CASE 2016-0014: JESSICA LUCILA G. REYES VS. THE HONORABLE OBMUDSMAN (G.R. NOS; 212593-94, 15 MARCH 2016, PERLAS-BERNABE J.) (AND OTHER CASES: GR NO. 213163-78; G.R. NOS. 213540-41; G.R. NOS. 213542-43; G.R. NOS. 215880-94; G.R. NOS. 213475-76)




“WHEREFORE, the petitions are DISMISSED for lack of merit. Accordingly,  the assailed Resolutions and Orders of the Office of the Ombudsman  and the Sandiganbayan are hereby AFFIRMED.





“Their arguments fail to persuade.


Once the public prosecutor (or the Ombudsman) determines probable cause and thus, elevates the case to the trial court (or the Sandiganbayan), a judicial determination of probable cause is made in order to determine if a warrant of arrest should be issued ordering the detention of the accused. The Court, in People v. Castillo,242 delineated the functions and purposes of a determination of probable cause made by the public prosecutor, on the one hand, and the trial court, on the other:


There are two kinds of determination of probable case: executive and judicial. The executive determination of probable cause is one made during preliminary investigation. It is a function that properly pertains to the public prosecutor who is given a broad discretion to determine whether probable cause exists and to charge those whom he believes to have committed the crime as defined by law and thus should be held for trial. Otherwise stated, such official has the quasi-judicial authority to determine whether or not a criminal case must be filed in court. Whether or not that function has been correctly discharged by the public prosecutor, i.e., whether or not he has made a correct ascertainment of the existence of probable cause in a case, is a matter that the trial court itself does not and may not be compelled to pass upon.


The judicial determination of probable cause, on the other hand, is one made by the judge to ascertain whether a warrant of arrest should be issued against the accused. The judge must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is necessity for placing the accused under custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice. If the judge finds no probable cause, the judge cannot be forced to issue the arrest warrant. 243 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)


As above-articulated, the executive determination of probable cause concerns itself with whether there is enough evidence to suppot1 an Information being filed. The judicial determination of probable cause~ on the other hand, determines whether a warrant of arrest should be issued. 24~ ‘


This notwithstanding, the Court in Mendoza v. People245 (Mendoza) clarified that the trial court (or the Sandiganbayan) is given three (3) distinct options upon the filing of a criminal information before it, narriely to1: (a) dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly failed to establish probable cause; ( b) issue a warrant of arrest if it finds probable cause; and ( c) order the prosecutor to present additional evidence in case of doubt as to the existence of probable cause.246 The Court went on to elabqrate that “the option to order the prosecutor to present additional evidence is not mandatory” and reiterated that “the court’s first option x x x is·. for it to ‘immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause. “‘247 ·


Verily, when a criminal Information is filed before the trial court, the judge, motu proprio or upon motion of the accused, is entitldd to make his own assessment of the evidence on record to determine whether there is probable cause to order the arrest of the accused and proceed:with the trial; or in the absence thereof, to order the immediate dismissal df the criminal case.248 This is in line with the fundamental doctrine that “once a complaint or information is filed in court, any disposition of the case, whether as to its dismissal or the conviction or the acquittal of the accused, rests in the sound discretion of the court.”249 Nevertheless, the Court, in Mendoza cautions the trial courts in proceeding with dismissals of this nature:


Although jurisprudence and procedural rules allow it, a judge must always proceed with caution in dismissing cases due to lack o( probable cause, considering the preliminary nature of the evidence before it. It is only when he or she finds that the evidence on hand absolutely fails to support a finding of probable cause that he or she can dismiss th~ case. On ‘ . the other hand, if a judge finds probable cause, he or she must not hesitate I to’ proceed with arraignment and trial in order that justice may be served.250 I


