Header Ads

Community Rural Bank vs Judge Talavera Case Digest


●The secretary of justice, who has the power of supervision and control over prosecuting officers, is the ultimate authority who decides which of the conflicting theories of the complainants and the respondents should be believed. The provincial or city prosecutor has neither the personality nor the legal authority to review or overrule the decision of the secretary. 

● A preliminary investigation is essentially prefatory and inquisitorial. It is not a trial of the case on the merits and has no purpose except to determine whether a crime has been committed, and whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty of that crime.

● In criminal proceedings, the word “party” is held to mean not only the government and the accused, but also other persons who may be affected by the orders issued and/or judgment rendered therein. Elementary due process mandates that the other party be notified of the adverse action of the opposing party, so as to avoid a capricious change of mind and to ensure impartiality of the trial. 

● When a motion is pro forma, the court cannot act upon it..

* * * * * * * * * * *
Facts: 

Community Rural Bank (Bank) filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office of Cabanatuan charging several persons with Estafa. After preliminary investigation, 6 informations for estafa were filed, 2 of which were raffled to the branch where respondent, Judge Talavera, presided.

The accused appealed the finding of the Fiscal to the DOJ Secretary, which the latter denied, so Judge Talavera issued a warrant of arrest with no bail against the accused.

Later, the accused filed with Judge Talavera a motion for reinvestigation and to lift the warrant of arrest. The Bank was not notified of this motion. Judge granted the motion without any hearing thereon. When the reinvestigation was conducted, the Bank was still not notified.

The assistant provincial prosecutor who conducted the reinvestigation reversed the earlier findings of the fiscal. On the same day, a motion to dismiss was filed with Judge, which he granted, and he also ordered the release of the accused. The Bank was never notified of any of these proceedings. Bank then filed an MR arguing it was deprived of due process. It also asked that the criminal information be reinstated. Judge denied this. Hence, Bank filed the present case charging Judge Talavera with (1) serious misconduct and/or gross inefficiency and (2) violation of Rules 1.01, 3.01 and 3.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.


Issues:

1. Whether Judge Talavera was correct in granting the motion for reinvestigation after the resolution of the fiscal finding that there was prima facie evidence against the accused was affirmed by the DOJ Secretary.

2. Whether Judge Talavera was correct in granting the motion to dismiss

3. Whether Judge Talavera was correct in taking cognizance of the motions without notice of hearing


Held:

1. No. Judge Talavera  should not have entertained the motion for reinvestigation, since DOJ Secretary Serafin Cuevas already denied with finality the appeal of the accused, finding that there was prima facie evidence against the accused. The secretary of justice, who has the power of supervision and control over prosecuting officers, is the ultimate authority who decides which of the conflicting theories of the complainants and the respondents should be believed. The provincial or city prosecutor has neither the personality nor the legal authority to review or overrule the decision of the secretary.

Section 7 of Department Order No. 223 (the rules governing appeals from resolutions in preliminary investigations or reinvestigations) provides:

Sec. 7.  Motion for Reinvestigation. – At any time after the appeal has been perfected and before the resolution thereof, the appellant may file a motion for reinvestigation on the ground that new and material evidence has been discovered which appellant could not with reasonable diligence have discovered during the preliminary investigation and which if produced and admitted would probably change the resolution.

Here, the motion for reinvestigation was filed 3 months after the DOJ Secretary already denied their appeal with finality. Clearly, therefore, Judge Talavera was wrong in granting the motion. In granting the Motion for Reinvestigation, respondent effectively demolished the DOJ’s power of control and supervision over prosecutors.


2. It was also an error for the Judge to grant the Motion to Dismiss by relying merely on the resolution of the prosecutor who conducted the reinvestigation. In his Order, he merely stated that the motion to dismiss is meritorious, and nothing more. The Order failed to demonstrate an independent evaluation or assessment of the evidence against the accused.

The Judge acted with undue haste when he granted the Motion only a day after the reinvestigation was concluded. This leads to the conclusion that the judge did not personally evaluate the parties’ evidence before acting on the Motion. The discretion to grant a Motion to Dismiss rests solely with the court. However, mere approval of the position taken by the prosecution is not equivalent to the discretion required. Once a complaint or an information is filed in court, the judge -- not the prosecutor -- assumes full control of the controversy. A grant of the motion to dismiss is equivalent to a disposition of the case itself, which is a subject clearly within the court’s exclusive jurisdiction and competence.

When Judge issued the warrants of arrest without bail against all the accused, it is presumed that he had studied the Information and the Resolution of the prosecutor and agreed with the latter’s findings of probable cause. Thus, the grant of the Motion for Reinvestigation and of the Motion to Dismiss for alleged insufficiency of evidence posed a serious contradiction of the earlier finding of probable cause.


3. Finally, Judge granted both of the Motions despite the obvious lack of notice to the Bank and lack of hearing. This lapse effectively deprived it of its day in court.

The Rules of Court require that, with the exception of motions that the court may act upon without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party, every written motion should be set for hearing by the movant.  Sections 4, 5 and 6 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court explicitly require that notices be sent at least three days before the hearing and directed at the parties concerned; and that they state the time and place of hearing of the motion, with proper proof of notice thereof.  Without such proof, the motion is considered pro forma; thus, the court cannot act upon it.

The purpose of the notice is to enable the adverse party to appear for its own protection and to contest the motion. Elementary due process mandates that the other party be notified of the adverse action of the opposing party, so as to avoid a capricious change of mind and to ensure impartiality of the trial. Here, the Motions for Reinvestigation and to Dismiss were fatally defective, as neither contained any proper notice of hearing. Respondent thus grossly erred in taking cognizance of these Motions.

In criminal proceedings, the word “party” is held to mean not only the government and the accused, but also other persons who may be affected by the orders issued and/or judgment rendered therein.

Undoubtedly, complainant had an interest in the maintenance of the criminal prosecution. Its right to intervene therein was  practically beyond question, as it neither instituted a separate civil action nor reserved or waived the right to do so. Thus, as the party injured by the crime, it had the right to be heard on a motion that was derogatory to its interest in the civil aspect of the case. Due process necessitates that it be afforded this opportunity, especially because of a conflict between the positions of the public prosecutor and of the offended party.

All told, respondent showed his lack of understanding, not only of the basic and established superior-subordinate relationship between the secretary of justice and the provincial prosecutors, but also of the functions and duties of the trial court in “the proper scheme of things” in our criminal justice system.

Judges are expected to have more than just a modicum acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules. The Code of Judicial Ethics requires them to be embodiments of, among other desirable characteristics, judicial competence. They are not common individuals whose gross errors “men forgive and time forgets.” Judge was FINED P20,000.00. (Community Rural Bank v. Tomas B. Talavera, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1909, April 6, 2005)

No comments

Powered by Blogger.