Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Supreme Court held that the authority of the Secretary of Justice to review and order the withdrawal of an Information in instances where he finds the absence of a prima facie case is not time-barred, albeit subject to the approval of the court.

"x x x.

In Guy vs. Asia United Bank,[20] a motion for reconsideration from the resolution of the Secretary of Justice, which was filed four (4) days beyond the non-extendible period of ten (10) days, was allowed under Section 13 of the 2000 NPS Rules on Appeal. The Supreme Court held that the authority of the Secretary of Justice to review and order the withdrawal of an Information in instances where he finds the absence of a prima facie case is not time-barred, albeit subject to the approval of the court, if its jurisdiction over the accused has meanwhile attached.[21] We further explained:

[I]t is not prudent or even permissible for a court to compel the Secretary of Justice or the fiscal, as the case may be, to prosecute a proceeding originally initiated by him on an information, if he finds that the evidence relied upon by him is insufficient for conviction. Now, then, if the Secretary of Justice possesses sufficient latitude of discretion in his determination of what constitutes probable cause and can legally order a reinvestigation even in those extreme instances where an information has already been filed in court, is it not just logical and valid to assume that he can take cognizance of and competently act on a motion for reconsideration, belatedly filed it might have been, dealing with probable cause? And is it not a grievous error on the part of the CA if it virtually orders the filing of an information, as here, despite a categorical statement from the Secretary of Justice about the lack of evidence to proceed with the prosecution of the petitioner? The answer to both posers should be in the affirmative. As we said in Santos v. Go:

[C]ourts cannot interfere with the discretion of the public prosecutor in evaluating the offense charged. He may dismiss the complaint forthwith, if he finds the charge insufficient in form or substance, or without any ground.Or, he may proceed with the investigation if the complaint in his view is sufficient and in proper form. The decision whether to dismiss a complaint or not, is dependent upon the sound discretion of the prosecuting fiscal and, ultimately, that of the Secretary of Justice. Findings of the Secretary of Justice are not subject to review unless made with grave abuse of discretion.

x x x

[T]o strike down the April 20, 2006 DOJ Secretary's Resolution as absolutely void and without effect whatsoever, as the assailed CA decision did, for having been issued after the Secretary had supposedly lost jurisdiction over the motion for reconsideration subject of the resolution may be reading into the aforequoted provision a sense not intended. For, the irresistible thrust of the assailed CA decision is that the DOJ Secretary is peremptorily barred from taking a second hard look at his decision and, in appropriate cases, reverse or modify the same unless and until a motion for reconsideration is timely interposed and pursued. The Court cannot accord cogency to the posture assumed by the CA under the premises which, needless to stress, would deny the DOJ the authority to motu proprio undertake a review of his own decision with the  end in view of protecting, in line with his oath of office, innocent persons from groundless, false or malicious prosecution. As the Court pointed out in Torres, Jr. v. Aguinaldo, the Secretary of Justice would be committing a serious dereliction of duty if he orders or sanctions the filing of an information based upon a complaint where he is not convinced that the evidence warrants the filing of the action in court.[22](Citations omitted and underscoring supplied)

The Court further stated in Guy that when the DOJ Secretary took cognizance of the petitioner's motion for reconsideration, he effectively excepted such motion from the operation of the aforequoted Section 13 of DOJ Circular No. 70, s. 2000. This show of liberality is, to us, within the competence of the DOJ Secretary to make. The Court is not inclined to disturb the same absent compelling proof, that he acted out of whim and that petitioner was out to delay the proceedings to the prejudice of respondent in filing the motion for reconsideration.[23]

x x x."



- versus -

G.R. No183623




June 25, 2012