Saturday, February 20, 2010

Petition for Review in the DOJ may suspend Arraignment but not issuance of a Warrant of Arrest

The basic issue propounded by petitioner is whether a pending resolution of a petition for review filed with the Secretary of Justice concerning a finding of probable cause will suspend the proceedings in the trial court, including the implementation of a warrant of arrest.

Petitioner cites DOJ Department Circular No. 70, specifically paragraph 2 of Section 9 thereof, which provides that the appellant and the trial prosecutor shall see to it that, pending resolution of the appeal, the proceedings in court are held in abeyance. Somehow, petitioner is of the opinion that the suspension of proceedings in court, as provided in the said circular, includes the suspension of the implementation of warrants of arrest issued by the court.



SUPREME COURT:

Petitioner's contention is wrong.

It is well to remember that there is a distinction between the preliminary inquiry, which determines probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest; and the preliminary investigation proper, which ascertains whether the offender should be held for trial or be released. The determination of probable cause for purposes of issuing a warrant of arrest is made by the judge. The preliminary investigation proper – whether or not there is reasonable ground to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense charged – is the function of the investigating prosecutor.

As enunciated in Baltazar v. People, the task of the presiding judge when the Information is filed with the court is first and foremost to determine the existence or non-existence of probable cause for the arrest of the accused. Probable cause is such set of facts and circumstances as would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that the offense charged in the Information or any offense included therein has been committed by the person sought to be arrested. fellester.blogspot.com In determining probable cause, the average man weighs the facts and circumstances without resorting to the calibrations of the rules of evidence of which he has no technical knowledge. He relies on common sense. A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and that it was committed by the accused. Probable cause demands more than suspicion; it requires less than evidence that would justify conviction.

The purpose of the mandate of the judge to first determine probable cause for the arrest of the accused is to insulate from the very start those falsely charged with crimes from the tribulations, expenses and anxiety of a public trial.

The function of the judge to issue a warrant of arrest upon the determination of probable cause is exclusive; thus, the consequent implementation of a warrant of arrest cannot be deferred pending the resolution of a petition for review by the Secretary of Justice as to the finding of probable cause, a function that is executive in nature. To defer the implementation of the warrant of arrest would be an encroachment on the exclusive prerogative of the judge. It must be emphasized that petitioner filed with the trial court a motion to suspend proceedings and to suspend the implementation of the warrant of arrest in pursuance of a DOJ circular, and not a motion to quash the warrant of arrest questioning the issuance thereof.
Thus, there is no contest as to the validity or regularity of the issuance of the warrant of arrest.

Petitioner merely wanted the trial court to defer the implementation of the warrant of arrest pending the resolution by the Secretary of Justice of the petition for review that he filed citing the following directive contained in Section 9 of DOJ Department Circular:

x x x x
The appellant and the trial prosecutor shall see to it that, pending resolution of the appeal, the proceedings in court are held in abeyance.


The above provision of the Department Circular is directed specifically at the appellant and the trial prosecutor, giving them latitude in choosing a remedy to ensure that the proceedings in court are held in abeyance. However, nowhere in the said provision does it state that the court must hold the proceedings in abeyance. Therefore, the discretion of the court whether or not to suspend the proceedings or the implementation of the warrant of arrest, upon the motion of the appellant or the trial prosecutor, remains unhindered.

Petitioner has put emphasis on his argument that the suspension of the proceedings in court, including the suspension of the implementation of a warrant of arrest pending a resolution of an appeal by the Secretary of Justice, is in consonance with jurisprudence laid down by this Court in Marcelo v. Court of Appeals, Roberts, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, Ledesma v. Court of Appeals, Dimatulac v. Villon, and Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. How.

A close reading of the factual antecedents in Ledesma, Solar Team Entertainment, Inc., Dimatulac and Marcelo clearly show that a common issue among them is whether the arraignment of an accused may be deferred pending resolution by the Secretary of Justice of a petition for review on the finding of probable cause, to which this Court ruled in the affirmative. Nowhere in the said decisions did it state that the implementation or enforcement of the warrant of arrest was also deferred or suspended, as herein petitioner prays for. (Viudez vs. CA, G.R. No. 152889, June 5, 2009)

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