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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 133289. December 23, 1999.]

LICERIO A. ANTIPORDA, JR., ELITERIO RUBIACO, VICTOR


GASCON and CAESAR TALIA, petitioners, vs. HON. FRANCIS E.
GARCHITORENA, HON. EDILBERTO G. SANDOVAL, HON.
CATALINO CASTAEDA, JR. in their capacity as Presiding
Justice and Associate Justices of the
Sandiganbayan, respondents.

Melchor V. Mibolos for petitioners.

The Solicitor General for respondents.

SYNOPSIS

Accused Licerio A. Antiporda, Jr., and three others, were charged with
kidnapping one Elmer Ramos. Because it was not clear whether or not the
offense committed was office-related, the Sandiganbayan ordered the
prosecution to amend the information. The prosecution filed an Amended
Information alleging that one of the accused, Licerio A. Antiporda, Jr., took
advantage of his position as mayor of Buguey, Cagayan to order the
kidnapping of Elmer Ramos. Accused moved for a reinvestigation of the case
and for the deferment of the issuance of the warrants of arrest but the
Sandiganbayan denied his motion. Accused then moved to quash the
amended information for lack of jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over the
case, but the latter likewise denied the same. dctai

On certiorari, the Supreme Court held that accused are estopped from
assailing the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over the case for in the
motion for reconsideration they had filed with the same court, they clearly
stated that the crime was work-connected. The Court also held that a
reinvestigation need not be conducted because the amendments to the
information merely described the public positions of the accused, and the
purpose of a preliminary investigation (to engender a well-grounded belief
that a crime had been committed and accused are probably guilty thereof)
had already been achieved.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; COURTS; JURISDICTION; DEFINED. Jurisdiction is the


power with which courts are invested for administering justice, that is, for
hearing and deciding cases. In order for the court to have authority to
dispose of the case on the merits, it must acquire jurisdiction over the
subject matter and the parties.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; FILING OF MOTION TO QUASH, TANTAMOUNT TO VOLUNTARY


SUBMISSION TO JURISDICTION OF COURT. We are in accord with the
petitioners when they contended that when they filed a motion to quash it
was tantamount to a voluntary submission to the Court's authority. They cite
the case of Layosa vs. Rodriguez in support of their contention. For therein, it
was ruled that the voluntary appearance of the accused at the pre-
suspension hearing amounted to his submission to the court's jurisdiction
even if no warrant of arrest has yet been issued.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; PARTY CANNOT INVOKE JURISDICTION OF A COURT TO SECURE


AFFIRMATIVE RELIEF AGAINST HIS OPPONENT. A party cannot invoke the
jurisdiction of a court to secure affirmative relief against his opponent, and
after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that
same jurisdiction. ATEHDc

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; PARTY ESTOPPED FROM ASSAILING JURISDICTION OF


SANDIGANBAYAN WHERE PARTY FILED WITH SAME COURT PLEADINGS
CHALLENGING JURISDICTION OF REGIONAL TRIAL COURT. The original
Information filed with the Sandiganbayan did not mention that the offense
committed by the accused is office-related. It was only after the same was
filed that the prosecution belatedly remembered that a jurisdictional fact was
omitted therein. However, we hold that the petitioners are estopped from
assailing the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan for in the supplemental
arguments to motion for reconsideration and/or reinvestigation dated June
10, 1997 filed with the same court, it was they who challenged the
jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court over the case and clearly stated in
their Motion for Reconsideration that the said crime is work connected. SEIaHT

DECISION

BUENA, J : p

This is a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction


and/or Temporary Restraining Order to restrain the respondent Justices of
the First Division of the Sandiganbayan from further proceeding with Crim.
Case No. 24339 and from enforcing the warrants for the arrest of the
accused named therein (herein petitioners) or to maintain the status quo until
further orders from this Court. cdtai

The antecedent facts of the case are as follows:

Accused Licerio A. Antiporda, Jr., Eliterio Rubiaco, Victor Gascon, and Caesar
Talla were charged with the crime of kidnapping one Elmer Ramos in an
Information dated September 18, 1997. It was filed with the First Division of
the Sandiganbayan comprised of the Honorable Francis E. Garchitorena,
Edilberto E. Sandoval, and Catalino Castaeda, Jr. The Information reads as
follows:

"That on or about September 1, 1995, in the Municipality of Sanchez


Mira, Province of Cagayan and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the said accused Eliterio Rubiaco, Caesar Talla,
Vicente Gascon and Licerio Antiporda, Jr., armed with guns,
conspiring together and helping one another, by means of force,
violence and intimidation and without legal grounds or any authority
of law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnap
and carry away one Elmer Ramos from his residence in Marzan,
Sanchez Mira, Cagayan against his will with the use of a Maroon
Tamaraw FX motor vehicle.

CONTRARY TO LAW." 1

On November 10, 1997, the Court issued an order giving the prosecution
represented by Prosecutor Evelyn T. Lucero Agcaoili thirty (30) days within
which to submit the amendment to the Information. The said order is quoted
in full as follows:

"ORDER

"This morning, the prosecution represented by Prosecutor Evelyn T.


Lucero Agcaoili appeared in response to this Court's Order of
clarification on the propriety of proceeding with the Information as it
stands.

"On her own, Prosecutor Agcaoili informed the Court that there were
inadequacies in the allegations in the Information for which reason
she would beg leave to amend the same. The Court for its part
expressed anxiety as to the Court's jurisdiction over the case
considering that it was not clear whether or not the subject matter of
the accusation was office related. LLpr

"For this purpose, Prosecutor Agcaoili is given thirty (30) days within
which to submit the amendment embodying whatever changes she
believes are appropriate or necessary in order for the Information to
effectively describe the offense herein charged. Within the same
period, Prosecutor Agcaoili shall submit an expansion of the
recommendation to file the instant Information against the accused
before this Court indicating thereon the office related character of
the accusation herein so that the Court might effectively exercise its
jurisdiction over the same.

"SO ORDERED." 2

The prosecution on even date complied with the said order and filed an
Amended Information, which was admitted by the Sandiganbayan in a
resolution dated November 24, 1997. 3 The Amended Information thus reads:

"That on or about September 10, 1997, at Sanchez Mira, Cagayan and


within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused
Licerio Antiporda, Jr., being the Municipal Mayor of Buguey, Cagayan in
the exercise of his official duties as such and taking advantage of his
position, ordered, confederated and conspired with Juan
Gallardo, Barangay Captain of San Lorenzo, Buguey, Cagayan (now
deceased) and accused Eliterio Rubiaco, barangay councilman of San
Lorenzo, Buguey, Cagayan, Vicente Gascon and Caesar Talla with the
use of firearms, force, violence and intimidation, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnap and abduct the victim
Elmer Ramos without any authority of law from his residence at
Marzan, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan against his will, with the use of a
Maroon Tamaraw FX motor vehicle and subsequently bring and detain
him illegally at the residence of accused Mayor Licerio Antiporda, Jr. for
more than five (5) days.

"CONTRARY TO LAW." 4

Accused then filed an Urgent Omnibus Motion dated November 16, 1997
praying that a reinvestigation of the case be conducted and the issuance of
warrants of arrest be deferred. 5

An order dated November 26, 1997 was penned by Prosecutor Evelyn T.


Lucero-Agcaoili recommending the denial of the accused's Urgent Omnibus
Motion 6 was approved by Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto on January 9,
1998. 7
The accused thereafter filed on March 5, 1998 a Motion for New Preliminary
Investigation and to Hold in Abeyance and/or Recall Warrant of Arrest
Issued. 8 The same was denied in an order given in open court dated March
12, 1998 "on the ground that there was nothing in the Amended Information
that was added to the original Information so that the accused could not
claim a right to be heard separately in an investigation in the Amended
Information. Additionally, the Court ruled that 'since none of the accused
have submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the Court, the accused are
not in a position to be heard on this matter at this time' (p. 245, Record)." 9

Subsequently, the accused filed on March 24, 1998 a Motion to Quash the
Amended Information for lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged. 10

On March 27, 1998, the Sandiganbayan issued an Order, to wit:

"The Motion to Quash filed in behalf of the accused by Atty. Orlando


B. Consigna is ignored, it appearing that the accused have continually
refused or otherwise failed to submit themselves to the jurisdiction
of this Court. At all events there is an Amended Information here
which makes an adequate description of the position of the accused
thus vesting this Court with the office related character of the
offense of the accused. cda

"SO ORDERED." 11

A motion for reconsideration was filed on April 3, 1998 by the accused


wherein it was alleged that the filing of the Motion to Quash and the
appearance of their counsel during the scheduled hearing thereof amounted
to their voluntary appearance and invested the court with jurisdiction over
their persons. 12

The Sandiganbayan denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the


accused in its resolution dated April 24, 1998. 13
Hence, this petition filed by Licerio A. Antiporda, Jr., Eliterio Rubiaco, Victor
Gascon, and Caesar Talla.

