The instant case arose from an Affidavit-Complaint dated July 15, 2003 filed by the PCGG – through Rene B. Gorospe, the Legal Consultant in-charge of reviewing behest loan cases – against former officers/directors of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), namely, Ferry, Tengco, Zosa, Zalamea, Castell, and Sison, as well as former officers/stockholders of National Galleon Shipping Corporation (Galleon), namely, Cuenca, Tinio, and Roque charging them of violating Sections 3 (e) and (g) of RA 3019. In the Affidavit-Complaint, the PCGG alleged that on October 8, 1992, then President Fidel V. Ramos (President Ramos) issued Administrative Order No. 13, creating the Presidential Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Committee on Behest Loans (Ad Hoc Committee) in order to identify various anomalous behest loans entered into by the Philippine Government in the past. Later on, President Ramos issued Memorandum Order No. 619 on November 9, 1992, laying down the criteria which the Ad Hoc Committee may use as a frame of reference in determining whether or not a loan is behest in nature. Thereafter, the Ad Hoc Committee, with the assistance of a Technical Working Group (TWG) consisting of officers and employees of different government financial institutions (GFIs), examined and studied documents relative to loan accounts extended by GFIs to various corporations during the regime of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos (President Marcos) – one of which is the loan account granted by the DBP to Galleon.
In a Resolution dated May 30, 2007, the Ombudsman found no probable cause against private respondents and, accordingly, dismissed the criminal complaint against them. It found that the pieces of evidence attached to the case records were not sufficient to establish probable cause against the individual respondents, considering that the documents presented by the PCGG consisted mostly of executive summaries and technical reports, which are hearsay, self-serving, and of little probative value. In this relation, the Ombudsman noted that the PCGG failed to present “the documents which would directly establish the alleged illegal transactions like, the Loan Agreement between DBP and [Galleon], the approved Board Resolutions by the DBP officers/board of directors, the participation/voting that transpired at the board meetings wherein the alleged behest loans were granted.”
Aggrieved, the PCGG moved for reconsideration, which was, however, denied, hence, this petition.
Whether the Ombudsman erred in dismissing the complaint for not finding probable cause based on the evidence presented by the PCGG?
Yes, it is worthy to note that the conduct of preliminary investigation proceedings – whether by the Ombudsman or by a public prosecutor – is geared only to determine whether or not probable cause exists to hold an accused-respondent for trial for the supposed crime that he committed.
Probable cause, for the purpose of filing a criminal information, has been defined as such facts as are sufficient to engender a wellfounded belief that a crime has been committed and that respondent is probably guilty thereof. The term does not mean “actual or positive cause” nor does it import absolute certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Probable cause does not require an inquiry whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction. It is enough that it is believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged.
A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed by the suspects. It need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, not on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and definitely not on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt. In determining probable cause, the average man weighs facts and circumstances without resorting to the calibrations of the rules of evidence of which he has no technical knowledge. He relies on common sense. What is determined is whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that the accused is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial. It does not require an inquiry as to whether there is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.