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Dacudao vs. Gonzales
G.R No. 188056
Petitioners, residents of Bacaca Road, Davao City - were among the investors whom Celso G. Delos Angeles, Jr. and his associates in the Legacy Group of Companies (Legacy Group) allegedly defrauded through the Legacy Group's "buy back agreement" that earned them check payments that were dishonored. After their written demands for the return of their investments went unheeded, they initiated a number of charges for syndicated estafa against Delos Angeles, Jr., et al. in the Office of the City Prosecutor of Davao City on February 6, 2009. On March 18, 2009, the Secretary of Justice issued Department of Justice (DOJ) Order No. 182 (DO No. 182), directing all Regional State Prosecutors, Provincial Prosecutors, and City Prosecutors to forward all cases already filed against Delos Angeles, Jr., et al. to the Secretariat of the DOJ Special Panel in Manila for appropriate action. Pursuant to DO No. 182, the complaints of petitioners were forwarded by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Davao City to the Secretariat of the Special Panel of the DOJ. Aggrieved by such turn of events, petitioners have directly come to the Court via petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, ascribing to respondent Secretary of Justice grave abuse of discretion in issuing DO No. 182.
They claim that DO No. 182 violated their right to due process, their right to the equal protection of the laws, and their right to the speedy disposition of cases. They insist that DO No. 182 was an obstruction of justice and a violation of the rule against enactment of laws with retroactive effect.
Whether or not respondent Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing DO No. 182.
No. For a special civil action for certiorari to prosper, the following requisites must concur, namely: (a) it must be directed against a tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (b) the tribunal, board, or officer must have acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (c) there is no appeal nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Yet, petitioners have not shown a compliance with the requisites. To start with, they merely alleged that the Secretary of Justice had acted without or in excess of his jurisdiction. Also, the petition did not show that the Secretary of Justice was an officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. Instead, the Secretary of Justice would appear to be not exercising any judicial or quasi-judicial functions because his questioned issuances were ostensibly intended to ensure his subordinates’ efficiency and economy in the conduct of the preliminary investigation of all the cases involving the Legacy Group.
The function involved was purely executive or administrative. The fact that the DOJ is the primary prosecution arm of the Government does not make it a quasi-judicial office or agency. Its preliminary investigation of cases is not a quasi-judicial proceeding. Nor does the DOJ exercise a quasi-judicial function when it reviews the findings of a public prosecutor on the finding of probable cause in any case. The prosecutor in a preliminary investigation does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. He does not exercise adjudication nor rule-making functions. Preliminary investigation is merely inquisitorial, and is often the only means of discovering the persons who may be reasonably charged with a crime and to enable the fiscal to prepare his complaint or information. It is not a trial of the case on the merits and has no purpose except that of determining whether a crime has been committed and whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty thereof. While the fiscal makes that determination, he cannot be said to be acting as a quasi-court, for it is the courts, ultimately, that pass judgment on the accused, not the fiscal.