The petitioners pose the following questions for the resolution of this Court.

a) CAN THE SANDIGANBAYAN, WHICH HAS NO JURISDICTION OVER


THE OFFENSE CHARGED IN THE ORIGINAL INFORMATION,
SUBSEQUENTLY ACQUIRE SUCH JURISDICTION BY THE SIMPLE
EXPEDIENT OF AMENDING THE INFORMATION TO SUPPLY,
FOR THE FIRST TIME, JURISDICTIONAL FACTS NOT PREVIOUSLY
AVERRED IN THE ORIGINAL INFORMATION? and

b) COROLLARILY, CAN THE AMENDED INFORMATION BE ALLOWED


WITHOUT CONDUCTING ANEW A PRELIMINARY
INVESTIGATION FOR THE GRAVER OFFENSE CHARGED
THEREIN?

The petition is devoid of merit.

Jurisdiction is the power with which courts are invested for administering
justice, that is, for hearing and deciding cases. In order for the court to have
authority to dispose of the case on the merits, it must acquire jurisdiction
over the subject matter and the parties. 14

Section 4, paragraph (a) of P.D. No. 1606, as amended by P.D. No.


1861 provides for the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan:

"SECTION 4. Jurisdiction. The Sandiganbayan shall exercise:

"(a) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving:

xxx xxx xxx

"(2) Other offenses or felonies committed by public officers and


employees in relation to their office, including those employed in
government-owned or controlled corporations, whether simple or
complexed with other crimes, where the penalty prescribed by law is
higher than prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years, or a
fine of P6,000.00. Provided, however, That offenses or felonies
mentioned in this paragraph where the penalty prescribed by law
does not exceed prision correccional or imprisonment for six (6) years
or a fine of P6,000.00 shall be tried by the proper Regional Trial
Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal
Circuit Trial Court."

The Sandiganbayan exercises not only civil but also criminal jurisdiction.
Criminal jurisdiction, as defined in the case of People vs. Mariano 15 , is
necessarily the authority to hear and try a particular offense and impose the
punishment for it.

The case of Arula vs. Espino 16 enumerates the requirements wherein a court
acquires jurisdiction to try a criminal case, to wit:

"To paraphrase: beyond the pale of disagreement is the legal tenet


that a court acquires jurisdiction to try a criminal case only when the
following requisites concur: (1) the offense is one which the court is
by law authorized to take cognizance of, (2) the offense must have
been committed within its territorial jurisdiction, and (3) the person
charged with the offense must have been brought in to its forum for
trial, forcibly by warrant of arrest or upon his voluntary submission
to the court." cdrep

The petitioners argue that the Sandiganbayan had no jurisdiction to take


cognizance of the case because the original information did not allege that
one of the petitioners, Licerio A. Antiporda, Jr., took advantage of his position
as mayor of Buguey, Cagayan to order the kidnapping of Elmer Ramos. They
likewise assert that lacking jurisdiction a court can not order the amendment
of the information. In the same breath, they contend however that the
Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over the persons of the accused.

They question the assumption of jurisdiction by the Sandiganbayan over


their case yet they insist that said court acquired jurisdiction over their
motion to quash. The petitioner can not have their cake and eat it too.
In the aforementioned case of Arula vs. Espino 17 it was quite clear that all
three requisites, i.e., jurisdiction over the offense, territory and person, must
concur before a court can acquire jurisdiction to try a case.

It is undisputed that the Sandiganbayan had territorial jurisdiction over the


case.

And we are in accord with the petitioners when they contended that when
they filed a motion to quash it was tantamount to a voluntary submission to
the Court's authority. They cite the case of Layosa vs. Rodriguez 18 in support
of their contention. For therein, it was ruled that the voluntary appearance of
the accused at the pre-suspension hearing amounted to his submission to
the court's jurisdiction even if no warrant of arrest has yet been issued.

To counter this contention of the petitioners the prosecution adverted to


case of de los Santos-Reyes vs. Montesa, Jr. 19 which was decided some 28 years
after the Layosa case. In this more recent case, it was held that:

". . . the accused . . . have no right to invoke the processes of the


court since they have not been placed in the custody of the law or
otherwise deprived of their liberty by reason or as a consequence of
the filling of the information. For the same reason, the court had no
authority to act on the petition."

We find that the case of Layosa and de los Santos-Reyes are not inconsistent
with each other since both these cases discussed the rules on when a court
acquires jurisdiction over the persons of the accused, i.e., either through the
enforcement of warrants of arrest or their voluntary submission to the court.

The only difference, we find, is that the de los Santos-Reyes case harped
mainly on the warrant of arrest angle while the Layosa case dealt more on
the issue of voluntary submission ruling, that the appearance at the hearing
through a lawyer was a submission to the court's jurisdiction.

Having discussed the third requirement we now come to the question of


whether or not the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over the offense charged.
We answer in the negative. The original Information filed with the
Sandiganbayan did not mention that the offense committed by the accused
is office-related. It was only after the same was filed that the prosecution
belatedly remembered that a jurisdictional fact was omitted therein.

However, we hold that the petitioners are estopped from assailing the
jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan for in the supplemental arguments to
motion for reconsideration and/or reinvestigation dated June 10, 1997 20 filed
with the same court, it was they who "challenged the jurisdiction of the
Regional Trial Court over the case and clearly stated in their Motion for
Reconsideration that the said crime is work-connected, which is hereunder
quoted, as follows:

"Respondents (petitioners herein) have thoroughly scanned the


entire records of the instant case and no where is there any evidence
to show that the Honorable Prosecution Office of the Province of
Cagayan have been authorized by the Office of the Honorable
Ombudsman to conduct the Preliminary Investigation much less had
the former office been authorized to file the corresponding
Information as the said case, if evidence warrants, fall exclusively
with the jurisdiction of the Honorable Sandiganbayan
notwithstanding the presence of other public officers whose salary
range is below 27 and notwithstanding the presence of persons who
are not public officers."

It is a well-settled rule that a party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to


secure affirmative relief against his opponent, and after obtaining or failing
to obtain such relief, repudiate or question that same jurisdiction. 21

We therefore hold that the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the case
because of estoppel and it was thus vested with the authority to order the
amendment of the Information.

Rule 110, Section 14 of the Rules of Court provides thus: LLjur


"SECTION 14. Amendment. The information or complaint may be
amended, in substance or form, without leave of court, at any time
before the accused pleads; and thereafter and during the trial as to
all matters of form, by leave and at the discretion of the court, when
the same can be done without prejudice to the rights of the accused.

xxx xxx xxx"

Petitioner prayed that a reinvestigation be made in view of the Amended


Information.

We hold that the reinvestigation is not necessary anymore. A reinvestigation


is proper only if the accused's substantial rights would be impaired. In the
case at bar, we do not find that their rights would be unduly prejudiced if the
Amended Information is filed without a reinvestigation taking place. The
amendments made to the Information merely describe the public positions
held by the accused/petitioners and stated where the victim was brought
when he was kidnapped.

