[ G.R. No. 121277. February 1, 1999]




Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of the Third Division of this Court dated FEB 1, 1999.

G.R. No. 121277 (People Of The Philippines vs. Hon. Judge Billy M. Apalit, Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 43, Maria Victoria Pabalan-Alindogan And Hector Sibungan Adriano.)

At bar is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court, assailing the Orders, dated February 10, 1995 and April 7, 1995, respectively, of Branch 43 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City.

The facts that matter are, as follows:

On February 28, 1964, the private respondent, Ma. Victoria Pabalan-Alindogan ("Victoria"), and complaining witness, Oro G. Alindogan ("Oro"), contracted a civil marriage before Judge San Diego. On May 20, 1970, they repeated their marriage vow before the altar of matrimony at the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Quezon City, with Fr. Emilio Castro officiating.

Ma. Victoria and Oro have been blessed with five children, namely: Jenny, Choley, Haney, Jinky, and Oro, Jr. Regrettably, sometime in 1982, Ma. Victoria left the conjugal home to stay with her parents in Kamuning, Quezon City, bringing with her Jinky, and Oro, Jr. Jenny and Haney remained with their father, Choley stayed with friends.

Shortly thereafter, Ma. Victoria began an extra-marital affair with the other private respondent, Hector Sibungan Adriano ("Hector") who, together with his then live-in partner, Paz Jimenez, were boarders at the said Kamuning residence of Ma. Victoria's parents.

Ma. Victoria and Hector resided later in an apartment at 29-J Kamias Road, Quezon city. They brought with them Jinky and Oro, Jr.. In 1987, Jinky and Oro, Jr. left their mother and returned to the custody of their father, but visited their mother, from time to time.

Ma. Victoria and Hector bore two children - Charmein Pabalan Adriano, born on September 8, 1988, and Zasa Pabalan Adriano, born on March 27, 1990.1 [See Annexes "C" and "D", Rollo, pp. 17-18.]

What happened next was that Oro lodged a complaint for adultery against Ma. Victoria and Hector before the Office of the City Prosecutor in Quezon City. Whle such case was under preliminary investigation, Ma. Victoria instituted a case for annulment of her marriage to Oro G. Alindogan, docketed as Civil Case No. Q-94-20275 before Branch 87 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. Then, she moved for the suspension of preliminary investigation of the criminal case of adultery pending resolution of her petition, contending that the case for annulment of marriage constituted a prejudicial question, which must first be resolved before the case for adultery could proceed any further. However, her said motion was denied in a Resolution promulgated on September 30, 1994.2 [See Annex "E", Rollo, pp. 19-20.]

The aforementioned Criminal Case No. 31804 for adultery against the private respondents was raffled off to Branch 43 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City presided over by Judge Billy M. Apalit. After their arraignment thereunder, the private respondents presented a "Motion to Suspend Trial by Reason of the Existence of a Prejudicial Question", theorizing that the pendency of the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage is a prejudicial question to the adultery case.

On February 10, 1995, the respondent judge granted the Motion and suspended the proceedings in the adultery case, ruling, thus:

"Acting on the 'Motion to Suspend Trial by Reason of the Existence of a Prejudicial Question" filed by the accused, thru counsel, Esther Nobles Bans, and the 'Opposition' thereto, and finding the said motion to be well taken, the same is GRANTED.

WHEREFORE, the trial of this case is temporarily suspended pending resolution of Civil Case No. Q-94-20275 before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 87, Quezon City.

SO ORDERED." 3 [Annex "A", Rollo, p. 15.]

Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration4 [Annex "F", Rollo, p. 21.] met the same fate. It was denied in an Order5 [Annex "B", Rollo, p. 16.] dated April 7, 1995.

On January 9, 1997, Ma. Victoria's petition for declaration of nullity of marriage prospered. It was granted before Branch 87 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.6 [Rollo, pp. 94-102.]

From the aforesaid Order of the respondent judge, petitioner has come to this Court for relief.

Under the hierarchy of courts, the petition under consideration should be initially pursued before the competent Regional Trial Court. There is a hierarchy of courts determinative of the venue of appeals which also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for the availment of any of the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.7 [Uy v. Contreras, 237 SCRA 167; Manalo v. Gloria, 236 SCRA 130.] As held in People v. Cuaresma 8 [172 SCRA 415, 424.]:

"x x x There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and should also serve as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ('inferior') courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to issue writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy that is necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further overcrowding of the Court's docket. x x x."

In Vergara, Sr. v. Suelto 9 [156 SCRA 753, 766.] , it was reiterated that:

"That Supreme Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by fundamental charter and immemorial tradition. It cannot and should not be burdened with the task of dealing with causes in the first instance. Its original jurisdiction to issue the so-called extraordinary writs should be exercised only where absolutely necessary and important reasons exist therefor. Hence, that jurisdiction should generally be exercised relative to actions or proceedings before the Court of Appeals, or before constitutional or other tribunals, bodies or agencies whose acts for some reason or another, are not controllable by the Court of Appeals. Where the issuance of an extraordinary writ is also within the competence of the Court of Appeals or a Regional Trial Court, it is in either of these courts that the specific action for the writ's procurement must be presented. This is and should continue to be the policy in this regard, a policy that courts and lawyers must strictly observe."

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED, without prejudice to the filing by petitioner of its petition with the Regional Trial Court of proper jurisdiction. No pronouncement as to costs.


Very truly yours,


Clerk of Court

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