Prosecution of crimes & separation of powers

The prosecution of crimes pertains to the Executive Department of the Government whose principal power and responsibility are to see to it that our laws are faithfully executed. A necessary component of the power to execute our laws is the right to prosecute their violators. The right to prosecute vests the public prosecutors with a wide range of discretion – the discretion of what and whom to charge, the exercise of which depends on a smorgasbord of factors that are best appreciated by the public prosecutors.[1] The public prosecutors are solely responsible for the determination of the amount of evidence sufficient to establish probable cause to justify the filing of appropriate criminal charges against a respondent. Theirs is also the quasi-judicial discretion to determine whether or not criminal cases should be filed in court.[2]Consistent with the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution, the Court deems it a sound judicial policy not to interfere in the conduct of preliminary investigations, and to allow the Executive Department, through the Department of Justice, exclusively to determine what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for the prosecution of supposed offenders. By way of exception, however, judicial review may be allowed where it is clearly established that the public prosecutor committed grave abuse of discretion, that is, when he has exercised his discretion “in an arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, patent and gross enough as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law.”[3]

[1] Soberano v. People, G.R. No. 154629, October 5, 2005, 472 SCRA 125, 139-140; Leviste v. Alameda, G.R. No. 182677, August 3, 2010, 626 SCRA 575, 598.

[2] Crespo v. Mogul, No. L-53373, June 30, 1987, 151 SCRA 462, 410; Paderanga v. Drilon, G.R. No. 96080, April 19, 1991, 196 SCRA 86, 90.

[3] Glaxosmithkline Philippines, Inc. v. Khalid Mehmood Malik, G.R. No. 166924, August 17, 2006, 499 SCRA 268, 273; Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company v. Reynado, G.R. No. 164538 August 9, 2010, 627 SCRA 88, 101.

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