Supreme Court decision on the Dacer-Corbito case

Justice

Following is the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision affirming the dismissal of the charges on the Dacer-Corbito case:


[G.R. No. 196209 : June 08, 2011] CARINA L. DACER, SABINA DACER-REYES, EMILY DACER-HUNGERFORD, AND AMPARO DACER-HENSON V. PANFILO M. LACSON :

 THIRD DIVISION[G.R. No. 196209 : June 08, 2011]

CARINA L. DACER, SABINA DACER-REYES, EMILY DACER-HUNGERFORD, AND AMPARO DACER-HENSON V. PANFILO M. LACSON

Sirs/Mesdames:

 

Please take notice that the Court, Third Division, issued a Resolution dated 08 June 2011which reads as follows:G.R. No. 196209 — Carina L. Dacer, Sabina Dacer-Reyes, Emily Dacer-Hungerford, and Amparo Dacer-Henson v. Panfilo M. Lacson 

RESOLUTION

The petitioners come to the Court to assail via petition for review on certiorari the adverse decision promulgated on February 3, 2011 in CA-G.R. SP No. 116057,[1] and the resolution issued on March 18, 2011 (denying the motion for reconsideration).

Antecedents 

In the morning of November 24, 2000, prominent PR practitioner Salvador “Bubby” Dacer was abducted along Zobel Roxas St. in Manila along with his driver Emmanuel Corbito while on board their white Toyota Revo. Two days after the abduction, Edwin Fargas, acting in behalf of the Dacer family, requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director to investigate the incident. After almost five months of investigation, the NBI filed several complaints for kidnapping (I.S. No. 2001-247) and double murder (I.S. Nos. 2001-311 & 2001-347) against several persons in the Department of Justice (DOJ), which were referred to a panel of public prosecutors for preliminary investigation.

On May 11, 2001, after preliminary investigation, the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors (DOJ Panel) filed an information for double murder in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Manila against several persons (docketed as Criminal Case No. 01-191969), namely: Jimmy L. Lopez, Alex B. Diloy, William L. Lopez, SPO4 Marino Soberano, SPO3 Mauro Torres, SPO3 Jose Escalante, Crisostomo M. Purificacion, Rigo De Pedro, Renato Malabanan, Jovencio Malabanan, Margarito Cueno, Rommel Rollan, P/Supt. Glen Dumlao, P/C Insp. Vicente Arnado, P/Insp. Roberto Langcauon, SPO4 Benjamin Taladua, SPO1 Rolando Lacasandile, P/Insp. Danilo Villanueva, SPO1 Mario Sarmiento, SPO1 William Reed, PO2 Thomas J. Sarmiento, SPO1 Ruperto A. Nemeno, various John Does and James Does. Criminal Case No. 01-191969 was raffled to Branch 41, but was transferred to Branch 18 due to the inhibition of the presiding judge of Branch 41.

After his arrest, Supt. Dumlao, one of the accused, executed on June 12, 2001 a handwritten affidavit, wherein he narrated his actual knowledge and recollection about the Dacer-Corbito abduction and murder.

Also, the RTC directed the DOJ Panel to determine whether probable cause existed against Sr. Supt. Cezar Mancao, Sr. Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, Sr. Supt. Teofilo Viña and PO3 Larry Ambre. Thus, the DOJ Panel issued subpoenas to said persons for them to appear on July 27 and 31, 2001.

During the reinvestigation, Sr. Supt. Mancao submitted a counter-affidavit dated June 29, 2001.

On September 14, 2001, after the reinvestigation, the DOJ Panel issued a resolution whose dispositive portion states:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended that P/Senior Supt. Cezar Mancao II, P/Senior Supt. Michael Ray B. Aquino, P/Senior Supt. Teofilo Viña and SPO3 Allan Cadenilla Villanueva be indicted of double murder for the deaths of Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and Emmanuel Corbito. Further, it is respectfully recommended that the complaint for double murder against PO3 Larry Ambre be DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence and that P/Senior Supt. Glenn Dumlao, P/C Insp. Danilo Villanueva, Jimmy Lopez, William Lopez and Alex Diloy be DISCHARGED as accused from the said Amended Information, for them to testify as witnesses for the State, with the exception of P/Chief Inspector Danilo Villanueva.

