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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 184861 June 30, 2009
DREAMWORK CONSTRUCTON, NC., Petitioner,
vs.
C!EO"E S. JANO!A #n$ %ON. ART%UR A. "AMN, Respondents.
D ! I S I O N
&E!ASCO, JR., J.:
The !ase
Petitioner Drea"#or$ !onstruction, Inc. see$s the reversal of the %u&ust '(, '))*
Decision
+
in S!% No. )*,)))- of the Re&ional Trial !ourt .RT!/, 0ranch '-1 in 2as
Pi3as !it4. The Decision affir"ed the Orders dated October +(, '))5
'
and March +',
'))*
1
in !ri"inal !ase Nos. ----6,(+ issued b4 the Metropolitan Trial !ourt .MT!/,
0ranch 57 in 2as Pi3as !it4.
The 8acts
On October +*, '))6, petitioner, throu&h its President, Roberto S. !oncepcion, and
Vice,President for 8inance and Mar$etin&, Nor"and4 P. %"ora, filed a !o"plaint
%ffidavit dated October -, '))6
6
for violation of 0atas Pa"bansa 0ilan& '' .0P ''/
a&ainst private respondent !leofe S. 9aniola #ith the Office of the !it4 Prosecutor of
2as Pi3as !it4. The case #as doc$eted as I.S. No. )6,'-'(,11. !orrespondin&l4,
petitioner filed a cri"inal infor"ation for violation of 0P '' a&ainst private respondent
#ith the MT! on 8ebruar4 ', '))- doc$eted as !ri"inal !ase Nos. ----6,(+,
entitled People of the Philippines v. !leofe S. 9aniola.
On Septe"ber '), '))(, private respondent, :oined b4 her husband, instituted a civil
co"plaint a&ainst petitioner b4 filin& a !o"plaint dated %u&ust '))(
-
for the
rescission of an alle&ed construction a&ree"ent bet#een the parties, as #ell as for
da"a&es. The case #as filed #ith the RT!, 0ranch +75 in 2as Pi3as !it4 and
doc$eted as !ivil !ase No. 2P,)(,)+75. Notabl4, the chec$s, sub:ect of the cri"inal
cases before the MT!, #ere issued in consideration of the construction a&ree"ent.
Thereafter, on 9ul4 '-, '))5, private respondent filed a Motion to Suspend
Proceedin&s dated 9ul4 '6, '))5
(
in !ri"inal !ase Nos. ----6,(+, alle&in& that the
civil and cri"inal cases involved facts and issues si"ilar or inti"atel4 related such
that in the resolution of the issues in the civil case, the &uilt or innocence of the
accused #ould necessaril4 be deter"ined. In other #ords, private respondent
clai"ed that the civil case posed a pre:udicial ;uestion as a&ainst the cri"inal cases.
Petitioner opposed the suspension of the proceedin&s in the cri"inal cases in an
undated !o""ent<Opposition to %ccused=s Motion to Suspend Proceedin&s based
on Pre:udicial >uestion
5
on the &rounds that? .+/ there is no pre:udicial ;uestion in
this case as the rescission of the contract upon #hich the bouncin& chec$s #ere
issued is a separate and distinct issue fro" the issue of #hether private respondent
violated 0P ''@ and .'/ Section 5, Rule +++ of the Rules of !ourt states that one of
the ele"ents of a pre:udicial ;uestion is that Athe previousl4 instituted civil action
involves an issue si"ilar or inti"atel4 related to the issue raised in the subse;uent
cri"inal actionA@ thus, this ele"ent is "issin& in this case, the cri"inal case havin&
preceded the civil case.
2ater, the MT! issued its Order dated October +(, '))5, &rantin& the Motion to
Suspend Proceedin&s, and reasoned that?
Should the trial court declare the rescission of contract and the nullification of the
chec$s issued as the sa"e are #ithout consideration, then the instant cri"inal cases
for alle&ed violation of 0P '' "ust be dis"issed. The belated filin& of the civil case
b4 the herein accused did not detract fro" the correctness of her cause, since a
"otion for suspension of a cri"inal action "a4 be filed at an4 ti"e before the
prosecution rests .Section (, Rule +++, Revised Rules of !ourt/.
*
In an Order dated March +', '))*,
7
the MT! denied petitioner=s Motion for
Reconsideration dated Nove"ber '7, '))5.
Petitioner appealed the Orders to the RT! #ith a Petition dated Ma4 +1, '))*.
Thereafter, the RT! issued the assailed decision dated %u&ust '(, '))*, den4in& the
petition. On the issue of the eBistence of a pre:udicial ;uestion, the RT! ruled?
