Linggo, Setyembre 4, 2016

Court decision on Filemon Lagman case

[G.R. No. 141704. June 7, 2000]




Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 7 2000.

G.R. No. 141704 (Hon. Orlando S. Mercado, Hon Reuben P. Dela Cruz, Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Apolinario Bruselas, Jr. and State Prosecutor Archimedez Manabat, et al. vs. Edcel C. Lagman and Filemon Lagman.)

Petitioners assail the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court which disposed thusly:

WHEREFORE, premises considered and pursuant to the mandate granted by the Honorable Supreme Court in its Resolution dated November 18, 1996, it is the decision of this court based on evidence, the law and jurisprudence:

1. To issue a writ of certiorari annulling and setting aside the criminal Information filed in Criminal Case No. 96-1369 MK and the warrant of arrest issued by the respondent court pursuant to said criminal information;

2. To issue a writ of injunction enjoining the respondent court from further proceeding with Criminal Case No. 96-1369 MK;

3. To declare the detention of petitioner Filemon Lagman illegal; to direct the immediate release from detention of petitioner Filemon Lagman in connection with Criminal Case No. 96-1369 MK unless the petitioner is being held pursuant to some other lawful cause or authority;

All the respondents shall be collectively responsible in enforcing the immediate release from detention of petitioner Filemon Lagman

In compliance with the directive of the Honorable Supreme Court, furnish a copy of this decision immediately to the Honorable Supreme Court.

The instant controversy sprung from a letter complaint which was referred by the Presidential Task Force on Intelligence and Counter Intelligence (PTFIC) to the Department of Justice (DOJ), for appropriate action, involving a case for violation of Article 248 (murder) of the Revised Penal Code against Filemon Lagman alias Ka Popoy and seven others, in connection with the ambush slaying of a traffic policemen in Marikina on March 30, 1992.

Attached to the subject letter-complaint are the sworn statements (karagdagang sinumpaang salaysay) of Jose Alvarez dated April 9, 1996 and Rodrigo Porsona also of the same date; the sworn statement of Arthur Oquendo dated March 13, 1992 and his supplemental sworn statement dated June 27, 1996; the Affidavit of PO1 Bonifacio Simbulan PN dated June 27, 1996; the medico-legal report (No. M-052992) dated April 3, 1992; and, the investigation report of SPO1 Ronito L. Villareal dated March 30, 1992,

The DOJ then assigned a three-man investigating panel which in turn issued a subpoena to Filemon Lagman, informing him that a complaint has been filed against him by the PTFIC; commanding him to appear at the DOJ on July 22, 1996 at 2 p.m. for preliminary investigation; and ordering him to submit his counter-affidavit and other supporting documents in his defense, with a warning that failure on his part to submit his counter-affidavit shall be considered as waiver to present his defense in the preliminary investigation resulting in the case being considered submitted for resolution.

On July 22, 1996 setting for preliminary investigation, only counsel of private respondent Filemon Lagman appeared and requested that the defense be given ten days within which to submit its counter-affidavit. That same day, the preliminary investigation was reset to August 2, 1996.

On August 2, 1996, Filemon Lagman, through his lawyer, submitted a verified Motion to Dismiss, explicitly stating that such motion is not intended to be in lieu of his counter-affidavit, and should also not be considered as a waiver of all other legal remedies available to him. The motion to dismiss assailed the jurisdiction of the investigating panel to take cognizance of the referral letter-complaint of the PTFIC dated June 28, 1996. Likewise, it was argued that the letter-complaint of General Libarnes of the PTFIC was not sworn to before an officer authorized to administer oaths as required by Section 3(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. The absence of the verification, it was claimed is fatal, such requirement being mandatory and jurisdictional.

The state prosecutors, did not resolve the motion to dismiss. On the other hand, Filemon Lagman, while waiting for action on his motion to dismiss, did not submit his counter-affidavit. On November 6, 1996, the state prosecutors promulgated their resolution recommending the filing of a criminal information against Filemon Lagman, et al. Said resolution did not bear the signature of 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. Nevertheless, it was approved by Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Nilo C. Mariano who signed for the Chief State Prosecutor.

The Information was raffled to Branch 272 of the regional Trial Court of Marikina. On November 8, 1996, a warrant of arrest was issued for Criminal Case No. 96-1369 MK against Filemon Lagman.

