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PCGG VS. NAVARRO-GUTIERREZ, 773 SCRA
An Affidavit-Complaint was filed by the PCGG against former officers/directors of theDevelopment 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 grantedby the DBP to Galleo.
Based on the foregoing, the Ad Hoc Committee concluded that the loans/accommodations obtained by Galleon from DBP possessed positive characteristics of behest loans, considering that: (a) Galleon was undercapitalized; (b) the loan itself was undercoUateralized; (c) the major stockholders of Galleon were known to be cronies of President Marcos; and id) certain documents pertaining to the loan account were found to bear "marginal notes" of President Marcos himself. Resultantly, the PCGG filed the instant criminal complaint against individual respondents, docketed as OMB-C-C-03-0500-I.
Whether or not the OMB gravely abused its discretion in finding no probable cause to indict respondents of violating Sections 3 (e) and (g) of RA 3019.
The petition is meritorious. In this regard, 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. In Fenequito v. Vergara, Jr., the Court defined probable cause and the parameters in finding the existence thereof in the following manner, to wit:
Probable cause, for the purpose of filing a criminal information, has been defined as such facts as are sufficient to engender a well-founded 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.
Verily, preliminary investigation is merely an inquisitorial mode of discovering whether or not there is reasonable basis to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person charged should be held responsible for it. Being merely based on opinion and belief, a finding of probable cause does not require an inquiry as to whether there is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. A preliminary investigation is not the occasion for the full and exhaustive display of [the prosecution's] evidence. The presence and absence of the elements of the crime is evidentiary in nature and is a matter of defense that may be passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits. Hence, "the validity and merits of a party's defense or accusation, as well as the admissibility of testimonies and evidence, are better ventilated during trial proper than at the preliminary investigation level.