Is preliminary investigation important?

A preliminary investigation is “not a casual affair.”[1] It is conducted to protect the innocent from the embarrassment, expense and anxiety of a public trial.[2] While the right to have a preliminary investigation before trial is statutory rather than constitutional, it is a substantive right and a component of due process in the administration of criminal justice.[3]

In the context of a preliminary investigation, the right to due process of law entails the opportunity to be heard.[4] It serves to accord an opportunity for the presentation of the respondent’s side with regard to the accusation. Afterwards, the investigating officer shall decide whether the allegations and defenses lead to a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, and that it was the respondent who committed it. Otherwise, the investigating officer is bound to dismiss the complaint.

“The essence of due process is reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit evidence in support of one's defense.”[5] What is proscribed is lack of opportunity to be heard.[6] Thus, one who has been afforded a chance to present one’s own side of the story cannot claim denial of due process.[7]

[1] Ang-Abaya v. Ang, G.R. No. 178511, 4 December 2008, 573 SCRA 129, 146.
[2] Uy v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. Nos. 156399-400, 27 June 2008, 556 SCRA 73, 93.
[3] Id.
[4] Santos v. People, G.R. No. 173176, 26 August 2008, 563 SCRA 341, 369.
[5] Kuizon v. Desierto, 406 Phil. 611, 630 (2001).
[6] Id.
[7] Pascual v. People, 547 Phil. 620, 627 (2007).