G.R. No. 178607 : December 5, 2012
DANTE LA. JIMENEZ, in his capacity as President and representative of UNLAD SHIPPING & MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. HON. EDWIN SORONGON (in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch 214 of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City), SOCRATES ANTZOULATOS, CARMEN ALAMIL, MARCELl GAZA and MARKOS A VGOUSTIS, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
We resolve the petition for review on certiorari1Ï‚rÎ½ll filed by Dante La. Jimenez (petitioner) to challenge the twin resolutions of the Court of Appeals ( CA) dated November 23, 20062Ï‚rÎ½ll and June 28, 20073Ï‚rÎ½ll in CA-G.R. SP No. 96584, which dismissed the petitioner's petition for certiorari and denied his motion for reconsideration, respectively.
The Factual Antecedents
The petitioner is the president of Unlad Shipping & Management Corporation, a local manning agency, while Socrates Antzoulatos, Carmen Alamil, Marceli Gaza, and Markos Avgoustis (respondents) are some of the listed incorporators of Tsakos Maritime Services, Inc. (TMSI), another local manning agency.
On August 19, 2003, the petitioner filed a complaint-affidavit4Ï‚rÎ½ll with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong City against the respondents for syndicated and large scale illegal recruitment.5Ï‚rÎ½ll The petitioner alleged that the respondents falsely represented their stockholdings in TMSIs articles of incorporation6Ï‚rÎ½ll to secure a license to operate as a recruitment agency from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).
On October 9, 2003, respondents Antzoulatos and Gaza filed their joint counter-affidavit denying the complaint-affidavits allegations.7Ï‚rÎ½llRespondents Avgoustis and Alamil did not submit any counter-affidavit.
In a May 4, 2004 resolution,8Ï‚rÎ½ll the 3rd Assistant City Prosecutor recommended the filing of an information for syndicated and large scale illegal recruitment against the respondents. The City Prosecutor approved his recommendation and filed the corresponding criminal information with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Mandaluyong City (docketed as Criminal Case No. MC04-8514 and raffled to Branch 212) presided by Judge Rizalina T. Capco-Umali.
Subsequently, in a December 14, 2004 resolution, the City Prosecutor reconsidered the May 4, 2004 resolution and filed a motion with the RTC to withdraw the information.9Ï‚rÎ½ll The petitioner and respondents Antzoulatos and Gaza filed their opposition10Ï‚rÎ½ll and comment to the opposition, respectively.
In an August 1, 2005 resolution,11Ï‚rÎ½ll the RTC denied the motion to withdraw information as it found the existence of probable cause to hold the respondents for trial.12Ï‚rÎ½ll Thus, the RTC ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest against the respondents.
On August 26, 2005, respondents Antzoulatos and Gaza filed an omnibus motion for reconsideration and for deferred enforcement of the warrants of arrest.13Ï‚rÎ½ll In a September 2, 2005 order,14Ï‚rÎ½ll the RTC denied the omnibus motion, reiterating that the trial court is the sole judge on whether a criminal case should be dismissed or not.
On September 26, 2005, respondent Alamil filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause with a request to defer enforcement of the warrants of arrest.15Ï‚rÎ½ll
On September 29, 2005, the petitioner filed his opposition with motion to expunge, contending that respondent Alamil, being a fugitive from justice, had no standing to seek any relief and that the RTC, in the August 1, 2005 resolution, already found probable cause to hold the respondents for trial.16Ï‚rÎ½ll
In a September 30, 2005 order,17Ï‚rÎ½ll the RTC denied respondent Alamils motion for being moot and academic; it ruled that it had already found probable cause against the respondents in the August 1, 2005 resolution, which it affirmed in the September 2, 2005 order.
On October 10, 2005, respondent Alamil moved for reconsideration and for the inhibition of Judge Capco-Umali, for being biased or partial.18Ï‚rÎ½ll On October 25, 2005, the petitioner filed an opposition with a motion to expunge, reiterating that respondent Alamil had no standing to seek relief from the RTC.19Ï‚rÎ½ll
In a January 4, 2006 order,20Ï‚rÎ½ll Judge Capco-Umali voluntarily inhibited herself from the case and did not resolve respondent Alamils motion for reconsideration and the petitioners motion to expunge. The case was later re-raffled to Branch 214, presided by Judge Edwin D. Sorongon.
The RTC Rulings
In its March 8, 2006 order,21Ï‚rÎ½ll the RTC granted respondent Alamils motion for reconsideration. It treated respondent Alamils motion for judicial determination as a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause. It found: (1) no evidence on record to indicate that the respondents gave any false information to secure a license to operate as a recruitment agency from the POEA; and (2) that respondent Alamil voluntarily submitted to the RTCs jurisdiction through the filing of pleadings seeking affirmative relief. Thus, the RTC dismissed the case, and set aside the earlier issued warrants of arrest.
