Remedial Law

Milagros Donio-Teves vs Judge Cipriano Vamenta, Jr.

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G.R. No. L-38308 – 133 SCRA 616 – Remedial Law – Criminal Procedure – De Oficio Prosecution – “Private Crimes”

In July 1972, Julian Teves submitted a thumbmarked letter-complaint to Pablo Cabahug, the City Fiscal of Dumaguete. The letter-complaint alleges that he is charging criminally his wife, Milagros Donio-Teves, and his wife’s paramour, Manuel Moreno, with adultery. The fiscal conducted the initial preliminary investigation. Thereafter, Milagros and Manuel filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the fiscal cannot charge them in court of the crime of adultery because there was no valid complaint filed by Teves as it appeared that the letter-complaint filed by Teves was not appended with his affidavit. The fiscal denied the motion. Teves however filed a second letter-complaint, this time, he attached his affidavit. The fiscal however ordered the removal of some witnesses for the prosecution. Hence, a third letter-complaint was submitted by Teves. It was this third letter-complaint which was used by the fiscal as the Information in charging the accused. Eventually, the case was docketed in court and the two accused were set for arraignment.

Thereafter, Milagros and Manuel filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus to enjoin the fiscal and Judge Cipriano Vamenta, Jr. from hearing the case. While the petition was pending, Teves died. The accused then amended their petition to include the argument that since Teves died, the case should be dismissed considering that adultery, the crime charged against them, is a private crime which cannot be prosecuted without the offended party.

ISSUE: Whether or not the arguments of the accused are tenable.

HELD: No. It is true that in cases of adultery, the complaint cannot be prosecuted de oficio without compliance with the jurisdictional requirement for the proper filing of the complaint. But the complaint contemplated under the rule refers to the complaint filed with the court and not that filed with the fiscal’s office. In this case, although the first complaint filed by Teves lacked an affidavit, that was still alright because it was merely filed with the fiscal’s office. The rule was already complied with when Teves filed his second complaint with the attached affidavit. Further, the second letter-complaint was also sufficient in form and it apprised the accused of the crime being imputed against them. Further still, the SC noted that the rule which states that private crimes cannot be prosecuted without a valid complaint from the offended party was borne out of consideration for the aggrieved party who might prefer to suffer the outrage in silence rather than go through the scandal of a public trial. In this case, the intention of Teves to charge the accused criminally is already evident in the first letter-complaint – and according to the SC, this is the overriding consideration in determining whether or not a proper complaint, with the intention to criminally charge the accused, has been filed by an offended party.

Anent the issue of the death of Teves, his death is already immaterial. It should be noted that in private crimes, the participation of the offended party is essential not for the maintenance of the criminal action but solely for the initiation thereof. Once a private crime is properly initiated, the law will be applied in full force beyond the control of, and in spite of the complainant, his death notwithstanding. Further, death of the offended party is not a ground for extinguishment of criminal liability whether total or partial.

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