8. Carolina B.

Jose vs Purita Suarez GR No 17611 By Pure July 17 2013

“When a trial court is confronted to rule on "a motion to dismiss a case or to withdraw an Information", it is its "bounden duty to assess independently the merits of the motion, and this assessment must be embodied in a written order disposing of the motion.”” Facts: Petioner Carolina Jose filed two affidavit-complaints for estafa against respondent Purita Suarez before the Office of the Prosecutor pertaining to several Chinabank checks totalling to P1.5M and P2.1M. She claimed that Purita borrowed money from her at 5% monthly interest. In exchange, Purita issued checks all dated on the next banking day. The checks were dishonoured upon presentment so Carolina filed a complaint for estafa. In her counter-affidavits, Purita claimed that the transactions were civil in nature and the checks were issued only to guarantee payment. It was due to financial problems in her business that she was forced to accept the exorbitant terms of Carolina, a money-lender. The set up was whenever the loaned money is released, Purita would issue checks dated on the next banking date equal to the amount lent plus 5% daily interest inclusive of weekends and holidays until the checks were cleared. Carolina was able to collect almost P33M because of this arrangement which went on from Oct 2003 to Apr 2004. Because of this iniquitous agreement, Purita was no longer able to fund the checks issued. The City Prosecutor found probable cause and an information was filed. Purita filed a petition for review with the DOJ which ruled in favour of Purita and the Prosecutor was ordered to withdraw the information filed against her. According to the DOJ, the transactions were contracts of loan and do not constitute estafa because Carolina was not deceived into parting with her money but did so to earn interest. Carolina filed an Motion for Reconsideration (MR) but was denied. The prosecutor filed a Motion to Withdraw Information (MWI) before the RTC. However it was denied by simply stating that it was “unmeritorious” and an MR filed by Purita was again denied in the same manner. Purita went to the CA to challenge these orders because the RTC did not explain why MWI was denied and such amounted to grave abuse of discretion. The CA ruled that the RTC judge did not personally assess the DOJ resolution and did not make an independent evaluation of the merits of the case in determining probable cause. It also upheld the DOJ findings that the parties were merely engaged in a contract of loan. Carolina filed MR but was denied. Issues: I. Did the CA err in reversing the orders of the RTC? II. Did RTC independently rule on the merits of the case? Held: RTC failed to make its independent evaluation of the merits of the case when it denied the MWI. The court is duty bound to assess its merits and the assessment must be embodied in a written order disposing of the same. The CA aptly observed that the RTC failed to state the cogent reasons behind its refusal to grant withdrawal. Nor did it elaborate on the bases of its conclusions and did not even reference the findings of the DOJ. The SC found that the RTC perfunctorily denied the motion to withdraw as it did not “(1) positively state that the evidence against [Purita is sufficient to make out a case for estafa]; (2) include a discussion [on] the merits of the case; (3) assess *if the DOJ’s conclusion+ is supported by evidence; (4) look at the basis of *the DOJ’s+ recommendation; (5) embody its assessment in the [said Orders]; and, (6) state [the] reasons in denying the motion to withdraw information.” Petition by Carolina is partially granted and the case is remanded to the RTC and the trial court is ordered to make an independent and thorough evaluation of the merits of the case and to conduct further proceedings in accordance with this Decision.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful