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REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

COURT OF APPEALS

MANILA

FOURTEENTH DIVISION

LT. RODELLO B. LARAYA, PN, and ATTY. ADELINA B. BENAVENTE-VILLENA, Petitioners,

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927

Members:

- versus -

HON. PERFECTO E. PE, Presiding Judge of Branch 52, Regional Trial Court of Palawan, And TAN ZI XIAN, TAN GUO CUN, HUANG JUN XIANG, TAN ZI DENG, ZHENG WEN JIE, LIU XIN YAN, TAN BING SHUN, CHEN YI XIAN, XIE XI WEI, CHEN GUO KUAN, TAN PING YIN (YAN), ZHENG CHAO FU, FANG MING JIE, TAN GUO HUI, XIE TAN FU, TAN HUO SHUN, LUO ZENG JIA, LAI GUO YUAN and TAN BING YAO, ZHOU JIAN GANG, QI HUI GUAN, QI JIA BING, QI HUI WEN, LAI GUO ZHI, CHEN ZI SHUN, ZHOU JIAN KAI, HUANG RI AN, HUANG ZI HUA, ZHAO QIAN SHAO, CHEN QI CHANG, HUANG SHAO QIANG, FANG YING XI, HUANG HONG BING, NIE ZHUANG QIANG, QI CHI SHENG, QI LU JIAN and ZHENG ZHI XIONG, Respondents. -

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REYES, JR., A.B., (Chairman) BERSAMIN, L.P., & LIBREA-LEAGOGO,C.C., JJ.

Promulgated:

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D

E C I

S I O N

REYES, JR., A.B., J .:

Before Us is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule

65

of

the Rules

of Civil

Procedure assailing the

decisions dated 17 July 2003 of the Regional Trial

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

2

Court of Palawan, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 52,

Puerta Princessa City in Criminal Case Numbers: 17717,

17718, 17696 and 17697.

It

appears that

on

12 September 2002,

thirty

eight (38) Chinese nationals on board their fishing

vessels were caught within the Malampaya Natural Gas

Platform Project Exclusive Zone, in El Nido, Palawan

in the act of illegal fishing.

Hundreds of kilos of

Groupers

(locally

known,

as

Lapu-Lapu),

Wrasse

(locally

known,

as

Mameng) and Snappers (locally

known, as Maya-Maya) were found in the said fishing

vessels. 1 Also found within the vessels, among others,

were powders and

pillets, suspected to be noxious

substances or component ingredients of explosives.

A

bottle of home-made dynamite was also retrieved. 2

Subsequent

specimen

tests

conducted

by

the

Cyanide Detection Test Laboratory of the Bureau of

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on the fishes found on

the

vessels yielded positive for the

presence of

cyanide. 3

Tests conducted by the Forensic Chemistry

Division of the National Bureau of Investigation on

the

powders and

1 Rollo, pp. 55-58.

2 Ibid, p. 55.

3 Ibid, pp. 46-52.

pillets seized from

the vessels

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

3

confirmed the fact

that

they were

indeed either

noxious substances or contained component ingredients

of an explosive. 4

Corresponding criminal complaints 5 were thus filed

on 17 September 2002 by the herein petitioners, Atty.

Adelina Benavente-Villena, Chief of Legal Services of

the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development [PCSD]

and Lt. Rodello B. Laraya, a commanding officer of the

Philippine

Navy

respondents for the

against

the

accused-private

violation of Republic Act

No.

8550, otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code

of 1998, specifically,

Section 87

(Poaching) and

Section 88 (Fishing through Explosives, Noxious or

Poisonous Substances) of the said Act.

Subsequently, criminal informations for violation

of Republic Act No. 8550 were filed against all 38

Chinese nationals with the Regional Trial Court of

Palawan.

All of the accused-private respondents

thereafter pleaded not guilty to the charges on 07 May

2003.

During the

pre-trial of

the criminal cases,

counsel for the accused-private respondents manifested

4 Ibid, pp. 53-54.

5 Ibid, pp. 38-45.

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

4

their intention to enter

into plea bargaining by

entering a plea of guilty to a lesser offense under

paragraph

2

of

Section

88

of Republic

Act 8550.

However, the then prosecuting officer of the cases,

Provincial Prosecutor Alen Ross B. Rodriguez did not

accede. Consequently, trial on the merits ensued.

After prosecution presented its first witness and

initial cross-examination was conducted by the counsel

for

the

defense, or

after only two hearing dates,

subsequent trial schedules were reset until a hearing

finally pushed through on 15 July 2003. On such date,

however, Provincial Prosecutor Alen Ross B. Rodriguez

manifested his

intention to

prosecuting the criminal cases.

inhibit from further

Continuation of the

trial was, hence, rescheduled the following day.

On 16 July 2003, with the appearance of a new

prosecutor, counsel for the defense asked the court to

re-open the pre-trial stage of the criminal cases and

reiterated the accused-private respondent’s earlier

intention of availing plea bargaining. This time, the

Provincial

Prosecutor’s

Office,

represented

by

Prosecutor Olegario Cayetano, Jr., did not object. On

the contrary, Prosecutor Cayetano manifested that the

government was amenable to re-open pre-trial for the

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

5

purpose of plea-bargaining.

