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[G.R. No. 149453.

May 28, 2002]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, et al., vs. PANFILO M. LACSON.

RESOLUTION

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision[1] of the
Court of Appeals dated August 24, 2001 in CA-G.R. SP No. 65034.[2] The said Decision of the appellate
court granted respondent Lacsons Second Amended Petition for Prohibition with application for the
issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order, (1) assailing the Order issued by Judge Herminia Pasamba of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 40, that allowed the continuation of the re-investigation
of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 or the Kuratong Baleleng cases; and (2) praying for
the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-01-101102 to Q-01-101112 entitled People of the Philippines v.
Panfilo Lacson, et al. pending before Branch 81 of the RTC of Quezon City.

The following appear in the records of this case:

(1) On May 18, 1995, then PNP Director-General Recaredo Sarmiento II announced, in a press
conference, the killing of eleven (11) members of the Kuratong Baleleng Gang (KBG) in a shootout with
police elements near the fly-over along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City at about 4:00 A.M. that
day.[3]

(2) On May 22, 1995, morning papers carried the news that SPO2 Eduardo delos Reyes had claimed that
the killing of the eleven (11) gang members was a rub-out or summary execution and not a shootout.[4]

(3) In an affidavit he executed the following day, delos Reyes stated, among others, that he was part of a
composite police team called the Anti-Bank Robbery and Intelligence Task Force Group (ABRITFG)
composed of elements of the National Capital Region Command (NCRC) and headed by Chief
Superintendent Jewel Canson; Traffic Management Command, headed by Senior Superintendent
Francisco Subia, Jr.; Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC), headed by Chief Superintendent Panfilo
M. Lacson; Central Police District Command, headed by Chief Superintendent Ricardo de Leon; and
Criminal Investigation Command (CIC), headed by Chief Superintendent Romeo Acop. Delos Reyes
claimed that the police team arrested the eleven (11) gang members in early morning of May 18, 1995
at the gangs safe house in Superville Subdivision, Paraaque; that after their arrest, the gang members
were made to board two vans, their hands tied behind their backs, and brought initially to Camp Crame
where a decision to summarily execute them was made, and later to Commonwealth Avenue where
they were shot to death by elements of ABRITFG.[5]

(4) On May 26, 1995, SPO2 Corazon dela Cruz, another CIC investigator, executed an affidavit
corroborating the material allegations of delos Reyes. Dela Cruz claimed that she was with delos Reyes
from the time the eleven (11) KBG members were arrested up to the time they were killed in
Commonwealth Avenue.[6]

(5) On May 31, 1995, Armando Capili, a reporter of Remate, executed an affidavit stating that he was
present when the KBG members were arrested in Superville Subdivision.[7]

(6) On June 1, 1995, Chief Superintendent Job A. Mayo, PNP Director for Investigation, filed murder
charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against ninety-seven (97) officers and personnel of ABRITFG.
The next-of-kin of the slain KBG members also filed murder charges against the same officers and
personnel.[8]

(7) Ombudsman Aniano Desierto then created a panel of investigators to conduct a preliminary
investigation of the murder charges. The panel was headed by Deputy Ombudsman for Military Affairs
Bienvenido Blancaflor. On October 20, 1995, the panel issued a resolution recommending the dismissal
of the charges for lack of probable cause.

(8) Ombudsman Desierto referred the resolution for review by a panel composed of Over-all Deputy
Ombudsman Francisco Villa as head, and Special Prosecutor Leonardo Tamayo and Assistant
Ombudsman Abelardo Aportadera as members. On November 20, 1995, the review panel reversed the
Blancaflor resolution and found probable cause for the prosecution of multiple murder charges against
twenty-six (26) officers and personnel of ABRITFG.[9]