It must here be stressed that a preliminary investigation is essentially


inquisitorial, and it is often the only means of discovering the persons who
may be reasonably charged with a crime, to enable the prosecutor to
prepare his complaint or information. It is not a trial of the case on the merits
and has no purpose except that of determining whether a crime has been
committed and whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused
is guilty thereof, and it does not place the persons accused in jeopardy. It is
not the occasion for the full and exhaustive display of the parties' evidence; it
is for the presentation of such evidence only as may engender a well-
grounded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is
probably guilty thereof. 22

The purpose of a preliminary investigation has been achieved already and we


see no cogent nor compelling reason why a reinvestigation should still be
conducted.
As an aside, an offense is considered committed in relation to office when it
is intimately connected with their respective offices and was perpetrated
while they were in the performance, though improper or irregular, of their
official functions. 23

In the case of Cunanan vs. Arceo, it was held that:

". . . the absence in the information filed on 5 April 1991 before


Branch 46 of the RTC of San Fernando, Pampanga, of an allegation
that petitioner had committed the offense charged in relation to his
office is immaterial and easily remedied. Respondent RTC judges had
forwarded petitioner's case to the Sandiganbayan, and the complete
records transmitted thereto in accordance with the directions of this
Court set out in the Asuncion case: ". . . As if it was originally filed with
[the Sandiganbayan]." That Information may be amended at any time
before arraignment before the Sandiganbayan, and indeed, by leave
of court at any time before judgment is rendered by
the Sandiganbayan, considering that such an amendment would not
affect the juridical nature of the offense charged (i.e., murder), the
qualifying circumstances alleged in the information, or the defenses
that petitioner may assert before the Sandiganbayan. In other words,
the amendment may be made before the Sandiganbayan without
surprising the petitioner or prejudicing his substantive
rights." 24 (Underscoring Supplied)

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.
||| (Antiporda, Jr. v. Garchitorena, G.R. No. 133289, [December 23, 1999], 378 PHIL
1166-1177)

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 184800. May 5, 2010.]

WONINA M. BONIFACIO, JOCELYN UPANO, VICENTE


ORTUOSTE * AND JOVENCIO PERECHE, JR., petitioners, vs.
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MAKATI, BRANCH 149, and
JESSIE JOHN P. GIMENEZ, respondents.

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J : p

Via a petition for Certiorari and Prohibition, petitioners Wonina


M. Bonifacio, et al. assail the issuances of Branch 149 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Makati (public respondent) Order 1 of April 22, 2008 which
denied their motion to quash the Amended Information indicting them for
libel, and Joint Resolution 2 of August 12, 2008 denying reconsideration of the
first issuance.

Private respondent Jessie John P. Gimenez 3 (Gimenez) filed on October 18,


2005, on behalf of the Yuchengco Family ("in particular," former Ambassador
Alfonso Yuchengco and Helen Y. Dee (Helen) and of the Malayan Insurance
Co., Inc. (Malayan), 4 a criminal complaint, 5 before the Makati City
Prosecutor's Office, for thirteen (13) counts of libel under Article 355 in
relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) against Philip Piccio,
Mia Gatmaytan and Ma. Anabella Relova Santos, who are officers of Parents
Enabling Parents Coalition, Inc. (PEPCI), John Joseph Gutierrez, Jeselyn Upano,
Jose Dizon, Rolanda Pareja, Wonina Bonifacio, Elvira Cruz, Cornelio Zafra,
Vicente Ortueste, Victoria Gomez Jacinto, Jurencio Pereche, Ricardo Loyares
and Peter Suchianco, who are trustees of PEPCI, Trennie Monsod, a member
of PEPCI (collectively, the accused), and a certain John Doe, the administrator
of the website www.pepcoalition.com.
PEPCI appears to have been formed by a large group of disgruntled
planholders of Pacific Plans, Inc. (PPI) a wholly owned subsidiary of Great
Pacific Life Assurance Corporation, also owned by the Yuchengco Group of
Companies (YGC) who had previously purchased traditional pre-need
educational plans but were unable to collect thereon or avail of the benefits
thereunder after PPI, due to liquidity concerns, filed for corporate
rehabilitation with prayer for suspension of payments before the Makati
RTC. aHCSTD

Decrying PPI's refusal/inability to honor its obligations under the educational


pre-need plans, PEPCI sought to provide a forum by which the planholders
could seek redress for their pecuniary loss under their policies by
maintaining a website on the internet under the address
of www.pepcoalition.com.

Gimenez alleged that PEPCI also owned, controlled and moderated on the
Internet a blogspot 6 under the website
address www.pacificnoplan.blogspot.com, as well as a yahoo e-
group 7 at no2pep20l0@yahoogroups.com. These websites are easily
accessible to the public or by anyone logged on to the internet.

Gimenez further alleged that upon accessing the above-stated websites in


Makati on various dates from August 25 to October 2, 2005, he "was appalled
to read numerous articles [numbering 13], maliciously and recklessly caused
to be published by [the accused] containing highly derogatory statements
and false accusations, relentlessly attacking the Yuchengco Family, YGC, and
particularly, Malayan." 8 He cited an article which was posted/published
onwww.pepcoalition.com on August 25, 2005 which stated:

Talagang naisahan na naman tayo ng mga Yuchengcos. Nangyari na


ang mga kinatatakutan kong pagbagsak ng negotiation because it was
done prematurely since we had not file any criminal aspect of our
case. What is worse is that Yuchengcos benefited much from the
nego. . . . . That is the fact na talagang hindi dapat pagtiwalaan
ang mga Yuchengcos.

LET'S MOVE TO THE BATTLEFIELD. FILE THE CRIMINAL CASES IN


COURT, BSP AND AMLC AND WHEREVER. Pumunta tayong muli sa
senado, congreso, RCBC Plaza, and other venues to air our grievances
and call for boycott ng YGC. Let us start within ourselves. Alisin
natin ang mga investments and deposits natin sa lahat ng YGC
and I mean lahat and again convince friends to do the
same. Yung mga nanonood lang noon ay dapat makisali na talaga
ngayon specially those who joined only after knowing that there was
a negotiation for amicable settlements.

FOR SURE MAY TACTICS PA SILANG NAKABASTA SA ATIN. LET US BE


READY FOR IT BECAUSE THEY HAD SUCCESSFULLY LULL US AND THE
NEXT TIME THEY WILL TRY TO KILL US NA. . . . 9 (emphasis in the
original) CHTcSE

By Resolution of May 5, 2006, 10 the Makati City Prosecutor's Office, finding


probable cause to indict the accused, filed thirteen (13) separate
Informations 11 charging them with libel. The accusatory portion of one
Information, docketed as Criminal Case No. 06-876, which was raffled off to
public respondent reads:

That on or about the 25th day of August 2005 in Makati City, Metro
Manila, Philippines, a place within the jurisdiction of the Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, being then the trustees of Parents
Enabling Parents Coalition and as such trustees they hold the legal
title to the website www.pepcoalition.com which is of general
circulation, and publication to the public conspiring, confederating
and mutually helping with one another together with John Does, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and publicly and
maliciously with intention of attacking the honesty, virtue, honor and
integrity, character and reputation of complainant Malayan
Insurance Co. Inc., Yuchengco Family particularly Ambassador
Alfonso Yuchengco and Helen Dee and for further purpose exposing
the complainant to public hatred and contempt published an article
imputing a vice or defect to the complainant and caused to be
composed, posted and published in the said
website www.pepcoalition.com and injurious and defamatory article
as follows:

Talagang naisahan na naman tayo ng


mga Yuchengcos. Nangyari na ang mga kinatatakutan kong
pagbagsak ng negotiation. . . .

For sure may tactics pa silang nakabasta sa atin. Let us be ready


for it because they had successfully lull us and the next time
they will try to kill us na. . . .

A copy of the full text of the foregoing article as


published/posted in www.pepcoalition.com is attached as
Annex "F" of the complaint.

That the keyword and password to be used in order to post and


publish the above defamatory article are known to the accused as
trustees holding legal title to the above-cited website and that the
accused are the ones responsible for the posting and publication of
the defamatory articles that the article in question was posted and
published with the object of the discrediting and ridiculing the
complainant before the public.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 12 IDAaCc

Several of the accused appealed the Makati City Prosecutor's Resolution by a


petition for review to the Secretary of Justice who, by Resolution of June 20,
2007, 13 reversed the finding of probable cause and accordingly directed the
withdrawal of the Informations for libel filed in court. The Justice Secretary
opined that the crime of "internet libel" was non-existent, hence, the accused
could not be charged with libel under Article 353 of the RPC. 14
Petitioners, as co-accused, 15 thereupon filed on June 6, 2006, before the
public respondent, a Motion to Quash 16 the Information in Criminal Case No.
06-876 on the grounds that it failed to vest jurisdiction on the Makati RTC;
the acts complained of in the Information are not punishable by law since
internet libel is not covered by Article 353 of the RPC; and the Information is
fatally defective for failure to designate the offense charged and the acts or
omissions complained of as constituting the offense of libel.

Citing Macasaet v. People, 17 petitioners maintained that the Information


failed to allege a particular place within the trial court's jurisdiction where the
subject article was printed and first published or that the offended parties
resided in Makati at the time the alleged defamatory material was printed
and first published.

