CASE 2014-0043: RAY SHU, PETITIONER, – VERSUS – JAIIVIE DEE, ENRIQUETO MAGPANTAY, RAMON MIRANDA, LARRY MACILLAN, AND EDWIN SO, RESPONDENTS. (G.R. NO. 182573, 23 APRL 2014, BRION, J.) SUBJECT/S: PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION; NATURE OF NBI INVESTIGATION; PROBABLE CAUSE; VALUE OF QUESTIONED DOCUMENTS REPORT; REVIEW OF DOJ RULING. (BRIEF TITLE: SHU VS. DEE ET AL)

 

DISPOSITIVE:                                          

 

“WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition and REVERSE and SET ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 19, 2007 and its resolution dated April 4, 2008.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

 

THE RESPONDENTS ARGUE THAT THEY WERE DENIED DUE PROCESS BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT INFORMED BY THE DOJ ABOUT THE PENDENCY OF PETITIONER’S APPEAL. IS THEIR CONTENTION CORRECT?

 

NO. BY FILING A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION, RESPONDENTS  AVAILED OF THEIR RIGHT TO GIVE THEIR SIDE. ANY PREVIOUS DEFECT IS CURED.

 

WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF DUE PROCESS?

 

SIMPLY THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD.

 

IS ABSENCE OF DUE NOTICE PROHIBITED?

 

NO. IT IS THE LACK OF OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD THAT IS PROHIBITED.

 

WHEN IS THERE SUFFICIENT COMPLIANCE OF DUE PROCESS?

 

WHEN A PARTY IS GIVEN A CHANCE TO BE HEARD. FOR EXAMPLE: THROUGH THEIR MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION.

 

 The essence of due process is simply the opportunity to be heard. What the law prohibits is not the absence of previous notice but its absolute absence and lack of opportunity to be heard.   Sufficient compliance with the requirements of due process exists when a party is given a chance to be heard through his motion for reconsideration.28  

 

In the present case, we do not find it disputed that the respondents filed with the Secretary of Justice a motion for reconsideration of her resolution. Therefore, any initial defect in due process, if any, was cured by the remedy the respondents availed of.

 

RESPONDENTS ARGUE THAT THEY WERE DENIED DUE PROCESS DURING THE NBI INVESTIGATION BECAUSE THEIR SIDE WAS NOT TAKEN. IS THEIR ARGUMENT CORRECT?

 

 THE NBI FINDINGS ARE MERELY RECOMMENDATORY. NBI IS NOT A JUDICIAL OR QUASI JUDICIAL BODY. THEIR FINDINGS  COULD NOT PREJUDICE THE RESPONDENTS. THE SAME ARE SUBMITTED TO THE PROSECUTOR. AND IT IS THE PROSECUTOR WHO RULES ON WHETHER RESPONDENTS BE CHARGED IN COURT.

 

On the respondents’ allegation that they were denied due process during the NBI investigation, we stress that the functions of this agency are merely investigatory and informational in nature.   It has no judicial or quasi-judicial powers and is incapable of granting any relief to any party.   It cannot even determine probable cause. The NBI is an investigative agency whose findings are merely recommendatory. It undertakes investigation of crimes upon its own initiative or as public welfare may require in accordance with its mandate. It also renders assistance when requested in the investigation or detection of crimes in order to prosecute the persons responsible.

Since the NBI’s findings were merely recommendatory, we find that no denial of the respondents’ due process right could have taken place; the NBI’s findings were still subject to the prosecutor’s and the Secretary of Justice’s actions for purposes of finding the existence of probable cause.

 

WHAT IS THE NATURE OF A QUESTIONED DOCUMENTS REPORT?

 

IT IS INCONCLUSIVE. IT DOES NOT PREVENT RESPONDENTS FROM SECURING ALSO THEIR OWN SEPARATE DOCUMENTS EXAMINATION.

 

WHAT THEN IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A QUESTIONED DOCUMENTS REPORT?

 

ITS SIGNIFICANCE IS THAT, TAKEN TOGETHER WITH THE OTHER PIECES OF EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE PARTIES DURING THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION, THESE EVIDENCE COULD BE SUFFICIENT FOR PURPOSES OF FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE

 

TO ARRIVE AT A FINDING OF PROBABLE CAUSE WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

 

ASCERTAIN THAT THE ELEMENTS OF THE CRIME CHARGED ARE PRESENT.

 

HOW ABOUT THE FACTS? WHAT FACTS ARE NEEDED?

 

ONLY FACTS SUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT A PRIMA FACIE CASE.

 

NOT ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. ONLY PROBABILITY OF GUILT. MORE THAN MERE SUSPICION BUT LESS THAN EVIDENCE THAT WOULD JUSTIFY CONVICTION.

 

DID DOJ COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN RULING THAT THERE WAS PROBABLE CAUSE CONTRARY TO THE FINDING OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR?

 

NO. BECAUSE THE DOJ DETERMINED WHETHER THE ELEMENTS OF THE CRIME OF FALSIFICATION ARE PRESENT.

 

THE CITY PROSECUTOR RULED THAT THE NBI REPORT IS NOT CORRECT BECAUSE EVEN BY THE USE OF ONE’S NAKED EYE THE QUESTIONED SIGNATURES ARE SIMILAR TO THE GENUINE SIGNATURES. WAS THE PROSECUTOR CORRECT?

 

NO. SUCH CONCLUSION CAN ONLY BE MADE BY THE COURT IN A FULL BLOWN TRIAL. NOT BY THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR.

 

THE VALIDITY AND MERITS OF A PARTY’S DEFENSE AND ACCUSATION, AS WELL AS ADMISSIBILITY OF TESTIMONIES AND EVIDENCE, ARE BETTER VENTILATED DURING TRIAL PROPER THAN AT THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION LEVEL.

 

THE CA REVERSED THE RULING OF THE DOJ. WAS CA CORRECT?

 

NO. BECAUSE THE FINDINGS OF THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE ARE NOT SUBJECT TO INTERFERENCE BY THE COURTS.

 

THE EXCEPTION IS: WHEN HE ACTS WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION; WHEN HE GROSSLY MISAPPREHENDS FACTS; WHEN HE ACTS IN A MANNER SO PATENT AND GROSS AS TO AMOUNT TO AN EVASION OF POSITIVE DUTY OR A VIRTUAL REFUSAL TO PERFORM THE DUTY ENJOINED BY LAW; OR WHEN HE ACTS OUTSIDE THE CONTEMPLATION OF LAW.

 

IN THIS CASE THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE DID NOT GRAVELY ABUSE THE EXERCISE OF HER DISCRETION IN REVERSING THE FINDINGS OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR.

 

TO READ THE DECISION, JUST CLICK/DOWNLOAD THE FILE BELOW.

 

 

SCD-2014-0043-APR 2014-SHU