JCLV Realty & Development Corporation vs. Phil Galicia Mangali | G.R. No. 236618, August 27, 2020

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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 236618 | August 27, 2020

JCLV Realty & Development Corporation, Petitioner,

vs.

Phil Galicia Mangali, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

LOPEZ, J.:

A private complainant cannot question the Order granting the demurrer to evidence in a criminal case absent grave abuse of discretion or denial of due process. The interest of the offended party is limited only to the civil aspect of the case. We apply this dictum in this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Court of Appeals’ (CA) Resolution[1] dated September 22, 2017 in CA-G.R. SP No. 152450.

ANTECEDENTS


Phil Mangali (Mangali) and Jerry Alba (Alba) were charged with robbery committed against JCLV Realty & Development Corporation (JCLV Realty) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-11-169004.[2] Allegedly, Mangali and Alba removed JCLV Realty’s electric facilities with intent to gain and intimidation against persons. After the prosecution rested its case, Mangali filed a demurrer to evidence claiming that the prosecution failed to establish intent to gain and that the metering instruments belonged to JCLV Realty.[3] The prosecution opposed the demurrer.

On March 30, 2017, the RTC granted the demurrer and dismissed the criminal case for lack of evidence that Mangali perpetrated the robbery,[4] thus:

WHEREFORE, the Demurrer to Evidence is GRANTED. The prosecution’s evidence is not sufficient to convict the accused, accused (sic) Phil Mangali y Galicia’s case is hereby DISMISSED.

No pronouncement as to the civil aspect of the case.

As regards accused Jerry P. Alba, his case is ORDERED ARCHIVED and may be revived only upon his apprehension and/or surrender.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Unsuccessful at a reconsideration,[6] JCLV Realty elevated the case to the CA through a special civil action for certiorari docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 152450. JCLV Realty argued that the RTC erred in granting the demurrer because Mangali had admitted the taking of meter facilities. Moreover, the pre-trial order which contained admission on the identity of the perpetrator is valid even if not signed by the parties. Lastly, JCLV Realty claimed denial of due process and grave abuse of discretion on the part of RTC when it dismissed the criminal case on a ground not invoked by the accused.[7]

On September 22, 2017, the CA dismissed the petition and ruled that JCLV Realty has no personality to question the dismissal of the criminal case. The authority to represent the State in criminal proceedings is vested solely on the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and not the private complainant who may appeal only the civil aspect of the case,[8] viz.:

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of personality or authority of the petitioner to file the Petition with respect to the criminal aspect of the case and for being the wrong judicial remedy with respect to the civil aspect of the case.

SO ORDERED.[9]

JCLV Realty sought reconsideration[10] but was denied.[11] Hence, this recourse.[12] JCLV Realty contends that the authority of the OSG applies only in ordinary appeals. The private complainant can file a special civil action for certiorari to question the criminal and civil aspect of the case. Yet, the CA mistook its petition as an ordinary appeal. On the other hand, Mangali maintains that JCLV Realty has no legal standing to file certiorari proceedings because the reliefs sought directly affects the criminal aspect of the case. Hence, the OSG’s consent is necessary.

RULING


In any criminal case or proceeding, only the OSG may bring or defend actions on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, or represent the People or State before the Supreme Court and the CA. This is explicitly provided under Section 35(1), Chapter 12, Title III, Book III of the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines,[13] thus:

Section 35. Power and Functions. — The Office of the Solicitor General shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer. When authorized by the President or head of the office concerned, it shall also represent government-owned or controlled corporations. The Office of the Solicitor General shall constitute the law office of the Government and, as such, shall discharge duties requiring the service of a lawyer. It shall have the following specific power and functions:

(1) Represent the Government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings; represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party. (Emphasis supplied.)

The rationale behind this rule is that in a criminal case, the party affected by the dismissal of the criminal action is the State and not the private complainant. The interest of the private offended party is restricted only to the civil liability. In the prosecution of the offense, the complainant’s role is limited to that of a witness for the prosecution such that when a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal on the criminal aspect may be undertaken only by the State through the OSG. The private offended party may not take such appeal, but may only do so as to the civil aspect of the case.[14] Differently stated, the private offended party may file an appeal without the intervention of the OSG, but only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned. Also, the complainant may file a special civil action for certiorari even without the intervention of the OSG, but only to the end of preserving his interest in the civil aspect of the case.[15]

Corollarily, we dismissed petitions filed by the private offended party questioning the acquittal of the accused or dismissal of the criminal case without the consent of the OSG. In Bangayan, Jr. v. Bangayan,[16] the respondent lacks personality to file a petition for certiorari before the CA because she prayed for the reversal of the trial court’s order granting the petitioners’ demurrer to evidence and the conduct of a full blown trial. The respondent did not even briefly discuss the civil liability of the petitioners, to wit:

A perusal of the petition for certiorari filed by Sally Go before the CA discloses that she sought reconsideration of the criminal aspect of the case. Specifically, she prayed for the reversal of the trial court’s order granting petitioners’ demurrer to evidence and the conduct of a full blown trial of the criminal case. Nowhere in her petition did she even briefly discuss the civil liability of petitioners. It is apparent that her only desire was to appeal the dismissal of the criminal case against the petitioners. Because bigamy is a criminal offense, only the OSG is authorized to prosecute the case on appeal. Thus, Sally Go did not have the requisite legal standing to appeal the acquittal of the petitioners.

Sally Go was mistaken in her reading of the ruling in MercialesFirst, in the said case, the OSG joined the cause of the petitioner, thereby meeting the requirement that criminal actions be prosecuted under the direction and control of the public prosecutor. Second, the acquittal of the accused was done without due process and was declared null and void because of the nonfeasance on the part of the public prosecutor and the trial court. There being no valid acquittal, the accused therein could not invoke the protection of double jeopardy.

In this case, however, neither the Solicitor General nor the City Prosecutor of Caloocan City joined the cause of Sally Go, much less consented to the filing of a petition for certiorari with the appellate court. Furthermore, she cannot claim to have been denied due process because the records show that the trial court heard all the evidence against the accused and that the prosecution had formally offered the evidence before the court granted the demurrer to evidence. Thus, the petitioners’ acquittal was valid, entitling them to invoke their right against double jeopardy.[17] (Emphasis supplied; citation omitted.)

Likewise, in Jimenez v. Sorongon[18] the petitioner has no standing to question the dismissal of the criminal case since his main argument is about the existence of probable cause. This dispute involves the right to prosecute which pertains exclusively to the People, as represented by the OSG. A similar ruling was applied in Anlud Metal Recycling Corp. v. Ang,[19] to wit:

The real party in interest in a criminal case is the People of the Philippines. Hence, if the criminal case is dismissed by the trial court, the criminal aspect of the case must be instituted by the Solicitor General on behalf of the State.

As a qualification, however, this Court recognizes that the private offended party has an interest in the civil aspect of the case. Logically, the capability of the private complainant to question the dismissal of the criminal proceedings is limited only to questions relating to the civil aspect of the case, It should ideally be along this thin framework that we may entertain questions regarding the dismissals of criminal cases instituted by private offended parties. Enlarging this scope may result in wanton disregard of the OSG’s personality, as well as the clogging of our dockets, which this Court is keen to avoid.

Therefore, the litmus test in ascertaining the personality of herein petitioner lies in whether or not the substance of the certiorari action it instituted in the CA referred to the civil aspect of the case.

Here in this Rule 45 petition, petitioner argues that the RTC erred when it concluded that “there is no evidence of conspiracy against private respondent Ang.” Petitioner goes on to enumerate circumstances that collectively amount to a finding that based Oil probable cause, respondent conspired with the accused in defrauding Anlud Metal Recycling Corporation.