By Order of October 3, 2006, 18 the public respondent, albeit finding that


probable cause existed, quashed the Information, citing Agustin v.
Pamintuan. 19 It found that the Information lacked any allegations that the
offended parties were actually residing in Makati at the time of the
commission of the offense as in fact they listed their address in the
complaint-affidavit at Yuchengco Tower in Binondo, Manila; or that the
alleged libelous article was printed and first published in Makati.

The prosecution moved to reconsider the quashal of the


Information, 20 insisting that the Information sufficiently conferred
jurisdiction on the public respondent. It cited Banal III v. Panganiban 21 which
held that the Information need not allege verbatim that the libelous
publication was "printed and first published" in the appropriate venue. And it
pointed out that Malayan has an office in Makati of which Helen is a resident.
Moreover, the prosecution alleged that even assuming that the Information
was deficient, it merely needed a formal amendment.

Petitioners opposed the prosecution's motion for reconsideration,


contending, inter alia, that since venue is jurisdictional in criminal cases, any
defect in an information for libel pertaining to jurisdiction is not a mere
matter of form that may be cured by amendment. 22

By Order of March 8, 2007, 23 the public respondent granted the


prosecution's motion for reconsideration and accordingly ordered the public
prosecutor to "amend the Information to cure the defect of want of venue."

The prosecution thereupon moved to admit the Amended Information dated


March 20, 2007, 24 the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the 25th day of August 2005 in Makati City, Metro
Manila, Philippines, a place within the jurisdiction of the Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, being then the trustees of Parents
Enabling Parents Coalition and as such trustees they hold the legal
title to the website www.pepcoalition.com which is of general
circulation, and publication to the public conspiring, confederating
together with John Does, whose true names, identities and
present whereabouts are still unknown and all of them mutually
helping and aiding one another, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously and publicly and maliciously with intention
of attacking the honesty, virtue, honor and integrity, character and
reputation of complainant Malayan Insurance Co., Inc., Yuchengco
Family particularly Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco and Helen Dee
and for further purpose exposing the complainant to public hatred
and contempt published an article imputing a vice or defect to the
complainant and caused to be composed, posted and published in
the said website www.pepcoalition.com, a website accessible in
Makati City, an injurious and defamatory article, which was first
published and accessed by the private complainant in Makati
City, as follows:

xxx xxx xxx (emphasis and underscoring in the original; italics


supplied)
Petitioners moved to quash the Amended Information 25 which, they alleged,
still failed to vest jurisdiction upon the public respondent because it failed to
allege that the libelous articles were "printed and first published" by the
accused in Makati; and the prosecution erroneously laid the venue of the
case in the place where the offended party accessed the internet-published
article.

By the assailed Order of April 22, 2008, the public respondent, applying Banal
III, found the Amended Information to be sufficient in form.

Petitioners' motion for reconsideration 26 having been denied by the public


respondent by Joint Resolution of August 12, 2008, they filed the present
petition for Certiorari and Prohibition faulting the public respondent for:

1.. . . NOT FINDING THAT THE ACTS ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION


ARE NOT PUNISHABLE BY LAW;

2.. . . ADMITTING AN AMENDED INFORMATION WHOSE


JURISDICTIONAL ALLEGATIONS CONTINUES TO BE DEFICIENT;
and

3.. . . NOT RULING THAT AN AMENDMENT IN THE INFORMATION FOR


THE PURPOSE OF CURING JURISDICTIONAL DEFECTS IS
ILLEGAL. 27

With the filing of Gimenez's Comment 28 to the petition, the issues are: (1)
whether petitioners violated the rule on hierarchy of courts to thus render
the petition dismissible; and (2) whether grave abuse of discretion attended
the public respondent's admission of the Amended Information.

The established policy of strict observance of the judicial hierarchy of


courts, 29 as a rule, requires that recourse must first be made to the lower-
ranked court exercising concurrent jurisdiction with a higher court. 30 A
regard for judicial hierarchy clearly indicates that petitions for the issuance of
extraordinary writs against first level courts should be filed in the RTC and
those against the latter should be filed in the Court of Appeals. 31 The rule is
not iron-clad, however, as it admits of certain exceptions. aHESCT

Thus, a strict application of the rule is unnecessary when cases brought


before the appellate courts do not involve factual but purely legal
questions. 32

In the present case, the substantive issue calls for the Court's exercise of its
discretionary authority, by way of exception, in order to abbreviate the
review process as petitioners raise a pure question of law involving
jurisdiction in criminal complaints for libel under Article 360 of the RPC
whether the Amended Information is sufficient to sustain a charge for
written defamation in light of the requirements under Article 360 of the RPC,
as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 4363, reading:

Art. 360.Persons responsible. Any person who shall publish, exhibit


or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or
by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business


manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall
be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same
extent as if he were the author thereof.

The criminal action and civil action for damages in cases of written
defamations, as provided for in this chapter shall be filed
simultaneously or separately with the Court of First Instance of
the province or city where the libelous article isprinted and first
published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at
the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, however, That
where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is
in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the
action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila
or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first
published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the
City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance
of the province or city where he held office at the time of the
commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed
and first published and in case one of the offended parties is a
private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First
Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time
of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is
printed and first published . . . . (emphasis and underscoring
supplied) HTCIcE

Venue is jurisdictional in criminal actions such that the place where the crime
was committed determines not only the venue of the action but constitutes
an essential element of jurisdiction. 33 This principle acquires even greater
import in libel cases, given that Article 360, as amended, specifically provides
for the possible venues for the institution of the criminal and civil aspects of
such cases.

In Macasaet, 34 the Court reiterated its earlier pronouncements in Agbayani v.


Sayo 35 which laid out the rules on venue in libel cases, viz.:

For the guidance, therefore, of both the bench and the bar, this
Court finds it appropriate to reiterate our earlier pronouncement in
the case of Agbayani, to wit:

In order to obviate controversies as to the venue of the criminal


action for written defamation, the complaint or information should
contain allegations as to whether, at the time the offense was
committed, the offended party was a public officer or a private
individual and where he was actually residing at that
time. Whenever possible, the place where the written
defamation was printed and first published should likewise be
alleged. That allegation would be asine qua non if the
circumstance as to where the libel was printed and first
published is used as the basis of the venue of the action.
(emphasis and underscoring supplied)

It becomes clear that the venue of libel cases where the complainant is a
private individual is limited to only either of two places, namely: 1) where the
complainant actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense; or
2) where the alleged defamatory article was printed and first published. The
Amended Information in the present case opted to lay the venue by availing
of the second. Thus, it stated that the offending article "was first published
and accessed by the private complainant in Makati City." In other words, it
considered the phrase to be equivalent to the requisite allegation of printing
and first publication.

The insufficiency of the allegations in the Amended Information to vest


jurisdiction in Makati becomes pronounced upon an examination of the
rationale for the amendment to Article 360 by RA No. 4363. Chavez v. Court of
Appeals 36explained the nature of these changes:

Agbayani supplies a comprehensive restatement of the rules of


venue in actions for criminal libel, following the amendment by Rep.
Act No. 4363 of the Revised Penal Code: HTcDEa

"Article 360 in its original form provided that the venue of the
criminal and civil actions for written defamations is the province
wherein the libel was published, displayed or exhibited, regardless of
the place where the same was written, printed or composed. Article
360 originally did not specify the public officers and the courts that
may conduct the preliminary investigation of complaints for libel.

Before article 360 was amended, the rule was that a criminal action
for libel may be instituted in any jurisdiction where the libelous
article was published or circulated, irrespective of where it was
written or printed (People v. Borja, 43 Phil. 618). Under that rule, the
criminal action is transitory and the injured party has a choice of
venue.
Experience had shown that under that old rule the offended
party could harass the accused in a libel case by laying the
venue of the criminal action in a remote or distant place.

Thus, in connection with an article published in the Daily Mirror and


the Philippine Free Press, Pio Pedrosa, Manuel V. Villareal and
Joaquin Roces were charged with libel in the justice of the peace
court of San Fabian, Pangasinan (Amansec v. De Guzman, 93 Phil. 933).

