G.R. No. 235480, January 27, 2021.
In 2013, following Benhur Luy’s (Luy) rescue from his alleged illegal detention by Napoles and the latter’s brother, by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents, Luy executed an affidavit confirming the allegations regarding the PDAF scam. The Field Investigation Office (FIO) of the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) likewise conducted a parallel fact-finding investigation.
Thereafter, NBI and the FIO filed their respective complaints against those involved in the complex scheme. Then Undersecretary Mario L. Relampagos (Relampagos) and his staff were indicted by the Ombudsman for violations of Articles 210, 212, and 217 (Malversation) of the RPC and violations of Section 3(b), (e), (g), and (h) and Section 4 of RA 3019, as amended, and RA 6713.
After the preliminary investigation, the Ombudsman found probable cause against petitioners for two (2) counts of violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019, as amended, and two (2) counts of Malversation under the RPC. The Ombudsman indicted the petitioners of facilitating with “undue haste” the processing of the Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) and Notice of Cash Allocations (NCAs) pertaining to Cagas’ PDAF allocation.
The Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution directing the issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioners along with their co-accused after finding that there was probable cause and that all petitioners were probably guilty of the offenses respectively charged against them.
Petitioners, however, filed a Joint Omnibus Motion: (1) Motion for Outright Dismissal for Clear Lack of Probable Cause; (2) Motion to Hold in Abeyance the Issuance of Warrants of Arrest; and (3) Motion for Bill of Particulars. The Petitioners alleged that Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, in finding probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against them considering that the SAROs, which are indispensable in any government expenditure; and they had limited participation in the release of the SAROs.
Whether there is a patent lack of probable cause as the cases against them are built upon hearsay, and therefore inadmissible evidence being based merely on Luy’s claims
NO. “Probable cause can be established with hearsay evidence, as long as there is substantial basis for crediting the hearsay. It needs further stressing that for the determination of probable cause, the average person weighs such facts and circumstances without knowledge of the technical rules of evidence and relies purely on common sense of which all reasonable persons have in abundance. Therefore, for issuance of a warrant of arrest, the standard used is that which is less stringent than that used for establishing the guilt of the accused.
Verily, as long as the evidence presented shows a prima facie case against the accused, it creates a sufficient ground for the trial court judge to issue a warrant of arrest against him or her. In this case, the Sandiganbayan determined the existence of probable cause based on the resolution of the prosecution and its supporting evidence. As found by the Sandiganbayan, the records revealed the participation of each petitioner in the elaborate scheme of guiding or channeling Cagas’ PDAF allocations to inexistent or ghost projects and consequently enabled them to misappropriate Cagas’ PDAF. Thus, having found probable cause against all petitioners, the Sandiganbayan properly issued warrants of arrest against them.
In People v. Castillo, et al. there are two kinds of determination of probable cause, executive and judicial:
|Executive Determination Of Probable Cause||Judicial 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.
|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 a 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|
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