Accordingly, the State filed a motion dated September 17, 2001 for the admission of the amended information. The RTC denied the motion on October 1, 2001. The State assailed the denial on certiorari to the Court of Appeals (CA), which promulgated its decision on April 4, 2002 ordering the admission of the amended information substituting SPO3 Allan C. Villanueva for Insp. Danilo Villanueva as accused; charging Sr. Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, Sr. Supt. Mancao and Sr. Supt. Teofilo Viña as additional accused; discharging Jimmy L. Lopez, William L. Lopez, and Alex B. Diloy as accused; and directing the RTC to continue its proceedings with utmost deliberate dispatch.

The Court, through its decision dated October 5, 2005, affirmed the CA’s decision “with MODIFICATION to include P/Sr. Supt. GLEN G. DUMLAO as one of the accused excluded from the Amended Information dated 17 September 2001.”

On March 1, 2007, while in the United States, Sr. Supt. Mancao executed his second affidavit on the Dacer-Corbito case.

On February 13, 2009, Sr. Supt. Mancao, while in the custody of the United States Federal Agents, executed his third affidavit on the Dacer-Corbito case.

On March 27, 2009, the petitioners, who were the daughters of the late Salvador Dacer, filed a complaint-affidavit against Senator Panfilo M. Lacson in the DOJ, docketed as I.S. No. XVI-INV-09C-00232, and sought the re-opening and reinvestigation of the Dacer-Corbito case.

On October 26, 2009, Senator Lacson submitted his counter-affidavit (ex abundante ad cautelam), denying any involvement in the Dacer-Corbito case and refuting the allegations in the complaint-affidavit filed against him.

The DOJ Panel initially set hearings on December 1, 2009 and December 18, 2009, but later cancelled the hearings and declared the case submitted for resolution.

On December 2, 2009, the DOJ Panel denied Senator Lacson’s motion for reconsideration ad cautelam; and on December 18, 2009, issued a resolution finding probable cause for two counts of murder against Senator Lacson, but dismissing the charge of violation of Section l(c) of Presidential Decree No. 1929 for lack of merit.

On January 7, 2010, two informations for murder were filed in the RTC in Manila against Senator Lacson for his having allegedly conspired with those already charged in Criminal Case No. 01-191969. The cases (docketed as Criminal Case No. 10272905 and Criminal Case No. 10272906) were raffled to Branch 32.

The information in Criminal Case No. 10272905 reads:

That on or about November 24, 2000, in the City of Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused PANFILO M. LACSON, conspiring, confederating and acting together with, aiding and helping, and with the aid and help of the accused in Criminal Case No. 01-191969, pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Manila, namely, P/SSupt. Michael Ray B. Aquino, P/SSupt. Cezar Ochoco Mancao II, P/SSupt. Teofilo Viña, SPO2 Allan C. Villanueva, SPO4 Marino Soberano, SPO3 Mauro Torres, SPO3 Jose Escalante, Crisostomo M. Purificacion, Digo De Pedro, Renato Malabanan, Jovencio Malabanan, Margarito Cueno, Rommel Rollan, P/Slnsp. Roberto Langcauon, SPO4 Benjamin Taladua, SPO1 Rolando Lacasandile, SPO1 Mario Sarmiento, SPO1 William Reed, PO2 Thomas J. Sarmiento, SPO1 Ruperto A. Nemeño, P/C Insp. Vicente Arnado and several John Does, abducted SALVADOR “BUBBY” DACER and Emmanuel Corbito at the corner of Osmeña Highway (formerly South Super Highway) and Zobel Roxas Street, in Manila, and brought them to Indang, Cavite, and with treachery, evident premeditation, abuse of superior strength, nighttime and remoteness of place, malice and intent to kill, did then and there knowingly, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously kill SALVADOR “BUBBY” DACER by strangulation which was the direct and the immediate cause of his death and then burned his body to the damage and prejudice of the said Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his legal heirs.

