Quantum of evidence required in preliminary investigations

According to the Supreme Court (G.R. No. L-60054), any lawyer worth his salt knows that quanta of proof and adjective rules vary depending on whether the cases to which they are meant to apply are criminal, civil or administrative in character.

In criminal actions, proof beyond reasonable doubt is required for conviction; in civil actions and proceedings, preponderance of evidence, as support for a judgment; and in administrative cases, substantial evidence, as basis for adjudication. In criminal and civil actions, application of the Rules of Court is called for, with more or less strictness. In administrative proceedings, however, the technical rules of pleading and procedure, and of evidence, are not strictly adhered to; they generally apply only suppletorily; indeed, in agrarian disputes application of the Rules of Court is actually prohibited.[1]

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.”[2] 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.[3]

In Paderanga v. Drilon, the Supreme Court found that the state prosecutor’s findings that there exists prima facie evidence of petitioner’s involvement in the commission of the crime were sufficiently supported by the evidence presented and the facts obtaining therein.

In Paderanga v. Drilon, the Supreme Court held the following:
Likewise devoid of cogency is petitioner’s argument that the testimonies of Galarion and Hanopol are inadmissible as to him since he was not granted the opportunity of cross-examination.

It is a fundamental principle that the accused in a preliminary investigation has no right to cross-examine the witnesses which the complainant may present. Section 3, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court expressly provides that the respondent shall only have the right to submit a counter-affidavit, to examine all other evidence submitted by the complainant and, where the fiscal sets a hearing to propound clarificatory questions to the parties or their witnesses, to be afforded an opportunity to be present but without the right to examine or cross-examine. Thus, even if petitioner was not given the opportunity to cross-examine Galarion and Hanopol at the time they were presented to testify during the separate trial of the case against Galarion and Roxas, he cannot assert any legal right to cross-examine them at the preliminary investigation precisely because such right was never available to him. The admissibility or inadmissibility of said testimonies should be ventilated before the trial court during the trial proper and not in the preliminary investigation.

Furthermore, 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. In addition, considering that under Section 8, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, the record of the preliminary investigation does not form part of the record of the case in the Regional Trial Court, then the testimonies of Galarion and Hanopol may not be admitted by the trial court if not presented in evidence by the prosecuting fiscal. And, even if the prosecution does present such testimonies, petitioner can always object thereto and the trial court can rule on the admissibility thereof; or the petitioner can, during the trial, petition said court to compel the presentation of Galarion and Hanopol for purposes of cross-examination.[4]

[1] Manila Electric Company v. NLRC, et al., G.R. No. L-60054, 2 July 1991, 198 SCRA 681, 682. Citations omitted.

[2] Webb v. Hon. De Leon, 317 Phil. 758 (1995).

[3] Estrada v. Bersamin, G.R. Nos. 212140-41, January 21, 2015.

[4] Paderanga v. Drilon, 273 Phil. 299-300 (1991).