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Prejudicial question has been defined and explained as follows:

. . . that which arises in a case, the resolution of which (question) is a logical


antecedent of the issue involve in said case and the cognizance of which pertains to
another tribunal (Cuestion prejudicial, es la que surge en un pleito o causa cuya
resolucion es antecedente logico de la cuestion objecto del pleito o causa y cuyo
conocimiento corresponda a los tribunales de otro order o jurisdiction.X
Enciclopedia Juridica Espaola, p. 228). The prejudicial question must be
determinative of the case before the court; this is its first element. Jurisdiction to try
said question must be lodged in another tribunal; this is the second element. (People
vs. Aragon, 94 Phil., 357; 50 Off. Gaz.[10], 4863).

Prejudicial question is understood in law to be that which must precede the criminal
action, that which requires a decision before a final judgment is rendered in the principal
action with which said question is closely connected. Not all previous question are
prejudicial, although all prejudicial question are necessarily previous. (Herbari vs.
Concepcion, 40 Phil., 837).

A civil action is prejudicial when it refers to a fact separate and distinct from the offense
charged but yet so intimately related thereto as to be determinative off the guilt or
innocent of the accused. For example, a civil action for the annulment of the second
marriage is, with respect to the criminal charge for bigamy a prejudicial question as to
require its adjudication before the criminal prosecution may proceed. However, where the
only ground upon which the civil action for annulment is based is that the second marriage
was contracted allegedly good faith at a time when the first marriage was still in existence,
such civil action does not constitute a prejudicial question for there is no issue therein that
may be determinative of petitioner's innocence in the criminal case. That second marriage
was contracted in good faith is immaterial in the civil action. It is material only in the
criminal case to show lack of criminal intent. (II Moran, pp. 652-653, 1957 ed.)

More often that not, we hear the term prejudicial question being raised by a party in the
course of a criminal litigation proceeding. For defense lawyers, it is an effective tool for
stalling the preliminary investigation or prosecution of a case, most especially in cases
where their client is certain to be charged or convicted criminally. More than a delaying
tactic, however, the existence of prejudicial question is a serious and fundamental issue
that needs to be resolved in order to fully satisfy the requirements of due process and
elementary fairness.

The term prejudicial question is found in Section 6, Rule 111 of the 2000 Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, which states that:
A petition for suspension of the criminal action based upon the pendency of a prejudicial
question in a civil action may be filed in the office of the prosecutor or the court conducting
the preliminary investigation. When the criminal action has been filed in court for trial, the
petition to suspend shall be filed in the same criminal action at any time before the
prosecution rests.

As can be gleaned from above, a petition for suspension of the criminal action based on the
existence of prejudicial question may be raised either during the preliminary investigation
stage before the prosecutor conducting the same or during the pendency of a criminal trial
where it is filed before the court hearing the case.

Jurisprudence has also defined a prejudicial question as that which arises in a case the
resolution of which is a logical antecedent of the issue involved therein, and the cognizance
of which pertains to another tribunal. The prejudicial question must be determinative of
the case before the court but the jurisdiction to try and resolve the question must be lodged
in another court or tribunal. It is a question based on a fact distinct and separate from the
crime but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the
accused. (See Rojas vs. People, 57 SCRA 246; People vs. Aragon, 94 Phil. 357; Zapanta vs.
Montessa, 4 SCRA 510 and Benitez vs. Concepcion, 2 SCRA 178)

The elements of a prejudicial questions are enumerated under Section 7, Rule 111 of the
2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, these are: (a) the previously instituted civil
action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the subsequent
criminal action, and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the
criminal action may proceed.

If both civil and criminal cases have similar issues or the issue in one is intimately related
to the issues raised in the other, then a prejudicial question would likely exist, provided the
other element or characteristic is satisfied. For example, in a criminal case for bigamy, the
accused may raise the pendency of a civil suit for the declaration of nullity of his first
marriage to defer the proceedings of the bigamy case.

