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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Baguio City

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 154207 April 27, 2007

FERDINAND A. CRUZ, Petitioner,
vs.
ALBERTO MINA, HON. ELEUTERIO F. GUERRERO and HON. ZENAIDA
LAGUILLES, Respondents.

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, grounded on pure questions
of law, with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction assailing the Resolution dated May 3, 2002 promulgated by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 116, Pasay City, in Civil Case No. 02-0137, which denied the issuance of
a writ of preliminary injunction against the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Branch 45, Pasay City, in
Criminal Case No. 00-1705;1 and the RTC’s Order dated June 5, 2002 denying the Motion for
Reconsideration. No writ of preliminary injunction was issued by this Court.

The antecedents:

On September 25, 2000, Ferdinand A. Cruz (petitioner) filed before the MeTC a formal Entry of Appearance,
as private prosecutor, in Criminal Case No. 00-1705 for Grave Threats, where his father, Mariano Cruz, is the
complaining witness.

The petitioner, describing himself as a third year law student, justifies his appearance as private prosecutor on
the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and the ruling of the Court En Banc in Cantimbuhan
v. Judge Cruz, Jr.2 that a non-lawyer may appear before the inferior courts as an agent or friend of a party
litigant. The petitioner furthermore avers that his appearance was with the prior conformity of the public
prosecutor and a written authority of Mariano Cruz appointing him to be his agent in the prosecution of the
said criminal case.

However, in an Order dated February 1, 2002, the MeTC denied permission for petitioner to appear as private
prosecutor on the ground that Circular No. 19 governing limited law student practice in conjunction with Rule
138-A of the Rules of Court (Law Student Practice Rule) should take precedence over the ruling of the Court
laid down in Cantimbuhan; and set the case for continuation of trial.3

On February 13, 2002, petitioner filed before the MeTC a Motion for Reconsideration seeking to reverse the
February 1, 2002 Order alleging that Rule 138-A, or the Law Student Practice Rule, does not have the effect of
superseding Section 34 of Rule 138, for the authority to interpret the rule is the source itself of the rule, which
is the Supreme Court alone.

In an Order dated March 4, 2002, the MeTC denied the Motion for Reconsideration.

On April 2, 2002, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus with Prayer for
Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order against the private respondent and the public
respondent MeTC.

After hearing the prayer for preliminary injunction to restrain public respondent MeTC Judge from proceeding
with Criminal Case No. 00-1705 pending the Certiorari proceedings, the RTC, in a Resolution dated May 3,
2002, resolved to deny the issuance of an injunctive writ on the ground that the crime of Grave Threats, the
subject of Criminal Case No. 00-1705, is one that can be prosecuted de oficio, there being no claim for civil
indemnity, and that therefore, the intervention of a private prosecutor is not legally tenable.

and a Motion to Hold In Abeyance the Trial dated June 10. the respondent regional trial court abused its discretion when it resolved to deny the prayer for the writ of injunction of the herein petitioner despite petitioner having established the necessity of granting the writ. CANTIMBUHAN AND BULACAN CASES.4 This Court. FOR THE SAID BASIS OF DENIAL IS NOT IN ACCORD WITH THE LAW. 1997 which expressly provides for the appearance of a non-lawyer before the inferior courts. On June 5. AS WELL AS BAR MATTER NO. THE RESPONDENT METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DENIED THE MOTION TO HOLD IN ABEYANCE TRIAL. on the strength of Bar Matter No. THE RESPONDENT COURT[s] ARE CLEARLY IGNORING THE LAW WHEN THEY PATENTLY REFUSED TO HEED TO [sic] THE CLEAR MANDATE OF THE LAPUT. 2002. 730. 2002 with the MeTC seeking the reversal of the March 4. 19 governing law student practice and Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court. the petitioner filed a Second Motion for Reconsideration dated June 7. clarification. 00-1705 pending the outcome of the certiorari proceedings before the RTC. Circular No. or if warranted by the nature of the issues reviewed. The petitioner argues that nowhere does the law provide that the crime of Grave Threats has no civil aspect. WHEN IT RESOLVED TO DENY THE PRAYER FOR THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND THE SUBSEQUENT MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE HEREIN PETITIONER ON THE BASIS THAT [GRAVE] THREATS HAS NO CIVIL ASPECT. IV. Bar Matter No. the RTC issued its Order denying the petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration. may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party litigant. and implementation of Section 34.On May 9. as an agent or friend of a party litigant. may take cognizance of petitions filed directly before it. in an Order dated June 13. 2002. THE RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION. a law student. the Court takes cognizance of herein petition.5 Considering that this case involves the interpretation. and the ruling of the Court in Cantimbuhan. Pending the resolution of the foregoing Motion for Reconsideration before the RTC. 730. 730. the petitioner directly filed with this Court. petitioner cites Bar Matter No. PROVIDING FOR THE APPEARANCE OF NON-LAWYERS BEFORE THE LOWER COURTS (MTC’S). 2002. II. 2002 Denial Order of the said court. WHEN WHAT WAS DENIED BY THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IS THE ISSUANCE OF THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION and WHEN THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IS YET TO DECIDE ON THE MERITS OF THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI. even without the supervision of a member of the bar. . the petitioner filed before the RTC a Motion for Reconsideration. the instant Petition and assigns the following errors: I. and for compelling reasons. The basic question is whether the petitioner. Likewise. On July 30. Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. And last. TANTAMOUNT TO IGNORANCE OF THE LAW. 730 dated June 10. in exceptional cases. III. the MeTC denied the petitioner’s Second Motion for Reconsideration and his Motion to Hold in Abeyance the Trial on the ground that the RTC had already denied the Entry of Appearance of petitioner before the MeTC. 2002. 2002 of Criminal Case No.

