G.R. No. 168617. February 19, 2007.
Respondent Cecille S. Abalos filed 2 complaints against petitioner for Estafa before the Office of City Prosecutor of Iligan. Adasa allegedly through deceit, received and encashed two checks issued in the name of respondent without respondent’s knowledge and consent.
Petitioner filed a counter-affidavit admitting that she received and encashed the two checks issued in favor of respondent. However, after 6 days, she recanted and alleged instead that it was a certain Bebie Correa who received and encashed the two checks; Correa left the country after misappropriating the proceeds of the checks.
The Office of Prosecutor found probable cause against petitioner and ordering the filing of two separate Informations for Estafa Thru Falsification of Commercial Document.Two separate criminal cases were filed against petitioner docketed as Criminal Cases No. 8781 and No. 8782, raffled to Branches 4 and 5, Regional Trial Court of Iligan City, respectively.
The petitioner upon motion for Criminal Case No. 8782, RTC ordered the Office of the City Prosecutor to conduct reinvestigation. After conducting the reinvestigation, the Office of the City Prosecutor affirmed the finding of probable cause against petitioner.
During the arraignment, petitioner entered an unconditional plea of not guilty.
Dissatisfied with the finding of the Office of the City Prosecutor of Iligan City, petitioner filed a Petition for Review before the DOJ. The DOJ reversed and set aside the resolution of the Office of the City Prosecutor of Iligan City and directed the said office to withdraw the Information for Estafa against petitioner.
The respondent filed a motion for reconsideration arguing that the DOJ should have dismissed outright the petition for review since Section 7 of DOJ Circular No. 70 mandates that when an accused has already been arraigned and the aggrieved party files a petition for review before the DOJ, the Secretary of Justice cannot, and should not take cognizance of the petition, or even give due course thereto, but instead deny it outright.
The DOJ denied the Motion for Reconsideration, opining that under Section 12, in relation to Section 7, of DOJ Circular No. 70, the Secretary of Justice is not precluded from entertaining any appeal taken to him even where the accused has already been arraigned in court. This is due to the permissive language “may” utilized in Section 12 whereby the Secretary has the discretion to entertain an appealed resolution notwithstanding the fact that the accused has been arraigned.
The Court of Appeals granted respondent’s petition and reversed the Resolutions of the DOJ.
Petitioner asserts that the Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the provisions of DOJ Circular No. 70 violated basic rules in statutory construction; that when a statute or rule is clear and unambiguous, interpretation need not be resorted to. Since Section 7 of the subject circular clearly and categorically directs the DOJ to dismiss outright an appeal or a petition for review filed after arraignment, no resort to interpretation is necessary.
Whether or not the Department of Justice gravely abused its discretion in giving due course to petitioner’s petition for review despite its having been filed after the latter had already been arraigned; (2) Whether or not the special law so provides, indemnification of the offended party
(1) YES. Section 7 is neither contradictory nor irreconcilable with Section 12. As can be seen above, Section 7 pertains to the action on the petition that the DOJ must take, while Section 12 enumerates the options the DOJ has with regard to the disposition of a petition for review or of an appeal.
Thus, when an accused has already been arraigned, the DOJ must not give the appeal or petition for review due course and must dismiss the same. This is bolstered by the fact that arraignment of the accused prior to the filing of the appeal or petition for review is set forth as one of the grounds for its dismissal. Therefore, in such instance, the DOJ, noting that the arraignment of an accused prior to the filing of an appeal or petition for review is a ground for dismissal under Section 12, must go back to Section 7 and act upon as mandated therein. In other words, the DOJ must not give due course to, and must necessarily dismiss, the appeal.
As aptly observed by respondent, Section 7 specifically applies to a situation on what the DOJ must do when confronted with an appeal or a petition for review that is either clearly without merit, manifestly intended to delay, or filed after an accused has already been arraigned, i.e., he may dismiss it outright if it is patently without merit or manifestly intended to delay, or, if it was filed after the accused has already been arraigned, the Secretary shall not give it due course.
“SECTION 7. Action on the petition.—The Secretary of Justice may dismiss the petition outright if he finds the same to be patently without merit or manifestly intended for delay, or when the issues raised therein are too unsubstantial to require consideration. If an information has been filed in court pursuant to the appealed resolution, the petition shall not be given due course if the accused had already been arraigned. Any arraignment made after the filing of the petition shall not bar the Secretary of Justice from exercising his power of review. (Italics supplied.)
As to the dismissal of a petition for review or an appeal, the grounds are provided for in Section 12 and, consequently, the DOJ must evaluate the pertinent circumstances and the facts of the case in order to determine which ground or grounds shall apply.
“SECTION 12. Disposition of the Appeal.—The Secretary may reverse, affirm or modify the appealed resolution. He may, motu proprio or upon motion, dismiss the petition for review on any of the following grounds:
(a)That the petition was filed beyond the period prescribed in Section 3 hereof;
(b)That the procedure or any of the requirements herein provided has not been complied with;
(c)That there is no showing of any reversible error;
(d)That the appealed resolution is interlocutory in nature, except when it suspends the proceedings based on the alleged existence of a prejudicial question;
(e)That the accused had already been arraigned when the appeal was taken;
(f)That the offense has already prescribed; and
(g)That other legal or factual grounds exist to warrant a dismissal.” (Emphases supplied.)
(2) Whether or not Section 7 of DOJ Circular No. 70 applies only to appeals from original resolution of the City Prosecutor and does not apply in the instant case where an appeal is interposed by petitioner from the Resolution of the City Prosecutor denying her motion for reinvestigation.
No. A reading of Section 7 discloses that there is no qualification given by the same provision to limit its application to appeals from original resolutions and not to resolutions on reinvestigation.
The settled rule is that when an accused pleads to the charge, he is deemed to have waived the right to preliminary investigation and the right to question any irregularity that surrounds it.18 This precept is also applicable in cases of reinvestigation as well as in cases of review of such reinvestigation. In this case, when petitioner unconditionally pleaded to the charge, she effectively waived the reinvestigation of the case by the prosecutor as well as the right to appeal the result thereof to the DOJ Secretary. Thus, with the arraignment of the petitioner, the DOJ Secretary can no longer entertain the appeal or petition for review because petitioner had already waived or abandoned the same.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 21 July 2004 and its Resolution dated 10 June 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 76396 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.