determine probable cause in
the issuance of warrants of arrest. This Court has consistently held that a judge fails in his bounden
duty if he relies merely on the certification or the report of the investigating officer. 128 (Emphasis
supplied.)

Notably, for purposes of determining the propriety of the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is
tasked to merely determine the probability, not the certainty, of the guilt of the accused. 129 She is given
wide latitude of discretion in the determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of
arrest.130 A finding of probable cause to order the accused's arrest does not require an inquiry into
whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction. 131 It is enough that it is believed that the
act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged. 132

Again, per the February 23, 2017 Order, respondent judge evaluated all the evidence presented during
the preliminary investigation and on the basis thereof found probable cause to issue the warrant of
arrest against the petitioner. This is not surprising given that the only evidence available on record are
those provided by the complainants and the petitioner, in fact, did not present any counter-affidavit or
evidence to controvert this. Thus, there is nothing to disprove the following preliminary findings of the
DOJ prosecutors relative to the allegations in the Information filed in Criminal Case No. 17-165:

Thus, from November 2012 to March 2013, De Lima[,] Ragos and Dayan should be indicted for violation
of Section 5, in relation to Section 3Gj), Section 26(b) and Section 28, of R.A. 9165, owing to the delivery
of PS million in two (2) occasions, on 24 November 2012 and 15 December 2012, to Dayan and De
Lima. The monies came inmate Peter Co [were] proceeds from illicit drug trade, which were given to
support the senatorial bid of De Lima.

Also in the same period, Dayan demanded from Ragos money to support the senatorial bid of De Lima.
Ragos demanded and received ₱100,000 tara from each of the high-profile inmates in exchange for
privileges, including their illicit drug trade. Ablen collected the money for Ragos who, in turn, delivered
them to Dayan at De Lima's residence.133

The foregoing findings of the DOJ find support in the affidavits and testimonies of several persons. For
instance, in his Affidavit dated September 3, 2016, NBI agent Jovencio P. Ablen, Jr. narrated, viz.:

21. On the morning of 24 November 2012, I received a call from Dep. Dir. Ragos asking where I was. I
told him I was at home. He replied that he will fetch me to accompany him on a very important task.

22. Approximately an hour later, he arrived at my house. I boarded his vehicle, a Hyundai Tucson, with
plate no. RGU910. He then told me that he will deliver something to the then Secretary of Justice, Sen.
Leila De Lima. He continued and said "Nior confidential 'to. Tayong dalawa lang ang nakakaalam nito.
Dadalhin natin yung quota kay Lola. SM 'yang nasa bag. Tingnan mo."

23. The black bag he was referring to was in front of my feet. It [was a] black handbag. When I opened
the bag, I saw bundles of One Thousand Peso bills.1âwphi1

24. At about 10 o'clock in the morning, we arrived at the house located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay
Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City.

25. Dep. Dir. Ragos parked his vehicle in front of the house. We both alighted the vehicle but he told me
to stay. He then proceeded to the house.
26. From our parked vehicle, I saw Mr. Ronnie Dayan open the gate. Dep. Dir. Ragos then handed the
black handbag containing bundles of one thousand peso bills to Mr. Dayan.

27. At that time, I also saw the then DOJ Sec. De Lima at the main door of the house. She was wearing
plain clothes which is commonly known referred to as "duster."

28. The house was elevated from the road and the fence was not high that is why I was able to clearly
see the person at the main door, that is, Sen. De Lima.

29. When Dep. Dir. Ragos and Mr. Dayan reached the main door, I saw Mr. Dayan hand the black
handbag to Sen. De Lima, which she received. The three of them then entered the house.

30. After about thirty (30) minutes, Dep. Dir. Ragos went out of the house. He no longer has the black
handbag with him.

31. We then drove to the BuCor Director's Quarters in Muntinlupa City. While cruising, Dep. Dir. Ragos
told me "Nior 'wag kang maingay kahit kanino at wala kang nakita ha," to which I replied "Sabi mo e. e di
wala akong nakita."

32. On the morning of 15 December 2012, Dep. Dir. Ragos again fetched me from my house and we
proceeded to the same house located at Laguna Bay comer Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village,
Paranaque City.

33. That time, I saw a plastic bag in front of my feet. I asked Dep. Dir. Ragos "Quota na naman Sir?"Dep.
Dir. Ragos replied "Ano pa nga ba, 'tang ina sila lang meron. "134

Petitioner's co-accused, Rafael Ragos, recounted in his own Affidavit dated September 26, 2016 a
similar scenario:

8. One morning on the latter part of November 2012, I saw a black handbag containing a huge sum of
money on my bed inside the Director's Quarters of the BuCor. I looked inside the black handbag and
saw that it contains bundles of one thousand peso bills.

9. I then received a call asking me to deliver the black handbag to Mr. Ronnie Dayan. The caller said the
black handbag came from Peter Co and it contains "Limang Manoi<' which means Five Million Pesos
(Php5,000,000.00) as a "manoR' refers to One Million Pesos (Php 1,000,000.00) in the vernacular inside
the New Bilibid Prison.

10. As I personally know Mr. Dayan and knows that he stays in the house of the then DOJ Sec. Leila M.
De Lima located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City, I knew I had
to deliver the black handbag to Sen. De Lima at the said address.

11. Before proceeding to the house of Sen. De Lima at the above[-]mentioned address, I called Mr. Ablen
to accompany me in delivering the money. I told him we were going to do an important task.

12. Mr. Ablen agreed to accompany me so I fetched him from his house and we proceeded to the house
of Sen. De Lima at the above-mentioned address.

13. While we were in the car, I told Mr. Ablen that the important task we will do is deliver Five Million
Pesos (Php5,000,000.00) "Quota" to Sen. De Lima. I also told him that the money was in the black
handbag that was on the floor of the passenger seat (in front of him) and he could check it, to which Mr.
Ablen complied.

14. Before noon, we arrived at the house of Sen. De Lima located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive,
South Bay Village, Paranaque City.

15. I parked my vehicle in front of the house. Both Mr. Ablen and I alighted from the vehicle but I went
to the gate alone carrying the black handbag containing the Five Million Pesos (Php5,000,000.00).

16. At the gate, Mr. Ronnie Dayan greeted me and opened the gate for me. I then handed the handbag
containing the money to Mr. Dayan.

17. We then proceeded to the main door of the house where Sen. De Lima was waiting for us. At the
main door, Mr. Dayan handed the black handbag to Sen. De Lima, who received the same. We then
entered the house.

18. About thirty minutes after, I went out of the house and proceeded to my quarters at the BuCor,
Muntinlupa City.

19. One morning in the middle part of December 2012, I received a call to again deliver the plastic bag
containing money from Peter Co to Mr. Ronnie Dayan. This time the money was packed in a plastic bag
left on my bed inside my quarters at the BuCor, Muntinlupa City. From the outside of the bag, I could
easily perceive that it contains money because the bag is translucent.
20. Just like before, I fetched Mr. Ablen from his house before proceeding to the house of Sen. De Lima
located at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Paranaque City, where I know I could
find Mr. Dayan.

21. In the car, Mr. Ablen asked me if we are going to deliver "quota." I answered yes.

22. We arrived at the house of Sen. De Lima at the above[-]mentioned address at noontime. I again
parked in front of the house.

23. I carried the plastic bag containing money to the house. At the gate, I was greeted by Mr. Ronnie
Dayan. At that point, I handed the bag to Mr. Dayan. He received the bag and we proceeded inside the
house.135

The source of the monies delivered to petitioner De Lima was expressly bared by several felons
incarcerated inside the NBP. Among them is Peter Co, who testified in the following manner:

6. Noong huling bahagi ng 2012, sinabi sa akin ni Hans Tanna nanghihingi ng kontribusyon sa
mgaChinese sa Maximum Security Compound ng NBP si dating DOJ Sec. De Lima para sa kanyang
planong pagtakbo sa senado sa 2013 Elections. Dalawang beses akong nagbigay ng tig-P5 Million para
tugunan ang hiling ni Sen. De Lima, na dating DOJ Secretary;

7. Binigay ko ang mga halagang ito kay Hans Tan para maibigay kay Sen. Leila De Lima na datingDOJ
Secretary. Sa parehong pagkakataon, sinabihan na lang ako ni Hans Tan na naibigay na ang pera
kay Ronnie Dayan na siyang tumatanggap ng pera para kay dating DOJ Sec. De Lima Sinabi rin niHans
Tanna ang nagdeliver ng pera ay si dating OIC ng BuCor na si Rafael Ragos.

8. Sa kabuuan, nakapagbigay ang mga Chinese sa loob ng Maximum ng PIO Million sa mga huling
bahagi ng taong 2012 kay dating DOJ Sec. De Lima para sa kanyang planong pagtakbo sa senado
sa2013 Elections. Ang mga perang ito ay mula sa pinagbentahan ng illegal na droga. 136

All these, at least preliminarily, outline a case for illegal drug trading committed in conspiracy by the
petitioner and her co-accused. Thus, the Court cannot sustain the allegation that respondent judge
committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed Order for petitioner's arrest.

Petitioner would later confine herself to the contention that the prosecution's evidence is inadmissible,
provided as they were by petitioner's co-accused who are convicted felons and whose testimonies are
but hearsay evidence.

Nowhere in Ramos v. Sandiganbayan 137 - the case relied upon by petitioner - did this Court rule that
testimonies given by a co-accused are of no value. The Court simply held that said testimonies should
be received with great caution, but not that they would not be considered. The testimony of Ramos' co-
accused was, in fact, admitted in the cited case. Furthermore, this Court explicitly ruled in Estrada v.
Office of the Ombudsman138that hearsay evidence is admissible during preliminary investigation. The
Court held thusly:

Thus, probable cause can be established with hearsay evidence, as long as there is substantial basis for
crediting the hearsay. Hearsay evidence is admissible in determining probable cause in a preliminary
investigation because such investigation is merely preliminary, and does not finally adjudicate rights
and obligations of parties.139 (Emphasis supplied.)

Verily, the admissibility of evidence,140 their evidentiary weight, probative value, and the credibility of
the witness are matters that are best left to be resolved in a full-blown trial,141 not during a preliminary
investigation where the technical rules of evidence are not applied 142 nor at the stage of the
determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Thus, the better alternative is to
proceed to the conduct of trial on the merits for the petitioner and the prosecution to present their
respective evidence in support of their allegations.

With the foregoing disquisitions, the provisional reliefs prayed for, as a consequence, have to be
rejected.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for prohibition and certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The
Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204 is ordered to proceed with dispatch with Criminal
Case N6.17-165.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

HOLD DEPARTURE ORDER

SECOND DIVISION
[A.M. No. RTJ-04-1836. July 14, 2004]

DR. JAIME O. SEVILLA, complainant, vs. JUDGE ABRAHAM B. BORRETA, RTC, Branch 154, Pasig
City, respondent.

RESOLUTION
QUISUMBING, J.:

On September 19, 2002, Dr. Jaime O. Sevilla filed a verified complaint against Presiding Judge
Abraham B. Borreta, Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 154, accusing him of Ignorance of the
Law in violation of Canon 3, Rule 3.01 and Delay of Justice under Canon 1, Rule 1.02, both of the Code
of Judicial Conduct, in connection with Civil Case No. 37822 entitled Carmelita C. Sevilla v. Dr. Jaime O.
Sevilla, for Support.[1]
The pertinent facts in this administrative matter are undisputed.
On September 25, 2001, Mrs. Carmelita C. Sevilla filed a Motion for Execution of the Order
dated July 4, 2001 issued by Presiding Judge Ramon R. Buenaventura of the RTC of Pasig, Branch
154. The motion for execution pertained to a complaint for support against her estranged husband, Dr.
Sevilla, who was ordered to pay P40,000 to Mrs. Sevilla and P32,000 to their son, Carlos Rafael Sevilla.
On October 1, 2001, respondent assumed office as Presiding Judge of Branch 154, RTC of Pasig City.
On November 16, 2001, Mrs. Sevilla filed a Motion for Execution and Issuance of a Hold-Departure
Order (HDO), alleging that Dr. Sevilla failed to remit P72,000, the total amount of accumulated unpaid
support, as ordered by the court, nor has he shown any intention to obey the said order.
On April 3, 2002, respondent granted Mrs. Sevillas motion.[2] On May 8, 2002, the Court directed the
Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) to include the name of Dr. Sevilla in its hold-departure
order list.[3]
Complainant Dr. Sevilla thru counsel immediately filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated May
30, 2002 of the HDO, alleging that it had no factual nor legal basis and was a clear infringement of his
clients constitutional right to travel.[4]
On June 6, 2002, complainant paid P72,000, evidenced by the Sheriffs Return dated June 28,
2002.[5]
On June 17, 2002, complainant filed a Supplement to the Motion for Reconsideration alleging
that the Writ of Execution had already been satisfied and prayed for the cancellation of the HDO. During
the hearing of the said motion on June 28, 2002, complainant alleged that the respondent openly refused
to look at the receipt of the payment and was visibly irked when complainants counsel pointed out that
the issuance of the HDO violated Circular No. 39-97,[6] providing that an HDO can only be issued in
criminal cases. Respondent then required a comment from the opposition within 5 days because the
Sheriffs Return had not been filed at the time of the hearing.
On July 22, 2002, complainant filed another Urgent Ex Parte Motion to Lift Hold-Departure
Order on the ground that the basis for the issuance of the HDO the non-compliance with the July 4, 2001
Order was already moot and academic. Noteworthy, on August 9, 2002, respondent lifted the HDO upon
the filing of a new Motion to Lift Hold-Departure Order dated August 5, 2002.
On September 19, 2002, the herein complaint was filed. Complainant contends that the issuance of
the HDO is a clear manifestation of respondents incompetence and ignorance of the law. According to
complainant, the respondent judge should know that an HDO can be issued only in criminal cases as
provided by Circular No. 39-97, the basis of the Courts issuance of the HDO.[7] Furthermore, complainant
avers, respondent unduly delayed rendering an order to lift the HDO.
In his Comment, respondent judge avers that his issuance of the HDO had legal basis and the
decision to issue the HDO was left to his sound judgment and discretion. Respondent, explaining the
alleged lack of legal basis of the HDO, contends that complainants refusal and/or erratic failure to give
support, may give rise to an action for contempt of court which is in the nature of a criminal action [8] and
was punishable by imprisonment his basis for his issuance of the HDO.
On the accusation that he failed to act promptly in lifting the HDO, respondent claims that he acted
on the motion with dispatch, in good faith, without malice, and in accordance with law. He points out
that what complainant wanted was to dictate on the calendar of the court.Respondent adds that his
intention in requiring Mrs. Sevilla to comment on the motion to lift the HDO was to give her due process,
and ascertain the compliance of the judgment for support thru the Sheriffs Return, to the extent that he
even directed the sheriff to explain why the latter lifted the garnishment without an order from the court.
On the instructions of this Court to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to investigate, and
report its findings on the complaint, the OCA found that on the matter of delay, more than one month
had lapsed from June 28, 2002, the date of the hearing of the motion for execution and the HDO. Also,
the motion to lift the HDO was filed on August 5, 2002 and the Order lifting the HDO was given four days
later on August 9, 2002. According to the OCA, considering that complainant was a retained physician of
Cathay Pacific Airlines, charged with accompanying ailing passengers on flight, respondent should have
acted on the motion to reconsider more promptly since an HDO on complainant meant he would not be able
to perform his professional obligations. Besides, respondent should have taken into account that P72,000
was too modest an amount for complainant to think of absconding.
On the charge of ignorance of the law, the OCA opined that indeed contempt of court is in the nature
of a criminal proceeding, but contempt under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court is a special civil action that
cannot be converted to a criminal case. The OCA observed that the contempt in this case was merely an
incident of the main civil case. Further, respondent judge clearly violated Circular No. 39-97.
Based on the Courts recent promulgations involving the erroneous issuances of HDO,[9] the OCA
recommended that respondent judge be reprimanded with stern warning that a repetition of the same or
similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.
We agree with the evaluation and recommendation of the Court Administrator that respondent judge
erred in issuing the hold-departure order and failed to appreciate the circumstances necessitating the lifting
of the hold- departure order more promptly.
Indeed, contempt is in the nature of a criminal action, but only with regard to its procedural aspect.
A contempt proceeding is sui generis. While it has elements of both a civil and a criminal proceeding, it is
not a criminal proceeding even though the contemptuous act involved could be a crime. It is remedial and
civil in nature. It is for the enforcement of a duty. It is auxiliary to the main case as it proceeds out of the
original case. It is essentially a new and independent proceeding in that it involves new issues and must
be initiated by the issuance and service of a new process.[10] Contempt under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court
is a special civil action that cannot be converted into a criminal action.
Circular 39-97 provides that an HDO may be issued only in criminal cases by the RTC. Respondent
cannot feign lack of knowledge of the circular because he cited it in his Order dated April 3,
2002.[11] Following the recent cases,[12] we likewise concur with the OCAsrecommendation concerning the
penalty to be imposed for the infractions of respondent.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Abraham B. Borreta of
the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 154, GUILTY of ignorance of the law as well as undue delay
in rendering an order. He is hereby REPRIMANDED with STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same
or similar offenses will be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

PROBABLE CAUSE

THIRD DIVISION

WILLIAM C. YAO, SR., LUISA C. G.R. No. 168306


YAO, RICHARD C. YAO, WILLIAM
C. YAO JR., and ROGER C. YAO,
Petitioners, Present:

YNARES-SANTIAGO,
-versus Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and
THE PEOPLE OF THE NACHURA, JJ.
PHILIPPINES, PETRON
CORPORATION and PILIPINAS
SHELL PETROLEUM CORP., and
its Principal, SHELL INTL
PETROLEUM CO. LTD.,
Respondents. Promulgated:

June 19, 2007


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DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioners William C. Yao,
Sr., Luisa C. Yao, Richard C. Yao, William C. Yao, Jr., and Roger C. Yao pray for the reversal of the
Decision dated 30 September 2004,[2] and Resolution dated 1 June 2005, of the Court of Appeals in CA
G.R. SP No. 79256,[3] affirming the two Orders, both dated 5 June 2003, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 17, Cavite City, relative to Search Warrants No. 2-2003 and No. 3-2003.[4] In the said Orders,
the RTC denied the petitioners Motion to Quash Search Warrant[5] and Motion for the Return of the Motor
Compressor and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) Refilling Machine.[6]

The following are the facts:

Petitioners are incorporators and officers of MASAGANA GAS CORPORATION (MASAGANA), an


entity engaged in the refilling, sale and distribution of LPG products. Private
respondents Petron Corporation (Petron) and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (Pilipinas Shell) are
two of the largest bulk suppliers and producers of LPG in the Philippines. Their LPG products are sold
under the marks GASUL and SHELLANE, respectively. Petron is the registered owner in the Philippines of
the trademarks GASUL and GASUL cylinders used for its LPG products. It is the sole entity in
the Philippines authorized to allow refillers and distributors to refill, use, sell, and distribute GASUL LPG
containers, products and its trademarks. Pilipinas Shell, on the other hand, is the authorized user in
the Philippines of the tradename, trademarks, symbols, or designs of its principal, Shell International
Petroleum Company Limited (Shell International), including the marks SHELLANE and SHELL device in
connection with the production, sale and distribution of SHELLANE LPGs. It is the only corporation in
the Philippines authorized to allow refillers and distributors to refill, use, sell and distribute SHELLANE
LPG containers and products.[7]

On 3 April 2003, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent Ritche N. Oblanca (Oblanca) filed
two applications for search warrant with the RTC, Branch 17, Cavite City, against petitioners and other
occupants of the MASAGANA compound located at Governors
Drive, Barangay Lapidario, Trece Martires, Cavite City, for alleged violation of Section 155, in relation to
Section 170 of Republic Act No. 8293, otherwise known as The Intellectual Property Code of the
Philippines.[8] The two applications for search warrant uniformly alleged that per information, belief, and
personal verification of Oblanca, the petitioners are actually producing, selling, offering for sale and/or
distributing LPG products using steel cylinders owned by, and bearing the tradenames, trademarks, and
devices of Petron and Pilipinas Shell, without authority and in violation of the rights of the said entities.

In his two separate affidavits[9] attached to the two applications for search
warrant, Oblanca alleged:
1. [That] on 11 February 2003, the National Bureau of Investigation
(NBI) received a letter-complaint from Atty. Bienvenido I. Somera Jr.
of Villaraza and Angangco, on behalf of among others, [Petron Corporation (PETRON)]
and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC), the authorized representative of Shell
International Petroleum Company Limited (Shell International), requesting assistance in
the investigation and, if warranted, apprehension and prosecution of certain persons
and/or establishments suspected of violating the intellectual property rights [of PETRON]
and of PSPC and Shell International.

2. [That] on the basis of the letter-complaint, I, together with Agent


Angelo Zarzoso, was assigned as the NBI agent on the case.

3. [That] prior to conducting the investigation on the reported illegal


activities, he reviewed the certificates of trademark registrations issued in favor of
[PETRON], PSPC and Shell International as well as other documents and other evidence
obtained by the investigative agency authorized by [PETRON], PSPC and Shell
International to investigate and cause the investigation of persons and establishments
violating the rights of [PETRON], PSPC and Shell International, represented by
Mr. Bernabe C. Alajar. Certified copies of the foregoing trademark registrations are
attached hereto as Annexes A to :E.

4. [That] among the establishments alleged to be unlawfully refilling


and unlawfully selling and distributing [Gasul LPG and] Shellane products
is Masagana Gas Corporation (MASAGANA). Based on Securities and Exchange
Commission Records, MASAGANA has its principal office address
at 9775 Kamagong Street, San Antonio Village, Makati, Metro Manila. The
incorporators and directors of MASAGANA are William C. Yao, Sr., Luisa C. Yao, Richard
C. Yao, William C. Yao, Jr., and Roger C. Yao. x x x.
5. I confirmed that MASAGANA is not authorized to use [PETRON
and] Shellane LPG cylinders and its trademarks and tradenames or to be refillers or
distributors of [PETRON and] Shellane LPGs.

6. I went to MASAGANAs refilling station located at Governors


Drive, Barangay Lapidario, Trece Martires City (sic), Cavite to investigate its activities. I
confirmed that MASAGANA is indeed engaged in the unauthorized refilling, sale and/or
distribution of [Gasul and] Shellane LPG cylinders. I found out that MASAGANA delivery
trucks with Plate Nos. UMN-971, PEZ-612, WTE-527, XAM-970 and WFC-603 coming in
and out of the refilling plant located at the aforementioned address contained multi-
brand LPG cylinders including [Gasul and] Shellane. x x x.

7. [That] on 13 February 2003, I conducted a test-buy accompanied


by Mr. Bernabe C. Alajar. After asking the purpose of our visit, MASAGANAs guard
allowed us to enter the MASAGANA refilling plant to purchase GASUL and
SHELLANE LPGs. x x x. We were issued an order slip which we presented to the cashiers
office located near the refilling station. After paying the amount x x x covering the cost
of the cylinders and their contents, they were issued Cash Invoice No. 56210
dated February 13, 2003. We were, thereafter, assisted by the plant attendant in
choosing empty GASUL and SHELLANE 11 kg. cylinders, x x x were brought to the
refilling station [and filled in their presence.] I noticed that no valve seals were placed on
the cylinders.

[That] while inside the refilling plant doing the test-buy, I noticed that stockpiles of multi-
branded cylinders including GASUL and SHELLANE cylinders were stored near the
refilling station. I also noticed that the total land area of the refilling plant is about 7,000
to 10,000 square meters.At the corner right side of the compound immediately upon
entering the gate is a covered area where the maintenance of the cylinders is taking
place. Located at the back right corner of the compound are two storage tanks while at
the left side also at the corner portion is another storage tank. Several meters and
fronting the said storage tank is where the refilling station and the office are located. It
is also in this storage tank where the elevated blue water tank depicting MASAGANA
CORP. is located. About eleven (11) refilling pumps and stock piles of multi-branded
cylinders including Shellane and GASUL are stored in the refilling station. At the left side
of the entrance gate is the guard house with small door for the pedestrians and at the
right is a blue steel gate used for incoming and outgoing vehicles.

8. [That] on 27 February 2003, I conducted another test-buy


accompanied by Mr. Bernabe C. Alajar. x x x After choosing the cylinders, we were
issued an order slip which we presented to the cashier. Upon payment, Cash Invoice No.
56398 was issued covering the cost of both GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders and
their contents. x x x Both cylinders were refilled in our presence and no valve seals were
placed on the cylinders.

Copies of the photographs of the delivery trucks, LPG cylinders and registration papers were also
attached to the aforementioned affidavits.[10]

Bernabe C. Alajar (Alajar), owner of Able Research and Consulting Services Inc., was hired
by Petron and Pilipinas Shell to assist them in carrying out their Brand Protection
Program. Alajar accompanied Oblanca during the surveillance of and test-buys at the refilling plant of
MASAGANA. He also executed two separate affidavits corroborating the statements of Oblanca. These
were annexed to the two applications for search warrant. [11]

After conducting the preliminary examination on Oblanca and Alajar, and upon reviewing their
sworn affidavits and other attached documents, Judge Melchor Q.C. Sadang (Judge Sadang), Presiding
Judge of the RTC, Branch 17, Cavite City, found probable cause and correspondingly issued Search
Warrants No. 2-2003 and No. 3-2003.[12] The search warrants commanded any peace officer to make an
immediate search of the MASAGANA compound and to seize the following items:
Under Search Warrant No. 2-2003:

a. Empty/filled LPG cylinder tanks/containers, bearing


the tradename SHELLANE, SHELL (Device) of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum
Corporation and the trademarks and other devices owned by Shell International
Petroleum Company, Ltd.;

b. Machinery and/or equipment being used or intended to be used for the


purpose of illegally refilling LPG cylinders belonging to Pilipinas Shell Petroleum
Corporation bearing the latters tradename as well as the marks belonging to Shell
International Petroleum Company, Ltd., enumerated hereunder:

1. Bulk/Bullet LPG storage tanks;


2. Compressor/s (for pneumatic refilling system);
3. LPG hydraulic pump/s;
4. LPG refilling heads/hoses and appurtenances or LPG filling
assembly;
5. LPG pipeline gate valve or ball valve and handles and levers;
6. LPG weighing scales; and
7. Seals simulating the shell trademark.
c. Sales invoices, ledgers, journals, official receipts, purchase orders, and all
other books of accounts, inventories and documents pertaining to the production,
sale and/or distribution of the aforesaid goods/products.

d. Delivery truck bearing Plate Nos. WTE-527, XAM-970 and WFC-603, hauling
trucks, and/or other delivery trucks or vehicles or conveyances being used or
intended to be used for the purpose of selling and/or distributing the above-
mentioned counterfeit products.

Under Search Warrant No. 3-2003:

a. Empty/filled LPG cylinder tanks/containers, bearing Petron Corporations


(Petron) tradename and its tradename GASUL and other devices owned and/or
used exclusively by Petron;

b. Machinery and/or equipment being used or intended to be used for the


purpose of illegally refilling LPG cylinders belonging to Petron enumerated
hereunder;

1. Bulk/Bullet LPG storage tanks;


2. Compressor/s (for pneumatic filling system);
3. LPG hydraulic pump/s;
4. LPG filling heads/hoses and appurtenances or LPG filling assembly;
5. LPG pipeline gate valve or ball valve and handles levers;
6. LPG weighing scales; and
7. Seals bearing the Petron mark;

c. Sales invoices, ledgers, journals, official receipts, purchase orders, and all
other books of accounts, inventories and documents pertaining to the production,
sale and/or distribution of the aforesaid goods/products; and

d. Delivery trucks bearing Plate Nos. UMN-971, PEZ-612 and WFC-603, hauling
trucks, and/or other delivery trucks or vehicles or conveyances being used for the
purpose of selling and/or distributing the above-mentioned counterfeit products.

Upon the issuance of the said search warrants, Oblanca and several NBI operatives immediately
proceeded to the MASAGANA compound and served the search warrants on petitioners.[13] After
searching the premises of MASAGANA, the following articles described in Search Warrant No. 2-2003
were seized:

a. Thirty-eight (38) filled 11 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing


the tradename of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation and the trademarks and
other devices owned by Shell International Petroleum Company, Ltd.;

b. Thirty-nine (39) empty 11 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing


the tradename of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation and the trademarks and
other devices owned by Shell International Petroleum Company, Ltd.;

c. Eight (8) filled 50 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing the tradename of Pilipinas Shell
Petroleum Corporation and the trademarks and other devices owned by Shell
International Petroleum Company, Ltd.;

d. Three (3) empty 50 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing


the tradename of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation and the trademarks and
other devices owned by Shell International Petroleum Company, Ltd.;

e. One (1) set of motor compressor for filling system.

Pursuant to Search Warrant No. 3-2003, the following articles were also seized:
a. Six (6) filled 11 kg. LPG cylinders without seal,
bearing Petrons tradename and its trademark GASUL and other devices owned
and/or used exclusively by Petron;

b. Sixty-three (63) empty 11 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing Petrons tradename and
its trademark GASUL and other devices owned and/or used exclusively by Petron;

c. Seven (7) tampered 11 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing Petrons tradename and its
trademark GASUL and other devices owned and/or used exclusively by Petron;

d. Five (5) tampered 50 kg. LPG cylinders, bearing Petrons tradename and its
trademark GASUL and other devices owned and/or used exclusively by Petron with
tampered GASUL logo;

e. One (1) set of motor compressor for filling system; and

f. One (1) set of LPG refilling machine.

On 22 April 2003, petitioners filed with the RTC a Motion to Quash Search Warrants No. 2-2003
and No. 3-2003[14] on the following grounds:

1. There is no probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant


and the conditions for the issuance of a search warrant were not complied
with;

2. Applicant NBI Agent Ritchie N. Oblanca and his


witness Bernabe C. Alajar do not have any authority to apply for a search
warrant. Furthermore, they committed perjury when they alleged in their
sworn statements that they conducted a test-buy on two occasions;

3. The place to be searched was not specified in the Search Warrant


as the place has an area of 10,000 square meters (one hectare) more or
less, for which reason the place to be searched must be indicated with
particularity;

4. The search warrant is characterized as a general warrant as the


items to be seized as mentioned in the search warrant are being used in
the conduct of the lawful business of respondents and the same are not
being used in refilling Shellane and Gasul LPGs.

On 30 April 2003, MASAGANA, as third party claimant, filed with the RTC a Motion for the
Return of Motor Compressor and LPG Refilling Machine. [15] It claimed that it is the owner of the said
motor compressor and LPG refilling machine; that these items were used in the operation of its
legitimate business; and that their seizure will jeopardize its business interests.

On 5 June 2003, the RTC issued two Orders, one of which denied the petitioners Motion to
Quash Search Warrants No. 2-2003 and No. 3-2003, and the other one also denied the Motion for the
Return of Motor Compressor and LPG Refilling Machine of MASAGANA, for lack of merit. [16]

With respect to the Order denying the petitioners motion to quash Search Warrants No. 2-2003
and No. 3-2003, the RTC held that based on the testimonies of Oblanca and Alajar, as well as the
documentary evidence consisting of receipts, photographs, intellectual property and corporate
registration papers, there is probable cause to believe that petitioners are engaged in the business of
refilling or using cylinders which bear the trademarks or devices of Petron and Pilipinas Shell in the
place sought to be searched and that such activity is probably in violation of Section 155 in relation to
Section 170 of Republic Act No. 8293.

It also ruled that Oblanca and Alajar had personal knowledge of the acts complained of since
they were the ones who monitored the activities of and conducted test-buys on MASAGANA; that the
search warrants in question are not general warrants because the compound searched are solely used
and occupied by MASAGANA, and as such, there was no need to particularize the areas within the
compound that would be searched; and that the items to be seized in the subject search warrants were
sufficiently described with particularity as the same was limited to cylinder tanks bearing the
trademarks GASUL and SHELLANE.

As regards the Order denying the motion of MASAGANA for the return of its motor compressor
and LPG refilling machine, the RTC resolved that MASAGANA cannot be considered a third party
claimant whose rights were violated as a result of the seizure since the evidence disclosed that
petitioners are stockholders of MASAGANA and that they conduct their business through the same
juridical entity. It maintained that to rule otherwise would result in the misapplication and debasement
of the veil of corporate fiction. It also stated that the veil of corporate fiction cannot be used as a refuge
from liability.

Further, the RTC ratiocinated that ownership by another person or entity of the seized items is
not a ground to order its return; that in seizures pursuant to a search warrant, what is important is
that the seized items were used or intended to be used as means of committing the offense complained
of; that by its very nature, the properties sought to be returned in the instant case appear to be related
to and intended for the illegal activity for which the search warrants were applied for; and that the items
seized are instruments of an offense.

Petitioners filed Motions for Reconsideration of the assailed Orders, [17] but these were denied by
the RTC in its Order dated 21 July 2003 for lack of compelling reasons.[18]

Subsequently, petitioners appealed the two Orders of the RTC to the Court of Appeals via a
special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.[19] On 30 September 2004, the
Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision affirming the Orders of the RTC.[20] It adopted in essence the
bases and reasons of the RTC in its two Orders. The decretal portion thereof reads:

Based on the foregoing, this Court finds no reason to disturb the assailed Orders
of the respondent judge. Grave abuse of discretion has not been proven to exist in this
case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed
orders both dated June 5, 2003 are hereby AFFIRMED.

Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration[21] of the Decision of the Court of Appeals, but this
was denied in its Resolution dated 1 June 2005 for lack of merit.[22]

Petitioners filed the instant petition on the following grounds:

I.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE PRESIDING


JUDGE OF RTC CAVITE CITY HAD SUFFICIENT BASIS IN DECLARING THE EXISTENCE
OF PROBABLE CAUSE;

II.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT NBI AGENT (RITCHIE
OBLANCA) CAN APPLY FOR THE SEARCH WARRANTS NOTHWITHSTANDING HIS LACK
OF AUTHORITY;

III.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE REQUIREMENT


OF GIVING A PARTICULAR DESCRIPTION OF THE PLACE TO BE SEARCHED WAS
COMPLIED WITH;

IV.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE APPLICATIONS
AND THE SEARCH WARRANTS THEMSELVES SHOW NO AMBIGUITY OF THE ITEMS TO
BE SEIZED;

V.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE COMPLAINT IS


DIRECTED AGAINST MASAGANA GAS CORPORATION, ACTING THROUGH ITS OFFICERS
AND DIRECTORS, HENCE MASAGANA GAS CORPORATION MAY NOT BE CONSIDERED
AS THIRD PARTY CLAIMANT WHOSE RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED AS A RESULT OF THE
SEIZURE.[23]

Apropos the first issue, petitioners allege that Oblanca and Alajar had no personal knowledge of
the matters on which they testified; that Oblanca and Alajar lied to Judge Sadang when they stated under
oath that they were the ones who conducted the test-buys on two different occasions; that the truth of
the matter is that Oblanca and Alajar never made the purchases personally; that the transactions were
undertaken by other persons namely, Nikko Javier and G. Villanueva as shown in the Entry/Exit Slips
of MASAGANA; and that even if it were true that Oblanca and Alajar asked Nikko Javier and G.
Villanueva to conduct the test-buys, the information relayed by the latter two to the former was mere
hearsay.[24]

Petitioners also contend that if Oblanca and Alajar had indeed used different names in purchasing
the LPG cylinders, they should have mentioned it in their applications for search warrants and in their
testimonies during the preliminary examination; that it was only after the petitioners had submitted to
the RTC the entry/exit slips showing different personalities who made the purchases
that Oblanca and Alajar explained that they had to use different names in order to avoid detection;
that Alajar is not connected with either of the private respondents; that Alajar was not in a position to
inform the RTC as to the distinguishing trademarks of SHELLANE and GASUL; that Oblanca was not also
competent to testify on the marks allegedly infringed by petitioners; that Judge Sadang failed to ask
probing questions on the distinguishing marks of SHELLANE and GASUL; that the findings of the Brand
Protection Committee of Pilipinas Shell were not submitted nor presented to the RTC; that although
Judge Sadang examined Oblancaand Alajar, the former did not ask exhaustive questions; and that the
questions Judge Sadang asked were merely rehash of the contents of the affidavits
of Oblanca and Alajar.[25]

These contentions are devoid of merit.

Article III, Section 2, of the present Constitution states the requirements before a search warrant
may be validly issued, to wit:

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any
purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except
upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination
under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and
particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be
seized. (emphasis supplied).

Section 4 of Rule 126 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, provides with more particularity
the requisites in issuing a search warrant, viz:

SEC. 4. Requisites for issuing search warrant. A search warrant shall not issue
except upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant
and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched
and the things to be seized which may be anywhere in the Philippines.
According to the foregoing provisions, a search warrant can be issued only upon a finding of
probable cause. Probable cause for search warrant means such facts and circumstances which would
lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the
objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place to be searched. [26]

The facts and circumstances being referred thereto pertain to facts, data or information personally
known to the applicant and the witnesses he may present. [27] The applicant or his witnesses must have
personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense being complained
of. Reliable information is insufficient. Mere affidavits are not enough, and the judge must depose in
writing the complainant and his witnesses.[28]

Section 155 of Republic Act No. 8293 identifies the acts constituting trademark infringement,
thus:

SEC. 155. Remedies; Infringement. Any person who shall, without the consent of
the owner of the registered mark:

155.1. Use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation


of a registered mark or the same container or a dominant feature thereof in connection
with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, advertising of any goods or services including
other preparatory steps necessary to carry out the sale of any goods or services on or in
connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to
deceive; or

155.2. Reproduce, counterfeit, copy or colorably imitate a registered mark or a


dominant feature thereof and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy or colorable
imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements
intended to be used in commerce upon or in connection with the sale, offering for sale,
distribution, or advertising of goods or services on or in connection with which such use is
likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive, shall be liable in a civil action
for infringement by the registrant for the remedies hereinafter set forth: Provided, That the
infringement takes place at the moment any of the acts stated in Subsection 155.1 or this
subsection are committed regardless of whether there is actual sale of goods or services
using the infringing material.

As can be gleaned in Section 155.1, mere unauthorized use of a container bearing a registered
trademark in connection with the sale, distribution or advertising of goods or services which is likely to
cause confusion, mistake or deception among the buyers/consumers can be considered as trademark
infringement.

In his sworn affidavits,[29] Oblanca stated that before conducting an investigation on the alleged
illegal activities of MASAGANA, he reviewed the certificates of trademark registrations issued by the
Philippine Intellectual Property Office in favor of Petron and Pilipinas Shell; that he confirmed
from Petron and Pilipinas Shell that MASAGANA is not authorized to sell, use, refill or distribute GASUL
and SHELLANE LPG cylinder containers; that he and Alajar monitored the activities of MASAGANA in its
refilling plant station located within its compound at Governors
Drive, Barangay Lapidario, Trece Martires, Cavite City; that, using different names, they conducted two
test-buys therein where they purchased LPG cylinders bearing the trademarks GASUL and SHELLANE;
that the said GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders were refilled in their presence by the MASAGANA
employees; that while they were inside the MASAGANA compound, he noticed stock piles of multi-branded
cylinders including GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders; and that they observed delivery trucks loaded
with GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders coming in and out of the MASAGANA compound and making
deliveries to various retail outlets. These allegations were corroborated by Alajar in his separate affidavits.
In support of the foregoing statements, Oblanca also submitted the following documentary and
object evidence:

1. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. 44046 for SHELL
(DEVICE) in the name of Shell International;

2. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. 41789 for SHELL
(DEVICE) in the name of Shell International;

3. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. 37525 for SHELL
(DEVICE) in the name of Shell International;

4. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. R-2813 for SHELL in
the name of Shell International;

5. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. 31443 for SHELLANE
in the name of Shell International;

6. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. 57945 for the mark
GASUL in the name of Petron;

7. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. C-147 for GASUL
CYLINDER CONTAINING LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS in the name of Petron;

8. Certified true copy of the Certificate of Registration No. 61920 for the mark
GASUL AND DEVICE in the name of Petron;

9. Certified true copy of the Articles of Incorporation of Masagana;

10. Certified true copy of the By-laws of Masagana;

11. Certified true copy of the latest General Information Sheet of Masagana on file
with the Securities and Exchange Commission;

12. Pictures of delivery trucks coming in and out of Masagana while it


delivered Gasul and Shellane LPG;

13. Cash Invoice No. 56210 dated 13 February 2003 issued by Masagana for
the Gasul and Shellane LPG purchased by Agent Oblanca and witness Alajar;

14. Pictures of the Shellane and Gasul LPGs covered by Cash Invoice No. 56210
purchased from Masagana by Agent Oblanca and witness Alajar;

15. Cash Invoice No. 56398 dated 27 February 2003 issued by Masagana for
the Gasul and Shellane LPG purchased by Agent Oblanca and witness Alajar; and

16. Pictures of the Shellane and Gasul LPGs covered by Cash Invoice No. 56398
purchased from Masagana by Agent Oblanca and witness Alajar.[30]

Extant from the foregoing testimonial, documentary and object evidence is


that Oblanca and Alajar have personal knowledge of the fact that petitioners, through MASAGANA, have
been using the LPG cylinders bearing the marks GASUL and SHELLANE without permission
from Petron and Pilipinas Shell, a probable cause for trademark infringement.
Both Oblanca and Alajar were clear and insistent that they were the very same persons who monitored
the activities of MASAGANA; that they conducted test-buys thereon; and that in order to avoid suspicion,
they used different names during the test-buys. They also personally witnessed the refilling of LPG
cylinders bearing the marks GASUL and SHELLANE inside the MASAGANA refilling plant station and the
deliveries of these refilled containers to some outlets using mini-trucks.

