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Orquinaza vs. People Case Digest


● The real nature of the criminal charge is determined not from the caption or preamble of the information nor from the specification of the provision of law alleged to have been violated, they being conclusions of law, but by the actual recital of facts in the complaint or information. 

● The absence of a preliminary investigation does not affect the court's jurisdiction over the case nor impair the validity of the information or otherwise render it defective. The remedy of the accused in such case is to call the attention of the court to the lack of a preliminary investigation and demand, as a matter of right, that one be conducted.


Facts: 

In 2003, Arida, an employee of Calamba Model Makers factory, together with her witness Espinili, executed a sworn statement before the Calamba City Police Station regarding the alleged act of Orquinaza, the general manager of the said factory, of kissing her and touching her breasts while she was taking a nap inside a room of the factory. The Calamba City Police designated the offense as sexual harrassment and referred the case to the Office of the Prosecutor.

The assistant city prosecutor issued a subpoena ordering respondent Arida and Orquinaza to appear for preliminary investigation. Orquinaza filed a motion to dismiss before the Office of the City Prosecutor, arguing that the affidavits of Arida and Espinili do not contain allegations to constitute the crime of sexual harassment.

Soon, the assistant city prosecutor issued a resolution finding that there was no transgression of the anti-sexual harassment law, but petitioner's act of grabbing complainant's breasts and kissing her constitute acts of lasciviousness. Thus, he filed with the MTCC an information charging petitioner with acts of lasciviousness.

A warrant of arrest was issued against Orquinaza. Orquinaza filed an omnibus motion praying that the warrant be recalled, the information be quashed, the arraignment be invalidated and the case be dismissed. He also claims that he was deprived of his right to due process since the information for acts of lasciviousness was void as the preliminary investigation conducted by the prosecutor was for sexual harassment and not for acts of lasciviousness. The MTCC denied the motion.


Issues:

1. Is there a need for new preliminary investigation?

2. Should the case be dismissed on the ground of lack of preliminary investigation? Is lack of preliminary investigation a ground for the quashal of the information?


Held:

1. No. Arida's statement contains all the allegations to support the charge of acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, i.e., (1) the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness, (2) under any of the following circumstances: (a) using force or intimidation, (b) the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or (c) offended party is under 12 years of age. Petitioner had the opportunity to refute all the allegations made by Arida when the Assistant City Prosecutor required him to submit his counter-affidavit. The conduct of another preliminary investigation for the offense of acts of lasciviousness would be a futile exercise because the complainant would only be presenting the same facts and evidence which have already been studied by the prosecutor. The Court frowns upon such superfluity which only serves to delay the prosecution and disposition of the criminal complaint.

The designation by the police officer of the offense as sexual harassment when she referred the case to the Office of the Prosecutor is not conclusive as it is within the competence of the prosecutor to assess the evidence submitted and determine therefrom the appropriate offense to be charged. That is precisely the purpose of the preliminary investigation. It is a means to allow the parties to present their affidavits and counter-affidavits before the prosecutor to enable the latter to ascertain whether there is sufficient ground to indict the accused and to help him prepare the information to be filed in court. Preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial.


2.  Even if it were necessary to conduct another preliminary investigation for the charge of acts of lasciviousness, the lack of such preliminary investigation would still not be a ground to quash the information against the accused. The Court has often held that the lack of preliminary investigation is not a ground to quash or dismiss a complaint or information. Much less does it affect the court's jurisdiction. The absence of a preliminary investigation does not affect the court's jurisdiction over the case nor impair the validity of the information or otherwise render it defective. The remedy of the accused in such case is to call the attention of the court to the lack of a preliminary investigation and demand, as a matter of right, that one be conducted. The court, instead of dismissing the information, should merely suspend the trial and order the fiscal to conduct a preliminary investigation. (Orquinaza vs. People, G.R. No. 165596, November 17, 2005)

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