G.R. No. 183551 November 12, 2014
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
ENGR. RODOLFO YECYEC, ROGELIO BINAS, ISIDRO VICTA, IRENEO VINA, RUDY GO, JUANITO TUQUIB, ROMEO BUSTILLO, FELIX OBALLAS, CASTEO ESCLAMADO, RICARDO LUMACTUD, LEOPOLDO PELIGRO, PATERNO NANOLAN, CARLITO SOLATORIO, MEDARDO ABATON, FEDIL RABANES, FELIX HINGKING, BENJAMIN TOTO, EUFROCINO YBANEZ, FELOMINO OBSIOMA, LORETO PEROCHO, MARANIE UNGON, NOYNOY ANGCORAN, ROLANDO YUZON, NESTOR CHAVEZ, LEONARDO PREJAN, PRIMO LIBOT, NEMESIO ABELLA, IRENEO LICUT, PROCESO GOLDE, EPIFANIO LABRADOR, and BRANCH 11, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT (Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon), Respondents.
“x x x.
To determine whether probable cause exists and to charge those believed to have committed the crime as defined by law, is a function that belongs to the public prosecutor. It is an executive function.22 The public prosecutor, who is given a broad discretion to determine whether probable cause exists and to charge those believed to have committed the crime as defined by law and, thus, should be held for trial, has the quasi-judicial authority to determine whether or not a criminal case must be filed in court.23 Whether or not that function has been correctly discharged by the public prosecutor, that is, whether or not he has made a correct ascertainment of the existence of probable cause in a case, is a matter that the trial court itself does not and may not be compelled to pass upon.24 Thus, in the oft-cited case of Crespo v. Mogul, it was stated that:
It is a cardinal principle that all criminal actions either commenced by complaint or by information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of the fiscal. The institution of a criminal action depends upon the sound discretion of the fiscal. He may or may not file the complaint or information, follow or not follow that presented by the offended party, according to whether the evidence, in his opinion, is sufficient or not to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The reason for placing the criminal prosecution under the direction and control of the fiscal is to prevent malicious or unfounded prosecutions by private persons.
x x x Prosecuting officers under the power vested in them by the law, not only have the authority but also the duty of prosecuting persons who, according to the evidence received from the complainant, are shown to be guilty of a crime committed within the jurisdiction of their office. They have equally the duty not to prosecute when the evidence adduced is not sufficient to establish a prima facie case.
This broad prosecutorial power is, however, not unfettered, because just as public prosecutors are obliged to bring forth before the law those who have transgressed it, they are also constrained to be circumspect in filing criminal charges against the innocent. Thus, for crimes cognizable by regional trial courts, preliminary investigations are usually conducted.25 In Ledesma v. Court of Appeals,26 the Court discussed the purposes and nature of a preliminary investigation in this manner:
x x x The primary objective of a preliminary investigation is to free respondent from the inconvenience, expense, ignominy and stress of defending himself/herself in the course of a formal trial, until the reasonable probability of his or her guilt in a more or less summary proceeding by a competent office designated by law for that purpose. Secondarily, such summary proceeding also protects the state from the burden of the unnecessary expense an effort in prosecuting alleged offenses and in holding trials arising from false, frivolous or groundless charges.1âwphi1
Such investigation is not part of the trial. A full and exhaustive presentation of the parties' evidence is not required, but only such as may engender a well-grounded belief than an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof. By reason of the abbreviated nature of preliminary investigations, a dismissal of the charges as a result thereof is not equivalent to a judicial pronouncement of acquittal. Hence, no double jeopardy attaches. The determination of probable cause to hold a person for trial must be distinguished from the determination of probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest, which is a judicial function. The judicial determination of probable cause, is one made by the judge to ascertain whether a warrant of arrest should be issued against the accused. The judge must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is a necessity to place the accused under custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice.27 If the judge finds no probable cause, the judge cannot be forced to issue the arrest warrant.28
X x x.”