the Court En Banc clarified: The rule. the term "Municipal Trial Courts" as used in these Rules shall include Metropolitan Trial Courts. 34. The court a quo must have been confused by the fact that petitioner referred to himself as a law student in his entry of appearance. Petitioner expressly anchored his appearance on Section 34 of Rule 138. Conditions for Student Practice. In any other court. a party may conduct his litigation in person. and his appearance must be either personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar. Appearance. while the latter rule provides for conditions when a law student. to represent indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law school. with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that purpose. 2000. By whom litigation is conducted. must be signed by the supervising attorney for and in behalf of the legal clinic. where the issues and procedure are relatively simple. In inferior courts. as a law student. with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that purpose. provides: RULE 138-A LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE Section 1. memoranda or other papers to be filed. a law student may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party without the supervision of a member of the bar. the private complainant in the criminal case without the supervision of an attorney duly accredited by the law school. In any other court.7 (Emphasis supplied) The phrase "In the court of a justice of the peace" in Bar Matter No. board or officer. By whom litigation is conducted.In the court of a justice of the peace. however. briefs. 34. (Emphasis supplied) which is the prevailing rule at the time the petitioner filed his Entry of Appearance with the MeTC on September 25. shall be under the direct supervision and control of a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines duly accredited by the law school. may appear without compensation in any civil. a party may conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an attorney. However. is different if the law student appears before an inferior court. is expressly allowed. and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. or with the aid of an attorney. There is really no problem as to the application of Section 34 of Rule 138 and Rule 138-A. the appearance of a non-lawyer. Any and all pleadings. or with the aid of an attorney. 730. – A law student who has successfully completed his 3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is enrolled in a recognized law school's clinical legal education program approved by the Supreme Court. Municipal Trial Courts. prohibits the petitioner. — In the Court of a municipality a party may conduct his litigation in person. as an agent or friend of a party litigant. Rule 138 provides: Sec. Rule 5 of the Rules of Court. Rule 138-A or the Law Student Practice Rule. Rule 138-A should not have been used by the courts a quo in denying permission to act as private prosecutor against petitioner for the simple reason that Rule 138-A is not the basis for the petitioner’s appearance. a party may conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an attorney and his appearance must be either personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar. Section 34.The courts a quo held that the Law Student Practice Rule as encapsulated in Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court. criminal or administrative case before any trial court. Sec. may appear before the courts. . Municipal Trial Courts in Cities. from entering his appearance in behalf of his father. a law student may appear in his personal capacity without the supervision of a lawyer. – The appearance of the law student authorized by this rule. not as an agent or a friend of a party litigant. 1997 in Bar Matter No. No real distinction exists for under Section 6. 730 is subsequently changed to "In the court of a municipality" as it now appears in Section 34 of Rule 138. Thus. 2. in Resolution6 dated June 10. . In the former. thus:8 SEC. tribunal. motions.