(9) On November 2, 1995, the Ombudsman filed before the Sandiganbayan eleven (11) Informations for
MURDER, docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 23047 to 23057, against respondent Panfilo M. Lacson and
twenty-five (25) other accused. All twenty-six (26) of them were charged as principals.[10] The following
appear to be the victims: Meleubren Sorronda in Crim. Case No. 23047; Welbor Elcamel in Crim. Case
No. 23048; Carlito Alap-ap in Crim. Case No. 23049; Jevy Redillas in Crim. Case No. 23050; Ray Abalora in
Crim. Case No. 23051; Joel Amora in Crim. Case No. 23052; Alex Neri in Crim. Case No. 23053; Rolando
Siplon in Crim. Case No. 23054; Manuel Montero in Crim. Case No. 23055; Sherwin Abalora in Crim. Case
No. 23056; and Pacifico Montero in Crim. Case No. 23057.

(10) Upon motion of the respondent, the criminal cases were remanded to the Ombudsman for
reinvestigation. On March 1, 1996, Amended Informations were filed against the same twenty-six (26)
suspects but the participation of respondent Lacson was downgraded from principal to accessory.
Arraignment then followed and respondent entered a plea of not guilty.[11]

(11) With the downgrading of charges against him, respondent Lacson questioned the jurisdiction of the
Sandiganbayan to hear the criminal cases as none of the principal accused in the Amended Informations
was a government official with a Salary Grade (SG) 27 or higher, citing Section 2 of R. A. No. 7975 then
prevailing. Accordingly, the Sandiganbayan ordered the cases transferred to the Regional Trial Court.[12]

(12) The Office of the Special Prosecutor filed a motion for reconsideration of the transfer. Pending
resolution of the motion, R. A. No. 8249 took effect on February 23, 1997, amending R. A. No. 7975. In
particular, the amendatory law deleted the word principal in Section 2 of R. A. No. 7975, thereby
expanding the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan to include all cases where at least one of the accused,
whether principal, accomplice or accessory, is a government official of Salary Grade (SG) 27 or higher.
The amendment is made applicable to all cases pending in any court in which trial has not yet begun as
of the date of its approval.[13]

(13) In Lacson v. Executive Secretary,[14] respondent Lacson challenged the constitutionality of the
amendment and contended that the Sandiganbayan had no jurisdiction over the criminal cases. This
Court, while dismissing the constitutional challenge, nonetheless ordered the transfer of the criminal
cases to the Regional Trial Court on the ground that the Amended Informations for murder failed to
indicate that the offenses charged therein were committed in relation to, or in discharge of, the official
functions of the respondent, as required by R. A. No. 8249.

(14) Criminal Cases Nos. 23047 to 23057 were raffled off to Branch 81 of the Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City, then presided by Judge, now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, Wenceslao Agnir,
Jr., and re-docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689.
(15) Before the accused could be arraigned, prosecution witnesses Eduardo de los Reyes, Corazon de la
Cruz, Armando Capili and Jane Gomez recanted their affidavits which implicated respondent Lacson in
the murder of the KBG members.

On the other hand, private complainants Myrna Abalora,[15] Leonora Amora,[16] Nenita Alap-ap,[17]
Imelda Montero,[18] Margarita Redillas,[19] Carmelita Elcamel[20] and Rolando Siplon[21] also
executed their respective affidavits of desistance declaring that they were no longer interested to
prosecute these cases.[22]

(16) Due to these developments, the twenty-six (26) accused, including respondent Lacson, filed five
separate but identical motions to (1) make a judicial determination of the existence of probable cause
for the issuance of warrants of arrest; (2) hold in abeyance the issuance of the warrants, and (3) dismiss
the cases should the trial court find lack of probable cause.

(17) The records of the case before us are not clear whether the private offended parties were notified
of the hearing on March 22, 1999[23] held by Judge Agnir to resolve the motions filed by respondent
Lacson and the other accused.