Mere similarity of issues does not suffice to uphold the validity of a prejudical question. It
must appear not only that the civil case involves the same facts upon which the criminal
prosecution would be based, but also that the resolution of the issues raised in the civil
action would be necessarily determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused. If the
resolution of the issue in the civil action will not determine the criminal responsibility of
the accused in the criminal action based on the same facts, or there is no necessity _that the
civil case be determined first before taking up the criminal case,_ therefore, the civil case
does not involve a prejudicial question. Neither is there a prejudicial question if the civil
and the criminal action can, according to law, proceed independently of each other.
It must be remebered however, that a prejudicial question does not conclusively resolve
the guilt or innocence of the accused but simply tests the sufficiency of the allegations in
the information in order to sustain the further prosecution of the criminal case. A party
who raises a prejudicial question is deemed to have hypothetically admitted that all the
essential elements of a crime have been adequately alleged in the information, considering
that the prosecution has not yet presented a single evidence on the indictment or may not
yet have rested its case. A challenge of the allegations in the information on the ground of
prejudicial question is in effect a question on the merits of the criminal charge through a
non-criminal suit.

Prejudicial Question
By princeamiel Posted in Criminal Procedure, Prejudicial Question, Remedial Law
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A prejudicial question is defined as that which arises in a case the resolution of which is a
logical antecedent of the issue involved therein, and the cognizance of which pertains to
another tribunal. The prejudicial question must be determinative of the case before the
court but the jurisdiction to try and resolve the question must be lodged in another court or
tribunal. It is a question based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so
intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused.12
The two (2) essential elements of a prejudicial question are:

(a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in
the criminal action; and
(b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may
proceed.11
For a civil action to be considered prejudicial to a criminal case as to cause the suspension
of the criminal proceedings until the final resolution of the civil, the following requisites
must be present:

(1) the civil case involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal
prosecution would be based;
(2) in the resolution of the issue or issues raised in the civil action, the guilt or innocence
of the accused would necessarily be determined; and
(3) jurisdiction to try said question must be lodged in another tribunal.13
If both civil and criminal cases have similar issues or the issue in one is intimately related
to the issues raised in the other, then a prejudicial question would likely exist, provided the
other element or characteristic is satisfied.14 It must appear not only that the civil case
involves the same facts upon which the criminal prosecution would be based, but
also that the resolution of the issues raised in the civil action would be necessarily
determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused.15
If the resolution of the issue in the civil action will not determine the criminal
responsibility of the accused in the criminal action based on the same facts, or there is no
necessity that the civil case be determined first before taking up the criminal case,
therefore, the civil case does not involve a prejudicial question.16 Neither is there a
prejudicial question if the civil and the criminal action can, according to law, proceed
independently of each other.17
Thus, the issue in the criminal cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 is whether the
accused knowingly issued worthless checks. The issue in the civil action for specific
performance, overpayment, and damages is whether complainant Sabandal overpaid his
obligations to Philippines Today, Inc. If, after trial in the civil case, petitioner is shown to have
overpaid respondent, it does not follow that he cannot be held liable for the bouncing checks
he issued, for the mere issuance of worthless checks with knowledge of the insufficiency of
funds to support the checks is itself an offense.18 EDDIE B. SABANDAL vs. HON. FELIPE S. TONGCO G.R. No.
124498 October 5, 2001

DREAMWORK CONSTRUCTION, INC. VS CLEOFE JANIOLA AND HON. ARTHUR FAMINI, GR


NO 184861, JUNE 30, 2009

FACTS

Petitioner, filed a Complaint Affidavit against private respondent with the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Las Pias City for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22. Afterwards, private
respondent, together with her husband, filed a complaint against petitioner for the
rescission of an alleged construction agreement between the parties, as well as for
damages. Thereafter, private respondent filed for a Motion to Suspend proceedings alleging
that for the rescission of an alleged construction agreement between the parties, as well as
for damages.

ISSUE

WON the court seriously erred in not perceiving grave abuse of discretion on the part of the
inferior court when the latter ruled to suspend proceddings in Criminal Case Nos. 55554-
61 on the basis o f prejudicial question in Civil Case No. LP-06-0197.[

RULING
Private respondent cites Article 36 of the Civil Code. The Court does not agree with private
respondents argument that a prejudicial question exists when the civil action is filed either
before the institution of the criminal action or during the pendency of the criminal action
and that there is an apparent conflict in the provisions of the Rules of Court and the Civil
Code in that the latter considers a civil case to have presented a prejudicial question even if
the criminal case preceded the filing of the civil case.

it is a basic precept in statutory construction that a change in phraseology by amendment


of a provision of law indicates a legislative intent to change the meaning of the provision
from that it originally had.In the instant case, the phrase, previously instituted, was
inserted to qualify the nature of the civil action involved in a prejudicial question in
relation to the criminal action. This interpretation is further buttressed by the insertion of
subsequent directly before the term criminal action. There is no other logical explanation
for the amendments except to qualify the relationship of the civil and criminal actions, that
the civil action must precede the criminal action.