Consequently, the trial

court ordered the re-opening of the pre-trial.

During the

re-opened pre-trial stage, all the

accused-private respondents through their counsel

plead guilty to violation of Paragraph 2, Section 88

of

Republic

Act

8550.

The

public

prosecutor

interposed no objection with the change of plea and

informed the court that the prosecutor’s conformity

with the plea bargaining was in consonance with the

directive of the Chief State Prosecutor.

On 17 July 2003, the trial court promulgated the

assailed decisions, 6 which convicted all the accused-

private respondents for violation of Paragraph 2,

Section 88 of Republic Act 8550 (Possession of Noxious

or Poisonous Substances)

and

sentenced each of the

accused-private respondents to a penalty of ten (10)

months

imprisonment.

respondents

were

also

All

the

convicted of

accused-private

violating of

Section 87 of the same Act (the crime of Poaching) and

were ordered to pay a fine of USD100,000.00 in favor

of the government.

Fishing paraphernalia, equipment

and vessels were ordered forfeited in favor of the

State.

6 Ibid, pp. 24-31.

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

6

On 18 July 2003, the herein petitioners filed a

Motion for

Reconsideration,

by

way

of

an Omnibus

Motion 7 seeking, among others, reconsideration of the

decision of the trial court allowing the re-opening of

the pre-trial, despite vigorous objections from the

petitioners.

The latter contend that the prosecutor

must not be allowed to plea bargain without seeking

the conformity of the herein petitioners being the

complainants.

On 04 August 2003, the trial court denied 8 the

petitioners’ Omnibus Motion, declaring the same as a

mere scrap of paper, for failure on the part of the

petitioners to notify the provincial prosecutor and

the accused-private respondents.

Moreover, the trial

court observed that the petitioners by themselves

cannot properly represent the People in filing the

said motion, since

supervision

and

control in

the

prosecution of

criminal

cases

is

lodged

with the

public prosecutor.

Hence, the instant petition.

7 Ibid, pp. 32-35. 8 Ibid, pp. 36-37.

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

7

Petitioners raise the following issues to wit: 9

“I.

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED BEYOND HIS AUTHORITY IN RULING THAT HEREIN COMPLAINANTS-PETITIONERS CANNOT REPRESENT THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, HENCE, NO STANDING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PRE-TRIAL PROCEEDINGS, PLEA BARGAINING PROCESS;

II.

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED IN EXCESS OF HIS JURISDICTION OR WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN HE ALLOWED THE RE-OPENING OF PRE-TRIAL FOR PURPOSES OF PLEA-BARGAINING WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE COMPLAINANTS AND CONTRARY TO SECTION 2, RULE 116 OF THE REVISED RULES ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, AS AMENDED;

III.

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION BY NOT PROVIDING FOR SUBSIDIARY IMPRISONMENT IN CASE THE ACCUSED POACHERS ARE NOT ABLE TO PAY THE FINE OF $200,000 IMPOSED UPON UNDER SECTION 87, REPUBLIC ACT 8550;

IV.

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION I DENYING THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION ON THE GROUND THAT THE SAID MOTION WAS A MERE SCRAP OF PAPER.”

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

8

We resolve to dismiss the instant petition.

At

the

outset, considering that the instant

petition arose out of a criminal case, it is peculiar

that it

is the chief

legal counsel of

PCSD and a

commanding officer of the Philippine Navy who brings

this instant action before Us assailing the decision

of the trial court in the said criminal cases.

Therefore, before this petition can be given due

course, it is imperative to resolve whether the herein

petitioners have legal

present action.

standing to bring

We rule in the negative.

up

the

Section 1, Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court

expressly provides:

“SECTION 1. Petition for Certiorari. –

When

any

tribunal, board or officer

exercising

judicial

and

quasi-judicial

functions has acted without or in excess of

abuse of

discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the

its

jurisdiction,

or

with grave

ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the

with

proper

judgment be

court,

alleging

the

that

facts

certainty and praying

rendered

annulling

or

modifying

the

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

9

proceedings of such

tribunal, board

or

officer,

and

granting

such incidental

reliefs

as

law

and justice may require.

(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

XXX

XXX

XXX”

Hence, for the herein petitioners to lodge the

instant action,

they

must

first

be

a

person

aggrieved”, otherwise, they would be without legal

standing to pursue this legal recourse.

That having been said, this Court rules that the

herein petitioners are not persons aggrieved by the

assailed decision of the trial court in the subject

criminal cases.

It is elementary in criminal law that a crime is

an offense against the State, and is hence prosecuted

in the name of the People of the Philippines. 10

For

this reason, Section 5 of Rule 110 of the Revised

Rules

of

Criminal Procedure provides

that

“all

criminal

actions

commenced

by

a

complaint

or

information shall be prosecuted under the direction

and control of the prosecutor.”