(18) During the said hearing, the private offended parties who desisted do not appear to have been
presented on the witness stand. In their stead, Atty. Godwin Valdez testified that he assisted them in
preparing their affidavits of desistance and that he signed said affidavits as witness. On the other hand,
Atty. Aurora Bautista of the Philippine Lawyers League presented the affidavits of recantation of
prosecution witnesses Eduardo de los Reyes, Armando Capili and Jane Gomez. Only prosecution witness
Corazon de la Cruz testified to affirm her affidavit.[24]

(19) On March 29, 1999, Judge Agnir issued a Resolution[25] dismissing Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679
to Q-99-81689, as follows:

As already seen, the documents attached to the Informations in support thereof have been rendered
meaningless, if not absurd, with the recantation of the principal prosecution witnesses and the
desistance of the private complainants. There is no more evidence to show that a crime has been
committed and that the accused are probably guilty thereof. Following the doctrine above-cited, there is
no more reason to hold the accused for trial and further expose them to an open and public accusation.
It is time to write finis to these cases and lay to rest the ghost of the incident of May 18, 1995 so that all
those involved--- the accused, the prosecution witnesses and the private complainants alike--- may get
on with their lives.

The Court is not unmindful of the admonition in the recent case of People vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No.
126005, January 21, 1999) where the Supreme Court said that the general rule is that if the Information
is valid on its face and there is no showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion or prejudice on
the part of the public prosecutor, courts should not dismiss it for want of evidence, because evidentiary
matters should be presented and heard during the trial, and that the ruling in Allado vs. Diokno is an
exception to the general rule and may be invoked only if similar circumstances are clearly shown to
exist.

This Court holds that the circumstances in the case at bench clearly make an exception to the general
rule.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds no probable cause for the issuance of the
warrants of arrest against the accused or to hold them for trial. Accordingly, the Informations in the
above-numbered cases are hereby ordered dismissed.

SO ORDERED.[26]

(20) On March 27, 2001, PNP Director Leandro R. Mendoza indorsed to the Department of Justice the
new affidavits of P/Insp. Ysmael S. Yu and P/S Insp. Abelardo Ramos regarding the Kuratong Baleleng
incident for preliminary investigation. On the strength of this indorsement, Secretary of Justice
Hernando B. Perez formed a panel to investigate the matter. On April 17, 2001, the respondent was
subpoenaed to attend the investigation of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689.[27]

(21) On May 28, 2001, respondent Lacson, et al., invoking, among others, their constitutional right
against double jeopardy, filed a petition for prohibition with application for temporary restraining order
and/or writ of preliminary injunction with the Regional Trial Court of Manila, primarily to enjoin the
State prosecutors from conducting the preliminary investigation. The petition was docketed as Civil Case
No. 01-100933 and raffled to Branch 40, presided by Judge Herminia V. Pasamba.[28]
(22) The plea for temporary restraining order was denied by Judge Pasamba in an Order[29] dated June
5, 2001, viz:

After a study, this Court submits that the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 is
not one on the merits and without any recorded arraignment and entered plea on the part of the herein
petitioners. The dismissal was a direct consequence of the finding of the Quezon City RTC that no
probable cause exists for the issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioners herein and to hold them
for trial. The arraignment had with the Sandiganbayan does not put the case in a different perspective
since the Sandiganbayan was adjudged to be without any jurisdiction to try the cases. It is the People of
the Philippines who is the complainant in the Kuratong Baleleng case and remains to be the complainant
in the present investigation initiated thru a letter of PNP Chief Mendoza dated March 27, 2001 (Exhibit
B) together with the sworn statements of witnesses Ramos and Yu (Exhibits 2 and 3 - supportive of the
refiling of the case (Exhibit 9).

xxx xxx xxx

Above considered, this Court finds petitioners have not preliminarily established that they have a right
to be preserved pending hearing on the injunctive relief.