As succinctly clarified in Bar Matter No. and that the records of the case do not provide for a claim for indemnity. Branch 45. a law student may appear. Rule 138 is clear that appearance before the inferior courts by a non-lawyer is allowed. violation of neutrality. such that when a criminal action is instituted. unless the offended party waives the civil action. waiver. the civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged shall be deemed instituted with criminal action. the intervention of a private prosecutor is not possible. the Petition is GRANTED. Under Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code. it follows that the civil aspect arising from Grave Threats is deemed instituted with the criminal action. 730. by its very nature. MA. In denying the issuance of the injunctive court. SO ORDERED. No pronouncement as to costs. and that therefore. and. and crime against popular representation. Pasay City is DIRECTED to ADMIT the Entry of Appearance of petitioner in Criminal Case No. reserves the right to institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action. 00-1705. The assailed Resolution and Order of the Regional Trial Court. nor prior institution of the civil aspect in Criminal Case No. without the supervision of a lawyer before inferior courts.Section 34. Pasay City are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. 00-1705 as a private prosecutor under the direct control and supervision of the public prosecutor.9 The basic rule applies in the instant case. flight to an enemy country. the RTC stated in its Decision that there was no claim for civil liability by the private complainant for damages. irrespective of whether or not he is a law student. WHEREFORE. petitioner’s appearance as private prosecutor appears to be legally untenable. It is clear from the RTC Decision that no such conclusion had been intended by the RTC. for this reason. and. every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable except in instances when no actual damage results from an offense. hence. The Metropolitan Trial Court. Branch 116. such as espionage. by virtue of Section 34.10 The petitioner is correct in stating that there being no reservation. Rule 138. as an agent or a friend of a party litigant. the private prosecutor may rightfully intervene to prosecute the civil aspect. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ Associate Justice . Petitioner further argues that the RTC erroneously held that. no civil liability may flow from the crime of Grave Threats.

Ferdinand A. J. Pasay City. Stanley Cabrera. herein petitioner. The Motion alleged that expected partiality on the part of the respondent judge in the conduct of the trial could be inferred from the contumacious remarks of Judge Mijares during the pre-trial.versus - TINGA. as the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 2002[1] and July 31.Pasay City. Branch 108. Pasay City. reflects a negative frame of mind. which engenders the belief that justice will not be served. Judge Priscilla Mijares required the petitioner to secure a written permission from the Court Administrator before he could be allowed to appear as counsel for himself.R. 2002.. anchors his claim on Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court[3] that a non-lawyer may appear before any court and conduct his litigation personally. with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. but Section 34 of Rule 138. On May 10. Petitioner. He contended that the two Rules were distinct and are applicable to .. and for his failure to satisfy the requirements or conditions under Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court.. as party litigant. and REYES. Judge Mijares then remarked. NACHURA.[5] In an Order[6] dated April 19.* JUDGE PRISCILLA MIJARES. Present: . JR. Private Respondent. Metro Acting Chairperson. 2002.* Public Respondent. 332 Edang St. Regional Trial Court. his appearance was denied. BENJAMIN MINA. 2002. 2008 x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x DECISION NACHURA. filed a Motion to Dismiss instead of a pre-trial brief to which petitioner Cruz vehemently objected alleging that a Motion to Dismiss is not allowed after the Answer had been filed.[4] praying for the voluntary inhibition of Judge Mijares.. VELASCO. CHICO-NAZARIO. the trial court held that for the failure of petitioner Cruz to submit the promised document and jurisprudence. 2002. 2002. which denied the appearance of the plaintiff Ferdinand A. Pasay City. considering that it was said even prior to the start of pre-trial. Cruz (petitioner) sought permission to enter his appearance for and on his behalf. in uttering an uncalled for remark. masama ‘yung marunong pa sa Huwes. before the RTC. 154464 Petitioner. Presiding Judge. 332 Edang St. “Hay naku. CRUZ. On March 6. Jr. petitioner Cruz filed a Manifestation and Motion to Inhibit.[8] In the same Order. No. In a motion for reconsideration. During the pre-trial. Judge Mijares denied the motion with finality. 2002[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Branch 108. G.: This is a Petition for Certiorari. JJ. It was directly filed with this Court assailing the Resolutions dated May 10. JR. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration[7] of the said order. counsel for Benjamin Mina. for Abatement of Nuisance. Promulgated: September 11. No writ of preliminary injunction was issued by this Court. Branch 108. It asserts that the judge. Ok?” and proceeded to hear the pending Motion to Dismiss and calendared the next hearing on May 2. J. The antecedents: On March 5. THIRD DIVISION FERDINAND A. to voluntarily inhibit herself from trying the case.. a fourth year law student..Pasay City. Atty. a party-litigant. Cruz. Judge Priscilla Mijares. Judge Mijares denied the motion for inhibition stating that throwing tenuous allegations of partiality based on the said remark is not enough to warrant her voluntary inhibition. Prohibition and Mandamus. 01-0410. and the refusal of the public respondent. Manila.[9] petitioner reiterated that the basis of his appearance was not Rule 138-A.

