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MACA-ANGCOS ALAWIYA, ET AL. VS. COURT OF issued a Warrant of Arrest against all the accused. Meanwhile, on 8 APPEALS February 2002, the accused filed a petition for review of the Resolution of State Prosecutor with the Office of the Secretary of MACA-ANGCOS ALAWIYA, ET AL. VS. COURT OF Justice. On 18 February 2002, t
  MACA-ANGCOS ALAWIYA, ET AL. VS. COURT OF APPEALS MACA-ANGCOS ALAWIYA, ET AL. VS. COURT OF APPEALS GR No. 164170 April 16, 2009   FACTS:  At about 10:00 in the morning of 11 September 2001, while  petitioners were cruising on board a vehicle along United Nations Avenue, a blue Toyota Sedan bumped their vehicle from behind. When they went out of their vehicle to assess the damage, several armed men, herein respondents (Police officers Michael Angelo Martin, Allanjing Medina, Arnold Asis, Pedro Gutierrez, Ignacio De Paz and Antonio Berida, Jr., who were assigned at the Northern Police District) alighted from the Toyota Sedan, poked guns at  petitioners, blindfolded, and forced them to ride in the car. Petitioners were brought to an office where P10,000,000 and two vehicles were demanded from them in exchange for their freedom. After haggling, the amount was reduced to P700,000 plus the two vehicles. The money and vehicles were delivered in the late evening of 11 September 2001; they were released in the early morning of 12 September 2001 in Quiapo after they handed the Deed of Sale and registration papers of the two vehicles. The State Prosecutor conducted the preliminary investigation, and issued a Resolution dated 14 January 2002, recommending that the accused be indicted for the crime of kidnapping for ransom. The Resolution was endorsed for approval by Assistant Chief State Prosecutor and approved by Chief State Prosecutor. On 28 January 2002, the trial court, upon motion by the  prosecution, issued a Hold Departure Order and on even date, issued a Warrant of Arrest against all the accused. Meanwhile, on 8 February 2002, the accused filed a petition for review of the Resolution of State Prosecutor with the Office of the Secretary of Justice. On 18 February 2002, the accused moved for the quashal of the Information on the ground that the officer who filed the Information has no authority do so. In an Order dated 27 February 2002, the trial court denied the motion to quash on the ground that under the ruling in People v. Mapalao, an accused who is at large is not entitled to bail or other relief. The trial court also held that the jurisdiction and power of the Ombudsman under Section 15(1) of Republic Act No. 6770 (RA 6770), as well as Administrative Order No. 8 of the Office of the Ombudsman, are not exclusive but shared or concurrent with the regular prosecutors. Thus, the authority of the Department of Justice to investigate, file the information and prosecute the case could no longer be questioned. In a Resolution promulgated on 24 September 2002, then Secretary of Justice Perez reversed the ruling of State Prosecutor Velasco and ordered the latter to cause the withdrawal or dismissal of the Information for kidnapping for ransom. The Secretary of Justice ruled that there was no prior approval by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Information for kidnapping was filed with the trial court. He also found that the incident complained of was a  bungled buy-bust operation, not kidnapping for ransom. ISSUES:  (1.) Whether the prior approval by the Office of the Ombudsman for the Military is required for the investigation and prosecution of the instant case against the accused; (2.) Whether the reversal by the Secretary of Justice of the resolution of Stat e Prosecutor Velasco amounted to an “executive  acquittal;”  (3.) Whether the accused policemen can seek any relief (via a motion to quash the information) from the trial court when they had not been arrested yet; and (4.) Whether there was probable cause against the accused for the crime of kidnapping for ransom. HELD:  On the prior approval by the Ombudsman for the investigation and  prosecution of the case against the accused policemen The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which is representing the Secretary of Justice, agrees with petitioners that prior approval  by the Ombudsman is not required for the investigation and  prosecution of the criminal case against the accused policemen. The OSG correctly cites the case of Honasan II v. The Panel of Investigating Prosecutors of the Department of Justice, where the Court held that the power of the Ombudsman to investigate offenses involving public officers or employees is not exclusive  but is concurrent with other similarly authorized agencies of the government such as the provincial, city and state prosecutors. In view of the foregoing, both the Court of Appeals and the Secretary of Justice clearly erred in ruling that prior approval by the Ombudsman is required for the investigation and prosecution of the criminal case against the accused policemen. On the reversal by the Secretary of Justice of the resolution of State Prosecutor Settled is the rule