WHEREFORE, the prayer for temporary restraining order is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED.[30]

(23) On June 6, 2001, eleven (11) Informations for murder involving the killing of the same members of
the Kuratong Baleleng gang were filed before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City and were docketed
as Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112. The new Informations charged as principals thirty-four
(34) people, including respondent Lacson and his twenty-five (25) other co-accused in Criminal Cases
Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689. The criminal cases were assigned to Judge Ma. Theresa L. Yadao.

(24) On the same day, respondent Lacson filed before the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari[31]
against Judge Pasamba, the Secretary of Justice, the PNP Chief, State Prosecutors Ong and Zacarias, 2nd
Assistant City Prosecutor Jamolin, and the People of the Philippines. The said petition was amended to
implead as additional party-respondents State Prosecutor Claro Arellano and the RTC, Quezon City,
Branch 81 in which the Informations in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 were filed.[32]

(25) The Second Amended Petition[33] dated June 14, 2001 and admitted by the Court of Appeals on
June 26, 2001, alleged:

The reliefs of certiorari, prohibition and injunction against the questioned Order (Annex A) and the new
Informations in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 pending before respondent Yadao (Annex
B) are founded upon the grave abuse of discretion by respondent Judge Pasamba of her discretion in its
issuance, the illegality of the proceedings of the respondent State Prosecutors as they cannot revive
complaints which had been dismissed over two (2) years from the date the dismissal order was issued,
and the invalidity of the new Informations for Murder filed against petitioners and others, all in defiance
of law and jurisprudence as shown by the following:

(a) Respondent judge had ruled on the merits of the main prohibition action a quo rendering the same
moot and academic by concluding that the dismissal of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679-Q-99-81689 by
the QC RTC was not final and executory, hence [i] the complaints therein can be reinvestigated, and [ii]
petitioners arraignment while the case had not yet been remanded to the QC RTC and while the
Sandiganbayan had valid jurisdiction thereover [Criminal Cases No. 23047-2048] was void,
notwithstanding that the only issue in the TRO application was the existence or lack of a valid complaint
as defined in S1 and S3, Rule 110.

(b) Respondent Judge ruled that respondent State Prosecutors could proceed to re-investigate and
thereafter file new Informations on June 6, 2001 covering those offenses subject of Criminal Cases Nos.
Q-99-81679-Q-99-81689 on the basis of affidavits filed after said cases were dismissed on March 29,
1999, despite the fact that under Section 8, Rule 117, cases similar to those filed against the petitioner
and others (where the penalty imposable is imprisonment of six (6) years or more) cannot be revived
after two (2) years from the date the dismissal order was issued.

(c) Respondent Judge held that the petitioner had not shown a right to be preserved despite evidence
showing the short cuts taken by respondent State prosecutors in re-investigating a dismissed case, in
not complying with Rules in respect of its re-opening, and in insisting that a valid complaint was filed in
clear violation of the Rules and case law thereon, and despite the fact that the petitioner had shown
that an inextendible deadline of June 5, 2001 was given him to file his counter-affidavit without which
his indictment for a non-bailable offense is assured because of DOJ Secretary Hernando Perezs political
schemes.[34]

(26) In the meantime, on June 8, 2001, respondent Lacson also filed with the RTC-QC Branch 81
(presided by Judge Ma. Theresa Yadao), a Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause and in
the absence thereof, to dismiss the cases outright. Respondent Lacson, however, filed a Manifestation
and Motion dated June 13, 2001 seeking the suspension of the proceedings before the trial court.[35]

(27) The Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Judge Yadao from issuing a
warrant of arrest or conducting any proceeding or hearing in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-
101112.[36]

(28) On August 24, 2001, the Court of Appeals (Special Third Division), rendered the now assailed
Decision. It characterized the termination of Criminal Cases Nos. Q-99-81679 to Q-99-81689 as
provisional dismissal, and considered Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112 as mere revivals of
the same. Applying Section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, it dismissed the
criminal cases against the respondent, viz:

In sum, this Court is of the considered view that the subject dismissal of [the] criminal cases was
provisional in nature and that the cases presently sought to be prosecuted by the respondents are mere
revival or re-opening of the dismissed cases. The present controversy, being one involving provisional
dismissal and revival of criminal cases, falls within the purview of the prescriptive period provided under
Section 8, Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. The second paragraph of the said
provision is couched in clear, simple and categorical words. It mandates that for offenses punishable by
imprisonment of more than six (6) years, as the subject criminal cases, their provisional dismissal shall
become permanent two (2) years after the issuance of the order without the case having been revived.
It should be noted that the revival of the subject criminal cases, even if reckoned from the DOJs issuance
of subpoenas to petitioner, was commenced only on April 19, 2001, that is, more than two (2) years
after the issuance, on March 29, 1999, of RTC-Quezon Citys Resolution, provisionally dismissing the
criminal cases now sought to be revived. Applying the clear and categorical mandate of Section 8, Rule
117, supra, such efforts to revive the criminal cases are now definitely barred by the two-year
prescriptive period provided therein.

xxx xxx xxx


WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. As prayed for, the Temporary Restraining Order earlier issued
against the conduct of further proceedings in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112, including the
issuance of warrants of arrest against the petitioner, PANFILO M. LACSON, is hereby made PERMANENT.
Accordingly, with respect to said accused, the proceedings conducted by respondent State Prosecutors
in respect of the said criminal cases are declared NULL AND VOID and the corresponding Informations,
docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-101112, entitled People of the Philippines vs. Panfilo
M. Lacson, et al. and filed before respondent Judge Maria Theresa L. Yadao of Branch 81 of the Regional
Trial Court of Quezon City, are hereby ordered DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.[37]

The issue is whether Section 8, Rule 117 bars the filing of the eleven (11) informations against the
respondent Lacson involving the killing of some members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang. This rule which
took effect on December 1, 2000 provides:

SEC. 8. Provisional dismissal.- A case shall not be provisionally dismissed except with the express consent
of the accused and with notice to the offended party.

The provisional dismissal of offenses punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years or a fine of
any amount, or both, shall become permanent one (1) year after issuance of the order without the case
having been revived. With respect to offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than six (6) years,
their provisional dismissal shall become permanent two (2) years after issuance of the order without the
case having been revived.

Like any other favorable procedural rule, this new rule can be given retroactive effect. However, this
Court cannot rule on this jugular issue due to the lack of sufficient factual bases. Thus, there is need of
proof of the following facts, viz: (1) whether the provisional dismissal of the cases had the express
consent of the accused; (2) whether it was ordered by the court after notice to the offended party, (3)
whether the 2-year period to revive has already lapsed, and (4) whether there is any justification for the
filing of the cases beyond the 2-year period.
There is no uncertainty with respect to the fact that the provisional dismissal of the cases against
respondent Lacson bears his express consent. It was respondent Lacson himself who moved to dismiss
the subject cases for lack of probable cause before then Judge Agnir, hence, it is beyond argument that
their dismissal bears his express consent.

The records of the case, however, do not reveal with equal clarity and conclusiveness whether notices to
the offended parties were given before the cases against the respondent Lacson were dismissed by then
Judge Agnir. It appears from the resolution of then Judge Agnir that the relatives of the victims who
desisted did not appear during the hearing to affirm their affidavits. Their affidavits of desistance were
only presented by Atty. Godwin Valdez who testified that he assisted the private complainants in
preparing their affidavits and he signed them as a witness. It also appears that only seven (7) persons
submitted their affidavits of desistance, namely:

a. Myrna Abalora, mother of the victims Sherwin Abalora and Rey Abalora

b. Carmelita Elcamel, wife of Wilbur Elcamel;

c. Leonora Amora, mother of victim Joel Amora;

d. Nenita Alap-ap, wife of victim Carlito Alap-ap;

e. Imelda Montero, wife of victim Manuel Montero;

f. Margarita Redillas, mother of victim Hilario Jevy Redillas; and

g. Rolando Siplon.