The information in Criminal Case No. 10272906 is as follows:

That on or about November 24, 2000, in the City of Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused PANFILO M. LACSON, conspiring, confederating and acting together with, aiding and helping, and with the aid and help of, the accused in Criminal Case No. 01-191969, pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Manila, namely, P/SSupt. Michael Ray B. Aquino, P/SSupt. Cezar Ochoco Mancao II, P/SSupt. Teofilo Viña, SPO2 Allan C. Villanueva, SPO4 Marino Soberano, SPO3 Mauro Torres, SPO3 Jose Escalante, Crisostomo M. Purificacion, Digo De Pedro, Renato Malabanan, Jovencio Malabanan, Margarito Cueno, Rommel Rollan, P/SInsp. Roberto Langcauon, SPO4 Benjamin Taladua, SPO1 Rolando Lacasandile, SPO1 Mario Sarmiento, SPO1 William Reed, PO2 Thomas J. Sarmiento, SPO1 Ruperto A. Nemeño, P/C Insp. Vicente Arnado and several John Does, abducted Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and EMMANUEL CORB1TO at the corner of Osmeña Highway (formerly South Super Highway) and Zobel Roxas Street, in Manila, and brought them to Indang. Cavite, and with treachery, evident premeditation, abuse of superior strength, nighttime and remoteness of place, malice and intent to kill, did then and there knowingly, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously kill EMMANUEL CORB1TO by strangulation which was the direct and the immediate cause of his death and then burned his body to the damage and prejudice of the said EMMANUEL CORBITO and his legal heirs.

On January 7, 2010, Senator Lacson filed an omnibus motion for consolidation and judicial determination of probable cause.

On February 4, 2010, then RTC Judge Myra Fernandez of Branch 18 found probable cause and directed the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Senator Lacson.

On February 10, 2010, Senator Lacson sought reconsideration (with prayer for the voluntary inhibition of Judge Fernandez). In March 2010, however, Judge Fernandez was appointed CA Associate Justice.

On May 21, 2010, Senator Lacson filed a motion for reinvestigation; and later on, a supplemental motion for reinvestigation.

On July 23, 2010, Acting Presiding RTC Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of Branch 18 denied Senator Lacson’s motion for reconsideration and motion for reinvestigation.

On September 24, 2010, Senator Lacson commenced special civil actions for certiorari and prohibition (with application for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction). After the petitioners filed their comment dated November 17, 2010, the CA denied the application for injunctive relief.

On November 26, 2010, the CA directed the parties to submit their respective memoranda upon the merits.

Senator Lacson submitted his memorandum dated December 16, 2010; the petitioners submitted a memorandum dated December 21, 2010; and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) opted to adopt its comment dated November 26, 2010 to serve as its memorandum.

Ruling of the CA

In its assailed decision promulgated on February 3, 2011, the CA found that the RTC had committed grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Senator Lacson primarily on the basis of the third affidavit dated February 13, 2009 of Sr. Supt. Mancao, pointing out that the third affidavit was diametrically opposed to his June 21, 2001 counter-affidavit and his March 1, 2007 affidavit wherein he (Sr. Supt. Mancao) strongly denied any involvement in the Dacer-Corbito case, and stressed that Supt. Dumlao’s attempt to link him to the case was made in order to implicate Senator Lacson therein; and noting that Sr. Supt. Mancao had implicated Senator Lacson in the Dacer-Corbito case for the first time in the third affidavit, in total contradiction of his first affidavit given eight years earlier. The CA further noted several inconsistencies of Sr. Supt. Mancao.