Clearly, petitioner mainly iisputes the RTC’s finding of want of probable cause to indict Ang as an accused for estafa. This dispute refers, though, to the criminal, and not the civil, aspect of the case.  In Jimenez v. Sorongon, We similarly ruled:

In this case, the petitioner has no legal personality to assail the dismissal of the criminal case since the main issue raised by the petitioner involved the criminal aspect of the the existence of probable cause.  The petitioner did not appeal to protect his alleged pecuniary interest as an offended party of the crime, but to cause the reinstatement of the criminal action against the respondents. This involves the right to prosecute which pertains exclusively to the People, as represented by the OSG. (Emphasis supplied.)

Given that nowhere in the pleadings, did petitioner even briefly discuss the civil liability of respondent, this Court holds that Anlud Metal. Recycling Corporation lacks the requisite legal standing to appeal the discharge of respondent Ang from the Information for estafa. On this ground alone, the petition already fails.[20] (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted.)

In Yokohama Tire Philippines, Inc. v. Reyes[21] the petitioner filed a special civil action for certiorari before the RTC seeking to annul the MTC’s decision acquitting the respondents. In that case, the petitioner has no authority in filing the petition because if assails the admissibility of evidence which only the State may question, viz.:

xxx [T]he Court has definitively ruled that in a criminal case in which the offended party is the State, the interest of the private complainant or the private offended party is limited to the civil liability arising therefrom. If a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal of the criminal aspect may be undertaken, whenever legally feasible, only by the State through the Solicitor General. As a rule, only the Solicitor General may represent the People of the Philippines on appeal. The private offended party or complainant may not undertake such appeal.

In its petition for certiorari filed with the RTC, petitioner seeks the annulment of the MTC decision acquitting herein respondents. In so doing, petitioner raises issues on the admissibility of evidence which it submitted to prove the guilt of the accused. These issues necessarily require a review of the criminal aspect of the case and, as such, is prohibited. As discussed above, only the State, and not herein petitioner, who is the private offended party, may question the criminal aspect of the case.

The above cases raised issues that necessarily require a review of the criminal aspect of the proceedings. In the same manner, JCLV Realty are praying for reliefs which pertain to the criminal aspect of the case. Foremost, the arguments in the petition for certiorari are centered on Mangali’s identification as the perpetrator of the crime. Secondly, JCLV Realty prayed that the March 30, 2017 Order be “annulled, reversed and set aside and that a new one [will] be rendered denying the [accused’] Demurrer to Evidence.” Lastly, nowhere in the petition did JCLV Realty discuss Mangali’s civil liability. In contrast, it is ultimately seeking the reinstatement of the criminal case against Mangali.

Notably, this Court has already acknowledged that the acquittal of the accused or dismissal of the criminal case may be assailed through a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court on the grounds of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction or a denial of due process rendering the judgment void.[22] In People v. Judge Santiago,[23] the private offended party filed a special civil action for certiorari on the ground that trial court acquitted the accused without trial on the merits despite the conflicting positions of the parties. This Court ruled that the acquittal is a nullity for want of due process because the trial court deprived the prosecution an opportunity to present evidence. Also, we declared that the victim can avail certiorari to question the validity of acquittal.

In Dela Rosa v. CA,[24] we sustained the private offended party’s right to file a special civil action for certiorari in assailing the dismissal of a criminal case and ruled that the OSG’s intervention is not necessary. In that case, the trial court’s dismissal of the case on the ground that the accused is entitled to a speedy trial is capricious and unwarranted. In People v. Court of Appeals,[25] the victim filed a petition for certiorari to assail the decision of the appellate court acquitting the accused from the crime of rape. This Court reversed the judgment of acquittal because the appellate court merely relied on the evidence of the defense and utterly disregarded that of the prosecution. We likewise held that the victim has legal standing to bring a special civil action for certiorari. In any event, the OSG joined the victim’s cause in its comment thereby fulfilling the requirement that all criminal actions shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of the public prosecutor.

In Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc.,[26] the trial court dismissed the criminal charge for estafa thru falsification of commercial documents against the petitioner on the basis solely of the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice. We ruled that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion because it did not make an independent evaluation of the merits of the case. Hence, the private respondent properly filed a petition for certiorari before the appellate court to question the dismissal of the criminal case. In David v, Marquez,[27] the private offended party brought a special civil action for certiorari to the CA and questioned the patently erroneous order of the trial court quashing the informations on the supposed ground of improper venue. We held that the victim has the legal personality to file a petition for certiorari on her own and not through the OSG.

In this case, we find that JCLV Realty was not deprived of due process. Notably, JCLV Realty participated in the proceedings and presented evidence until the prosecution rested its case. The prosecution likewise opposed the demurrer. On this point, there is no denial of due process especially when the parties are granted an opportunity to be heard, either through verbal arguments or pleadings.[28] Also, the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it dismissed the case on a ground not raised in the demurrer to evidence, i.e. the prosecution failed to positively identify the accused. It is settled that the identity of the offender is indispensably entwined to the commission of the crime.[29] The first duty of the prosecution is not to prove the crime but to establish the identity of the criminal, for even if the commission of the crime can be proven, there can be no conviction without proof of identity of the criminal.[30] On the other hand, a demurrer to evidence is defined as an objection by one of the parties in an action, to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to make out a case or sustain the issue.[31] The party demurring challenges the sufficiency of the whole evidence to sustain a verdict.[32] In granting the demurrer, the RTC considered the entirety of the prosecution evidence but found them insufficient to establish the identity of the accused.

Finally, double jeopardy has set in. It attaches when the following elements concur: (1) the accused is charged under a complaint or information sufficient in form and substance to sustain their conviction; (2) the court has jurisdiction; (3) the accused has been arraigned and has pleaded; and (4) the accused is convicted or acquitted, or the case is dismissed without his/her consent.[33] Here, all the elements are present. A valid Information for the crime of robbery was filed against Mangali before the RTC. Also, Mangali had pleaded not guilty to the charge, and after the prosecution rested, the criminal case was dismissed upon a demurrer to evidence. Absent grave abuse of discretion or denial of due process, the grant of demurrer to evidence is a judgment of acquittal which is final and executory.[34]

FOR THESE REASONS, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals’ Decision dated September 22, 2017 in CA-G.R. SP No. 152450 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Peralta, C.J., (Chairperson), Caguioa, Reyes, J., Jr.,  and Lazaro-Javier, JJ., concur.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Rollo, pp. 32-38; penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio M. Santos, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Socorro B. Inting.

[2] Id. at 79-80.

[3] Id. at 172-179.

[4] Id. at 68-71; penned by Presiding Judge Eleuterio Larisma Bathan.

[5] Id. at 71.

[6] Id. at 78.

[7] Id. at 57-64.

[8] Id. at 32-38.

[9] Id. at 38.

[10] Id. at 39-48.

[11] Id. at 56.

[12] Id. at 12-27.

[13] See Cu v. Ventura, G.R. No. 224567, September 26, 2018, 881 SCRA 118.

[14] Chiok v. People, et al., 11A Phil. 230, 264 (2015).

[15] Cu v. Ventura, supra note 13, citing Villareal v. Aliga, 724 Phil. 47, 57 (2014) and Ong v. Genio, 623 Phil. 835 (2009).

[16] 675 Phil. 656 (2011)

[17] Id. at 665.

[18] 700 Phil. 316 (2012)

[19] 766 Phil. 676 (2015).

[20] Id. at 686-688.

[21] G.R. No. 236686, February 5, 2020.

[22] People v. Go, et al. 740 Phil. 583, 603 (2014).

[23] 255 Phil. 851 (1989).

[24] 323 Phil. 596(1996).

[25] 755 Phil. 80 (2015).

[26] 384 Phil. 322 (2000).

[27] 810 Phil. 187 (2017).

[28] People v. Atienza, et al., 688 Phil. 122, 134 (2012).

