GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE SANDIGANBAYAN, G.R. No. 220598, April 18, 2017

Facts:
On July 19, 2016, the Supreme Court promulgated its decision granting the petitions for certiorari of the Petitioner to annul and set aside the decision of Sandiganbayan denying the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the petitioner. The Supreme Court Granted the Demurrer to evidence of the Petitioner and dismissed the said criminal case.

On August 3, 2016, the State, through the Office of the Ombudsman, has moved for the reconsideration of the decision, submitting that SC giving due course to a certiorari action assailing an interlocutory order denying demurrer to evidence violates rule 119, section 23 of the rules of court, which provides that an order denying the demurrer to evidence shall not be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment.

In contrast, the petitioners submit that the decision has effectively barred the consideration and granting of the motion for reconsideration of the State because doing so would amount to the re-prosecution or revival of the charge against them despite their acquittal, and would thereby violate the constitutional proscription against double jeopardy.

Petitioner Gloria M. Macapagal-Arroyo (Arroyo) points out that the State miserably failed to prove the corpus delicti of plunder; that the Court correctly required the identification of the main plunderer as well as personal benefit on the part of the raider of the public treasury to enable the successful prosecution of the crime of plunder; that the State did not prove the conspiracy that justified her inclusion in the charge; that to sustain the case for malversation against her, in lieu of plunder, would violate her right to be informed of the accusation against her because the information did not necessarily include the crime of malversation; and that even if the information did so, the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy already barred the re-opening of the case for that purpose.

In reply, the State avers that the prohibition against double jeopardy does not apply because it was denied its day in court, thereby rendering the decision void; that the Court should re-examine the facts and pieces of evidence in order to find the petitioners guilty as charged; and that the allegations of the information sufficiently included all that was necessary to fully inform the petitioners of the accusations against them.

Issue:
Whether giving due course to a certiorari action assailing an interlocutory order denying demurrer to evidence violates rule 119, section 23 of the rules of court, which provides that an order denying the demurrer to evidence shall not be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment.

Held:
No, The Court holds that it should take cognizance of the petitions for certiorari because the Sandiganbayan, as shall shortly be demonstrated, gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

The special civil action for certiorari is generally not proper to assail such an interlocutory order issued by the trial court because of the availability of another remedy in the ordinary course of law. Moreover, Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court expressly provides that “the order denying the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer itself shall not be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment.” It is not an insuperable obstacle to this action, however, that the denial of the demurrers to evidence of the petitioners was an interlocutory order that did not terminate the proceedings, and the proper recourse of the demurring accused was to go to trial, and that in case of their conviction they may then appeal the conviction, and assign the denial as among the errors to be reviewed. Indeed, it is doctrinal that the situations in which the writ of certiorari may issue should not be limited, because to do so would be to destroy its comprehensiveness and usefulness. So wide is the discretion of the court that authority is not wanting to show that certiorari is more discretionary than either prohibition or mandamus. In the exercise of our superintending control over other courts, we are to be guided by all the circumstances of each particular case ‘as the ends of justice may require.’ So it is that the writ will be granted where necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial justice.

The Constitution itself has imposed upon the Court and the other courts of justice the duty to correct errors of jurisdiction as a result of capricious, arbitrary, whimsical and despotic exercise of discretion by expressly incorporating in Section 1 of Article VIII the following provision:

Section 1. The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.

Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. The exercise of this power to correct grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government cannot be thwarted by rules of procedure to the contrary or for the sake of the convenience of one side. This is because the Court has the bounden constitutional duty to strike down grave abuse of discretion whenever and wherever it is committed. Thus, notwithstanding the interlocutory character and effect of the denial of the demurrers to evidence, the petitioners as the accused could avail themselves of the remedy of certiorari when the denial was tainted with grave abuse of discretion. As we shall soon show, the Sandiganbayan as the trial court was guilty of grave abuse of discretion when it capriciously denied the demurrers to evidence despite the absence of competent and sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment for plunder, and despite the absence of the factual bases to expect a guilty verdict.

We reiterate the foregoing resolution, and stress that the prohibition contained in Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court is not an insuperable obstacle to the review by the Court of the denial of the demurrer to evidence through certiorari. We have had many rulings to that effect in the past. For instance, in Nicolas v. Sandiganbayan, the Court expressly ruled that the petition for certiorari was the proper remedy to assail the denial of the demurrer to evidence that was tainted with grave abuse of discretion or excess of jurisdiction, or oppressive exercise of judicial authority.

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