Accordingly, the CA disposed:

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Orders dated February 4, 2010 and July 23, 2010 of public respondent court finding probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioner are NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE. The Informations in Criminal Cases Nos. 10272905 & 10272906 are hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.[2]

On February 18, 2011, the petitioners filed their motion for reconsideration.

On February 21, 2011, the OSG filed its motion for reconsideration.

On March 18, 2011, the CA denied both motions for reconsideration. The petitioners received notice of the denial on March 24, 2011.

Issues

Only the petitioners have come to the Court to challenge via appeal the CA’s decision on the following grounds:

I.

The Court of Appeals violated the right to due process of the Prosecution and the offended party when it nullified the trial court’s finding of probable cause and dismissed the criminal cases.

II.

The Court of Appeals violated the right to due process of the Prosecution and the offended party when it dismissed the cases instead of ordering the Prosecution to submit additional evidence for the purpose of issuing arrest warrants.

III.

The Court of Appeals acted without authority in declaring a portion of its own decision executory, thereby denying the Prosecution and the offended party the right of appeal.

IV.

The Court of Appeals erred in not dismissing Respondent’s petition for certiorari and prohibition for deliberate forum-shopping.

Ruling

The petition for review is denied.

A.

Petitioners are not real parties in interest

to file the petition for review

The right of the petitioners to file the petition for review on certiorari to seek on appeal the reversal of the CA’s dismissal of the criminal action without the conformity and participation of the OSG is non-existent. Hence, they are not the real parties in interest to appeal by petition for review.

Basic in procedural law is that every action must be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party in interest.[3] A real party in interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Unless otherwise authorized by law or the Rules of Court, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest.[4] The rule has two components, to wit: (a) to institute an action, the plaintiff must be the real party in interest; and (b) the action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.[5]

Necessarily, the purposes of the rule on real party in interest are: (a) to prevent the prosecution of actions by persons without any right, title or interest in the case; (b) to require that the actual party entitled to legal relief be the one to prosecute the action; (c) to avoid a multiplicity of suits; and (d) to discourage litigation and keep it within certain bounds, pursuant to sound public policy.[6]

Interest within the meaning of the rule means a material interest or an interest in the issue to be affected by the decree or judgment of the case, as distinguished from mere curiosity about the question involved.[7] One having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as the plaintiff in an action.[8] When the plaintiff is not the real party in interest, the case is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action.[9]

The same rule governs on appeal, in that only a party in interest can challenge a decision. A party, in order to appeal, must have a present interest in the subject matter of the litigation and must be aggrieved or prejudiced by the judgment.[10] A party is aggrieved or prejudiced when his interest recognized by law in the subject matter of the lawsuit is injuriously affected by the judgment or order;[11] on the other hand, a party not aggrieved by the decision or order may not appeal because he would have no arguable error to assign on appeal. Thus, the prevailing party in a lawsuit is not ordinarily entitled to appeal a decision or order in his favor.[12]

Are the petitioners real parties in interest who may appeal the assailed decision of the CA dismissing Criminal Case No. 10272905 and Criminal Case No. 10272906 as against Senator Lacson?

They are not.

Section 5 of Rule 110 of the Rules of Court dictates that all criminal actions commenced by a complaint or information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of the public prosecutor; hence, any private prosecutor assisting the private offended party upon the civil aspect comes under the public prosecutor’s authority. Yet, although the Rules of Court so permit the offended party to take part in the prosecution of a criminal action, and in certain instances on appeal from the order or judgment of the courts in a criminal action, the permission to take part is true only where the party injured has to protect his pecuniary interest as part of the civil liability of the accused.