[29] People v. Amarela, G.R. Nos. 225642-43, January 17, 2018, 852 SCRA 54; People v. Wagas, 717 Phil. 224 (2013); People v. Espera, 718 Phil. 680, 694 (2013).

[30] People v. Caliso, 675 Phil. 742, 752 (2011), citing People v. Pineda, 473 Phil. 517 (2004); People v. Esmale, 313 Phil. 471 (1995); Tuason v. Court of Appeals, 311 Phil. 813 (1995).

[31] Gutib v. Court of Appeals, 371 Phil. 293, 300 (1999).

[32] Zaldivar v. People, et al., 782 Phil. 113, 120 (2016), citing People v. Go, 740 Phil. 583 (2014).

[33] Merciales v. Court of Appeals, 429 Phil. 70, 81 (2002).

[34] People v. Go, supra note 32 at 602, citing People v. Hon. Sandiganbayan (Third Division), et al., 661 Phil. 350 (2011).

CONCURRING OPINION



CAGUIOA, J.:

The respondent, Phil Mangali (Mangali), and Jerry Alba (Alba), were charged with robbery committed against petitioner, JCLV Realty & Development Corporation (JCLV Realty). Mangali and Alba allegedly removed JCLV Realty’s electric facilities with intent to gain and intimidation against persons. After the prosecution rested its case, Mangali filed a demurrer to evidence. The trial court granted the demurrer and dismissed the criminal case against Mangali on the ground of lack of evidence.

JCLV Realty elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA) through a special civil action for certiorari, challenging the grant of the demurrer by the trial court. The CA dismissed the petition, ruling that JCLV Realty has no personality to challenge the criminal aspect of the case because the authority to represent the State in criminal proceedings lies solely in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), and that it availed the wrong judicial remedy to question the civil aspect of the case. JCLV Realty sought reconsideration but was denied.

JCLV Realty is now before this Court via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, questioning the CA’s outright dismissal of its petition.

The ponencia affirms the ruling of the CA. The Rule 65 petition filed by JCLV Realty before the CA prays for reliefs that pertain to the criminal aspect of the case, ultimately seeking the reinstatement of the criminal case against Mangali. JCLV Realty does not have the requisite legal standing to do so as only the OSG may bring or defend actions on behalf of the State before the CA and the Supreme Court. The ponencia adds that the acquittal of an accused or the dismissal of a criminal case can be done through a Rule 65 petition on the grounds of abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, or a denial of due process rendering the judgment void. In this case, the ponencia finds that JCLV Realty was not denied due process since it was able to participate in the proceedings and present evidence. Finally, double jeopardy had set in as all the elements of double jeopardy are present in this case. Thus, there is no reason for the Court to reinstate the criminal case against Mangali.[1]

I concur with the ponencia that the petition should be denied. The acquittal by the trial court of Mangali for the crime charged may not be assailed without violating his constitutional right against double jeopardy. I submit this separate concurring opinion only to emphasize (1) that JCLV Realty had no legal personality to question Mangali’s acquittal before the CA, and 2) that the remedy of certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court in judgments of acquittal is a very very narrow exception which does not arise in the present case.

First, only the OSG, in behalf of the State, and not the private offended party, has the authority to question the acquittal of an accused in a criminal case. Therefore, JCLV Realty had no legal personality to file the petition for certiorari with the CA.

In criminal cases, the acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case against him can only be appealed by the Solicitor General, acting on behalf of the State. The private complainant or the offended party may question such acquittal or dismissal only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned.[2] The Court explained this in Bautista v. Cuneta-Pangilinan:[3]

The authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases before the Supreme Court and the CA is solely vested in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). Section 35 (I), Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code explicitly provides that the OSG shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of lawyers. It shall have specific powers and functions to represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court and the CA, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party. The OSG is the law office of the Government.

x x x x

Thus, the Court has definitively ruled that in a criminal case in which the offended party is the State, the interest of the private complainant or the private offended party is limited to the civil liability arising therefrom. If a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal of the criminal aspect may be undertaken, whenever feasible, only by the State through the Solicitor General. As a rule, only the Solicitor General may represent the People of the Philippines on appeal. The private offended party or complainant may not undertake such appeal.[4]

The rationale behind this rule is that in criminal cases, it is the State that is the offended party.[5] It is the party affected by the dismissal of the criminal action, and not the private complainant.[6] Thus, in the prosecution of the offense, the complainant’s role is limited to that of a witness for the prosecution.[7]

Since the petition filed by JCLV Realty before the CA essentially assailed the criminal aspect of the case, it should have been filed by the State through the OSG. Thus, the CA was correct when it dismissed the petition filed by JCLV Realty for lack of legal personality.

Second, the remedy of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 against the acquittal of an accused is a very very limited exception to the finality-of-acquittal rule, and one which does not arise in the present case.

As early as 1915, the Court already recognized that a dismissal of a criminal case for lack of evidence is equivalent to an acquittal. In United States v. Kilayko,[8] the accused was charged with a violation of the penal provisions of the Chattel Mortgage Law. After stipulating on the facts of the case, counsel for the accused filed a demurrer to the information — which was granted by the trial court. The provincial fiscal appealed the case to the Supreme Court. The Court upheld the acquittal of the accused, despite the fact that the decision of the trial court was based on an erroneous interpretation of the law, thus:

In dismissing the complaint the trial judge refers to the motion of counsel for the accused as a “so-called demurrer;” but it does not clearly appear whether he regarded the entry of his order dismissing the complaint as a decision of the case on the merits, or a ruling sustaining a demurrer.

We are of opinion, however, that the ruling of the trial judge on the motion of counsel for the accused was in truth and in effect a final judgment on the merits from which no appeal lav on behalf of the Government. The accused had been arraigned and pleaded “not guilty,” and the judgment of the court was entered upon an agreed statement of facts. The agreed statement of facts disclosed everything which the prosecution and the accused were prepared to prove by the testimony of their respective witnesses. After the submission of the agreed statement of facts, the trial was regularly terminated, and it only remained for the trial judge to enter his judgment convicting and sentencing the accused, or acquitting him and dismissing the information upon which the proceedings had been instituted. Manifestly, the accused was in jeopardy of conviction from the moment the case was submitted on the agreed statement of facts until judgment was entered dismissing the information. Indeed, there can be no doubt that but for the erroneous view of the trial judge as to the nature and effect of the penal provision of section 12 of the Chattel Mortgage Law, a judgment of conviction would have been lawfully entered upon the agreed statement of facts, followed by the imposition of the prescribed penalty.

The judgment entered in the court below was not a mere order sustaining, a demurrer, but a final judgment disposing of the case on the merits; so that were we to reverse the judgment and direct the court below to proceed with the trial, the accused would be entitled to have the information dismissed on the plea of double jeopardy.[9]

The right against double jeopardy is a constitutional right deeply rooted in jurisprudence. The doctrine has several avowed purposes. Primarily, it prevents the State from using its criminal processes as an instrument of harassment to wear out the accused by a multitude of cases with accumulated trials. It also serves the additional purpose of precluding the State, following an acquittal, from successively retrying the defendant in the hope of securing a conviction. And finally, it prevents the State, following conviction, from retrying the defendant again in the hope of securing a greater penalty. Double jeopardy, therefore, provides three related protections: (1) against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal, (2) against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction, and (3) against multiple punishments for the same offense.[10]

The constitutional mandate is a rule of finality. A single prosecution for any offense is all the law allows. It protects an accused from harassment, enables him to treat what had transpired as a closed chapter in his life, either to exult in his freedom or to be resigned to whatever penalty is imposed, and is a bar to unnecessary litigation, in itself time-consuming and expense- producing for the State as well. The ordeal of a criminal prosecution is inflicted only once, not whenever it pleases the state to do so.[11]

