Constitutional Law, Remedial Law

Cruz v. People G.R. No. 224974, July 3, 2017 J. Leonen Petition for Certiorari, Bail

FACTS:

In an Information dated September 19, 2013, Marvin Cruz, along with seven (7) others, was charged with Robbery in an Uninhabited Place and by a Band for unlawfully taking four (4) sacks filled with scraps of bronze metal and a copper pipe worth ₱72,000.00 collectively. Cruz posted bail through a cash bond in the amount of ₱12,000.00.

The private complainant in the criminal case subsequently filed an Affidavit of Desistance stating that he was no longer interested in pursuing his complaint against Cruz. The RTC granted the Motion to Dismiss filed by the prosecution.

Cruz, through his bondsman Francisco Cruz, filed a Motion to Release Cash Bond, which was denied on the ground that the case was dismissed through desistance and not through acquittal. The Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied.

Cruz and Francisco filed a Petition for Certiorari with the CA, arguing that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the Motion to Release Cash Bond.

The petition was dismissed.

The CA stated that instead of a petition for certiorari, to question the denial of their Motion to Release Cash Bond and that it could not treat the Petition for Certiorari as an appeal since the period for appeal had lapsed before its filing.

Cruz and Francisco filed a Motion for Reconsideration which was denied. Hence, this Petition was filed.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the petition for certiorari for being the wrong remedy to question the denial of a motion to release cash bond.

RULING:

The writ of certiorari is not issued to correct every error that may have been committed by lower courts and tribunals. It is a remedy specifically to keep lower courts and tribunals within the bounds of their jurisdiction. In our judicial system, the writ is issued to prevent lower courts and tribunals from committing grave abuse of discretion in excess of their jurisdiction. Further, the writ requires that there is no appeal or other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy available to correct the error. Thus, certiorari may not be issued if the error can be the subject of an ordinary appeal.

An essential requisite for filing a petition for certiorari is the allegation that the judicial tribunal acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Grave abuse of discretion has been defined as a “capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment that is patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law.” 

In order to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the Petition for Certiorari for being the wrong remedy, it is necessary to find out whether the Regional Trial Court acted with grave abuse of discretion as to warrant the filing of a petition for certiorari against it.

The provisions of the Rules of Court are clear. 

Bail shall be deemed automatically cancelled in three (3) instances: (1) the acquittal of the accused, 

(2) the dismissal of the case, or 

(3) the execution of the judgment of conviction. 

The Rules of Court do not limit the cancellation of bail only upon the acquittal of the accused.

Non-compliance with the Rules of Court is not, as the Office of the Solicitor General asserts, a mere error of judgment. It constitutes grave abuse of discretion. 

In Crisologo v. JEWM Agro-Industrial Corporation:

This manifest disregard of the basic rules and procedures constitutes a grave abuse of discretion.

In State Prosecutors II Comilang and Lagman v. Judge Medel Belen, the Court held as inexcusable abuse of authority the trial judge’s “obstinate disregard of basic and established rule of law or procedure.” Such level of ignorance is not a mere error of judgment. It amounts to “evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law,” or in essence, grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

Needless to say, judges are expected to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural laws. They must know the laws and apply them properly in good faith as judicial competence requires no less.

When a court or tribunal renders a decision tainted with grave abuse of discretion, the proper remedy is to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

Considering that the trial court blatantly disregarded Rule 114, Section 22 of the Rules of Court, petitioners’ remedy was the filing of a petition for certiorari with the proper court.

Considering these circumstances, petitioners could not have been faulted for filing a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals since there was no legal basis for the Regional Trial Court to deny their Motion to Release Cash Bond.

Instead of addressing the merits of the case, the Court of Appeals instead chose to focus on procedural technicalities, dismissing the petition for certiorari based on cases that did not actually prohibit the filing of a petition for certiorari. While procedural rules are necessary for the speedy disposition of justice, its indiscriminate application should never be used to defeat the substantial rights of litigants.

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