SOLIVEN, petitioner VS. JUDGE MAKASIAR, respondent
167 SCRA 393
This case is a PETITION for certiorari and prohibition to review the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila
- Whether or not the petitioners were denied due process when information for libel were filed against them although the finding of the existence of a prima facie case was still under review by the Secretary of Justice and, subsequently by the President
- Whether or not the constitutional rights of Beltran (petitioner) were violated when respondent RTC judge issued a warrant for his arrest without personally examining the complainant and the witnesses, if any, to determine probable clause
- Whether or not the President of the Philippines, under the Constitution, may initiate criminal proceedings against the petitioners through filing of a complaint-affidavit
Finding no grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction on the part of the public respondents, the Court Resolved to DISMISS the petitions.
The Order to maintain the status quo contained in the Resolution of the Court en banc is LIFTED.
Background of the first issue
- MARCH 30, 1988: Secretary of Justice denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration
- APRIL 7, 1988: A second motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner Beltran was denied by the Secretary of Justice
- MAY 2, 1988: On appeal, the President, through Executive Secretary, affirmed the resolution of the Secretary of Justice
- MAY 16, 1988: Motion for reconsideration was denied by the Executive Secretary
Petitioner Beltran alleges that he has been denied due process of law.
-This is negated by the fact that instead of submitting his counter-affidavits, he filed a “Motion to Declare Proceedings Closed”, in effect, waiving his right to refute the complaint by filing counter-affidavits.
Due process of law does not require that the respondent in a criminal case actually file his counter-affidavits before the preliminary investigation is deemed completed. All that is required is that the respondent be given the opportunity to submit counter-affidavits if he is so minded.
This calls for an interpretation of the constitutional provision on the issuance of warrants of arrest:
Art. III, Sec.2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Petitioner Beltran is convinced that the Constitution requires the judge to personally examine the complainant and his witness in his determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrests.
-However, what the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy himself of the existence of probable cause. In doing so, the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant and his witness.
Following the established doctrine of procedure, the judge shall: (1) Personally evaluate the report and supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence of probable cause (and on the basis, thereof, issue a warrant of arrest); or (2) If on the basis thereof he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal’s report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the evidence of probable cause.
Petitioner Beltran contends that proceedings ensue by virtue of the President’s filing of her complaint-affidavit, she may subsequently have to be a witness for the prosecution, bringing her under the trial court’s jurisdiction. àThis would in an indirect way defeat her privilege of immunity from suit, as by testifying on the witness stand, she would be exposing herself to possible contempt of court or perjury.
-This privilege of immunity from suit, pertains to the President by virtue of the office and may be invoked only by the holder of the office; not by any other person in the President’s behalf.
-The choice of whether to exercise the privilege or to waive is solely the President’s prerogative. It is a decision that cannot be assumed and imposed by any other person (And there is nothing in our laws that would prevent the President from waiving the privilege).
Beltran contends that he could not be held liable for libel because of the privileged character of the publication. He also says that to allow the libel case to proceed would produce a “chilling effect” on press freedom.
-Court reiterates that it is not a trier of facts And Court finds no basis at this stage to rule on the “chilling effect” point.
SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION Guitierrez, Jr., J.
Concurs with the majority opinion insofar as it revolves around the three principal issues. With regard to whether or not the libel case would produce a “chilling effect” on press freedom, Gutierrez believes that this particular issue is the most important and should be resolved now rather than later.
Quotable quotes: “Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience.” –United States v. Bustos
“No longer is there a Minister of the Crown or a person in authority of such exalted position that the citizen must speak of him only with bated breath.” –People v. Perfecto