The inviolability of the right of the accused against double jeopardy is reflected in the skeptical attitude taken by the Supreme Court towards petitions for certiorari disputing decisions acquitting an accused. In People v. Velasco,[12] the Court traced the development of the said right in common law until it was introduced in the Philippines and took on a life of its own in the context of our own legal tradition and historical experience. In Velasco, the Supreme Court discussed the strictly limited situation when double jeopardy does not apply:

In general, the rule is that a remand to a trial court of a judgment of acquittal brought before the Supreme Court on certiorari cannot be had unless there is a finding of mistrial, as in Galman v. Sandiganbayan. Condemning the trial before the Sandiganbayan of the murder of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, which resulted in the acquittal of all the accused, as a sham, this Court minced no words in declaring that [i]t is settled doctrine that double jeopardy cannot be invoked against this Court’s setting aside of the trial court’s judgment of acquittal where the prosecution which represents the sovereign people in criminal cases is denied due process x x x. [T]he sham trial was but a mock trial where the authoritarian president ordered respondents Sandiganbavan and Tanodbavan to rig the trial, and closely monitored the entire proceedings to assure the predetermined final outcome of acquittal and absolution as innocent of all the respondent-accused. x x x Manifestly, the prosecution and the sovereign people were denied due process of law with a partial court and biased Tanodbayan under the constant and pervasive monitoring and pressure exerted by the authoritarian president to assure the carrying out of his instructions. A dictated, coerced and scripted verdict of acquittal, such as that in the case at bar, is a void judgment. In legal contemplation, it is no judgment at all. It neither binds nor bars anyone. Such a judgment is ‘a lawless thing which can be treated as an outlaw.’ It is a terrible and unspeakable affront to the society and the people. ‘To paraphrase Brandeis: If the authoritarian head of government becomes the lawbreaker, he breeds contempt for the law; he invites every man to become a law unto himself; he invites anarchy.’ The contention of respondent-accused that the Sandiganbayan judgment of acquittal ended the case and could not be appealed or reopened without being put in double jeopardy was forcefully disposed of by the Court in People v. Court of Appeals:

x x x That is the general rule and presupposes a valid judgment. As earlier pointed out, however, respondent Court’s Resolution of acquittal was a void judgment for having been issued without jurisdiction. No double jeopardy attaches, therefore. A void judgment is, in legal effect, no judgment at all. By it no rights are divested. Through it, no rights can be attained. Being worthless, all proceedings founded upon it are equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars anyone. AH acts performed under it and all claims flowing out of it are void.

x x x x

Private respondents invoke ‘justice for the innocent.’ For justice to prevail the scales must balance. It is not to be dispensed for the accused alone. The interests of the society which they have wronged, must also be equally considered. A judgment of conviction is not necessarily a denial of justice. A verdict of acquittal neither necessarily spells a triumph of justice. To the party wronged, to the society offended, it could also mean injustice. This is where the Courts play a vital role. They render justice where justice is due.

Thus, the doctrine that ‘double jeopardy may not be invoked after trial’ may apply only when the Court finds that the ‘criminal trial was a sham’ because the prosecution representing the sovereign people in the criminal case was denied due process x x x.

xxx The fundamental philosophy highlighting the finality of an acquittal by the trial court cuts deep into “the humanity of the laws and in a jealous watchfulness over the rights of the citizen, when brought in unequal contest with the State.[13]

The case of Galman v. Sandiganbayan[14] presents the very limited and extremely narrow exception to the application of the right against double jeopardy. The unique facts surrounding Galman — and other similar scenarios where the denial of due process on the part of the prosecution was so gross and palpable — is the very limited area where an acquittal may be revisited through a petition for certiorari.

Thus, in People v. Tria-Tirona,[15] the Court held:

x x x In general, the rule is that a remand to a trial court of a judgment of acquittal brought before the Supreme Court on certiorari cannot be had unless there is a finding of mistrial, as in Galman v. Sandiganbayan. Only when there is a finding of a sham trial can the doctrine of double jeopardy be not invoked because the people, as represented by the prosecution, were denied due process.

From the foregoing pronouncements, it is clear in this jurisdiction that after trial on the merits, an acquittal is immediately final and cannot be appealed on the ground of double jeopardy. The only exception where double jeopardy cannot be invoked is where there is a finding of mistrial resulting in a denial of due process.[16]

Further, in People v. Court of Appeals, Fourth Division,[17] the Court explained that:

xxx [F]or an acquittal to be considered tainted with grave abuse of discretion, there must be a showing that the prosecution’s right to due process was violated or that the trial conducted was a sham.

Although the dismissal order is not subject to appeal, it is still reviewable but only through certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. For the writ to issue, the trial court must be shown to have acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction such as where the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham thus rendering the assailed judgment void. The burden is on the petitioner to clearly demonstrate that the trial court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice. (Citations omitted)

The petition is bereft of any allegation, much less, evidence that the prosecution’s right to due process was violated or the proceedings before the CA were a mockery such that Ando’s acquittal was a foregone conclusion. Accordingly, notwithstanding the alleged errors in the interpretation of the applicable law or appreciation of evidence that the CA may have committed in ordering Ando’s acquittal, absent any showing that the CA acted with caprice or without regard to the rudiments of due process, the CA’s findings can no longer be reversed, disturbed and set aside without violating the rule against double jeopardy.[18]

Hence, not every error in the trial or evaluation of the evidence by the court in question that led to the acquittal of the accused would be reviewable by certiorari. The writ of certiorari — being a remedy narrow in scope and inflexible in character, whose purpose is to keep an inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction, or to prevent an inferior court from committing such grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction, or to relieve parties from arbitrary acts of courts (i.e., acts that courts have no power or authority in law to perform) — is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop, and cannot be issued to correct every error committed by a lower court.[19] Certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction, not errors of procedure or mistakes in the findings or conclusions of the lower court. As long as a court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its discretion will amount to nothing more than errors of judgment which fall outside the scope of a writ of certiorari.

In the case at bar, although JCLV Realty filed a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court before this Court, the ponencia nonetheless made a finding that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it granted the demurrer to evidence on a ground not raised therein — that of the failure of the prosecution to positively identify Mangali. As discussed, it is immaterial whether the trial court was correct in acquitting Mangali. The fact remains that Mangali’s right against double jeopardy already attached when the trial court granted his demurrer to evidence and ordered his acquittal. No amount of error of judgment will ripen into an error of jurisdiction such that the acquittal would be reviewable by this Court through a petition for certiorari. Absent any manifest denial of due process tantamount to making the proceedings before the court a quo a sham trial, there is no basis whatsoever to reinstate the criminal case against Mangali and place him twice in jeopardy.

In light of the foregoing considerations, I vote to DENY the petition.

FOOTNOTES

[1] See ponencia, pp. 6-8

[2] Bautista v. Cuneia-Pangilinan, G R. No. 189754, October 24, 2012, 684 SCRA 521, 535.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 534-537.

[5] Cu v. Ventura, G.R No. 224567, September 26, 2018, 881 SCRA 118, 128.

[6] Chiok v. People, G.R. No. 179814, December 7, 2015, 776 SCRA 120, 135.

[7] People v. Santiago, 255 Phil 851, 861-862 (1989).

[8] 32 Phil. 619 (1915).

[9] Id. at 622-623. Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

[10] People v. Dela Torre, G.R. Nos. 137953-58, April 11, 2002, 380 SCRA 596, 605-606.

[11] Tan v. Barrios, G.R. Nos. 85481-82, October 18, 1990, 190 SCRA 686, 702-703.

[12] G.R. No. 127444. September 13, 2000, 340 SCRA 207.

[13] Id. at 238-240. Emphasis and underscoring supplied. Citations omitted.

[14] G.R. No. L-72670, September 12, 1986, 144 SCRA 43.

[15] G.R. No. 130106, July 15. 2005, 463 SCRA 462.

[16] Id. at 469. Emphasis supplied.