Indeed, the aforesaid facts and circumstances are sufficient to establish probable cause. It should
be borne in mind that the determination of probable cause does not call for the application of the rules
and standards of proof that a judgment of conviction requires after trial on the merits. As the term implies,
probable cause is concerned with probability, not absolute or even moral certainty. The standards of
judgment are those of a reasonably prudent man, not the exacting calibrations of a judge after a full blown
trial.[31]
The fact that Oblanca and Alajar used different names in the purchase receipts do not negate
personal knowledge on their part. It is a common practice of the law enforcers such as NBI agents during
covert investigations to use different names in order to conceal their true identities. This is reasonable
and understandable so as not to endanger the life of the undercover agents and to facilitate the lawful
arrest or apprehension of suspected violators of the law.

Petitioners contention that Oblanca and Alajar should have mentioned the fact that they used
different names in their respective affidavits and during the preliminary examination is puerile. The
argument is too vacuous to merit serious consideration. There is nothing in the provisions of law
concerning the issuance of a search warrant which directly or indirectly mandates that the applicant of
the search warrant or his witnesses should state in their affidavits the fact that they used different names
while conducting undercover investigations, or to divulge such fact during the preliminary examination.
In the light of other more material facts which needed to be established for a finding of probable cause, it
is not difficult to believe that Oblanca and Alajar failed to mention that they used aliases in entering the
MASAGANA compound due to mere oversight.

It cannot be gainfully said that Oblanca and Alajar are not competent to testify on the trademarks
infringed by the petitioners. As earlier discussed, Oblanca declared under oath that before conducting an
investigation on the alleged illegal activities of MASAGANA, he reviewed the certificates of trademark
registrations issued by the Philippine Intellectual Property Office in favor
of Petron and Pilipinas Shell. These certifications of trademark registrations were attached by Oblanca in
his applications for the search warrants. Alajar, on the other hand, works as a private investigator and,
in fact, owns a private investigation and research/consultation firm. His firm was hired and authorized,
pursuant to the Brand Protection Program of Petron and Pilipinas Shell, to verify reports that MASAGANA
is involved in the illegal sale and refill of GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders.[32] As part of the job, he
studied and familiarized himself with the registered trademarks of GASUL and SHELLANE, and the
distinct features of the LPG cylinders bearing the same trademarks before conducting surveillance and
test-buys on MASAGANA.[33] He also submitted to Oblanca several copies of the same registered
trademark registrations and accompanied Oblanca during the surveillance and test-buys.

As to whether the form and manner of questioning made by Judge Sadang complies with the
requirements of law, Section 5 of Rule 126 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, prescribes the
rules in the examination of the complainant and his witnesses when applying for search warrant, to wit:

SEC. 5. Examination of complainant; record.- The judge must, before issuing the
warrant, personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in writing
under oath, the complainant and the witnesses he may produce on facts personally known
to them and attach to the record their sworn statements, together with the affidavits
submitted.

The searching questions propounded to the applicant and the witnesses depend largely on the
discretion of the judge. Although there is no hard-andfast rule governing how a judge should conduct his
investigation, it is axiomatic that the examination must be probing and exhaustive, not merely routinary,
general, peripheral, perfunctory or pro forma. The judge must not simply rehash the contents of the
affidavit but must make his own inquiry on the intent and justification of the application. [34]

After perusing the Transcript of Stenographic Notes of the preliminary examination, we found the
questions of Judge Sadang to be sufficiently probing, not at all superficial and perfunctory.[35] The
testimonies of Oblanca and Alajar were consistent with each other and their narration of facts was
credible. As correctly found by the Court of Appeals:
This Court is likewise not convinced that respondent Judge failed to ask probing
questions in his determination of the existence of probable cause. This Court has
thoroughly examined the Transcript of Stenographic Notes taken during the investigation
conducted by the respondent Judge and found that respondent Judge lengthily inquired
into the circumstances of the case. For instance, he required the NBI agent to confirm the
contents of his affidavit, inquired as to where the test-buys were conducted and by whom,
verified whether PSPC and PETRON have registered trademarks or tradenames, required
the NBI witness to explain how the test-buys were conducted and to describe the LPG
cylinders purchased from Masagana Gas Corporation, inquired why the applications for
Search Warrant were filed in Cavite City considering that Masagana Gas Corporation was
located in Trece Martires, Cavite, inquired whether the NBI Agent has a sketch of the place
and if there was any distinguishing sign to identify the place to be searched, and inquired
about their alleged tailing and monitoring of the delivery trucks. x x x.[36]

Since probable cause is dependent largely on the opinion and findings of the judge who conducted
the examination and who had the opportunity to question the applicant and his witnesses, the findings
of the judge deserves great weight. The reviewing court can overturn such findings only upon proof that
the judge disregarded the facts before him or ignored the clear dictates of reason. [37] We find no compelling
reason to disturb Judge Sadangs findings herein.

Anent the second issue, petitioners argue that Judge Sadang failed to require Oblanca to show his
authority to apply for search warrants; that Oblanca is a member of the Anti-Organized Crime and not
that of the Intellectual Property Division of the NBI; that all complaints for infringement should be
investigated by the Intellectual Property Division of the NBI; that it is highly irregular that an agent not
assigned to the Intellectual Property Division would apply for a search warrant and without authority
from the NBI Director; that the alleged letter-complaint of Atty. Bienvenido Somera, Jr.
of Villaraza and Angangco Law Office was not produced in court; that Judge Sadang did not
require Oblanca to produce the alleged letter-complaint which is material and relevant to the
determination of the existence of probable cause; and that Petron and Pilipinas Shell, being two different
corporations, should have issued a board resolution authorizing the Villaraza and Angangco Law Office
to apply for search warrant in their behalf.[38]

We reject these protestations.

The authority of Oblanca to apply for the search warrants in question is clearly discussed and
explained in his affidavit, viz:

[That] on 11 February 2003, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) received a letter-
complaint from Atty. Bienvenido I. Somera, Jr. of Villaraza and Angangco, on behalf of
among others, Petron Corporation (PETRON) [and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation
(PSPC), the authorized representative of Shell International Petroleum Company Limited
(SHELL INTERNATIONAL)] requesting assistance in the investigation and, if warranted,
apprehension and prosecution of certain persons and/or establishments suspected of
violating the intellectual property rights of PETRON [and of PSPC and Shell International.]

11. [That] on the basis of the letter-complaint, I, together with Agent Angelo Zarzoso, was
assigned as the NBI agent on the case.[39]

The fact that Oblanca is a member of the Anti-Organized Crime Division and not that of the
Intellectual Property Division does not abrogate his authority to apply for search warrant. As aptly stated
by the RTC and the Court of Appeals, there is nothing in the provisions on search warrant under Rule
126 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, which specifically commands that the applicant law
enforcer must be a member of a division that is assigned or related to the subject crime or offense before
the application for search warrant may be acted upon. The petitioners did not also cite any law, rule or
regulation mandating such requirement. At most, petitioners may only be referring to the administrative
organization and/or internal rule or practice of the NBI. However, not only did petitioners failed to
establish the existence thereof, but they also did not prove that such administrative organization and/or
internal rule or practice are inviolable.

Neither is the presentation of the letter-complaint of Atty. Somera and board resolutions
from Petron and Pilipinas Shell required or necessary in determining probable cause. As heretofore
discussed, the affidavits of Oblanca and Alajar, coupled with the object and documentary evidence they
presented, are sufficient to establish probable cause. It can also be presumed that Oblanca, as an NBI
agent, is a public officer who had regularly performed his official duty.[40] He would not have initiated an
investigation on MASAGANA without a proper complaint. Furthermore, Atty. Somera did not step up to
deny his letter-complaint.

Regarding the third issue, petitioners posit that the applications for search warrants
of Oblanca did not specify the particular area to be searched, hence, giving the raiding team wide latitude
in determining what areas they can search. They aver that the search warrants were general warrants,
and are therefore violative of the Constitution. Petitioners also assert that since the MASAGANA
compound is about 10,000.00 square meters with several structures erected on the lot, the search
warrants should have defined the areas to be searched.

The long standing rule is that a description of the place to be searched is sufficient if the officer
with the warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place intended and distinguish it
from other places in the community. Any designation or description known to the locality that points out
the place to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry leads the officers unerringly to it, satisfies the
constitutional requirement.[41]

Moreover, in the determination of whether a search warrant describes the premises to be searched
with sufficient particularity, it has been held that the executing officers prior knowledge as to the place
intended in the warrant is relevant. This would seem to be especially true where the executing officer is
the affiant on whose affidavit the warrant had been issued, and when he knows that the judge who issued
the warrant intended the compound described in the affidavit. [42]

The search warrants in question commanded any peace officer to make an immediate search on
MASAGANA compound located at Governors Drive, Barangay Lapidario, Trece Martires, Cavite City. It
appears that the raiding team had ascertained and reached MASAGANA compound without difficulty
since MASAGANA does not have any other offices/plants
in Trece Martires, Cavite City. Moreover, Oblanca, who was with the raiding team, was already familiar
with the MASAGANA compound as he and Alajar had monitored and conducted test-buys thereat.

Even if there are several structures inside the MASAGANA compound, there was no need to
particularize the areas to be searched because, as correctly stated by Petron and Pilipinas Shell, these
structures constitute the essential and necessary components of the petitioners business and cannot be
treated separately as they form part of one entire compound. The compound is owned and used solely by
MASAGANA. What the case law merely requires is that, the place to be searched can be distinguished in
relation to the other places in the community. Indubitably, this requisite was complied with in the instant
case.

As to the fourth issue, petitioners asseverate that the search warrants did not indicate with
particularity the items to be seized since the search warrants merely described the items to be seized as
LPG cylinders bearing the trademarks GASUL and SHELLANE without specifying their sizes.
A search warrant may be said to particularly describe the things to be seized when the description
therein is as specific as the circumstances will ordinarily allow; or when the description expresses a
conclusion of fact not of law by which the warrant officer may be guided in making the search and seizure;
or when the things described are limited to those which bear direct relation to the offense for which the
warrant is being issued.[43]

While it is true that the property to be seized under a warrant must be particularly described
therein and no other property can be taken thereunder, yet the description is required to be specific only
in so far as the circumstances will ordinarily allow. The law does not require that the things to be seized
must be described in precise and minute details as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the searching
authorities; otherwise it would be virtually impossible for the applicants to obtain a search warrant as
they would not know exactly what kind of things they are looking for. Once described, however, the articles
subject of the search and seizure need not be so invariant as to require absolute concordance, in our
view, between those seized and those described in the warrant. Substantial similarity of those articles
described as a class or specie would suffice.[44]

Measured against this standard, we find that the items to be seized under the search warrants in
question were sufficiently described with particularity. The articles to be confiscated were restricted to
the following: (1) LPG cylinders bearing the trademarks GASUL and SHELLANE; (2) Machines and
equipments used or intended to be used in the illegal refilling of GASUL and SHELLANE cylinders. These
machines were also specifically enumerated and listed in the search warrants; (3) Documents which
pertain only to the production, sale and distribution of the GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders; and (4)
Delivery trucks bearing Plate Nos. WTE-527, XAM-970 and WFC-603, hauling trucks, and/or other
delivery trucks or vehicles or conveyances being used or intended to be used for the purpose of selling
and/or distributing GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders. [45]

Additionally, since the described items are clearly limited only to those which bear direct relation
to the offense, i.e., violation of section 155 of Republic Act No. 8293, for which the warrant was issued,
the requirement of particularity of description is satisfied.

Given the foregoing, the indication of the accurate sizes of the GASUL and SHELLANE LPG
cylinders or tanks would be unnecessary.

Finally, petitioners claim that MASAGANA has the right to intervene and to move for the return of
the seized items; that the items seized by the raiding team were being used in the legitimate business of
MASAGANA; that the raiding team had no right to seize them under the guise that the same were being
used in refilling GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders; and that there being no action for infringement
filed against them and/or MASAGANA from the seizure of the items up to the present, it is only fair that
the seized articles be returned to the lawful owner in accordance with Section 20 of A.M. No. 02-1-06-SC.

It is an elementary and fundamental principle of corporation law that a corporation is an entity


separate and distinct from its stockholders, directors or officers. However, when the notion of legal entity
is used to defeat public convenience, justify wrong, protect fraud, or defend crime, the law will regard the
corporation as an association of persons, or in the case of two corporations merge them into one. [46] In
other words, the law will not recognize the separate corporate existence if the corporation is being used
pursuant to the foregoing unlawful objectives. This non-recognition is sometimes referred to as the
doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate entity or disregarding the fiction of corporate entity. Where the
separate corporate entity is disregarded, the corporation will be treated merely as an association of
persons and the stockholders or members will be considered as the corporation, that is, liability will
attach personally or directly to the officers and stockholders. [47]
As we now find, the petitioners, as directors/officers of MASAGANA, are utilizing the latter in
violating the intellectual property rights of Petron and Pilipinas Shell. Thus, petitioners collectively and
MASAGANA should be considered as one and the same person for liability purposes.
Consequently, MASAGANAs third party claim serves no refuge for petitioners.

Even if we were to sustain the separate personality of MASAGANA from that of the petitioners, the
effect will be the same. The law does not require that the property to be seized should be owned by the
person against whom the search warrants is directed. Ownership, therefore, is of no consequence, and it
is sufficient that the person against whom the warrant is directed has control or possession of the property
sought to be seized.[48] Hence, even if, as petitioners claimed, the properties seized belong to MASAGANA
as a separate entity, their seizure pursuant to the search warrants is still valid.

Further, it is apparent that the motor compressor, LPG refilling machine and the GASUL and
SHELL LPG cylinders seized were the corpus delicti, the body or substance of the crime, or the evidence
of the commission of trademark infringement. These were the very instruments used or intended to be
used by the petitioners in trademark infringement. It is possible that, if returned to MASAGANA, these
items will be used again in violating the intellectual property rights of Petron and Pilipinas Shell.[49] Thus,
the RTC was justified in denying the petitioners motion for their return so as to prevent the petitioners
and/or MASAGANA from using them again in trademark infringement.

Petitioners reliance on Section 20 of A.M. No. 02-1-06-SC,[50] is not tenable. As correctly observed
by the Solicitor General, A.M. 02-1-06-SC is not applicable in the present case because it governs only
searches and seizures in civil actions for infringement of intellectual property rights. [51] The offense
complained of herein is for criminal violation of Section 155 in relation to Section 170 [52] of Republic Act
No. 8293.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 79256, dated 30 September 2004 and 1 June 2005, respectively, are
hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 140657. October 25, 2004]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. CESAR O. DELOS REYES, respondent.

DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. SP No. 51759 granting the petition for certiorari of Cesar O. delos Reyes and nullifying Search
Warrant No. 98-905 issued on June 18, 1998 by Judge Manuela F. Lorenzo of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Manila, Branch 43.

The Antecedents

On June 18, 1998, SPO3 Benjamin Nuguid of the Western Police District applied for a search warrant
with the RTC of Manila, Branch 43, against Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog. In support of his application,
Nuguid submitted his affidavit and that of Alexis Tan, a housewife. Nuguid and Tan also testified in
support of the application. After the court conducted examination of the said witnesses, it issued on even
date Search Warrant No. 98-905 authorizing the search of the house allegedly under the possession and
custody of one Cesar Reyes aliasCesar Itlog, at No. 2600 Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, worded as
follows:

SEARCH WARRANT

TO ANY PEACE OFFICER:

GREETINGS:

Upon sufficient showing of probable cause, after determination personally made by the undersigned on
examination under oath of the applicant and his witness, by means of searching questions and
answers, that respondent Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog has in his possession, custody and control at
the house and premises at 2600 Oroquieta St., Sta. Cruz, Manila, the following items:

a) undetermined amount of methamphetamine hydrochloride; and


b) drug paraphernalia

in violation of Republic Act No. 6425 as amended;

You are hereby commanded to make an immediate search at anytime of the day or night of the house
and premises above-mentioned and forthwith seize and take possession of the above-cited items and to
bring said items to the undersigned to be dealt with as the law require. Further, you are required to
submit the return within ten (10) days from today.

GIVEN UNDER MY HAND AND SEAL this 18th day of June 1998 at the City of Manila.

MANUELA F. LORENZO
J u d g e[2]
The policemen conducted a search not only of the house at No. 2600 Oroquieta Street, Sta Cruz,
Manila, which turned out to be the house of respondent Cesar delos Reyes, but also of the car and
motorcycle owned by the latter, bearing Plate Nos. UBS 463 and TA 8077, respectively. The car and the
motorcycle happened to be parked near the house.
As per the receipt of the property signed by Nuguid, the search of the house, the car and the
motorcycle yielded the following:

That in the course of orderly search at the premises of Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog, inside his room at
the ground floor was a steel vault and when forced open it yields 13 transparent plastic bags containing
[an] undetermined amount of white crystalline substance suspected to be Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride or Shabu, three (3) weighing scales Tamita broad, drugs paraphernalia and 38 pcs. of
Valium-10, also found atop his drawer; a .9mm Smith & Wesson pistol, Model 39mm with SN-A643638
with magazines loaded with ammo, one (1) loaded magazine of 9mm and 36 rounds of .25 cal.
ammunition inside his drawer, one (1) plastic transparent bag containing white crystalline substance
suspected to be Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or Shabu and three (3) 12-gauge shotgun ammo. His
personal car, a black VITARA bearing plate No. UBS 463 parked beside his house was also search[ed] in
the presence of [a] Bgy. Kagawad and found inside tucked beneath the drivers seat are three (3) sealed
transparent plastic bags containing white crystalline substance wrapped in a mail envelope suspected
to be Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or Shabu and in his sport Honda Motorcycle 900cc with plate
No. TA 8077 also yields one (1) transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance
suspected to be Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or Shabu at the motorbike back compartment. [3]

According to the Certification prepared by the NBI Forensic Chemistry Division, the crystalline
substances contained in the transparent plastic bags which were seized in the respondents house, car
and motorcycle tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride. [4]
Thereafter, two Informations were filed with the RTC of Manila, Branch 41, against the respondent
for violation of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Rep. Act No. 8294, docketed as Criminal Cases
Nos. 98-165628 and 98-165629, viz:

That on or about June 18, 1998, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused without being
authorized by law to possess or use any regulated drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
knowingly have in his possession and under his custody and control eighteen (18) transparent plastic
bags (small and big) with [a] total net weight of eight hundred eighty-six point eight (886.8) grams of
white crystalline substance known as shabu containing methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulate
drug, without the corresponding license or prescription thereof.

Contrary to law.[5]

That on or about June 18, 1998, in the City of Manila, Philippines, said accused did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession and under his custody and control of one (1)
.9mm Smith & Wesson pistol, Model 39 with Serial Number-A643638 with two magazines loaded with
ammunitions, 36 rounds of .25 caliber ammunition, three (3) 12-gauge shotgun ammunitions, without
first having secured from the proper authorities the necessary license therefor.

Contrary to law.[6]

The respondent filed a motion to quash the informations on the following grounds: (a) as shown by
their testimony before the trial court, applicant Nuguid and his witness Tan had no personal knowledge
of the factual allegations in their affidavits which were appended to the application for a search warrant;
(b) the factual allegations contained in the said affidavits and their testimonies do not support a finding
of probable cause for violation of Rep. Act No. 6425, as amended; and (c) Nuguid and Tan did not
personally know the respondent as well as the latters house because first, Tan identified the illicit drug
seller as Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog while the respondents name is Cesar delos Reyes; and, second, the
said witnesses described the house as consisting of a two-storey structure with one bedroom located at
Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.
On August 11, 1998, the trial court issued an Order denying the respondents motion. The court also
denied his motion for reconsideration of said order.
The respondent forthwith filed a petition for certiorari against Nuguid and the Public Prosecutor
therein in the CA, alleging, inter alia, that the questions propounded by RTC Judge Manuela F. Lorenzo
on Nuguid and Tan were leading and not searching. He also alleged that Judge Lorenzo delegated the
examination of Tan to Nuguid, and allowed the latter to question her. He, likewise, reiterated that Tan
and Nuguid did not know him personally because they identified him as Cesar Reyes when his full name
was Cesar delos Reyes. Furthermore, contrary to the claim of Tan and Nuguid that his house was a two-
storey edifice located at Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, said house was only a one-storey structure
located at No. 2600 Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.
The respondent also assailed the search of his house, car and motorcycle on the ground that he was
not there when the search was conducted and that no barangay officials were present as required by
Section 7, Rule 126 of the 1997 Rules of Criminal Procedure.
On October 15, 1999, the CA rendered a Decision granting the petition and nullifying the search
warrant. The decretal portion reads:

WHEREFORE, all the foregoing considered, the petition is GRANTED. The questioned Order dated
January 11, 1999 as well as Search Warrant No. 98-905 dated June 18, 1998 are both hereby
ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Consequently, let a Writ of Prohibition be issued permanently enjoining
respondents from using in evidence the articles seized by virtue of Search Warrant No. 98-905 in
Criminal Case Nos. 98-165628 and 98-165629. The seized articles obtained by virtue of Search Warrant
98-905 consisting of regulated drug, guns and ammunitions, are hereby ORDERED delivered and
turned over to the proper authorities concerned for disposition in accordance with law.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.[7]

The appellate court ruled that (a) the RTC delegated its duty to determine probable cause to the
applicant; (b) the application for a search warrant was based on hearsay evidence; and (c) the application
for the search warrant issued was filed more than four (4) weeks from the alleged time the offense took
place; hence, was considered stale.
After the denial of its motion for reconsideration of the said decision, the People of the Philippines
filed the instant petition for review of the decision, alleging that

THE COURT OF APPEALS [EIGHTH DIVISION] GRAVELY ERRED IN DECLARING SEARCH WARRANT
NO. 98-905 NULL AND VOID DESPITE (i) THE UNMISTAKABLE MANNER BY WHICH THE
INVESTIGATING JUDGE CONDUCTED A PERSONAL EXAMINATION OF THE APPLICANT AND HIS
WITNESS; (ii) THE SEARCHING QUESTIONS PROPOUNDED AND ANSWERS OBTAINED; AND (iii) THE
PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE APPLICANT AND HIS WITNESS OF THE FACTS THAT INEVITABLY
JUSTIFIES THE ISSUANCE OF THE SEARCH WARRANT. [8]

The petitioner avers that Judge Lorenzo did not delegate the determination of probable cause to
Nuguid before issuing the subject warrant. While she allowed Nuguid to propound questions on Alexis
Tan, the same consisted of only three preliminary questions, and, as such, was inconsequential. The
petitioner also asserts that the leading questions propounded by Judge Lorenzo on Tan does not detract
from the fact that searching questions were also propounded on the witnesses, and that based on the
entirety of such propounded questions and the latters answers, there was probable cause for the issuance
of a search warrant. The petitioner maintains that Tan had personal knowledge of the respondents
delictual acts which were in violation of Rep. Act No. 6425, as amended. Moreover, as gleaned from the
affidavits of Tan and Nuguid and their collective testimonies before the RTC, the respondents house was
sufficiently described and identified, which description Nuguid was able to confirm through his
surveillance of the house, the place where the crime was committed.
The petitioner further contends that although there was an interregnum of six (6) months from the
time the commission of the crime came to the knowledge of Tan up to the filing of the application of the
search warrant by Nuguid, the same did not obscure the finding of probable cause made by Judge
Lorenzo.
The Court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to submit their respective
memoranda.[9]
After a comprehensive and well-studied review of the Rollo and the records of the Court of Appeals,
we resolve to deny the petition.
The Petition Was
Filed Out of Time
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) admitted in the petition at bar that it received a copy of the
assailed decision of the CA on October 21, 1999. Under Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the OSG
had until November 5, 1999 within which to file its petition for review on certiorari. However, it did so
only on November 25, 1999, long after the period therefor had lapsed. We reject as totally unacceptable
the pretext of Solicitor Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta that, because of heavy pressure of
work,[10] the actual filing of the motion to file the petition at bar prepared on November 3, 1999, was
accidentally slighted. The Solicitor is mandated to insure that her motion for extension was filed within
the period therefor.[11] Volume of work is a lame excuse.[12] She cannot escape the adverse effects of her
forgetfulness.
Even if we gloss over the gross negligence of the OSG and resolve the petition on its merits, we find
the same to be barren of merit.
A search warrant must (a) be based on probable cause; (b) contain a particular description of the
place to be searched; and (c) must describe the items or property to be seized. [13] Probable cause
comprehends such facts and circumstances as will induce a cautious man to rely upon and act in
pursuance thereof.[14]
It bears stressing that the requirement of particularity is related to the probable cause requirement
in that, at least, under severe circumstances, the lack of a more specific description will make it apparent
that there has not been a sufficient showing to the Judge that the described items are to be found in a
particular place. Probable cause must first focus on a specific location. If the applicant or official is unable
to state with sufficient precision the place to be searched and why he reasonably believes that contraband
or evidence of criminal activity will be found therein, it is highly doubtful that he possesses probable
cause for a warrant.[15]
In issuing a search warrant, the Judge must strictly comply with the requirements of the Constitution
and the statutory provisions.[16]
A search warrant shall not issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the
Judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may
produce.[17] Before issuing a search warrant, the Judge must personally examine, in the form of searching
questions and answers, in writing and under oath, the complainant and his witnesses he may produce,
on facts personally known to them.[18]
The mandate of the Judge is for him to conduct a full and searching examination of the complainant
and the witnesses he may produce. In the absence of a rule to the contrary, the determination of probable
cause cannot be delegated by the Judge, in part, or in whole, regardless of the qualifications of the person
on whom reliance is placed. It is not permissible for the Judge to share the required determination with
another.[19]
The searching questions propounded to the applicant and the witnesses must depend on a large
extent upon the discretion of the Judge. Although there is no hard-and-fast rule as to how a Judge may
conduct his examination, it is axiomatic that the said examination must be probing and exhaustive and
not merely routinary, general, peripheral or perfunctory. [20] He must make his own inquiry on the intent
and factual and legal justifications for a search warrant. The questions should not merely be repetitious
of the averments not stated in the affidavits/deposition of the applicant and the witnesses. [21] If the Judge
fails to determine probable cause by personally examining the applicant and his witnesses in the form of
searching questions before issuing a search warrant, it constitutes grave abuse of discretion. [22]
A search warrant proceeding is independent of any criminal case. It is ex parte and non-
adversarial.[23] Hence, the Judge acting on an application for a search warrant is not bound to apply
strictly the rules of evidence. As ruled in Brinegar v. United States:[24]

The inappropriateness of applying the rules of evidence as a criterion to determine probable cause is
apparent in the case of an application for a warrant before a magistrate, the context in which the issue
of probable cause most frequently arises. The ordinary rules of evidence are generally not applied in ex
parte proceedings, partly because there is no opponent to invoke them, partly because the Judges
determination is usually discretionary, partly because it is seldom that, but mainly because the system
of evidence rules was devised for the special control of trials by jury.

The Judge is not proscribed, at all times, from propounding leading questions on the applicant and
the witnesses he may produce. Indeed, the Judge is allowed to propound leading questions if, for instance,
the witness is a child or is suffering from mental illness, or if the questions are preliminary or clarificatory,
or when there is difficulty in getting direct and intelligent answers from the witness who is ignorant.
But it can hardly be justifiably claimed that, by propounding leading questions only on the
complainant and the witnesses he may produce, the Judge thereby conducts probing and exhaustive
examination. After all, a leading question is one which suggests to the witness the answer which the
examining party desires.[25] By propounding leading questions, the Judge thereby puts the words or
answers in the mind of the witness to be echoed back. [26]
It bears stressing that the determination of the existence of probable cause must be made by a
detached and neutral Judge.[27] If he resorts to propounding leading questions to the applicant and his
witnesses to determine probable cause, the Judge may be perceived as being partial, or even in cahoots
with the officers engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime. [28]
A search warrant is not thereby rendered invalid; nor is a finding of probable cause proscribed merely
because the Judge propounded leading questions on the applicant and the witnesses he produces. The
entirety of the questions propounded by the court and the answers thereto must be considered and
calibrated by the Judge.
The Judge Allowed the
Applicant Nuguid to Examine
Tan, His Witness, and Failed
to Propound Searching Questions
The transcript of the stenographic notes taken when Nuguid and Tan testified is quoted, in toto, infra:
COURT
Who is the applicant here?
SPO3 NUGUID:
I am the applicant, Your Honor.
(Swearing the applicant) -
COURT:
Please stand.
COURT:
Q You are applying for a search warrant.
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Where is this place to be searched?
A At no. 2006 Oroquieta St., Sta. Cruz, Manila, Your Honor.
Q Is there any person there whom you would want to search?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Who?
A In the name of Cesar Reyes, Your Honor, alias Cesar Itlog.
Q Why, what is it he is keeping in his custody?
A Undetermined quantities of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride also known as
Shabu.
Q How do you know that such things exist in his place?
A Thru my witness, Your Honor, we were able to test-buy and examine the contents in a plastic
sachet.
Q Why, what did your witness do, if any?
A I asked my witness to buy from Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog and she was able to buy the
subject shabu.
Q How did you know that your witness was able to buy from Cesar Reyes and not from other
source?
A She told me and according to her she got it from Cesar Reyes.
Q Who is this witness you are referring to?
A Alexis Tan, Your Honor.
Q Where is she?
A She is the one, Your Honor. (Witness pointing to a lady who answered when asked of her
name as Alexis Tan).
COURT:
Alright, I will ask her.
(Swearing Ms. Tan)
Q Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth?
A Yes, I do.
Q Please state your name, age and other personal circumstances.
A ALEXIS TAN, 34 years old, married, jobless and with address c/o WBD Drug Enforcement
Section, U.N. Ave., Manila.
Q What is your occupation?
A None for the moment, Your Honor.
Q What was your occupation, if any, before?
A A plain housewife, Your Honor.
COURT:
(to SPO3 Nuguid)
You want to ask her questions on record?
SPO3 NUGUID:
Your Honor, she has her statement
COURT:
Yes, but for the record, you may ask her.
SPO3 NUGUID:
Yes, Your Honor.
Q Do you personally know one Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog?
A Yes, Sir.
Q How long have you known Cesar Reyes?
A Maybe around 6 months ago.
Q How did you come to know him?
A I was introduced to him by a friend, Sir.
COURT:
Q What was the purpose of introducing you to him by your friend?
A It started when I was separated from my husband when my friend taught me how to use
shabu, Your Honor.
Q When you were separated from your husband, what has it something to do with introducing
you to Cesar Reyes?
A Thru influence, Your Honor.
Q What connection does it have?
A They know each other, Your Honor. My friend knows that Cesar Reyes is selling shabu, Your
Honor.
Q Did you really find out if Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog is selling shabu?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q How?
A At first, I was accompanied by my friend, but later I went there on my own alone.
Q You mean, this Cesar Reyes is really in the business if (sic) selling shabu?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Knowing his prohibited ((sic) activity, does he also sell to any other people?
A Those known to him, Maam.
Q You consider yourself as very well known to him?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Have you also seen him in [the] company of that friend of yours who introduced you to him?
A Yes, Maam for many times.
Q And you have been going to this place of Cesar Reyes several times also.
A Yes, Your Honor, I bought shabu from him.
Q How did he sell it to you?
A I will call him first through the phone before I go to him.
Q You make an appointment with him first?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Where is this place?
A At Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, Your Honor.
Q Everytime you go and buy shabu from him, is it always ready for sale to you?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q You mean he has always in his custody and does not run out of stock?
A There was one time when I called him if he could sell one for me he told me through the
phone to call back after an hour because he will be getting it from other source.
Q Did you call him back after an hour?
A Yes, Your Honor, and he told me to come over to his place.
Q How much quantity (sic) did you buy from him?
A For P3,000.00, Your Honor.
Q I am referring to the quantity.
A 3 grams, Your Honor, he does not sell lower than 3 grams, Your Honor, it must be 3 grams
and above.
Q You have not yet bought from him only one gram?
A No, Your Honor, not less than 3 grams.
Q During the time you bought shabu from Cesar Reyes, were you the only customer?
A He entertains customer (sic) one at a time, Your Honor, but he has several customers.
Q How do you know that he has several customers?
A Because he also talked [to] callers on the phone. During the time I bought shabu from him,
he also talked to somebody on the phone.
Q That is only. . .
Q Since when did you start buying shabu from him?
A Between December 1997 and January 1998, Your Honor.
Q The shabu you had been buying from him, do you use it or sell it to some other person?
A No, Your Honor, I do not sell it.
Q You use it?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q You know the house of Cesar Reyes after confirmation, in what particular part of the house
does Cesar Reyes entertain you?
A In [the] living room, Your Honor.
Q When you go to his house, you usually go and see him in that (sic) living room and not
elsewhere before he comes out from that house?
A Normally, Your Honor, when I go to his house, he would open the door for me and would say
come in then ask me how much. If, for example, I would say 3 grams, he would just go to
his room and comes out with the item.
Q In other words, everytime you go to his place to buy shabu she (sic) is there ready to
entertain you?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Is it not that he is still busy conversing with other people when he comes out from his room?
A When I go to his house, he is there ready to open for me (sic) he knows I am coming.
Q That is always the case, he is ready to open the door for you?
A There was also a time that his maid opened the door for me.
Q Aside from the maid, did you see other people inside that house?
A His family- his wife and a baby then he would usually let them stay away from the living
room or just get inside the room.
Q What kind of a house does Cesar Reyes have?
A A two-story (sic) house, Your Honor.
Q Not an apartment?
A No, Your Honor.
Q A single detach (sic) house?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Is there any guard on (sic) the main gate of the house?
A None, Maam, it is just an ordinary house.
Q There are no people you usually see when you go there?
A There are some members of the family but usually he let (sic) them stay away from the living
room.
Q Was there an occasion when somebody arrives when you see him?
A None, Your Honor.
Q So, this is a one-on-one affair.
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q How do you know that these things are stored in his house?
A Everytime I bought shabu from him, he would get the money from me and then get inside his
room to get a sachet of shabu and give it to me.
Q Are you sure that these things (shabu) are stocked in his house permanently or maybe they
are just brought there from somewhere because he knows you are coming to buy and get
it?
A There was once when I called him by phone and he asked me "how much and I told him I will
buy for (sic) P4,000.00 worth of shabu and he said you just proceed to my place by 2
oclock in the afternoon, I will have to get it from other source.
Q He got it from other source for you?
A According to him, if it is by large (sic) quantity and he will just repack it in his house.
Q He himself told you?
A Yes, Your Honor, but he does not reveal from whom.
Q You have no idea?
A No, Your Honor.
Q You did not ask him?
A No, Your Honor.
Q You used to transact business on the ground floor of his house?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Did you notice if his house has several rooms?
A There is one room on the ground floor, Maam, but sometimes he also goes upstairs and
comes down with the shabu item. Most of the time of the transaction just on the ground
floor.
Q Is there a partition in that particular room?
A It is just a single room, Maam.
Q Did you not notice if there are other people in that room in the ground floor?
A I did not notice but there was one time when I saw a child but he let that child stay away
from the visitor.
Q You mean this room where you saw him come out serve as storeroom of shabu?
A Yes, Maam.
Q Did he tell you about it?
A Yes, Maam.
Q Why did he tell you?
A Because when he entertained me, he left me for the moment and I said where do you go and
he said I will get inside that room to get the shabu.
Q So, since you were requested by the police officer to purchase shabu from Cesar Reyes, how
many times?
A That was the only time, Your Honor.
COURT: (to SPO3 NUGUID)
Q Did you make surveillance in that place?
A Yes, Your Honor, we made a surveillance after the test-buy.
Q What did you do?
A During the surveillance, we brought several witnesses.
Q Did you notice people going there to the house of Cesar Reyes?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q And what have you observed?
A Some customers are even using cars.
Q You do not know if those people were visitors or not?
A We are not sure if those people are visitors of Cesar Reyes because we have no contact inside
his house.
COURT: (to Ms. TAN) -
Q When did you buy shabu from Cesar Reyes?
A June 13, 1998, Your Honor.
Q This Cesar Reyes at the time did not have any idea that you were there being sent by the
police officers?
A No, Your Honor.
Q Did you really go to his place and successfully bought the shabu from Cesar Reyes?
A Yes, Your Honor.[29]
The questions propounded on Nuguid by Judge Lorenzo were not searching and probing, but merely
superficial and perfunctory. The records show that in his application for a search warrant, Nuguid
described the place to be searched as the house located at No. 2600 Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila,
under the name of Cesar Reyes alias Cesar Itlog. However, the Judge ignored this inconsistency and did
not bother to inquire from Nuguid why he applied for a search warrant of the premises at No. 2600
Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, when the house where Tan had apparently purchased shabu from
the respondent was located at No. 2006 Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.
Nuguid declared that he and the police officers conducted a test-buy on June 13, 1998, using Tan as
the buyer for said purpose. The ordinary procedure for a test-buy is for the police officers to monitor and
observe, at a distance, the sale of illicit drugs by the suspect to the buyer. In this case, when the Judge
asked Nuguid how Tan was able to buy shabu from the respondent, Nuguid reported that Tan told him
that he got shabu from Cesar Reyes, implying that he did not witness the test-buy; however, Nuguid also
declared that he was at a distance when the test-buy was conducted.
The Judge also failed to ask Nuguid the circumstances upon which he and the other police officers
came to know how Tan was able to purchase shabu from the respondent. Inexplicably, Nuguid conducted
a search of the house of the respondent only after the test-buy and not before then. However, the Judge
failed to inquire why the application for a search warrant was made only on June 18, 1998, or after the
lapse of five days from the time the test-buy was conducted on June 13, 1998. The Judge also failed to
ask Nuguid why no surveillance was made before the test-buy and whether any report on the surveillance
operations conducted on the respondents house after the test-buy was submitted.
Even a cursory reading of the transcript will show that most of the questions propounded on Tan by
the Judge were leading questions, and that those which were not leading were merely based on or related
to the answers earlier given to the leading questions. By asking such leading questions, the Judge thereby
supplied the answers to her questions. Although Tan testified that she used to buy at least three (3) grams
for P3,000.00 from the respondent during the period of December 1997 to January 1998, the Judge did
not even bother to inquire from Tan, a plain housewife who was separated from her husband, how she
could afford to purchase shabu for P3,000.00 on several occasions during the period of December 1997
to January 1998.
Indeed, there was an interregnum of more than four (4) months from the time Tan purchased shabu
from the respondent up to the time when the test-buy was supposedly made. However, the Judge was not
even curious as to why Tan failed to purchase shabu from the respondent for such a long period of time,
considering that from her testimony, Tan made it plain that she was a regular user of shabu. The Judge
should have asked Tan why she did not buy shabu from the respondent for more than four months.
The Judge even failed to inquire from Tan when and under what circumstances Nuguid was able to
meet with her to discuss how she would be utilized for the test-buy. The curiosity of the Judge was not
even aroused when, in answer to her question on the location of the house of Cesar Reyes, Tan replied
that it was located at Oroquieta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, without specifying the house number. At the
very least, it behooved the Judge to require Tan to specify the house number if only to test her credibility.
And yet, immediately after propounding the questions on Tan and Nuguid, the Judge announced that she
was issuing the search warrant.
A June 13, 1998, Your Honor.
Q This Cesar Reyes at the time did not have any idea that you were there being sent by the
police officers?
A No, Your Honor.
Q Did you really go to his place and successfully bought the shabu from Cesar Reyes?
A Yes, Your Honor.
COURT
(to SPO3 NUGUID)
Q During the time that Alexis Tan was being sent there to buy shabu from Cesar Reyes, where
were you then?
A We were at a distance, Your Honor.
COURT:
Do you have something to add questions from her?
SPO3 NUGUID:
No more at the moment, Your Honor.
COURT:
That will be all for now and the Court will issue the Search Warrant. [30]
The Judge allowed and even egged on Nuguid to examine Tan and elicit facts and circumstances from
her relating to the alleged purchase of shabu from the respondent. What is so worrisome is that Nuguid,
besides being the applicant, was the same police officer who asked Tan to buy shabu from the respondent
and the one who, along with other officers, arrested the respondent. That Nuguid propounded
comparatively fewer questions on Tan is beside the point. By allowing Nuguid himself to examine Tan,
the Judge thereby compromised her impartiality.
We echo, once again, the oft-cited caveat of the Court:

It has been said that of all the rights of a citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his
peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves the exemption of his private
affairs, books, and papers from inspection and scrutiny of others. While the power to search and seize is
necessary to the public welfare, still it must be exercised and the law enforced without transgressing the
constitutional rights of the citizens, for the enforcement of no statute is of sufficient importance to
justify indifference to the basic principles of government.

Thus, in issuing a search warrant, the Judge must strictly comply with the requirements of the
Constitution and the statutory provisions. A liberal construction should be given in favor of the
individual to prevent stealthy encroachment upon, or gradual depreciation of the rights secured by the
Constitution. No presumption of regularity is to be invoked in aid of the process when an officer
undertakes to justify it.[31]

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED.


SO ORDERED.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. 129035. August 22, 2002]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ANNABELLE FRANCISCO y DAVID, @


ANNABELLE TABLAN, accused-appellant.