%dditionall4, it "ust be stressed that the re;uire"ent of a Apreviousl4A filed civil case
is intended "erel4 to obviate dela4s in the conduct of the cri"inal proceedin&s.
Incidentall4, no clear evidence of an4 intent to dela4 b4 private respondent #as
sho#n. The cri"inal proceedin&s are still in their initial sta&es #hen the civil action
#as instituted. %nd, the fact that the civil action #as filed after the cri"inal action #as
instituted does not render the issues in the civil action an4 less pre:udicial in
character.
+)
Hence, #e have this petition under Rule 6-.
The Issue
1
CHTHR OR NOT TH !ODRT % >DO SRIODS2E RRD IN NOT
PR!IVINF FR%V %0DS O8 DIS!RTION ON TH P%RT O8 TH IN8RIOR
!ODRT, CHN TH 2%TTR RD2D TO SDSPND PRO!DINFS IN !RIM.
!%S NOS. ----6,(+ ON TH 0%SIS O8 APR9DDI!I%2 >DSTIONA IN !IVI2
!%S NO. 2P,)(,)+75.
++
The !ourt=s Rulin&
This petition "ust be &ranted.
The !ivil %ction Must Precede the 8ilin& of the
!ri"inal %ction for a Pre:udicial >uestion to Bist
Dnder the +7*- Rules on !ri"inal Procedure, as a"ended b4 Supre"e !ourt
Resolutions dated 9une +5, +7** and 9ul4 5, +7**, the ele"ents of a pre:udicial
;uestion are contained in Rule +++, Sec. -, #hich states?
S!. -. Elements of prejudicial question. G The t#o .'/ essential ele"ents of a
pre:udicial ;uestion are? .a/ the civil action involves an issue si"ilar or inti"atel4
related to the issue raised in the cri"inal action@ and .b/ the resolution of such issue
deter"ines #hether or not the cri"inal action "a4 proceed.
Thus, the !ourt has held in nu"erous cases
+'
that the ele"ents of a pre:udicial
;uestion, as stated in the above,;uoted provision and in 0eltran v. People,
+1
are?
The rationale behind the principle of pre:udicial ;uestion is to avoid t#o conflictin&
decisions. It has t#o essential ele"ents? .a/ the civil action involves an issue si"ilar
or inti"atel4 related to the issue raised in the cri"inal action@ and .b/ the resolution of
such issue deter"ines #hether or not the cri"inal action "a4 proceed.
On Dece"ber +, '))), the '))) Rules on !ri"inal Procedure, ho#ever, beca"e
effective and the above provision #as a"ended b4 Sec. 5 of Rule +++, #hich applies
here and no# provides?
S!. 5. le"ents of pre:udicial ;uestion.GThe ele"ents of a pre:udicial ;uestion
are? .a/ the previousl4 instituted civil action involves an issue si"ilar or inti"atel4
related to the issue raised in the subse;uent cri"inal action, and .b/ the resolution of
such issue deter"ines #hether or not the cri"inal action "a4 proceed. ."phasis
supplied./
Petitioner interprets Sec. 5.a/ to "ean that in order for a civil case to create a
pre:udicial ;uestion and, thus, suspend a cri"inal case, it "ust first be established
that the civil case #as filed previous to the filin& of the cri"inal case. This, petitioner
ar&ues, is specificall4 to &uard a&ainst the situation #herein a part4 #ould belatedl4
file a civil action that is related to a pendin& cri"inal action in order to dela4 the
proceedin&s in the latter.
On the other hand, private respondent cites %rticle 1( of the !ivil !ode #hich
provides?
%rt. 1(. Pre,:udicial ;uestions #hich "ust be decided before an4 cri"inal prosecution
"a4 be instituted or "a4 proceed, shall be &overned b4 rules of court #hich the
Supre"e !ourt shall pro"ul&ate and #hich shall not be in conflict #ith the provisions
of this !ode. ."phasis supplied./
Private respondent ar&ues that the phrase Abefore an4 cri"inal prosecution "a4 be
instituted or "a4 proceedA "ust be interpreted to "ean that a pre:udicial ;uestion
eBists #hen the civil action is filed either before the institution of the cri"inal action or
durin& the pendenc4 of the cri"inal action. Private respondent concludes that there
is an apparent conflict in the provisions of the Rules of !ourt and the !ivil !ode in
that the latter considers a civil case to have presented a pre:udicial ;uestion even if
the cri"inal case preceded the filin& of the civil case.
Ce cannot a&ree #ith private respondent.