the instant petition and assigns the following errors: .different circumstances. 2002. 2002. still invoking Rule 138-A. in an Order[10] dated July 31. the petitioner directly filed with this Court. but the respondent judge denied the same. On August 16.

I. board or officer. the Court takes cognizance of herein petition. Nonetheless. Section 34 and Rule 138-A is necessary. or the Law Student Practice Rule. This Court’s jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari. on December 18.[13] Considering. which eventually became Rule 138- A. FOR AND IN THE LATTER’S BEHALF. and the failure of Cruz to prove on record that he is enrolled in a recognized school’s clinical legal education program and is under supervision of an attorney duly accredited by the law school. the petitioner insisted that the basis of his appearance was Section 34 of Rule 138. however. to be taken as an absolute. may this Court take cognizance of petitions filed directly before it.[11] A becoming regard of the judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against the RTCs should be filed with the Court of Appeals. THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DENIED THE APPEARANCE OF THE PETITIONER. mandamus and injunction is not exclusive. briefs. prohibition and mandamus under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court may issue. The core issues raised before the Court are: (1) whether the extraordinary writs of certiorari. or if warranted by the nature of the issues reviewed. However. motions. Rule 138-A. The respondent court held that the petitioner could not appear for himself and on his behalf because of his failure to comply with Rule 138-A. may appear without compensation in any civil. Conditions for Student Practice. prohibition. that this case involves the interpretation of Section 34. and (2) whether the respondent court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it denied the appearance of the petitioner as party litigant and when the judge refused to inhibit herself from trying the case. which provides: . it has concurrent jurisdiction with the RTCs and the Court of Appeals. This concurrence of jurisdiction is not. shall be under the direct supervision and control of a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines duly accredited by the law school. unrestrained freedom to choose the court where the application therefor will be directed. 2. the petitioner is cautioned not to continue his practice of filing directly before this Court petitions under Rule 65 when the issue raised can be resolved with dispatch by the Court of Appeals. this Court issued Circular No. – A law student who has successfully completed his 3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is enrolled in a recognized law school's clinical legal education program approved by the Supreme Court.[12] The hierarchy of courts is determinative of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. criminal or administrative case before any trial court. must be signed by the supervising attorney for and in behalf of the legal clinic. to represent indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law school. Appearance. II. We will not tolerate litigants who make a mockery of the judicial hierarchy as it necessarily delays more important concerns before us. tribunal. In denying petitioner’s appearance. the court a quo tersely finds refuge in the fact that. a comparative reading of Rule 138. 1986. PROVIDING FOR THE APPEARANCE OF NON-LAWYERS AS A PARTY LITIGANT. provides: RULE 138-A LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE Section 1. Sec. SECTION 34 OF THE RULES OF COURT. however. memoranda or other papers to be filed. – The appearance of the law student authorized by this rule. 01-0401 [sic] CONTRARY TO RULE 138. IN CIVIL CASE NO. Any and all pleadings. Rule 138 and Rule 138- A of the Rules of Court. and only in exceptional cases and for compelling reasons. THE RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DID NOT VOLUNTARILY INHIBIT DESPITE THE ADVENT OF JURISPRUDENCE [sic] THAT SUCH AN INHIBITION IS PROPER TO PRESERVE THE PEOPLE’S FAITH AND CONFIDENCE TO THE COURTS. 19. In resolving the second issue.

