G.R. No. 148072 July 10, 2007
FRANCISCO MAGESTRADO, Petitioner
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and ELENA M. LIBROJO, Respondents
Private respondent Elena M. Librojo filed a criminal complaint for perjury against petitioner with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City, which was docketed as I.S. No. 98-3900.
After the filing of petitioners counter-affidavit and the appended pleadings, the Office of the City Prosecutor recommended the filing of an information for perjury against petitioner. Thus, Assistant City Prosecutor Josephine Z. Fernandez filed an information for perjury against petitioner with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Quezon City. Pertinent portions of the information are hereby quoted as follows:
That on or about the 27th day of December, 1997, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and knowingly make an untruthful statement under oath upon a material matter before a competent officer authorized to receive and administer oath and which the law so require, the said accused knowing fully well that the allegations in the said affidavit and petition are false, the truth of the matter being that the property subject of Transfer Certificate of Title No. N-173163 was mortgaged to complainant Elena M. Librojo as collateral for a loan in the amount of P 758,134.42 and as a consequence of which said title to the property was surrendered by him to the said complainant by virtue of said loan, thus, making untruthful and deliberate assertions of falsehoods, to the damage and prejudice of the said Elena M. Librojo.
On 30 June 1999, petitioner filed a motion for suspension of proceedings based on a prejudicial question. Petitioner alleged that Civil Case No. Q-98-34349, a case for recovery of a sum of money pending before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 84, and Civil Case No. Q-98- 34308, a case for Cancellation of Mortgage, Delivery of Title and Damages, pending before the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 77, must be resolved first before Criminal Case No. 90721 may proceed since the issues in the said civil cases are similar or intimately related to the issues raised in the criminal action.
Whether Judge Estrella T. Estrada of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 83, Quezon City, had committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of her jurisdiction in denying the Petition for Certiorari and petitioners subsequent motion for reconsideration on the ground of a prejudicial question pursuant to the Rules on Criminal Procedure and the prevailing jurisprudence.
A perusal of the allegations in the complaints show that Civil Case No. Q-98-34308 pending before RTC-Branch 77, and Civil Case No. Q-98-34349, pending before RTC-Branch 84, are principally for the determination of whether a loan was obtained by petitioner from private respondent and whether petitioner executed a real estate mortgage involving the property covered by TCT No. N-173163. On the other hand, Criminal Case No. 90721 before MeTC-Branch 43, involves the determination of whether petitioner committed perjury in executing an affidavit of loss to support his request for issuance of a new owners duplicate copy of TCT No. N-173163.
It is evident that the civil cases and the criminal case can proceed independently of each other. Regardless of the outcome of the two civil cases, it will not establish the innocence or guilt of the petitioner in the criminal case for perjury. The purchase by petitioner of the land or his execution of a real estate mortgage will have no bearing whatsoever on whether petitioner knowingly and fraudulently executed a false affidavit of loss of TCT No. N-173163.
MeTC-Branch 43, therefore, did not err in ruling that the pendency of Civil Case No. Q-98-34308 for cancellation of mortgage before the RTC-Branch 77; and Civil Case No. Q-98-34349 for collection of a sum of money before RTC-Branch 84, do not pose a prejudicial question in the determination of whether petitioner is guilty of perjury in Criminal Case No. 90721. RTC-Branch 83, likewise, did not err in ruling that MeTC-Branch 43 did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners motion for suspension of proceedings in Criminal Case No. 90721.