8irst off, it is a basic precept in statutor4 construction that a Achan&e in phraseolo&4
b4 a"end"ent of a provision of la# indicates a le&islative intent to chan&e the
"eanin& of the provision fro" that it ori&inall4 had.A
+6
In the instant case, the phrase,
Apreviousl4 instituted,A #as inserted to ;ualif4 the nature of the civil action involved in
a pre:udicial ;uestion in relation to the cri"inal action. This interpretation is further
buttressed b4 the insertion of Asubse;uentA directl4 before the ter" cri"inal action.
There is no other lo&ical eBplanation for the a"end"ents eBcept to ;ualif4 the
relationship of the civil and cri"inal actions, that the civil action "ust precede the
cri"inal action.
Thus, this !ourt ruled in Torres v. Farchitorena
+-
that?
ven if #e i&nored petitioners= procedural lapse and resolved their petition on the
"erits, #e hold that Sandi&anba4an did not abuse its discretion a"ountin& to eBcess
or lac$ of :urisdiction in den4in& their o"nibus "otion for the suspension of the
proceedin&s pendin& final :ud&"ent in !ivil !ase No. 5+(). Section (, Rule lll of the
Rules of !ri"inal Procedure, as a"ended, reads?
Sec. (. Suspension b4 reason of pre:udicial ;uestion. , % petition for suspension of
the cri"inal action based upon the pendenc4 of a pre:udicial ;uestion in a civil action
"a4 be filed in the office of the prosecutor or the court conductin& the preli"inar4
investi&ation. Chen the cri"inal action has been filed in court for trial, the petition to
suspend shall be filed in the sa"e cri"inal action at an4 ti"e before the prosecution
rests.
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Sec. 5. le"ents of pre:udicial ;uestion. , The ele"ents of a pre:udicial ;uestion are?
.a/ the previousl4 instituted civil action involves an issue si"ilar or inti"atel4 related
to the issue raised in the subse;uent cri"inal action, and .b/ the resolution of such
issue deter"ines #hether or not the cri"inal action "a4 proceed.
Dnder the a"end"ent, a pre:udicial ;uestion is understood in la# as that #hich "ust
precede the cri"inal action and #hich re;uires a decision before a final :ud&"ent
can be rendered in the cri"inal action #ith #hich said ;uestion is closel4 connected.
The civil action "ust be instituted prior to the institution of the cri"inal action. In this
case, the Infor"ation #as filed #ith the Sandi&anba4an ahead of the co"plaint in
!ivil !ase No. 5+() filed b4 the State #ith the RT! in !ivil !ase No. 5+(). Thus, no
pre:udicial ;uestion eBists. ."phasis supplied./
%dditionall4, it is a principle in statutor4 construction that Aa statute should be
construed not onl4 to be consistent #ith itself but also to har"oniHe #ith other la#s
on the sa"e sub:ect "atter, as to for" a co"plete, coherent and intelli&ible
s4ste".A
+(
This principle is consistent #ith the "aBi", interpretare et concordare
le&es le&ibus est opti"us interpretandi "odus or ever4 statute "ust be so construed
and har"oniHed #ith other statutes as to for" a unifor" s4ste" of :urisprudence.
+5
1
a vv p h i l
In other #ords, ever4 effort "ust be "ade to har"oniHe see"in&l4 conflictin& la#s. It
is onl4 #hen har"oniHation is i"possible that resort "ust be "ade to choosin& #hich
la# to appl4.
In the instant case, %rt. 1( of the !ivil !ode and Sec. 5 of Rule +++ of the Rules of
!ourt are susceptible of an interpretation that #ould har"oniHe both provisions of
la#. The phrase Apreviousl4 instituted civil actionA in Sec. 5 of Rule +++ is plainl4
#orded and is not susceptible of alternative interpretations. The clause Abefore an4
cri"inal prosecution "a4 be instituted or "a4 proceedA in %rt. 1( of the !ivil !ode
"a4, ho#ever, be interpreted to "ean that the "otion to suspend the cri"inal action
"a4 be filed durin& the preli"inar4 investi&ation #ith the public prosecutor or court
conductin& the investi&ation, or durin& the trial #ith the court hearin& the case.
This interpretation #ould har"oniHe %rt. 1( of the !ivil !ode #ith Sec. 5 of Rule +++
of the Rules of !ourt but also #ith Sec. ( of Rule +++ of the !ivil !ode, #hich
provides for the situations #hen the "otion to suspend the cri"inal action durin& the
preli"inar4 investi&ation or durin& the trial "a4 be filed. Sec. ( provides?
