Dreamwork vs Janiola; G.R. No. 184861; 30 June 2009
In 2004, Petitioner filed for violation of BP Blg 22 against Janiola with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Las Piñas City. He also filed the same in MTC
In 2006, Private respondent, joined by her husband, instituted a civil complaint against petitioner for the rescission of an alleged construction agreement between the parties, as well as for damages. The case was filed with the RTC, Branch 197 in Las Piñas City.
In 2007, private respondent filed a Motion to Suspend Proceedings, claiming that the civil case posed a prejudicial question as against the criminal cases.
Petitioner opposed the suspension of the proceedings on the ground that (1) there is no prejudicial question in this case as the rescission of the contract upon which the bouncing checks were issued is a separate and distinct issue from the issue of whether private respondent violated BP 22; and (2) Section 7, Rule 111 of the Rules of Court states that one of the elements of a prejudicial question is that “the previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent criminal action”; thus, this element is missing in this case, the criminal case having preceded the civil case.
On the other hand, private respondent cites Article 36 of the Civil Code which provides:
“Art. 36. Pre-judicial questions which must be decided before any criminal prosecution may be instituted or may proceed, shall be governed by rules of court which the Supreme Court shall promulgate and which shall not be in conflict with the provisions of this Code.” (Emphasis supplied.)
Private respondent argues that the phrase “before any criminal prosecution may be instituted or may proceed” must be interpreted to mean that a prejudicial question exists when the civil action is filed either before the institution of the criminal action or during the pendency of the criminal action.
MTC granted the motion to suspend.
Whether or not the MTC or RTC Court erred in its discretion to suspend proceedings in Criminal Case on the basis of “Prejudicial Question “, with respect to the Civil Case belatedly filed.
This petition must be granted, pursuant to SEC. 7.Elements of prejudicial question.
The elements of a prejudicial question are:
(a) the previously instituted civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent criminal action; and
(b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.
Under the amendment, a prejudicial question is understood in law as that which must precede the criminal action and which requires a decision before a final judgment can be rendered in the criminal action with which said question is closely connected. The civil action must be instituted prior to the institution of the criminal action.
In this case, the Information was filed with the Sandiganbayan ahead of the complaint in Civil Case filed by the State with the RTC. Thus, no prejudicial question exists. The Resolution of the Civil Case Is Not Determinative of the Prosecution of the Criminal Action. Even if the trial court in the civil case declares that the construction agreement between the parties is void for lack of consideration, this would not affect the prosecution of private respondent in the criminal case. The fact of the matter is that private respondent issued checks that were subsequently dishonored for insufficient funds. It is this fact that is subject of prosecution under BP 22.Therefore, it is clear that the second element required for the existence of a prejudicial question, is absent. Thus, no prejudicial question exists.
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