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Federico Verona and his live-in girlfriend, accused-appellant Annabelle Francisco, were placed under
surveillance after the police confirmed, through a test-buy operation, that they were engaged in selling
shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride. SPO2 Teneros and SPO4 Alberto San Juan of OADDI-WPDC,
U.N. Avenue, Manila applied for a search warrant before Branch 23 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila
to authorize them to search the premises at 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City.
Attached to the application was the After-Surveillance Report[1] of SPO2 Teneros. It stated that Dante
Baradilla, of 1726 Lallana St., corner Sta. Catalina St., Tondo, Manila, who claimed to be one of Federico
Veronas runners in the illegal drugs operations, allegedly sought the assistance of SPO2 Teneros for the
arrest of Verona.[2] The search warrant[3] was subsequently issued by Judge Bayhon authorizing the
search of shabu and paraphernalia at No. 122 M. Hizon Street, Caloocan City.
Accused-appellant Annabelle Francisco, who was then nine months pregnant, was resting inside the
second floor masters bedroom of their two- storey apartment at No. 120 M. Hizon Street, Caloocan City,
when she heard a loud bang downstairs as if somebody forcibly opened the front door. Eight policemen
suddenly entered her bedroom and conducted a search for about an hour. Accused-appellant inquired
about their identities but they refused to answer. It was only at the police station where she found out
that the team of searchers was led by SPO2 Teneros. The police team, along with Barangay Chairwoman
Miguelita Limpo and Kagawad Bernie de Jesus, both of Barangay 64, Zone-6, District 2, Caloocan City,
enforced the warrant and seized the following: [4]
1. One (1) Salad Set marked Pyrex wrapped in a plastic containing white crysthalline (sic)
substance or methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu with markings by the undersigned
inside the house of subjects residence weighing (230) two hundred thirty (sic) grams of
methampetamine hydrochloride or shabu by Aida Abear-Pascual of NBI Forensic Chemist;
2. Several plastics in different sizes;
3. Two (2) roll of strip aluminum foil;
4. Five (5) tooter water pipe and improvised and two burner improvised;
5. Two (2) pantakal or measuring weight in shabu;
6. Two (2) cellular phone motorola with markings;
7. One (1) monitoring device with cord and with markings;
8. Several pcs. with strip aluminum foil;
9. Two (2) masking tip (sic) with markings;
10. Twentee (sic) two thousand nine hundred ninetee (sic) pesos.
The police team also allegedly seized the amount of P180,000.00, a Fiat car, jewelry, set of keys, an
ATM card, bank books and car documents.
Consequently, accused-appellant was charged with violation of Section 16, Article III, Republic Act
No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, in an information [5] which reads:

That about 10:30 oclock in the morning of 30 March 1996 at No. 122 SCL M. Hizon St., Kalookan City
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable court, the above-named accused grouping herself together
with some other persons whose liabilities are still being determined in a preliminary investigation,
conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously have in their possession, custody and/or control, methamphetamine hydrochloride
popularly known as shabu, a regulated drug, with a total weight of 230 grams, without the
corresponding license and/or prescription to possess, have custody and/or control over the aforesaid
regulated drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Accused-appellant filed a motion to quash the search warrant[6] asserting that she and her live-in
partner Federico Verona had been leasing an apartment unit at No. 120 M. Hizon Street, District 2,
Caloocan City, Metro Manila, since 1995 up to the present as certified by the owner of the
apartment unit.
On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty,[7] after which, trial on the merits ensued.
The trial court denied the motion to quash and upheld the validity of the search warrant. It rendered
a decision finding accused-appellant guilty as charged, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE premises considered, and the prosecution having established beyond an iota of doubt the
guilt of the Accused for Violation of Sec. 16, Art. III, RA 6425 as amended by RA 7659 and considering
that the total net weight of subject drugs consists of 230 grams, this Court in the absence of any
modifying circumstance hereby imposes upon the Accused the penalty of reclusion perpetua and a fine
of P1,000,000.00 pesos, and to pay the costs.

The period of Accuseds preventive imprisonment shall be credited in full in the service of her sentence
pursuant to Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code.

Subject drugs and paraphernalia are hereby declared confiscated and forfeited in favor of the
government to be dealt with in accordance with law.

The return to the Accused of the two (2) cellular phones, (Motorola Micro Fac) (sic) Nos. S-2968A and S-
3123A, which were turned over by the Acting Branch Clerk of Court of Manila RTC, Br. 3 to her
counterpart in this sala (Exh. 30) as well as the deposit of cash money in the amount of P22,990.00
with the Manila RTC Clerk of Court JESUS MANINGAS as evidenced by acknowledgment receipt dated
21 May 1996, are hereby ordered.

SO ORDERED.[8]

On appeal, accused-appellant raised the following assignment of errors: [9]


I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED OF THE CRIME OF ILLEGAL
POSSESSION OF SHABU;
II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THE ACCUSED;
III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE SEARCH CONDUCTED WAS
ILLEGAL AND VIOLATIVE OF ACCUSEDS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS;
IV. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING THE ACCUSED AFTER FINDING THAT
THE SEARCH WAS INDEED CONDUCTED AT A PLACE DIFFERENT FROM THAT
DESCRIBED IN THE SEARCH WARRANT.
The appeal is impressed with merit.
Plainly, the basic issue submitted for resolution is the reasonableness of the search conducted by
the police officers at accused-appellants residence.
The trial court, in upholding the validity of the search, stated that: [10]

Re 3rd argument - the fact that the search warrant in question was served at apartment No. 120 and
not at the specific address stated therein which is 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City will not by itself
render as illegal the search and seizure of subject stuff seized by the operatives pursuant thereto. While
it is true that the rationale behind the constitutional and procedural requirements that the search
warrant must particularly describe the place to be searched is to the end that no unreasonable search
warrant and seizure may not be made (sic) and abuses may not be committed, however, this
requirement is not without exception. It is the prevailing rule in our jurisdiction that even a description
of the place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can with reasonable effort
ascertain and identify the place intended (People vs. Veloso, G.R. No. L-23051, Oct. 20, 1925).

Significantly in the case at bar the implementing officer SPO2 Teneros was principally the concerned
official who conducted an active surveillance on the Accused and subject house (Surveillance Report,
Exh. 9) and pursued this case by filing the corresponding application for the issuance of a search
warrant. Perforce, SPO2 TENEROS was thereby placed in a position enabling him to have prior and
personal knowledge of particular house intended in the warrant which definitely refer to no other than
the very place where the same was accordingly served.

Accused-appellant, on the other hand, maintains that the search was grossly infirm as the subject
search warrant authorized the police authorities to search only No. 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan
City. However, the actual search was conducted at No. 120 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City.
The basic guarantee to the protection of the privacy and sanctity of a person, his home and his
possessions against unreasonable intrusions of the State is articulated in Section 2, Article III of the
Constitution, which reads:

THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO BE SECURE IN THEIR PERSONS, HOUSES, PAPERS, AND EFFECTS
AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES OF WHATEVER NATURE AND FOR ANY
PURPOSE SHALL BE INVIOLABLE, AND NO SEARCH WARRANT OR WARRANT OF ARREST SHALL
ISSUE EXCEPT UPON PROBABLE CAUSE TO BE DETERMINED PERSONALLY BY THE JUDGE AFTER
EXAMINATION UNDER OATH OR AFFIRMATION OF THE COMPLAINANT AND THE WITNESSES HE
MAY PRODUCE, AND PARTICULARLY DESCRIBING THE PLACE TO BE SEARCHED AND THE
PERSONS OR THINGS TO BE SEIZED.

For the validity of a search warrant, the Constitution requires that there be a particular description
of the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. The rule is that a description of a place
to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify
the place intended and distinguish it from other places in the community. Any designation or description
known to the locality that leads the officer unerringly to it satisfies the constitutional requirement. [11]
Specifically, the requisites for the issuance of a valid search warrant are: (1) probable cause is
present; (2) such presence is determined personally by the judge; (3) the complainant and the witnesses
he or she may produce are personally examined by the judge, in writing and under oath or affirmation;
(4) the applicant and the witnesses testify on the facts personally known to them; and (5) the warrant
specifically describes the place to be searched and the things to be seized. [12]
The absence of any of these requisites will cause the downright nullification of the search
warrants. The proceedings upon search warrants must be absolutely legal, for there is not a description
of process known to the law, the execution of which is more distressing to the citizen. Perhaps there is
none which excites such intense feeling in consequence of its humiliating and degrading effect. The
warrants will always be construed strictly without, however, going the full length of requiring technical
accuracy. No presumptions of regularity are to be invoked in aid of the process when an officer undertakes
to justify it.[13]
The application for search warrant filed by SPO2 Teneros requested for authority to search specifically
the premises of No. 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City. The application was accompanied by a sketch[14] of
the area which bears two parallel lines indicated as 10th Avenue drawn vertically on the left-hand side of
the paper. Intersecting these lines are two other parallel lines drawn horizontally and indicated as M.
Hizon. Above and on the left-hand side of the upper parallel line of the lines identified as M. Hizon, is a
square marked as Basketball Court. A similar drawing placed near the right-hand side of the upper
parallel line is another square marked as PNR Compound. Beneath the lower parallel line of the lines
marked as M. Hizon and right at the center is also a square enclosing an X sign marked as 122,
presumably No. 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City.
During the hearing for the application of the search warrant, police asset Dante Baradilla described
the house to be searched as:

Bale dalawang palapag po, semi concrete, color cream na ang mga bintana ay may rehas na bakal at
sliding at sa harap ay may terrace at may sasakyan sila na ginagamit sa pagdeliver ng shabu. [15]

The trial court then conducted an ocular inspection of the area. It turned out that No. 122 M. Hizon
St., Caloocan City was a concrete two-storey residential building with steel-barred windows and a
terrace. It was owned by a certain Mr. Joseph Ching. The house, however, bore no house number. The
house marked No. 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City was actually two houses away from accused-appellants
house at No. 120 M. Hizon St.
On the other hand, No. 120 Hizon St. was a compound consisting of three apartments enclosed by
only one gate marked on the outside as No. 120. The different units within No. 120 Hizon St. were not
numbered separately. Accused-appellant rented the third unit from the entrance which was supposedly
the subject of the search. The entire compound had an area of approximately ninety (90) square
meters. The second unit was located at the back of the first unit and the third unit was at the rear end of
the compound. Hence, access to the third unit from M. Hizon Street was only through the first two units
and the common gate indicated as No. 120. The occupants of the premises stated that they commonly
use No. 120 to designate their residence.
In People v. Veloso, this Court declared that even a description of the place to be searched is sufficient
if the officer with the warrant can with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place intended.[16] The
description of the building in the application for a search warrant in Veloso as well as in the search
warrant itself refer to the building No. 124 Calle Arzobispo, City of Manila, Philippine Islands which was
considered sufficient designation of the premises to be searched. [17]
The prevailing circumstances in the case at bar are definitely different from those in Veloso. At first
glance, the description of the place to be searched in the warrant seems to be sufficient. However, from
the application for a search warrant as well as the search warrant itself, the police officer serving the
warrant cannot, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place intended precisely because it was
wrongly described as No. 122, although it may have been located on the same street as No. 120. Even the
description of the house by police asset Baradilla referred to that house located at No. 122 M. Hizon St.,
not at No. 120 M. Hizon St.
The particularity of the place described is essential in the issuance of search warrants to avoid the
exercise by the enforcing officers of discretion. Hence, the trial court erred in refusing to nullify the actions
of the police officers who were perhaps swayed by their alleged knowledge of the place. The controlling
subject of search warrants is the place indicated in the warrant itself and not the place identified by the
police.[18]
It may well be that the police officer identified No. 120 M. Hizon St. as the subject of the actual
search. However, as indicated in the witness affidavit [19] in support of the application for a search
warrant,[20] No. 122 M. Hizon St. was unmistakably indicated. Inexplicably, a few days after the search
warrant was issued by the court and served at No. 120 M. Hizon St., SPO2 Teneros informed Judge
Bayhon in the return of search warrant[21] that the warrant was properly served at 122 M. Hizon St.,
Caloocan City, Metro Manila as indicated in the search warrant itself.
SPO2 Teneros attempted to explain the error by saying that he thought the house to be searched bore
the address 122 M. Hizon St., Caloocan City instead of No. 120 M. Hizon St. [22] But as this Court ruled
in Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines v. Asuncion,[23]thus:

The police had no authority to search the apartment behind the store, which was the place indicated in
the warrant, even if they really intended it to be the subject of their application. Indeed, the place to be
searched cannot be changed, enlarged or amplified by the police, viz.:

x x x. In the instant case, there is no ambiguity at all in the warrant. The ambiguity lies outside the
instrument, arising from the absence of a meeting of the minds as to the place to be searched between
the applicants for the warrant and the Judge issuing the same; and what was done was to substitute for
the place that the Judge had written down in the warrant, the premises that the executing officers had
in their mind. This should not have been done. It [was] neither fair nor licit to allow police officers to
search a place different from that stated in the warrant on the claim that the place actually
searchedalthough not that specified in the warrant[was] exactly what they had in view when they
applied for the warrant and had demarcated in their supporting evidence. What is material in
determining the validity of a search is the place stated in the warrant itself, not what the applicants had
in their thoughts, or had represented in the proofs they submitted to the court issuing the
warrant. Indeed, following the officers theory, in the context of the facts of the case, all four (4)
apartment units at the rear of Abigails Variety Store would have been fair game for a search.

The place to be searched, as set out in the warrant, cannot be amplified or modified by the officers own
personal knowledge of the premises, or the evidence they adduced in support of their application for the
warrant. Such a change is proscribed by the Constitution which requires inter alia the search warrant
to particularly describe the place to be searched as well as the persons or things to be seized. It would
concede to police officers the power of choosing the place to be searched, even if it not be delineated in
the warrant. It would open wide the door to abuse of the search process, and grant to officers executing
a search warrant that discretion which the Constitution has precisely removed from them. The
particularization of the description of the place to be searched may properly be done only by the Judge,
and only in the warrant itself; it cannot be left to the discretion of the police officers conducting the
search.

All told, the exclusionary rule necessarily comes into play, to wit:

Art. III, Sec. 3 (2), 1987 Constitution. -- ANY EVIDENCE OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF THIS OR THE
PRECEDING SECTION SHALL BE INADMISSIBLE FOR ANY PURPOSE IN ANY PROCEEDING.
Consequently, all the items seized during the illegal search are prohibited from being used in
evidence. Absent these items presented by the prosecution, the conviction of accused-appellant for the
crime charged loses its basis.
As the Court noted in an earlier case, the exclusion of unlawfully seized evidence was the only
practical means of enforcing the constitutional injunction against unreasonable searches and
seizures. Verily, they are the fruits of the poisonous tree. Without this exclusionary rule, the
constitutional right would be so ephemeral and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the
freedom from all brutish means of coercing evidence. [24]
On another note, we find disturbing the variety of the items seized by the searching team in this
case. In the return of search warrant, they admitted the seizure of cellular phones, money and
television/monitoring device items that are not within the palest ambit of shabu paraphernalia, which
were the only items authorized to be seized. What is more disturbing is the suggestion that some items
seized were not reported in the return of search warrant, like the Fiat car, bankbooks, and money. In an
attempt to justify the presence of the car in the police station, SPO2 Teneros had to concoct a most
incredible story that the accused-appellant, whose pregnancy was already in the third trimester, drove
her car to the police station after the intrusion at her house even if the police officers had with them
several cars.
A search warrant is not a sweeping authority empowering a raiding party to undertake a fishing
expedition to seize and confiscate any and all kinds of evidence or articles relating to a crime. [25]
It need not be stressed anew that this Court is resolutely committed to the doctrine that this
constitutional provision is of a mandatory character and therefore must be strictly complied with. To
quote from the landmark American decision of Boyd v. United States: It is the duty of courts to be watchful
for the constitutional rights of the citizen, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon. Their motto
should be obsta principiis.[26]
Those who are supposed to enforce the law are not justified in disregarding the rights of the individual
in the name of order. Order is too high a price to pay for the loss of liberty. As Justice Holmes declared: I
think it is less evil that some criminals escape than that the government should play an ignoble part. It
is simply not allowed in free society to violate a law to enforce another, especially if the law violated is the
Constitution itself.[27]
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 127,
Caloocan City, convicting accused-appellant of violation of Section 16, Article III, Republic Act No. 6425
and sentencing her to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P1,000,000.00 as well
as the costs, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. For lack of evidence to establish guilt beyond reasonable
doubt, accused-appellant Annabelle Francisco y David @ Annabelle Tablan is ACQUITTED and is ordered
immediately RELEASED from confinement, unless she is lawfully held in custody for another cause.
SO ORDERED.
Vitug, and Austria-Martinez, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), on official leave.

EXAMINATION OF COMPLAINANT AND WITNESSES

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 129651. October 20, 2000]

FRANK UY and UNIFISH PACKING CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. BUREAU OF INTERNAL


REVENUE and HON. MERCEDES GOZO-DADOLE, respondents.

DECISION
KAPUNAN, J.:

Petitioners assail the validity of the warrants issued for the search of the premises of the Unifish
Packing Corporation, and pray for the return of the items seized by virtue thereof.
On 30 September 1993, a certain Rodrigo Abos reported to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) that
petitioners Unifish Packing Corporation and Uy Chin Ho alias Frank Uy were engaged in activities
constituting violations of the National Internal Revenue Code. Abos, who claimed to be a former employee
of Unifish, executed an Affidavit[1] stating:

1. He has personal knowledge that UNIFISH PACKING CORPORATION (hereinafter referred to as


UNIFISH), a canning factory located at Hernan Cortes Street, under the active management of UY CHIN
HO alias Frank Uy [,] is selling by the thousands of [sic] cartons of canned sardines without issuing
receipt. This is in violation of Sections 253 and 263 of the Internal Revenue Code.

2. This grand scale tax fraud is perpetrated through the following scheme:
(1) Uy Chin Ho a director of UNIFISH buys in bulk from the company;
(2) Being a director, Uy Chin Ho has a lot of clout in the distribution of the canned
sardines processed by UNIFISH;
(3) Uy Chin Ho dictates the value of canned sardines that he orders and buys from
UNIFISH without any receipt of his purchases;
(4) The moment he has the quantity he wants, UNIFISH through Uy Chin Ho delivers
to the different supermarkets such as White Gold, Gaisano, etc.;
(5) Payments made by these tax evading establishments are made by checks drawn
payable to cash and delivered to Uy Chin Ho; These payments are also not receipted
(sic);
(6) Uy Chin Ho will then pay UNIFISH for the quantity of sardines he had withdrawn
from the corporation;

3. Another fraudulent practice perpetrated by UNIFISH through Uy Chin Hos direction is the sale of
imported oil locally to different customers. This is a case of smuggling in the sense that UNIFISH, being
an export company registered with the Board of Investments, is enjoying certain exemptions in their
importation of oil as one of the raw materials in its processing of canned tuna for export. These tax
exemptions are granted by the government on the condition that the oil is to be used only in the
processing of tuna for export and that it is not to be sold unprocessed as is to local customers.

4. Another fraudulent practice involves the sales of unused cans; UNIFISH also enjoys tax exemptions
in its purchases of tin cans subject to the condition that these are to be used as containers for its
processed tuna for export. These cans are never intended to be sold locally to other food processing
companies.

5. Prior to 1990, that is from 1980 to 1990, the factory of the UNIFISH PACKING CORPORATION was
then run by the PREMIER INDUSTRIAL & DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (hereinafter referred to as
PREMIER) [,] which corporation was being controlled by the same majority stockholders as those now
running and controlling UNIFISH; [a]t that time, PREMIER was also committing the same fraudulent
acts as what is being perpetrated by UNIFISH at present.

6. The records containing entries of actual volume of production and sales, of both UNIFISH AND
PREMIER, are found in the office of the corporation at its factory site at H. Cortes Street, Mandaue
City. The particular place or spot where these records [official receipts, sales invoices, delivery receipts,
sales records or sales books, stock cards, accounting records (such as ledgers, journals, cash receipts
books, and check disbursements books)] are kept and may be found is best described in the herein
attached sketch of the arrangement of the offices furniture and fixture of the corporation which is made
an integral part hereof and marked as Annex A,

7. He is executing this affidavit to attest under oath the veracity of the foregoing allegations and he is
reserving his right to claim for reward under the provisions of Republic Act No. 2338.

On 1 October 1993, Nestor N. Labaria, Assistant Chief of the Special Investigation Branch of the BIR,
applied for search warrants from Branch 28 of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. The application sought
permission to search the premises of Unifish.
After hearing the depositions of Labaria and Abos, Judge Mercedes Gozo-Dadole issued the disputed
search warrants. The first[2] is docketed as SEARCH WARRANT NO. 93-10-79 FOR: VIOLATION OF
SECTION 253 ("Search Warrant A-1"), and consists of two pages. A verbatim reproduction of Search
Warrant A-1 appears below:
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF CEBU
7th Judicial Region
Branch 28
Mandaue City

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Plaintiff,

- versus - SEARCH WARRANT NO. 93-10-79


FOR: VIOLATION OF SEC. 253

UY CHIN HO alias FRANK UY,


Unifish Packing Corporation
Hernan Cortes St., Cebu City
x-------------------------/
(with sketch)

SEARCH WARRANT
TO ANY PEACE OFFICER:

G R E E T I N G S:

It appearing to the satisfaction of the undersigned, after examination underoath (sic), Nestor N. Labaria,
Asst. Chief, Special Investigation Branch, BIR and witness Rodrigo Abos that there is a (sic) probable
cause to believe that the crime of violation of Section 253 - attempt to evade or defeat the tax has been
committed and there is good and sufficient reason to believe that Uy Chin Ho c/o Unifish Packing
Corporation, Hernan Cortes St., Mandaue City has in his possession, care and control, the following:

1. Multiple sets of Books of Accounts; Ledgers, Journals, Columnar Books, Cash Register
Books, Sales Books or Records; Provisional & Official Receipts;
2. Production Record Books/Inventory Lists [,] Stock Cards;
3. Unregistered Delivery Receipts;
4. Unregistered Purchase & Sales Invoices;
5. Sales Records, Job Order;
6. Corporate Financial Records; and
7. Bank Statements/Cancelled Checks

You are hereby commanded to make an immediate search at any time of day or night of said premises
and its immediate vicinity and to forthwith seize and take possession of the articles above-mentioned
and other properties relative to such violation and bring said properties to the undersigned to be dealt
with as the law directs.

WITNESS MY HAND this 1st day of October, 1993.

(sgd.)
MERCEDES GOZO-DADOLE
Judge
The second warrant[3]is similarly docketed as SEARCH WARRANT 93-10-79 FOR: VIOLATION OF
SEC. 253 ("Search Warrant A-2"). Search Warrant A-2, reproduced below, is almost identical in content
to Search Warrant A-1, save for the portions indicated in bold print. It consisted of only one page.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF CEBU
7th Judicial Region
Branch 28
Mandaue City

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,


Plaintiff,

- versus - SEARCH WARRANT NO. 93-10-79


FOR: VIOLATION OF SEC. 253

UY CHIN HO alias FRANK UY, and


Unifish Packing Corporation
Hernan Cortes St., Mandaue City
x-------------------------/
(with sketch)

SEARCH WARRANT

TO ANY PEACE OFFICER:

G R E E T I N G S:

It appearing to the satisfaction of the undersigned, after examination underoath [sic], Nestor N. Labaria,
Asst. Chief, Special Investigation Branch, BIR and witness Rodrigo Abos that there is a [sic] probable
cause to believe that the crime of violation of Section 253 - attempt to evade or defeat the tax has been
committed and there is good and sufficient reason to believe that Uy Chin Ho alias Frank Uy
and Unifish Packing Corporation, Hernan Cortes St., Mandaue City has in his possession, care and
control, the following:

1. Multiple sets of Books of Accounts; Ledgers, Journals, Columnar Books, Cash Register
Books, Sales Books or Records; Provisional & Official Receipts;
2. Production Record Books/Inventory Lists [,] Stock Cards;
3. Unregistered Delivery Receipts;
4. Unregistered Purchase & Sales Invoices;
5. Sales Records, Job Order;
6. Corporate Financial Records; and
7. Bank Statements/Cancelled Checks

You are hereby commanded to make an immediate search at any time of day or night of said premises
and its immediate vicinity and to forthwith seize and take possession of the articles above-mentioned
and other properties relative to such violation and bring said properties to the undersigned to be dealt
with as the law directs.

WITNESS MY HAND this 1st day of October, 1993.

(sgd.)
MERCEDES GOZO-DADOLE
Judge
Judge Gozo-Dadole issued a third warrant,[4] which was docketed as SEARCH WARRANT 93-10-80
FOR: VIOLATION OF SEC. 238 in relation to SEC. 263 (hereinafter, "Search Warrant B"). Except for the
docket number and the designation of the crime in the body of the warrant (Section 238 in relation to
Sec. 263 - non-issuance of sales invoice and use and possession of unregistered delivery receipts and/or
sales invoices), Search Warrant B is a verbatim reproduction of Search Warrant A-2.
On the strength of these warrants, agents of the BIR, accompanied by members of the Philippine
National Police, on 2 October 1993, searched the premises of the Unifish Packing Corporation. They
seized, among other things, the records and documents of petitioner corporation. A return of said search
was duly made by Nestor Labaria with the RTC of Cebu , Branch 28.
On 8 February 1995, the BIR filed against petitioners a case before the Department of Justice. The
records, however, do not reveal the nature of this case.
On 31 March 1995, petitioners filed motions to quash the subject search warrants with Branch 28
of the Cebu RTC.
The RTC, however, denied petitioners' motions to quash as well as their subsequent motion for
reconsideration, prompting petitioners to file a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals (CA). The
CA dismissed their petition, holding that petitioners failed to comply with Section 2(a), Rule 6 of the
Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals (RIRCA), which states:

a. What Should be Filed. - The petition shall be filed in seven (7) legible copies and a copy thereof shall
be served on each of the respondents, and must be accompanied by a certified true copy of the decision
or order complained of and true copies of the pleadings and other pertinent documents and papers.(As
amended by S.Ct. Res., dated November 24, 1992).

The CA found that petitioners did not submit certified true copies of (1) the Motions to Quash, (2) the
Motion for Reconsideration, and (3) the Affidavit of Rodrigo Abos.
The CA also held that certiorari was not the proper remedy to question the resolution denying the
motion to quash.

In this case now before us, the available remedies to the petitioners, assuming that the Department of
Justice will eventually file the case, are: a petition for reinvestigation; the right to post bail; a Motion to
Quash the Information; and in case of denial, an appeal, after judgment on the merits, or after the case
shall have been tried. This brings us to the case of Lai vs. Intermediate 220 SCRA 149 and the
pronouncement, thus:

Criminal Procedure: Certiorari: Certiorari should not be allowed where petitioner has other remedies
available. -- Anent the remedy resorted to by petitioners (referring to the petition for certiorari) from the
Regional Trial Court of Negros Oriental presided by Judge Diez, the same should not have been
granted. Petitioners were not without plain, speedy and adequate remedies in the ordinary course of law
against Judge Lomeda's order for their arrest. These remedies are as enumerated by respondent
appellate court in its decision: "1. they can post bail for their provisional release; 2. They can ask the
Provincial Fiscal for a reinvestigation of the charge against them. If unsatisfied with the fiscal's
resolution they can ask for a review by the Minister of Justice; (Sec. 1(), RA 5180 as amended by P.D.
911); 3. if their petition for review does not prosper, they can file a motion to quash the information in t
hetrial court. (Rule 117, Rules of
Court). 4. If the motion is denied, they can appeal the judgment of the court after the case shall have be
en tried on the merits.

x x x Where motion to quash is denied, remedy is not certiorari, but to go to trial.-- Moreover, in the
case of Acharon vs. Purisima, this Court held
that when a motion to quash a criminal case is denied, the remedy is not certiorari but to go to trial wit
hout prejudice to reiterating the special defensesinvolved in said Motion. In the event that an adverse
decision is rendered after trial on the merits, an appeal therefrom should be the next legal step.

xxx
In this case now before Us, there is no pretention [sic] that the Court issued the Search Warrants
without jurisdiction. On the contrary, it had jurisdiction. The argument therefore that the Court
committed an error in not describing the persons or things to be searched; that the Search Warrants did
not describe with particularity the things to be seized/taken; the absence of probable cause; and for
having allegedly condoned the discriminating manner in which the properties were taken, to us, are
merely errors in the Court's finding, certainly not correctible by certiorari, but instead thru an appeal. [5]

In any event, the CA ruled, no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction was
committed by the RTC in the issuance of the warrants.
As petitioners' motion for reconsideration proved futile, petitioners filed the instant petition for review.
Petitioners claim that they did submit to the CA certified true copies of the pleadings and documents
listed above along with their Petition, as well as in their Motion for Reconsideration. An examination of
the CA Rollo, however, reveals that petitioners first submitted the same in their Reply, after respondents,
in their Comment, pointed out petitioners failure to attach them to the Petition.
Nevertheless, the CA should not have dismissed the petition on this ground although, to its credit, it
did touch upon the merits of the case. First, it appears that the case could have been decided without
these pleadings and documents. Second, even if the CA deemed them essential to the resolution of the
case, it could have asked for the records from the RTC. Third, in a similar case,[6] we held that the
submission of a document together with the motion for reconsideration constitutes substantial
compliance with Section 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of Court, requiring the submission of a certified true copy
of material portions of the record as are referred to [in the petition], and other documents relevant or
pertinent thereto along with the petition. So should it be in this case, especially considering that it involves
an alleged violation of a constitutionally guaranteed right. The rules of procedure are not to be applied in
a very rigid, technical sense; rules of procedure are used only to help secure substantial justice. If a
technical and rigid enforcement of the rules is made, their aim could be defeated. [7]
The CA likewise erred in holding that petitioners cannot avail of certiorari to question the resolution
denying their motions to quash the subject search warrants. We note that the case of Lai vs. Intermediate,
cited by the appellate court as authority for its ruling does not appear in 220 SCRA 149. The excerpt of
the syllabus quoted by the court, as observed by petitioners, [8] appears to have been taken from the case
of Yap vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 220 SCRA 245 (1993). Yap, however, is inapplicable since that
case involved a motion to quash a complaint for qualified theft, not a motion to quash a search warrant.
The applicable case is Marcelo vs. De Guzman,[9] where we held that the issuing judges disregard of
the requirements for the issuance of a search warrant constitutes grave abuse of discretion, which may
be remedied by certiorari:

Expressly announced in Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is the general rule that certiorari is
available where a tribunal or officer exercising judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or
his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

In the light of the findings of the lower court, herein above quoted, it is indisputable that Judge de
Guzman gravely abused his discretion in issuing the said search warrant. Indeed, he acted whimsically
and capriciously when he ignored the explicit mandate of Section 3, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court that
a search warrant shall not issue but upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense to be
determined by the municipal or city judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the
complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched
and the persons or things to be seized; and that no search warrant shall issue for more than one
specific offense.

The utter disregard by Judge de Guzman of the requirements laid down by the said rule renders the
warrant in question absolutely null and void. It has been held that where the order complained of is a
patent nullity, a petition for certiorari and mandamus may properly be entertained despite the existence
of the remedy of appeal.

Moreover, an appeal from the order of Judge de Guzman would neither be an adequate nor speedy
remedy to relieve appellee of the injurious effects of the warrant. The seizure of her personal property
had resulted in the total paralization of the articles and documents which had been improperly
seized.Where the remedy of appeal cannot afford an adequate and expeditious relief, certiorari can be
allowed as a mode of redress to prevent irreparable damage and injury to a party.

This Court had occasion to reiterate the above pronouncement in Silva vs. Presiding Judge, RTC
of Negros Oriental, Br. XXXIII,[10] which also involved a special civil action for certiorari:[11]

Thus, in issuing a search warrant, the judge must strictly comply with the constitutional requirement
that he must determine the existence of probable cause by examining the applicant and his witnesses in
the form of searching questions and answers. His failure to comply with this requirement constitutes
grave abuse of discretion. As declared in Marcelo vs. De Guzman, G.R. No. L-29077, June 29, 1982, 114
SCRA 657, the capricious disregard by the judge in not complying with the requirements before
issuance of search warrants constitutes grave abuse of discretion.

In this case, petitioners alleged in their petition before the CA that the issuing judge violated the
pertinent provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of Court in issuing the disputed search warrants,
which, if true, would have constituted grave abuse of discretion. Petitioners also alleged that the enforcers
of the warrants seized almost all the records and documents of the corporation thus resulting in the
paralysis of its business. Appeal, therefore, would not be an adequate remedy that would afford petitioners
expeditious relief.
We now proceed to the merits of the case.
Section 2, Article III of the Constitution guarantees the right of the people against unreasonable
searches and seizures:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable
searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search
warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the
judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may
produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

In relation to the above provision, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 3. Requisite for issuing search warrant. - A search warrant shall not issue but upon probable
cause in connection with one specific offense to be determined personally by the judge after examination
under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly
describing the place to be searched and the things to be seized.

SEC. 4. Examination of complainant; record. - The judge must, before issuing the warrant, personally
examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in writing and under oath the complainant
and any witnesses he may produce on facts personally known to them and attach to the record their
sworn statements together with any affidavits submitted.

A search warrant must conform strictly to the requirements of the foregoing constitutional and
statutory provisions. These requirements, in outline form, are:
(1) the warrant must be issued upon probable cause;
(2) the probable cause must be determined by the judge himself and not by the applicant or any
other person;
(3) in the determination of probable cause, the judge must examine, under oath or affirmation,
the complainant and such witnesses as the latter may produce; and
(4) the warrant issued must particularly describe the place to be searched and persons or things
to be seized.[12]
The absence of any of these requisites will cause the downright nullification of the search
warrants.[13] The proceedings upon search warrants must be absolutely legal, for there is not a description
of process known to the law, the execution of which is more distressing to the citizen. Perhaps there is
none which excites such intense feeling in consequence of its humiliating and degrading effect. The
warrants will always be construed strictly without, however, going the full length of requiring technical
accuracy. No presumptions of regularity are to be invoked in aid of the process when an officer undertakes
to justify under it.[14]
Petitioners contend that there are several defects in the subject warrants that command their
nullification. They point out inconsistencies in the description of the place to be searched in Search
Warrant A-1, as well as inconsistencies in the names of the persons against whom Search Warrants A-1
and A-2 were issued. That two search warrants (Search Warrants A-1 and A-2) were issued for the same
crime, for the same place, at a single occasion is cited as another irregularity. Petitioners also dispute the
existence of probable cause that would justify the issuance of the warrants. Finally, they claim that the
things to be seized were not described with particularity. These defects, according to petitioners, render
the objects seized inadmissible in evidence.[15]
Inconsistencies in the description of the
place to be searched
Petitioners observe that the caption of Search Warrant A-1 indicates the address of Uy Chin Ho alias
Frank Uy as Hernan Cortes St., Cebu City while the body of the same warrant states the address as
Hernan Cortes St., Mandaue City. Parenthetically, Search Warrants A-2 and B consistently state the
address of petitioner as Hernan Cortes St., Mandaue City.
The Constitution requires, for the validity of a search warrant, that there be a particular description
of the place to be searched and the persons of things to be seized.[16] The rule is that a description of a
place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and
identify the place intended[17]and distinguish it from other places in the community. [18] Any designation
or description known to the locality that points out the place to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry
leads the officers unerringly to it, satisfies the constitutional requirement.[19] Thus, in Castro vs.
Pabalan,[20] where the search warrant mistakenly identified the residence of the petitioners therein as
Barrio Padasil instead of the adjoining Barrio Maria Cristina, this Court "admitted that the deficiency in
the writ is not of sufficient gravity to call for its invalidation."
In this case, it was not shown that a street similarly named Hernan Cortes could be found in Cebu
City. Nor was it established that the enforcing officers had any difficulty in locating the premises of
petitioner corporation. That Search Warrant A-1, therefore, inconsistently identified the city where the
premises to be searched is not a defect that would spell the warrants invalidation in this case.
Inconsistencies in the description of the
persons named in the two warrants
Petitioners also find fault in the description of the names of the persons in Search Warrants A-1 and
A-2. Search Warrant A-1 was issued solely against Uy Chin Ho alias Frank Uy. Search Warrant A-2, on
the other hand, was directed against UY CHIN HO alias FRANK UY, and Unifish Packing Corporation.
These discrepancies are hardly relevant.
In Miller v. Sigler,[21] it was held that the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, from
which Section 2, Article III of our own Constitution is historically derived, does not require the warrant to
name the person who occupies the described premises. Where the search warrant is issued for the search
of specifically described premises only and not for the search of a person, the failure to name the owner
or occupant of such property in the affidavit and search warrant does not invalidate the warrant; and
where the name of the owner of the premises sought to be searched is incorrectly inserted in the search
warrant, it is not a fatal defect if the legal description of the premises to be searched is otherwise correct
so that no discretion is left to the officer making the search as to the place to be searched. [22]
Since, in the case at bar, the warrant was issued not for search of the persons owning or occupying
the premises, but only a search of the premises occupied by them, the search could not be declared
unlawful or in violation of the constitutional rights of the owner or occupants of the premises, because of
inconsistencies in stating their names.[23]
Two warrants issued at one time for one
crime and one place
In any event, Search Warrant A-1 should be deemed superseded by Search Warrant A-2.
Two warrants, Search Warrants A-1 and A-2, were actually issued by the trial court for the same
crime (violation of SEC. 253 of the National Internal Revenue Code). It appears, however, that Search
Warrant A-2 was issued merely to correct the inconsistencies in the address in Search Warrant A-1, as
well as to include Unifish Packing Corporation as a party against whom the warrant was issued. Search
Warrant A-2 was evidently an attempt by the issuing judge to be more precise in the names of the persons
against whom the warrant was issued and in the description of the place to be searched. Indeed, it would
be absurd for the judge to issue on a single occasion two warrants authorizing the search of a single place
for a single offense. Inasmuch as the apparent intent in issuing Search Warrant A-2 was to supersede
Search Warrant A-1, the latter should be deemed revoked by the former.
The alleged absence of probable cause
Petitioners claim there was no probable cause for Judge Gozo-Dadole to issue the subject search
warrants.
Probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet
and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection
with the offense are in the place sought to be searched. [24]
In the determination of probable cause, the Constitution and the Rules of Court require an
examination of the witnesses under oath. The examination must be probing and exhaustive, not merely
routine or pro forma. The examining magistrate must not simply rehash the contents of the affidavit but
must make his own inquiry on the intent and justification of the application. [25] Asking of leading
questions to the deponent in an application for search warrant, and conducting of examination in a
general manner, would not satisfy the requirements for issuance of a valid search warrant.[26]
The witnesses, in turn, must testify under oath to facts of their own personal knowledge. The oath
required must refer to the truth of the facts within the personal knowledge of the petitioner or his
witnesses, because the purpose thereof is to convince the committing magistrate, not the individual
making the affidavit and seeking the issuance of the warrant, of the existence of probable cause. [27] Search
warrants are not issued on loose, vague or doubtful basis of fact, nor on mere suspicion or belief. [28]
It may be recalled that before issuing the warrants, the judge deposed two witnesses, namely, Nestor
Labaria of the BIR, and Rodrigo Abos, who claimed to be an old employee of Unifish. Petitioners claim
that the testimonies of Labaria and Abos are hearsay. We agree with this contention, but only as to the
testimony of Labaria, who stated during the examination:
Q. Do you know of a certain Uy Chin Ho alias Frank Uy?
A. No.
Q. Do you know his establishment known as Unifish Packing Corporation?
A. I have only heard of that thru the affidavit of our informer, Mr. Abos.
Q. Why are you applying for search warrant in the premises of Unifish Packing Corporation?
A. Because of that information we received that they are using only delivery receipts instead of the
legal sales invoices. It is highly indicative of fraud.
Q. From where did you get that information?
A. From our informer, the former employee of that establishment.[29]
The above portion of the transcript shows that Labarias knowledge of the alleged illegal activities of
petitioners was acquired not through his own perception but was merely supplied by Abos. Therefore, the
deposition of Labaria, which is based on hearsay, standing alone, cannot justify the issuance of the search
warrants.[30]
The application for the warrants, however, is not based solely on Labarias deposition but is supported
by that of Abos, whose knowledge of petitioners alleged illegal practices was apparently obtained during
his employment with Unifish. In his deposition, Abos detailed the schemes employed by Frank Uy and
Unifish to evade the payment of taxes, and described the place where the documents supposedly
evidencing these schemes were located:
Q Do you know Frank Uy?
A Yes.
Q Why do you know him?
A Because I were (sic) an employee of his from 1980 until August of 1993.
Q Where is this Unifish Packing Corporation located?
A Hernan Cortes St.
Q What is it being engaged of?
A It is engaged in canning of fish.
Q You have executed an affidavit here to the effect that it seems that in his business dealings that he
is actually doing something that perpetrated tax evasion. Is that correct?
A Yes.
Q How is it done?
A As an officer, he is an active member of the corporation who is at the same time making his authority
as appointing himself as the distributor of the company's products. He sells these products thru
supermarkets in Visayas and Mindanao, in fact, the whole Philippines. He makes it appear that it
is the company which is selling when actually it is him selling the goods and he does not issue
any invoices.
Q Since he does not issue any invoices, how is it done?
A Thru delivery receipts.
Q Is the delivery receipt official?
A No. It is unregistered.
Q For how long has this been going on?
A As far as I know, it is still in 1986 since we started producing the sardines.
Q When was the last time that you observed that that is what he is doing?
A August, 1993, last month.
Q How did you happen to know about this last month?
A Because he delivered to certain supermarkets and the payments of that supermarket did not go
directly to the company. It went to him and he is the one who paid the company for the goods that
he sold.
Q Can you tell this Court the name of that certain supermarkets?
A White Gold and Gaisano.
Q How did you know this fact?
A As a manager of the company I have access to all the records of that company for the last three
years. I was the Operating Chief.
Q Until now?
A No. I was separated already.
Q When?
A August, 1993.
Q How does he do this manipulation?
A He sells the goods to the supermarkets afterwhich the company, Unifish will deliver to his customers,
then his customers will pay directly to him and in turn, he pays to the company.
Q And these transactions, were they reflected in their books of account or ledger or whatever?
A It is written but it is supposed to be a secret transaction. It is not for the public, not for the BIR but
it is only for the purpose of keeping the transactions between the company and him. It is not made
to be shown to the BIR.
Q In that books of account, is it reflected that they have made some deliveries to certain supermarkets?
A Yes.
Q For the consumption of the BIR what are the papers that they show?
A It is the private accounting firm that prepares everything.
Q Based on what?
A Based on some fictitious records just as they wish to declare.
Q In your affidavit you stated that there are sales invoices, official receipts, delivery receipts, sales
records, etc. These documents are records that you have stated, in your affidavit, which are only
for the consumption of the company?
A Yes, not for the BIR.
Q Where are they kept now?
A They are kept on the table which I have drawn in the sketch. This is the bird's eyeview (sic) of the
whole office. When you enter thru the door this Gina Tan is the one recording all the confidential
transactions of the company. In this table you can find all the ledgers and notebooks.
Q This sketch is a blow-up of this portion, Exh. "A"?
A Yes. Exh. "B" is the blow-up of Exh. "A" inside the office.
In this blow-up there are four personnel plus one new personnel. Gina Tan collects all the records from
this girl and this girl makes the statements. This first girl delivers the receipts. The second girl
prepares the bill of lading. The third girl keeps the inventory of all the stocks.
This sketch here is the bodega where the records are kept. The records from these people are stored in
this place which is marked as "C".
Q So what you want to impress on that now is that only current records are kept by Gina because
according to you the whole records are already placed in the bodega?
A Yes.
Q But how can you enter the bodega?
A Here, from the main entrance there is a door which will lead to this part here. If you go straight there
is a bodega there and there is also a guard from this exit right after opening the door.
Q The problem is that, when actually in August have you seen the current records kept by Gina?
A I cannot exactly recall but I have the xerox copies of the records.
Q Where are they now?
A They are in my possession (witness handling [sic] to the Court a bunch of records).
Q The transactions that are reflected in these xerox copies that you have given me, especially this one
which seems to be pages of a ledger, they show that these are for the months of January, February,
March, April and May. Are these transactions reflected in these xerox copies which appear in the
ledger being shown to the BIR?
A As far as I know, it did not appear.
Q What about this one which says Columnar Book Cash Receipt for the month of January, what does
it show?
A It shows that Frank Uy is the one purchasing from the company and these are his customers.
Q Do these entries appear in the columnar books which are the basis for the report to the BIR?
A As far as I know, it does not reflect.
Q What are these xerox copies of checks?
A I think we cannot trace it up. These ones are the memos received by Unifish for payment of
sardines. This is the statement of the company given to Uy Chin Ho for collection.
Q It is also stated in your affidavit that the company imported soya oil. How is it done?
A The company imports soya oil to be used as a component in the processing of canned tuna for
export. The company enjoys certain BOI privilege and so it is tax free. As far as I know, they profit
more to dispose the product locally. Whatever excess of this soya oil are sold to another company.
Q Is that fact reflected in the xerox copies?
A No. I have the actual delivery receipt.
Q In other words, the company imports soya oil supposedly to be used as a raw material but instead
they are selling it locally?
A Yes. ([W]itness showing DR No. 3053 dated November 13, 1991.) This delivery receipt was the
delivery receipt to Celebes Canning Corp. of the 90 grams soya oil.
Q In other words, this soya oil should have to be used by Unifish but instead they are seeling (sic) it?
A Yes, at a profit.
Q You also said that there is tax evasion in the selling of cans. What do you mean by this?
A There is another privileged [sic] by the BOI for a special price given to packaging materials. When
you export the product there is a 50% price difference. Now, taking that advantage of that
exemption, they sold it to certain company here, again to Virginia Farms.
Q Do you have proof to that effect?
A No, but we can get it there.
Q Will that fact be shown in any listed articles in the application for search warrant since according to
you, you have seen this manipulation reflected on the books of account kept by Gina? Are you
sure that these documents are still there?
A Yes. I have received information.
COURT: Alright.[31]
Abos stated that, as former Operating Chief of Unifish, he had access to the company records, and
even showed the issuing judge photocopies thereof. Thus, we reject the contention that this witness did
not have personal knowledge of the facts to which he testified. The contents of the deposition clearly
demonstrate otherwise.
The deposition also shows that, contrary to petitioners submission, the inquiries made by the judge
were far from leading or being a rehash of the witness affidavit. We find such inquiries to be sufficiently
probing.
Alleged lack of particularity in the
description of the things seized
Petitioners note the similarities in the description of the things to be seized in the subject warrants
and those in Stonehill vs. Diokno,[32] Bache & Co. (Phil.), Inc. vs. Ruiz,[33] and Asian Surety & Insurance Co.,
Inc. vs. Herrera.[34]
In Stonehill, the effects to be searched and seized were described as:

Books of accounts, financial records, vouchers, journals correspondence, receipts, ledgers, portfolios,
credit journals, typewriters, and other documents and/or papers showing all business transactions
including disbursement receipts, balance sheets and related profit and loss statements.