that the Secretary of Justice retains the power to review resolutions of his subordinates even after the information has already been filed in court. In Marcelo v. Court of Appeals, reiterated in Roberts, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, this Court clarified that nothing in Crespo v. Mogul forecloses the power or authority of the Secretary of Justice to review resolutions of his subordinates in criminal cases despite an information already having been filed in court. The nature of the power of control of the Secretary of Justice over prosecutors was explained in Ledesma v. Court of Appeals in this wise: Decisions or resolutions of prosecutors are subject to appeal to the Secretary of justice who, under the Revised Administrative Code, exercises the power of direct control and supervision over said  prosecutors; and who may thus affirm, nullify, reverse or modify their rulings. Contrary to petitioners’ contention, the Secretary of Justice’s reversal of the Resolution of State Prosecutor did not amount to “executive acquittal” because the Secretary of Justice was simply exercising his power to review, which included the power to reverse the ruling of the State Prosecutor. However, once a complaint or information is filed in court, any disposition of the case such as its dismissal or its continuation rests on the sound discretion of the court. Trial judges are not bound by the Secretary of Justice’s reversal of the prosecutor’s resolution finding probable cause. Trial judges are required to make their own assessment of the existence of probable cause, separately and independently of the evaluation by the Secretary of Justice. On the motion to quash the information when the accused had not  been arrested yet People v. Mapalao correctly argued by the OSG, does not squarely apply to the present case. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Rules governing a motion to quash which requires that the accused should be under the custody of the law prior to the filing of a motion to quash on the ground that the officer filing the information had no authority to do so. Custody of the law is not required for the adjudication of reliefs other than an application for   bail. However, while the accused are not yet under the custody of the law, any question on the jurisdiction over the person of the accused is deemed waived by the accused when he files any  pleading seeking an affirmative relief, except in cases when the accused invokes the special jurisdiction of the court by impugning such jurisdiction over his person. At any rate, the accused’s motion to quash, on the ground of lack of authority of the filing officer, would have never prospered  because as discussed earlier, the Ombudsman’s power to investigate offenses involving public officers or employees is not exclusive but is concurrent with other similarly authorized agencies of the government. On the existence or non-existence of probable cause Ordinarily, the determination of probable cause is not lodged with this Court. Its duty in an appropriate case is confined to the issue of whether the executive or judicial determination, as the case may  be, of probable cause was done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction. However, in the following exceptional cases, this Court may ultimately resolve the existence or non-existence of probable cause  by examining the records of the preliminary investigation.    a. To afford adequate protection to the constitutional rights of the accused;     b. When necessary for the orderly administration of justice or to avoid oppression or multiplicity of actions;    c. When there is a prejudicial question which is sub judice;    d. When the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority;    e. Where the prosecution is under an invalid law, ordinance or regulation;    f. When double jeopardy is clearly apparent;    g. Where the court has no jurisdiction over the offense;    h. Where it is a case of persecution rather than prosecution;    i. Where the charges are manifestly false and motivated by the lust for vengeance;     j. When there is clearly no prima facie case against the accused and a motion to quash on that ground has been denied; and    k. Preliminary injunction has been issued by the Supreme Court to prevent the threatened unlawful arrest of  petitioners. There is no clear showing that the present case falls under any of the recognized exceptions. Moreover, as stated earlier, once the information is filed with the trial court, any disposition of the information rests on the sound discretion of the court. The trial court is mandated to independently evaluate or assess the existence of probable cause and it may either agree or disagree with the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice. The trial court is not  bound to adopt the resolution of the Secretary of Justice. Reliance alone on the resolution of the Secretary of Justice amounts to an abdication of the trial court’s duty and jurisdiction to determine the existence of probable cause.
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