Pursuant to said warrant of arrest, Filemon Lagman was arrested and detained by the combined teams of the PTFIC and agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on November 12, 1996. On November 14, 1996, Filemon Lagman, et al., filed with this Court a petition for Habeas Corpus and Certiorari with a prayer for a restraining order and/or preliminary injunction. Acting on said petition, the Court issued a resolution on November 18, 1996, stating:

Acting on the petition for Habeas Corpus dated November 14, 1996, the Court resolved:

a) to ISSUE the Writ of Habeas Corpus;

b) to RETURN the writ to the Executive Judge of the RTC not later than November 20, 1996;

c) to ORDER the executive Judge of the RTC-Quezon City to conduct an immediate raffle to SET the case for HEARING not later than Thursday November 21, 1996 at 8:30; try and decide the same on the merits and therefore FURNISH this Court with a copy of the decision thereon;

d) the respondents to make a RETURN of the writ on or before the close of office hours on Wednesday, November 20, 1996 and APPEAR PERSONALLY and produce THE PERSON OF Filemon Lagman on the aforesaid date and time of hearing;

The executive judge of the RTC of Quezon City accordingly raffled off the case on November 20, 1996 to Branch 221 of the same court which proceeded to hear the case on the merits and thereafter rendered the decision, the dispositive portion of which we earlier quoted.

Recourse to the Court of Appeals proved to be unavailing. Thus, the instant petition.

Initially, the Court notes that the petition was filed 2 days beyond the 30-day extension granted by us which fell on March 13, 2000, even as petitioners asked for an extension of only 15 days. On this score alone, the petition may be outrightly denied.

Petitioners insist that the ruling of the Court of Appeals that a murder complaint for purposes of preliminary investigation with the prosecutor must be verified or sworn to is contrary to law and jurisprudence. Likewise, petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the preliminary investigation on the case against respondent was flawed on the ground that the investigating panel did not act on private respondent's motion to dismiss but instead promulgated the resolution recommending the filing of a criminal information; and in finding that the constitutional and fundamental right of respondent Filemon Lagman to due process was violated in the preliminary investigation of the complaint against him.

In regard to the first assigned error, the Court agrees with the Court of Appeals that it can not give credence to the petitioners' contention that the letter-complaint filed by the PTFIC need not be verified or sworn to before a person authorized to administer oaths.

Section 3 of Rule 110 of the Rules of Court clearly supports the stand of the Court of Appeals:

Sec. 3. Complaint defined. - Complaint is a sworn written statement charging a person with an offense, subscribed by the offended party, any peace officer or other public officer charged with the enforcement of the law violated.

Anent the second issue, the Court notes that when private respondent Filemon Lagman filed the motion to dismiss, a manifestation was made where he expressly reserved his right to file a counter-affidavit in the event that his motion to dismiss is denied. But, despite such manifestation, petitioners did not act on the motion to dismiss. Instead, they promulgated the November 6, 1996 resolution recommending the filing of a criminal information against Filemon Lagman, et al., violating private respondents' right to a preliminary investigation.

A preliminary investigation is required for offenses cognizable by the regional trial court under the procedure provided in Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. This procedure is to be observed in order to assure that a person is accorded due process.

It is a basis tenet that when the law provides for preliminary investigation and such right is claimed by the accused, a denial thereof is a denial of due process.

Consequently, the warrant of arrest which was issued pursuant to a flawed information is likewise fatally flawed. True it is, Section 6, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court provides that upon the filing of an information, the RTC may issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused. However, in the case at bar, where the information is defective for lack of a valid complaint and preliminary investigation, no warrant of arrest may validly spring therefrom. Further, any arrest made pursuant to such invalid warrant is, perforce, unlawful; any detention, illegal. It bears stressing that a flawed proceeding cannot ripen into a valid warrant of arrest nor detention.

The Court has ruled that it is axiomatic that where a deprivation of a constitutional right is established, the Court that rendered the judgment is deemed ousted of jurisdiction and habeas corpus is the remedy to assail the legality of the detention (Gumabon vs. Director of Bureau of Prisons, 37 SCRA 420).

WHEREFORE, petition is denied due course.


Very truly yours,


Clerk of Court