Exception to rule on victims’ consent
THIS REFERS to the reaction of lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan to the May 15 column of former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban where he cited Sec. 5, Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure to argue that the latter was “wrong” in saying that the consent of the Office of the President (as the representative of the people, the offended party) was indispensable to the validity of the Garcia plea bargain agreement. Alentajan’s thesis was, because it is the public prosecutor who has “supervision and control” over the criminal prosecution of the case, it follows that no one’s else consent is needed in the conduct of such proceedings. In the Sandiganbayan, it is the special prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman who exercise that “supervision and control.” (Inquirer, 5/23/11)
I disagree. True, it is the government prosecutor that “controls” the criminal proceedings and needs no concurrence of any offended party to do his job. In other words, to prosecute the criminal case, the consent of the offended party is irrelevant. His total control is such that he can even compel an unwilling complainant by subpoena to appear as a witness. That is the orthodox and general rule.
The exception, however, is when a plea bargain takes place under Sec. 2, Rule 116 of the same Rules which now explicitly requires both “the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor.” In fact, Department of Justice Circular No. 55, s. 1990, reaffirmed this requirement. That was how the DOJ saw it and therefore the government’s view; and the Sandiganbayan should have given due consideration to it. Besides, the aforesaid provision of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (binding on all courts, including the Sandiganbayan) being couched in plain language, really needs no further interpretation. It does not call for any exercise in legal hermeneutics.
It would have been an entirely different thing if the prosecutors had previously tried to obtain the offended party’s consent but was rebuffed. The inevitable question then would be, could the prosecutor go ahead with the plea bargain agreement anyway—against the offended party’s consent? Jurisprudence has yet to be blazed along the trail.
STEPHEN L. MONSANTO,
Monsanto Law Office,
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