Vhong Navarro case preaches

The Supreme Court has reassured us that there is order in the justice system.

A celebrity charged with rape and acts of lasciviousness definitely raises eyebrows. The magnitude of the case grabbed headlines and distorted reputations. It gave the general public a peek into the lives of big celebrities — and we loved it. We either cried with Vhong and cursed Deniece or stood with Deniece and lambasted Vhong.

Whatever it was, the Vhong Navarro case, without a doubt, elicited emotions in many who were either for or against the Kapamilya star.

However, what finally ended this emotional roller coaster is a legal document — a decision. Generally, in a decision, the facts are laid out, a discussion is made, and a conclusion is finally culled. In this case, the decision was 42 pages long, most of it dedicated to laying down the facts. But right about the twenty-seventh page, the Supreme Court started a particularly interesting discussion about the role of the prosecution in the case.

To give context, there were three complaints filed by Deniece Milinette Cornejo against Vhong Navarro for rape. All three were dismissed by the City Prosecutor of Taguig. However, the third complaint was appealed to the Department of Justice.

The appeal, which is technically called a Petition for Review, was likewise dismissed. The basis of the dismissal was essentially the inconsistency of Cornejo’s statements. Cornejo then appealed the DOJ dismissal to the Court of Appeals. She ascribed grave abuse of discretion to the DOJ, saying it deviated from the jurisprudential parameters of probable cause.

Interestingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the findings of the DOJ, saying the DOJ could not dismiss the complaint on the ground that Cornejo’s statements in the complaint-affidavits were inconsistent and incredible. For the Court of Appeals, “the determination of probable cause does not depend on the validity or veracity of testimonies presented.” It added that “issues relating to credibility should be adjudged during the trial proper.”

As we all already know, the Supreme Court reversed this finding by the Court of Appeals and dismissed the case against Navarro altogether. What it said about the prosecutor’s role, however, is powerful.

Laudable is its statement on the policy of non-interference in the prosecutorial prerogative of determining probable cause. The Supreme Court made it clear that the determination of probable cause is a function that belongs solely to the public prosecutor. It is an executive function, the correctness of which is a matter that the courts ordinarily do not and may not be compelled to pass upon. In other words, the judiciary must respect the decision of the prosecutor unless there is justification to do otherwise.

Equally as important is the discussion of the Supreme Court on the prosecutor’s duty to make a realistic judicial appraisal of the merits of the case during the preliminary investigation. It pointed out the very purpose of preliminary investigation, which is to serve as a screening stage for the innocent against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecution and the anxiety of a public trial. Thus, the prosecutor is given the heavy role of determining the veracity of facts and pointing out inconsistencies in testimonies.

Through this decision, the Supreme Court has reassured us that there is order in the justice system. There is order in our government and its processes. Through this decision, we are reminded of the roles of each branch of government. Lastly, we may take comfort in the fact that there are brilliant minds in government to guarantee stability in the system.

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