From the records of the case before us, it cannot be determined whether there were affidavits of
desistance executed by the relatives of the three (3)[38] other victims, namely: Meleubren Soronda,
Pacifico Montero, Jr., and Alex Neri. The same records do not show whether they were notified of the
hearing or had knowledge thereof. To be sure, it is not fair to expect the element of notice to be
litigated before then Judge Agnir for Section 8, Rule 117 was yet inexistent at that time.

The fact of notice to the offended parties was not raised either in the petition for prohibition with
application for temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction filed by respondent Lacson
in the RTC of Manila, presided by Judge Pasamba, to enjoin the prosecutors from reinvestigating the said
cases against him. The only question raised in said petition is whether the reinvestigation will violate the
right of respondent Lacson against double jeopardy. Thus, the issue of whether or not the
reinvestigation is barred by Section 8, Rule 117 was not tackled by the litigants.

Nor was the fact of notice to the offended parties the subject of proof after the eleven (11) informations
for murder against respondent Lacson and company were revived in the RTC of Quezon City presided by
Judge Yadao. There was hardly any proceeding conducted in the case for respondent Lacson
immediately filed a petition for certiorari in the appellate court challenging, among others, the authority
of Judge Yadao to entertain the revived informations for multiple murder against him.

This is not to be wondered at. The applicability of Section 8, Rule 117 was never considered in the trial
court. It was in the Court of Appeals where respondent Lacson raised for the first time the argument
that Section 8, Rule 117 bars the revival of the multiple murder cases against him. But even then, the
appellate court did not require the parties to elucidate the crucial issue of whether notices were given
to the offended parties before Judge Agnir ordered the dismissal of the cases against respondent Lacson
and company. To be sure, there is a statement in the Decision of the appellate court to the effect that
records show that the prosecution and the private offended parties were notified of the hearing x x
x.[39] It is doubtful whether this finding is supported by the records of the case. It appears to be
contrary to Judge Agnirs finding that only seven (7) of the complainants submitted affidavits of
desistance.

Indeed, the records of this case are inconclusive on the factual issue of whether the multiple murder
cases against respondent Lacson are being revived within or beyond the 2-year bar. The reckoning date
of the 2-year bar has to be first determined - - - whether it is from the date of the Order of then Judge
Agnir dismissing the cases or from the dates the Order were received by the various offended parties or
from the date of the effectivity of the new rule.

If the cases were revived only after the 2-year bar, the State must be given the opportunity to justify its
failure to comply with said timeline. The new rule fixes a timeline to penalize the State for its
inexcusable delay in prosecuting cases already filed in courts. It can therefore present compelling
reasons to justify the revival of cases beyond the 2-year bar.

In light of the lack of or the conflicting evidence on the various requirements to determine the
applicability of Section 8, Rule 117, this Court is not in a position to rule whether or not the re-filing of
the cases for multiple murder against respondent Lacson should be enjoined. Fundamental fairness
requires that both the prosecution and the respondent Lacson should be afforded the opportunity to be
heard and to adduce evidence on the presence or absence of the predicate facts upon which the
application of the new rule depends. They involve disputed facts and arguable questions of law. The
reception of evidence on these various issues cannot be done in this Court but before the trial court.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the case at bar is remanded to the RTC - Quezon City, Branch 81 so that
the State prosecutors and the respondent Lacson can adduce evidence and be heard on whether the
requirements of Section 8, Rule 117 have been complied with on the basis of the evidence of which the
trial court should make a ruling on whether the Informations in Criminal Cases Nos. 01-101102 to 01-
101112 should be dismissed or not. Pending the ruling, the trial court is restrained from issuing any
warrant of arrest against the respondent Lacson. Melo and Carpio, JJ., take no part.

SO ORDERED.