Probable cause; preliminary investigation

For the purpose of filing a criminal information, probable cause has been defined as such facts as are sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed, and that respondent is probably guilty thereof.[1] The determination of the existence of probable cause lies within the discretion of the prosecuting officers after they have conducted a preliminary investigation upon complaint of an offended party.[2]

A preliminary investigation is in effect a realistic judicial appraisal of the merits of the case; sufficient proof of the guilt of the criminal respondent must be adduced so that when the case is tried, the trial court may not be bound, as a matter of law, to order an acquittal.[3] While probable cause should be determined in a summary manner, there is a need to examine the evidence with care to prevent material damage to a potential accused's constitutional right to liberty and the guarantees of freedom and fair play.[4] The need for a careful examination of the evidence is also intended to protect the State from the burden of unnecessary expenses in prosecuting and trying cases arising from false, fraudulent or groundless charges.

[1] Kalalo v. Ombudsman, G.R. No. 158189, 23 April 2010, 619 SCRA 141.

[2] Ang-Abaya v. Ang, 593 Phil. 530, 541 (2008).

[3] Perez v. Ombudsman, 473 Phil. 372 (2004).

[4] Tan, Jr. v. Matsuura, G.R. No. 179003, 9 January 2013, 688 SCRA 263.