Here, however, the petitioners do not appeal to protect their pecuniary interest as offended parties of the crime, but to cause the reinstatement of the criminal action against Senator Lacson that the CA had dismissed on the ground that there was no probable cause to issue the warrant of arrest against Senator Lacson. As such, they have no right to the recourse, because the right exclusively pertained to the OSG in behalf of the People of the Philippines.[13] Indeed, we have ruled in a number of cases[14] that only the Solicitor General may bring or defend actions in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, or may represent the People or the State in criminal proceedings before the Court and the CA.

The exclusivity lodged in the OSG has statutory basis. Section 35, Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987 pertinently so provides, to wit:

Section 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. When authorized by the President or head of the office concerned, it shall also represent government owned or controlled corporations. The Office of the Solicitor General shall constitute the law office of the Government and, as such, shall discharge duties requiring the services of lawyers. It shall have the following specific powers and functions:
(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, the 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.

x x x

The exclusivity vested in the OSG rests on sound theory. The sovereign State has the authority, under its police power, to define and punish crimes and to lay down the rules of criminal procedure. As part of its police power, the State has a large measure of discretion in creating and defining criminal offenses.[15] The right of prosecution and punishment of a crime is one of the attributes that by natural law belongs to the sovereign power instinctively charged by the common will of the members of society to look after, guard, and defend the interests of the community, the individual and social rights and the liberties of every citizen, and guaranty the exercise of his rights.[16] Otherwise stated, every violation of penal laws results in the disturbance of public order and safety which the State is committed to uphold and protect.[17]

As a general rule, an offense causes two classes of injuries: (a) social injury, produced by the disturbance and alarm that are the outcome of the offense; and (b) personal injury, caused to the victim of the crime who may have suffered damage, either to his person, to his property, to his honor, or to her chastity. The social injury is sought to be repaired through the imposition of the corresponding penalty in criminal proceedings; while the personal injury, through indemnity, which is civil in nature.[18] Thus, when a criminal action is instituted, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense is deemed instituted with the criminal action unless the offended party waives the civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately, or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.[19]

Verily, the petitioners, even if they may be the private offended parties, have no interest to assail the decision of the CA (dismissing Criminal Case No. 10272905 and Criminal Case No. 10272906), because the matter involved did not affect the civil, but only the criminal, aspect.

B.

Petitioners were not denied due process

Jurisprudence lays down two exceptions under which a private complainant or offended party in a criminal case may file a petition for review directly with the Court, namely: (a) when there is a denial of due process of law to the prosecution, and the State or its agents refuse to act to the prejudice of the State and the offended party;[20] and (b) when the private offended party assails the civil aspect of a decision of a lower court.[21]

In their petition for review on certiorari, the petitioners posit that they were deprived of due process because the OSG did not appeal the adverse CA decision and resolution despite their counsel’s repeated prodding to appeal; and that the thrust of their present petition is consistent with the OSG’s earlier position supporting the actions taken by the RTC and the DOJ. Ostensibly, the petitioners are invoking the first exception (i.e., denial of due process of law to the prosecution) as basis of their standing to file their petition.

The petitioners’ position is not warranted.

The antecedents show that the petitioners vigorously participated in the proceedings in the CA, specifically, through their comment on the petition for certiorari of Senator Lacson; through their memorandum filed on December 22, 2010; and through their motion for reconsideration against the February 3, 2011 decision of the CA. Such vigorous participation satisfied the requirements of due process to afford to the parties a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy.

 C.

Final Word

This Court is not unmindful of the controversy surrounding the Dacer-Corbito double murder case — the public’s repugnance at the manner in which the abduction, murders, and disposal of the bodies was committed, as well as the public alarm that politically powerful personalities could possibly have a hand in or be the brains behind those gruesome acts. There is palpable revulsion at the idea that impunity for horrible crimes is also possibly being allowed to prevail, and that the pillars of justice are unable to ensure that crime does not pay.

