DANTE LA. JIMENEZ vs. HON. EDWIN SORONGON, G.R. No. 178607, December 5, 2012

Facts:
On August 19, 2003, the petitioner filed a complaint-affidavit with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong City against the private respondents for syndicated and large scale illegal recruitment. The petitioner alleged that the respondents falsely represented their stockholdings in TMSI’s articles of incorporation 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-affidavit’s allegations. Respondents Avgoustis and Alamil did not submit any counter-affidavit.

In a May 4, 2004 resolution, 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 of Mandaluyong.

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. The petitioner and respondents Antzoulatos and Gaza filed their opposition and comment to the opposition, respectively.

In an August 1, 2005 resolution the RTC denied the motion to withdraw information as it found the existence of probable cause to hold the respondents for trial. 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. In a September 2, 2005 order, 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 October 10, 2005, respondent Alamil moved for reconsideration and for the inhibition of Judge Capco-Umali, for being biased or partial. 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.

In a January 4, 2006 order, Judge Capco-Umali voluntarily inhibited herself from the case and did not resolve respondent Alamil’s motion for reconsideration and the petitioner’s motion to expunge. The case was later re-raffled to Branch 214, presided by Judge Edwin D. Sorongon.

In its March 8, 2006 order, the RTC granted respondent Alamil’s motion for reconsideration. It treated respondent Alamil’s 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 RTC’s 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.

On April 26, 2006, respondent Alamil moved to expunge the motion for being a prohibited pleading since the motion did not have the public prosecutor’s conformity.

In its May 10, 2006 order, the RTC denied the petitioner’s 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 prosecutor’s conformity.

On May 19, 2006, the petitioner filed a notice of appeal.

In its November 23, 2006 resolution, the CA dismissed outright the petitioner’s 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 denied the motion for reconsideration that followed.

The petitioner went to SC argue 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 respondents 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.

Issue:
The petitioner has legal personality to assail the dismissal of the criminal case.

Held:
No, 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.” 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. By real interest is meant a present substantial interest, as distinguished from a mere expectancy, or a future, contingent, subordinate or consequential interest. When the plaintiff or the defendant is not a real party in interest, the suit is dismissible.

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.” 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.

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.

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