This Court found that the foregoing description failed to conform to the requirements set forth by the
Constitution since:

x x x the warrants authorized the search for and seizure of records pertaining to all business
transactions of petitioners herein, regardless of whether the transactions were legal or illegal. The
warrants sanctioned the seizure of all records of the petitioners and the aforementioned corporations,
whatever their nature, thus openly contravening the explicit command of our Bill of Rights - that the
things to be seized be particularly described - as well as tending to defeat its major object: the
elimination of general warrants.

In Bache & Co., this Court struck down a warrant containing a similar description as those
in Stonehill:

The documents, papers, and effects sought to be seized are described in Search Warrant No. 2-M-70 in
this manner:

Unregistered and private books of accounts (ledgers, journals, columnars, receipts and disbursements
books, customers' ledgers); receipts for payments received; certificates of stocks and securities;
contracts, promissory notes and deeds of sale; telex and coded messages; business communications;
accounting and business records; checks and check stubs; records of bank deposits and withdrawals;
and records of foreign remittances, covering the years 1966 to 1970.

The description does not meet the requirement in Art. III, Sec. 1, of the Constitution, and of Sec. 3, Rule
126 of the Revised Rules of Court, that the warrant should particularly describe the things to be seized.

xxx

In Uy Kheytin, et al. vs. Villareal, etc., et al., 42 Phil. 886, 896, this Court had occasion to explain the
purpose of the requirement that the warrant should particularly describe the place to be searched and
the things to be seized, to wit:

x x x Both the Jones Law (sec. 3) and General Orders No. 68 (sec. 97) specifically require that a search
warrant should particularly describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. The evident
purpose and intent of this requirement is to limit the things to be seized to those, and only those,
particularly described in the search warrant - to leave the officers of the law with no discretion
regarding what articles they shall seize, to the end that unreasonable searches and seizures may not be
made, - that abuses may not be committed. That is the correct interpretation of this constitutional
provision borne out by the American authorities.
The purpose as thus explained could, surely and effectively, be defeated under the search warrant
issued in this case.

A search warrant may be said to particularly describe the things to be seized when the description
therein is as specific as the circumstances will ordinarily allow (People vs. Rubio, 57 Phil, 384); or when
the description expresses a conclusion of fact - not of law - by which the warrant officer may be guided
in making the search and seizure (idem., dissent of Abad Santos, J.,); or when the things described are
limited to those which bear direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued (Sec. 2,
Rule 126, Revised Rules of Court). The herein search warrant does not conform to any of the foregoing
tests. If the articles desired to be seized have any direct relation to an offense committed, the applicant
must necessarily have some evidence, other than those articles, to prove the said offense; and the
articles subject of search and seizure should come in handy merely to strengthen such evidence.In this
event, the description contained in the herein disputed warrant should have mentioned, at least, the
dates, amounts, persons, and other pertinent data regarding the receipts of payments, certificates of
stocks and securities, contracts, promissory notes, deeds of sale, messages and communications,
checks, bank deposits and withdrawals, records of foreign remittances, among others, enumerated in
the warrant.

In Asian Surety & Insurance Co., Inc. vs. Herrera, the description of the things to be seized, i.e., Fire
Registers, Loss, Bordereau, Adjusters' Report, including subrogation receipts and proof of loss, Loss
Registers, Book of Accounts including cash receipts and disbursements and general ledger, etc. was held
to be an omnibus description and, therefore, invalid:

x x x Because of this all embracing description which includes all conceivable records of petitioner
corporation, which if seized x x x, could paralyze its business, petitioner in several motions filed for
early resolution of this case, manifested that the seizure of TWO carloads of their papers has paralyzed
their business to the grave prejudice of not only the company, its workers, agents, employees but also of
its numerous insured and beneficiaries of bonds issued by it, including the government itself, and of the
general public. And correlating the same to the charges for which the warrant was issued, We have
before Us the infamous general warrants of old.

In the case at bar, the things to be seized were described in the following manner:
1. Multiple sets of Books of Accounts; Ledgers, Journals, Columnar Books, Cash Register Books,
Sales Books or Records; Provisional & Official Receipts;
2. Production Record Books/Inventory Lists [,] Stock Cards;
3. Unregistered Delivery Receipts;
4. Unregistered Purchase & Sales Invoices;
5. Sales Records, Job Order;
6. Corporate Financial Records; and
7. Bank Statements/Cancelled Checks
We agree that most of the items listed in the warrants fail to meet the test of particularity, especially
since witness Abos had furnished the judge photocopies of the documents sought to be seized. The issuing
judge could have formed a more specific description of these documents from said photocopies instead of
merely employing a generic description thereof. The use of a generic term or a general description in a
warrant is acceptable only when a more specific description of the things to be seized is unavailable. The
failure to employ the specificity available will invalidate a general description in a warrant. [35] The use by
the issuing judge of the terms multiple sets of books of accounts, ledgers, journals, columnar books, cash
register books, sales books or records, provisional & official receipts, production record books/inventory
lists, stock cards, sales records, job order, corporate financial records, and bank statements/cancelled
checks is therefore unacceptable considering the circumstances of this case.
As regards the terms unregistered delivery receipts and unregistered purchase & sales invoices,
however, we hold otherwise. The Solicitor General correctly argues that the serial markings of these
documents need not be specified as it is not possible to do so precisely because they are
unregistered.[36] Where, by the nature of the goods to be seized, their description must be rather general,
it is not required that a technical description be given, as this would mean that no warrant could
issue. Taking into consideration the nature of the articles so described, it is clear that no other more
adequate and detailed description could have been given, particularly because it is difficult to give a
particular description of the contents thereof. [37] Although it appears that photocopies of these
unregistered documents were among those handed by Abos to the issuing judge, it would be impractical
to require the latter to specify each and every receipt and invoice, and the contents thereof, to the minutest
detail.
The general description of most of the documents listed in the warrants does not render the entire
warrant void. Insofar as the warrants authorize the search and seizure of unregistered delivery receipts
and unregistered purchase and sales invoices, the warrants remain valid. The search warrant is severable,
and those items not particularly described may be cut off without destroying the whole warrant. In United
States v. Cook,[38] the United States Court of Appeals (Fifth Circuit) made the following pronouncement:

x x x. The leading decision is Aday v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.2d 789, 362 P.2d 47, 13 Cal.Rptr. 415
(1961). In Aday, a warrant was issued authorizing the seizure of two particularly described books and
myriad other generally described items. On appeal, the California Supreme Court held that only the
books were particularly described in the warrant and lawfully seized. The court acknowledged that the
warrant was flawed, but rather than suppress everything seized, the court chose to sever the defective
portions of the warrant and suppress only those items that were not particularly described.

Although the warrant was defective x x x it does not follow that it was invalid as a whole. Such a
conclusion would mean that the seizure of certain articles, even though proper if viewed separately,
must be condemned merely because the warrant was defective with respect to other articles. The invalid
portions of the warrant are severable from the authorization relating to the named books x x x. The
search for and seizure of these books, if otherwise valid, were not rendered illegal by the defects
concerning other articles.

xxx

x x x We agree with the reasoning of the Supreme Court of California and the majority of state courts
that have considered this question and hold that in the usual case the district judge should sever the
infirm portion of the search warrant as passes constitutional muster. See United States v. Giresi, 488
F.Supp. 445, 459-60 (D.N.J.1980). Items that were not described with the requisite particularity in the
warrant should be suppressed, but suppression of all of the fruits of the search is hardly consistent
with the purposes underlying exclusion. Suppression of only the items improperly described prohibits
the Government from profiting from its own wrong and removes the court from considering illegally
obtained evidence. Moreover, suppression of only those items that were not particularly described
serves as an effective deterrent to those in the Government who would be tempted to secure a warrant
without the necessary description. As the leading commentator has observed, it would be harsh
medicine indeed if a warrant which was issued on probable cause and which did particularly describe
certain items were to be invalidated in toto merely because the affiant and the magistrate erred in
seeking and permitting a search for other items as well. 2 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure: A Treatise on
the Fourth Amendment 4.6(f) (1978).

Accordingly, the items not particularly described in the warrants ought to be returned to petitioners.
Petitioners allege that the following articles, though not listed in the warrants, were also taken by the
enforcing officers:

1. One (1) composition notebook containing Chinese characters,

2. Two (2) pages writing with Chinese characters,

3. Two (2) pages Chinese character writing,

4. Two (2) packs of chemicals,

5. One (1) bound gate pass,

6. Surety Agreement.[39]

In addition, the searching party also seized items belonging to the Premier Industrial and Development
Corporation (PIDC), which shares an office with petitioner Unifish.
The things belonging to petitioner not specifically mentioned in the warrants, like those not
particularly described, must be ordered returned to petitioners. In order to comply with the constitutional
provisions regulating the issuance of search warrants, the property to be seized under a warrant must be
particularly described therein and no other property can be taken thereunder. [40] In Tambasen vs.
People,[41] it was held:

Moreover, by their seizure of articles not described in the search warrant, the police acted beyond the
parameters of their authority under the search warrant. Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution
requires that a search warrant should particularly describe the things to be seized. The evident purpose
and intent of the requirement is to limit the things to be seized to those, and only those, particularly
described in the search warrant, to leave the officers of the law with no discretion regarding what
articles they should seize, to the end that unreasonable searches and seizures may not be made and
that abuses may not be committed (Corro v. Lising, 137 SCRA 541, 547 [1985]); Bache & Co. [Phil.], Inc.
v. Ruiz, 37 SCRA 823 [1971]; Uy Kheytin v. Villareal, 42 Phil. 886 [1920]). The same constitutional
provision is also aimed at preventing violations of security in person and property and unlawful
invasions of the sanctity of the home, and giving remedy against such usurpations when attempted
(People v. Damaso, 212 SCRA 547 [1992] citing Alvero v. Dizon, 76 Phil. 637, 646 [1946]).

Clearly then, the money which was not indicated in the search warrant, had been illegally seized from
petitioner. The fact that the members of the police team were doing their task of pursuing subversives is
not a valid excuse for the illegal seizure. The presumption juris tantum of regularity in the performance
of official duty cannot by itself prevail against the constitutionally protected right of an individual
(People v. Cruz, 231 SCRA 759 [1994]; People v. Veloso, 48 Phil. 169, 176 [1925]). Although public
welfare is the foundation of the power to search and seize, such power must be exercised and the law
enforced without transgressing the constitutional rights of the citizens (People v. Damaso, supra, citing
Rodriguez v. Evangelista, 65 Phil. 230, 235 [1937]). As the Court aptly puts it in Bagahilog v. Fernandez,
198 SCRA 614 (1991), [z]eal in the pursuit of criminals cannot ennoble the use of arbitrary methods
that the Constitution itself abhors.

The seizure of the items not specified in the warrants cannot be justified by the directive in the
penultimate paragraph thereof to "seize and take possession of other properties relative to such violation,"
which in no way can be characterized as a particular description of the things to be seized.
As regards the articles supposedly belonging to PIDC, we cannot order their return in the present
proceedings. The legality of a seizure can be contested only by the party whose rights have been impaired
thereby, and the objection to an unlawful search and seizure is purely personal and cannot be availed of
by third parties.[42]
WHEREFORE, the Resolutions of respondent Court of Appeals dated 27 June 1996 and 14 May
1987, affirming the Order of the Regional Trial Court dated 17 July 1995, are hereby AFFIRMED insofar
as said Resolutions upheld the validity of the subject Search Warrants authorizing the seizure of the
unregistered delivery receipts and unregistered purchase and sales invoices, but REVERSED with respect
to the rest of the articles subject of said warrants. The respondent Bureau of Internal Revenue is hereby
ordered to return to petitioners all items seized from the subject premises and belonging to petitioners,
except the unregistered delivery receipts and unregistered purchase and sales invoices.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Puno, Pardo, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

CONTROL OF PROSECUTION

THIRD DIVISION

ANTHONY T. REYES, G.R . N o. 1 714 35

Petitioner, Present:

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CHICO-NAZARIO,
- versus -
NACHURA, and

REYES, JJ.

PEAR LB A N K SE C UR IT IE S, I N C. , Promulgated:
Re s p on d ent .

July 30, 2008

x-------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, petitioner Anthony
T. Reyes prays for the reversal of the 26 October 2005 Decision[1] and 7 February 2006 Resolution[2] of the
Court of Appeals in Anthony T. Reyes v. Secretary of the Department of Justice and Pearlbank Securities,
Inc., docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 90006, ruling that the Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) did
not commit grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause to charge petitioner Reyes with the crime
of falsification of commercial and private documents.

Pearlbank Securities, Inc. (PEARLBANK) is a domestic corporation engaged in the securities


business.

Westmont Investment Corporation (WINCORP) is a domestic corporation operating as an


investment house. Among the services rendered by WINCORP to its clients in the ordinary course of its
business as an investment house is the arranging and brokering of loans. Petitioner Anthony T. Reyes
was formerly the Vice President for Operations and Administration of WINCORP. [3]

PEARLBANK alleged that in March 2000, it received various letters from persons who invested

in WINCORP demanding payment of their matured investments, which WINCORP failed to pay,

threatening legal action. According to these investors, WINCORP informed them that PEARLBANK was

the borrower of their investments. WINCORP alleged that it was unable to repay its investors because

of the failure of its fund borrowers, one of which was PEARLBANK, to pay the loans extended to them

by WINCORP. As proof of their claims, the investors presented Confirmation Advices, [4] Special Powers

of Attorney and Certifications signed and issued to them by WINCORP.

The period covered by these Confirmation Advices was from 25 January 2000 to 3 April 2000,

with said Confirmation Advices bearing the words Borrower: PEARLBANK Securities, Inc.

PEARLBANK denied having any outstanding loan obligation with WINCORP or its investors.

In reaction to the accusations against it, PEARLBANK immediately wrote Antonio T. Ong,
WINCORP President, demanding an explanation as to how and why PEARLBANK was made to appear to
be involved in its transactions. According to PEARLBANK, it did not get any reply from WINCORP.

PEARLBANK alleged that WINCORPs acts of stating and making it appear in several Confirmation
Advices, Special Powers of Attorney and Certifications that PEARLBANK was the borrower of funds from
the lenders/investors of WINCORP constituted falsification of commercial and private documents.

While PEARLBANK admitted obtaining loans from WINCORP, it alleged that these accounts were
settled by way of an offsetting arrangement. Thus, the promissory notes executed by PEARLBANK covering
such loans were allegedly all stamped cancelled. It denied obtaining loans from WINCORP or its
lenders/investors from the period 11 December 1998 to 18 January 1999 due to the fact that there was
no valid and effective grant of a credit facility in favor of PEARLBANK during the said period.

On 3 April 2000, PEARLBANK served on WINCORP a final demand letter asking for a full and
accurate accounting of the identities and investments of the lenders/investors and the alleged loan
obligations of PEARLBANK, with the supporting records and documents including the purported
Confirmation Advices.
WINCORP, however, still did not heed the demands of PEARLBANK and failed to produce the loan
agreement documents it allegedly executed with the latter.

On 7 April 2000, PEARLBANK filed two complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC) against Ong and several John Does for full and accurate accounting of the investments of WINCORP
and of PEARLBANKs alleged loan obligations to WINCORP and/or its investors. The cases were docketed
as SEC Cases No. 04-00-6590 and 04-00-6591.

On 6 September 2000, Juanita U. Tan, Treasurer of PEARLBANK, filed a complaint on behalf of


PEARLBANK for falsification by private individuals of commercial and private documents before the
DOJ. The case was docketed as I.S. No. 2000-1491. Named respondents in the complaint were the officers
and directors of WINCORP, to wit: petitioner herein Anthony T. Reyes, Antonio T. Ong, Gilda C.
Lucena,[5] Nemesio R. Briones, Loida C. Tamundong,[6] Eric R.G. Espiritu, and John or Jane Does.

In answer to the complaint of PEARLBANK in I.S. No. 2000-1491, WINCORP, through Ong,
explained that among the services offered by WINCORP was the arranging and/or brokering of loans for
clients. Upon application of PEARLBANK, WINCORP agreed to arrange and/or broker loans on behalf of
the former. Thus, in a meeting of its Board of Directors on 28 November 1995, WINCORP approved a
credit line in favor of PEARLBANK in the amount of P250M.

According to Ong, pursuant to this Credit Line Agreement, PEARLBANK was able to obtain,
through the brokerage of WINCORP, loans from several lenders/investors in the total amount
of P324,050,474.24 for which PEARLBANK issued promissory notes from 1995 to 1996. The Credit Line
Agreement was renewed for another year or up to 25 October 1996. PEARLBANK made payments, leaving
a balance of around P300M on the loan. On 28 April 1997, the Credit Line Agreement was amended and
the credit line was increased from P250M to P850M. On 11 December 1998, PEARLBANK arranged with
WINCORP to transact additional loans from lenders in the amount of P200M, the proceeds of which were
deposited in the account of Farmix Fertilizers, Inc., a corporation wholly owned and/or controlled by
Manuel Tankiansee and Juanita Uy Tan. Following the previous procedure, WINCORP prepared the
promissory notes corresponding to the additional loans, totaling P200M, and forwarded said documents
to PEARLBANK. WINCORP maintains, however, that the promissory notes were never returned. WINCORP
issued the standard Confirmation Advices to the lenders of PEARLBANK for said loans. Although the
promissory notes were stamped terminated or cancelled, the renewal promissory notes were not sent
back/returned by PEARLBANK to WINCORP.

From the foregoing, WINCORP asserted that PEARLBANK was accurately designated as the borrower from
the lenders/investors. The Confirmation Advices, Special Powers of Attorney, and Certifications it issued
to the lenders/investors, indicating PEARLBANK as the borrower, were prepared in good faith and in
accordance with the records of WINCORP. Hence, the officers and directors named as respondents in I.S.
No. 2000-1491 who prepared, signed, and reviewed such documents denied having falsified them.

On 2 January 2001, Ong, Lucena, Briones, Tamundong and Espiritu filed a Motion to Admit
Attached Memorandum before the DOJ, asserting that the criminal complaint against them should be
dismissed for lack of probable cause or suspended due to the existence of a prejudicial question involving
the SEC cases.

On 18 June 2001, Prosecutor Estherbella N. Rances of the DOJ Task Force on Financial Fraud
issued a Review Resolution recommending the filing of Informations for falsification of commercial and
private documents by private individuals against petitioner Reyes, Ong, Briones, Lucena, Espiritu, and
Tamundong.

On 21 August 2001, prior to the expiry of the period to file a motion for reconsideration,
Informations for Falsification of Commercial and Private Documents under paragraphs 1 and 2, Article
172,[7] in relation to paragraph 2 of Article 171[8] of the Revised Penal Code, were filed against petitioner,
Ong, Briones, Lucena, Espiritu, and Tamundong before Branch 2 of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC)
of Manila apparently relying on the Rances resolution dated 18 June 2001. The cases were docketed as
Criminal Cases No. 365255-88.

On 28 August 2001, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the 18 June 2001 Resolution
of Prosecutor Rances. He raised the issues earlier brought up by Ong, Briones, Lucena, Espiritu and
Tamundong, contending there was lack of probable cause and that there existed a prejudicial
question. The other respondents in the criminal complaint filed a separate joint motion for reconsideration
on 4 September 2001.[9]

Meanwhile, on 13 November 2001, petitioner filed an Urgent Motion to Suspend Proceedings and
to Defer Arraignment of Accused before the MTC of Manila where the criminal cases were pending, leading
to the cancellation of the arraignment scheduled for 21 November 2001.

Citing no cogent reason to modify or reverse the assailed 18 June 2001 Resolution, Prosecutor
Rances denied the two motions for reconsideration filed by petitioner and his co-respondents in a
Resolution issued on 13 December 2001.

Ong, Briones, Lucena, Espiritu, and Tamundong appealed the 13 December 2001 Resolution[10] to
the Office of the DOJ Secretary while petitioner filed a Petition for Review with the same office.[11]

On 27 June 2003, Undersecretary (Usec.) Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez (representing the Office of
the DOJ Secretary) resolved the appeal and Petition for Review in a joint Resolution reversing the
Resolutions dated 18 June 2001 and 13 December 2001 of Prosecutor Rances. In ruling that
the complaint in I.S. No. 2000-1491 should be dismissed, Usec. Gutierrez took into consideration the
following:

(1) That the confirmation advices were mere renewals forming part of the earlier loans of
PEARLBANK under an existing credit line agreement;

(2) That [petitioner, Ong, Lucena, Briones, Tamundong, and Espiritu] are mere
employees of WINCORP performing perfunctory functions in good faith;
(3) That Confirmation Advices are not commercial documents;

(4) That SEC Case No. 0400-6590, is a prejudicial question, involving issues which are
intimately related to the issues in the present case.

Thus, the Office of the DOJ Secretary ordered the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor to move for the
withdrawal of the Informations from the MTC. [12]

PEARLBANK filed a motion for reconsideration with the Office of the DOJ Secretary for the setting aside
of its 27 June 2003 Resolution, with a motion[13] praying that DOJ Usec. Gutierrez inhibit herself from
the proceedings.

On 4 December 2003, DOJ Secretary Simeon Datumanong issued a Resolution granting the
motion for reconsideration of PEARLBANK. [14]

In effect, DOJ Secretary Datumanong reversed the 27 June 2003 Resolution of Usec. Gutierrez and
reinstated the 18 June 2001 Resolution of Prosecutor Rances finding probable cause to charge petitioner
and other respondents in I.S. No. 2000-149, except for Eric R. G. Espiritu, for the crime of falsification of
commercial and private documents:

WHEREFORE, the resolution dated 27 June 2003 (Resolution No. 283, Series of 2003) is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Chief State Prosecutors Review Resolution dated
18 June 2001 is hereby REINSTATED, with the MODIFICATION that respondent ERIC R.G.
ESPIRITU should be excluded. The Chief State Prosecutor is directed to cause the
amendment of the informations filed against said respondent Espiritu by excluding him
therefrom, and to report the action taken hereon within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.[15]

In said Resolution, DOJ Secretary Datumanong explained that while Eric R. G. Espiritu was one of the
signatories of the Certifications, considering the nature of the certifications in question and his duties
and functions, it would appear that he was entitled to rely on the Certifications and representations of
those in the Treasury group. The DOJ Secretary ratiocinated that there was no prejudicial question
involved, since the existence of an outstanding obligation on the part of PEARLBANK under its Credit Line
with WINCORP was irrelevant and immaterial to the falsification cases, and shall not be determinative of
the outcome of said falsification cases. Explaining further, he said that it was clear from the admissions
of respondents therein that the loans reflected in the Confirmation Advices, which appeared to be new
loans, were matched against the alleged outstanding loans of complainant.

On 8 January 2004, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the 4 December 2003 Resolution of
the DOJ Secretary.[16]

On the other hand, his co-respondents filed a separate motion for reconsideration on 16 January 2004. [17]

On 1 March 2005, DOJ Secretary Datumanong denied both motions for reconsideration.
Petitioner sought recourse with the Court of Appeals via a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997
Revised Rules of Court, docketed as CA-G.R. No. 90006. Petitioner sought the nullification of the 4
December 2003 DOJ Resolution based on the following arguments:

(a) petitioner did not make any untruthful statements in the Confirmation Advices
since [PEARLBANK] allegedly has an outstanding obligation with Westmont
Investment Corporation;

(b) WINCORPs Confirmation Advices subject of the falsification case were not
commercial documents; and

(c) a prejudicial question exists warranting the suspension of proceedings in the


falsification case.

During the pendency of the petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, petitioner filed an
Urgent Ex Parte Motion to Suspend Further Proceedings before the same MTC Court on 11 July 2005,
contending that Criminal Case Nos. 365255 to 88 should be suspended, since he had filed a pending
Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with the Court of Appeals to annul the 4
December 2003 and 1 March 2005 Resolution of the DOJ.

On 26 October 2005, the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision dismissing CA-G.R. No.
90006. The appellate court found that the DOJ Secretary did not commit grave abuse of discretion in
finding that there was probable cause for holding that petitioner was guilty of the offense charged. It noted
that the Informations were already filed against petitioner before Branch 2 of the MTC of the National
Capital Region (NCR), and petitioners liability for the crime of falsification of commercial and private
documents could best be threshed out at the trial on the merits of the case.

On 7 February 2006, the Court of Appeals issued a Resolution denying petitioners motion for
reconsideration.

Petitioner thus filed this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court,
making the following assignment of errors:

I.

THE COURT OF APPEALS SANCTIONED A DEPARTURE FROM ACCEPTED AND USUAL


COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS WHEN IT ALLOWED THE ARBITRARY AND
CAPRICIOUS EXERCISE BY THE DOJ OF ITS POWER TO DETERMINE PROBABLE
CAUSE. THE DOJ COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN ISSUING ITS 4
DECEMBER 2003 AND 1 MARCH 2005 RESOLUTIONS.
II.

THE CONSTITUTION EXPRESSLY PROVIDES THAT NO PERSON SHALL BE DENIED THE


EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS. HOWEVER, THE COURT OF APPEALS
COUNTENANCED THE DOJS VIOLATION OF SUCH CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF
PETITIONER WHEN THE DOJ DISMISSED THE CHARGES AGAINST MR. ERIC R. G.
ESPIRITU AND YET FOUND PROBABLE CAUSE AGAINST HEREIN PETITIONER EVEN AS
BOTH ARE SIMILARLY SITUATED.

III.

THE COURT OF APPEALS DEPARTED FROM THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF
JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS WHEN IT UPHELD THE DOJ RESOLUTIONS WHICH DID NOT
ONLY FAIL TO CONSIDER THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD. LIKEWISE, THE COURT OF
APPEALS SANCTIONED THESE RESOLUTIONS WHICH WERE NOT IN ACCORD WITH
EXISTING LAW AND SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ON PREJUDICIAL QUESTIONS.

IV.

THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS LEGAL ERROR AND DEPARTED FROM
THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS WHEN IT UPHELD
THE DOJS CLASSIFICATION OF THE CONFIRMATION ADVICES SUBJECT OF THE
CASE A QUO AS COMMERCIAL DOCUMENTS, A CLASSIFICATION WHICH IS CONTRARY
TO ITS OWN EARLIER DETERMINATION AND THAT OF THE DOJ.

Essentially, petitioner avers that his rights to due process and equal protection of the law were
jeopardized when DOJ Secretary Datumanong issued his 4 December 2004 Resolution affirming the
finding of probable cause against him and the other respondents in I.S. No. 2000-1491, and reversing the
earlier 27 June 2003 Resolution of his Office, which ordered the dismissal of the complaint of
PEARLBANK, there being no new evidence presented between the two Resolutions. He further accuses
the DOJ Secretary of violating his right to the equal protection of the law by dismissing the charges against
Espiritu, another respondent in I.S. No. 2000-1491, but not those against him. He insists that the charges
against him must be dismissed, arguing that he and Espiritu are similarly situated.

Petitioner prays that the Court nullify and set aside the Court of Appeals Decision dated 26
October 2005 and Resolution dated 7 February 2006 in CA-G.R. No. 90006, there being no probable
cause to charge him with the crimes of falsification of commercial and private documents. He further
alleges that the proceedings in Criminal Cases No. 365255-88 should be suspended pending resolution
of the two SEC Cases which have now been transferred to the jurisdiction of, and are now pending before,
the Regional Trial Courts of Makati on the ground that the these cases constitute a prejudicial question.

This Court finds the present petition to be without merit and accordingly denies the same.

The issues presented by petitioner may be narrowed down to two:


(a) whether or not there is probable cause to file an information for falsification of private
and commercial documents against petitioner; and

(b) whether the two cases before the SEC are prejudicial questions which have to be
resolved before the criminal cases may proceed.

Probable cause, for the purpose of filing a criminal information, has been defined as such facts as are
sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that respondent is
probably guilty thereof.[18] The term does not mean actual and positive cause nor does it import absolute
certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Probable cause does not require an inquiry
into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction. It is enough that it is believed that the
act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged. [19]

A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not a crime has
been committed by the suspects. It need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, not on
evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and definitely not on evidence establishing absolute
certainty of guilt.[20] In determining probable cause, the average man weighs facts and circumstances
without resorting to the calibrations of the rules of evidence of which he has no technical knowledge. He
relies on common sense.[21] What is determined is whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-
founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that the accused is probably guilty thereof and
should be held for trial. It does not require an inquiry as to whether there is sufficient evidence to secure
a conviction.

These findings of probable cause fall within the jurisdiction of the prosecutor or fiscal in the exercise of
executive power, which the courts do not interfere with unless there is grave abuse of discretion. The
determination of its existence lies within the discretion of the prosecuting officers after conducting a
preliminary investigation upon complaint of an offended party. Thus, the decision whether to dismiss a
complaint or not is dependent upon the sound discretion of the prosecuting fiscal.[22] He may dismiss the
complaint forthwith, if he finds the charge insufficient in form or substance or without any ground. Or
he may proceed with the investigation if the complaint in his view is sufficient and in proper form. To
emphasize, the determination of probable cause for the filing of information in court is an executive
function, one that properly pertains at the first instance to the public prosecutor and, ultimately, to the
Secretary of Justice, who may direct the filing of the corresponding information or move for the dismissal
of the case.[23] Ultimately, whether or not a complaint will be dismissed is dependent on the sound
discretion of the Secretary of Justice.[24] And unless made with grave abuse of discretion, findings of the
Secretary of Justice are not subject to review. [25]

For this reason, the Court considers it sound judicial policy to refrain from interfering in the conduct of
preliminary investigations and to leave the Department of Justice ample latitude of discretion in the
determination of what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for the prosecution of
supposed offenders. Consistent with this policy, courts do not reverse the Secretary of Justices findings
and conclusions on the matter of probable cause except in clear cases of grave abuse of discretion. [26]

The restraint exercised by this Court in interfering with the determination of probable cause by the
prosecutor, unless there is grave abuse of discretion, is only consistent with the general rule that criminal
prosecutions may not be restrained or stayed by injunction, preliminary or final. There are, however,
exceptions to this rule, [27] none of which are obtaining in the case now before us.

In the present case, petitioner was not able to convince this Court to deviate from the general rule of non-
interference. The Court of Appeals did not err in dismissing petitioners application for a writ of certiorari,
absent grave abuse of discretion on the part of the DOJ Secretary in finding probable cause against him
for the falsification of commercial and private documents.

In D.M. Consunji, Inc. v. Esguerra,[28] we defined grave abuse of discretion in this wise:

By grave abuse of discretion is meant, such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment
as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the
power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal
hostility and must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to
a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act at all in contemplation of law.

Contrary to the claims of petitioner, the Court of Appeals did not perfunctorily or mechanically
deny his Petition for Certiorari therein. A comprehensive review of the assailed Decision of the appellate
court readily reveals that it considered and judiciously passed upon all the arguments presented by both
parties before finally decreeing the dismissal of petitioners Petition for Certiorari.

Although no new evidence was presented by the parties from the time the first Resolution was
issued by DOJ Usec. Gutierrez on 7 June 2003 until the second Resolution was issued by DOJ Secretary
Datumanong on 4 December 2004, the DOJ Secretary is not precluded from making inferences of fact
and conclusions of law which may be different from, contrary to, or even entirely abandoning, the findings
made by DOJ Usec. Gutierrez although they were both faced with the same evidence and arguments.

First, it must be noted that DOJ Secretary Datumanong issued his Resolution of 4 December 2004
upon the filing by PEARLBANK of a motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated 7 June 2003 of
DOJ Usec. Gutierrez entirely dismissing its complaint. The 4 December 2004 Resolution, therefore, of
DOJ Secretary Datumanong was the result of his acting on, and granting of, the motion for
reconsideration of PEARLBANK. The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is precisely to request the
court or quasi-judicial body to take a second look at its earlier judgment and correct any errors it may
have committed therein.

Second, it cannot be said that DOJ Secretary Datumanongs final ruling is entirely without basis
when, in fact, Reviewing Prosecutor Rances had earlier made a similar finding on 18 June 2001 that there
was probable cause to believe that petitioner and the other respondents in I.S. No. 2000-1491 were guilty
of falsification of commercial and private documents, based on essentially the same evidence and
arguments.

And finally, DOJ Secretary Datumanong exhaustively presented in his 4 December 2004 the legal
and factual reasons for his reversal of the 27 June 2003 Resolution of DOJ Usec. Gutierrez, which negated
petitioners assertion of capriciousness, whimsicality, or arbitrariness on his part.
Equally without merit is petitioners assertion that upon dismissal of the charges against his co-
respondent Espiritu, those against him must likewise be dismissed. Petitioner insists that if the charges
against an accused rest upon the same evidence used to charge a co-accused, the dismissal of the charges
against the former should benefit the latter.

This is flawed reasoning, a veritable non sequitur.

Suffice it to say that it is indubitably within the discretion of the prosecutor to determine who
must be charged with what crime or for what offense. In Webb v. De Leon[29] in which the petitioners
questioned the non-inclusion of Alfaro in the Information for rape with homicide filed against them,
despite Alfaros alleged conspiratorial participation in the crime charged, this Court pronounced that:

[T]he prosecution of crimes appertains to the executive department of government whose


principal power and responsibility is to see that our laws are faithfully executed. A
necessary component of this power to execute our laws is the right to prosecute their
violators. The right to prosecute vests the prosecutor with a wide range of discretion---the
discretion of whether, what and whom to charge, the exercise of which depends on a
smorgasboard of factors which are best appreciated by prosecutors x x x.

While the right to equal protection of the law requires that litigants are treated in an equal manner by
giving them the same rights under similar circumstances,[30] it may not be perversely used to
justify desistance by the authorities from prosecution of a criminal case, just because not all of those who
are probably guilty thereof were charged.

Petitioner further insists that the proceedings in SEC Cases No. 04-00-6590 and No. 04-00-
6591, now pending before the RTC of Makati[31] (civil cases), warrant the suspension of Criminal Cases
No. 365255-88. (criminal cases).

We disagree.

Under Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Court, a criminal action may be suspended upon the pendency of
a prejudicial question in a civil action, to wit:

Sec. 6. Suspension by reason of prejudicial question. - A petition for suspension of the


criminal action based upon the pendency of a prejudicial question in a civil action may be
filed in the office of the prosecutor or the court conducting the preliminary
investigation. When the criminal action has been filed in court for trial, the petition to
suspend shall be filed in court for trial, and shall be filed in the same criminal action at
any time before the prosecution rests.

A prejudicial question is defined as one which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical
antecedent of the issue involved therein, and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. [32]
The prejudicial question must be determinative of the case before the court, but the jurisdiction to try
and resolve the question must be lodged in another court or tribunal. It is a question based on a fact
distinct and separate from the crime, but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or
innocence of the accused; and for it to suspend the criminal action, it must appear not only that said case
involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal prosecution would be based, but also
that in the resolution of the issue or issues raised in the civil case, the guilt or innocence of the accused
would necessarily be determined.[33]

It comes into play generally in a situation in which a civil action and a criminal action are both pending
and there exists in the former an issue which must be preemptively resolved before the criminal action
may proceed, because howsoever the issue raised in the civil action is resolved would be
determinative juris et de jure of the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal case. [34]

The rationale behind the principle of prejudicial question is to avoid two conflicting decisions. Based on
Section 7 of the same rule, it has two essential elements:

Sec. 7. Elements of prejudicial question. - The elements of a prejudicial question are: (a) the
previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue
raised in the subsequent criminal action, and (b) the resolution of such issue determines
whether or not the criminal action may proceed.

In Sabandal v. Tongco,[35] this Court had the opportunity to further expound on the resolution of
prejudicial questions in this manner:

If both civil and criminal cases have similar issues or the issue in one is intimately related
to the issues raised in the other, then a prejudicial question would likely exist, provided
the other element or characteristic is satisfied. It must appear not only that the civil case
involves the same facts upon which the criminal prosecution would be based, but also that
the resolution of the issues raised in the civil action would be necessarily determinative of
the guilt or innocence of the accused. If the resolution of the issue in the civil action will
not determine the criminal responsibility of the accused in the criminal action based on
the same facts, or there is no necessity that the civil case be determined first before taking
up the criminal case, therefore, the civil case does not involve a prejudicial question.
Neither is there a prejudicial question if the civil and the criminal action can, according to
law, proceed independently of each other.

There is no prejudicial question here.

We note that the Informations filed in the criminal cases charge petitioner and his other co-
accused with falsification of commercial and private documents under paragraph 1 of Article 172, in
relation to paragraph 2 of Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code; and paragraph 2 of Article 172, in relation
to paragraph 2 of Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, in signing and/or issuing the questioned
Confirmation Advices, Special Powers of Attorney and Certifications on behalf of WINCORP, stating therein
that PEARLBANK owed the third parties (lenders and investors). Each of the Informations[36] alleged that
the therein named accused:
x x x confederating and conspiring together, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously prepare, execute and sign a Confirmation Advice of WINCORP x x x to make it appear
in the said commercial document that PEARLBANK SECURITIES, INC., a corporation legally
established, is a borrower of WINCORP, having allegedly secured and granted a loan in the amount
of x x x when in truth and in fact, the said accused well knew that PEARLBANK SECURITIES,
INC. had not secured nor had been granted said loan on the date above-mentioned, and having
falsified said document in the manner stated, the said accused issued a copy of the said document,
which has not been notarized before a notary public or other person legally authorized to do so,
the accused issued the said document to, and was received by one Tiu K. Tiac to the damage and
prejudice of PEARLBANK SECURITIES, INC., represented by its Treasurer and Director Juanita
U. Tan.

The principal issue to be resolved in the criminal cases is whether or not petitioner committed the
acts referred to in the Informations, and whether or not these would constitute falsification of commercial
and private documents under the law.

In contrast, the issues to be resolved in SEC Case No. 04-00-6591 are as follows:
(1) whether or not Tankiansee is entitled to the accounting and
disclosure pursuant to Section 74, Tile VII of the Corporation Code of the
Philippines;

(2) whether or not Tankiansee is entitled to be furnished copies of the


records or documents demanded from WINCORP;

(3) whether or not WINCORP is liable to Tankiansee for damages.

