Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Powers of Solicitor General in criminal cases - G.R. No. 193681, Aug. 6, 2014

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The CA correctly dismissed the notice of appeal interposed by petitioners against the May 23, 2007 Order of the RTC because they, being mere private complainants, lacked the legal personality to appeal the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 06-875 (resulting from the quashal of the information therein on the ground of lack of jurisdiction).

To expound, it is well-settled that the authority to represent the State in appeals of criminal cases before the Court and the CA is vested solely in the OSG which is the law office of the Government whose specific powers and functions include that of representing the Republic and/or the people before any court in any action which affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require.27 Explicitly, Section 35(1),Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code provides that:

SECTION 35. Powers 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 ormatter requiring the services of lawyers. x x x. It shall have the following specific powers and functions:

(1) Represent the Governmentin 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 inhis official capacity is a party. (Emphases supplied)

Accordingly, jurisprudence holds that if there is a dismissal of a criminal case by the trial court or if there is an acquittal of the accused, it is only the OSG that may bring an appeal on the criminal aspect representing the People. The rationale therefor is rooted in the principle that the party affected by the dismissal of the criminal action is the People and not the petitioners who are mere complaining witnesses. For this reason, the People are therefore deemed as the real parties in interest in the criminal case and, therefore, only the OSG can represent them in criminal proceedings pending in the CA or in this Court. In view of the corollary principle that every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-in-interest who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or by the party entitled to the avails of the suit, an appeal of the criminal case not filed by the People as represented by the OSG is perforce dismissible. 

The private complainant or the offended party may, however, file an appeal without the intervention of the OSG but only insofar as the civil liability of the accused is concerned. He may also 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.

Here, it is clear that petitioners did not file their appeal merely to preserve their interest in the civil aspect of the case. Rather, by seeking the reversal of the RTC’s quashal of the information in Criminal Case No. 06-875 and thereby seeking that the said court be directed to set the case for arraignment and to proceed with trial, it is sufficiently clear that they sought the reinstatement of the criminal prosecution of respondents for libel. Being an obvious attempt to meddle into the criminal aspect of the case without the conformity of the OSG, their recourse, in view of the abovediscussed principles, must necessarily fail. To repeat, the right to prosecute criminal cases pertains exclusively to the People, which is therefore the proper party to bring the appeal through the representation of the OSG.

Petitioners have no personality or legal stanqing to interpose an appeal in a criminal proceeding. Since the OSG had expressly withheld its conformity and endorsemen! in the instant case, the CA, therefore, correctly dismissed the appeal. It rnust, however, be clarified. that the aforesaid dismissal is without prejudice to their filing of the appropriate action to preserve their interests but only with respect to the civil aspect of the libel case following the parameters of Rule 111 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

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