Filing an action for malicious prosecution

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
A complaint was filed against my aunt before the Barangay. Since there was no settlement, a certificate to file action was issued and the criminal complaint against her was elevated at the Office of the Prosecutor. But the complaint was dismissed for lack of probable cause. She is now thinking of filing a complaint for damages on account of malicious prosecution. Please advise whether she should pursue this. Thank you and best regards.
Monette

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Dear Monette,
An aggrieved person may seek redress before the proper authorities or before our courts by filing a case or complaint against the person who caused him or her injury. However, submitting the case before the proper authorities or before the courts does not guarantee that a decision will be rendered in favor of the petitioner or the plaintiff, especially when there is no sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations of the petitioner or the plaintiff that an infraction of the law has been committed.

For instance, a criminal complaint may be dismissed by the Office of the Prosecutor for lack of probable cause. Probable cause has been defined “as the existence of such facts and circumstances as would excite the belief in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted. x x x The term does not mean “actual or positive cause” nor does it import absolute certainty. It is merely based on opinion and reasonable belief. Thus, a finding of probable cause does not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction. It is enough that it is believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged. x x x” (Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company vs. Hon. Secretary of Justice Raul M. Gonzales et al., G.R. No. 180165, April 7, 2009)

In the situation that you have presented to us, there is no sufficient evidence which would warrant the filing of the action for damages. While the complaint against your aunt was dismissed before the Office of the Prosecutor for lack of probable cause, such fact does not in itself merit the filing of an action for damages, unless she can clearly establish that the filing of the complaint against her was done with malice or evident bad faith. It bears stressing that, for malicious prosecution to stand as a ground in claiming damages, the following elements must concur: “(1) the prosecution did occur, and the defendant was himself the prosecutor or that he instigated its commencement; (2) the criminal action finally ended with an acquittal; (3) in bringing the action, the prosecutor acted without probable cause; and (4) the prosecution was impelled by legal malice – an improper or a sinister motive” (Magbanua vs. Junsay, G.R. No. 132659, February 12, 2007).

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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