To forestall such harassment, Republic Act No. 4363 was


enacted. It lays down specific rules as to the venue of the
criminal action so as to prevent the offended party in written
defamation cases from inconveniencing the accused by means
of out-of-town libel suits, meaning complaints filed in remote
municipal courts (Explanatory Note for the bill which
became Republic Act No. 4363, Congressional Record of May 20,
1965, pp. 424-5; Time, Inc. v. Reyes,L-28882, May 31, 1971, 39 SCRA
303, 311).

xxx xxx xxx (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Clearly, the evil sought to be prevented by the amendment to Article 360 was
the indiscriminate or arbitrary laying of the venue in libel cases in distant,
isolated or far-flung areas, meant to accomplish nothing more than harass or
intimidate an accused. The disparity or unevenness of the situation becomes
even more acute where the offended party is a person of sufficient means or
possesses influence, and is motivated by spite or the need for revenge. DAcSIC

If the circumstances as to where the libel was printed and first published are
used by the offended party as basis for the venue in the criminal action, the
Information must allege with particularity where the defamatory article was
printed and first published, as evidenced or supported by, for instance, the
address of their editorial or business offices in the case of newspapers,
magazines or serial publications. This pre-condition becomes necessary in
order to forestall any inclination to harass.
The same measure cannot be reasonably expected when it pertains to
defamatory material appearing on a website on the internet as there would
be no way of determining the situs of its printing and first publication. To
credit Gimenez's premise of equating his first access to the defamatory article
on petitioners' website in Makati with "printing and first publication" would
spawn the very ills that the amendment to Article 360 of the RPC sought to
discourage and prevent. It hardly requires much imagination to see the
chaos that would ensue in situations where the website's author or writer, a
blogger or anyone who posts messages therein could be sued for libel
anywhere in the Philippines that the private complainant may have allegedly
accessed the offending website.

For the Court to hold that the Amended Information sufficiently vested
jurisdiction in the courts of Makati simply because the defamatory article
was accessed therein would open the floodgates to the libel suit being filed
in all other locations where the pepcoalition website is likewise accessed or
capable of being accessed.

Respecting the contention that the venue requirements imposed by Article


360, as amended, are unduly oppressive, the Court's pronouncements
in Chavez 37 are instructive:

For us to grant the present petition, it would be necessary to


abandon the Agbayani rule providing that a private person must file
the complaint for libel either in the place of printing and first
publication, or at the complainant's place of residence. We would
also have to abandon the subsequent cases that reiterate this rule
in Agbayani, such as Soriano, Agustin, and Macasaet. There is no
convincing reason to resort to such a radical action. These
limitations imposed on libel actions filed by private persons are
hardly onerous, especially as they still allow such persons to file
the civil or criminal complaint in their respective places of
residence, in which situation there is no need to embark on a
quest to determine with precision where the libelous matter
was printed and first published. aDHCAE

(Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

IN FINE, the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in


denying petitioners' motion to quash the Amended Information.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Order of April 22, 2008
and the Joint Resolution of August 12, 2008 are hereby SET ASIDE. The
Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Br. 149 is hereby DIRECTED TO QUASH
the Amended Information in Criminal Case No. 06-876 and DISMISS the case.

SO ORDERED.
||| (Bonifacio v. RTC of Makati, G.R. No. 184800, [May 5, 2010], 634 PHIL 348-364)

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 167764. October 9, 2009.]

VICENTE FOZ, JR. and DANNY G. FAJARDO, petitioners, vs.


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J : p

Before the court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court assailing the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals (CA), Cebu City,
dated November 24, 2004 in CA-G.R. CR No. 22522, which affirmed the
Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 23, Iloilo City, dated
December 4, 1997 in Criminal Case No. 44527 finding petitioners guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of libel. Also assailed is the CA
Resolution 2 dated April 8, 2005 denying petitioners' motion for
reconsideration.

In an Information 3 dated October 17, 1994 filed before the RTC of Iloilo City,
petitioners Vicente Foz, Jr. and Danny G. Fajardo were charged with the crime
of libel committed as follows:

That on or about the 5th day of July, 1994 in the City of Iloilo,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this court, both the accused
as columnist and Editor-Publisher, respectively, of Panay News, a
daily publication with a considerable circulation in the City of Iloilo
and throughout the region, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously with malicious intent of impeaching the virtue,
honesty, integrity and reputation of Dr. Edgar Portigo, a physician
and medical practitioner in Iloilo City, and with the malicious intent of
injuring and exposing said Dr. Edgar Portigo to public hatred,
contempt and ridicule, write and publish in the regular issue of said
daily publication on July 5, 1994, a certain article entitled "MEET DR.
PORTIGO, COMPANY PHYSICIAN", quoted verbatim hereunder, to
wit:

MEET DR. PORTIGO,


COMPANY PHYSICIAN

PHYSICIAN (sic) are duly sworn to help to do all their best to


promote the health of their patients. Especially if they are
employed by a company to serve its employees. ECTHIA

However, the opposite appears to be happening in the Local


San Miguel Corporation office, SMC employees are fuming
mad about their company physician, Dr. Portigo, because the
latter is not doing well in his sworn obligation in looking after
the health problems of employees, reports reaching Aim . . .
Fire say.
One patient, Lita Payunan, wife of employee Wilfredo
Payunan, and residing in Burgos, Lapaz, Iloilo City, has a sad
tale to say about Dr. Portigo. Her story began September 19
last year when she felt ill and had to go to Dr. Portigo for
consultation. The doctor put her under observation, taking
seven months to conclude that she had rectum myoma and
must undergo an operation.

Subsequently, the family sought the services of a Dr. Celis and


a Dr. de los Reyes at Doctor's Hospital. Incidentally, where Dr.
Portigo also maintains a clinic. Dr. Portigo got angry, sources
said, after knowing that the family chose a surgeon (Dr. Celis)
on their own without his nod as he had one to recommend.

Lita was operated by Dr. de los Reyes last March and was
released from the hospital two weeks after. Later, however,
she again complained of difficulty in urinating and defecating[.
On] June 24, she was readmitted to the hospital.

The second operation, done by Dr. Portigo's recommendee,


was devastating to the family and the patient herself who
woke to find out her anus and vagina closed and a hole with a
catheter punched on her right side.

This was followed by a bad news that she had cancer.

Dr. Portigo recommended another operation, this time to bore


another hole on the left side of Lita. But a Dr. Rivera to whom
he made the referral frankly turned it down because it would
only be a waste of money since the disease was already on the
terminal state.

The company and the family spent some P150,000.00 to pay


for the wrong diagnosis of the company physician.
My sympathy for Lita and her family. May the good Lord,
Healer of all healers, be on your side, May the Healer of all
healers likewise touch the conscience of physicians to remind
them that their profession is no license for self-enrichment at
the expense of the poor. But, sad to say, Lita passed away, July
2, 1994.

Lita is not alone. Society is replete with similar experience


where physicians treat their patients for profits. Where
physicians prefer to act like agents of multinational
corporations prescribing expensive drugs seen if there are
equivalent drugs sold at the counter for much lower price. Yes,
Lita, we also have hospitals, owned by a so-called charitable
religious institutions and so-called civic groups, too greedy for
profits. Instead of promoting baby-and mother-friendly
practices which are cheaper and more effective, they still
prefer the expensive yet unhealthy practices.

The (sic) shun breast feeding and promote infant milk formula
although mother's milk is many times cheaper and more
nutrious (sic) than the brands they peddle. These hospitals
separate newly born from their moms for days, conditioning
the former to milk formula while at the same time stunting the
mother's mammalia from manufacturing milk. Kadiri to death!

My deepest sympathy to the bereaved family of Mrs. Lita


Payunan who died July 2, 1994, Her body lies at the Payunan
residence located at 236-G Burgos St., Lapaz, Iloilo City. May
you rest in peace, Inday Lita. DAaIEc

wherein said Dr. Portigo was portrayed as wanting in high sense of


professional integrity, trust and responsibility expected of him as a
physician, which imputation and insinuation as both accused knew
were entirely false and malicious and without foundation in fact and
therefore highly libelous, offensive and derogatory to the good
name, character and reputation of the said Dr. Edgar Portigo.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 4

Upon being arraigned 5 on March 1, 1995, petitioners, assisted by counsel de


parte, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged in the Information. Trial
thereafter ensued.