SEC Case No. 04-00-6590 involves the following issues:

(1) whether or not PEARLBANK has loan obligations with WINCORP or its
stockholders;

(2) whether or not the subject Confirmation Advices and other related documents
should be declared to be without force and effect or if PEARLBANK is entitled to be
relieved of the legal effects thereof;

(3) whether or not defendants therein are liable for damages to PEARLBANK as a
consequence of this alleged fraudulent scheme.[37]

A cursory reading of the above-mentioned issues would show that, although apparently arising
from the same set of facts, the issues in the criminal and civil cases are clearly different from one
another. Furthermore, the issues in the civil cases are not determinative of the issues in the criminal
cases.

Petitioner particularly calls attention to the purported prejudicial issue in the civil cases: whether
PEARLBANK has outstanding loan obligations to WINCORP or its stockholders/investors. Although said
issue may be related to those in the criminal cases instituted against petitioner, we actually find it
immaterial to the resolution of the latter.

That PEARLBANK does have outstanding loans with WINCORP or its stockholders/investors is
not an absolute defense in, and would not be determinative of the outcome of, the criminal cases. Even if
the RTC so rules in the civil cases, it would not necessarily mean that these were the very same loan
transactions reflected in the Confirmation Advices, Special Powers of Attorney and Certifications issued
by WINCORP to its stockholders/investors, totally relieving petitioner and his other co-accused from any
criminal liability for falsification. The questioned documents specifically made it appear that PEARLBANK
obtained the loans during the first four months of the year 2000. Hence, in the criminal cases, it is not
enough that it be established that PEARLBANK has outstanding loans with WINCORP or its
stockholders/investors, but also that these loans were acquired by PEARLBANK as WINCORP made it to
appear in the questioned documents it issued to its stockholders/investors. This only demonstrates
that the resolution of the two civil cases is not juris et de jure determinative of the innocence or guilt of
the petitioner in the criminal cases.

Finally, we note that the criminal cases were already instituted and pending before the MTC. Petitioner
would have the opportunity to present the arguments and evidence in his defense in the course of the
trial of said cases which will now proceed by virtue of this Decision.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari is DENIED. The
Decision dated 26 October 2005 and Resolution dated 7 February 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. No. 90006 are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

INTERVENTION OF OFFENDED PARTY

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. Nos. 140576-99. December 13, 2004]

JOSE S. RAMISCAL, JR., petitioner, vs. HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN (Fourth Division), ALBANO
& ASSOCIATES and the ASSOCIATION OF GENERALS & FLAG OFFICERS, INC., respondents.

DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, of the Resolution
of the Sandiganbayan, dated June 9, 1999 in Criminal Cases Nos. 25122 to 25145, and its Resolution
dated October 22, 1999, denying the motion for reconsideration thereof.

The Antecedents

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS) was
established in December 1973 and started its actual operations in 1976. Created under Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 361, as amended, the AFP-RSBS was designed to establish a separate fund to guarantee
continuous financial support to the AFP military retirement system as provided for in Republic Act No.
340.[1] Under the decree, the AFP-RSBS was to be funded from three principal sources: (a) congressional
appropriations and compulsory contributions from members of the AFP; (2) donations, gifts, legacies,
bequests and others to the system; and (3) all earnings of the system which shall not be subject to any
tax whatsoever.[2] AFP-RSBS is a government-owned or controlled corporation (GOCC) under Rep. Act No.
9182, otherwise known as The Special Purpose Vehicle Act of 2002. It is administered by the Chief of Staff
of the AFP through a Board of Trustees and Management Group.[3] Its funds are in the nature of public
funds.[4]
On December 18, 1997, Luwalhati R. Antonino, then a member of the House of Representatives
representing the First District of the Province of South Cotabato, filed a Complaint-Affidavit[5] with the
Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao. She alleged that anomalous real estate transactions involving
the Magsaysay Park at General Santos City and questionable payments of transfer taxes prejudicial to
the government had been entertained into between certain parties. She then requested the Ombudsman
to investigate the petitioner, Retired Brig. Gen. Jose S. Ramiscal, Jr., then President of the AFP-
RSBS,[6] together with twenty-seven (27) other persons[7] for conspiracy in misappropriating AFP-RSBS
funds and in defrauding the government millions of pesos in capital gains and documentary stamp
taxes.[8]
On January 28, 1999, after the requisite preliminary investigation, Special Prosecutor Joy C.
Rubillar-Arao filed twenty-four (24) separate Informations with the Sandiganbayan against the petitioner
and several other accused. The filing of the Informations was duly approved by then Ombudsman Aniano
A. Desierto. The first twelve (12) Informations were for violation of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019,
otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 25122 to
25133.[9] All were similarly worded, except for the names of the other accused, the dates of the commission
of the offense, and the property involved. Representative of the said Informations is that filed in Criminal
Case No. 25122, the inculpatory portion of which reads:

That sometime on September 24, 1997, and prior, or subsequent thereto, in General Santos City,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused JOSE RAMISCAL, JR., a high
ranking public official being then the President, and WILFREDO PABALAN, a low ranking public officer
being the Project Director, both of the AFP-RSBS, while in the performance of their official duties, taking
advantage of their official positions and committing the offense in relation to their offices, conspiring
together and confederating with NILO FLAVIANO and ALEX GUAYBAR, both private individuals, did,
there and then, willfully, unlawfully and criminally execute and/or cause the execution of a falsified
Deed of Sale covering Lot-X-4, a real property located at General Santos City, by making it appear
therein that the purchase price of the said lot is only TWO MILLION NINE HUNDRED NINETY-SEVEN
THOUSAND (P2,997,000.00) PESOS at P3,000.00 per square meter, when in truth and in fact, as all the
accused very well knew and, in fact, agreed, that the same was sold for P10,500.00 per square meter or
a total of TEN MILLION FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTY-NINE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED (P10,489,500.00)
PESOS, and use the said falsified Deed of Sale as basis for payment of capital gains and documentary
stamp taxes relative to the sale of the subject lot in the amount of only P299,700.00 and P89,910.00,
respectively, when the capital gains, and documentary stamp and other taxes should have
been P524,475.00 and P157,342.50, respectively, thereby short-changing and causing undue injury to
the government through evident bad faith and manifest partiality in the total amount of TWO
HUNDRED NINETY-TWO THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED SEVEN and 50/100 PESOS (P292,207.50), more
or less.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[10]

On the other hand, twelve (12) other separate Informations indicted the accused for Falsification of
Public Documents, defined and penalized under paragraph 4, Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code,
docketed therein as Criminal Cases Nos. 25134 to 25145. [11] Save with respect to the names of the other
accused, the dates of the commission of the felonies, and the property involved in each case, the
Informations were, likewise, similarly worded, representative of which is that in Criminal Case No. 25134.
The accusatory portion reads:

That on or about September 24, 1997, and sometime prior, or subsequent thereto, in General Santos
City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused JOSE RAMISCAL, JR., a
high-ranking public official being then the President, and WILFREDO PABALAN, a low-ranking public
officer being the Project Director, both of the AFP-RSBS, while in the performance of their duties, taking
advantage of their official positions and committing the offense in relation to their offices, conspiring
and confederating with each other and with accused NILO FLAVIANO and JACK GUIWAN, both private
individuals, acting with unfaithfulness and with malicious intent, did, there and then, willfully,
unlawfully and criminally falsify a public document by executing and/or causing to be executed a Deed
of Sale for a 999-sq. m. property particularly identified as Lot-X-5 located at General Santos City and
stating therein a purchase price of only P3,000.00 per square meter or a total of TWO MILLION NINE
HUNDRED NINETY-SEVEN THOUSAND (P2,997,000.00) PESOS when in truth and in fact, as all the
accused very well knew and, in fact, agreed, the purchase price of said lot is P10,500.00 per square
meter or a total of TEN MILLION FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTY-NINE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED
(P10,489,500.00) PESOS, thereby perverting the truth.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[12]

On February 2, 1999, the petitioner filed an Urgent Motion to Dismiss the Informations and to Defer
the Issuance of Warrant of Arrest, alleging want of jurisdiction. [13] He, likewise, filed an Urgent
Manifestation and Motion to Suspend Proceedings[14] on February 16, 1999, because of the pendency of
his motion for reinvestigation with the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Special Prosecutor
opposed the said motions.[15]
Meanwhile, pending resolution of the aforementioned motions, the law firm of Albano & Associates
filed a Notice of Appearance[16] as private prosecutors in all the aforementioned cases for the Association
of Generals and Flag Officers, Inc. (AGFOI)[17] on March 9, 1999. The notice of appearance was apparently
made conformably to the letter-request of Retired Commodore Ismael Aparri and Retired Brig. Gen. Pedro
Navarro, who are members thereof.
In a Resolution[18] dated April 5, 1999, the Sandiganbayan denied the earlier motions filed by the
petitioner for lack of merit. Consequently, a warrant of arrest against him was issued.[19] He posted a cash
bail bond for his provisional liberty.[20]
On April 6, 1999, the petitioner opposed the appearance of the law firm of Albano & Associates as
private prosecutors, contending that the charges brought against him were purely public crimes which
did not involve damage or injury to any private party; thus, no civil liability had arisen.[21] He argued that
under Section 16 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, an offended party may be allowed to intervene
through a special prosecutor only in those cases where there is civil liability arising from the criminal
offense charged.[22] He maintained that if the prosecution were to be allowed to prove damages, the
prosecution would thereby be proving another crime, in violation of his constitutional right to be informed
of the nature of the charge against him.
In its comment, the law firm contended that its clients, Commodore Aparri and Brig. Gen. Navarro,
were members of the AGFOI and contributors of AFP-RSBS. It alleged that as such members-contributors,
they have been disadvantaged or deprived of their lawful investments and residual interest at the AFP-
RSBS through the criminal acts of the petitioner and his cohorts. It posited that its clients, not having
waived the civil aspect of the cases involved, have all the right to intervene pursuant to Section 16, Rule
110 of the Rules of Court. Moreover, the law firm averred that its appearance was in collaboration with
the Office of the Ombudsman, and that their intervention in any event, was subject to the direction and
control of the Office of the Special Prosecutor. [23]
Replying to the comment, the petitioner refuted the allegation of AGFOI that he had civil interest in
the criminal cases involved. He posited that AGFOI was neither a member nor a beneficiary of the AFP-
RSBS. Moreover, considering that it was funded partly by the national government and individual soldiers
by way of salary deductions, the AGFOI never contributed a single centavo to the funds of the AFP-RSBS.
He further averred that AGFOI, as an organization, has a distinct personality of its own, apart from the
individual members who compose it.[24] Hence, it is of no moment if some members of AGFOI are or have
been members and beneficiaries of the AFP-RSBS.
Meanwhile, on June 6, 1999, the petitioner filed a Motion for Reinvestigation [25] with the
Sandiganbayan, mentioning therein his unresolved motion for reconsideration with the Office of the
Ombudsman. He prayed that the proceeding be suspended and his arraignment deferred pending the
resolution of the reinvestigation.
The Sandiganbayan granted the motion in its Order dated June 11, 1999. The fallo of the said
resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, the prosecution is given 60 days from today within which to elevate its evidence and to
do whatever is appropriate on the Motion for Reconsideration dated February 12, 1999 and
supplemental motion thereof dated May 28, 1999 of accused Jose Ramiscal, Jr. and to inform this
Court within the said period as to its findings and recommendations together with the action thereon of
the Ombudsman.

As prayed for in open court by Pros. Monteroso, this authority from the Court for the prosecution to
evaluate its evidence and take such appropriate action as regards accused Ramiscals subject motion
shall also include the case regarding all the accused.
SO ORDERED.[26]

In the meantime, in a Resolution[27] dated June 9, 1999, the Sandiganbayan made short shrift of the
petitioners opposition and denied his plea for the denial of the appearance of the law firm. [28] In justifying
its resolution, the Sandiganbayan declared as follows:

Considering that the offended parties are members of the AFP-RSBS, as represented by the two (2) flag
officers, and their right may be affected by the action of the Court resolving the criminal and civil
aspects of the cases, there appears a strong legal presumption that their appearance should not be
disturbed. After all, their appearance is subject to the direct supervision and control of the public
prosecutor.[29]

The petitioner moved for a reconsideration[30] of the Sandiganbayans Resolution of June 9, 1999,
which was opposed[31] by the prosecution. The Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution [32] denying the same
on October 22, 1999.
The petitioner filed the instant petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, for the
nullification of the June 9, 1999 and October 22, 1999 Resolutions of the graft court, and raised the
following issues:
I

WHETHER OR NOT, BY NATURE, THE SUBJECT CRIMINAL INDICTMENTS FOR VIOLATIONS OF


SECTION 3(E), REPUBLIC ACT NO. 3019 AND ARTICLE 172, IN RELATION TO ARTICLE 171, OF THE
REVISED PENAL CODE GIVE RISE TO CIVIL LIABILITY IN FAVOR OF ANY PRIVATE PARTY.

II

WHETHER OR NOT AGFOI AS REPRESENTED BY ALBANO & ASSOCIATES ARE PRIVATE INJURED
PARTIES ENTITLED TO INTERVENE AS THE PRIVATE PROSECUTOR IN THE SUBJECT CASES. [33]

In support of his petition, the petitioner reiterated the same arguments he put forth before the
Sandiganbayan.
The Special Prosecutor, for his part, avers that the remedy resorted to by the petitioner under Rule
45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure was improper since the assailed Resolutions of the Sandiganbayan are
interlocutory in nature and not final; hence, the remedy of the petitioner was to file a petition for certiorari
and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. He also argues that the petition is premature because
the reinvestigation of the cases had not yet been completed. On the merits of the petition, he posits that
the AGFOI is a member of the AFP-RSBS, and that its rights may be affected by the outcome of the cases.
He further alleged that the appearance of the private prosecutor was subject to the direct supervision and
control of the public prosecutor.
The petitioner, however, asserts, by way of reply, that the assailed orders of the Sandiganbayan are
final orders; hence, his recourse under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure was proper.

The Ruling of the Court

The Assailed Resolutions


of the Sandiganbayan are
Interlocutory in Nature
The word interlocutory refers to something intervening between the commencement and the end of a
suit which decides some point or matter but is not a final decision of the whole controversy. The Court
distinguished a final order or resolution from an interlocutory one in Investments, Inc. v. Court of
Appeals[34] as follows:

A final judgment or order is one that finally disposes of a case, leaving nothing more to be done by the
Court in respect thereto, e.g., an adjudication on the merits which, on the basis of the evidence
presented at the trial, declares categorically what the rights and obligations of the parties are and which
party is in the right; or a judgment or order that dismisses an action on the ground, for instance, of res
adjudicata or prescription. Once rendered, the task of the Court is ended, as far as deciding the
controversy or determining the rights and liabilities of the litigants is concerned. Nothing more remains
to be done by the Court except to await the parties next move (which, among others, may consist of the
filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration, or the taking of an appeal) and ultimately, of course,
to cause the execution of the judgment once it becomes final or, to use the established and more
distinctive term, final and executory. [35]
Conversely, an order that does not finally disposes of the case, and does not end the Courts task of
adjudicating the parties contentions and determining their rights and liabilities as regards each other,
but obviously indicates that other things remain to be done by the Court, is interlocutory, e.g., an order
denying a motion to dismiss under Rule 16 of the Rules, or granting a motion for extension of time to
file a pleading, or authorizing amendment thereof, or granting or denying applications for
postponement, or production or inspection of documents or things, etc. Unlike a final judgment or
order, which is appealable, as above pointed out, an interlocutory order may not be questioned on
appeal except only as part of an appeal that may eventually be taken from the final judgment rendered
in this case.[36]

The rule is founded on considerations of orderly procedure, to forestall useless appeals and avoid
undue inconvenience to the appealing party by having to assail orders as they are promulgated by the
court, when all such orders may be contested in a single appeal. [37]
Under Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, only final judgments, orders or resolutions of the
Court of Appeals or Sandiganbayan may be assailed therein. The remedy is a mode of appeal on questions
of law only.[38]
In the present case, the Sandiganbayan merely resolved to allow the appearance of the law firm of
Albano & Associates as private prosecutors, on its finding that the AGFOI, represented by Commodore
Aparri and Brig. Gen. Navarro who were, likewise, investors/members of the AFP-RSBS, is the offended
party whose rights may be affected by the prosecution of the criminal and civil aspects of the cases and
the outcome thereof. Furthermore, the private prosecutor is subject to the direct supervision and control
of the public prosecutor. The Sandiganbayan did not dispose of the cases on their merits, more
specifically, the guilt or innocence of the petitioner or the civil liabilities attendant to the commission of
the crimes charged. Assuming that the Ombudsman would maintain the finding of probable cause against
the petitioner after the reinvestigation of the cases, and, thereafter, the Sandiganbayan would sustain the
finding of probable cause against the petitioner and issue warrants for his arrest, the graft court would
then have to proceed to trial, receive the evidence of the parties and render judgment on the basis thereof.
The petitioner would then have the following options: (a) to proceed to trial, and, if convicted, file a petition
for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court to this Court; or (b) to file a petition for certiorari, under
Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, to nullify the resolutions of the Sandiganbayan on the ground of grave
abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in issuing the said resolutions and decision.
Nevertheless, in the interest of substantial justice, we shall treat the petition as one filed under Rule
65 of the Rules of Court. Dismissal of appeal purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the
policy of the courts is to encourage hearings of appeal on their merits. The rules of procedure ought not to
be applied in a very rigid technical sense, as they are used only to help secure, not override substantial
justice. If a technical and rigid enforcement of the rules is made, their aim would be defeated. Consequently,
in the interest of justice, the instant petition for review may be treated as a special civil action on
certiorari.[39] As we held in Salinas v. NLRC,[40] a petition which should have been brought under Rule 65
and not under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, is not an inflexible rule. The strict application of procedural
technicalities should not hinder the speedy disposition of the case on the merits. [41]
Although there is no allegation in the petition at bar that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse
of its discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction, nonetheless, the petitioner made the following
averments: that the graft court arbitrarily declared the AGFOI to be the offended party despite the plain
language of the Informations and the nature of the crimes charged; and that the graft court blatantly
violated basic procedural rules, thereby eschewing the speedy and orderly trial in the above cases. He,
likewise, averred that the Sandiganbayan had no authority to allow the entry of a party, through a private
prosecutor, which has no right to the civil liabilities of the accused arising from the crimes charged, or
where the accused has no civil liabilities at all based on the nature of said crimes. The petitioner also
faulted the Sandiganbayan for rejecting his opposition thereto, in gross violation of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure and the Revised Penal Code. Indeed, such allegations are sufficient to qualify the
petition as one under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. As we held in People v. Court of Appeals:[42]

The public respondent acts without jurisdiction if it does not have the legal power to determine the case;
there is excess of jurisdiction where the respondent, being clothed with the power to determine the case,
oversteps its authority as determined by law. There is grave abuse of discretion where the public
respondent acts in a capricious, whimsical, arbitrary or despotic manner in the exercise of its judgment
as to be said to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. [43]

Besides, unless we resolve the present petition on its merits, other parties, like the private
respondents herein, may, likewise, enter their appearance as offended parties and participate in criminal
proceedings before the Sandiganbayan.
The Appearance of
the Law Firm Albano
& Associates
The respondent law firm entered its appearance as private prosecutor for AGFOI, purportedly upon
the request of Commodore Aparri and Brig. Gen. Navarro, quoted infra:

Atty. Antonio Albano


Practicing Lawyer
Albano-Irao Law Offices

Dear Atty. Albano:


We represent a number of Retired Generals and other Star Rank Officers who rightfully claim to have
been disadvantaged or deprived of our lawful investments and residual interest at the Retirement
Separation Benefit System, AFP because of alleged plunder of the Systems Funds, Large Scale Estafa
and Falsification of Public Documents.

We are requesting that you appear in our behalf as private prosecutor of our case.

Thank you very much.

(Sgd.) COMMO. ISMAEL D. APARRI (RET)


(Sgd.) BGEN. PEDRO I. NAVARRO (RET) [44]

As gleaned from the letter-request, the legal services of the respondent law firm were not engaged by
the AGFOI itself; it was Commodore Aparri and Brig. Gen. Navarro who did so, for and in behalf of the
other retired generals and star rank officers claiming to have residual interests in or to be investors of the
AFP-RSBS, the vendee of the lots subject of the Informations against the petitioner. Moreover, there is no
showing in the records that the Board of Directors of the AGFOI, authorized them to engage the services
of the respondent law firm to represent it as private prosecutor in the above cases. Neither is there any
resolution on record issued by the Board of Directors of the AGFOI authorizing Commodore Aparri and
Brig. Gen. Navarro to secure the services of the respondent law firm to represent it as the private
prosecutor in said cases. If at all, the respondent law firm is the counsel of Aparri and Navarro only.
The AGFOI and/or Commodore
Aparri and/or Brig. Gen.
Navarro Are Not the Offended
Parties in the Informations filed
Before the Sandiganbayan
The petitioner avers that the crimes charged are public offenses and, by their very nature, do not give
rise to criminal liabilities in favor of any private party. He asserts that, as gleaned from the Informations
in Criminal Cases Nos. 25122 to 25133 for violation of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019, the offended
party is the government because based on the deeds of sale executed in favor of the AFP-RSBS, as vendee,
it was deprived of capital gains and the documentary stamp taxes. He contends that the Informations in
Criminal Cases Nos. 25134 to 25145, for falsification of public document under paragraph 4, Article 171
of the Revised Penal Code, do not contain any allegation that the AGFOI or any private party sustained
any damage caused by the said falsifications. The petitioner further argues that absent any civil liability
arising from the crimes charged in favor of AGFOI, the latter cannot be considered the offended party
entitled to participate in the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan. According to the petitioner, this view
conforms to Section 16, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which reads:

SEC. 16. Intervention of the offended party in criminal action. Where the civil action for recovery of civil
liability is instituted in the criminal action pursuant to Rule 111, the offended party may intervene by
counsel in the prosecution of the offense.

The petitioner posits that the AGFOI is not a member, beneficiary or contributor of the AFP-RSBS,
and that even if it were so, it would not sustain a direct and material damage by an adverse outcome of
the cases. Allowing the AGFOI to intervene would open the floodgates to any person similarly situated to
intervene in the proceedings and, thus, frustrate the speedy, efficient and inexpensive disposition of the
cases.
In his Comment, the Special Prosecutor avers that the AGFOI is entitled to intervene in the
proceedings in the Sandiganbayan because it is a member of the AFP-RSBS, whose rights may be affected
by the outcome of the cases.
The AGFOI and the respondent law firm contend that the latter has a right to intervene, considering
that such intervention would enable the members of AGFOI to assert their rights to information and
access to the official records, documents, and papers, a right granted by no less than paragraph 7, Article
IV of the 1987 Constitution. Furthermore, the funds of the AFP-RSBS are impressed with public character
because the government provided for its initial funds, augmented from time to time by the salary
contributions of the incumbent AFP soldiers and officers.
We agree with the contention of the petitioner that the AGFOI, and even Commodore Aparri and Brig.
Gen. Navarro, are not the offended parties envisaged in Section 16, Rule 110, in relation to Section 1,
Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Under Section 5, Rule 110[45] of the Rules, all criminal actions covered by a complaint or information
shall be prosecuted under the direct supervision and control of the public prosecutor. Thus, even if the
felonies or delictual acts of the accused result in damage or injury to another, the civil action for the
recovery of civil liability based on the said criminal acts is impliedly instituted [46] and the offended party
has not waived the civil action, reserved the right to institute it separately or instituted the civil action
prior to the criminal action, the prosecution of the action inclusive of the civil action remains under the
control and supervision of the public prosecutor. [47] The prosecution of offenses is a public
function.[48] Under Section 16, Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the offended party may
intervene in the criminal action personally or by counsel, who will act as private prosecutor for the
protection of his interests and in the interest of the speedy and inexpensive administration of justice. A
separate action for the purpose would only prove to be costly, burdensome and time-consuming for both
parties and further delay the final disposition of the case. The multiplicity of suits must be
avoided.[49] With the implied institution of the civil action in the criminal action, the two actions are
merged into one composite proceeding, with the criminal action predominating the civil. The prime
purpose of the criminal action is to punish the offender in order to deter him and others from committing
the same or similar offense, to isolate him from society, reform and rehabilitate him or, in general, to
maintain social order.
On the other hand, the sole purpose of the civil action is for the resolution, reparation or
indemnification of the private offended party for the damage or injury he sustained by reason of the
delictual or felonious act of the accused.[50] Under Article 104 of the Revised Penal Code, the following are
the civil liabilities of the accused:

ART. 104. What is included in civil liability. The civil liability established in Articles 100, 101, 102 and
103 of this Code includes:

1. Restitution;
2. Reparation of the damage caused;
3. Indemnification for consequential damages.

Thus, when the offended party, through counsel, has asserted his right to intervene in the
proceedings, it is error to consider his appearance merely as a matter of tolerance. [51]
The offended party may be the State or any of its instrumentalities, including local governments or
government-owned or controlled corporations, such as the AFP-RSBS, which, under substantive laws,
are entitled to restitution of their properties or funds, reparation, or indemnification. For instance, in
malversation of public funds or property under Article 217[52] of the Revised Penal Code, frauds under
Article 213[53] of the Revised Penal Code, and violations of the Forestry Code of the Philippines, P.D. No.
705, as amended, to mention a few, the government is the offended party entitled to the civil liabilities of
the accused. For violations of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019,[54] any party, including the government,
may be the offended party if such party sustains undue injury caused by the delictual acts of the accused.
In such cases, the government is to be represented by the public prosecutor for the recovery of the civil
liability of the accused.
Under Section 16, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the offended party may also
be a private individual whose person, right, house, liberty or property was actually or directly injured by
the same punishable act or omission of the accused,[55] or that corporate entity which is damaged or
injured by the delictual acts complained of. Such party must be one who has a legal right; a substantial
interest in the subject matter of the action as will entitle him to recourse under the substantive law, to
recourse if the evidence is sufficient or that he has the legal right to the demand and the accused will be
protected by the satisfaction of his civil liabilities. Such interest must not be a mere expectancy,
subordinate or inconsequential. The interest of the party must be personal; and not one based on a desire
to vindicate the constitutional right of some third and unrelated party. [56]
Hence, even if the members of AGFOI may also be members or beneficiaries of the AFP-RSBS, the
respondent AGFOI does not have a legal right to intervene in the criminal cases merely and solely to
enforce and/or protect the constitutional right of such members to have access to the records of AFP-
RSBS. Neither are such members entitled to intervene therein simply because the funds of the AFP-RSBS
are public or government funds. It must be stressed that any interest of the members of the AFP-RSBS
over its funds or property is merely inchoate and incidental. Such funds belong to the AFP-RSBS which
has a juridical personality separate and independent of its members/beneficiaries.
As gleaned from the Informations in Criminal Cases Nos. 25122 to 25133 for violation of Section 3(e)
of Rep. Act No. 3019, the offended party is the government, which was allegedly deprived by the petitioner
and the other accused of the capital gains and documentary stamp taxes, based on the actual and correct
purchase price of the property stated therein in favor of the AFP-RSBS. The AGFOI was not involved
whatsoever in the sales subject of the crimes charged; neither was it prejudiced by the said transactions,
nor is it entitled to the civil liability of the petitioner for said cases. Thus, it is not the offended party in
the said cases.
We agree with the petitioner that the AGFOI is not even the offended party in Criminal Cases Nos.
25134 to 25145 for falsification of public documents under paragraph 4, Sec. 1, Article 171, of the Revised
Penal Code. It bears stressing that in the felony of falsification of public document, the existence of any
prejudice caused to third person or the intent to cause damage, at the very least, becomes immaterial.
The controlling consideration is the public character of a document and the violation of the public faith
and the destruction of truth therein solemnly proclaimed. The offender does not, in any way, have civil
liability to a third person.[57]
However, if, in a deed of sale, the real property covered thereby is underpriced by a public officer and
his co-conspirators to conceal the correct amount of capital gains and documentary stamp taxes due on
the sale causing undue injury to the government, the offenders thereby commit two crimes (a) falsification
of public document defined in paragraph 4, Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code; and (b) violation of
Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019, a special penal law. The offender incurs civil liability to the government
as the offended party for violation of Section 3(e) of Rep. Act No. 3019, but not for falsification of public
document under paragraph 4, Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code.
On the other hand, if, under the deed of sale, the AFP-RSBS was made liable for the payment of the
capital gains and documentary stamp taxes and, thereafter, gave the correct amount thereof to the
petitioner to be paid to the government, and the petitioner and his co-accused pocketed the difference
between the correct amount of taxes and the amount entrusted for payment, then the AFP-RSBS may be
considered the offended party entitled to intervene in the above criminal cases, through the Government
Corporate Counsel.[58]
In fine, the AGFOI is not the offended party entitled to intervene in said cases.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Resolutions of the
Sandiganbayan are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.

WHEN TO MAKE RESERVATION: CIVIL ASPECT

SECOND DIVISION

JAIME U. GOSIACO, G.R. No. 173807


Petitioner,
Present:

QUISUMBING, J.,
- versus - Chairperson,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA,
VELASCO, JR., and
BRION, JJ.
LETICIA CHING and EDWIN
CASTA,
Respondents. Promulgated:

April 16, 2009

x---------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

The right to recover due and demandable pecuniary obligations incurred by juridical persons such as
corporations cannot be impaired by procedural rules. Our rules of procedure governing the litigation of
criminal actions for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (B.P. 22) have given the appearance of impairing
such substantive rights, and we take the opportunity herein to assert the necessary clarifications.

Before us is a Rule 45 petition[1] which seeks the reversal of the Decision [2] of the Court of Appeals
in CA-GR No. 29488. The Court of Appeals' decision affirmed the decision [3] of the Regional Trial Court of
Pasig, Branch 68 in Criminal Case No. 120482. The RTC's decision reversed the decision [4] of the
Metropolitan Trial Court of San Juan, Branch 58 in Criminal Case No. 70445 which involved a charge of
violation of B.P. Blg. 22 against respondents Leticia Ching (Ching) and Edwin Casta (Casta).

On 16 February 2000, petitioner Jaime Gosiaco (petitioner) invested P8,000,000.00 with ASB Holdings,
Inc. (ASB) by way of loan. The money was loaned to ASB for a period of 48 days with interest at 10.5%
which is equivalent to P112,000.00. In exchange, ASB through its Business Development Operation
Group manager Ching, issued DBS checks no. 0009980577 and 0009980578 for P8,000,000.00
and P112,000.00 respectively. The checks, both signed by Ching, were drawn against DBS Bank Makati
Head Office branch. ASB, through a letter dated 31 March 2000, acknowledged that it owed petitioner
the abovementioned amounts.[5]

Upon maturity of the ASB checks, petitioner went to the DBS Bank San Juan Branch to deposit the two
(2) checks. However, upon presentment, the checks were dishonored and payments were refused because
of a stop payment order and for insufficiency of funds. Petitioner informed respondents, through letters
dated 6 and 10 April 2000,[6] about the dishonor of the checks and demanded replacement checks or the
return of the money placement but to no avail. Thus, petitioner filed a criminal complaint for violation of
B.P. Blg. 22 before the Metropolitan Trial Court of San Juan against the private respondents.

Ching was arraigned and tried while Casta remained at large. Ching denied liability and claimed that she
was a mere employee of ASB. She asserted that she did not have knowledge as to how much money ASB
had in the banks. Such responsibility, she claimed belonged to another department.

On 15 December 2000, petitioner moved[7] that ASB and its president, Luke Roxas, be impleaded as party
defendants. Petitioner, then, paid the corresponding docket fees. However, the MTC denied the motion as
the case had already been submitted for final decision. [8]

On 8 February 2001, the MTC acquitted Ching of criminal liability but it did not absolve her from civil
liability. The MTC ruled that Ching, as a corporate officer of ASB, was civilly liable since she was a
signatory to the checks.[9]

Both petitioner and Ching appealed the ruling to the RTC. Petitioner appealed to the RTC on the ground
that the MTC failed to hold ASB and Roxas either jointly or severally liable with Ching. On the other hand,
Ching moved for a reconsideration which was subsequently denied. Thereafter, she filed her notice of
appeal on the ground that she should not be held civilly liable for the bouncing checks because they were
contractual obligations of ASB.

On 12 July 2005, the RTC rendered its decision sustaining Ching's appeal. The RTC affirmed the MTCs
ruling which denied the motion to implead ASB and Roxas for lack of jurisdiction over their persons. The
RTC also exonerated Ching from civil liability and ruled that the subject obligation fell squarely on ASB.
Thus, Ching should not be held civilly liable. [10]

Petitioner filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals on the grounds that the RTC erred in
absolving Ching from civil liability; in upholding the refusal of the MTC to implead ASB and Roxas; and
in refusing to pierce the corporate veil of ASB and hold Roxas liable.
On 19 July 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the RTC and stated that the amount
petitioner sought to recover was a loan made to ASB and not to Ching. Roxas testimony further bolstered
the fact that the checks issued by Ching were for and in behalf of ASB. The Court of Appeals ruled that
ASB cannot be impleaded in a B.P. Blg. 22 case since it is not a natural person and in the case of Roxas,
he was not the subject of a preliminary investigation. Lastly, the Court of Appeals ruled that there was
no need to pierce the corporate veil of ASB since none of the requisites were present. [11]

Hence this petition.

Petitioner raised the following issues: (1) is a corporate officer who signed a bouncing check civilly liable
under B.P. Blg. 22; (2) can a corporation be impleaded in a B.P. Blg. 22 case; and (3) is there a basis to
pierce the corporate veil of ASB?

B.P. Blg. 22 is popularly known as the Bouncing Checks Law. Section 1 of B.P. Blg. 22 provides:

xxx xxx xxx

Where the check is drawn by a corporation, company or entity, the person or


persons, who actually signed the check in behalf of such drawer shall be liable
under this Act.

B.P. Blg. 22 was enacted to address the rampant issuance of bouncing checks as payment for pre-
existing obligations. The circulation of bouncing checks adversely affected confidence in trade and
commerce. The State criminalized such practice because it was deemed injurious to public
interests[12] and was found to be pernicious and inimical to public welfare. [13] B.P. Blg. 22 punishes the
act of making and issuing bouncing checks. It is the act itself of issuing the checks which is
considered malum prohibitum. The law is an offense against public order and not an offense against
property.[14] It penalizes the issuance of a check without regard to its purpose. It covers all types of
checks.[15] Even checks that were issued as a form of deposit or guarantee were held to be within the
ambit of B.P. Blg. 22.[16]

When a corporate officer issues a worthless check in the corporate name he may be held personally
liable for violating a penal statute.[17] The statute imposes criminal penalties on anyone who with intent
to defraud another of money or property, draws or issues a check on any bank with knowledge that he
has no sufficient funds in such bank to meet the check on presentment.[18] Moreover, the personal liability
of the corporate officer is predicated on the principle that he cannot shield himself from liability from his
own acts on the ground that it was a corporate act and not his personal act.[19] As we held in Llamado v.
Court of Appeals:[20]

Petitioner's argument that he should not be held personally liable for the amount of the
check because it was a check of the Pan Asia Finance Corporation and he signed the
same in his capacity as Treasurer of the corporation, is also untenable. The third
paragraph of Section 1 of BP Blg. 22 states: Where the check is drawn by a corporation,
company or entity, the person or persons who actually signed the check in behalf of such
drawer shall be liable under this Act.
The general rule is that a corporate officer who issues a bouncing corporate check can only be held civilly
liable when he is convicted. In the recent case of Bautista v. Auto Plus Traders Inc.,[21] the Court ruled
decisively that the civil liability of a corporate officer in a B.P. Blg. 22 case is extinguished with the criminal
liability. We are not inclined through this case to revisit so recent a precedent, and the rule of stare
decisis precludes us to discharge Ching of any civil liability arising from the B.P. Blg. 22 case against her,
on account of her acquittal in the criminal charge.
We recognize though the bind entwining the petitioner. The records clearly show that it is ASB is
civilly obligated to petitioner. In the various stages of this case, petitioner has been proceeding from the

premise that he is unable to pursue a separate civil action against ASB itself for the recovery of the
amounts due from the subject checks. From this premise, petitioner sought to implead ASB as a defendant
to the B.P. Blg. 22 case, even if such case is criminal in nature. [22]

What supplied the notion to the petitioner that he was unable to pursue a separate civil action against
ASB? He cites the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, particularly the provisions involving B.P. Blg. 22
cases, which state that:
Rule 111, Section 1Institution of criminal and civil action.

xxx

(b) The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to include
the corresponding civil action. No reservation to file such civil action separately shall be
allowed.

Upon filing of the aforesaid joint criminal and civil actions, the offended party shall pay in
full the filing fees based on the amount of the check involved, which shall be considered
as the actual damages claimed. Where the complainant or information also seeks to
recover liquidated, moral, nominal, temperate or exemplary damages, the offended party
shall pay the filing fees based on the amounts alleged therein. If the amounts are not so
alleged but any of these damages are subsequently awarded by the court, the filing fees
based on the amount awarded shall constitute a first lien on the judgment.

Where the civil action has been filed separately and trial thereof has not yet commenced,
it may be consolidated with the criminal action upon application with the court trying the
latter case. If the application is granted, the trial of both actions shall proceed in
accordance with section 2 of this Rule governing consolidation of the civil and criminal
actions.[23]

We are unable to agree with petitioner that he is entitled to implead ASB in the B.P. Blg. 22 case, or any
other corporation for that matter, even if the Rules require the joint trial of both the criminal and civil
liability. A basic maxim in statutory construction is that the interpretation of penal laws is strictly
construed against the State and liberally construed against the accused. Nowhere in B.P. Blg. 22 is it
provided that a juridical person may be impleaded as an accused or defendant in the prosecution for
violations of that law, even in the litigation of the civil aspect thereof.

Nonetheless, the substantive right of a creditor to recover due and demandable obligations against a
debtor-corporation cannot be denied or diminished by a rule of procedure. Technically, nothing in Section
1(b) of Rule 11 prohibits the reservation of a separate civil action against the juridical person on whose
behalf the check was issued. What the rules prohibit is the reservation of a separate civil

action against the natural person charged with violating B.P. Blg. 22, including such corporate officer
who had signed the bounced check.

In theory the B.P. Blg. 22 criminal liability of the person who issued the bouncing check in behalf
of a corporation stands independent of the civil liability of the corporation itself, such civil liability arising
from the Civil Code. B.P. Blg. 22 itself fused this criminal liability of the signer of the check in behalf of
the corporation with the corresponding civil liability of the corporation itself by allowing the complainant
to recover such civil liability not from the corporation, but from the person who signed the check in its
behalf. Prior to the amendments to our rules on criminal procedure, it though clearly was permissible to
pursue the criminal liability against the signatory, while going after the corporation itself for the civil
liability.

However, with the insistence under the amended rules that the civil and criminal liability attaching
to the bounced check be pursued jointly, the previous option to directly pursue the civil liability against
the person who incurred the civil obligationthe corporation itselfis no longer that clear. In theory, the
implied institution of the civil case into the criminal case for B.P. Blg. 22 should not affect the civil liability
of the corporation for the same check, since such implied institution concerns the civil liability of the
signatory, and not of the corporation.

Let us pursue this point further. B.P. Blg. 22 imposes a distinct civil liability on the signatory of
the check which is distinct from the civil liability of the corporation for the amount represented from the
check. The civil liability attaching to the signatory arises from the wrongful act of signing the
check despite the insufficiency of funds in the account, while the civil liability attaching to the
corporation is itself the very obligation covered by the check or the consideration for its
execution. Yet these civil liabilities are mistaken to be indistinct. The confusion is traceable to
the singularity of the amount of each.
If we conclude, as we should, that under the current Rules of Criminal Procedure, the civil action
that is impliedly instituted in the B.P. Blg. 22 action is only the civil liability of the signatory, and not that
of the corporation itself, the distinctness of the cause of action against the signatory and that against the
corporation is rendered beyond dispute. It follows that the actions involving these liabilities should be
adjudged according to their respective standards and merits. In the B.P. Blg. 22 case, what the trial court
should determine whether or not the signatory had signed the check with knowledge of the insufficiency
of funds or credit in the bank account, while in the civil case the trial court should ascertain whether or
not the obligation itself
is valid and demandable. The litigation of both questions could, in theory, proceed independently and
simultaneously without being ultimately conclusive on one or the other.

It might be argued that under the current rules, if the signatory were made liable for the amount
of the check by reason of the B.P. Blg. 22 case, such signatory would have the option of recovering the
same amount from the corporation. Yet that prospect does not ultimately satisfy the ends of justice. If the
signatory does not have sufficient assets to answer for the amount of the checka distinct possibility
considering the occasional large-scale transactions engaged in by corporations the corporation would not
be subsidiarily liable to the complainant, even if it in truth the controversy, of which the criminal case is
just a part, is traceable to the original obligation of the corporation. While the Revised Penal Code imposes
subsidiary civil liability to corporations for criminal acts engaged in by their employees in the discharge
of their duties, said subsidiary liability applies only to felonies,[24] and not to crimes penalized by special
laws such as B.P. Blg. 22. And nothing in B.P. Blg. 22 imposes such subsidiary liability to the corporation
in whose name the check is actually issued. Clearly then, should the check signatory be unable to pay
the obligation incurred by the corporation, the complainant would be bereft of remedy unless the right of
action to collect on the liability of the corporation is recognized and given flesh.
There are two prevailing concerns should civil recovery against the corporation be pursued even
as the B.P. Blg. 22 case against the signatory remains extant. First, the possibility that the plaintiff might
be awarded the amount of the check in both the B.P. Blg. 22 case and in the civil action against the
corporation. For obvious reasons, that should not be permitted. Considering that petitioner herein has
no chance to recover the amount of the check through the B.P. Blg. 22 case, we need not contend with
that possibility through this case. Nonetheless, as a matter of prudence, it is best we refer the matter to
the Committee on Rules for the formulation of proper guidelines to prevent that possibility.

