Paul G. Roberts, et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No.

113930, March 5, 1996
DECISION
I. THE FACTS Petitioners, who are corporate officers and members of the Board of Pepsi Cola Products Phils., Inc. were prosecuted in connection with the Pepsi “Number Fever” promotion by handlers of the supposedly winning “349” Pepsi crowns. Of the four cases filed against the petitioners, probable cause was found by the investigating prosecutor only for the crime of estafa, but not for the other alleged offenses. On 12 April 1993, the information was filed with the trial court without anything accompanying it. A copy of the investigating prosecutor’s Joint Resolution was forwarded to and received by the trial court only on 22 April 1993. However, no affidavits of the witnesses, transcripts of stenographic notes of the proceedings during the preliminary investigation, or other documents submitted in the course thereof were found in the records of the case as of 19 May 1993. On 15 April 1993, petitioners Roberts, et al. filed a petition for review to the Department of Justice seeking the reversal of the finding of probable cause by the investigating prosecutor. They also moved for the suspension of the proceedings and the holding in abeyance of the issuance of warrants of arrest against them. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor also moved to defer the arraignment of the accused-appellants pending the final disposition of the appeal to the Department of Justice. On 17 May 1993, respondent Judge Asuncion issued the challenged order (1) denying, on the basis of Crespovs. Mogul, the foregoing motions respectively filed by the petitioners and the public prosecutor, and directing the issuance of the warrants of arrest “after June 1993” and setting the arraignment on 28 June 1993. In part, respondent judge stated in his order that since the case is already pending in this Court for trial, following whatever opinion the Secretary of Justice may have on the matter would undermine the independence and integrity his court. To justify his order, he quoted the ruling of the Supreme Court in Crespo, which stated:
In order therefor to avoid such a situation whereby the opinion of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the action of the fiscal may be disregarded by the trial court, the Secretary of Justice should, as far as practicable, refrain from entertaining a petition for review or appeal from the action of the fiscal, when the complaint or information has already been filed in Court. The matter should be left entirely for the determination of the Court.

Petitioners went to the Court of Appeals (CA), arguing that the respondent judge had not the slightest basis at all for determining probable cause when he ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest. After finding that a copy of the public prosecutor’s Joint Resolution had in fact been forwarded to, and received by, the trial court on 22 April 1993, the CA denied petitioners’ application for writ of preliminary injunction. The CA ruled that the Joint Resolution “was sufficient in itself to have been relied upon by respondent Judge in convincing himself that probable cause indeed exists for the purpose of issuing the corresponding warrants of arrest”

Mogul. THE ISSUES 1. and the order of respondent judge. II. when the complaint or information has already been filed in Court. the DOJ affirmed the finding of probable cause by the investigating prosecutor. Roberts. the resolutions of the DOJ 349 Committee. Judge Asuncion committed grave abuse of discretion in denying.” Whether the DOJ would affirm or reverse the challenged Joint Resolution is still a matter of guesswork. refrain from entertaining a petition for review or appeal from the action of the fiscal. once a motion to dismiss or withdraw the information . Mogul. It merely advised the DOJ to. the motions to suspend proceedings and hold in abeyance the issuance of warrants of arrest and to defer arraignment until after the petition for review filed with the DOJ shall have been resolved. the motions to suspend proceedings and hold in abeyance the issuance of warrants of arrest and to defer arraignment until after the petition for review filed with the DOJ shall have been resolved? 2. However. “as far as practicable.] 1. GRANTED the petition. Mogul which bars the DOJ from taking cognizance of an appeal. by an accused in a criminal case from an unfavorable ruling of the investigating prosecutor. by way of a petition for review. sought reconsideration. Did Judge Asuncion commit grave abuse of discretion in ordering the issuance of warrants of arrest without examining the records of the preliminary investigation? 3. May the Supreme Court determine in this [sic] proceedings the existence of probable cause either for the issuance of warrants of arrest against the petitioners or for their prosecution for the crime of estafa? III. There is nothing in Crespo vs. THE RULING [The Court. The CA therefore dismissed the petition for mootness. Did Judge Asuncion commit grave abuse of discretion in denying. in a 7-5-2 vote. for the respondent Judge enjoys in his favor the presumption of regularity in the performance of his official duty. it was premature for respondent Judge Asuncion to deny the motions to suspend proceedings and to defer arraignment on the following grounds: This case is already pending in this Court for trial.and that the “mere silence of the records or the absence of any express declaration” in the questioned order as to the basis of such finding does not give rise to an adverse inference. It SET ASIDE the decision and resolution of the CA. but meanwhile. Accordingly. on the basis of Crespo vs. et al. This Court is still capable of administering justice. To follow whatever opinion the Secretary of Justice may have on the matter would undermine the independence and integrity of this Court. on the basis of Crespo vs. The real and ultimate test of the independence and integrity of this court is not the filing of the aforementioned motions [to suspend proceedings and issuance of warrants of arrest and to defer arraignment] at that stage but the filing of a motion to dismiss or to withdraw the information on the basis of a resolution of the petition for review reversing the Joint Resolution of the investigating prosecutor. YES.

he merely directed the issuance of warrants of arrest “after June 21. but in faithful exercise of judicial prerogative. and Webb reject the proposition that the investigating prosecutor’s certification in an information or his resolution which is made the basis for the filing of the information. or both. But the Court refused to reevaluate the evidence to determine if indeed there is probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest in this case. Clearly. YES. among other things. . and Joint Resolution as bases thereof. the determination of probable cause is not lodged with this Court. But then compliance with a constitutional requirement for the protection of individual liberty cannot be left to presupposition. they (judges) made personal evaluation of the evidence attached to the records of the case. the records of the preliminary investigation in this case are not with the Court. and if he did he did not have the basis therefor. preliminary or final. 2. The trial court and the DOJ must be required to perform their duty. exceptions to the foregoing rule. however. transcripts of stenographic notes of the proceedings during the preliminary investigation. NO. the trial court only on 22 April 1993. Ordinarily. would suffice in the judicial determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. A copy of the Joint Resolution was forwarded to. Inting. or even convincing logic. no affidavits of the witnesses. Its duty in an appropriate case is confined to the issue of whether the executive or judicial determination. They were forwarded by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City to the DOJ in compliance with the latter's 1st Indorsement of 21 April 1993. however. the issuance of warrants of arrest.” It may. This is consistent with the general rule that criminal prosecutions may not be restrained or stayed by injunction. Allado. Lim. and received by. He did not have the records or evidence supporting the prosecutor's finding of probable cause. this Court assumed that since the respondent Judges had before them not only the 26-page resolution of the investigating panel but also the affidavits of the prosecution witnesses and even the counter-affidavits of the respondents. he had only the information. Judge Asuncion committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the issuance of warrants of arrest without examining the records of the preliminary investigation. In Webb. conjecture. when respondent Judge Asuncion issued the assailed order of 17 May 1993 directing. amended information. The teachings then of Soliven.is filed the trial judge may grant or deny it. And strangely enough. For the respondent judge did not. the Supreme Court MAY NOT determine in this [sic] proceedings the existence of probable cause either for the issuance of warrants of arrest against the petitioners or for their prosecution for the crime of estafa. In this case. he made no specific finding of probable cause. 3. of probable cause was done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction. Moreover. nothing accompanied the information upon its filing on 12 April 1993 with the trial court. And as revealed by the certification of respondent judge’s clerk of court. in fact. be argued that the directive presupposes a finding of probable cause. or other documents submitted in the course thereof were found in the records of this case as of 19 May 1993. There are. 1993. not out of subservience to the Secretary of Justice. find that probable cause exists. as the case may be.

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