Additionally, it is a principle in statutory construction that a statute should be construed


not only to be consistent with itself but also to harmonize with other laws on the same
subject matter, as to form a complete, coherent and intelligible system.This principle is
consistent with the maxim, interpretare et concordare leges legibus est optimus
interpretandi modus or every statute must be so construed and harmonized with other
statutes as to form a uniform system of jurisprudence.[17]In other words, every effort must
be made to harmonize seemingly conflicting laws. It is only when harmonization is
impossible that resort must be made to choosing which law to apply.

In the instant case, Art. 36 of the Civil Code and Sec. 7 of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court are
susceptible of an interpretation that would harmonize both provisions of law. The phrase
previously instituted civil action in Sec. 7 of Rule 111 is plainly worded and is not
susceptible of alternative interpretations. The clause before any criminal prosecution may
be instituted or may proceed in Art. 36 of the Civil Code may, however, be interpreted to
mean that the motion to suspend the criminal action may be filed during the preliminary
investigation with the public prosecutor or court conducting the investigation, or during
the trial with the court hearing the case.

This interpretation would harmonize all the mentioned laws. Thus, under the principles of
statutory construction, it is this interpretation of Art. 36 of the Civil Code that should
govern in order to give effect to all the relevant provisions of law.
G.R. No. L-16189 February 26, 1920

CALIXTO BERBARI, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE PEDRO CONCEPCION, Judge of the Court of First Instance of Manila,
and THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY OF MANILA, respondents.

Filemon Sotto, Juan Sumulong and J. E. Blanco for petitioner.


Assistant City Fiscal Revilla for respondents.

TORRES, J.:

Counsel for Calixto Berbari filed a complaint against the Judge of the Court of First Instance,
the Honorable Pedro Concepcion, and the Prosecuting Attorney of the city of Manila. Said
complaint prays that after proceeding as to law judgment be rendered declaring null and
void all the proceedings had before the respondent judge on and after January 23, 1920, in
the criminal cause for estafa No. 18492 against the petitioner Berbari, and that the
aforementioned judge and prosecuting attorney be commanded to refrain henceforth from
proceeding with said criminal cause and to suspend the hearing thereof until the question
raised in a civil action is definitely decided by the civil court; and alleges in effect that the
petitioner Berbari brought an ordinary civil action in the Court of Fist Instance against
Alfred Chicote for the recovery, with legal interest, of the sum of forty eight thousand four
hundred and eighty pesos (P48,480), given to the latter as a deposit and belonging to the
plaintiff (Berbari) in said action; that said civil action prays to compel the defendant
(Chicote) to render a full and complete accounting and to order the plaintiff and the
defendant to liquidate certain business; and that, in case Chicote refuses to do so, he be
condemned to pay the petitioner the sum of one hundred and nine thousand eight hundred
and fifty six pesos (P109,856) or one-half of the profits corresponding to him (Berbari)
with interest from the date of the filing of the complaint; and that as an act of reprisal, the
defendant Chicote, by twisting the facts, succeeded in having the prosecuting attorney of
the city file an information against Berbari for estafa for the sum of thirty seven thousand
five hundred pesos (P37,500) which is 25 per cent of the sum of one hundred fifty
thousand pesos (P150,000), the capital subscribed by Chicote in an oil corporation, and
that said sum of P37,500 was received by him (Berbari) from the complaining witness,
Chicote.

The sum of P37,500 aforesaid has been delivered to Berbari by Chicote in order to pay the
25 per cent of P150,000, half of the capital of the "Tayabas Oil Co.," according to their
agreement. Berbari affirms that he did not fulfill this trust and that he appropriated to
himself the money because Chicote was owing him an amount much more greater than said
sum of P37,500.

The claim for the amount greater than the sum of P37,500 and that amount which would
result from the rendition of the accounting prayed for by Berbari in the civil action pending
between said Berbari and Chicote, has no connection whatever with the fact of Berbari's
appropriating to himself said sum of P37,500, without previously deciding whether he
lawfully or illegally or maliciously appropriated it.

