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Aguinaldo v. Ventus

G.R. No. 176033 | 752 SCRA 461 | March 11, 2015 | Peralta, J. Petition: Petition for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of CA Petitioners: FELILIBETH AGUINALDO and Benjamin Perez Respondents: Reynaldo Ventus and Jojo Joson

FACTS

1. On Dec 2002, Ventus and Joson filed a Complaint for estafa against petitioners before the OCP of Manila

a. both parties were business partners in financing casino players

b. sometime in March and April 2002, petitioners connived in convincing them to part with their 260,000 in consideration of a pledge of 2 motor vehicles i. the motor vehicles were misrepresented by the petitioners to be owned by Aguinaldo, but turned out to be owned by Levita de Castro, manager/operator of LEDC Rent A Car.

2. Perez denied accusation against him and claimed that his only participation in the transaction between respondents and Aguinaldo was limited to having initially introduced them to each other.

a. respondents: Perez was the one who showed them photocopies of the registration paper of the motor vehicles in the name of

Aguinaldo, as well as the one who personally took them out from the rent-a-car company

3. Asst City Prosecutor issued a Resolution recommending petitioners to be indicted for estafa

4. An information for estafa was filed with RTC.

5. Perez was arrested

a. Perez filed an Urgent Motion for Reduction of Bail to be posted in cash – granted

b. filed Very Urgent Motion to Recall or Quash Warrants of Arrest

6. Petitioners filed with OCP their:

a. Motion for Reconsideration and

b. Motion for Withdrawal of Information Prematurely filed with the RTC

c. claim: no deceit or false pretenses was committed because

respondents were fully aware that she does not own the pledged motor vehicles

7. Public respondent granted motion for withdrawal of information and

directing recall of arrest warrant only insofar as Aguinaldo is concerned, pending resolution of her MR with the OCP

8. Petitioners filed Urgent Motion for Cancellation of Arraignment, pending resolution of the MR filed with OCP

a. public respondent ordered arraignment to be deferred until resolution of petitioners’ MR

b. ordered case archived pending resolution of petitioners’ MR

9. OCP, through ACP, filed a Motion to Set Case for Trial

a. denying the motion for reconsideration and withdrawal of

information

10. Petitioners filed with DOJ a petition for review

11. public respondent directed the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Aguinaldo and setting of case for arraignment

12. Petitioners filed an Urgent Motion to Cancel Arraignment and Suspend

Further Proceedings until petition for review before DOJ is resolved with finality

a. granted

13. On June 2004, Levita de Castro, through law firm of Lapena and Associates, filed a Motion to reinstate case and to issue warrant of arrest

a. alleged she was the private complainant in the estafa case

b. claimed that DOJ already promulgated resolution denying petition for review

14. Public Respondent issued an order granting a Motion to Reinstate Case and Issue Warrant of Arrest

15. Petitioners:

a. public respondent erred in reinstating the case and issuing an arrest warrant against Aguinaldo

b. the Provision of Sec 11, Rule 116 limiting the pension for arraignment to only 60 days is merely directory, thus it cannot deprive petitioners of their procedural right to due process as their petition for review has not yet been resolved by the DOJ

c. even before they could receive a copy of the DOJ resolution denying their petition for review and move for reconsideration, info had already been filed with RTC

ISSUES

1. W/N De Castro was a proper party – No

2. W/N the provision of Sec 11, Rule 116 is merely directory – No

3. W/N filing of the information and issuance of warrant of arrest put petitioners at risk of incarceration without preliminary investigation having been completed – NO

RULING & RATIO

1. No, de Castro is not even a private complainant, but a mere witness for

being the owner of vehicles allegedly used by petitioners in defrauding and convincing private respondents to part with their 260,000.

a. Public respondent should have treated De Castro’s motion as a mere scrap of paper with no legal effect, as it was filed by one who is not a party to that case.

b. In reinstating the case and issuing the arrest warrant against Aguinaldo, the public respondent erroneously relied on the DOJ resolution dismissing the petition for review in a different case.

i. However, their petition for review with DOJ is still pending resolution.

2. No, the provision of Sec 11, Rule 116 limiting the suspension for arraignment to only 60 days is not directory

a. relaxation or suspension of procedural rules, or the exemption of a case from their operation, is warranted only by compelling reasons or when the purpose of justice requires it.

b. CA correctly ruled that the period of 1 year and 1 month from April 16, 2004 to May 16, 2005 when public respondent ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest of Aguinaldo was more than ample time to give the petitioners the opportunity to obtain a resolution of their petition for review from the DOJ

c. The delay by DOJ does not extend the period of 60 days

prescribed under the ROC

3. NO. While they are correct in stating that the right to PI is a substantive

right, petitioners are wrong in arguing that the information filed without affording the respondent the right to file a MR of an adverse DOJ resolution is fatally premature.

a. With the info for estafa against petitioners having been filed on July 16, 2003, the public respondent cannot be faulted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the Aug 23 order denying the motion to quash warrant of arrest and setting their arraignment pending the final resolution of petition for review by the DOJ

b. the period of almost 1 year and 7 months from time petitioners filed their petition with DOJ on Feb 27, 2004 to Sept 14, 2005 when trial court finally set their arraignment was more than ample time to give petitioners the opportunity to obtain a

resolution of their petition.

c. Indeed, with more than 11 years having elapsed, it is not high time for the continuation of the trial on the merits in the criminal case below, as 60 days has already elapsed from filing of petition from DOJ.

4. Petitioners were afforded the right to due process

a. When an opportunity to be heard either through oral arguments or pleadings is accorded, there is no denial procedural due process.

DISPOSITION

WHEREFORE , premises considered, the petition is DENIED . The Decision dated August 11, 2006 of the Court of Appeals and its Resolution dated December 4, 2006 in CA-G.R. SP No. 92094, are AFFIRMED . Considering that the proceedings in this criminal case had been held in abeyance long enough, let the records of this case be remanded to the trial court which is hereby directed to try the case on the merits with dispatch in accordance with the Court's Circular No. 38-98 dated August 11, 1998.

NOTES

1. If there is a pending motion for reconsideration or motion for reinvestigation of the resolution of the public prosecutor, the court may suspend the proceedings upon motion by the parties. However, the court should set the arraignment of the accused and direct the public prosecutor to submit the resolution disposing of the motion on or before the period fixed by the court, which in no instance could be more than the period fixed by the court counted from the granting of the motion to suspend arraignment, otherwise the court will proceed with the arraignment as scheduled and without further delay.

2. If there is a pending petition for review before the DOJ, the court may suspend the proceedings upon motion by the parties. However, the court should set the arraignment of the accused and direct the DOJ to submit the resolution disposing of the petition on or before the period fixed by the Rules which, in no instance, could be more than sixty (60) days from the filing of the Petition for Review before the DOJ, otherwise, the court will proceed with the arraignment as scheduled and without further delay.