Published 1 January 2024, The Daily Tribune

No less than the Bill of Rights of the Constitution provides that an accused has the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him (1987 Constitution, Article III, Sec. 14, par. 2). In this regard, the main purpose of an Information is for the accused to be formally informed of the facts and the acts constituting the offense charged. If information is insufficient, the accused can file a motion to have the same quashed and/or dismissed before he or she enters a plea.

One of the grounds the accused may invoke to quash the Information is that the facts charged do not constitute an offense (Rules of Court, Section 3 [a]). In this light, the Supreme Court has previously upheld the general rule that the fundamental test in determining the sufficiency of the material averments in an information is whether or not the facts alleged therein, which are hypothetically admitted, would establish the essential elements of the crime defined by law. Evidence aliunde or matters extrinsic of the information are not to be considered (Keh v. People, G.R. Nos. 217592-93, 13 July 2020).

However, there have been several exceptions made by the High Court, one of which was in the case of Lorenzo v. Sandiganbayan (Sixth Division), G.R. No. 242506-10, 14 September 2022, where the Court, speaking through Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, held that where there are additional facts not alleged in the Information which are admitted or not denied by the prosecution, inquiry into such facts may be allowed where the ground invoked is that the allegations in the Information do not constitute an offense.

In Lorenzo, the petitioners were charged with violating Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when they failed to resort to public bidding in the procurement of fertilizers pursuant to a Memorandum dated 30 April 2003 issued by then-Agriculture Secretary Lorenzo, which allegedly showed their manifest partiality towards Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation or Philphos.

In moving for the quashal of the Information on the ground that the facts charged therein did not constitute an offense, the petitioners invoked the previous issuances of the Ombudsman in the Visayas and Mindanao cases, which dismissed the complaints against them for lack of probable cause as it found the 30 April 2003 Memorandum to have been valid and authorized petitioners to enter into a negotiated procurement of fertilizers, i.e., without public bidding.

In ruling in favor of the petitioners, the Supreme Court held that the Ombudsman’s pronouncements in the Visayas and Mindanao cases, whereby it found that resort to negotiated procurement, instead of public bidding, was proper, and that not all elements of violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 were present, are all undeniable facts which put into serious doubt the allegations in the Information.

Therefore, the Supreme Court deviated from the general rule and considered matters aliunde, i.e., the issuances of the Ombudsman in different cases, in considering and granting petitioners’ motion to quash the information.

Citing the case of People v. Dela Rosa, G.R. No. L-34112, 25 June 1980, the Supreme Court held that where there are facts which have been brought out by evidence presented by both parties which destroy the prima facie truth accorded to the allegations of the Information on the hypothetical admission thereof, as is implicit in the nature of the ground of the motion to quash, it would be pure technicality for the court to close its eyes to said facts and still give due course to the prosecution of the case already shown to be weak even to support a possible conviction, and hold the accused to what would clearly appear to be a merely vexatious and expensive trial, on her part, and a wasteful expense of precious time on the part of the court, as well as of the prosecution.

For our dear readers, I wish all your troubles are quashed, and you all have a happy 2024.

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