The other concern is over the payment of filing fees in both the B.P. Blg. 22 case and the civil
action against the corporation. Generally, we see no evil or cause for distress if the plaintiff were made to
pay filing fees based on the amount of the check in both the B.P. Blg. 22 case and the civil action. After
all, the plaintiff therein made the deliberate option to file two separate cases, even if the recovery of the
amounts of the check against the corporation could evidently be pursued through the civil action alone.

Nonetheless, in petitioners particular case, considering the previous legal confusion on whether he is
authorized to file the civil case against ASB, he should, as a matter of equity, be exempted from paying
the filing fees based on the amount of the checks should he pursue the civil action against ASB. In a
similar vein and for a similar reason, we likewise find that petitioner should not be barred by prescription
should he file the civil action as the period should not run from the date the checks were issued but from
the date this decision attains finality. The courts should not be bound strictly by the statute of limitations
or the doctrine of laches when to do so, manifest wrong or injustice would result. [25]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, without prejudice to the right of petitioner Jaime U. Gosiaco to
pursue an independent civil action against ASB Holdings Inc. for the amount of the subject checks, in
accordance with the terms of this decision. No pronouncements as to costs.

Let a copy of this Decision be REFERRED to the Committee on Revision of the Rules for the
formulation of the formal rules of procedure to govern the civil action for the recovery of the
amount covered by the check against the juridical person which issued it.
SO ORDERED.

DEATH OF THE ACCUSED: CIVIL ACTION

G.R. No. 102007 September 2, 1994

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ROGELIO BAYOTAS y CORDOVA, accused-appellant.

The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

Public Attorney's Office for accused-appellant.

ROMERO, J.:

In Criminal Case No. C-3217 filed before Branch 16, RTC Roxas City, Rogelio Bayotas y Cordova was
charged with Rape and eventually convicted thereof on June 19, 1991 in a decision penned by Judge
Manuel E. Autajay. Pending appeal of his conviction, Bayotas died on February 4, 1992 at
the National Bilibid Hospital due to cardio respiratory arrest secondary to hepatic encephalopathy
secondary to hipato carcinoma gastric malingering. Consequently, the Supreme Court in its Resolution
of May 20, 1992 dismissed the criminal aspect of the appeal. However, it required the Solicitor General
to file its comment with regard to Bayotas' civil liability arising from his commission of the offense
charged.

In his comment, the Solicitor General expressed his view that the death of accused-appellant did not
extinguish his civil liability as a result of his commission of the offense charged. The Solicitor General,
relying on the case of People v. Sendaydiego 1 insists that the appeal should still be resolved for the
purpose of reviewing his conviction by the lower court on which the civil liability is based.

Counsel for the accused-appellant, on the other hand, opposed the view of the Solicitor General arguing
that the death of the accused while judgment of conviction is pending appeal extinguishes both his
criminal and civil penalties. In support of his position, said counsel invoked the ruling of the Court of
Appeals in People v. Castillo and Ocfemia 2 which held that the civil obligation in a criminal case takes
root in the criminal liability and, therefore, civil liability is extinguished if accused should die before
final judgment is rendered.

We are thus confronted with a single issue: Does death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction
extinguish his civil liability?

In the aforementioned case of People v. Castillo, this issue was settled in the affirmative. This same
issue posed therein was phrased thus: Does the death of Alfredo Castillo affect both his criminal
responsibility and his civil liability as a consequence of the alleged crime?

It resolved this issue thru the following disquisition:

Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code is the controlling statute. It reads, in part:

Art. 89. How criminal liability is totally extinguished. — Criminal liability is


totally extinguished:

1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to the


pecuniary penalties liability therefor is extinguished only when the death
of the offender occurs before final judgment;

With reference to Castillo's criminal liability, there is no question. The law is plain.
Statutory construction is unnecessary. Said liability is extinguished.

The civil liability, however, poses a problem. Such liability is extinguished only when the
death of the offender occurs before final judgment. Saddled upon us is the task of
ascertaining the legal import of the term "final judgment." Is it final judgment as
contradistinguished from an interlocutory order? Or, is it a judgment which is final and
executory?

We go to the genesis of the law. The legal precept contained in Article 89 of the Revised
Penal Code heretofore transcribed is lifted from Article 132 of the Spanish El Codigo
Penal de 1870 which, in part, recites:

La responsabilidad penal se extingue.

1. Por la muerte del reo en cuanto a las penas personales siempre, y


respecto a las pecuniarias, solo cuando a su fallecimiento no hubiere
recaido sentencia firme.

xxx xxx xxx

The code of 1870 . . . it will be observed employs the term "sentencia firme." What is
"sentencia firme" under the old statute?

XXVIII Enciclopedia Juridica Española, p. 473, furnishes the ready answer: It says:

SENTENCIA FIRME. La sentencia que adquiere la fuerza de las definitivas


por no haberse utilizado por las partes litigantes recurso alguno contra
ella dentro de los terminos y plazos legales concedidos al efecto.

"Sentencia firme" really should be understood as one which is definite. Because, it is only
when judgment is such that, as Medina y Maranon puts it, the crime is confirmed — "en
condena determinada;" or, in the words of Groizard, the guilt of the accused becomes —
"una verdad legal." Prior thereto, should the accused die, according to Viada, "no hay
legalmente, en tal caso, ni reo, ni delito, ni responsabilidad criminal de ninguna clase."
And, as Judge Kapunan well explained, when a defendant dies before judgment becomes
executory, "there cannot be any determination by final judgment whether or not the
felony upon which the civil action might arise exists," for the simple reason that "there is
no party defendant." (I Kapunan, Revised Penal Code, Annotated, p. 421. Senator
Francisco holds the same view. Francisco, Revised Penal Code, Book One, 2nd ed., pp.
859-860)

The legal import of the term "final judgment" is similarly reflected in the Revised Penal
Code. Articles 72 and 78 of that legal body mention the term "final judgment" in the
sense that it is already enforceable. This also brings to mind Section 7, Rule 116 of the
Rules of Court which states that a judgment in a criminal case becomes final "after the
lapse of the period for perfecting an appeal or when the sentence has been partially or
totally satisfied or served, or the defendant has expressly waived in writing his right to
appeal."

By fair intendment, the legal precepts and opinions here collected funnel down to one
positive conclusion: The term final judgment employed in the Revised Penal Code means
judgment beyond recall. Really, as long as a judgment has not become executory, it
cannot be truthfully said that defendant is definitely guilty of the felony charged against
him.

Not that the meaning thus given to final judgment is without reason. For where, as in
this case, the right to institute a separate civil action is not reserved, the decision to be
rendered must, of necessity, cover "both the criminal and the civil aspects of the
case." People vs. Yusico (November 9, 1942), 2 O.G., No. 100, p. 964. See also: People
vs. Moll, 68 Phil., 626, 634; Francisco, Criminal Procedure, 1958 ed., Vol. I, pp. 234, 236.
Correctly, Judge Kapunan observed that as "the civil action is based solely on the felony
committed and of which the offender might be found guilty, the death of the offender
extinguishes the civil liability." I Kapunan, Revised Penal Code, Annotated, supra.

Here is the situation obtaining in the present case: Castillo's criminal liability is out. His
civil liability is sought to be enforced by reason of that criminal liability. But then, if we
dismiss, as we must, the criminal action and let the civil aspect remain, we will be faced
with the anomalous situation whereby we will be called upon to clamp civil liability in a
case where the source thereof — criminal liability — does not exist. And, as was well
stated in Bautista, et al. vs. Estrella, et al., CA-G.R.
No. 19226-R, September 1, 1958, "no party can be found and held criminally liable in a
civil suit," which solely would remain if we are to divorce it from the criminal proceeding."

This ruling of the Court of Appeals in the Castillo case 3 was adopted by the Supreme Court in the cases
of People of the Philippines v. Bonifacio Alison, et al., 4 People of the Philippines v. Jaime Jose, et
al. 5 and People of the Philippines v. Satorre 6 by dismissing the appeal in view of the death of the
accused pending appeal of said cases.

As held by then Supreme Court Justice Fernando in the Alison case:

The death of accused-appellant Bonifacio Alison having been established, and


considering that there is as yet no final judgment in view of the pendency of the appeal,
the criminal and civil liability of the said accused-appellant Alison was extinguished by
his death (Art. 89, Revised Penal Code; Reyes' Criminal Law, 1971 Rev. Ed., p. 717, citing
People v. Castillo and Ofemia C.A., 56 O.G. 4045); consequently, the case against him
should be dismissed.

On the other hand, this Court in the subsequent cases of Buenaventura Belamala v. Marcelino
Polinar 7 and Lamberto Torrijos v. The Honorable Court of Appeals 8 ruled differently. In the former, the
issue decided by this court was: Whether the civil liability of one accused of physical injuries who died
before final judgment is extinguished by his demise to the extent of barring any claim therefore against
his estate. It was the contention of the administrator-appellant therein that the death of the accused
prior to final judgment extinguished all criminal and civil liabilities resulting from the offense, in view of
Article 89, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code. However, this court ruled therein:

We see no merit in the plea that the civil liability has been extinguished, in view of the
provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines of 1950 (Rep. Act No. 386) that became
operative eighteen years after the revised Penal Code. As pointed out by the Court below,
Article 33 of the Civil Code establishes a civil action for damages on account of physical
injuries, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action.

Art. 33. In cases of defamation, fraud, and physical injuries, a civil action
for damages, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action, may
be brought by the injured party. Such civil action shall proceed
independently of the criminal prosecution, and shall require only a
preponderance of evidence.

Assuming that for lack of express reservation, Belamala's civil action for damages was to
be considered instituted together with the criminal action still, since both proceedings
were terminated without final adjudication, the civil action of the offended party under
Article 33 may yet be enforced separately.

In Torrijos, the Supreme Court held that:

xxx xxx xxx

It should be stressed that the extinction of civil liability follows the extinction of the
criminal liability under Article 89, only when the civil liability arises from the criminal act
as its only basis. Stated differently, where the civil liability does not exist independently
of the criminal responsibility, the extinction of the latter by death, ipso facto extinguishes
the former, provided, of course, that death supervenes before final judgment. The said
principle does not apply in instant case wherein the civil liability springs neither solely
nor originally from the crime itself but from a civil contract of purchase and sale.
(Emphasis ours)

xxx xxx xxx

In the above case, the court was convinced that the civil liability of the accused who was charged
with estafa could likewise trace its genesis to Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Civil Code since said
accused had swindled the first and second vendees of the property subject matter of the contract
of sale. It therefore concluded: "Consequently, while the death of the accused herein
extinguished his criminal liability including fine, his civil liability based on the laws of human
relations remains."

Thus it allowed the appeal to proceed with respect to the civil liability of the accused, notwithstanding
the extinction of his criminal liability due to his death pending appeal of his conviction.

To further justify its decision to allow the civil liability to survive, the court relied on the following
ratiocination: Since Section 21, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court 9 requires the dismissal of all money claims
against the defendant whose death occurred prior to the final judgment of the Court of First Instance
(CFI), then it can be inferred that actions for recovery of money may continue to be heard on appeal,
when the death of the defendant supervenes after the CFI had rendered its judgment. In such case,
explained this tribunal, "the name of the offended party shall be included in the title of the case as
plaintiff-appellee and the legal representative or the heirs of the deceased-accused should be
substituted as defendants-appellants."

It is, thus, evident that as jurisprudence evolved from Castillo to Torrijos, the rule established was that
the survival of the civil liability depends on whether the same can be predicated on sources of
obligations other than delict. Stated differently, the claim for civil liability is also extinguished together
with the criminal action if it were solely based thereon, i.e., civil liability ex delicto.

However, the Supreme Court in People v. Sendaydiego, et al. 10 departed from this long-established
principle of law. In this case, accused Sendaydiego was charged with and convicted by the lower court of
malversation thru falsification of public documents. Sendaydiego's death supervened during the
pendency of the appeal of his conviction.

This court in an unprecedented move resolved to dismiss Sendaydiego's appeal but only to the extent of
his criminal liability. His civil liability was allowed to survive although it was clear that such claim
thereon was exclusively dependent on the criminal action already extinguished. The legal import of such
decision was for the court to continue exercising appellate jurisdiction over the entire appeal, passing
upon the correctness of Sendaydiego's conviction despite dismissal of the criminal action, for the
purpose of determining if he is civilly liable. In doing so, this Court issued a Resolution of July 8, 1977
stating thus:

The claim of complainant Province of Pangasinan for the civil liability survived
Sendaydiego because his death occurred after final judgment was rendered by the Court
of First Instance of Pangasinan, which convicted him of three complex crimes of
malversation through falsification and ordered him to indemnify the Province in the total
sum of P61,048.23 (should be P57,048.23).

The civil action for the civil liability is deemed impliedly instituted with the criminal
action in the absence of express waiver or its reservation in a separate action (Sec. 1,
Rule 111 of the Rules of Court). The civil action for the civil liability is separate and
distinct from the criminal action (People and Manuel vs. Coloma, 105 Phil. 1287; Roa vs.
De la Cruz, 107 Phil. 8).

When the action is for the recovery of money and the defendant dies before final
judgment in the Court of First Instance, it shall be dismissed to be prosecuted in the
manner especially provided in Rule 87 of the Rules of Court (Sec. 21, Rule 3 of the Rules
of Court).
The implication is that, if the defendant dies after a money judgment had been rendered
against him by the Court of First Instance, the action survives him. It may be continued
on appeal (Torrijos vs. Court of Appeals, L-40336, October 24, 1975; 67 SCRA 394).

The accountable public officer may still be civilly liable for the funds improperly
disbursed although he has no criminal liability (U.S. vs. Elvina, 24 Phil. 230; Philippine
National Bank vs. Tugab, 66 Phil. 583).

In view of the foregoing, notwithstanding the dismissal of the appeal of the deceased
Sendaydiego insofar as his criminal liability is concerned, the Court Resolved to continue
exercising appellate jurisdiction over his possible civil liability for the money claims of the
Province of Pangasinan arising from the alleged criminal acts complained of, as if no
criminal case had been instituted against him, thus making applicable, in determining
his civil liability, Article 30 of the Civil Code . . . and, for that purpose, his counsel is
directed to inform this Court within ten (10) days of the names and addresses of the
decedent's heirs or whether or not his estate is under administration and has a duly
appointed judicial administrator. Said heirs or administrator will be substituted for the
deceased insofar as the civil action for the civil liability is concerned (Secs. 16 and 17,
Rule 3, Rules of Court).

Succeeding cases 11 raising the identical issue have maintained adherence to our ruling in Sendaydiego;
in other words, they were a reaffirmance of our abandonment of the settled rule that a civil liability
solely anchored on the criminal (civil liability ex delicto) is extinguished upon dismissal of the entire
appeal due to the demise of the accused.

But was it judicious to have abandoned this old ruling? A re-examination of our decision
in Sendaydiego impels us to revert to the old ruling.

To restate our resolution of July 8, 1977 in Sendaydiego: The resolution of the civil action impliedly
instituted in the criminal action can proceed irrespective of the latter's extinction due to death of the
accused pending appeal of his conviction, pursuant to Article 30 of the Civil Code and Section 21, Rule
3 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Article 30 of the Civil Code provides:

When a separate civil action is brought to demand civil liability arising from a criminal
offense, and no criminal proceedings are instituted during the pendency of the civil case,
a preponderance of evidence shall likewise be sufficient to prove the act complained of.

Clearly, the text of Article 30 could not possibly lend support to the ruling in Sendaydiego. Nowhere in
its text is there a grant of authority to continue exercising appellate jurisdiction over the accused's civil
liability ex delicto when his death supervenes during appeal. What Article 30 recognizes is an alternative
and separate civil action which may be brought to demand civil liability arising from a criminal offense
independently of any criminal action. In the event that no criminal proceedings are instituted during the
pendency of said civil case, the quantum of evidence needed to prove the criminal act will have to be
that which is compatible with civil liability and that is, preponderance of evidence and not proof of guilt
beyond reasonable doubt. Citing or invoking Article 30 to justify the survival of the civil action despite
extinction of the criminal would in effect merely beg the question of whether civil liability ex
delicto survives upon extinction of the criminal action due to death of the accused during appeal of his
conviction. This is because whether asserted in
the criminal action or in a separate civil action, civil liability ex delicto is extinguished by the death of
the accused while his conviction is on appeal. Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code is clear on this
matter:

Art. 89. How criminal liability is totally extinguished. — Criminal liability is totally
extinguished:

1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties,
liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final
judgment;

xxx xxx xxx

However, the ruling in Sendaydiego deviated from the expressed intent of Article 89. It allowed claims
for civil liability ex delicto to survive by ipso facto treating the civil action impliedly instituted with the
criminal, as one filed under Article 30, as though no criminal proceedings had been filed but merely a
separate civil action. This had the effect of converting such claims from one which is dependent on the
outcome of the criminal action to an entirely new and separate one, the prosecution of which does not
even necessitate the filing of criminal proceedings. 12 One would be hard put to pinpoint the statutory
authority for such a transformation. It is to be borne in mind that in recovering civil liability ex delicto,
the same has perforce to be determined in the criminal action, rooted as it is in the court's
pronouncement of the guilt or innocence of the accused. This is but to render fealty to the intendment
of Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that "every person criminally liable for a felony
is also civilly liable." In such cases, extinction of the criminal action due to death of the accused
pending appeal inevitably signifies the concomitant extinction of the civil liability. Mors Omnia Solvi.
Death dissolves all things.

In sum, in pursuing recovery of civil liability arising from crime, the final determination of the criminal
liability is a condition precedent to the prosecution of the civil action, such that when the criminal
action is extinguished by the demise of accused-appellant pending appeal thereof, said civil action
cannot survive. The claim for civil liability springs out of and is dependent upon facts which, if true,
would constitute a crime. Such civil liability is an inevitable consequence of the criminal liability and is
to be declared and enforced in the criminal proceeding. This is to be distinguished from that which is
contemplated under Article 30 of the Civil Code which refers to the institution of a separate civil action
that does not draw its life from a criminal proceeding. The Sendaydiego resolution of July 8, 1977,
however, failed to take note of this fundamental distinction when it allowed the survival of the civil
action for the recovery of civil liability ex delicto by treating the same as a separate civil action referred
to under Article 30. Surely, it will take more than just a summary judicial pronouncement to authorize
the conversion of said civil action to an independent one such as that contemplated under Article 30.

Ironically however, the main decision in Sendaydiego did not apply Article 30, the resolution of July 8,
1977 notwithstanding. Thus, it was held in the main decision:

Sendaydiego's appeal will be resolved only for the purpose of showing his criminal
liability which is the basis of the civil liability for which his estate would be liable. 13

In other words, the Court, in resolving the issue of his civil liability, concomitantly made a
determination on whether Sendaydiego, on the basis of evidenced adduced, was indeed guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of committing the offense charged. Thus, it upheld Sendaydiego's conviction and
pronounced the same as the source of his civil liability. Consequently, although Article 30 was not
applied in the final determination of Sendaydiego's civil liability, there was a reopening of the criminal
action already extinguished which served as basis for Sendaydiego's civil liability. We reiterate: Upon
death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction, the criminal action is extinguished inasmuch as
there is no longer a defendant to stand as the accused; the civil action instituted therein for recovery of
civil liability ex delicto is ipso facto extinguished, grounded as it is on the criminal.

Section 21, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court was also invoked to serve as another basis for
the Sendaydiego resolution of July 8, 1977. In citing Sec. 21, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, the Court
made the inference that civil actions of the type involved in Sendaydiego consist of money claims, the
recovery of which may be continued on appeal if defendant dies pending appeal of his conviction by
holding his estate liable therefor. Hence, the Court's conclusion:

"When the action is for the recovery of money" "and the defendant dies before final
judgment in the court of First Instance, it shall be dismissed to be prosecuted in the
manner especially provided" in Rule 87 of the Rules of Court (Sec. 21, Rule 3 of the Rules
of Court).

The implication is that, if the defendant dies after a money judgment had been rendered
against him by the Court of First Instance, the action survives him. It may be continued
on appeal.

Sadly, reliance on this provision of law is misplaced. From the standpoint of procedural law, this course
taken in Sendaydiego cannot be sanctioned. As correctly observed by Justice Regalado:

xxx xxx xxx

I do not, however, agree with the justification advanced in


both Torrijos and Sendaydiego which, relying on the provisions of Section 21, Rule 3 of
the Rules of Court, drew the strained implication therefrom that where the civil liability
instituted together with the criminal liabilities had already passed beyond the judgment
of the then Court of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court), the Court of Appeals
can continue to exercise appellate jurisdiction thereover despite the extinguishment of
the component criminal liability of the deceased. This pronouncement, which has been
followed in the Court's judgments subsequent and consonant
to Torrijos and Sendaydiego, should be set aside and abandoned as being clearly
erroneous and unjustifiable.

Said Section 21 of Rule 3 is a rule of civil procedure in ordinary civil actions. There is
neither authority nor justification for its application in criminal procedure to civil actions
instituted together with and as part of criminal actions. Nor is there any authority in law
for the summary conversion from the latter category of an ordinary civil action upon the
death of the offender. . . .

Moreover, the civil action impliedly instituted in a criminal proceeding for recovery of civil liability ex
delicto can hardly be categorized as an ordinary money claim such as that referred to in Sec. 21, Rule 3
enforceable before the estate of the deceased accused.
Ordinary money claims referred to in Section 21, Rule 3 must be viewed in light of the provisions of
Section 5, Rule 86 involving claims against the estate, which in Sendaydiego was held liable for
Sendaydiego's civil liability. "What are contemplated in Section 21 of Rule 3, in relation to Section 5 of
Rule 86, 14 are contractual money claims while the claims involved in civil liability ex delicto may
include even the restitution of personal or real property." 15 Section 5, Rule 86 provides an exclusive
enumeration of what claims may be filed against the estate. These are: funeral expenses, expenses for
the last illness, judgments for money and claim arising from contracts, expressed or implied. It is clear
that money claims arising from delict do not form part of this exclusive enumeration. Hence, there could
be no legal basis in (1) treating a civil action ex delicto as an ordinary contractual money claim referred
to in Section 21, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court and (2) allowing it to survive by filing a claim therefor
before the estate of the deceased accused. Rather, it should be extinguished upon extinction of the
criminal action engendered by the death of the accused pending finality of his conviction.

Accordingly, we rule: if the private offended party, upon extinction of the civil liability ex delicto desires
to recover damages from the same act or omission complained of, he must subject to Section 1, Rule
111 16 (1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure as amended) file a separate civil action, this time predicated
not on the felony previously charged but on other sources of obligation. The source of obligation upon
which the separate civil action is premised determines against whom the same shall be enforced.

If the same act or omission complained of also arises from quasi-delict or may, by provision of law,
result in an injury to person or property (real or personal), the separate civil action must be filed against
the executor or administrator 17 of the estate of the accused pursuant to Sec. 1, Rule 87 of the Rules of
Court:

Sec. 1. Actions which may and which may not be brought against executor or
administrator. — No action upon a claim for the recovery of money or debt or interest
thereon shall be commenced against the executor or administrator; but actions to recover
real or personal property, or an interest therein, from the estate, or to enforce a lien
thereon, and actions to recover damages for an injury to person or property, real or
personal, may be commenced against him.

This is in consonance with our ruling in Belamala 18 where we held that, in recovering damages for
injury to persons thru an independent civil action based on Article 33 of the Civil Code, the same must
be filed against the executor or administrator of the estate of deceased accused and not against the
estate under Sec. 5, Rule 86 because this rule explicitly limits the claim to those for funeral expenses,
expenses for the last sickness of the decedent, judgment for money and claims arising from contract,
express or implied. Contractual money claims, we stressed, refers only topurely personal
obligations other than those which have their source in delict or tort.

Conversely, if the same act or omission complained of also arises from contract, the separate civil action
must be filed against the estate of the accused, pursuant to Sec. 5, Rule 86 of the Rules of Court.

From this lengthy disquisition, we summarize our ruling herein:

1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as
the civil liability based solely thereon. As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, "the death of the
accused prior to final judgment terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly arising
from and based solely on the offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in senso strictiore."

2. Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the death of accused, if the same may
also be predicated on a source of obligation other than delict. 19 Article 1157 of the Civil Code
enumerates these other sources of obligation from which the civil liability may arise as a result of the
same act or omission:

a) Law 20

b) Contracts

c) Quasi-contracts

d) . . .

e) Quasi-delicts

3. Where the civil liability survives, as explained in Number 2 above, an action for recovery therefor may
be pursued but only by way of filing a separate civil action and subject to Section 1, Rule 111 of the
1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure as amended. This separate civil action may be enforced either
against the executor/administrator or the estate of the accused, depending on the source of obligation
upon which the same is based as explained above.

4. Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his right to file this separate civil
action by prescription, in cases where during the prosecution of the criminal action and prior to its
extinction, the private-offended party instituted together therewith the civil action. In such case, the
statute of limitations on the civil liability is deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal
case, conformably with provisions of Article 1155 21 of the Civil Code, that should thereby avoid any
apprehension on a possible privation of right by prescription. 22

Applying this set of rules to the case at bench, we hold that the death of appellant Bayotas extinguished
his criminal liability and the civil liability based solely on the act complained of, i.e., rape.
Consequently, the appeal is hereby dismissed without qualification.

WHEREFORE, the appeal of the late Rogelio Bayotas is DISMISSED with costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION

[G.R. Nos. 138859-60. February 22, 2001]

ALVAREZ ARO YUSOP, petitioner, vs. The Honorable SANDIGANBAYAN (First


Division), respondent.

DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

The right of a person to preliminary investigation is recognized by the law and is governed by the
Rules of Court. However, the failure to accord this right does not ipso facto result in the dismissal of the
information; the case is merely suspended, and the prosecutor directed to conduct the proper
investigation.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, assailing two Orders [1] of
the Sandiganbayan,[2] both dated February 15, 1999. The first Order rejected the attempt of petitioner to
stop his arraignment in Criminal Case Nos. 24524-25, on the ground that he had been denied the right
to a preliminary investigation. In the assailed second Order, the Sandiganbayan directed that a plea of
not guilty be entered for all the accused, including herein petitioner.

The Facts

Acting on an Affidavit-Complaint[3] filed by a certain Erlinda Fadri, the Office of the Ombudsman-
Mindanao issued an Order[4] dated September 19, 1995, naming the following as respondents: Benjamin
Arao, Frederick Winters, Pelaez Pantaran, Eduardo Dablo, Efren Sissay and the city jail warden of
Pagadian City. The Order also required respondents, within ten days from receipt thereof to submit their
counter-affidavits and other pieces of controverting evidence.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao issued a Resolution dated January 15,
1998,[5] recommending the prosecution of the aforenamed respondents for violation of Article 269 of the
Revised Penal Code and Section 3-a in relation to Section 3-e of Republic Act No. 3019 as
amended.Significantly, the name of Petitioner Alvarez A. Yusop was included as one of the persons to be
prosecuted, although he was not one of the original respondents mentioned in the Order of September
19, 1995. Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto approved the recommendation.
Accordingly, two Informations were filed with the Sandiganbayan. They were docketed as Criminal
Case Nos. 24524 (violation of Section 3-a of RA 3019) and 24525 (unlawful arrest under Article 269 of the
Revised Penal Code).
On April 16, 1998, an Order of Arrest was issued by the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No.
24524. Petitioner, however, posted a bail bond before the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City on May 20
of the same year. On the same day, he filed a Motion To Remand Case To The Ombudsman - Mindanao
For Preliminary Investigation.
In a Resolution dated June 8, 1998, the Sandiganbayan denied the Motion of petitioner for his alleged
failure to submit himself to the jurisdiction of the anti-graft court.
On August 8, 1998, petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss, grounded again on the lack of preliminary
investigation. In an Order dated September 22, 1998, the Sandiganbayan resolved not to take action on
the Motion, because petitioner had not yet submitted himself to its jurisdiction insofar as Criminal Case
No. 24525 was concerned.
On the scheduled arraignment on February 15, 1999, petitioner reiterated his claim that he had not
been accorded preliminary investigation. In its two assailed Orders, the Sandiganbayan rejected his claim
and proceeded with the arraignment.
Hence, this recourse.[6]

Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

The Sandiganbayan rejected petitioners plea for preliminary investigation in this wise:

This morning, the accused herein appeared for arraignment duly represented by their counsel. Before
proceeding, Atty. Omar A. Rivera appearing in behalf of accused Yusop informed this court of his
reservations about proceeding with the arraignment this morning, primarily on the ground that accused
Yusop did not undergo preliminary investigation, with the additional claim that he had not been
furnished any notice nor was he informed of the proceedings before the Ombudsman with respect to
these cases. It would appear that one of the reasons [therefor] is that the accused despite notice of the
existence of the accusation against him in Criminal Case No. 24525, had not given any timely notice nor
any statement of any alleged inadequacy of the proceeding regarding the filing of the Information herein;
thus, the Court is not persuaded that the claim of the accused Yusop with regard to the inadequacy of
the proceedings as against him could still be validly entertained at this time. This is more particularly
significant under Section 27 of Republic Act 6770 and x x x Criminal Cases 24524 and 24525 refer to
the same incident although the prosecution, for its part, has filed Informations under different statutes
covering the same incident. Thus, the claim of accused Yusop that he was not notified with respect to
one of the cases on an identical set of facts herein is not [of] particular significance since this would be
indulging in a superfluity.

xxxxxxxxx

Thus, in view of all the following, the Court will now proceed to the arraignment of the accused herein.

The Issue

Although the parties did not specify the issue in this case, it is clear from their submissions that they
are asking this Court to resolve this question: Whether the Sandiganbayan, despite being informed of the
lack of preliminary investigation with respect to petitioner, in Criminal Case No. 24524, committed grave
abuse of discretion in proceeding with his arraignment.

The Courts Ruling

The Petition is meritorious in part. While petitioner is entitled to preliminary investigation, the case
against him should not be dismissed.

Main Issue:
Preliminary Investigation

Preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground


to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty
thereof, and should be held for trial.[7] The Court explained that the rationale of a preliminary investigation
is to protect the accused from the inconvenience, expense and burden of defending himself in a formal
trial unless the reasonable probability of his guilt shall have been first ascertained in a fairly summary
proceeding by a competent officer. [8]
The Rules of Court requires such investigation before an information for an offense punishable by at
least four years, two months and one day may be filed in court.[9] The old Rules, on the other hand,
mandates preliminary investigation of an offense cognizable by the regional trial court. [10]
Petitioner is charged in Criminal Case No. 24524 with violation of Section 3-a of RA 3019. Such
offense is punishable with, among other penalties, imprisonment of six years and one month to fifteen
years.[11] Under the aforecited Rules, whether in the old or the revised version, he is entitled to a
preliminary investigation.
It is undisputed, however, that before the Information against petitioner was filed, no preliminary
investigation had been conducted. In fact, the Office of the Ombudsman admitted that petitioner was
denied of his right to preliminary investigation.[12]
We find no basis for the Sandiganbayans ruling that petitioner had not given timely notice nor any
statement of the alleged inadequacy of the proceeding regarding the filing of the Information.
First, there was no showing that petitioner was notified of the charges filed by Erlinda Fadri. As earlier
noted, he had not been named as a respondent in the September 19, 1995 Order of the Office of the
Ombudsman in Mindanao. His name did not even appear in the caption of its January 15, 1998
Resolution,[13] which recommended the filing of charges against the accused. Indeed, in his Compliance
with the August 26, 1998 Sandiganbayan Resolution,[14] Special Prosecution Officer Diosdado V. Calonge
manifested that petitioner was not notified of the proceedings of the preliminary investigation and was
accordingly not given the opportunity to be heard thereon. [15]
After learning of the filing of the Information against him when he was served a Warrant of Arrest,
petitioner did not dally. He immediately informed the Sandiganbayan that no preliminary investigation
had been conducted in regard to him. Several months later, moments before his arraignment, he
reiterated his prayer that the preliminary investigation be conducted. In this light, the Sandiganbayan
erred in saying that he had not given the court timely notice of this deficiency.
Even assuming that prior to the filing of the Information, petitioner had known that the proceedings
and the investigation against his co-accused were pending, he cannot be expected to know of the
investigators subsequent act of charging him. Precisely, he had not been previously included therein and,
consequently, he had not been notified thereof.
In Go v. Court of Appeals,[16] this Court held that the right to preliminary investigation is waived when
the accused fails to invoke it before or at the time of entering a plea at arraignment. Conversely, if the
accused does invoke it before arraignment, as the petitioner did in this case, the right is not waived.
Neither did the filing of a bail bond constitute a waiver of petitioners right to preliminary
investigation. Under Section 26, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, [a]n application for
or admission to bail shall not bar the accused from challenging the validity of his arrest or the legality of
the warrant issued therefor, or from assailing the regularity or questioning the absence of a preliminary
investigation of the charge against him, provided that he raises them before entering his plea. x x x.
We stress that the right to preliminary investigation is substantive, not merely formal or technical. To
deny it to petitioner would deprive him of the full measure of his right to due process. [17] Hence,
preliminary investigation with regard to him must be conducted.
We disagree with the Sandiganbayans reliance on Section 27 of Republic Act 6770. [18] This provision
cannot justify the evasion of the requirement set forth in the Rules of Court for conducting preliminary
investigation. The law does not sanction such interpretation, for it deals merely with the finality of orders,
directives and decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman -- not the deprivation of the substantive right to
a preliminary investigation. Moreover, petitioner cannot be bound by the Ombudsmans January 15, 1998
Resolution, which recommended the filing of charges. He was not a party to the case and was not accorded
any right to present evidence on his behalf.
In any event, even the Ombudsman agrees that petitioner was deprived of this right and believes that
the former has the duty x x x to see to it that the basic rudiments of due process are complied with.[19] For
its part, the Sandiganbayan opted to remain silent when asked by this Court to comment on the Petition.

Dismissal of the Charges


Not Justified

Petitioner also prays that the cases against him be dismissed for lack of preliminary
investigation.[20] We disagree. In the first place, nowhere in the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, or
even the old Rules, is there any mention that this lack is a ground for a motion to quash. [21] Furthermore,
it has been held that responsibility for the absence of a preliminary investigation does not go to the
jurisdiction of the court but merely to the regularity of the proceedings.[22] We reiterate the following ruling
of the Court in People v. Gomez:

If there were no preliminary investigations and the defendants, before entering their plea, invite the
attention of the court to their absence, the court, instead of dismissing the information, should conduct
such investigation, order the fiscal to conduct it or remand the case to the inferior court so that the
preliminary investigation may be conducted.[23]

In sum, Criminal Case No. 24524 must be suspended with respect to petitioner even if the case is
already undergoing trial, because [t]o reach any other conclusion here, that is, to hold that petitioners
rights to a preliminary investigation and to bail were effectively obliterated by evidence subsequently
admitted into the record would be to legitimize the deprivation of due process and to permit the
government to benefit from its own wrong or culpable omission and effectively to dilute important rights
of accused persons well-nigh to the vanishing point.[24]
WHEREFORE, the Petition is partially GRANTED. The assailed Orders are REVERSED, and the Office
of the Ombudsman is hereby ORDERED to conduct forthwith a preliminary investigation of the charge of
violation of Section 3-a of RA 3019 against Petitioner Alvarez Aro Yusop. The trial on the merits of Criminal
Case No. 24524 shall be SUSPENDED in regard to petitioner until the conclusion of the preliminary
investigation. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 154438 September 5, 2007

ALICIA F. RICAFORTE, petitioner,


vs.
LEON L. JURADO, respondent.

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to annul and
set aside the Decision1 dated April 26, 2002 and the Resolution 2 dated July 29, 2002 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 66293.

On February 10, 1997, respondent filed a Complaint3 for estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa (B.P.)
Blg. 22 against Alicia F. Ricaforte (petitioner) with the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office. He alleged that
he operates and manages a rice mill in Bulacan; that sometime in June 1996, Ruby Aguilar (Aguilar)
procured rice from him and in payment thereof gave him two Far East Bank and Trust Company
(FEBTC) checks, to wit: FEBTC Check No. 08A096028P dated July 25, 1996 and Check No.
08A096029P dated August 25, 1996, in the amount of P431,555.00 each, which were both issued by
petitioner and when presented for payment were dishonored.

In her Counter-Affidavit, petitioner denied the accusation. She alleged that Aguilar who had lost her
Metrobank checkbook borrowed her checks to pay off Aguilar’s obligations with Leon Jurado
(respondent); that she willingly lent her checks to Aguilar on condition that these checks will be
replaced with Aguilar’s own checks once her new checkbook is issued to her by Metrobank; that Aguilar
then used petitioner’s checks to pay her rice procurement with respondent; that in accordance with the
arrangement, Aguilar issued two replacement checks in favor of respondent in the amount
of P431,555.00 each; that when Aguilar issued the replacement checks, petitioner demanded from
respondent the return of her checks but respondent refused, thus she was constrained to request her
bank to issue an order of stop payment. Aguilar executed an Affidavit corroborating petitioner’s defense.

Respondent filed his Reply denying that petitioner’s checks were merely accommodation checks.
Petitioner filed her rejoinder as well as supplement to rejoinder.

In a Resolution4 dated November 24, 1997, Assistant City Prosecutor Luis Zenon Q. Maceren dismissed
the complaint for estafa and B.P. Blg. 22 for insufficiency of evidence. The prosecutor found that
petitioner did not have any business transaction with respondent; that the subject checks were issued
only to accommodate Aguilar; that these were delivered to respondent not as payment but as a
guarantee and on condition that Aguilar will replace petitioner’s checks with her own, which Aguilar did
prior to the maturity of petitioner’s checks; that upon maturity of Aguilar’s replacement checks and
after respondent presented them for payment and were subsequently dishonored, it was then that
petitioner’s checks were also presented by respondent for encashment; that Aguilar’s replacement
checks are now subject of another litigation pending in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City; that
the sequence of events showed that indeed petitioner’s checks were not intended as payment to
respondent because petitioner had no obligation to respondent; that the checks were not issued to
account or for value; thus, there can be no finding of prima facie evidence of the charges against him
relying on Magno v. Court of Appeals.5

Respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied in a Resolution 6 dated May 27, 1998. The
prosecutor found that although the issuance of a worthless check is malum prohibitum, B.P. Blg. 22 still
requires that the checks should be issued with consideration, which element was lacking in this case;
that even respondent admitted in his Complaint-Affidavit that petitioner had no transaction with him by
alleging that Aguilar handed to him petitioner’s two checks in payment of rice procurement representing
these as Aguilar’s collection checks and with assurance that they are good; that when Aguilar replaced
petitioner’s checks with her own, petitioner’s checks had no more consideration since these were issued
upon agreement that the real debtor, Aguilar, will also issue her own checks.

Respondent appealed the dismissal of his complaint to the Department of Justice. The Secretary of
Justice issued a Resolution7 dated September 21, 2000 modifying the Resolution of the City Prosecutor
and directing him to file an information against petitioner for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.

The Justice Secretary found that while the dismissal of estafa is correct, petitioner should be indicted
for B.P. Blg. 22. In so ruling, the Secretary found that while petitioner has no business transactions
with respondent and merely issued the checks as a guarantee for Aguilar’s obligation to respondent, the
fact remains that petitioner issued the subject checks and failed to pay respondent the amount due
thereon or make arrangements for their full payment within five banking days after receiving a notice of
dishonor; that the gravamen of the offense punished by B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of making and issuing
worthless checks or those dishonored upon their presentment for payment; that the thrust of the law is
to prohibit the making of worthless checks and putting them in circulation; that to require the
arrangement surrounding the issuance of the checks be first looked into and thereafter exempt such
issuance from the punitive provisions of B.P. Blg. 22 on the basis of that arrangement would frustrate
the very purpose for which the law was enacted, i.e. to stop the proliferation of unfunded checks;
that B.P. Blg. 22 applies even when dishonored checks were issued merely in the form of deposit or
guarantee.

The Justice Secretary denied petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration in a Resolution 8 dated May 30,
2001.

Petitioner filed with the CA a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 assailing the resolutions of the
Secretary of Justice for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion.

On April 26, 2002, the CA issued its assailed Decision denying the petition for lack of merit. The CA
found no grave abuse of discretion committed by the Justice Secretary in his assailed Resolutions. It
ruled that trial on the merits must ensue since it is on said occasion that petitioner is granted
opportunity for a full and exhaustive presentation of her evidence and not during the preliminary
investigation phase where the investigating officer acts upon probable cause and reasonable belief; that
in the preliminary investigation phase, it is not yet clear whether petitioner could be considered as
having actually committed the offense charged and sought to be punished, although petitioner is
presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt; that the crux of the matter rests upon
the reasons for the drawing of the postdated checks by petitioner; i.e., whether they were drawn or
issued "to apply on account or for value" as required under B.P. Blg. 22 which will only be determined
during trial.

Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied in a Resolution dated July 29, 2002. The CA ruled
that mere issuance of a bouncing check constitutes a probable cause for violation of B.P. Blg. 22; that
whether or not the accused is guilty thereof is determined in the trial proper; that preliminary
investigation is not a trial and is not intended to usurp the function of the trial court; that Sales, which
is invoked by petitioner, is not applicable to the instant case, since the issue in that case was whether
or not the Ombudsman followed the proper procedure in conducting a preliminary investigation and the
corollary issue of whether or not petitioner was afforded an opportunity to be heard and to submit
controverting evidence which are not the issues in this case.

Hence, herein petition on the following grounds:

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A GRAVE REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT


HOLDING THAT THE HONORABLE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE
OF DISCRETION IN ISSUING HIS MODIFIED RESOLUTION FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE
AGAINST PETITIONER FOR VIOLATION OF B.P. BLG. 22, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE
HONORABLE SECRETARY HAS AGREED WITH THE FINDING OF THE QUEZON CITY
PROSECUTION OFFICE DISMISSING THE CHARGE OF ESTAFA AGAINST PETITIONER.