S!. (. Suspension b4 reason of pre:udicial ;uestion.G% petition for suspension of
the cri"inal action based upon the pendenc4 of a pre:udicial ;uestion in a civil action
"a4 be filed in the office of the prosecutor or the court conductin& the preli"inar4
investi&ation. Chen the cri"inal action has been filed in court for trial, the petition to
suspend shall be filed in the sa"e cri"inal action at an4 ti"e before the prosecution
rests.
Thus, under the principles of statutor4 construction, it is this interpretation of %rt. 1(
of the !ivil !ode that should &overn in order to &ive effect to all the relevant
provisions of la#. It bears pointin& out that the circu"stances present in the instant
case indicate that the filin& of the civil action and the subse;uent "ove to suspend
the cri"inal proceedin&s b4 reason of the presence of a pre:udicial ;uestion #ere a
"ere afterthou&ht and instituted to dela4 the cri"inal proceedin&s.
In Sabandal v. Ton&co,
+*
#e found no pre:udicial ;uestion eBisted involvin& a civil
action for specific perfor"ance, overpa4"ent, and da"a&es, and a cri"inal
co"plaint for 0P '', as the resolution of the civil action #ould not deter"ine the &uilt
or innocence of the accused in the cri"inal case. In resolvin& the case, #e said?
8urther"ore, the peculiar circu"stances of the case clearl4 indicate that the filin& of
the civil case #as a plo4 to dela4 the resolution of the cri"inal cases. Petitioner filed
the civil case three 4ears after the institution of the cri"inal char&es a&ainst hi".
%pparentl4, the civil action #as instituted as an afterthou&ht to dela4 the proceedin&s
in the cri"inal cases.
+7
Here, the civil case #as filed t#o .'/ 4ears after the institution of the cri"inal
co"plaint and fro" the ti"e that private respondent alle&edl4 #ithdre# its e;uip"ent
fro" the :ob site. %lso, it is #orth notin& that the civil case #as instituted "ore than
t#o and a half .' I/ 4ears fro" the ti"e that private respondent alle&edl4 stopped
construction of the proposed buildin& for no valid reason. More i"portantl4, the civil
case pra4in& for the rescission of the construction a&ree"ent for lac$ of
consideration #as filed "ore than three .1/ 4ears fro" the eBecution of the
construction a&ree"ent.
videntl4, as in Sabandal, the circu"stances surroundin& the filin& of the cases
involved here sho# that the filin& of the civil action #as a "ere afterthou&ht on the
part of private respondent and interposed for dela4. %nd as correctl4 ar&ued b4
petitioner, it is this scenario that Sec. 5 of Rule +++ of the Rules of !ourt see$s to
prevent. Thus, private respondent=s positions cannot be left to stand.
The Resolution of the !ivil !ase Is Not
Deter"inative of the Prosecution of the !ri"inal %ction
In an4 event, even if the civil case here #as instituted prior to the cri"inal action,
there is, still, no pre:udicial ;uestion to spea$ of that #ould :ustif4 the suspension of
the proceedin&s in the cri"inal case.
To reiterate, the ele"ents of a pre:udicial ;uestion under Sec. 5 of Rule +++ of the
Rules of !ourt are? .+/ the previousl4 instituted civil action involves an issue si"ilar
or inti"atel4 related to the issue raised in the subse;uent cri"inal action@ and .'/ the
resolution of such issue deter"ines #hether or not the cri"inal action "a4 proceed.
3
Petitioner ar&ues that the second ele"ent of a pre:udicial ;uestion, as provided in
Sec. 5 of Rule +++ of the Rules, is absent in this case. Thus, such rule cannot appl4
to the present controvers4.
Private respondent, on the other hand, clai"s that if the construction a&ree"ent
bet#een the parties is declared null and void for #ant of consideration, the chec$s
issued in consideration of such contract #ould beco"e "ere scraps of paper and
cannot be the basis of a cri"inal prosecution.
Ce find for petitioner.
It "ust be re"e"bered that the ele"ents of the cri"e punishable under 0P '' are
as follo#s?
.+/ the "a$in&, dra#in&, and issuance of an4 chec$ to appl4 for account or for value@
.'/ the $no#led&e of the "a$er, dra#er, or issuer that at the ti"e of issue there are
no sufficient funds in or credit #ith the dra#ee ban$ for the pa4"ent of such chec$ in
full upon its present"ent@ and
.1/ the subse;uent dishonor of the chec$ b4 the dra#ee ban$ for insufficienc4 of
funds or credit, or dishonor for the sa"e reason had not the dra#er, #ithout an4 valid
cause, ordered the ban$ to stop pa4"ent.
