MAGISTRADO VS. PEOPLE, 527 SCRA 125
Private respondent Elena Librojo filed a criminal complaint of against accused Francisco Magistrado before the Office of the Prosecutor of Quezon City. Thereafter the prosecutor recommended the filing of the complaint against accused. An information was filed against the accused for perjury before the MTC of Quezon City.
The Information alleged that the accused subscribed and swore to an Affidavit of Loss before a notary public stating that he lost his Owner’s Duplicate Certificate oft TCT. The same affidavit was used to by accused to support his Petition for Issuance of New Owner’s Duplicate Copy of Certificate of TCT filed with the RTC of Quezon City. A verification was again signed and sworn into by the accused before the notary public. However, the contents of the same affidavit, already known to the accused, are false. It was later found out that the property subject of the TCT was mortgaged to respondent Librojo as collateral for a loan. As a result, respondent suffered damages and prejudice due to the deliberate assertion of falsehoods b the accused.
Subsequently, petitioner-accused Magistrado filed a motion to suspend the proceedings on the ground of a prejudicial question. Petitioner alleged that the two civil cases (for recovery of sum of money and for cancellation of mortgage) were pending before the RTC of Quezon City, and that they must be resolved first before the present criminal case. The RTC of Quezon City denied the motion. Hence this petition.
Whether or not the two civil cases (for Recovery of Sum of Money and for Cancellation of Mortgage) constitutes a prejudicial question that would warrant a suspension of the criminal case of perjury.
No, a prejudial question is defined as that which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical antecedent of the issue involved therein, and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. The prejudicial question must be determinative of the case before the court but the jurisdiction to try and resolve the question must be lodged in another court or tribunal. It is a question based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused.
For a prejudicial question in a civil case to suspend criminal action, it must appear not only that said case involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal prosecution would be based but also that in the resolution of the issue or issues raised in the civil case, the guilt or innocence of the accused would necessarily be determined.
If the resolution of the issue in the civil action will not determine the criminal responsibility of the accused in the criminal action based on the same facts, or there is no necessity “that the civil case be determined first before taking up the criminal case,” therefore, the civil case does not involve a prejudicial question. Neither is there a prejudicial question if the civil and the criminal action can, according to law, proceed independently of each other.
In concluding the case, the Court stated that “it is evident that the civil cases and the criminal cases can proceed independently of each other. Regardless of the outcome of the two civil cases, it will not establish the innocence or guilt of the petitioner in the criminal case of perjury.