10 People v. Arcilla, G.R. No. 116237, 15 May1996.

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

10

Furthermore, Section 1 of P.D. 1275, provides, to

wit:

SECTION 1. Creation of the National Prosecution Service; Supervision and Control of the Secretary of Justice. There is hereby created and established a National Prosecution Service under the supervision and control of the Secretary of Justice, to be composed of the Prosecution Staff in the Office of the Secretary of Justice and such

Prosecution

number

of

Regional

State

Offices, and Provincial and City Fiscal’s

Offices as are hereinafter provided, which

shall be primarily

investigation and prosecution of all cases

involving

responsible for the

violations

of

penal

laws.

(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Clearly, it is within the exclusive domain of the

prosecutory arm of the government as how best to deal

with the prosecution of criminal cases.

Hence, any

grievance in course thereof affecting the interest of

the State must proceed only from such an arm of the

government.

Moreover, at

this stage,

only the Solicitor

General can bring or defend actions on behalf of the

Republic of the Philippines. 11 Section 35 (1), Chapter

12, Title III, Book IV of Administrative Code of 1987

provides for the

Office of the Solicitor General’s

duty

to –“Represent the Government in the Supreme

Court and

the Court

of Appeals

in

all

criminal

11 People v. Partisala, G.R. No. L-61997, 15 November 1982.

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

11

proceedings; represent the Government and its officers

in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and all

other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and

special proceedings in which the Government or any

officer thereof in his official capacity is a party.”

Therefore,

the

present

action

cannot

be

successfully lodged by the petitioners without the

concurrence and presence of the Solicitor General, who

legally represents the interest of the State at this

stage of the proceedings.

To restate, the criminal violation of our fishery

laws

is

an offense

against the

People of

the

Philippines.

The offended party is therefore none

other

than the

State and certainly not the herein

petitioners, who are public officials under the employ

of the PCSD and the Philippine Navy.

The State for

its part, in the prosecution of criminal offenses, is

represented by the National Prosecution Service,

directly supervised and controlled by the Department

of Justice.

At this stage, the competent agency to

represent the cause of the State should be the Office

of the Solicitor General and none other.

and underscoring supplied.)

(Emphasis

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

12

Considering the foregoing, it is futile for the

petitioners to

invoke

the

statutory mandate of

Republic

Act

7611,

known

as

the

Strategic

Environmental Plan for

Palawan Act

to initiate the

present petition.

Indeed, there is nothing in the

said

law

which authorizes the

PCSD

to directly

prosecute criminal cases, nay represent the State in

actions arising from such criminal cases as aggrieved

parties.

To be sure, the PCSD was created for the purpose

of exercising governance and implementing the policy

direction of the Strategic Environmental Plan [SEP].

The SEP on the other hand, as referred to in Republic

Act No. 7611, is a comprehensive framework for the

sustainable development of Palawan compatible with

protecting and enhancing the natural resources and

endangered environment of the said province. 12

The

SEP’s express purpose is thus to serve as a framework

to guide the local government of Palawan and other

government agencies concerned in the formulation and

implementation

of

plans,

programs

and

projects

affecting the province of Palawan. 13

12 Section 4, Chapter II of Republic Act No. 7611, otherwise known as the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act.

13 Section 4 and Section 6, Ibid.

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

13

A reading of the Republic Act No. 7611 therefore

clearly spells out

that PCSD’s

administrative,

regulatory

and

function is purely

policy-making

in

nature, and certainly not prosecutory.

With respect to the legal standing of Lt. Rodello

B. Laraya to file the instant petition, suffice it to

again reiterate that the aggrieved party in this case

is

the State

and

not

Lt.

Laraya

in

his

personal

capacity, or the Philippine Navy or the Naval Forces

West, both of which Laraya is a member of.

 

By the

petitioners’ own allegation,

the

task

of

the

Naval

Forces West

monitoring

is

and

simply to undertake patrolling,

apprehension

of

violators

of

our

fishery laws and other laws affecting our waters and

seas.

In

fine,

to

successfully lodge the instant

petition, the petitioners

must

have

a

personal and

substantial interest in the case such that they have

sustained or

stand to

sustain direct

injury as

a

result of the act that is being challenged.

We find

no such injury, whether sustained or otherwise to the

herein petitioners.

If at all, it was the State who

CA-G.R. SP. No. 80927 DECISION

14

was injured.

Thus, it is only the State who may bring

the instant action.

With the lack of legal personality of the herein

petitioners to instigate the instant petition, there

is no need to further consider the other issues and

arguments raised therein.

WHEREFORE,

premises

considered,

petition

is

hereby DISMISSED for

the

lack

instant

of

legal

standing on the part of the petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

WE CONCUR:

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN Associate Justice

C E R T I

ANDRES B. REYES, JR. Associate Justice

CELIA C. LIBREA-LEAGOGO Associate Justice

F I

C A T I O N

Pursuant

to

Article

VIII,

Section

13

of

the

hereby

certified

that

the

Constitution, it is conclusions in the

above decision were reached in

consultation

writer of the opinion of the Court.

before

the

case was

assigned

to

ANDRES B. REYES, JR. Associate Justice Chairman, 14 th Division

the