II

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT


GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO PETITIONER’S CLAIM THAT THE SUBJECT CHECKS
WERE NOT ISSUED TO ACCOUNT OR FOR VALUE BUT SOLELY TO GUARANTEE RUBY
AGUILAR’S CHECKS, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THAT IT IS UNDISPUTED THAT PETITIONER
HAD NO BUSINESS DEALINGS WHATSOEVER WITH THE RESPONDENT REGARDING RICE
PROCUREMENTS.

III

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT


HOLDING THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO GO TO TRIAL IN THE INSTANT CASE BECAUSE EVEN
DURING THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED BY THE QUEZON CITY
PROSECUTION OFFICE, THE SAID PROSECUTION OFFICE HAD FOUND THAT NO PRIMA
FACIE OR PROBABLE CAUSE EXISTS TO WARRANT THE FILING OF THE COMPLAINTS OF
ESTAFA AND VIOLATION OF B.P. BLG. 22 AGAINST THE PETITIONER.

IV

THE AFFIRMANCE BY THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE MODIFIED


RESOLUTION OF THE HONORABLE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE DIRECTING THE FILING OFAN
INFORMATION AGAINST PETITIONER FOR VIOLATION OF B.P. BLG. 22 OVERLOOKED THE
FACT THAT RESPONDENT WOULD BE UNJUSTLY ENRICHED AT THE EXPENSE OF
PETITIONER AND THE DEBTOR, MS RUBY AGUILAR, IN THE FORM OF IMPOSITION OF A
FINE WHICH IS DOUBLE THE AMOUNT OF THE BOUNCED CHECKS. 9

The main issue to be resolved is whether the CA erred in ruling that the Secretary of Justice did not
commit grave abuse of discretion in finding that there is probable cause for the filing of information
against petitioner for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.
Petitioner alleges that the CA should not have sustained the modified resolution of the Secretary of
Justice because the Secretary misappreciated her defense, i.e., that Aguilar lost her Metrobank
checkbook and borrowed her check and that she issued the subject checks on the condition that the
same will be replaced when Aguilar’s new checkbook is issued, thus the subject checks are merely
accommodation or guarantee checks; that it was Aguilar who tendered them to respondent in payment
of her rice procurements from him; that the subject checks were not intended for encashment; that
Aguilar subsequently issued her own checks dated July 20, 1996 and August 20, 1996, for P431,555.00
each as replacement for the subject checks; that such substitution was with respondent’s knowledge,
since the arrangement was brought to his attention through a letter dated July 19, 1996.

Petitioner insists that none of the elements of the offense of B.P. Blg. 22 were present; the first element
is absent, since the subject checks were not intended to apply on account or for value in favor of
respondent, as petitioner had no business transaction on rice procurements with respondent; the
second element is also absent because it is undisputed that at the time petitioner issued the checks,
she had substantial deposits with FEBTC which can readily fund her checks upon presentment or
maturity; that the reason for the dishonor was "stop payment," because she requested the bank to do so
due to a valid reason, i.e., her checks were already replaced by Aguilar’s checks dated July 20, 1996
and August 20, 1996. Petitioner cites Tan v. People,10 in which the petitioner was acquitted of violation
of B.P. Blg. 22 because in ordering the stop payment of her check, there were sufficient funds in her
account.

Petitioner claims that the CA overlooked the fact that the Secretary of Justice absolved her of estafa;
thus, she should also be absolved of violation of B.P. Blg. 22, since both offenses arose from the same
subject checks.

Petitioner contends that the CA misappreciated the importance of a preliminary investigation when it
ruled that the trial on the merits must ensue, and it is on said occasion when petitioner is granted the
opportunity for a full and exhaustive display of her evidence; that it erred in ruling that it is only during
trial that the presence or absence of the first element of B.P. Blg. 22, i.e., whether the subject checks
were issued to apply to account or for value, can be determined; that preliminary investigation should
be given due importance and the determination of whether the first element of B.P. Blg. 22 is present
should not be shifted to the trial court; that contrary to the CA’s finding, Sales is applicable, a case in
which it was ruled that at the preliminary investigation proper, the question whether or not an accused
can be bound over for trial can already be determined; if it was determined at the preliminary
investigation that an accused had not committed the crime charged, then it is useless to still hold a trial
to determine the guilt of the accused, since it can already be determined at the preliminary
investigation.

We are not persuaded.

In a preliminary investigation, the public prosecutor merely determines whether there is probable cause
or sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that the
respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial. 11 Probable cause implies probability
of guilt and requires more than bare suspicion but less than evidence which would justify a
conviction.12 A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than
not, a crime has been committed by the suspect. 13 It does not call for the application of rules and
standards of proof that a judgment of conviction requires after trial on the merits. 14 The complainant
need not present at this stage proof beyond reasonable doubt. A preliminary investigation does not
require a full and exhaustive presentation of the parties’ evidence. 15 It is enough that in the absence of a
clear showing of arbitrariness, credence is given to the finding and determination of probable cause by
the Secretary of Justice in a preliminary investigation. 16

Contrary to petitioner’s claim, respondent sufficiently established the existence of probable cause for
violation of B.P. Blg. 22. Section 1 of B.P. Blg. 22 provides:

SECTION 1. Checks without sufficient funds. - Any person who makes or draws and issues any
check to apply on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does not have
sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its
presentment, which check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of
funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without
any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment, shall be punished by imprisonment of not
less than thirty days but not more than one (1) year or by a fine of not less than but not more
than double the amount of the check which fine shall in no case exceed Two Hundred Thousand
Pesos, or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

The same penalty shall be imposed upon any person who, having sufficient funds in or credit
with the drawee bank when he makes or draws and issues a check, shall fail to keep sufficient
funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check if presented within a period of
ninety (90) days from the date appearing thereon, for which reason it is dishonored by the
drawee bank.

Where the check is drawn by a corporation, company or entity, the person or persons who
actually signed the check in behalf of such drawer shall be liable under this Act.

To be liable for violation of B.P. Blg. 22, the following elements must be present:
1) The accused makes, draws or issues any check to apply to account or for value;

2) The accused knows at the time of the issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds
in, or credit with, the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment;
and

3) The check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit
or it would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid
reason, ordered the bank to stop payment.

The gravamen of the offense punished by B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of making and issuing a worthless
check; that is, a check that is dishonored upon its presentation for payment. 17 In Lozano v.
Martinez,18 we have declared that it is not the non-payment of an obligation which the law punishes.
The law is not intended or designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The thrust of the law is to
prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions, the making and circulation of worthless checks. Because of its
deleterious effects on the public interest, the practice is proscribed by the law. The law punishes the act
not as an offense against property, but an offense against public order. 19 In People v. Nitafan,20 we said
that a check issued as an evidence of debt — though not intended to be presented for payment — has
the same effect as an ordinary check and would fall within the ambit of B.P. Blg. 22.

In this case, petitioner issued the two subject checks in favor of respondent, and when respondent
presented them for payment, they were dishonored for reason of the stop payment order issued by
petitioner. Notably, a certification21 from the bank showed that they returned the checks for that
reason. In addition, contrary to the claim of petitioner, at the time the said checks were presented for
deposit/payment, there were no sufficient funds to cover the same. The mere act of issuing a worthless
check -- whether as a deposit, as a guarantee or even as evidence of pre-existing debt -- is malum
prohibitum.22

Petitioner claims that the subject checks were merely accommodation checks in favor of Aguilar, as they
were not issued to account or for value, since she had no business transactions with respondent-payee.
However, petitioner admitted that she issued the checks for the rice procurement of Aguilar from
respondent which was a valuable consideration. Notably, in respondent’s complaint-affidavit, he alleged
that the subject checks were given to him by Aguilar in payment of the latter’s rice procurements, with
the representation that the subject checks were her collection checks and assuring respondent that
they would be good upon presentment.

On record is a letter23 dated July 31, 1996 of respondent’s counsel to petitioner on the matter of
petitioner’s subject FEBTC Check No. 08A096028P dated July 25, 1996, a letter in which the counsel
wrote that the check which was in partial payment of the obligation due from Aguilar, and that in
return for petitioner’s issuance and delivery of the said check, Aguilar acquired a temporary reprieve on
her obligation.

The validity and merits of a party’s defense and accusation, as well as admissibility of testimonies and
evidence, are better ventilated during trial proper than at the preliminary investigation level.24 A finding
of probable cause does not ensure a conviction or a conclusive finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The allegations adduced by the prosecution will be put to test in a full-blown trial in which evidence
shall be analyzed, weighed, given credence or disproved. 25

In fact, petitioner’s argument that respondent was aware of the fact that the subject checks were only
accommodation checks in favor of Aguilar is not a defense against a charge for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.
In Ruiz v. People of the Philippines,26 where the accused interposed the defense of accommodation party,
we held:

It bears stressing that, whether a person is an accommodation party is a question of intent.


When the intent of the parties does not appear on the face of the check, it must be ascertained
in the light of the surrounding facts and circumstances. Invariably, the tests applied are the
purpose test and the proceeds test. x x x. And even assuming she was such party, this
circumstance is not a defense to a charge for violation of B.P. 22. What the law punishes is the
issuance itself of a bouncing check and not the purpose for which it was issued or of the terms
and conditions relating to its issuance. The mere act of issuing a worthless check, whether
merely as an accommodation, is covered by B.P. 22. Hence, the agreement surrounding the
issuance of a check is irrelevant to the prosecution and conviction of the petitioner. 27

In Meriz v. People of the Philippines,28 we held:

The Court has consistently declared that the cause or reason for the issuance of the check is
inconsequential in determining criminal culpability under BP 22. The Court has since said that
a "check issued as an evidence of debt, although not intended for encashment, has the same
effect like any other check" and must thus be held to be "within the contemplation of BP 22."
Once a check is presented for payment, the drawee bank gives it the usual course whether
issued in payment of an obligation or just as a guaranty of an obligation. BP 22 does not appear
to concern itself with what might actually be envisioned by the parties, its primordial intention
being to instead ensure the stability and commercial value of checks as being virtual substitutes
for currency. It is a policy that can easily be eroded if one has yet to determine the reason for
which checks are issued, or the terms and conditions for their issuance, before an appropriate
application of the legislative enactment can be made. The gravamen of the offense under BP 22
is the act of making or issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon
presentment for payment. The act effectively declares the offense to be one of malum prohibitum.
The only valid query then is whether the law has been breached, i.e., by the mere act of issuing a
bad check, without so much regard as to the criminal intent of the issuer.29

Also, in Cruz v. Court of Appeals,30 we held:

It is now settled that Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 applies even in cases where dishonored checks
are issued merely in the form of a deposit or a guarantee. The enactment in question does not
make any distinction as to whether the checks within its contemplation are issued in payment of
an obligation or merely to guarantee the said obligation. In accordance with the pertinent rule of
statutory construction, inasmuch as the law has not made any distinction in this regard, no
such distinction can be made by means of interpretation or application. Furthermore, the
history of the enactment of subject statute evinces the definite legislative intent to make the
prohibition all-embracing, without making any exception from the operation thereof in favor of a
guarantee. This intent may be gathered from the statement of the sponsor of the bill (Cabinet Bill
No. 9) which was enacted later into Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, when it was introduced before
the Batasan Pambansa, that the bill was introduced to discourage the issuance of bouncing
checks, to prevent checks, from becoming ‘useless scraps of paper’ and to restore respectability
to checks, all without distinction as to the purpose of the issuance of the checks. The legislative
intent as above said is made all the more clear when it is considered that while the original text
of Cabinet Bill No. 9, supra, had contained a proviso excluding from the coverage of the law a
check issued as a mere guarantee, the final version of the bill as approved and enacted by the
Committee on the Revision of Laws in the Batasan deleted the abovementioned qualifying
proviso deliberately for the purpose of making the enforcement of the act more effective (Batasan
Record, First Regular Session, December 4, 1978, Volume II, pp. 1035-1036).

Consequently, what are important are the facts that the accused had deliberately issued the
checks in question to cover accounts and that the checks were dishonored upon presentment
regardless of whether or not the accused merely issued the checks as a guarantee.31

Petitioner invokes our ruling in Magno v. Court of Appeals32 where the accused therein was acquitted
of B.P. Blg. 22 for issuing checks to collateralize an accommodation and not to cover the receipt of
actual account or for value. In Magno, the accused, who was in the process of putting up a car repair
shop, was provided with credit facilities by LS Finance and Management Corporation (LS Finance) to
enable him to lease from MANCOR the needed equipments. As part of their arrangement, LS Finance
required a 30% warranty deposit of the "purchase/lease" value of the equipments to be transacted
upon. Accused then asked the LS Finance Vice President Joey Gomez to look for a third party who could
lend him the equivalent amount of the warranty deposit as he did not have such amount, however,
unknown to the accused, it was Corazon Teng (Vice President of MANCOR) who advanced the deposit in
question on condition that the same would be paid as a short term loan at 3% interest. The accused
subsequently issued checks to collateralize an accommodation made by Teng amounting to Twenty Nine
Thousand Seven Hundred Pesos (P29,700.00) as warranty deposit. Subsequently, the said checks
bounced; thus the accused was prosecuted and the lower courts convicted him of B.P. Blg. 22. On a
Petition for Review on Certiorari, we however acquitted the accused and held that the "cash out" made
by Teng was not used by the accused who was just paying rental on the equipments. To charge him for
the refund of a "warranty deposit" he did not withdraw, because it was not his own account and it
remained with LS Finance, would be to make him pay an unjust "debt," to say the least, since he did
not actually receive the amount involved. We also held that this is a scheme whereby Teng as the
supplier of the equipment in the name of Mancor, would be able to sell or lease its goods as in this case,
and at the same time privately finance those who desperately needed petty accommodations as
obtaining in said case; that this modus operandi, in so many instances, victimized unsuspecting
businessmen who likewise needed protection from the law by availing themselves of the deceptively
called "warranty deposit," not realizing that they would fall prey to a leasing equipment under the guise
of a lease-purchase agreement, when it was a scheme designed to skim off a business client.

It bears stressing that Magno was decided after a full-blown trial, and the proof needed to convict the
accused was proof beyond reasonable doubt, which was not established in that case.

On the other hand, herein case is still in the preliminary investigation stage which is merely
inquisitorial, and it is often the only means of discovering the persons who may be reasonably charged
with a crime, to enable the fiscal to prepare his complaint or information. 33 It is not a trial of the case on
the merits and has no purpose except that of determining whether a crime has been committed and
whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty.34 It is not the occasion for the full
and exhaustive display of the parties’ evidence; it is for the presentation of such evidence only as may
engender a well-grounded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably
guilty thereof.35 We are in accord with the Justice Secretary’s finding that there is reasonable ground to
believe that a violation of B.P. Blg. 22 has been committed by petitioner, thus, we refrain from
prejudging the applicablity or inapplicability of Magno in this case.

Petitioner alleges that at the time she issued the subject checks, she has substantial funds in the bank
to cover the value thereof. This is evidentiary in nature which must be presented during trial more so in
the light of the bank certification that there were no sufficient funds to cover the checks when presented
for deposit/payment.
The law itself creates a prima facie presumption of knowledge of insufficiency of funds. Section 2 of B.P.
Blg. 22 provides:

Section 2. Evidence of knowledge of insufficient funds. — The making, drawing and issuance of a
check payment of which is refused by the drawee bank because of insufficient funds in or credit
with such bank, when presented within ninety (90) days from the date of the check, shall
be prima facie evidence of knowledge of such insufficiency of funds or credit unless such maker
or drawer pays the holder thereof the amount due thereon, or makes arrangements for payment
in full by the drawee of such check within five (5) banking days after receiving notice that such
check has not been paid by the drawee.

Such knowledge is legally presumed from the dishonor of the checks for insufficiency of funds. 36 If not
rebutted, it suffices to sustain a conviction.37

We also find no merit in petitioner’s claim that since the Secretary of Justice absolved her of estafa, she
should also be absolved of violation of B.P. Blg. 22, since both offenses arose from the same subject
checks. While deceit and damage are essential elements in estafa, they are not required in B.P. Blg. 22.
As already aforestated, under B.P. Blg. 22, mere issuance of a check that is dishonored gives rise to the
presumption of knowledge on the part of the drawer that he issued the same without sufficient funds
and is hence punishable.

We do not subscribe to petitioner’s argument that for Aguilar’s rice procurements from respondent,
Aguilar had made substantial payments to respondent through cashier’s checks totalling P313,255.00;
that despite these substantial payments, respondent still wanted to collect from petitioner’s subject
checks the total amount of P863,110.00; that respondent wanted to collect from both petitioner and
Aguilar for the latter’s rice procurement. It is during the trial of this case that evidence may be
introduced to prove petitioner’s contentions. As of now, it has been established that when the subject
checks were deposited, they were all dishonored.

Furthermore, the allegation of petitioner that if the information for B.P. Blg. 22 would be filed and in the
remote event that petitioner would be found guilty thereof, then the trial court may impose a fine double
the amount of the checks, which fine may amount to millions of pesos; and that this is unjust
enrichment on respondent’s part at the expense of petitioner and Aguilar deserves scant consideration.
Suffice it to state that the fine that may be imposed by the court is not awarded to the private
complainant. Fine is imposed as a penalty and not as payment for a specific loss or injury. 38

In fine, the CA did not commit any error in upholding the findings of the Secretary of Justice that
probable cause exists that the crime of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 has been committed by petitioner.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated April 26, 2002 and the Resolution dated
July 29, 2002 of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Ynares-Santiago, Chairperson, Chico-Nazario, Nachura, Reyes, JJ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 161179 : August 7, 2007]

NACE SUE P. BUAN, Petitioner, v. FRANCISCO T. MATUGAS, Respondent.

DECISION

GARCIA, J.:

Assailed and sought to be set aside in this Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court are
the following issuances of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 74094, to wit:

1. Decision1 dated September 4, 2003, reversing and setting aside the resolutions of the Secretary of
Justice which overturned that of the City Prosecutor of Pasay City and directed him to cause the filing
of an information for attempted rape against herein respondent; andcralawlibrary

2. Resolution2 dated December 9, 2003, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

The current proceedings were started on May 9, 2001 with a complaint for attempted rape filed by
petitioner against the herein respondent, alleging the following facts:
Back in 1995, petitioner was a regular employee of the provincial government of Surigao del Norte where
respondent, Francisco Matugas, was then the provincial governor. Sometime from July 22 to 28, 1995,
respondent asked petitioner to accompany him to Manila, allegedly on the pretense that the trip was
work-related.

The complaint alleges that on one of those days from July 22 to 28, 1995, respondent asked petitioner
to join him for lunch at Heritage Hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, however, respondent allegedly asked
her to accompany him first to his room to get some important papers. Once inside the room, respondent
opened his attache case to look for his papers while petitioner excused herself to go to the comfort room.
After she came out of the comfort room, the Governor also used the comfort room.

Afterwards, the Governor came out of the comfort room allegedly without any shirt on, explaining that
he would have to change his shirt to be dressed properly when meeting some guests during lunch.
Then, without any warning, he suddenly grabbed petitioner by her shoulder as he passed by the chair
she was seated on, embraced and kissed her, prompting her to resist by pushing and elbowing him,
causing him to lose his balance and immediately desisted.

Thereafter, petitioner reported the incident to her mother who prevailed on her not to file any complaint
yet since respondent was still powerful and influential being the Provincial Governor of Surigao del
Norte at that time. Petitioner nevertheless decided to immediately resign from her work at the Provincial
Government.

Almost six years later, or on May 9, 2001, petitioner finally gathered enough courage to execute and file
an affidavit-complaint against the respondent before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasay City. On
the same date, petitioner's mother executed a corroborating affidavit.

On June 22, 2001, the respondent executed and submitted his counter-affidavit belying petitioner's
allegations. He averred that he was never billeted in Heritage Hotel and his tight schedule would not
allow him to be at the scene of the alleged crime. On July 2, 2001, petitioner filed her reply-affidavit and
the case was thereafter deemed submitted for resolution.

In a Resolution dated July 5, 2001, the City Prosecutor of Pasay City dismissed the complaint for lack of
probable cause prompting petitioner to file an appeal with the Department of Justice on July 20, 2001.

On February 13, 2002, the Secretary of Justice issued a Resolution reversing the findings of the City
Prosecutor and holding that there is reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and
that respondent is probably guilty thereof. A subsequent Resolution of September 30, 2002 denied
respondent's motion for reconsideration.

On November 28, 2002, respondent filed with the CA a Petition for Certiorariunder Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court with prayer for preliminary injunction, claiming grave abuse of discretion on the part of the
Secretary of Justice in the issuance of the aforementioned resolutions. The petition was docketed in the
appellate court as CA-G.R. SP No. 74094.

In its decision of September 4, 2003, the Special Division of Five of the CA reversed and set aside the
questioned resolutions of the Secretary of Justice, and ordered the dismissal of the criminal information
for Attempted Rape filed against the respondent then pending before Branch 111 of the Regional Trial
Court of Pasay City, thus:

WHEREFORE, the petition is granted. The questioned resolutions of the Secretary of Justice dated 13
February 2002 and 30 September 2002 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the criminal
information for Attempted Rape filed against the petitioner (now respondent) before Branch III of the
Regional Trial Court of Pasay City is ordered dismissed.

SO ORDERED.

Then Associate Justice Romeo A. Brawner (now a Comelec Commissioner) dissented from the majority,
voting to uphold the ruling of the Secretary of Justice and to dismiss respondent's petition.

Her motion for reconsideration having been denied by the CA in its Resolution of December 9, 2003,
petitioner is now with this Court via the present recourse, raising the main issue of whether the CA had
erred in holding that the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion when he overturned
the findings of the City Prosecutor.

The petition is impressed with merit.

First off, it should be stressed that the CA is empowered under its certiorari jurisdiction to annul and
declare void the questioned resolutions of the Secretary of Justice, but only on two (2) grounds, namely,
lack of jurisdiction, and grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

The task before us now is to determine whether the CA correctly exercised its power, or, better still,
whether the CA gravely erred when it REVERSED and SET ASIDE the questioned resolutions of the
Secretary of Justice by substituting its own judgment to that of the former. Admittedly, the CA has the
original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari not only under the Rules but also under the judicial
power granted to courts by no less that the Constitution. 3 But, the question is, can the CA reverse and
set aside a decision of the Secretary of Justice and substitute its own judgment, as it did in this
case?cralaw library

Definitely not.

The power to reverse and set aside partakes of an appellate jurisdiction which the CA does not have
over judgments of the Secretary of Justice exercising quasi-judicial functions.

There is a whale of a difference between the CA's power of review in the exercise of its appellate
jurisdiction and its original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari as that filed by the respondent in CA-
G.R. SP No. 74094.4 Certiorari power is limited to questions of jurisdiction and grave abuse of discretion
only. Wisdom or error of judgment on the part of the Secretary of Justice in arriving at his conclusions
of fact and law which is proper in an appeal cannot legitimately be the subject of review in a petition
for certiorari before the CA because the decision of the Secretary of Justice is not appealable to the CA.

It is only too unfortunate that the CA confused these two powers in resolving the petition
for certiorarilodged before it by the respondent. It is now our duty to put things in their proper light.

The assailed CA decision starts out on precarious footing when it made the following pronouncements:

At the outset, it must be stated that while in this petition We are not called upon to pronounce the
innocence or guilt of the [respondent], in the very nature of things, however, We are doubtless really
asked to determine whether it was ultimately fair, just, even necessary, on the basis of the factual
details and circumstances alleged in the complaint itself, for the government to have allowed said
complainant [herein petitioner] to sully [respondent's] name and reputation and stigmatize his family,
and put him to great inconvenience and expense, to say nothing of the repercussions upon his political
future, x x x5 (Words in bracket added).

In his dissenting opinion,6 Justice Brawner correctly pointed out:

x x x [B]y considering such extraneous matters as the possible effect a pending rape case will have on
his [respondent's] political future, [the decision] may send the wrong signal to other litigants that a [sic]
one set of rules apply to those who are wealthy and powerful, and another to those who are possessed of
neither fortune nor authority: that to the former, the Courts show a more merciful and indulgent
[judiciary]; but to the latter, the Judiciary if harsh and unbending. 7

We thus agree with the observation of Justice Brawner that the only issue rightfully presented before
the CA was whether or not the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion in reversing the
findings of the City Prosecutor, dismissing the complaint, and directing the filing of an information for
attempted rape against the herein respondent.

This is, as it should be for the determination of probable cause, a function that, by law, pertains to the
public prosecutor.8 Absent a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of
jurisdiction, the appellate court is precluded, under the principle of separation of powers, from usurping
the investigatory and prosecutory powers granted by the Constitution to the executive branch, the
Department of Justice.

There is grave abuse of discretion only when there is a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment
as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, such as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic
manner by reason of passion and personal hostility, and it must be so patent or gross as to constitute
an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform the duty or to act at all in contemplation of
law.9Not every error in the proceedings, or every erroneous conclusion of law or fact, is grave abuse of
discretion.10 Hence, in his dissent, Justice Brawner noted with dismay:

x x x Sadly, the majority, in resolving the issue, may have trodden on territory forbidden to the
Judicature when they completely foreclosed the right of [petitioner] to a trial of her accusations on the
merits, by substituting the judgment of this Court to that of the agency of the Executive Branch
specifically tasked with the prosecution of criminal offenses. Differently stated, We may have acted like
prosecutors when We should have acted more magisterially. 11

xxx

x x x While a resolution of the existence of grave abuse in this case necessitates an examination of the
evidence on record, such evaluation should never touch upon the quality of the evidence, or the
defenses to which the same are subject, but should be confined to a determination of whether or not
there is such evidence as to support the act of the respondent Secretary, regardless of whether or not
the same may later be shown to be of little probative value during trial. Nor should certiorari issue
simply because We happen to disagree with the conclusions of the Secretary of Justice. For here, We are
not a trier of facts. That office properly belongs to the trial court, and all allegations pointing towards
the exculpation of the petitioner are matters of evidence, which should be put forward during trial. x x
x12
The CA, in reviewing and weighing/evaluating the evidence submitted, exercised appellate jurisdiction
and stepped down to the role of becoming a trier of facts which is definitely uncalled for under the
circumstances. The appellate court had "jumped the gun," so to speak, when it had, for all intents and
purposes, acquitted the respondent based on the facts alleged and the defenses he raised in denial of
said allegations. It had, indeed, missed a crucial step: the trial proper. Had the respondent been
convicted by the trial court and an appeal therefrom taken to the CA, then the latter's consideration of
such matters as his defense of alibi would be proper, but not in a certiorari proceedings before it.

We may also be well reminded that the purpose of preliminary investigation is to determine whether
there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief as to the fact of the commission of a crime
and the respondent's probable guilt thereof.13 A finding of probable cause need only rest on evidence
showing that more likely than not a crime has been committed and was committed by the suspect.
While probable cause demands more than bare suspicion, it requires less than evidence which would
justify conviction. A finding of probable cause merely binds over the suspect to stand trial. It is not a
pronouncement of guilt.14

It is exclusively within the ambit of the prosecutor's powers to determine whether probable cause exists
and which crime to prosecute for. Should it be determined later on after a full-blown trial where a full
account can be made of the incident, that not all the elements of attempted rape exist, it is then for the
trial court to acquit respondent or convict him for a lesser crime necessarily included therein such as
acts of lasciviousness or unjust vexation. But the Secretary of Justice has the discretion to determine
for which crime he should prosecute for.

It is understandable for the prosecutor to ordinarily aim high. It has a valid reason. There are many
instances when, for example, an information for murder is filed and the trial court finds it to be only
homicide due to the failure of the prosecution to prove certain qualifying circumstances. These are
instances when the prosecution deems it prudent to play safe because had it only filed an information
for homicide and facts come out during trial that could qualify the crime to murder, there would be
nothing that can be done to change the crime charged, lest a violation of due process or double jeopardy
results. The same logic applies in the present case. It is for the trial

court to decide whether lewd design exists. Again, to quote Justice Brawner in his dissenting opinion:

x x x [W]hen the majority states in its decision that there is an absence of lewd designs on the part of
the petitioner, it exercises a power properly the province of an investigating prosecutor. And when it
argues that the crime committed is acts of lasciviousness or perhaps merely unjust vexation, it plays a
role not given to it by the rules governing the Judiciary. For "lewd designs" is a state of the mind not
discernible by a simple reading of the dry, lifeless pages of [petitioner's] complaint affidavit or
[respondent's] counter-affidavit: it is a creature whose being, or lack thereof, must be threshed out in a
full-blown trial wherein parties are given the opportunity to give their testimony in open court and the
opponent given the chance to cross-examine, under the watchful eye of the trial judge who observes
with an adept eye the truthfulness of the witness' avowals. x x x (Words in brackets supplied).

In fine, we rule and so hold that the Secretary of Justice committed no grave abuse of discretion when it
found the existence of probable cause. The CA, therefore, had erred in reversing its findings at this
embryonic stage of the proceedings.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, and the assailed decision and resolution of the CA
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, C.J., Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, Azcuna, JJ., concur.

WHO DETERMINES PROBABLE CAUSE?

[G.R. No. 108251. January 31, 1996]

CEFERINO S. PAREDES, JR. and MANSUETO J. HONRADA, petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE
SANDIGANBAYAN, Second Division; HONORABLE ANIANO DESIERTO, in his official capacity
as Special Prosecutor; HONORABLE CONRADO M. VASQUEZ, in his official capacity as
Ombudsman; and TEOFILO GELACIO, respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION; MAY BE INITIATED
AND CONCLUDED BY DIFFERENT INVESTIGATORS. - Petitioners contend that the filing of charges
against them was not recommended by the prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation,
but by another one who, it is alleged, had no part at all in the investigation. There is no basis for
petitioners claim that the resolution was prepared by one who did not take any part in the
investigation. What happened here is similar to the trial of a case by one judge who, without being
able to finish the hearing, ceases from office for one reason or another and by necessity the decision
is rendered by another judge who has taken over the conduct of the case. Such an arrangement has
never been thought to raise any question of due process. For what is important is that the judge who
decides does so on the basis of the evidence in record. It does not matter that he did not conduct the
hearing of that case from the beginning.
2. ID.; EVIDENCE; WEIGHT AND SUFFICIENCY; CERTIFICATE; VALUE NOT DIMINISHED BY
FAILURE TO ANTICIPATE THAT HIS CERTIFICATE WOULD BE USED IN EVIDENCE. - That
Violan gave credence to the Certification of Judge Ario in concluding that no arraignment had been
held in Criminal Case No. 1393 is not proof that Violan was biased against petitioners. Although
Judge Ario subsequently gave an Affidavit, he never in that Affidavit repudiated what he had earlier
stated. Judge Ario never denied his earlier Certification that Criminal Case No. 1393 never reached
the arraignment stave, because having learned that Paredes, Jr. had petitioned the Ministry of Justice
for a review of the fiscals resolution, Judge Ario suspended action until March 17, 1986 and in fact
the fiscal later moved for the dismissal of the case. The fact that Judge Ario did not anticipate that
his certificate might be used in evidence, much less in the criminal cases now pending in the
Sandiganbayan, is not a reason to disregard it. The fact is that Judge Ario did not retract his previous
Certification that there was no arraignment held in Criminal Case No. 1393. If that is the truth, then
the fact that he now says he did not anticipate that his certificate would be used in evidence in any
case would not diminish a whit the value of the certificate.
3. ID.; EVIDENCE; ADMISSIBILITY; RETRACTION OF AFFIDAVIT MADE IN VIOLATION OF
ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE, INADMISSIBLE. - There is nothing in the resolution of Violan
which shows that she based her conclusion (that petitioners were probably guilty of falsification of
public documents) on Atty. Sansaets retraction. In her resolution, all that she stated is that the
confession of Atty. Sansaet has important bearing in this case. Otherwise she did not cite the
confession as proof of the falsification of public documents. To the contrary, Violan thought that the
retraction was made in violation of attorney-client privilege and therefore, would be inadmissible in
evidence. Violan could not, therefore, have relied on the affidavit of retraction.
4. ID.; DISQUALIFICATION OF JUDGES; DIVERGENCE OF OPINIONS BETWEEN A JUDGE AND A
PARTYS COUNSEL, NOT A GROUND. - Mere divergence of opinions between a judge and a partys
counsel as to applicable laws and jurisprudence is not sufficient ground for disqualifying the judge
from hearing the case on the ground of bias and partiality.
5. ID.; ACTIONS; MERE FILING OF SEVERAL CASES BASED ON THE SAME INCIDENT, NOT FORUM-
SHOPPING; TEST. - The mere filing of several cases based on the same incident does not necessarily
constitute forum-shopping. The test is whether the several actions filed involve the same
transactions, essential facts, and circumstances.
6. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASES INVOLVING SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT TRANSACTIONS, FACTS AND
CIRCUMSTANCES, NOT FORUM SHOPPING; CASE AT BAR. - Here, although several cases were
filed by the same complainant against the same defendant and the subject matter of the actions of
two of the cases was the same incident (i.e., the application for free patent of petitioner Ceferino
Paredes, Jr.), the fact is that the several cases involve essentially different facts, circumstances and
causes of action. Thus, Criminal Case No. 1393, which was filed in the MCTC of San Francisco,.
Agusan del Sur, was for perjury, based on false statements allegedly made in 1975 by petitioner
Paredes, Jr. in connection with his free patent application. Criminal Case No. 13800, which was filed
in the Sandiganbayan, although based on the filing of the same application for free patent, was for
violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act, on the allegation that petitioner, as Provincial
Attorney, had unduly influenced the Public Land Inspector to secure the approval of his free patent
application. On the other hand, as already stated, the present cases (Criminal Case Nos. 17791,
17792 and 17793) are for falsification of court records pertaining to Criminal Case No. 1393. A.P.
Case No. P-90-396 is an administrative case against petitioner Honrada based on the same incident
and facts that are subject of the preceding criminal cases. The rest are incidents of these cases, being
the petition for review and motions for reconsideration ifl Criminal Case No. 13800 and A.P. Case No.
P-90-396. Thus the present cases involve substantially different transactions, facts and
circumstances from those involved in the other, though related, cases. Although they arose from the
same incident, i.e., petitioners public land application, they involve different issues. It is well settled
that a single act may offend against two or more distinct and related provisions of law or that the
same act may give rise to criminal as well as administrative liability. As such, they may be prosecuted
simultaneously or one after another, so long as they do not place the accused in double jeopardy of
being punished for the same offense.
7. ID.; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; DISMISSAL OF ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT DOES NOT
NECESSARILY BAR FILING OF CRIMINAL PROSECUTION. - Petitioners call attention to the fact
that the administrative complaint against petitioner Honrada was dismissed. They invoke our ruling
in Maceda v. Vasquez that only this Court has the power to oversee court personnels compliance with
laws and take the appropriate administrative action against them for their failure to do so and that
no other branch of the government may exercise this power without running afoul of the principle of
separation of powers. But one thing is administrative liability. Quite another thing is the criminal
liability for the same act. Our determination of the administrative liability for falsification of public
documents is in no way conclusive of his lack of criminal liability. As we have held in Tan v.
Comelec, the dismissal of an administrative case does not necessarily bar the filing of a criminal
prosecution for the same or similar acts which were the subject of the administrative complaint.
8. ID.; ID.; POLITICALLY MOTIVATED FILING OF CRIMINAL CHARGE CANNOT JUSTIFY
PROHIBITION OF CRIMINAL PROSECUTION IF THERE IS EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT. - That
the filing of the charges is politically motivated cannot justify the prohibition of a criminal prosecution
if there is otherwise evidence to support them. Here a preliminary investigation of the complaint
against petitioners was held during which petitioners were heard. Their evidence, as well as that of
private respondent Gelacio, was considered in great detail in the resolution of GIO II Violan. Violans
resolution was reviewed by Special Prosecutor Erdulfo Querubin who made his own detailed
resolution concurring in the finding of Violan. We cannot say that, in approving the resolutions of
two investigators, the respondent Ombudsman and Special Prosecutor committed an abuse of their
discretion.
9. ID.; ID.; PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION; PURPOSE. - A preliminary investigation is not a trial. The
function of the government prosecutor during the preliminary investigation is merely to determine
the existence of probable cause.
10. ID.; ID.; POLITICAL HARASSMENT; REQUISITES; CASE AT BAR. - To warrant a finding of political
harassment so as to justify the grant of the extraordinary writs of certiorari and prohibition, it must
be shown that the complainant possesses the power and the influence to control the prosecution of
cases. Here, the prosecution is handled by the Office of the Ombudsman. Although it is intimated
that petitioner Ceferino S. Paredes, Jr. is the subject of persecution by his political enemies in Agusan
del Sur, it has not been alleged, much less shown, that his enemies have influence and power over
the national prosecution service. To show political harassment petitioners must prove that public
prosecutor, and not just the private complainant, is acting in bad faith in prosecuting the case or has
lent himself to a scheme that could have no other purpose than to place the accused in contempt
and disrepute. For it is only if he does so may the prosecutor, in conducting the preliminary
investigation, be said to have deserted the performance of his office to determine objectively and
impartially the existence of probable cause and thus justify judicial intervention in what is essentially
his province.
APPEARANCES OF COUNSEL
Rolando A. Suarez & Associates for petitioners.
Esmeraldo I. Guloy for private respondent.

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction, seeking to set aside the resolution
dated December 9, 1992 of the Office of the Ombudsman, denying petitioners motion for the
reinvestigation of three cases of falsification of public documents which had been filed against petitioners
and to restrain the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan from hearing the cases.
The cases originated in a complaint filed on January 23, 1990 by Teofilo Gelacio, then vice mayor of
San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Charged with petitioner Paredes, Jr., who was then the provincial
governor, were petitioner Mansueto J. Honrada, clerk of court of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San
Francisco, Agusan del Sur, and Atty. Generoso Sansaet, counsel of petitioner Paredes, Jr. in Criminal
Case No. 1393 of the MCTC.
In his complaint Gelacio alleged that MCTC clerk of court Honrada, in conspiracy with petitioner
Paredes, Jr. and the latters counsel Atty. Sansaet, certified as true a copy of a Notice of Arraignment dated
July 1, 1985 and of the Transcript of Stenographic Notes on July 9, 1985, showing that an arraignment
had been held in Criminal Case No. 1393 and issued a certification dated March 24, 1986 to that effect
when in truth no arraignment had been held in that case. In support of his allegation, Gelacio submitted
a Certification issued by Judge Ciriaco C. Ario of the MCTC to the effect that Criminal Case No. 1393 had
never reached the arraignment stage before it was dismissed on motion of the prosecution. 1
A preliminary investigation of the complaint was conducted by Public Prosecutor Albert Axalan who
had been deputized to assist the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao. Petitioners and Atty. Sansaet, as
respondents in the case, filed their respective counter-affidavits. Paredes, Jr. denied the charges. He
alleged that their filing was politically motivated and that the complainant, Teofilo Gelacio, was being
used by his political enemies to harass him. For his part, Honrada maintained that an arraignment had
indeed been held in Criminal Case No. 1393 as certified by him. His claim was corroborated by Atty.
Generoso Sansaet, who stated in an affidavit that he was present during the arraignment, being the
counsel of Paredes, Jr. Sansaet called Judge Arios Certification, denying that there was an arraignment,
the product of a faltering mind.2
Prosecutor Axalan submitted his resolution to the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao, but before it
could be acted upon, Atty. Sansaet, one of the respondents, retracted his earlier statement to the effect
that Paredes, Jr. had been arraigned before the case against him was dismissed. In an Affidavit of
Explanations and Rectifications dated July 29, 1991, Sansaet claimed that there was really no
arraignment held in Criminal Case No. 1393 and that Honrada made false certifications which were used
to support the dismissal (on the ground of double jeopardy) of Criminal Case No. 13800 which was then
pending against Paredes, Jr. in the Sandiganbayan. 3
As a result of this development, Paredes, Jr. and Honrada, were required to comment. Paredes, Jr.
claimed that the Sansaets aboutface was the result of their political estrangement. 4 For his part Honrada
insisted that an arraignment in Criminal Case No. 1393 had indeed been held and that in making the
certifications in question he stated the truth.
On the basis of the evidence of the parties, Gay Maggie Balajadia-Violan, Graft Investigation Officer
of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman, recommended on February 24, 1992 that petitioners and Atty.
Sansaet be charged with Falsification of Public Documents. Her recommendation was indorsed by Deputy
Ombudsman Cesar Nitorreda to Ombudsman Conrado Vasquez, Who, upon the recommendation of
Erdulfo Querubin of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, approved the filing of three informations for
falsification of public documents against Paredes, Jr., Honrada and Sansaet with the
Sandiganbayan.5 The cases were docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 17791, 17792 and 17793.
On July 9, 1992, petitioners moved to quash the informations. Their motion was denied by the
Sandiganbayan in its resolution of August 25, 1992, as was the motion for reconsideration they
subsequently filed.
Petitioners next moved for a reinvestigation of the cases. They complained (1) that the resolution,
recommending the filing of the cases, was not prepared by Public Prosecutor Axalan, who had conducted
the preliminary investigation, but by GIO II Gay Maggie Balajadia-Violan, who allegedly had no hand in
the investigation; (2) that Violan relied solely on the retraction of Atty. Generoso Sansaet and the
Certification of Judge Ciriaco C. Ario and disregarded evidence in favor of petitioners; and (3) that
Prosecutor Erdulfo Q. Querubin, who reviewed Violans recommendation, could not be expected to act
fairly because he was the prosecutor in Criminal Case No. 13800 in connection with which the allegedly
falsified records were used and in fact appealed the dismissal of the case to this Court. 6
Although these grounds were the same ones invoked by petitioners in their motion to quash, which
the Sandiganbayan had denied, the Sandiganbayan nonetheless directed the prosecution to conduct a
reinvestigation of the cases. Accordingly, the Office of the Ombudsman required complainant, the herein
respondent Teofilo Gelacio, to comment on petitioners Motion for Reinvestigation.
In a resolution dated December 9, 1992, Special Prosecution Officer Carlos D. Montemayor
recommended denial of petitioners motion. He noted that the matters raised in the motion were the same
ones contained in petitioners motion to quash which had already been denied and that in fact a cursory
examination of the resolution of GIO II Gay Maggie Balajadia-Violan shows that the existence of a prima
facie case has been duly established and the same was reviewed by SPO III Erdulfo Querubin and also
the approval of Honorable Conrado M. Vasquez. He held that as no newly-discovered evidence or denial
of due process had been shown, there was no basis for petitioners request for a reinvestigation.
Montemayors recommendation was approved by Special Prosecutor Aniano Desierto and
Ombudsman Conrado Vasquez. Accordingly the Sandiganbayan set the cases for trial.
The present petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction was then filed to enjoin the trial of the
criminal cases. Petitioners pray that:

(1) Upon the filing of this petition and before its final resolution, to issue a temporary restraining order
immediately ordering the Sandiganbayan, Second Division, to cease and desist from proceeding with the
scheduled hearing of this case;

(2) After due hearing, to adjudge that respondents Honorable Special Prosecutor Aniano A. Desierto and
Honorable Ombudsman Conrado M. Vasquez have committed grave abuse of discretion, amounting to
lack of jurisdiction, in issuing and approving the questioned resolution dated December 9, 1992 and
ordering said resolution denying petitioners motion for reinvestigation be annulled and set aside;

(3) To adjudge that the Sandiganbayan, Second Division, is without jurisdiction to try Criminal Case
Nos. 17791, 17792, and 17793 all of which are apparently intended as political harassments against
the herein petitioners, particularly as against Ceferino S. Paredes, Jr., and prohibiting the said court
from proceeding (with) the hearing of the said cases on January 15, 1993, and likewise ordering the
said court to dismiss the said cases, with costs against respondents and Teofilo Gelacio; and

(4) To issue a writ of injunction, thereby making the restraining order permanent, and prohibiting the
respondents and complainant Teofilo Gelacio from committing any act or acts tending to harass and to
inflict further damage and injury to petitioners, such as but not limited to the continuation and further
prosecution of said Criminal Cases Nos. 17791, 17792, and 17793.