[17] G.R. No. 198589, July 25, 2012, 677 SCRA 575.

[18] Id. at 579-580. Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

[19] Delos Santos v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 153852, October 24, 2012, 684 SCRA 410, 420.

eals’ (CA) Resolution[1] dated September 22, 2017 in CA-G.R. SP No. 152450.

ANTECEDENTS


Phil Mangali (Mangali) and Jerry Alba (Alba) were charged with robbery committed against JCLV Realty & Development Corporation (JCLV Realty) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-11-169004.[2] Allegedly, Mangali and Alba removed JCLV Realty’s electric facilities with intent to gain and intimidation against persons. After the prosecution rested its case, Mangali filed a demurrer to evidence claiming that the prosecution failed to establish intent to gain and that the metering instruments belonged to JCLV Realty.[3] The prosecution opposed the demurrer.

On March 30, 2017, the RTC granted the demurrer and dismissed the criminal case for lack of evidence that Mangali perpetrated the robbery,[4] thus:

WHEREFORE, the Demurrer to Evidence is GRANTED. The prosecution’s evidence is not sufficient to convict the accused, accused (sic) Phil Mangali y Galicia’s case is hereby DISMISSED.

No pronouncement as to the civil aspect of the case.

As regards accused Jerry P. Alba, his case is ORDERED ARCHIVED and may be revived only upon his apprehension and/or surrender.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Unsuccessful at a reconsideration,[6] JCLV Realty elevated the case to the CA through a special civil action for certiorari docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 152450. JCLV Realty argued that the RTC erred in granting the demurrer because Mangali had admitted the taking of meter facilities. Moreover, the pre-trial order which contained admission on the identity of the perpetrator is valid even if not signed by the parties. Lastly, JCLV Realty claimed denial of due process and grave abuse of discretion on the part of RTC when it dismissed the criminal case on a ground not invoked by the accused.[7]

On September 22, 2017, the CA dismissed the petition and ruled that JCLV Realty has no personality to question the dismissal of the criminal case. The authority to represent the State in criminal proceedings is vested solely on the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and not the private complainant who may appeal only the civil aspect of the case,[8] viz.:

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari is DISMISSED for lack of personality or authority of the petitioner to file the Petition with respect to the criminal aspect of the case and for being the wrong judicial remedy with respect to the civil aspect of the case.

SO ORDERED.[9]

JCLV Realty sought reconsideration[10] but was denied.[11] Hence, this recourse.[12] JCLV Realty contends that the authority of the OSG applies only in ordinary appeals. The private complainant can file a special civil action for certiorari to question the criminal and civil aspect of the case. Yet, the CA mistook its petition as an ordinary appeal. On the other hand, Mangali maintains that JCLV Realty has no legal standing to file certiorari proceedings because the reliefs sought directly affects the criminal aspect of the case. Hence, the OSG’s consent is necessary.

RULING


In any criminal case or proceeding, only the OSG may bring or defend actions on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, or represent the People or State before the Supreme Court and the CA. This is explicitly provided under Section 35(1), Chapter 12, Title III, Book III of the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines,[13] thus:

Section 35. Power and Functions. — The Office of the Solicitor General shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer. When authorized by the President or head of the office concerned, it shall also represent government-owned or controlled corporations. The Office of the Solicitor General shall constitute the law office of the Government and, as such, shall discharge duties requiring the service of a lawyer. It shall have the following specific power and functions:

(1) Represent the Government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings; represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party. (Emphasis supplied.)

The rationale behind this rule is that in a criminal case, the party affected by the dismissal of the criminal action is the State and not the private complainant. The interest of the private offended party is restricted only to the civil liability. In the prosecution of the offense, the complainant’s role is limited to that of a witness for the prosecution such that when a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal on the criminal aspect may be undertaken only by the State through the OSG. The private offended party may not take such appeal, but may only do so as to the civil aspect of the case.[14] Differently stated, the private offended party may file an appeal without the intervention of the OSG, but only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned. Also, the complainant may file a special civil action for certiorari even without the intervention of the OSG, but only to the end of preserving his interest in the civil aspect of the case.[15]

Corollarily, we dismissed petitions filed by the private offended party questioning the acquittal of the accused or dismissal of the criminal case without the consent of the OSG. In Bangayan, Jr. v. Bangayan,[16] the respondent lacks personality to file a petition for certiorari before the CA because she prayed for the reversal of the trial court’s order granting the petitioners’ demurrer to evidence and the conduct of a full blown trial. The respondent did not even briefly discuss the civil liability of the petitioners, to wit:

A perusal of the petition for certiorari filed by Sally Go before the CA discloses that she sought reconsideration of the criminal aspect of the case. Specifically, she prayed for the reversal of the trial court’s order granting petitioners’ demurrer to evidence and the conduct of a full blown trial of the criminal case. Nowhere in her petition did she even briefly discuss the civil liability of petitioners. It is apparent that her only desire was to appeal the dismissal of the criminal case against the petitioners. Because bigamy is a criminal offense, only the OSG is authorized to prosecute the case on appeal. Thus, Sally Go did not have the requisite legal standing to appeal the acquittal of the petitioners.

Sally Go was mistaken in her reading of the ruling in MercialesFirst, in the said case, the OSG joined the cause of the petitioner, thereby meeting the requirement that criminal actions be prosecuted under the direction and control of the public prosecutor. Second, the acquittal of the accused was done without due process and was declared null and void because of the nonfeasance on the part of the public prosecutor and the trial court. There being no valid acquittal, the accused therein could not invoke the protection of double jeopardy.

In this case, however, neither the Solicitor General nor the City Prosecutor of Caloocan City joined the cause of Sally Go, much less consented to the filing of a petition for certiorari with the appellate court. Furthermore, she cannot claim to have been denied due process because the records show that the trial court heard all the evidence against the accused and that the prosecution had formally offered the evidence before the court granted the demurrer to evidence. Thus, the petitioners’ acquittal was valid, entitling them to invoke their right against double jeopardy.[17] (Emphasis supplied; citation omitted.)

Likewise, in Jimenez v. Sorongon[18] the petitioner has no standing to question the dismissal of the criminal case since his main argument is about the existence of probable cause. This dispute involves the right to prosecute which pertains exclusively to the People, as represented by the OSG. A similar ruling was applied in Anlud Metal Recycling Corp. v. Ang,[19] to wit:

The real party in interest in a criminal case is the People of the Philippines. Hence, if the criminal case is dismissed by the trial court, the criminal aspect of the case must be instituted by the Solicitor General on behalf of the State.

As a qualification, however, this Court recognizes that the private offended party has an interest in the civil aspect of the case. Logically, the capability of the private complainant to question the dismissal of the criminal proceedings is limited only to questions relating to the civil aspect of the case, It should ideally be along this thin framework that we may entertain questions regarding the dismissals of criminal cases instituted by private offended parties. Enlarging this scope may result in wanton disregard of the OSG’s personality, as well as the clogging of our dockets, which this Court is keen to avoid.

Therefore, the litmus test in ascertaining the personality of herein petitioner lies in whether or not the substance of the certiorari action it instituted in the CA referred to the civil aspect of the case.

Here in this Rule 45 petition, petitioner argues that the RTC erred when it concluded that “there is no evidence of conspiracy against private respondent Ang.” Petitioner goes on to enumerate circumstances that collectively amount to a finding that based Oil probable cause, respondent conspired with the accused in defrauding Anlud Metal Recycling Corporation.

Clearly, petitioner mainly iisputes the RTC’s finding of want of probable cause to indict Ang as an accused for estafa. This dispute refers, though, to the criminal, and not the civil, aspect of the case.  In Jimenez v. Sorongon, We similarly ruled:

In this case, the petitioner has no legal personality to assail the dismissal of the criminal case since the main issue raised by the petitioner involved the criminal aspect of the the existence of probable cause.  The petitioner did not appeal to protect his alleged pecuniary interest as an offended party of the crime, but to cause the reinstatement of the criminal action against the respondents. This involves the right to prosecute which pertains exclusively to the People, as represented by the OSG. (Emphasis supplied.)