')
Dndeniabl4, the fact that there eBists a valid contract or a&ree"ent to support the
issuance of the chec$<s or that the chec$s #ere issued for valuable consideration
does not "a$e up the ele"ents of the cri"e. Thus, this !ourt has held in a lon& line
of cases
'+
that the a&ree"ent surroundin& the issuance of dishonored chec$s is
irrelevant to the prosecution for violation of 0P ''. In Me:ia v. People,
''
#e ruled?
It "ust be e"phasiHed that the &rava"en of the offense char&e is the issuance of a
bad chec$. The purpose for #hich the chec$ #as issued, the ter"s and conditions
relatin& to its issuance, or an4 a&ree"ent surroundin& such issuance are irrelevant to
the prosecution and conviction of petitioner. To deter"ine the reason for #hich
chec$s are issued, or the ter"s and conditions for their issuance, #ill &reatl4 erode
the faith the public reposes in the stabilit4 and co""ercial value of chec$s as
currenc4 substitutes, and brin& havoc in trade and in ban$in& co""unities. The clear
intention of the fra"ers of 0.P. '' is to "a$e the "ere act of issuin& a #orthless
chec$ "alu" prohibitu".
2ee v. !ourt of %ppeals
'1
is even "ore poi&nant. In that case, #e ruled that the issue
of lac$ of valuable consideration for the issuance of chec$s #hich #ere later on
dishonored for insufficient funds is i""aterial to the success of a prosecution for
violation of 0P '', to #it?
Third issue. Chether or not the chec$ #as issued on account or for value.
Petitioner=s clai" is not feasible. Ce have held that upon issuance of a chec$, in the
absence of evidence to the contrar4, it is presu"ed that the sa"e #as issued for
valuable consideration. Valuable consideration, in turn, "a4 consist either in so"e
ri&ht, interest, profit or benefit accruin& to the part4 #ho "a$es the contract, or so"e
forbearance, detri"ent, loss or so"e responsibilit4, to act, or labor, or service &iven,
suffered or underta$en b4 the other side. It is an obli&ation to do, or not to do in favor
of the part4 #ho "a$es the contract, such as the "a$er or indorser.
In this case, petitioner hi"self testified that he si&ned several chec$s in blan$, the
sub:ect chec$ included, in eBchan&e for '.-J interest fro" the proceeds of loans that
#ill be "ade fro" said account. This is a valuable consideration for #hich the chec$
#as issued. That there #as neither a pre,eBistin& obli&ation nor an obli&ation
incurred on the part of petitioner #hen the sub:ect chec$ #as &iven b4 0autista to
private co"plainant on 9ul4 '6, +771 because petitioner #as no lon&er connected
#ith Dnlad or 0autista startin& 9ul4 +7*7, cannot be &iven "erit since, as earlier
discussed, petitioner failed to ade;uatel4 prove that he has severed his relationship
#ith 0autista or Dnlad.
%t an4 rate, #e have held that #hat the la# punishes is the "ere act of issuin& a
bouncin& chec$, not the purpose for #hich it #as issued nor the ter"s and conditions
relatin& to its issuance. This is because the thrust of the la# is to prohibit the "a$in&
of #orthless chec$s and puttin& the" into circulation.
'6
."phasis supplied./
Veril4, even if the trial court in the civil case declares that the construction a&ree"ent
bet#een the parties is void for lac$ of consideration, this #ould not affect the
prosecution of private respondent in the cri"inal case. The fact of the "atter is that
private respondent indeed issued chec$s #hich #ere subse;uentl4 dishonored for
insufficient funds. It is this fact that is sub:ect of prosecution under 0P ''.lawphil.net
Therefore, it is clear that the second ele"ent re;uired for the eBistence of a
pre:udicial ;uestion, that the resolution of the issue in the civil action #ould deter"ine
#hether the cri"inal action "a4 proceed, is absent in the instant case. Thus, no
pre:udicial ;uestion eBists and the rules on it are inapplicable to the case before us.
CHR8OR, #e FR%NT this petition. Ce hereb4 RVRS and ST %SID the
%u&ust '(, '))* Decision in S!% No. )*,)))- of the RT!, 0ranch '-1 in 2as Pi3as
!it4 and the Orders dated October +(, '))5 and March +', '))* in !ri"inal !ase
Nos. ----6,(+ of the MT!, 0ranch 57 in 2as Pi3as !it4. Ce order the MT! to
continue #ith the proceedin&s in !ri"inal !ase Nos. ----6,(+ #ith dispatch. No
costs. SO ORDRD.
4