A careful study of the records yields the conclusion that the ~eci,uirement to personally evaluate the report of the Ombudsman, and its supporting documents, was discharged by the Sandiganbayan when it explicitly declared in its Resolution251 dated July 3, 2014 that it had “p~rson~lly [read] and [evaluated] the Information, the Joint Resolution f “, ‘ dated March 28, 2013 and Joint Order dated June 4, 2013 of the f ‘ ‘ ·. [0?.1budsman ], together with the a~ove-enumerated documents, including ·the,1~ annexes and attachments, which are all part of the records of the pteliminary investigation x x x. “252 A similar pronouncement was made by the Sandiganbayan in its Resolution253 dated September 29, 2014, wherein it was said that “[a]fter further considering the records of these cases and due deliberations, the Court finds the existence of probable cause against the said accused xx x.”254 Later on, in a Resolution255 dated November 14, 2014, the Sandiganbayan affirmed its earlier findings when it held that the presence of probabl~ cause against all the accused “was already unequivocally settled x x x in its [Resolution] dated July 3, 2014 x x x.”256 Besides, the ‘Sandiganbayan should be accorded with the presumption of regularity in the perfomiance of its official duties. 257 This presumption was not convincingly overcome by either Reyes or the Napoles siblings through clear and convirn~ing evidence, and hence, should prevail. 258 As such, the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause against, inter alia, Reyes and the Napoles siblings was judicially confirmed by the Sandiganbayan when it examined the evidence, found probable cause, and issued warrants of arrest . against them. 259


Also, the Court cannot lend any credence to Reyes’s protestations of haste qn the part of the Sandiganbayan in issuing the assailed Resolutions, absent any clear showing that the presumed regularity of the proceedings has been breached. Reyes would do well to be reminded of the Court’s ruling in Leviste v. Alameda260 wherein it was instructed that “[s]peed in the conduct of proceedings by a judicial or quasi-judicial officer cannot per se be instantly attributed to an injudicious performance of functions. For one’s prompt dispatch may be another’s undue haste. The orderly administration of justice remains as the paramount and constant consideration, with particular regard of the circumstances peculiar to each case.” 261 i : :’


 Finally, no grave abuse of discretion may be imputed bn the~ part of the andiganbayan in denying Reyes ‘s motion to suspend prdceedings against her in view of her filing of a petition for certiorari qhestioning the Ombudsman’s issuances before the Court, i.e., G.R. Nos. 212593-94′. Under Section 7, Rule 65262 of the Rules of Court, a mere pendendy of a. special civil action for certiorari in relation to a case pending before *1e ~emit a’ quo does not ipso facto stay the proceedings therein, unless the higher· court issues a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary 1 ibjunction against the conduct of such proceedings. Otherwise stated, I a petition for certiorari does not divest the lower courts of jurisdiction vdlidly acquired over the case pending before them. Unlike an appeal, a petition for certiorari is an original action; it is not a continuation of the proceedin~s in the lower court. It is designed to correct only errors of jurisdiction, i*cluding grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdictitjn. Thus, under. Section 7 of Rule 65, the higher court should issue against the public respondent a temporary restraining order or a writ of prelimi~ary injunction in order to interrupt the course of the principal case. The peti~oner in a Rule 65 petition has the burden of proof to show that there is a meritorious ground for the issuance of an injunctive writ or order to suspend the proceedings before the public respondent. She should show the existende .of an urgent necessity for the writ or order, so that serious damage may ~e prevented.263 In this case, since the Court did not issue any temporary rdstraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction in G.R. Nos. 212593-94, then the Sandiganbayan cannot be faulted for continuing with the pro6eedings before I it. I


Hence, overall, the Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion in judicially determining the existence of probable cause against Reyes and the Napoles siblings; and in denying Reyes’s Urgent Mot1on to Suspend Proceedings. Perforce, the dismissal of G.R. Nos. 213163-78 and G.R. Nos. 215880-94 is in order.


The public respondent shall proceed with the principal case within ten (10) days from the filing of a petition for certiorari with a higher court or trib nal, absent a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, or upon its expiratjon. Failure of the public respondent to proceed with the principal case may be a ground for an administrative charge. 1 263 Trajano v. Uniwide Sales Warehouse Club, G.R. No. 190253, June 11, 2014, 726 SCRA 298, 312.”