Chicote might be indebted to Berbari in a sum greater or smaller than said sum of P37,500.
But the question for decision in the civil action No. 16925 before the Court of First Instance
is not only a prejudicial question but is not even a question requiring a decision before
deciding whether or not Berbari fraudulently committed the crime ofestafa to the prejudice
of Chicote.

Prejudicial question is understood in law to be that which must precede the criminal action,
that which requires a decision before a final judgment is rendered in the principal action
with which said question is close connected. Not all previous questions are prejudicial,
although all prejudicial questions are necessarily previous.

The fact admitted by Berbari of having appropriated to himself the lump sum he had
received from Chicote for a fixed object is entirely distinct, independent and absolutely
separated from the acts or contracts from which the debits claimed in the civil action might
have been derived. It matters not that the same contracting parties were the ones that are
called in the criminal action as the embezzler and the person defrauded, and that the
criminal act, granting it to be true and certain, might have been perpetrated on account of
the business and mercantile relations between them, inasmuch as the decision of the
question pending between Berbari as the plaintiff-creditor in the civil action, and Chicote as
the defendant-debtor, cannot decide by anticipation nor be the cause of a prior
determination of the existence of the crime and the consequent liability of the accused.

Berbari alleges that he suspended the application of the sum received from Chicote as
directed by the latter in order to collect, after compensating the sum aforesaid, the amount
which Chicote may still owe him according to the result of the pending suit. But even if this
suit is decided in his favor and Chicote be sentenced to pay him a sum much greater than
that alleged to have been embezzled by him, Berbari will not thereby be exempted from
criminal responsibility if he has committed any. In order that the compensation, Berbari's
final object, might take place, either his acquittal or his conviction is indispensable, because
in case of his conviction it is necessary that the courts declare what was the amount
embezzled and which he is obliged to return. For this reason if any action at all must be
suspended, it would be the civil and in no way the criminal action. But for the reasons
expressed above, the criminal act imputed to Berbari is a distinct and an independent act
which, characterized by deceit and fraud according to the information, has no connection
with the business then existing between them. Wherefore, the question whether Chicote
was or was not indebted to Berbari is neither a prejudicial nor a previous question for
determining whether or not the latter committed the crime of estafa to the damage and
prejudice of the former. Such being the case, in no way whatsoever is it proper to order the
suspension of the trial of the criminal cause. But each cause (civil and criminal) should
continue on their ordinary cause inasmuch as the criminal cause has a different procedure
under the law than that followed in a civil action.
Moreover, the hearing on the counterclaim interposed by Chicote against Berbari for the
recovery of the amount embezzled must be suspended in accordance with the doctrine laid
down in the decision of this court in the case ofAlmeida Chan Tanco vs. Abaroa (8 Phil. Rep.,
178), decision affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States.1

From the foregoing discussion it is deduced that the civil action brought by Berbari against
Chicote, now pending, arose out of certain contracts entered into between them on account
and on the occasion of their business transactions, while the criminal action for the crime
of estafa arose out of this alleged crime, independent of the contracts aforesaid. Wherefore,
we cannot apply to the instant case the doctrine laid down in the interpretation and
application of articles 3, 4, 5 and 7 in connection with articles 111 and 114 of the Law of
Criminal Procedure on 1882, cited in rule 95 of the Provisional Law for the observance of
the Penal Code and referred to in the last sentence of section 1 of General Orders No. 58.

The compilation of the laws of criminal procedure of Spain as amended in 1880 did not
have any provision concerning questions requiring judicial decision before the institution
of a criminal prosecution. Wherefore, in order to decide said questions in case they are
raised before the courts of these Islands, it would be necessary to look for the Law of
Criminal Procedure of 1882, which has repealed the former procedural laws and is the only
law in force in Spain in 1884 when the Penal Code was made applicable to these Islands.
Said law of 1882 is clothed, therefore, of the character of supplementary law containing
respectable doctrine, inasmuch as there is no law in this country on
said prejudicial questions.

From the foregoing considerations the petition of counsel for Calixto Berbari dated
February 3, 1920, is hereby denied with the costs against petitioner. Let this decision be
notified to the judge of the court of first instance and to the parties herein. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Johnson, Araullo, Street, Malcolm and Avancea, JJ., concur.