On December 4, 1997, the RTC rendered its Decision 6 finding petitioners


guilty as charged. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the facts obtaining and the jurisprudence


aforecited, JUDGMENT is hereby rendered finding both accused
Danny Fajardo and Vicente Foz, Jr. GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE
DOUBT for the crime of Libel defined in Article 353 and punishable
under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, hereby sentencing
aforenamed accused to suffer an indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment of Three (3) Months and Eleven (11) Days of Arresto
Mayor, as Minimum, to One (1) Year, Eight (8) Months and Twenty-
One (21) Days of Prision Correccional, as Maximum, and to pay a fine
of P1,000.00 each. 7

Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied in an Order 8 dated


February 20, 1998.

Dissatisfied, petitioners filed an appeal with the CA.

On November 24, 2004, the CA rendered its assailed Decision which


affirmed in toto the RTC decision.

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which the CA denied in a


Resolution dated April 8, 2005.

Hence, herein petition filed by petitioners based on the following grounds:


I. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THE SUBJECT ARTICLE
"LIBELOUS" WITHIN THE MEANING AND INTENDMENT OF ARTICLE
353 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE.

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THE EXISTENCE OF


MALICE IN THIS CASE AND IN NOT FINDING THAT THE SUBJECT
ARTICLE IS CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED AS PRIVILEGED
COMMUNICATIONS.

III. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE CONVICTION


OF PETITIONER FAJARDO WHO HAPPENS TO BE MERELY PUBLISHER
OF PANAY NEWS AND COULD NOT POSSIBLY SHARE ALL THE
OPINIONS OF THE NEWSPAPER'S OPINION COLUMNISTS. 9

Petitioners argue that the CA erred in finding that the element of defamatory
imputation was satisfied when petitioner Foz, as columnist, portrayed Dr.
Portigo as an incompetent doctor and an opportunist who enriched himself
at the expense of the poor. Petitioners pose the question of whether a
newspaper opinion columnist, who sympathizes with a patient and her
family and expresses the family's outrage in print, commits libel when the
columnist criticizes the doctor's competence or lack of it, and such criticism
turns out to be lacking in basis if not entirely false. Petitioners claim that the
article was written in good faith in the belief that it would serve the public
good. They contend that the CA erred in finding the existence of malice in the
publication of the article; that no malice in law or actual malice was proven
by the prosecution; and that the article was printed pursuant to the bounden
duty of the press to report matters of public interest. Petitioners further
contend that the subject article was an opinion column, which was the
columnist's exclusive views; and that petitioner Fajardo, as the editor and
publisher of Panay News, did not have to share those views and should not
be held responsible for the crime of libel.

The Solicitor General filed his Comment, alleging that only errors of law are
reviewable by this Court in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45;
that petitioners are raising a factual issue, i.e., whether or not the element of
malice required in every indictment for libel was established by the
prosecution, which would require the weighing anew of the evidence already
passed upon by the CA and the RTC; and that factual findings of the CA,
affirming those of the RTC, are accorded finality, unless there appears on
records some facts or circumstance of weight which the court may have
overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated, and which, if properly
considered, may alter the result of the case a situation that is not,
however, obtaining in this case. acCTSE

In their Reply, petitioners claim that the first two issues presented in their
petition do not require the evaluation of evidence submitted in court; that
malice, as an element of libel, has always been discussed whenever raised as
an issue via a petition for review on certiorari. Petitioners raise for the first
time the issue that the information charging them with libel did not contain
allegations sufficient to vest jurisdiction in the RTC of Iloilo City.

The Court finds that the threshold issue for resolution is whether or not the
RTC of Iloilo City, Branch 23, had jurisdiction over the offense of libel as
charged in the Information dated October 17, 1994.

The Court notes that petitioners raised for the first time the issue of the
RTC's jurisdiction over the offense charged only in their Reply filed before
this Court and finds that petitioners are not precluded from doing so.

In Fukuzume v. People, 10 the Court ruled:

It is noted that it was only in his petition with the CA that Fukuzume
raised the issue of the trial court's jurisdiction over the offense
charged. Nonetheless, the rule is settled that an objection based on
the ground that the court lacks jurisdiction over the offense charged
may be raised or considered motu proprio by the court at any stage
of the proceedings or on appeal. Moreover, jurisdiction over the
subject matter in a criminal case cannot be conferred upon the court
by the accused, by express waiver or otherwise, since such
jurisdiction is conferred by the sovereign authority which organized
the court, and is given only by law in the manner and form
prescribed by law. While an exception to this rule was recognized by
this Court beginning with the landmark case of Tijam vs.
Sibonghanoy, wherein the defense of lack of jurisdiction by the court
which rendered the questioned ruling was considered to be barred
by laches, we find that the factual circumstances involved in said
case, a civil case, which justified the departure from the general rule
are not present in the instant criminal case. 11

The Court finds merit in the petition.

Venue in criminal cases is an essential element of jurisdiction. The Court held


in Macasaet v. People 12 that:

It is a fundamental rule that for jurisdiction to be acquired by courts


in criminal cases the offense should have been committed or any
one of its essential ingredients took place within the territorial
jurisdiction of the court. Territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases is the
territory where the court has jurisdiction to take cognizance or to try
the offense allegedly committed therein by the accused. Thus, it
cannot take jurisdiction over a person charged with an offense
allegedly committed outside of that limited territory.
Furthermore, the jurisdiction of a court over the criminal case is
determined by the allegations in the complaint or information.
And once it is so shown, the court may validly take cognizance
of the case. However, if the evidence adduced during the trial show
that the offense was committed somewhere else, the court should
dismiss the action for want of jurisdiction. (Emphasis supplied.) 13

Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 4363,
provides the specific rules as to the venue in cases of written defamation, to
wit:
Article 360. Persons responsible. Any person who shall publish,
exhibit or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in
writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business


manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall
be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same
extent as if he were the author thereof.

The criminal action and civil action for damages in cases of written
defamations, as provided for in this chapter shall be filed
simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of
the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first
published or where any of the offended parties actually resides
at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, however,
That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose
office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the
offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the
City of Manila or of the city or province where the libelous article is
printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not
hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court
of First Instance of the province or city where he held office at the
time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is
printed and first published and in case one of the offended parties is
a private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First
Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time
of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is
printed and first published . . . . (Emphasis supplied.)

In Agbayani v. Sayo,14 the rules on venue in Article 360 were restated as


follows:

1. Whether the offended party is a public official or a private person,


the criminal action may be filed in the Court of First Instance of the
province or city where the libelous article is printed and first
published.

2. If the offended party is a private individual, the criminal action may


also be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province where he
actually resided at the time of the commission of the offense. cDIaAS

3. If the offended party is a public officer whose office is in Manila at


the time of the commission of the offense, the action may be filed in
the Court of First Instance of Manila.

4. If the offended party is a public officer holding office outside of


Manila, the action may be filed in the Court of First Instance of the
province or city where he held office at the time of the commission
of the offense. 15

Applying the foregoing law to this case, since Dr. Portigo is a private
individual at the time of the publication of the alleged libelous article, the
venue of the libel case may be in the province or city where the libelous
article was printed and first published, or in the province where Dr. Portigo
actually resided at the time of the commission of the offense.

The relevant portion of the Information for libel filed in this case which for
convenience the Court quotes again, to wit:

That on or about the 5th day of July, 1994 in the City of Iloilo,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this court, both the accused
as columnists and Editor-Publisher, respectively, of Panay News, a
daily publication with a considerable circulation in the City of Iloilo
and throughout the region, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously with malicious intent of impeaching the virtue,
honesty, integrity and reputation of Dr. Edgar Portigo, a physician
and medical practitioner in Iloilo City, and with the malicious intent of
injuring and exposing said Dr. Edgar Portigo to public hatred,
contempt and ridicule, write and publish in the regular issue of said
daily publication on July 5, 1994, a certain article entitled "MEET DR.
PORTIGO, COMPANY PHYSICIAN . . . ."

The allegations in the Information that "Panay News, a daily publication with a
considerable circulation in the City of Iloilo and throughout the region" only
showed that Iloilo was the place wherePanay News was in considerable
circulation but did not establish that the said publication was printed and
first published in Iloilo City.

