San Miguel Properties, Inc. vs. Perez

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San Miguel Properties, Inc., Petitioner,
Sec. Hernando B. Perez, Albert C. Aguirre, Teodoro B. Arcenas, Jr., Maxy S. Abad, James G. Barbers, Stephen N. Sarino, Enrique N. Zalamea, Jr., Mariano M. Martin, Orlando O. Samson, Catherine R. Aguirre, and Antonio V. Agcaoili, Respondents.

G.R. No. 166836
September 4, 2013


Petitioner San Miguel Properties (SMP) purchased from BF Homes Inc., represented by Atty. Orendain as its duly authorized rehabilitation receiver, 130 residential lots in its subdivision in BF Homes Parañaque. However, 20 TCTs (out of 40) were withheld delivery by BF Homes since Atty. Orendain had ceased to be its rehabilitation receiver at the time of the transactions;; BF Homes refused to deliver the TCTs despite demands. Because of this, SMP filed a complaint-affidavit in the Office of the Prosecutor (OCP) of Las Pinas charging respondent directors and officers of BF Homes with non-­delivery of titles in violation of Sec. 25 in relation to Sec. 29 both of PD No. 957 (The Subdivision and Condominium Buyers’ Protective Decree). Simultaneously, SMP sued BF Homes for specific performance in the HLURB praying to compel BF Homes to release the 20 TCTs in its favor.

The OCP dismissed SMP’s criminal complaint for violation of PD No. 957 on the ground, among others, that there existed a prejudicial question necessitating the suspension of the criminal action until after the issue on the liability of the distressed BF Homes was first determined by the SEC en banc or by the HLURB. SMP appealed the resolution of the OCP to the DOJ, which denied the same. Upon elevation of the case to the CA via Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus, SMP submitted the issue of whether or not HLURB Case presented a prejudicial question that called for the suspension of the criminal action for violation of PD No. 957. CA dismissed SMP’s petition.


Whether the HLURB administrative case for specific performance could be a reason to suspend the proceedings on the criminal complaint for the violation of PD No. 957 on the ground of a prejudicial question.


YES, an action for specific performance, even if pending in the HLURB, an administrative agency, raises a prejudicial question that must first be determined before the criminal case for violation of Sec. 25 of PD No. 957 could be resolved. 

Prejudicial question is that which arises in a case, the resolution of which is a logical antecedent of the issue involved in the criminal case, and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. It is determinative of the criminal case, but the jurisdiction to try and resolve it is lodged in another court or tribunal. It is based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but is so intimately connected with the crime that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused. The rationale behind the principle of prejudicial question is to avoid conflicting decisions.

The concept of a prejudicial question involves a civil action and a criminal case. Yet, contrary to SMP’s submission that there could be no prejudicial question to speak of because no civil action where the prejudicial question arose was pending, the action for specific performance in the HLURB raises a prejudicial question that sufficed to suspend the proceedings determining the charge for the criminal violation of PD No. 957. This is true simply because the action for specific performance was an action civil in nature but could not be instituted elsewhere except in the HLURB, whose jurisdiction over the action was exclusive and original. The determination of whether the proceedings ought to be suspended because of a prejudicial question rested on whether the facts and issues raised in the pleadings in the specific performance case were so related with the issues raised in the criminal complaint for the violation of PD No. 957, such that the resolution of the issues in the former would be determinative of the question of guilt in the criminal case.

Here, the action for specific performance in the HLURB would determine whether or not SMP was legally entitled to demand the delivery of the remaining 20 TCTs, while the criminal action would decide whether or not BF Homes’ directors and officers were criminally liable for withholding the 20 TCTs. The resolution of the former (admin case) must obviously precede that of the latter, for should the HLURB hold SMP to be not entitled to the delivery of the 20 TCTs because Atty. Orendain did not have the authority to represent BF Homes in the sale due to his receivership having been terminated by the SEC, the basis for the criminal liability for the violation of Sec. 25 of PD No. 957 would evaporate, thereby negating the need to proceed with the criminal case.

Hence, the Secretary of Justice did not commit grave abuse of discretion in upholding the dismissal of SMP’s criminal complaint for violation of PD No. 957 for lack of probable cause and for reason of a prejudicial question

Another contention of SMP:

SMP further submits that respondents could not validly raise the prejudicial question as a reason to suspend the criminal proceedings because respondents had not themselves initiated either the action for specific performance or the criminal action. It contends that the defense of a prejudicial question arising from the filing of a related case could only be raised by the party who filed or initiated said related case. The submission is unfounded. The rule on prejudicial question makes no distinction as to who is allowed to raise the defense. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemos. When the law makes no distinction, we ought not to distinguish.

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