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G.R. Nos. 212140-41, January 21, 2015



Sometime in November and December 2013, the Ombudsman served on Sen. Estrada two (2) criminal complaints for plunder, among others. Eighteen (18) of Sen. Estrada’s co-respondents in the two complaints filed their counter-affidavits between 9 December 2013 and 14 March 2014. On 20 March 2014, Sen. Estrada filed his “Request to be Furnished with Copies of Counter-Affidavits of the Other Respondents, Affidavits of New Witnesses and Other Filings” (the “Request”). Sen. Estrada’s request was made “[p]ursuant to the right of a respondent ‘to examine the evidence submitted by the complainant which he may not have been furnished’ (Section 3[b], Rule 112 of the Rules of Court) and to ‘have access to the evidence on record’ (Section 4[c], Rule II of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman).” The Ombudsman denied Sen. Estrada’s Request, which is not the subject of the present certiorari case.


Whether the quantum of evidence necessary during preliminary investigation?


First, there is no law or rule which requires the Ombudsman to furnish a respondent with copies of the counter-affidavits of his co-respondents. Sections 3 and 4, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as well as Rule II of Administrative Order No. 7, Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman do not provide for the relief sought by Sen. Estrada in his Request.

Second, it should be underscored that the conduct of a preliminary investigation is only for the determination of probable cause, and “probable cause merely implies probability of guilt and should be determined in a summary manner. A preliminary investigation is not a part of the trial and it is only in a trial where an accused can demand the full exercise of his rights, such as the right to confront and cross-examine his accusers to establish his innocence.” Thus, the rights of a respondent in a preliminary investigation are limited to those granted by procedural law.

A preliminary investigation is defined as an inquiry or proceeding for the purpose of determining whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime cognizable by the Regional Trial Court has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial. The quantum of evidence now required in preliminary investigation is such evidence sufficient to “engender a well-founded belief” as to the fact of the commission of a crime and the respondent’s probable guilt thereof. A preliminary investigation is not the occasion for the full and exhaustive display of the parties’ evidence; it is for the presentation of such evidence only as may engender a well-grounded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof. We are in accord with the state prosecutor’s findings in the case at bar that there exists prima facie evidence of petitioner’s involvement in the commission of the crime, it being sufficiently supported by the evidence presented and the facts obtaining therein.


Third, the technical rules on evidence are not binding on the fiscal who has jurisdiction and control over the conduct of a preliminary investigation. If by its very nature a preliminary investigation could be waived by the accused, we find no compelling justification for a strict application of the evidentiary rules.

Fourth, the quantum of evidence in preliminary investigations is not akin to those in administrative proceedings as laid down in the landmark doctrine of Ang Tibay. The quantum of evidence needed in Ang Tibay, as amplified in GSIS, is greater than the evidence needed in a preliminary investigation to establish probable cause, or to establish the existence of a prima facie case that would warrant the prosecution of a case. Ang Tibay refers to “substantial evidence,” while the establishment of probable cause needs “only more than ‘bare suspicion,’ or ‘less than evidence which would justify . . . conviction’.” In the United States, from where we borrowed the concept of probable cause, the prevailing definition of probable cause is this:

In dealing with probable cause, however, as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. The standard of proof is accordingly correlative to what must be proved.

Thus, probable cause can be established with hearsay evidence, as long as there is substantial basis for crediting the hearsay. Hearsay evidence is admissible in determining probable cause in a preliminary investigation because such investigation is merely preliminary, and does not finally adjudicate rights and obligations of parties. However, in administrative cases, where rights and obligations are finally adjudicated, what is required is “substantial evidence” which cannot rest entirely or even partially on hearsay evidence. Substantial basis is not the same as substantial evidence because substantial evidence excludes hearsay evidence while substantial basis can include hearsay evidence. To require the application of Ang Tibay, as amplified in GSIS, in preliminary investigations will change the quantum of evidence required in determining probable cause from evidence of likelihood or probability of guilt to substantial evidence of guilt.

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