may be given the chance to do so. It may be relevant to recall that. causing petitioner’s and his co-plaintiff’s loss of faith and confidence in the respondent’s impartiality.[20] as voluntary inhibition is primarily a matter of conscience and addressed to the sound discretion of the judge. it was subsequently clarified in Bar Matter 730. The Rules state that a party may conduct his litigation personally or with the aid of an attorney. By whom litigation is conducted. It erred in applying Rule 138-A. and that his appearance must either be personal or by a duly authorized member of the Bar. The Court never intended to repeal Rule 138 when it released the guidelines for limited law student practice. It must be noted that because of this incident. a law student may appear as an agent or a friend of a party litigant. From the clear language of this provision of the Rules. wishes to represent himself in court. In this case. when the basis of the petitioner’s claim is Section 34 of Rule 138. and is a rule distinct from Rule 138-A.” The case at bar involves a civil case. Thus. a party may conduct his litigation in person. It recognizes the right of an individual to represent himself in any case to which he is a party. can personally conduct the litigation of Civil Case No.In the court of a justice of the peace. We do not agree. and without counsel. or with the aid of an attorney. at his own instance. it was intended as an addendum to the instances when a non-lawyer may appear in courts and was incorporated to the Rules of Court through Rule 138-A. 19 is misplaced. as party litigant. Sec. without need of the supervision of a lawyer. Therefore. . he is aware of the perils incident to this decision. In addition.[14] Considering that a party personally conducting his litigation is restricted to the same rules of evidence and procedure as those qualified to practice law. that by virtue of Section 34. He would then be acting not as a counsel or lawyer. 34. particularly in the rules of procedure. the right to counsel cannot be waived. petitioner contends that the respondent judge committed manifest bias and partiality by ruling that there is no valid ground for her voluntary inhibition despite her alleged negative demeanor during the pre-trial when she said: “Hay naku. 2002.[18] where we declared that “even the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of law. Evidently. The decision on whether . with the petitioner as plaintiff therein. Here. not being a lawyer himself. a party litigant in a civil case. Cruz as plaintiff. in respect to the constitutional right of an accused to be heard by himself and counsel. be subject to the conditions of the Law Student Practice Rule. runs the risk of falling into the snares and hazards of his own ignorance. 01-0410. effectively undertake the successful pursuit of his claim. who insists that he can. the petitioner filed an administrative case[19] against the respondent for violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics. the respondent judge already manifested conduct indicative of arbitrariness and prejudice. he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know how to establish his innocence. In a Motion for Inhibition. however. Holgado. The trial court must have been misled by the fact that the petitioner is a law student and must. while the latter rule allows the appearance of a non-lawyer as a party representing himself. The former rule provides for conditions when a law student may appear in courts. In fact. The solicitous concern that the Constitution accords the accused in a criminal prosecution obviously does not obtain in a civil case. masama ‘yung marunong pa sa Huwes. We now adopt the Court’s findings of fact in the administrative case and rule that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Mijares when she did not inhibit herself from the trial of the case.[15] petitioner. Rule 138. therefore. In any other court. Ok?” Petitioner avers that by denying his motion. and his appearance must be either personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar. the movant must prove the ground for bias and prejudice by clear and convincing evidence to disqualify a judge from participating in a particular trial. it will have to be conceded that the contention of the petitioner has merit. without a lawyer’s assistance. before inferior courts. The conclusion of the trial court that Rule 138-A superseded Rule 138 by virtue of Circular No. but as a party exercising his right to represent himself. which we dismissed for lack of merit on September 15. a party may conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an attorney. The individual litigant may personally do everything in the course of proceedings from commencement to the termination of the litigation. petitioner alleges that he is a law student and impliedly asserts that he has the competence to litigate the case himself. we have a law student who. We should grant his wish. Additionally. with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that purpose.[16] this Court has held that during the trial.[17] The rationale for this ruling was articulated in People v.

she should inhibit herself must be based on her rational and logical assessment of the circumstances prevailing in the case before her. Branch 108. Pasay City areMODIFIED. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. Branch 108. WHEREFORE. The assailed Resolution and Order of the Regional Trial Court. NACHURA Associate Justice . 01-0410 as a party litigant. SO ORDERED. Regional Trial Court. the Petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED.[21] Absent clear and convincing proof of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the judge. No pronouncement as to costs. this Court will rule in favor of the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed. Pasay City is DIRECTED to ADMIT the Entry of Appearance of petitioner in Civil Case No.