On April 3, 2006, the petitioner moved for reconsideration, stressing the existence of probable cause to prosecute the respondents and that respondent Alamil had no standing to seek any relief from the RTC.22Ï‚rÎ½ll
On April 26, 2006, respondent Alamil moved to expunge the motion for being a prohibited pleading since the motion did not have the public prosecutors conformity.23Ï‚rÎ½ll
In its May 10, 2006 order,24Ï‚rÎ½ll the RTC denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration, finding that the petitioner merely reiterated arguments in issues that had been finally decided. The RTC ordered the motion expunged from the records since the motion did not have the public prosecutors conformity.
On May 19, 2006, the petitioner filed a notice of appeal.25Ï‚rÎ½ll
On May 30, 2006, respondent Alamil moved to expunge the petitioners notice of appeal since the public prosecutor did not authorize the appeal and the petitioner had no civil interest in the case.26Ï‚rÎ½ll
On June 27, 2006, the petitioner filed his comment to the motion to expunge, claiming that, as the offended party, he has the right to appeal the RTC order dismissing the case; the respondents fraudulent acts in forming TMSI greatly prejudiced him.27Ï‚rÎ½ll
In its August 7, 2006 joint order,28Ï‚rÎ½ll the RTC denied the petitioners notice of appeal since the petitioner filed it without the conformity of the Solicitor General, who is mandated to represent the People of the Philippines in criminal actions appealed to the CA. Thus, the RTC ordered the notice of appeal expunged from the records.
On October 18, 2006, the petitioner elevated his case to the CA via a Rule 65 petition for certiorari assailing the RTCs March 8, 2006, May 10, 2006, and August 7, 2006 orders.
The CA Ruling
In its November 23, 2006 resolution,29Ï‚rÎ½ll the CA dismissed outright the petitioners Rule 65 petition for lack of legal personality to file the petition on behalf of the People of the Philippines. It noted that only the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has the legal personality to represent the People, under Section 35(1), Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code. It also held that the petitioner was not the real party in interest to institute the case, him not being a victim of the crime charged to the respondents, but a mere competitor in their recruitment business. The CA denied30Ï‚rÎ½ll the motion for reconsideration31Ï‚rÎ½ll that followed.
The petitioner argues that he has a legal standing to assail the dismissal of the criminal case since he is the private complainant and a real party in interest who had been directly damaged and prejudiced by the respondents illegal acts; respondent Alamil has no legal standing to seek any relief from the RTC since she is a fugitive from justice.
The Case for the Respondents
The respondents32Ï‚rÎ½ll submit that the petitioner lacks a legal standing to assail the dismissal of the criminal case since the power to prosecute lies solely with the State, acting through a public prosecutor; the petitioner acted independently and without the authority of a public prosecutor in the prosecution and appeal of the case.
The case presents to us the issue of whether the CA committed a reversible error in dismissing outright the petitioners Rule 65 petition for certiorari for lack of legal personality to file the petition on behalf of the People of the Philippines.
The petition lacks merit.
The petitioner has no legal personality to
assail the dismissal of the criminal case
It is well-settled that "every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest," "who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or by the party entitled to the avails of the suit."33Ï‚rÎ½ll Interest means material interest or an interest in issue to be affected by the decree or judgment of the case, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved.34Ï‚rÎ½ll By real interest is meant a present substantial interest, as distinguished from a mere expectancy, or a future, contingent, subordinate or consequential interest.35Ï‚rÎ½ll When the plaintiff or the defendant is not a real party in interest, the suit is dismissible.36Ï‚rÎ½ll
Procedural law basically mandates that "all criminal actions commenced by complaint or by information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of a public prosecutor."37Ï‚rÎ½ll In appeals of criminal cases before the CA and before this Court, the OSG is the appellate counsel of the People, pursuant to Section 35(1), Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code. This section explicitly provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SEC. 35. Powers and Functions. The Office of the Solicitor General shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of lawyers. . . . It shall have the following specific powers and functions:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(1) Represent the Government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings; represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the
Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party. (emphasis added)
The People is the real party in interest in a criminal case and only the OSG can represent the People in criminal proceedings pending in the CA or in this Court. This ruling has been repeatedly stressed in several cases38Ï‚rÎ½ll and continues to be the controlling doctrine.
While there may be rare occasions when the offended party may be allowed to pursue the criminal action on his own behalf39Ï‚rÎ½ll (as when there is a denial of due process), this exceptional circumstance does not apply in the present case.
