G.R. No. 121234, August 23, 1995
HUBERT J. P. WEBB, petitioner
HONORABLE RAUL E. DE LEON, the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Parañaque, Branch 258, HONORABLE ZOSIMO V. ESCANO, the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Parañaque, Branch 259, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, ZENON L. DE GUIYAB, JOVENCITO ZUÑO, LEONARDO GUIYAB, JR., ROBERTO LAO, PABLO FORMARAN, and NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, and HONORABLE AMELITA G. TOLENTINO, the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Parañaque, Branch 274, respondents
LAURO VIZCONDE, intervenor
On June 19, 1994, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed with the Department of Justice a letter-complaint charging petitioners Hubert Webb, Michael Gatchalian, Antonio J. Lejano and six (6) other persons with the crime of Rape and Homicide of Carmela N. Vizconde, her mother Estrellita Nicolas-Vizconde, and her sister Anne Marie Jennifer in their home at Number 80 W. Vinzons, St., BF Homes Paranaque, Metro Manila on June 30, 1991.
Forthwith, the Department of Justice formed a panel of prosecutors headed by Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Jovencio R. Zuno to conduct the preliminary investigation.
Petitioners fault the DOJ Panel for its finding of probable cause. They assail the credibility of Jessica Alfaro as inherently weak and uncorroborated due to the inconsistencies between her April 28, 1995 and May 22, 1995 sworn statements. They criticize the procedure followed by the DOJ Panel when it did not examine witnesses to clarify the alleged inconsistencies.
Petitioners charge that respondent Judge Raul de Leon and, later, respondent Judge Amelita Tolentino issued warrants of arrest against them without conducting the required preliminary examination.
Petitioners complain about the denial of their constitutional right to due process and violation of their right to an impartial investigation. They also assail the prejudicial publicity that attended their preliminary investigation.
- Whether or not the DOJ Panel likewise gravely abused its discretion in holding that there is probable cause to charge them with the crime of rape and homicide
- Whether or not respondent Judges de Leon and Tolentino gravely abused their discretion when they failed to conduct a preliminary examination before issuing warrants of arrest against them
- Whether or not the DOJ Panel denied them their constitutional right to due process during their preliminary investigation
- Whether or not the DOJ Panel unlawfully intruded into judicial prerogative when it failed to charge Jessica Alfaro in the information as an accused.
- NO. There is no merit in this contention because petitioners were given all the opportunities to be heard.
- The Court ruled that the DOJ Panel did not gravely abuse its discretion when it found probable cause against the petitioners. A probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not, a crime has been committed and was committed by the suspects. Probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt and definitely, not on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt.
- The Court ruled that respondent judges did not gravely abuse their discretion. In arrest cases, there must be a probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the person to be arrested committed it. Section 6 of Rule 112 simply provides that “upon filing of an information, the Regional Trial Court may issue a warrant for the accused. Clearly the, our laws repudiate the submission of petitioners that respondent judges should have conducted “searching examination of witnesses” before issuing warrants of arrest against them.
- The DOJ Panel precisely allowed the parties to adduce more evidence in their behalf and for the panel to study the evidence submitted more fully.
- Petitioner’s argument lacks appeal for it lies on the faulty assumption that the decision whom to prosecute is a judicial function, the sole prerogative of the courts and beyond executive and legislative interference. In truth, the prosecution of crimes appertains to the executive department of government whose principal power and responsibility is to see that our laws are faithfully executed. A necessary component of this power is the right to prosecute their violators (See R.A. No. 6981 and section 9 of Rule 119 for legal basis).
With regard to the inconsistencies of the sworn statements of Jessica Alfaro, the Court believes that these have been sufficiently explained and there is no showing that the inconsistencies were deliberately made to distort the truth.
With regard to the petitioners’ complaint about the prejudicial publicity that attended their preliminary investigation, the Court finds nothing in the records that will prove that the tone and content of the publicity that attended the investigation of petitioners fatally infected the fairness and impartiality of the DOJ Panel. Petitioners cannot just rely on the subliminal effects of publicity on the sense of fairness of the DOJ Panel, for these are basically unbeknown and beyond knowing.