Given that nowhere in the pleadings, did petitioner even briefly discuss the civil liability of respondent, this Court holds that Anlud Metal. Recycling Corporation lacks the requisite legal standing to appeal the discharge of respondent Ang from the Information for estafa. On this ground alone, the petition already fails.[20] (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted.)

In Yokohama Tire Philippines, Inc. v. Reyes[21] the petitioner filed a special civil action for certiorari before the RTC seeking to annul the MTC’s decision acquitting the respondents. In that case, the petitioner has no authority in filing the petition because if assails the admissibility of evidence which only the State may question, viz.:

xxx [T]he Court has definitively ruled that in a criminal case in which the offended party is the State, the interest of the private complainant or the private offended party is limited to the civil liability arising therefrom. If a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal of the criminal aspect may be undertaken, whenever legally feasible, only by the State through the Solicitor General. As a rule, only the Solicitor General may represent the People of the Philippines on appeal. The private offended party or complainant may not undertake such appeal.

In its petition for certiorari filed with the RTC, petitioner seeks the annulment of the MTC decision acquitting herein respondents. In so doing, petitioner raises issues on the admissibility of evidence which it submitted to prove the guilt of the accused. These issues necessarily require a review of the criminal aspect of the case and, as such, is prohibited. As discussed above, only the State, and not herein petitioner, who is the private offended party, may question the criminal aspect of the case.

The above cases raised issues that necessarily require a review of the criminal aspect of the proceedings. In the same manner, JCLV Realty are praying for reliefs which pertain to the criminal aspect of the case. Foremost, the arguments in the petition for certiorari are centered on Mangali’s identification as the perpetrator of the crime. Secondly, JCLV Realty prayed that the March 30, 2017 Order be “annulled, reversed and set aside and that a new one [will] be rendered denying the [accused’] Demurrer to Evidence.” Lastly, nowhere in the petition did JCLV Realty discuss Mangali’s civil liability. In contrast, it is ultimately seeking the reinstatement of the criminal case against Mangali.

Notably, this Court has already acknowledged that the acquittal of the accused or dismissal of the criminal case may be assailed through a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court on the grounds of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction or a denial of due process rendering the judgment void.[22] In People v. Judge Santiago,[23] the private offended party filed a special civil action for certiorari on the ground that trial court acquitted the accused without trial on the merits despite the conflicting positions of the parties. This Court ruled that the acquittal is a nullity for want of due process because the trial court deprived the prosecution an opportunity to present evidence. Also, we declared that the victim can avail certiorari to question the validity of acquittal.

In Dela Rosa v. CA,[24] we sustained the private offended party’s right to file a special civil action for certiorari in assailing the dismissal of a criminal case and ruled that the OSG’s intervention is not necessary. In that case, the trial court’s dismissal of the case on the ground that the accused is entitled to a speedy trial is capricious and unwarranted. In People v. Court of Appeals,[25] the victim filed a petition for certiorari to assail the decision of the appellate court acquitting the accused from the crime of rape. This Court reversed the judgment of acquittal because the appellate court merely relied on the evidence of the defense and utterly disregarded that of the prosecution. We likewise held that the victim has legal standing to bring a special civil action for certiorari. In any event, the OSG joined the victim’s cause in its comment thereby fulfilling the requirement that all criminal actions shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of the public prosecutor.

In Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc.,[26] the trial court dismissed the criminal charge for estafa thru falsification of commercial documents against the petitioner on the basis solely of the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice. We ruled that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion because it did not make an independent evaluation of the merits of the case. Hence, the private respondent properly filed a petition for certiorari before the appellate court to question the dismissal of the criminal case. In David v, Marquez,[27] the private offended party brought a special civil action for certiorari to the CA and questioned the patently erroneous order of the trial court quashing the informations on the supposed ground of improper venue. We held that the victim has the legal personality to file a petition for certiorari on her own and not through the OSG.

In this case, we find that JCLV Realty was not deprived of due process. Notably, JCLV Realty participated in the proceedings and presented evidence until the prosecution rested its case. The prosecution likewise opposed the demurrer. On this point, there is no denial of due process especially when the parties are granted an opportunity to be heard, either through verbal arguments or pleadings.[28] Also, the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it dismissed the case on a ground not raised in the demurrer to evidence, i.e. the prosecution failed to positively identify the accused. It is settled that the identity of the offender is indispensably entwined to the commission of the crime.[29] The first duty of the prosecution is not to prove the crime but to establish the identity of the criminal, for even if the commission of the crime can be proven, there can be no conviction without proof of identity of the criminal.[30] On the other hand, a demurrer to evidence is defined as an objection by one of the parties in an action, to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to make out a case or sustain the issue.[31] The party demurring challenges the sufficiency of the whole evidence to sustain a verdict.[32] In granting the demurrer, the RTC considered the entirety of the prosecution evidence but found them insufficient to establish the identity of the accused.

Finally, double jeopardy has set in. It attaches when the following elements concur: (1) the accused is charged under a complaint or information sufficient in form and substance to sustain their conviction; (2) the court has jurisdiction; (3) the accused has been arraigned and has pleaded; and (4) the accused is convicted or acquitted, or the case is dismissed without his/her consent.[33] Here, all the elements are present. A valid Information for the crime of robbery was filed against Mangali before the RTC. Also, Mangali had pleaded not guilty to the charge, and after the prosecution rested, the criminal case was dismissed upon a demurrer to evidence. Absent grave abuse of discretion or denial of due process, the grant of demurrer to evidence is a judgment of acquittal which is final and executory.[34]

FOR THESE REASONS, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals’ Decision dated September 22, 2017 in CA-G.R. SP No. 152450 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Peralta, C.J., (Chairperson), Caguioa, Reyes, J., Jr.,  and Lazaro-Javier, JJ., concur.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Rollo, pp. 32-38; penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio M. Santos, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Socorro B. Inting.

[2] Id. at 79-80.

[3] Id. at 172-179.

[4] Id. at 68-71; penned by Presiding Judge Eleuterio Larisma Bathan.

[5] Id. at 71.

[6] Id. at 78.

[7] Id. at 57-64.

[8] Id. at 32-38.

[9] Id. at 38.

[10] Id. at 39-48.

[11] Id. at 56.

[12] Id. at 12-27.

[13] See Cu v. Ventura, G.R. No. 224567, September 26, 2018, 881 SCRA 118.

[14] Chiok v. People, et al., 11A Phil. 230, 264 (2015).

[15] Cu v. Ventura, supra note 13, citing Villareal v. Aliga, 724 Phil. 47, 57 (2014) and Ong v. Genio, 623 Phil. 835 (2009).

[16] 675 Phil. 656 (2011)

[17] Id. at 665.

[18] 700 Phil. 316 (2012)

[19] 766 Phil. 676 (2015).

[20] Id. at 686-688.

[21] G.R. No. 236686, February 5, 2020.

[22] People v. Go, et al. 740 Phil. 583, 603 (2014).

[23] 255 Phil. 851 (1989).

[24] 323 Phil. 596(1996).

[25] 755 Phil. 80 (2015).

[26] 384 Phil. 322 (2000).

[27] 810 Phil. 187 (2017).

[28] People v. Atienza, et al., 688 Phil. 122, 134 (2012).

[29] People v. Amarela, G.R. Nos. 225642-43, January 17, 2018, 852 SCRA 54; People v. Wagas, 717 Phil. 224 (2013); People v. Espera, 718 Phil. 680, 694 (2013).

[30] People v. Caliso, 675 Phil. 742, 752 (2011), citing People v. Pineda, 473 Phil. 517 (2004); People v. Esmale, 313 Phil. 471 (1995); Tuason v. Court of Appeals, 311 Phil. 813 (1995).