In Chavez v. Court of Appeals, 16 which involved a libel case filed by a private


individual with the RTC of Manila, a portion of the Information of which
reads:

That on or about March 1995, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the


said accused [Baskinas and Manapat] conspiring and confederating
with others whose true names, real identities and present
whereabouts are still unknown and helping one another, with
malicious intent of impeaching the honesty, virtue, character and
reputation of one FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, former Solicitor General of
the Philippines, and with the evident purpose of injuring and
exposing him to public ridicule, hatred and contempt, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and maliciously cause to be published in
"Smart File", a magazine of general circulation in Manila, and in their
respective capacity as Editor-in-Chief and Author-Reporter, . . . . 17

the Court ruled that the Information did not sufficiently vest jurisdiction in
the RTC of Manila to hear the libel charge in consonance with Article 360.
The Court made the following disquisition:
. . . Still, a perusal of the Information in this case reveals that the
word "published" is utilized in the precise context of noting that the
defendants "cause[d] to be published in 'Smart File', a magazine of
general circulation in Manila". The Information states that the
libelous articles were published in Smart File, and not that they were
published in Manila. The place "Manila" is in turn employed to situate
where Smart File was in general circulation, and not where the libel
was published or first printed. The fact that Smart File was in general
circulation in Manila does not necessarily establish that it was
published and first printed in Manila, in the same way that while
leading national dailies such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer or
the Philippine Star are in general circulation in Cebu, it does not mean
that these newspapers are published and first printed in Cebu.

Indeed, if we hold that the Information at hand sufficiently vests


jurisdiction in Manila courts since the publication is in general
circulation in Manila, there would be no impediment to the filing of
the libel action in other locations where Smart File is in general
circulation. Using the example of the Inquirer or the Star, the granting
of this petition would allow a resident of Aparri to file a criminal case
for libel against a reporter or editor in Jolo, simply because these
newspapers are in general circulation in Jolo. Such a consequence is
precisely what Rep. Act No. 4363 sought to avoid. 18

In Agustin v. Pamintuan, 19 which also involved a libel case filed by a private


individual, the Acting General Manager of the Baguio Country Club, with the
RTC of Baguio City where the Information therein alleged that the libelous
article was "published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a newspaper of
general circulation in the City of Baguio and the entire Philippines", the Court
did not consider the Information sufficient to show that Baguio City was the
venue of the printing and first publication of the alleged libelous article.

Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code as amended provides that a private
individual may also file the libel case in the RTC of the province where he
actually resided at the time of the commission of the offense. The
Information filed against petitioners failed to allege the residence of Dr.
Portigo. While the Information alleges that "Dr. Edgar Portigo is a physician
and medical practitioner in Iloilo City", such allegation did not clearly and
positively indicate that he was actually residing in Iloilo City at the time of the
commission of the offense. It is possible that Dr. Portigo was actually residing
in another place. aDHCAE

Again, in Agustin v. Pamintuan, 20 where the Information for libel alleged that
the "offended party was the Acting General Manager of the Baguio Country
Club and of good standing and reputation in the community", the Court did
not find such allegation sufficient to establish that the offended party was
actually residing in Baguio City. The Court explained its ruling in this wise:

The residence of a person is his personal, actual or physical


habitation or his actual residence or place of abode provided he
resides therein with continuity and consistency; no particular length
of time of residence is required. However, the residence must be
more than temporary. The term residence involves the idea of
something beyond a transient stay in the place; and to be a resident,
one must abide in a place where he had a house therein. To create a
residence in a particular place, two fundamental elements are
essential: The actual bodily presence in the place, combined with a
freely exercised intention of remaining there permanently or for an
indefinite time. While it is possible that as the Acting General
Manager of the Baguio Country Club, the petitioner may have been
actually residing in Baguio City, the Informations did not state that he
was actually residing therein when the alleged crimes were
committed. It is entirely possible that the private complainant may
have been actually residing in another place. One who transacts
business in a place and spends considerable time thereat does not
render such person a resident therein. Where one may have or own
a business does not of itself constitute residence within the meaning
of the statute. Pursuit of business in a place is not conclusive of
residence there for purposes of venue. 21

Settled is the rule that jurisdiction of a court over a criminal case is


determined by the allegations of the complaint or information, and the
offense must have been committed or any one of its essential ingredients
took place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. 22 Considering that
the Information failed to allege the venue requirements for a libel case under
Article 360, the Court finds that the RTC of Iloilo City had no jurisdiction to
hear this case. Thus, its decision convicting petitioners of the crime of libel
should be set aside for want of jurisdiction without prejudice to its filing with
the court of competent jurisdiction.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated November 24,


2004 and the Resolution dated April 8, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR No. 22522 are SET ASIDE on the ground of lack of jurisdiction on the
part of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 23, Iloilo City. Criminal Case No.
44527 is DISMISSED without prejudice.

SO ORDERED.
||| (Foz, Jr. v. People, G.R. No. 167764, [October 9, 2009], 618 PHIL 120-135)

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-46934. April 15, 1988.]

ALFREDO CUYOS y TULOR, petitioner, vs. HON. NICOLAS P.


GARCIA, Presiding Judge, Municipal Court, San Fernando,
Pampanga and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

De la Cruz, De Loso and Sison Law Offices for petitioner.

The Solicitor General for respondents.

SYLLABUS
1. CRIMINAL LAW; COMPLEX CRIME; PENALTY. Criminal Case No. 77-1848
involves a complex crime of homicide, multiple serious physical injuries and
damage to property, resulting from reckless imprudence. Under Article 48 of
the Revised Penal Code, in a prosecution for a complex crime constituted by
two (2) or more grave or less grave felonies, the penalty for the most serious
crime is to be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period.

2. REMEDIAL LAW; JURISDICTION; COMPLEX CRIME; LODGED WITH COURT


WHICH HAS JURISDICTION TO IMPOSE THE MAXIMUM AND MOST SERIOUS
PENALTY; MUST BE PROSECUTED INTEGRALLY. In complex crimes, it is not
uncommon that one constitutive offense carries with it an afflictive penalty
while the other or other constitutive offenses carry with them only a
correctional or even a light penalty. Jurisdiction over the whole complex
crime must logically be lodged with the trial court having jurisdiction to
impose the maximum and most serious penalty imposable on an offense
forming part of the complex crime. A complex crime must be prosecuted
integrally, as it were, and not split into its component offenses and the latter
made the subject of multiple informations possibly brought in different
courts. This is the thrust of our case law on the matter.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; COMPLEX CRIMES INVOLVING RECKLESS IMPRUDENCE


RESULTING IN HOMICIDE OR PHYSICAL INJURIES AND DAMAGE TO
PROPERTY; RULE SUMMARIZED IN PEOPLE V. MALABANAN, 2 SCRA 1185.
The applicable rule on the allocation of jurisdiction between an inferior court
on the one hand and the Regional Trial Court on the other, in respect of
complex crimes involving reckless imprudence resulting in homicide or
physical injuries and damage to property, was summarized by Mr. Justice
Barrera in People v. Malabanan: "It is true that, following the ruling of this
Court in the case of Lapuz v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-6382, March 30,
1954 (40 O.G. 18 supp.), in imposing the corresponding penalty, to the quasi-
offense of reckless imprudence resulting in physical injuries and damage to
property, Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code should be applied. However,
there may be cases, as the one at bar, where the imposable penalty for the
physical injuries charged would come within the jurisdiction of the municipal
or justice of the peace court, while the fine, for the damage to property,
would fall on the Court of First Instance. As the information cannot be split
into two, one for damages and another for the physical injuries, the
jurisdiction of the court to take cognizance of the case must be determined
not by the corresponding penalty for the physical injuries charged but by the
fine imposable for the damage to property resulting from the reckless
imprudence."

4. ID.; ID.; HOMICIDE WITH MULTIPLE SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURIES AND


DAMAGE TO PROPERTY TRIABLE BY REGIONAL COURTS; CASE AT BAR.
Under B.P. Blg. 129, the law presently in effect, we would have to reach the
same result: i.e., that the criminal case against petitioner falls within the
jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. Since the maximum fine imposable in
the present case is P54,000.00, and the maximum imprisonment imposable
(for the homicide through reckless imprudence) is six (6) years, clearly, the
criminal charge involved falls outside the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial
Court and consequently within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court of
San Fernando, Pampanga.

