Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Case Digest: G.R. No. 112381 March 20, 1995

Isabelo Apa, Manuel Apa and Leonilo Jacalan, petitioners, vs. Hon. Rumoldo R. Fernandez, Hon. Celso V. Espinosa, And Sps. Felixberto Tigol, Jr. And Rosita Taghoy Tigol, respondents

Facts: This is a special civil action of certiorari to set aside orders of respondent Judge Romuldo Fernandez of RTC, Branch 54 of Lapu-Lapu City denying petitioners motion for suspension of arraignment and  motion for reconsideration in a criminal case filed against them. Petitioners anchor their claim on a prior case regarding ownership. Petitioners allege that the civil case filed in 1990 seeking declaration for nullity of land title of the owner which had been filed three years before May 27, 1993 when the criminal case for squatting was filed against them constitutes a prejudicial question.

Issue: Whether the question of ownership is a prejudicial question justifying the suspension of the criminal case against petitioners.

Ruling: Petition to suspend Criminal Case No. 012489 based on the prejudicial question presented was granted on basis that;
  • the prejudicial question is a question based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that its resolution is determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused.
  • elements of prejudicial question - (1) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (2) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.
  • the criminal case alleges that petitioners squatted without the knowledge and consent of the owner, which, in 1994 the civil case rendered the nullity of the title of the owner and declared both petitioners and respondents as co-owners of the land.
  • respondents argue that owners can be ejected from his property only if for some reason, that is, he has let it to some other person. However, both case of respondents and petitioners are based on ownership.

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