[31] Gutib v. Court of Appeals, 371 Phil. 293, 300 (1999).

[32] Zaldivar v. People, et al., 782 Phil. 113, 120 (2016), citing People v. Go, 740 Phil. 583 (2014).

[33] Merciales v. Court of Appeals, 429 Phil. 70, 81 (2002).

[34] People v. Go, supra note 32 at 602, citing People v. Hon. Sandiganbayan (Third Division), et al., 661 Phil. 350 (2011).

CONCURRING OPINION



CAGUIOA, J.:

The respondent, Phil Mangali (Mangali), and Jerry Alba (Alba), were charged with robbery committed against petitioner, JCLV Realty & Development Corporation (JCLV Realty). Mangali and Alba allegedly removed JCLV Realty’s electric facilities with intent to gain and intimidation against persons. After the prosecution rested its case, Mangali filed a demurrer to evidence. The trial court granted the demurrer and dismissed the criminal case against Mangali on the ground of lack of evidence.

JCLV Realty elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA) through a special civil action for certiorari, challenging the grant of the demurrer by the trial court. The CA dismissed the petition, ruling that JCLV Realty has no personality to challenge the criminal aspect of the case because the authority to represent the State in criminal proceedings lies solely in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), and that it availed the wrong judicial remedy to question the civil aspect of the case. JCLV Realty sought reconsideration but was denied.

JCLV Realty is now before this Court via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, questioning the CA’s outright dismissal of its petition.

The ponencia affirms the ruling of the CA. The Rule 65 petition filed by JCLV Realty before the CA prays for reliefs that pertain to the criminal aspect of the case, ultimately seeking the reinstatement of the criminal case against Mangali. JCLV Realty does not have the requisite legal standing to do so as only the OSG may bring or defend actions on behalf of the State before the CA and the Supreme Court. The ponencia adds that the acquittal of an accused or the dismissal of a criminal case can be done through a Rule 65 petition on the grounds of abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, or a denial of due process rendering the judgment void. In this case, the ponencia finds that JCLV Realty was not denied due process since it was able to participate in the proceedings and present evidence. Finally, double jeopardy had set in as all the elements of double jeopardy are present in this case. Thus, there is no reason for the Court to reinstate the criminal case against Mangali.[1]

I concur with the ponencia that the petition should be denied. The acquittal by the trial court of Mangali for the crime charged may not be assailed without violating his constitutional right against double jeopardy. I submit this separate concurring opinion only to emphasize (1) that JCLV Realty had no legal personality to question Mangali’s acquittal before the CA, and 2) that the remedy of certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court in judgments of acquittal is a very very narrow exception which does not arise in the present case.

First, only the OSG, in behalf of the State, and not the private offended party, has the authority to question the acquittal of an accused in a criminal case. Therefore, JCLV Realty had no legal personality to file the petition for certiorari with the CA.

In criminal cases, the acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case against him can only be appealed by the Solicitor General, acting on behalf of the State. The private complainant or the offended party may question such acquittal or dismissal only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned.[2] The Court explained this in Bautista v. Cuneta-Pangilinan:[3]

The authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases before the Supreme Court and the CA is solely vested in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). Section 35 (I), Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code explicitly provides that the OSG shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of lawyers. It shall have specific powers and functions to represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court and the CA, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party. The OSG is the law office of the Government.

x x x x

Thus, the Court has definitively ruled that in a criminal case in which the offended party is the State, the interest of the private complainant or the private offended party is limited to the civil liability arising therefrom. If a criminal case is dismissed by the trial court or if there is an acquittal, an appeal of the criminal aspect may be undertaken, whenever feasible, only by the State through the Solicitor General. As a rule, only the Solicitor General may represent the People of the Philippines on appeal. The private offended party or complainant may not undertake such appeal.[4]

The rationale behind this rule is that in criminal cases, it is the State that is the offended party.[5] It is the party affected by the dismissal of the criminal action, and not the private complainant.[6] Thus, in the prosecution of the offense, the complainant’s role is limited to that of a witness for the prosecution.[7]

Since the petition filed by JCLV Realty before the CA essentially assailed the criminal aspect of the case, it should have been filed by the State through the OSG. Thus, the CA was correct when it dismissed the petition filed by JCLV Realty for lack of legal personality.

Second, the remedy of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 against the acquittal of an accused is a very very limited exception to the finality-of-acquittal rule, and one which does not arise in the present case.

As early as 1915, the Court already recognized that a dismissal of a criminal case for lack of evidence is equivalent to an acquittal. In United States v. Kilayko,[8] the accused was charged with a violation of the penal provisions of the Chattel Mortgage Law. After stipulating on the facts of the case, counsel for the accused filed a demurrer to the information — which was granted by the trial court. The provincial fiscal appealed the case to the Supreme Court. The Court upheld the acquittal of the accused, despite the fact that the decision of the trial court was based on an erroneous interpretation of the law, thus:

In dismissing the complaint the trial judge refers to the motion of counsel for the accused as a “so-called demurrer;” but it does not clearly appear whether he regarded the entry of his order dismissing the complaint as a decision of the case on the merits, or a ruling sustaining a demurrer.

We are of opinion, however, that the ruling of the trial judge on the motion of counsel for the accused was in truth and in effect a final judgment on the merits from which no appeal lav on behalf of the Government. The accused had been arraigned and pleaded “not guilty,” and the judgment of the court was entered upon an agreed statement of facts. The agreed statement of facts disclosed everything which the prosecution and the accused were prepared to prove by the testimony of their respective witnesses. After the submission of the agreed statement of facts, the trial was regularly terminated, and it only remained for the trial judge to enter his judgment convicting and sentencing the accused, or acquitting him and dismissing the information upon which the proceedings had been instituted. Manifestly, the accused was in jeopardy of conviction from the moment the case was submitted on the agreed statement of facts until judgment was entered dismissing the information. Indeed, there can be no doubt that but for the erroneous view of the trial judge as to the nature and effect of the penal provision of section 12 of the Chattel Mortgage Law, a judgment of conviction would have been lawfully entered upon the agreed statement of facts, followed by the imposition of the prescribed penalty.

The judgment entered in the court below was not a mere order sustaining, a demurrer, but a final judgment disposing of the case on the merits; so that were we to reverse the judgment and direct the court below to proceed with the trial, the accused would be entitled to have the information dismissed on the plea of double jeopardy.[9]

The right against double jeopardy is a constitutional right deeply rooted in jurisprudence. The doctrine has several avowed purposes. Primarily, it prevents the State from using its criminal processes as an instrument of harassment to wear out the accused by a multitude of cases with accumulated trials. It also serves the additional purpose of precluding the State, following an acquittal, from successively retrying the defendant in the hope of securing a conviction. And finally, it prevents the State, following conviction, from retrying the defendant again in the hope of securing a greater penalty. Double jeopardy, therefore, provides three related protections: (1) against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal, (2) against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction, and (3) against multiple punishments for the same offense.[10]

The constitutional mandate is a rule of finality. A single prosecution for any offense is all the law allows. It protects an accused from harassment, enables him to treat what had transpired as a closed chapter in his life, either to exult in his freedom or to be resigned to whatever penalty is imposed, and is a bar to unnecessary litigation, in itself time-consuming and expense- producing for the State as well. The ordeal of a criminal prosecution is inflicted only once, not whenever it pleases the state to do so.[11]

The inviolability of the right of the accused against double jeopardy is reflected in the skeptical attitude taken by the Supreme Court towards petitions for certiorari disputing decisions acquitting an accused. In People v. Velasco,[12] the Court traced the development of the said right in common law until it was introduced in the Philippines and took on a life of its own in the context of our own legal tradition and historical experience. In Velasco, the Supreme Court discussed the strictly limited situation when double jeopardy does not apply:

In general, the rule is that a remand to a trial court of a judgment of acquittal brought before the Supreme Court on certiorari cannot be had unless there is a finding of mistrial, as in Galman v. Sandiganbayan. Condemning the trial before the Sandiganbayan of the murder of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, which resulted in the acquittal of all the accused, as a sham, this Court minced no words in declaring that [i]t is settled doctrine that double jeopardy cannot be invoked against this Court’s setting aside of the trial court’s judgment of acquittal where the prosecution which represents the sovereign people in criminal cases is denied due process x x x. [T]he sham trial was but a mock trial where the authoritarian president ordered respondents Sandiganbavan and Tanodbavan to rig the trial, and closely monitored the entire proceedings to assure the predetermined final outcome of acquittal and absolution as innocent of all the respondent-accused. x x x Manifestly, the prosecution and the sovereign people were denied due process of law with a partial court and biased Tanodbayan under the constant and pervasive monitoring and pressure exerted by the authoritarian president to assure the carrying out of his instructions. A dictated, coerced and scripted verdict of acquittal, such as that in the case at bar, is a void judgment. In legal contemplation, it is no judgment at all. It neither binds nor bars anyone. Such a judgment is ‘a lawless thing which can be treated as an outlaw.’ It is a terrible and unspeakable affront to the society and the people. ‘To paraphrase Brandeis: If the authoritarian head of government becomes the lawbreaker, he breeds contempt for the law; he invites every man to become a law unto himself; he invites anarchy.’ The contention of respondent-accused that the Sandiganbayan judgment of acquittal ended the case and could not be appealed or reopened without being put in double jeopardy was forcefully disposed of by the Court in People v. Court of Appeals:

x x x That is the general rule and presupposes a valid judgment. As earlier pointed out, however, respondent Court’s Resolution of acquittal was a void judgment for having been issued without jurisdiction. No double jeopardy attaches, therefore. A void judgment is, in legal effect, no judgment at all. By it no rights are divested. Through it, no rights can be attained. Being worthless, all proceedings founded upon it are equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars anyone. AH acts performed under it and all claims flowing out of it are void.

x x x x

Private respondents invoke ‘justice for the innocent.’ For justice to prevail the scales must balance. It is not to be dispensed for the accused alone. The interests of the society which they have wronged, must also be equally considered. A judgment of conviction is not necessarily a denial of justice. A verdict of acquittal neither necessarily spells a triumph of justice. To the party wronged, to the society offended, it could also mean injustice. This is where the Courts play a vital role. They render justice where justice is due.

Thus, the doctrine that ‘double jeopardy may not be invoked after trial’ may apply only when the Court finds that the ‘criminal trial was a sham’ because the prosecution representing the sovereign people in the criminal case was denied due process x x x.

xxx The fundamental philosophy highlighting the finality of an acquittal by the trial court cuts deep into “the humanity of the laws and in a jealous watchfulness over the rights of the citizen, when brought in unequal contest with the State.[13]

The case of Galman v. Sandiganbayan[14] presents the very limited and extremely narrow exception to the application of the right against double jeopardy. The unique facts surrounding Galman — and other similar scenarios where the denial of due process on the part of the prosecution was so gross and palpable — is the very limited area where an acquittal may be revisited through a petition for certiorari.

Thus, in People v. Tria-Tirona,[15] the Court held:

x x x In general, the rule is that a remand to a trial court of a judgment of acquittal brought before the Supreme Court on certiorari cannot be had unless there is a finding of mistrial, as in Galman v. Sandiganbayan. Only when there is a finding of a sham trial can the doctrine of double jeopardy be not invoked because the people, as represented by the prosecution, were denied due process.

From the foregoing pronouncements, it is clear in this jurisdiction that after trial on the merits, an acquittal is immediately final and cannot be appealed on the ground of double jeopardy. The only exception where double jeopardy cannot be invoked is where there is a finding of mistrial resulting in a denial of due process.[16]

Further, in People v. Court of Appeals, Fourth Division,[17] the Court explained that:

xxx [F]or an acquittal to be considered tainted with grave abuse of discretion, there must be a showing that the prosecution’s right to due process was violated or that the trial conducted was a sham.

Although the dismissal order is not subject to appeal, it is still reviewable but only through certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. For the writ to issue, the trial court must be shown to have acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction such as where the prosecution was denied the opportunity to present its case or where the trial was a sham thus rendering the assailed judgment void. The burden is on the petitioner to clearly demonstrate that the trial court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice. (Citations omitted)

The petition is bereft of any allegation, much less, evidence that the prosecution’s right to due process was violated or the proceedings before the CA were a mockery such that Ando’s acquittal was a foregone conclusion. Accordingly, notwithstanding the alleged errors in the interpretation of the applicable law or appreciation of evidence that the CA may have committed in ordering Ando’s acquittal, absent any showing that the CA acted with caprice or without regard to the rudiments of due process, the CA’s findings can no longer be reversed, disturbed and set aside without violating the rule against double jeopardy.[18]

Hence, not every error in the trial or evaluation of the evidence by the court in question that led to the acquittal of the accused would be reviewable by certiorari. The writ of certiorari — being a remedy narrow in scope and inflexible in character, whose purpose is to keep an inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction, or to prevent an inferior court from committing such grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction, or to relieve parties from arbitrary acts of courts (i.e., acts that courts have no power or authority in law to perform) — is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop, and cannot be issued to correct every error committed by a lower court.[19] Certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction, not errors of procedure or mistakes in the findings or conclusions of the lower court. As long as a court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its discretion will amount to nothing more than errors of judgment which fall outside the scope of a writ of certiorari.

In the case at bar, although JCLV Realty filed a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court before this Court, the ponencia nonetheless made a finding that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it granted the demurrer to evidence on a ground not raised therein — that of the failure of the prosecution to positively identify Mangali. As discussed, it is immaterial whether the trial court was correct in acquitting Mangali. The fact remains that Mangali’s right against double jeopardy already attached when the trial court granted his demurrer to evidence and ordered his acquittal. No amount of error of judgment will ripen into an error of jurisdiction such that the acquittal would be reviewable by this Court through a petition for certiorari. Absent any manifest denial of due process tantamount to making the proceedings before the court a quo a sham trial, there is no basis whatsoever to reinstate the criminal case against Mangali and place him twice in jeopardy.

In light of the foregoing considerations, I vote to DENY the petition.

FOOTNOTES

[1] See ponencia, pp. 6-8

[2] Bautista v. Cuneia-Pangilinan, G R. No. 189754, October 24, 2012, 684 SCRA 521, 535.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 534-537.

[5] Cu v. Ventura, G.R No. 224567, September 26, 2018, 881 SCRA 118, 128.

[6] Chiok v. People, G.R. No. 179814, December 7, 2015, 776 SCRA 120, 135.

[7] People v. Santiago, 255 Phil 851, 861-862 (1989).

[8] 32 Phil. 619 (1915).

[9] Id. at 622-623. Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

[10] People v. Dela Torre, G.R. Nos. 137953-58, April 11, 2002, 380 SCRA 596, 605-606.

[11] Tan v. Barrios, G.R. Nos. 85481-82, October 18, 1990, 190 SCRA 686, 702-703.

[12] G.R. No. 127444. September 13, 2000, 340 SCRA 207.

[13] Id. at 238-240. Emphasis and underscoring supplied. Citations omitted.

[14] G.R. No. L-72670, September 12, 1986, 144 SCRA 43.

[15] G.R. No. 130106, July 15. 2005, 463 SCRA 462.

[16] Id. at 469. Emphasis supplied.

[17] G.R. No. 198589, July 25, 2012, 677 SCRA 575.

[18] Id. at 579-580. Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

[19] Delos Santos v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 153852, October 24, 2012, 684 SCRA 410, 420.