We have dug deeply into the arsenal of remedies that this Court may grant and in this instance have come up empty. Whether or not the CA committed any reversible error in nullifying the issuance by a lower court of the warrant of arrest against Senator Lacson is a question we may not address, because it was not posed by the right party. This Court, for very important policy and institutional reasons, has consistently followed the rule that only the State and its representatives may appeal the dismissal of a criminal action. That the State is the offended party in criminal proceedings is a doctrine we must uphold because it is founded on the fundamental definition of crimes and the authority of the State to exact penalties therefor. To give up the right to prosecute for crimes in favor of private parties is to abandon what makes a State a state. By definition, a modern state has monopoly of all lawful coercive powers, and among these are the right to define, to prosecute, and to punish crimes. Corollarily, the right to appeal a dismissal of a criminal case, wrongful or otherwise, may not be usurped by private persons. It is only when a representative of the State has by wrongful action forfeited this right to appeal, as to cause prejudice to the State, that the Court may move to correct the injustice.

We thus deem it necessary to clarify that the Court does not hereby pass upon the substantive merits of the charges brought against Senator Lacson, and is limiting itself only to determining whether the petitioners can appeal the CA decision without the conformity or participation of the OSG.

WHEREFORE, the Court denies the petition for review on certiorari upon the premises stated herein.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) LUCITA ABJELINA-SORIANO

Clerk of Court

Endnotes:

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato, Jr., with Associate Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and Associate Justice Isaias P. Dicdican concurring.
[2] Annex A, Petition.[3] Spouses Oca v. Limbaring, G.R. No. 161298, January 31, 2006, 481 SCRA 348, 351.
[4] Section 2, Rule 3, Rules of Court.
[5] Spouses Oco v. Limbaring, note 3, p. 358; citing Moran, I Comments on the Rules of Court 213 (1995).
[6] Id; citing 67 CJS Parties §0, 910 (1950).
[7] Id; Citing Abella v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 152574, November 17, 2004, 442 SCRA 507.
[8] Id.
[9] Id; citing Pascual v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No 115925, August 15, 2003, 409 SCRA 105, 117.
[10] Bersamin, Appeal and Review in the Philippines, 2nd Edition, Central Professional Books, Quezon City, p. 88; citing Pacific Engineering Co., Inc. v. F. J. Edwards, Ltd., C.A.-G.R. No. 15583-R, January 17, 1957; 53 O.G. 3481.
[11] Id., citing 2 Am Jur 941-945.
[12] Id.
[13] Ricafort v. Fernan, et al., No. L-9789, May 25, 1957, 101 SCRA 575, 579-560.
[14] Among them, Heirs of Federico C. Delgado v. Gonzales, G.R. No. 184337, August 7, 2009 595, SCRA 501, 524; Cariño v. De Castro, G.R. No. 176084, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 688; Perez v. Hagonoy Rural Bank, Inc., 384 Phil. 322 (2000); Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc v. Court of Appeals G.R. No. 111267, September 20, 1996, 262 SCRA 219; People v. Mendoza, G.R No 80845 March 14, 1994, 231 SCRA 264; People v. Nano, G.R. No. 94639, January 13, 1992, 205 SCRA 155; People v. Calo, Jr., G.R. No. 88531, June 18, 1889, 186 SCRA 620; People v. Eduarte, G.R.No 88232, February 26, 1990, 182 SCRA 750.
[15] Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Book I, 15th Edition (2001), p. 2; citing People v. Santiago, 43 Phil. 120, 124(1922).
[16] Id.; citing United States v. Pablo, 35 Phil. 94, 100 (1916).
[17] Donio-Teves v. Vamenta, Jr., G.R. No. L-38308, December 26, 1984, 133 SCRA 616.
[18] Reyes, op. cit., p. 875.
[19] Section 1 (a), Rule 111, Rules of Court.
[20] Cariño v. De Castro, G.R. No. 176084, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 688, 696.
[21] People v. Santiago, G.R. No. 80788, June 20, 1989, 174 SCRA 143


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