In this case, the petitioner has no legal personality to assail the dismissal of the criminal case since the main issue raised by the petitioner involved the criminal aspect of the case, i.e., the existence of probable cause. The petitioner did not appeal to protect his alleged pecuniary interest as an offended party of the crime, but to cause the reinstatement of the criminal action against the respondents. This involves the right to prosecute which pertains exclusively to the People, as represented by the OSG.40Ï‚rÎ½ll
Respondent Alamil voluntarily submitted to
the RTCs jurisdiction
As a rule, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. Filing pleadings seeking affirmative relief constitutes voluntary appearance, and the consequent jurisdiction of one's person to the jurisdiction of the court.41Ï‚rÎ½ll
Thus, by filing several motions before the RTC seeking the dismissal of the criminal case, respondent Alamil voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the RTC. Custody of the law is not required for the adjudication of reliefs other than an application for bail.42Ï‚rÎ½ll
WHEREFORE, we hereby DENY the appeal. The twin resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated November 23, 2006 and June 28, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP No. 96584 are AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner.Ï‚rÎ±lÎ±Ï‰lÎ¹brÎ±r
* Designated as Acting Chief Justice in lieu of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno per Special Order No. 1384 dated December 4, 2012.
1Ï‚rÎ½ll Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure; rollo, pp. 10-43.
2Ï‚rÎ½ll Penned by Associate Justice Elvi John S. Asuncion, and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose Catral Mendoza (now a member of this Court) and Celia C. Librea-Leagogo; id at 48-50.
3Ï‚rÎ½ll Penned by Associate Justice Jnse Catral Membza, and concurred in by Associate Justices Celia C. Librea-Leagogo and Mariflor Punzalan-Castillo; id at 52.
4Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 76-82.
5Ï‚rÎ½ll Under Section 6(c), in relation to Section 7, of Republic Act No. 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995), effective July 15, 1995.
6Ï‚rÎ½ll Rollo, pp. 57-63.
7Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 83-92.
8Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 104-108.
9Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 109-110.
10Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 111-116.
11Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 118-119.
13Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 120-124.
14Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 125-129.
15Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 130-142.
16Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 143-148.
17Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 150-151.
18Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 152-171.
19Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 172-187.
20Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 189-191.
21Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 192-196.
22Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 197-207.
23Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 209-212.
24Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 218.
25Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 219-220.
26Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 221-224.
27Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 225-229.
28Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 240-241.
29Ï‚rÎ½ll Supra note 2.
30Ï‚rÎ½ll Supra note 3.
31Ï‚rÎ½ll Rollo, pp. 242-247.
32Ï‚rÎ½ll Per the October 12, 2009 Resolution, the Court dispensed with respondent Avgoustis comment to the petition since, as per the petitioners report, he could not be located; id. at 322-323.
33Ï‚rÎ½ll 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, Rule 3, Section 2.
34Ï‚rÎ½ll Theodore and Nancy Ang, represented by Eldrige Marvin B. Aceron v. Spouses Alan and Em Ang, G.R. No. 186993, August 22, 2012; and Goco v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 157449, April 6, 2010, 617 SCRA 397, 405.
35Ï‚rÎ½ll United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Inc. v. Bradford United Church of Christ, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 171905, June 20, 2012; and Jelbert B. Galicto v. H.E. President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, etc., et al., G.R. No. 193978, February 28, 2012.
36Ï‚rÎ½ll United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Inc. v. Bradford United Church of Christ, Inc., et al., supra; and Shipside Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 404 Phil. 981, 1000 (2001).
37Ï‚rÎ½ll REVISED RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, Rule 110, Section 5.
38Ï‚rÎ½ll Bureau of Customs v. Sherman, G.R. No. 190487, April 13, 2011, 648 SCRA 809; Ong v. Genio, G.R. No. 182336, December 23, 2009, 609 SCRA 188; People of the Philippines v. Arturo F. Duca, G.R. No. 171175, October 30, 2009; Heirs of Federico C. Delgado v. Gonzalez, G.R. No. 184337, August 7, 2009, 595 SCRA 501; Cari v. De Castro, G.R. No. 176084, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 688; Mobilia Products, Inc. v. Umezawa, 493 Phil. 85 (2005); Narciso v. Sta. Romana-Cruz, 385 Phil. 208 (2000); Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc., 384 Phil. 322 (2000); Labaro v. Hon. Panay, 360 Phil. 102 (1998); People v. Judge Santiago, 255 Phil. 851 (1989); and City Fiscal of Tacloban v. Judge Espina, 248 Phil. 843 (1988).
39Ï‚rÎ½ll Merciales v. Court of Appeals, 429 Phil. 70 (2002).
40Ï‚rÎ½ll See Minute Resolution, Carina L. Dacer, Sabina Dacer-Reyes, et al. v. Panfilo M. Lacson, G.R. No. 196209, June 8, 2011.
41Ï‚rÎ½ll Miranda v. Tuliao, G.R. No. 158763, March 31, 2006, 486 SCRA 377, 388, 390; and Sapugay v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 86792, March 21, 1990, 183 SCRA 464, 471.
42Ï‚rÎ½ll Almviya v. Datumanong, G.R. No. 164170, April 16, 2009, 585 SCRA 267, 280; and Miranda v. Tuliao, supra at 391.