Petitioners contend (1) that their constitutional right to due process was violated at various stages of
the preliminary investigation; (2) that the prosecutors closed their eyes to the fact that in filing the cases
private respondent Teofilo Gelacio engaged in forum-shopping; and (3) that the cases were filed for political
harassment and there is in fact no prima facie evidence to hold them answerable for falsification of public
documents.7

I.

Anent the first ground, petitioners contend that the filing of charges against them was not
recommended by the prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation, but by another one who,
it is alleged, had no part at all in the investigation.
Petitioners contention has no basis in fact. It appears that the preliminary investigation of the
complaint filed by Teofilo Gelacio was initially conducted by Public Prosecutor Albert Axalan who had
been deputized to assist the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao in the investigation of graft cases. Axalan
prepared a resolution. The records do not show what his recommendation was. What is clear, however,
is that no action had been taken on his recommendation in view of the fact that Atty. Generoso Sansaet,
one of the respondents in the cases, retracted an earlier statement he had given to the effect that petitioner
Ceferino S. Paredes, Jr. had been arraigned in Criminal Case No. 1393 before the case was dismissed.
Atty. Sansaet now claimed that no arraignment had been held after all. This new development required
the reopening of the investigation (in fact Paredes, Jr. and Honrada were required to comment on the
retraction), the reevaluation of the evidence, and the preparation of a new resolution. Gay Maggie
Balajadia-Violan, Graft Investigation Officer II of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao, was
designated to conduct the investigation and prepare a report, which she did.
Violans recommendation was indorsed by Deputy Ombudsman Cesar Nitorreda to Ombudsman
Conrado Vasquez, who then referred the matter to Special Prosecution Officer Ill Erdulfo Querubin for
review. Querubin concurred in the recommendation of Violan but suggested that, instead of one, three
separate informations for falsification of public documents be filed against respondents (Paredes, Jr.,
Honrada and Sansaet), considering that three documents were involved.
On June 26, 1992, Ombudsman Conrado Vasquez approved the recommendations of Violan and
Querubin. Accordingly three cases were filed against petitioners with the Sandiganbayan, where they were
docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 17791, 17792 and 17793.
There is thus no basis for petitioners claim that the resolution was prepared by one who did not take
any part in the investigation. What happened here is similar to the trial of a case by one judge who,
without being able to finish the hearing, ceases from office for one reason or another and by necessity the
decision is rendered by another judge who has taken over the conduct of the case. Such an arrangement
has never been thought to raise any question of due process. For what is important is that the judge who
decides does so on the basis of the evidence in record. It does not matter that he did not conduct the
hearing of that case from the beginning.
Petitioners nonetheless charge that GIO II Violan and Prosecutor Querubin did not have such cold
neutrality of an impartial judge to be trusted to conduct a fair investigation. According to petitioners,
Violan gave credence to the Certification issued by Judge Ciriaco C. Ario when the fact is that Judge Ario
subsequently executed an affidavit, dated November 5, 1990, in which he explained that he issued the
said certificate without expectation that the same would be used as evidence in any case and that the use
of said certificate . . . is against [his] conscience. Worse, it is contended, Violan considered the Affidavit of
Explanations and Rectifications executed by Atty. Sansaet, which she should have disregarded because
it was made in violation of the confidentiality of attorney-client communication under Rule 130, 24 (b) of
the Rules of Court. As for Prosecutor Querubin, they claim that he is the same prosecutor who had
handled the prosecution of Criminal Case No. 13800 against petitioner Paredes, Jr. in the Sandiganbayan
and after its dismissal, sought review in this Court and, therefore, he was biased against petitioners.
That Violan gave credence to the Certification of Judge Ario in concluding that no arraignment had
been held in Criminal Case No. 1393 is not proof that Violan was biased against petitioners. Although
Judge Ario subsequently gave an Affidavit, he never in that Affidavit repudiated what he had earlier stated.
In his Affidavit he merely stated:
1. That I am the incumbent Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge in the First Municipal Circuit
Trial Court of San Francisco-Rosario-Bunawan, Agusan del Sur;
2. That I am the same Ciriaco C. Ario who issued a certificate in Criminal Case No. 1393 entitled
Pp. vs. Ceferino S. Paredes, Jr. which certificate was used as evidence in administrative
complaint against Mansueto J. Honrada, in the Administrative Complaint No. A.M. P-90-396
and Criminal Complaint against Mansueto J. Honrada, incumbent Governor Ceferino S.
Paredes, Jr. and Atty. Generoso S. Sansaet before the Ombudsman under Criminal Case No.
OBM-MIN-90-0053 (sic) entitled Teofilo Gelacio vs. Mansueto J. Honrada, et. al.;
3. That honestly, the said certificate was issued without my expectation that the same be used
as evidence in any case and I be a witness;
4. That the use of said certificate as evidence in the above-mentioned cases is against my
conscience, more so upon discovery that the cases aforesaid are known to me to be politically
motivated and involves [sic] big time politicians in Agusan del Sur about whom I am not at
liberty to name names for security reason;
5. That in view of all the foregoing, I am not interested to testify in any investigation to be
conducted in connection thereof, either in the administrative or criminal proceedings.
Thus, Judge Ario never denied his earlier Certification that Criminal Case No. 1393 never reached
the arraignment stage, because having learned that Paredes, Jr. had petitioned the Ministry of Justice for
a review of the fiscals resolution, Judge Ario suspended action until March 17, 1986 and in fact the fiscal
later moved for the dismissal of the case.
The fact that Judge Ario did not anticipate that his certificate might be used in evidence, much less
in the criminal cases now pending in the Sandiganbayan, is not a reason to disregard it. The fact is that
Judge Ario did not retract his previous Certification that there was no arraignment held in Criminal Case
No. 1393. If that is the truth, then the fact that he now says he did not anticipate that his certificate
would be used in evidence in any case would not diminish a whit the value of the certificate.
Nor was consideration of the retraction of Atty. Sansaet proof that GIO II Violan was biased against
petitioners. Petitioners contend that Sansaets confession was privileged and that Violan herself
acknowledged that the affidavit of retraction might be inadmissible in court.
In the first place, there is nothing in the resolution of Violan which shows that she based her
conclusion (that petitioners were probably guilty of falsification of public documents) on Atty. Sansaets
retraction. In her resolution, all that she stated is that the confession of Atty. Sansaet has important
bearing in this case. Otherwise she did not cite the confession as proof of the falsification of public
documents. To the contrary, Violan thought that the retraction was made in violation of attorney-client
privilege and therefore, would be inadmissible in evidence. Violan could not, therefore, have relied on the
affidavit of retraction.
Moreover, the admissibility of this piece of evidence is a question for the Sandiganbayan to determine
in the event it is used by the prosecution. It is untenable to ascribe bias and partiality to the investigator
because she considered this retraction in her resolution of the case. Even if she relied on it mere
divergence of opinions between a judge and a partys counsel as to applicable laws and jurisprudence is
not sufficient ground for disqualifying the judge from hearing the case on the ground of bias and
partiality.8
As for Prosecutor Querubin, simply because he was the one who handled the prosecution of Criminal
Case No. 13800, in connection with which the documents allegedly falsified were used by petitioners, is
not a reason for supposing he could not act fairly. As any other counsel in a case, it was his duty to act
with full devotion to [his clients] genuine interests, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his
rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability. 9 It cannot be casually assumed that because
of his engagement in that case he had lost his objectivity to such an extent that he forsook his duty to
see to it that justice was done and not to act out of vindictiveness.
Indeed, Querubin is a public prosecutor, not a private attorney. In the familiar terminology, he is the
representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern
impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal
prosecution is not that it shall win a case but that justice shall be done.10 It may therefore be assumed
that he was merely performing an official duty and that nothing personal was involved in his
recommendation to prosecute the cases.
Above all, it should be stressed that the decision to charge petitioners in the Sandiganbayan was the
decision not only of one person but of all those who in one way or another were called upon to act in the
cases, namely: Graft Investigation Officer Gay Maggie Balajadia-Violan, Deputy Ombudsman Cesar
Nitorreda, Ombudsman Conrado Vasquez, and Special Prosecutor Aniano Desierto. Indeed, Querubins
only contribution to the process was to suggest the filing of three separate informations of falsification of
public documents against petitioners.

II.

The second ground for the petition is that the Office of the Ombudsman closed its eyes to the fact
that in filing these cases, complainant Teofilo Gelacio is guilty of forum-shopping and that his purpose
for the filing of the cases is simply political harassment. To buttress their contention, petitioners call
attention to the factual background of the cases. 11
According to petitioners, way back in 1984 private respondent Teofilo Gelacio charged petitioner
Paredes, Jr. with perjury on the ground that in 1975 Paredes, Jr. made false statements in an affidavit
which he used in support of his application for a free patent. As already noted, the case which was filed
with the Municipal Trial Court of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, and docketed there as Criminal Case
No. 1393, was dismissed on March 24, 1986 upon motion of the prosecution.
On October 28, 1986, Teofilo Gelacio filed another complaint against petitioner Paredes, Jr., then the
acting governor of the province. The complaint was for violation of 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019, otherwise
known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Allegedly, in 1976 petitioner Paredes, Jr., then the
Provincial Attorney of Agusan del Sur, unduly persuaded, induced and influenced the Public Land
Inspector to approve his (Paredes, Jrs) application for a free patent. According to petitioners, this case
involved the same application for a free patent of petitioner Paredes, Jr., which was the subject of Criminal
Case No. 1393.
The information was filed by Special Prosecutor Erdulfo Querubin in the Sandiganbayan where it
was docketed as Criminal Case No. 13800. Petitioner Paredes, Jr. moved to quash the information, but
the court denied his motion. He then filed a motion for reconsideration. It was in connection with this
motion that the procurement of allegedly falsified documents, now the subject of prosecution, was made
by petitioner Paredes, Jr. The documents were used to support his motion for reconsideration.
On August 1, 1991, the Sandiganbayan reconsidered its previous resolution and dismissed Criminal
Case No. 13800, although on the ground of prescription. The Office of the Ombudsman sought a review
of the action of the Sandiganbayan, but its petition was dismissed by this Court on July 3, 1992 in G.R.
No. 101724. The motion for reconsideration filed by the prosecution was likewise denied.
As an offshoot of the execution of these documents, two cases were filed by Teofilo Gelacio: (1) an
administrative complaint (A.P. Case No. P-90-3 96) for falsification of public documents which was filed
with this Court against Mansueto Honrada, the clerk of the MCTC who made certifications and (2) a
complaint for falsification of public documents, initially filed as OMB-MIN-90-0053 with the Office of the
Ombudsman and eventually as Criminal Case Nos. 17791, 17792, and 17793 in the Sandiganbayan,
against the petitioners and Atty. Generoso Sansaet.
The first case was dismissed for insufficiency of the evidence. But with respect to the second
complaint, Graft Investigation Officer Violan found probable cause to proceed against petitioners and
against Atty. Sansaet and so recommended the filing of a case against them. Her recommendation was
approved by the Ombudsman on June 26, 1992, although upon the recommendation of Special
Prosecutor Querubin three separate informations were filed with the Sandiganbayan. Earlier on July 29,
1991, Atty. Sansaet, one of the respondents, executed an Affidavit of Explanations and Rectifications in
which he stated that, contrary to his previous affidavit, there was no arraignment held in Criminal Case
No. 1393.
A. Petitioners contend that these cases should be dismissed, being merely the latest in a series of
cases which arose out of the same alleged incident - i.e. that of allegedly having induced the land inspector
to approve his (Paredes, Jr.s) land application, 12 for having been filed in violation of the rules on forum-
shopping. Petitioners cite the following statement in Crisostomo v. Securities and Exchange Commission: 13

There is forum-shopping whenever as a result of an adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a
favorable opinion (other than by appeal or certiorari) in another. The principle applies not only with
respect to suits filed in the courts while an administrative proceeding is pending as in this case, in order
to defeat administrative processes and in anticipation of an unfavorable administrative ruling and a
favorable court ruling. . . A violation of this rule shall constitute contempt of court and shall be a cause
for summary dismissal of both petitions, without prejudice to the taking of appropriate action against
the counsel or the party concerned.

The mere filing of several cases based on the same incident does not necessarily constitute forum-
shopping. The test is whether the several actions filed involve the same transactions, essential facts, and
circumstances.14 Here, although several cases were filed by the same complainant against the same
defendant and the subject matter of the actions of two of the cases was the same incident (i.e., the
application for free patent of petitioner Ceferino Paredes, Jr.), the fact is that the several cases involve
essentially different facts, circumstances and causes of action.
Thus, Criminal Case No. 1393, which was filed in the MCTC of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, was
for perjury, based on false statements allegedly made in 1975 by petitioner Paredes, Jr. in connection
with his free patent application. Criminal Case No. 13800, which was filed in the Sandiganbayan,
although based on the filing of the same application for free patent, was for violation of the Anti-graft and
Corrupt Practices Act, on the allegation that petitioner, as Provincial Attorney, had unduly influenced the
Public Land Inspector to secure the approval of his free patent application. On the other hand, as already
stated, the present cases (Criminal Case Nos. 17791, 17792 and 17793) are for falsification of court
records pertaining to Criminal Case No. 1393. A.P. Case No. P-90-396 is an administrative case against
petitioner Honrada based on the same incident and facts that are subject of the preceding criminal cases.
The rest are incidents of these cases, being the petition for review and motions for reconsideration in
Criminal Case No. 13800 and A.P. Case No. P-90-396.
Thus the present cases involve substantially different transactions, facts and circumstances from
those involved in the other, though related, cases. Although they arose from the same incident, i.e.,
petitioners public land application, they involve different issues. It is well settled that a single act may
offend against two or more distinct and related provisions of law15 or that the same act may give rise to
criminal as well as administrative liability.16 As such, they may be prosecuted simultaneously or one after
another, so long as they do not place the accused in double jeopardy of being punished for the same
offense.
Petitioners call attention to the fact that the administrative complaint against petitioner Honrada was
dismissed. They invoke our ruling in Maceda v. Vasquez17 that only this Court has the power to oversee
court personnels compliance with laws and take the appropriate administrative action against them for
their failure to do so and that no other branch of the government may exercise this power without running
afoul of the principle of separation of powers.
But one thing is administrative liability. Quite another thing is the criminal liability for the same act.
Our determination of the administrative liability for falsification of public documents is in no way
conclusive of his lack of criminal liability. As we have held in Tan v. Comelec,18the dismissal of an
administrative case does not necessarily bar the filing of a criminal prosecution for the same or similar
acts which were the subject of the administrative complaint.
Petitioners assertion that private respondent Alterado has resorted to forum-shopping is
unacceptable. The investigation then being conducted by the Ombudsman on the criminal case for
falsification and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, on the one hand, and the inquiry
into the administrative charges by the COMELEC, on the other hand, are entirely independent
proceedings. Neither would the results in one conclude the other. Thus an absolution from a criminal charge
is not a bar to an administrative prosecution (Office of the Court administrator v. Enriquez, 218 SCRA 1) or
vice versa.19
B. As final argument, petitioners allege that the complaint in Criminal Case Nos. 17791, 17792 and
17793 was filed by political enemies of petitioner Paredes, Jr. merely to harass him and that there is in
fact no probable cause to support the prosecution of these cases. Petitioners cite the following which
allegedly indicate that the charges below have merely been trumped up:
(1) The affidavit of Agusan del Sur District Citizens Attorney Lou Nueva, stating that then
Congressman Democrito O. Plaza instructed Atty. Leonardo Cadiz to secure a certification from Judge
Ciriaco C. Ario that no arraignment had been held in Criminal Case No. 1393, threatening that if the
judge refused to give the certification, he (Congressman Plaza) would do everything against
Judge Ciriaco C. Ario, including reviving certain cases against Judge Ario; 20 and (2) The affidavit,
dated November 5, 1990, of Judge Ario in which he stated that he did not expect that the certificate which
he had previously issued would be used in evidence and that the use of the certificate in the cases below
was against his conscience, because the cases were politically motivated and he was not going to testify
in any investigation concerning such certificate.21 At the same time petitioners seek to minimize the
retraction of Atty. Sansaet by ascribing political motivation for its execution. Petitioner Ceferino Paredes,
Jr. claims that Sansaets obsession has been to win in an election and that his loss to petitioner Paredes,
Jr. in the May 11, 1992 congressional elections was Sansaets sixth defeat. As for private respondent
Teofilo Gelacio, petitioners say he is a political leader of Democrito Plaza. They claim that in 1991 Atty.
Sansaet changed political affiliation and allied himself with Democrito Plaza and Teofilo Gelacio.
Petitioners argue that the certifications made by the clerk of court with respect to an arraignment
allegedly held on July 9, 1985 in Criminal Case No. 1393 is conclusive and cannot be altered by Atty.
Sansaets claim to the contrary. They cite what is now Rule 132, 23 of the Revised Rules on Evidence,
which provides that public instruments are evidence, even against a third person, of the fact which gave
rise to their execution and of the date of the latter.
We find the foregoing averments to be unpersuasive. First of all, that the filing of the charges is
politically motivated cannot justify the prohibition of a criminal prosecution if there is otherwise evidence
to support them. Here a preliminary investigation of the complaint against petitioners was held during
which petitioners were heard. Their evidence, as well as that of private respondent Gelacio, was considered
in great detail in the resolution of GIO II Violan. Violans resolution was reviewed by Special Prosecutor
Erdulfo Querubin who made his own detailed resolution concurring in the finding of Violn. We cannot say
that, in approving the resolutions of two investigators, the respondent Ombudsman and Special
Prosecutor committed an abuse of their discretion.
Indeed, this Court is loath to interfere with the discretion of the Ombudsman unless such discretion
is clearly shown to have been abused. As explained in Young v. Office of the Ombudsman: 22

The rule is based not only upon respect for the investigatory and prosecutory powers granted by the
Constitution to the Office of the Ombudsman but upon practicality as well. Otherwise, the functions of
the courts will be grievously hampered by innumerable petitions assailing the dismissal of investigatory
proceedings conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman with regard to complaints filed before it, in
much the same way that the courts would be extremely swamped if they could be compelled to review
the exercise of discretion on the part of the fiscals or prosecuting attorneys each time they decide to file
an information in court or dismiss a complaint by a private complainant.

There are instances, constituting exceptions to the general rule, when this Court will intervene in the
prosecution of cases. Some of these instances were enumerated in Brocka v. Enrile,23 as follows:
a. Where injunction is justified by the necessity to afford protection to the constitutional rights
of the accused; (Hernandez vs. Albano, et al., L-19272, January 25, 1967, 19 SCRA 95)
b. When necessary for the orderly administration of justice or to avoid oppression or multiplicity
of actions; (Dimayuga, et al. vs. Fernandez, 43 Phil. 304; Hernandez vs. Albano, supra; Fortun
vs. Labang, et al. L-38383, May 27 1981, 104 SCRA 607)
c. When there is a prejudicial question which is sub judice;. (De Leon vs. Mabanag, 70 Phil. 202)
d. When the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority; (Planas vs. Gil, 67 Phil 62)
e. Where the prosecution is under an invalid law, ordinance or regulation; (Young vs. Rafferty,
33 Phil 556; Yu Co Eng vs. Trinidad, 47 Phil. 385, 389)
f. When double jeopardy is clearly apparent; (Sangalang vs. People and Avendia, 109 Phil. 1140)
g. Where the court has no jurisdiction over the offense; (Lopez vs. City Judge, L-25795, October
29, 1966, 18 SCRA 616).
h. Where it is a case of persecution rather than prosecution; (Rustia vs. Ocampo, CA-G.R. No.
4760, March 25, 1960)
i. Where the charges are manifestly false and motivated by the lust for vengeance;
(Recto vs. Castelo, 18 L.J. (1953), cited in Ranoa vs. Alvendia, CA G.R. No. 30720-R, October
8, 1962; cf Guingona, et al. vs. City Fiscal, L-60033, April 4, 1984, 128 SCRA 577).
j. When there is clearly no prima facie case against the accused and motion to quash on that
ground has been denied; (Salonga vs. Pano, et al., L-59524, February 18, 1985, 134 SCRA
438); and
k. Preliminary injunction has been issued by the Supreme Court to prevent the threatened
unlawful arrest of petitioners. (Rodriguez vs. Castelo, L-6374, August 1, 1953) (cited in
Regalado, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM, p. 188 1988 Ed).
But none of these instances is present here.
What petitioners raise are questions which go to the weight to be given to the affidavits by Atty. Nueva
and Judge Ario. These are matters for the trial courts appreciation. A preliminary investigation is not a
trial. The function of the government prosecutor during the preliminary investigation is merely to
determine the existence of probable cause.24 As we explained in Pilapil vs. Sandiganbayan,25 this function
involves only the following:

Probable cause is a reasonable ground of presumption that a matter is, or may be, well-founded, such a
state of facts in the mind of the prosecutor as would lead a person of ordinary caution and prudence to
believe, or entertain an honest or strong suspicion, that a thing is so. (Words and Phrases, Probable
Cause v. 34, p. 12) The term does not mean actual and positive cause nor does it import absolute
certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Thus a finding of probable cause does not
require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction. It is enough that it
is believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged. Precisely, there is a
trial for the reception of evidence of the prosecution in support of the charge.
Secondly, to warrant a finding of political harassment so as to justify the grant of the extraordinary
writs of certiorari and prohibition, it must be shown that the complainant possesses the power and the
influence to control the prosecution of cases. Here, the prosecution is handled by the Office of the
Ombudsman. Although it is intimated that Petitioner Ceferino S. Paredes, Jr. is the subject of persecution
by his political enemies in Agusan del Sur, it has not been alleged, much less shown, that his enemies
have influence and power over the national prosecution service.
To show political harassment petitioners must prove that public prosecutor, and not just the private
complainant, is acting in bad faith in prosecuting the case 26 or has lent himself to a scheme that could
have no other purpose than to place the accused in contempt and disrepute.27 For it is only if he does so
may the prosecutor, in conducting the preliminary investigation, be said to have deserted the performance
of his office to determine objectively and impartially the existence of probable cause and thus justify
judicial intervention in what is essentially his province.
WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari and prohibition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J. (Chairman), Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug,
Kapunan, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

PROCEDURE OF PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION: CLARIFICATORY HEARING

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 171420, October 05, 2016

AURORA A. SALES, Petitioner, v. BENJAMIN D. ADAPON, OFELIA C. ADAPON AND TEOFILO D.


ADAPON, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

It is error to dismiss a criminal complaint for falsification if the records already contained sufficient
evidence to establish probable cause to charge the respondents therewith on the basis alone that the
complainant, already residing abroad, did not herself submit to the clarificatory hearing, and the
investigating prosecutor did not state the matters that still required clarification.

The Case

In this appeal, the complainant for falsification appeals the adverse decision promulgated on October
19, 2005,1 whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) annulled and set aside the resolution issued on December
14, 20042 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in I.S. No. 02-84 that had directed the filing against the
respondents of the information for violation of Article 172, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code.

Antecedents

The factual and procedural antecedents, as summed up by the CA in its assailed decision, are as
follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Private respondent Aurora A. Sales, a US immigrant who has resided in said country since 1980 and
petitioners Benjamin D. Adapon and Teofilo D. Adapon are among the eleven (11) siblings of the late
Spouses Pedro H. Adapon and Severina Dimaano-Adapon. Petitioner Ofelia C. Adapon is the spouse of
petitioner Benjamin D. Adapon. Upon their demise, Spouses Pedro and Severina Adapon left a parcel of
land located in Rosario, Batangas covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-6905 with a total area of
1,352,961 square meters.
On May 25, 2001, private respondent, represented by her son Adelfo A. Sales, filed a complaint against
her siblings, including herein petitioners and other heirs of the late Spouses Pedro and Severina Adapon
for nullification of various certificates of title emanating from TCT No. T-6905 and recovery of properties
covered by the void certificates. Said case was docketed as Civil Case No. RY2K1-095 and currently
pending before the Regional Trial Court of Rosario, Batangas, Branch 87. In her complaint, private
respondent alleged that during her absence and without her knowledge and consent, the subject
property was subdivided several times and most of it were parceled out among the defendants in varying
areas and registered in their names. Private respondent also averred that she never agreed to an
arrangement for the subdivision of the subject property in the manner made by the defendants, neither
did she recall any extra-judicial settlement of the estate of her parents, much less a judicial partition
thereof.

On June 20, 2001, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the above complaint, attaching thereto a Deed
of Extra-judicial Settlement Among Heirs, purportedly executed in Makati City on November 5, 1990, by
and among the eleven (11) children of the late Spouses Pedro and Severina Adapon, including herein
private respondent.

Thereafter, on September 4, 2002, private respondent executed an affidavit subscribed and sworn to
before Vice-Consul Maria Lourdes C. Legaspi in New York City, USA, claiming that the deed of extra-
judicial settlement attached to the motion to dismiss which herein petitioners submitted in Civil Case
No. RY2K1-095, RTC, Batangas, Branch 87, is a falsified document. She claims that she did not sign
the subject deed, thus, she disowns the purported signature appearing on top of her name in said
document, the same having been placed there without her knowledge or consent. She was in the United
States on November 5, 1990 when the document was supposedly executed and could not have appeared
before the notary public in Makati City. Hence, the instant complaint charging herein petitioners with
the crime of use of falsified documents under Article 172, par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code.

Private respondent authorized Jerico B. Sales, her son-in-law, for the purpose of instituting the criminal
proceedings against petitioners.

On June 21, 2002, petitioners filed their Joint Counter-Affidavit with Motion to Dismiss or to Suspend
Preliminary Investigation. Petitioners alleged that in the execution of the deed of extra-judicial partition,
private respondent was represented by her daughter Victoria Adapon Sales-Santiago. During the
meetings to discuss the partition of their deceased parents' properties and in a number of deeds, it was
Victoria who represented private respondent. They were assured by Victoria that she had authority to
represent her mother, and they relied on the representation of Victoria. Petitioners further contend that
they could not be charged for use of falsified document since they have no knowledge of the alleged
falsity of the deed. It was Victoria who represented private respondent in the execution of the deed. They
do not know who actually executed the same. They merely presumed in good faith that the deed was
validly executed by or on behalf of private respondent. Thus, they have absolutely no knowledge
whether or not said deed was forged or falsified. Moreover, they never intended to cause damage or
prejudice to another person when they presented the deed in support of their motion to dismiss the civil
case filed by private respondent. They did so only to present clearly and distinctly their defenses in said
case.

On September 9, 2002, Prosecutor Cuevas recommended the dismissal albeit without prejudice of the
instant complaint on the ground that the affidavit was not sworn to by the private respondent before a
fiscal, state prosecutor or government official authorized to administer oath as required by Rule 112,
Sec. 3, par. a of the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

However, upon manifestation of private respondent that she is submitting her affidavit sworn to before a
Vice Consul of the Philippine Consulate General of New York City, the case was reopened.

On March 27, 2003, Prosecutor Cuevas issued a Resolution dismissing the instant complaint on the
ground that it is impossible for him to proceed with the preliminary investigation without the
appearance of private respondent who will be subjected to some clarificatory questions on certain
matters.

Private respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the above resolution but the same was denied in
an Order dated May 14, 2003.

On June 4, 2003, private respondent filed an Appeal or Petition for Review before the Department of
Justice.

On December 14, 2004, public respondent issued the assailed Resolution which reversed and set aside
the March 27, 2003 Resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor and ordered the filing of the corresponding
information against herein petitioners.

Petitioners moved for reconsideration of the above resolution but the same was denied by the public
respondent in a resolution dated February 8, 2005.3chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In ordering the filing of the information against the respondents, thereby reversing the dismissal of the
criminal complaint for falsification, the DOJ pointed out that the dismissal on the sole basis of the non
attendance of the petitioner at the clarificatory hearing was erroneous because: firstly, the investigating
prosecutor did not state the matters that still needed to be clarified to justify the necessity for her to
personally appear that her failure to do the same would cause the dismissal of the complaint;
and, secondly, the totality of the evidence presented already established probable cause to indict the
respondents for the violation of Article 172, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code. The DOJ disposed
thusly:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED and the assailed resolution is hereby REVERSED AND SET
ASIDE. Accordingly, the Provincial Prosecutor of Batangas is directed to file the corresponding
information for use of falsified document under Article 172, par. 3, of the Revised Penal Code against
respondents Benjamin, Teofilo and Ofelia, all surnamed Adapon, and to report the action taken within
ten (10) days from receipt hereof.

SO ORDERED.4chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Decision of the CA

By petition for certiorari, the respondents assailed the resolution of the DOJ, insisting that the DOJ had
thereby gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

On October 19, 2005, the CA promulgated the assailed decision granting the petition for certiorari.
Citing Section 4, Rule 112 of the Rule of Court, it declared that the DOJ was guilty of grave abuse of
discretion because the investigating prosecutor was bound to personally examine the petitioner as the
complainant and her witnesses; and that the continuous absence of the complainant from the
clarificatory hearing had effectively prevented the investigating prosecutor from determining the
existence of probable cause against the respondents. It ruled:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed resolutions of the
public respondent dated December 14, 2004 and February 8, 2005, respectively, are
hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.5chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Through its resolution promulgated on February 9, 2006, 6 the CA denied the petitioner's motion for
reconsideration.

Hence, this appeal by petition for review on certiorari.

Issue

The sole issue is whether or not the CA erred in ordering the dismissal of the complaint because of the
petitioner's failure to appear at the clarificatory hearing set by the investigating prosecutor.

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is meritorious.

Preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether or not there is sufficient


ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed; and that the respondent,
who is probably guilty thereof, should be held for trial. 7 The nature and purposes of the preliminary
investigation have been expounded in Ang-Abaya v. Ang,8viz.:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
A preliminary investigation is in effect a realistic judicial appraisal of the merits of the case; sufficient
proof of the guilt of the criminal respondent must be adduced so that when the case is tried, the trial
court may not be bound, as a matter of law, to order an acquittal. Although a preliminary investigation
is not a trial and is not intended to usurp the function of the trial court, it is not a casual affair; the
officer conducting the same investigates or inquires into the facts concerning the commission of
the crime with the end in view of determining whether or not an information may be prepared
against the accused. After all, the purpose of preliminary investigation is not only to determine
whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed
and the respondent therein is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial; it is just as well for
the purpose of securing the innocent against hasty, malicious and oppressive prosecution, and to
protect him from an open and public accusation of a crime, from the trouble, expense and anxiety of a
public trial. More importantly, in the appraisal of the case presented to him for resolution, the duty of
a prosecutor is more to do justice and less to prosecute.

xxxx

A preliminary investigation is the crucial sieve in the criminal justice system which spells for an
individual the difference between months if not years of agonizing trial and possibly jail term, on the one
hand, and peace of mind and liberty, on the other. Thus, we have characterized the right to a
preliminary investigation as not a mere formal or technical right but a substantive one, forming part of
due process in criminal justice. [Bold Emphasis supplied]
As can be seen, the most important purpose of the preliminary investigation is to determine whether or
not a crime has been committed, and whether or not the respondent is probably guilty of the
crime.9Probable cause has been defined as the existence of such facts and circumstances as would
excite the belief in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that
the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted. It is a reasonable ground of
presumption that a matter is, or may be, well founded on such a state of facts in the mind of the
prosecutor as would lead a person of ordinary caution and prudence to believe, or entertain an honest
or strong suspicion, that a thing is so. The term does not mean actual or positive cause; nor does it
import absolute certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Thus, a finding of
probable cause does not require an inquiry into whether or not there is sufficient evidence to procure a
conviction. That it is believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged is
enough. Precisely, there is a trial for the reception of evidence of the prosecution in support of the
charge.10chanrobleslaw

In view of the foregoing, the investigating prosecutor gravely erred in dismissing the petitioner's criminal
complaint for falsification simply because of her non-appearance at the clarificatory hearing. To start
with, her personal presence was excusable because of her advanced age and the distance of her place of
residence at the time (New York, United States of America) from the Province of Batangas, the venue of
the proceedings. Secondly, the records already contained sufficient evidence upon which the
investigating prosecutor could make a finding of probable cause. Thirdly, she was represented in the
proceedings by her son-in-law Jerico B. Sales, whom she had constituted as her agent for purposes of
pursuing the criminal case against the respondents. Being her agent expressly authorized for that
special purpose, Jerico could competently respond to the investigating prosecutor's clarificatory
questions in a manner legally binding on her. Thirdly, had the investigating prosecutor sincerely
considered her personal presence as absolutely necessary in the determination of probable cause, he
should have granted her request to have her deposition taken instead. Such power was within his
discretion as the investigating prosecutor.11 And, lastly, the investigating prosecutor's requiring her
personal presence at the clarificatory hearing was probably unnecessary and superfluous in view of his
failure to specify the matters still needing to be clarified. As earlier mentioned, the documents
submitted by both parties in the proceedings were already sufficient for the determination of whether or
not probable cause existed against the respondents. If the clarificatory hearing was geared towards the
determination of the existence of probable cause, 12 the nonspecification of the matters to be inquired
into during the clarificatory hearing indicated that no more matters needed to be clarified from the
petitioner herself.

Although it was concededly discretionary on the part of the investigating prosecutor to call for the
clarificatory hearing considering that Section 4(e) 13 of Rule 112 of the Rules of Court has used the
word may in assigning such prerogative to him, the discretion was not unbounded because the rule
precisely stated that the clarificatory hearing was to be set only "if there are such facts and issues to be
clarified from a party or a witness."

On the other hand, it is a sound judicial policy for the courts to refrain from interfering in the conduct
of the preliminary investigation, and to just leave to the DOJ the ample latitude of discretion in the
determination of what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for the prosecution of
offenders. Consistent with this policy, the courts do not review and reverse the Secretary of Justice's
findings and conclusions on probable cause except in clear cases of grave abuse of discretion, 14 that is,
when the Secretary of Justice has exercised his discretion in an arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or
despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, patent and gross enough as to amount to an
evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law. 15 As such, the Court
upholds the DOJ's executive determination of probable cause in the absence of a showing of grave
abuse of discretion.

The CA justified its nullification of the DOJ's reversal of the finding of lack of probable cause by the
investigating prosecutor by opining that the dismissal of the criminal complaint was warranted because
the investigating prosecutor had not personally examined the petitioner as the complainant due to her
failure to attend the clarificatory hearing. It held that the personal examination of the complainant by
the investigating prosecutor was a prerequisite to the finding of probable cause, citing in support
Section 4, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, which pertinently provides as
follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Section 4. Resolution of investigating prosecutor and its review. - If the investigating prosecutor finds
cause to hold the respondent for trial, he shall prepare the resolution and information. He shall certify
under oath in the information that he, or as shown by the record, an authorized officer, has
personally examined the complainant and his witnesses; that there is reasonable ground to
believe that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof; that the
accused was informed of the complaint and of the evidence submitted against him; and that he was
given an opportunity to submit controverting evidence. Otherwise, he shall recommend the dismissal of
the complaint.

xxxx
The opinion of the CA was predicated on a very restrictive reading of the term complainant as used in
Section 4, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Such term is not of the same import as the term plaintiff used
in civil procedure to describe the party in interest initiating the civil suit. 16 In criminal proceedings, the
real party in interest is the State, and the complaint or information is always brought in the name of the
People of the Philippines,17 it being sufficient that the complainant is named in the information or
complaint as the offended party.18 Herein, the petitioner as the complainant would be a mere witness for
the Prosecution at the trial,19 subject to her right to intervene by counsel in the criminal prosecution
because the criminal action would entail civil liability. 20 Her participation in the criminal case as the
complainant was similar to that of the relator in other jurisdictions, the real party in interest in whose
name a legal action is brought by the State, or who relates the facts on which the action is
based.21chanrobleslaw

The offense of falsification complained of was a public offense the charges for which could be initiated
by anyone, as opposed to a private crime whose institution could be made only by particular
individuals.22This distinction validated the non-indispensability of the personal presence of the
petitioner as the complainant in the proceedings to determine the existence of probable cause against
the respondents. We note that she had already submitted relevant sworn declarations on the
falsification, as well as the affidavit of Jerico, her agent, containing allegations necessary and sufficient
to establish probable cause based on his direct familiarity with her signature and his personal
knowledge of the denial of the signature appearing in the Deed of Extra Judicial Settlement Among
Heirs presented before the Regional Trial Court in Batangas.

Indeed, the DOJ discussed the justification for the finding of probable cause against the respondents,
and such discussion, being correct and to the point, is quoted herein and adopted with approval, to
wit:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
From the evidence thus presented, we find sufficient basis to hold respondents criminally liable for
introducing in evidence a falsified document. The elements if the crime penalized under Article 172,
paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code are all present in this case, namely:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

1) The documents is false (as embraced in Article 171 and 172, paragraphs 1 & 2);

2) The offender had knowledge that such document was false (People v. Facundo, [CA], 43 O.G.
5088); and

3) The offender introduced in evidence in any judicial proceeding such false or falsified document.
It has been held that "when a person whose signature was affixed to a document denies his signature
therein, a prima facie case for falsification is established which the defendant must overcome" (US v.
Viloria, 1 Phil 682; People v. Villafranca, [CA] 40 O.G. 4622). In this case, respondents' alleged reliance
upon the authority of Victoria Adapon Sales-Santiago to represent complainant in the discussion and
execution of the document of partition cannot overcome the prima facie case of falsification created by
complainant's denial of her purported signature on the subject deed of extrajudicial settlement which
she could not have executed as she was then in the United States where she permanently resides.
Contrary to respondents' claim, the authenticity of complainant's signature and her due execution of
the subject document may not be presumed from Victoria's alleged authority, more so, since no special
power of attorney was ever presented. Worse, respondents failed to present Victoria to corroborate their
claim.

The factual backdrop of the execution of the subject deed also negates respondents' claim of lack of
knowledge of the falsity of complainant's signature thereon. It is noteworthy that the parties to the
subject deed are closely related to each other, eleven (11) brothers and sisters at that. There is also no
dispute that complainant was already residing in the United States long before the execution of the
subject deed. Whether or not complainant was in the Philippines on November 5, 1990 when the
subject deed was executed would have been known to respondents. And while respondents claim that
Victoria has acted in representation of complainant, the subject deed was purportedly signed by
complainant in her own behalf.

Admittedly, the falsified deed was presented in support of a motion to dismiss filed by respondents in
Civil Case No. RY2K1, Regional Trial Court of Batangas, Branch 87, which is a judicial proceeding. The
fact that respondents have no intent to cause damage or prejudice to another person is immaterial. It is
when the falsified document is used in another proceeding, which is not judicial, that intent to cause
damage is required. (Fundamentals of Criminal Law Review by Antonio L. Gregorio, 1985 7 th Ed., p.
283).

Finally, it may not be amiss to state that a finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence
showing that more likely than not a crime has been committed and was committed by the suspects
(Webb v. De Leon, 247 SCRA 652). Needless to say, such quantum of evidence has been sufficiently met
in the instant case. The taking of complainant's deposition in New York is, therefore, not necessary at
the preliminary investigation stage which is summary in nature. 23chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In fine, the personal presence of the petitioner at the clarificatory hearing was unnecessary to establish
probable cause against the respondents, and requiring it was legally untenable.

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition for review on certiorari; REVERSES and SETS
ASIDE the decision promulgated by the Court of Appeals on October 19, 2005; REINSTATES the
resolution issued on December 14, 2004 issued by the Department of Justice directing the Provincial
Prosecutor of Batangas to file the corresponding information for use of falsified document under Article
172, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code against respondents Benjamin, Teofilo and Ofelia, all
surnamed Adapon; and ORDERS the respondents to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Sereno, C.J., on official business.


Leonardo-De Castro, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.