Sunday, September 18, 2011

The controversial RTC judge and the matter of injunction and territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases

"Controversial Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 167 presiding judge Rolando Mislang has submitted his compliance to the Supreme Court's (SC) Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) order for him to explain his issuance of 2 temporary restraining orders (TRO) that halted preliminary investigation proceedings and the filing of information in a criminal case for syndicated estafa against Globe Asiatique (GA) Realty Holding Corporation's Delfin Lee.

In a 5-page letter-compliance addressed to Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, Mislang stressed the existence of a "prejudicial question" that warranted his issuance of the TROs." (

Let us revisit then the Philippine Rules of Court and pertinent jurisprudence. The Rules of Court defines preliminary injunction as “an order granted at any stage of an action or proceeding prior to the judgment or final order, requiring a party or a court, agency or a person to refrain from a particular act or acts. It may also require the performance of a particular act or acts, in which case it shall be known as a preliminary mandatory injunction.” (Section 1, Rule 58)

The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to prevent threatened or continuous irremediable injury to some of the parties before their claims can be thoroughly studied and adjudicated. Its sole aim is to preserve the status quo until the merits of the case can be heard fully. (Medina vs. Greenfield Development Corporation, 443 SCRA 150, 159).

To be entitled to injunction, plaintiff must be able to convincingly show that he is entitled to it; he has a right in esse, meaning it is present, clear and positive; it is neither future nor contingent; the act sought to be prevented or restrained would work grave, irreparable injury and great injustice upon plaintiff; and equity rests with him.

It has been settled that there is a limitation on the territorial reach of injunctions issued by the trial courts. Thus, in a recent case, the Supreme Court ruled that “respondent judge had no authority to issue a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining acts performed outside his territorial jurisdiction. Respondent judge should have known that the injunctive writs he issued were enforceable only within his territorial jurisdiction, or any part, of the Third Judicial Region. In Civil Case No. 153-0-2006, the writ of injunction, which respondent judge issued, was directed against complainant, the Secretary and the Acting Deputy Customs Commissioner for Administration whose offices in Manila are outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City.” (A.M. No. RTJ-07-2064. June 26, 2009)

Also, as a general rule, writ of injunction is not available in criminal cases. But this is subject to exceptions: e.g., when there is a prejudicial question which is sub judice; when the court has no jurisdiction; to afford adequate protection to the constitutional rights of the accused; when necessary for the orderly administration of justice or to avoid oppression or multiplicity of suits; when double jeopardy is apparent; etc. (See Florenz Regalado. Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. II.)

With respect to prejudicial question, it “generally comes into play in a situation where a civil action and a criminal action are both pending and there exists in the former an issue which must be preemptively resolved before the latter may proceed, because howsoever the issue raised in the civil action is resolved would be determinative juris et de jure of the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal case. The rationale behind the principle of prejudicial question is to avoid two conflicting decisions. It has two essential elements: (i) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (ii) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.” (Sps. Jose vs. Sps. Suarez. G.R. No. 176795, June 30, 2008)

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