DRILON VS CA

Posted: April 12, 2017 in case digests, civil law, torts
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DRILON VS CA
G.R. No. 107019

FACTS

In a letter-complaint to Secretary of Justice Franklin Drilon, General Renato de Villa who was then Chief of Staff of the AFP, requested DOJ to order the investigation of several individuals named therein, including private respondent Adaza, for their alleged participation in the failed December 1989 coup d’etat. Assistant State Prosecutor Trampe, the Team Leader, finding sufficient basis to continue the inquiry, issued a subpoena to the individuals named in the letter-complaint, Adaza included, and assigned the case for preliminary investigation to a panel of investigators composed of prosecutors. They held that there is probable cause to hold respondents for trial for the crime of REBELLION WITH MURDER AND FRUSTRATED MURDER. Their Resolution became the basis for the filing of information.

Feeling aggrieved by the institution of proceedings against him, Adaza filed a complaint for damages before the RTC of Quezon City. In his complaint, Adaza charged petitioners with engaging in a deliberate, wilful and malicious experimentation by filing against him a charge of rebellion complexed with murder and frustrated murder when petitioners, according to Adaza, were fully aware of the non-existence of such crime in the statute books. Petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss but it was denied.

Petitioners filed a petition for Rule 65 before the CA, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent Judge in ruling that sufficient cause of action exists to warrant a full-blown hearing of the case filed by Adaza. CA dismissed the petition.

Adaza: His claim before the trial court was merely a suit for damages and for violation of RA 3019, and not a suit for malicious prosecution.

Hence this petition.

ISSUE

Whether the suit filed by Adaza was one for malicious prosecution.

RULING

Yes.

The term malicious prosecution has been defined in various ways. In American jurisdiction, it is defined as:

One begun in malice without probable cause to believe the charges can be sustained. Instituted with intention of injuring defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted. For this injury an action on the case lies, called the action of malicious prosecution.

In Philippine jurisdiction, it has been defined as:

An action for damages brought by one against whom a criminal prosecution, civil suit, or other legal proceeding has been instituted maliciously and without probable cause, after the termination of such prosecution, suit, or other proceeding in favor of the defendant therein. The gist of the action is the putting of legal process in force, regularly, for the mere purpose of vexation or injury

The statutory basis for a civil action for damages for malicious prosecution are found in the provisions of the New Civil Code on Human Relations and on damages particularly Articles 19, 20, 21, 26, 29, 32, 33, 35, 2217 and 2219 (8). To constitute malicious prosecution, however, there must be proof that the prosecution was prompted by a sinister design to vex and humiliate a person, and that it was initiated deliberately by the defendant knowing that his charges were false and groundless. Concededly, the mere act of submitting a case to the authorities for prosecution does not make one liable for malicious prosecution.  Thus, in order for a malicious prosecution suit to prosper, the plaintiff must prove three (3) elements: (1) the fact of the prosecution and the further fact that the defendant was himself the prosecutor and that the action finally terminated with an acquittal; (2) that in bringing the action, the prosecutor acted without probable cause; and (3) that the prosecutor was actuated or impelled by legal malice, that is by improper or sinister motive. All these requisites must concur.

There is nothing in the records which shows, and the complaint does not allege, that Criminal Case No. Q-90-11855, filed by the petitioners against respondent Adaza for Rebellion with Murder and Frustrated Murder, has been finally terminated and therein accused Adaza acquitted of the charge. Not even Adaza himself, thru counsel, makes any positive asseveration on this aspect that would establish his acquittal. Insofar as Criminal Case No. Q-90-11855 is concerned, what appears clear from the records only is that respondent has been discharged on a writ of habeas corpus and granted bail. This is not, however, considered the termination of the action contemplated under Philippine jurisdiction to warrant the institution of a malicious prosecution suit against those responsible for the filing of the information against him.

The complaint likewise does not make any allegation that the prosecution acted without probable cause in filing the criminal information dated April 18, 1990 for rebellion with murder and frustrated murder. Elementarily defined, probable cause is the existence of such facts and circumstances as would excite the belief, in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted. It is well-settled that one cannot be held liable for maliciously instituting a prosecution where one has acted with probable cause. Elsewise stated, a suit for malicious prosecution will lie only in cases where a legal prosecution has been carried on without probable cause. The reason for this rule is that it would be a very great discouragement to public justice, if prosecutors, who had tolerable ground of suspicion, were liable to be sued at law when their indictment miscarried.

In the case under consideration, the decision of the Special Team of Prosecutors to file the information for rebellion with murder and frustrated murder against respondent Adaza, among others, cannot be dismissed as the mere product of whim or caprice on the part of the prosecutors who conducted the preliminary investigation. Said decision was fully justified in an eighteen (18)-page Resolution dated April 17, 1990. While it is true that the petitioners were fully aware of the prevailing jurisprudence enunciated in People v. Hernandez,  which proscribes the complexing of murder and other common crimes with rebellion, petitioners were of the honest conviction that the Hernandez Case can be differentiated from the present case.

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