RESOLUTION

FELICIANO, J : p

Petitioner Alfredo Cuyos, in this Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for
Preliminary Injunction seeks to set aside the Order dated 9 September 1977
issued by respondent Municipal Court Judge Nicolas P. Garcia in Criminal
Case No. 77-1848 (entitled "People of the Philippines, plaintiff vs.
Alfredo Cuyos y Tulor, accused") denying petitioner's Motion to Transfer said
case to the then Court of First Instance of Pampanga for trial on the merits.
Petitioner was charged before the Municipal Court of San Fernando,
Pampanga, with homicide with multiple serious physical injuries and damage
to property, through reckless imprudence. Petitioner was a driver of a cargo
truck which had collided with a Volkswagen automobile in a vehicular
accident which resulted in the death of one (1) person and physical injuries
to four (4) other people. The Amended Complaint against petitioner read as
follows:

"That on or about the 9th day of June 1977, at about 6:10 P.M., at the
MacArthur Highway, barrio San Isidro, San Fernando, Pampanga,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
said accused, being then the driver and person in charge of a truck
bearing plate No. V 139 T Filipinas 1977, willfully and unlawfully drive
and operate the same in a negligent, imprudent and careless
manner, and without due regard to traffic laws, rules and
regulations, and without taking the necessary precaution to prevent
accident to person and damage to property, causing by such
negligence, imprudence and carelessness, the said truck driven and
operated by him bumped and hit a Volkswagen car bearing plate no.
E 604 Filipinas 1977, then driven by Antonio M. Concepcion, as a
result of which one of the occupants of the said car, Victoriana
Miranda-Concepcion died in the said accident, and the other
occupants namely: Antonio Concepcion, Rhinna Lin Capili, Renee Ann
Capili and Lourdes Concepcion sustained serious physical injuries, and
the said car suffered damages in the amount of P18,000.00, belonging to
Antonio Concepcion, to the damage and prejudice of the offended
parties."

Petitioner entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment. After arraignment,


respondent Judge set the case for trial on 12, 14 and 16 September 1977. cdrep

Before trial could commence, however, petitioner filed on 6 September 1977


a "Motion to Remand the Case to the Court of First Instance for Trial",
alleging lack of jurisdiction over the case on the part of the Municipal Court.
Petitioner's argument was that the amended criminal complaint alleged that
the Volkswagen car involved in the accident had suffered damages
amounting to P18,000.00, and that under paragraph 3, Article 365 of the
Revised Penal Code, the crime with which he was charged would carry a fine
in an amount ranging from the amount of the damage to three (3) times the
value of the damage alleged (i.e. 3 x P18,000.00 or P54,000.00). Petitioner
urged in his Motion that because under Section 87 (c) of the Judiciary Act of
1948 as amended (Republic Act No. 296 as amended), the respondent
Municipal Court of the Provincial Capital of Pampanga, had jurisdiction only
over offenses punishable by a fine not exceeding P6,000.00, the case had to
be transferred to the Court of First Instance. On the same date, petitioner
filed an Urgent Motion to Postpone the Trial of the case relying on the same
grounds set out in his Motion to Transfer the Case to the Court of First
Instance.

After a joint hearing of the two (2) Motions filed by petitioner, the respondent
Municipal judge issued an order dated 9 September 1977 denying the
Motion to Transfer the Case to the Court of First Instance and set the trial of
the case for 5 October 1977. A verbal Motion for Reconsideration by
petitioner was denied.

Hence the present Petition for Certiorari, assailing the jurisdiction of the
respondent court to try the criminal case against petitioner on the merits.

By a Resolution dated 26 September 1977, this Court issued a Temporary


Restraining Order enjoining the respondent Municipal Court from
proceeding with Criminal Case No. 77-1848.

The sole issue raised in this Petition is whether or not the respondent
Municipal Court of San Fernando, Pampanga has jurisdiction to try the
criminal case against petitioner.

The Solicitor General, in his Comment dated 27 October 1977, agreed with
and adopted the position taken by petitioner that respondent Municipal
Court has no jurisdiction to try Criminal Case No. 77-1848. The Court agrees
with the Solicitor General.

Criminal Case No. 77-1848 involves a complex crime of homicide, multiple


serious physical injuries and damage to property, resulting from reckless
imprudence. Under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, in a prosecution for
a complex crime constituted by two (2) or more grave or less grave felonies,
the penalty for the most serious crime is to be imposed, the same to be
applied in its maximum period. In the present case, one might, as
respondent Municipal Judge did, look only at the acts which constitute the
offenses comprising the complex crime here involved. One is likely to do so
through eyes which are culturally conditioned and so is likely to assume, as
did respondent Municipal Judge, that the most serious offense of which
petitioner is accused is homicide through reckless imprudence.
Under paragraph 2, Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty
imposable upon petitioner, should he be found guilty of homicide through
reckless imprudence, would be prision correccional in its medium and
maximum periods.

"Art. 365. Imprudence and negligence.

xxx xxx xxx

The provisions contained in this Article shall not be applicable:

xxx xxx xxx

(2) When, by imprudence or negligence and with violation of the


automobile law, the death of a person shall be caused, in which case
the defendants shall be punished by prision correccional in its
medium and maximum periods.

xxx xxx xxx

At the time of the filing of the criminal complaint against petitioner


before the Municipal Court of San Fernando, Pampanga, such
Municipal Court in the capital of the Province of Pampanga had
jurisdiction to impose a penalty of imprisonmentnot exceeding six (6)
years or a fine not exceeding P6,000.00 or both. The applicable
provision was the fourth paragraph of Article 87 (c) of Republic Act
No. 296 as amended which provided as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

Municipal judges in the capitals of provinces and subprovinces and


judges of city courts shall have like jurisdiction as the Court of First
Instance to try parties charged with an offense committed within
their respective jurisdictions, in which the penalty provided by law does
not exceed prision correccional or imprisonment for not more than six
years or fine not exceeding six thousand pesos or both, and in the
absence of the district judge, shall have like jurisdiction within the
province as the Court of First Instance to hear applications for bail. LLphil

xxx xxx xxx

(Emphasis supplied)

Thus, if the basic assumption made earlier as to the relative gravity of


homicide through reckless imprudence and damage to property through
reckless imprudence were correct, the respondent Municipal Judge would
have to be vested with jurisdiction over the criminal charges against
petitioner.

As a technical legal proposition, however, the relative seriousness of offenses


is determined by the seriousness of the penalties attached by the law to the
several offenses. It was noted earlier that the imposable penalty in case of
homicide through reckless imprudence is prision correccional in its medium
and maximum periods, i.e., a correctional penalty in the scale of penalties set
up in Article 25 of the Revised Penal Code. Upon the other hand, the penalty
for damage to property through reckless imprudence is provided for in
the third paragraph of Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code which reads as
follows:

"When the execution of the Act covered by this Article shall have only
resulted in damage to the property of another, the offender shall be
punished by a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said
damages to three times such value, but which shall in no case be less
than P25.00." (Emphsis supplied)

Under Article 26 of the same Code, a fine may be an afflictive penalty (i.e., if it
exceeds P6,000.00) or a correctional penalty (i.e., if it is P200.00 or more but
does not exceed P6,000.00). The offense so penalized with a fine may be
a grave felony (i.e.,, if the imposable fine is afflictive in nature) or a less grave
felony (i.e., if the imposable fine is merely correctional). 1 In the instant case,
the maximum fine which may be imposed upon petitioner is P54,000.00 (3 x
P18,000.00), obviously an afflictive penalty and hence, in the scheme of the
Revised Penal Code, more serious than the penalty imposable for homicide
through reckless imprudence.

In complex crimes, it is not uncommon that one constitutive offense carries


with it an afflictive penalty while the other or other constitutive offenses
carry with them only a correctional or even a light penalty. Jurisdiction over
the whole complex crime must logically be lodged with the trial court having
jurisdiction to impose the maximum and most serious penalty imposable on
an offense forming part of the complex crime. A complex crime must be
prosecuted integrally, as it were, and not split into its component offenses
and the latter made the subject of multiple informations possibly brought in
different courts. This is the thrust of our case law on the matter.

In Angeles, etc. et al, v. Jose et al., 2 the Court had occasion to deal with a
criminal information against one Domingo Mejia before the Court of First
Instance of Manila, charging him with the crime of damage to property in the
sum of P654.22 and with less serious physical injuries through reckless
imprudence, committed in one single act. There, the respondent Court of First
Instance dismissed the criminal information upon the ground that the
penalty prescribed by Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code was only arresto
mayor in its minimum and medium periods which was within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Municipal Court. The prosecution then invited attention to
the fact that the fine which could be imposed by the respondent court on
account of the damage to property through reckless imprudence was a sum
ranging from P654.22 to P1,962.66 (P654.22 x 3) which amount was beyond
the jurisdiction of a Municipal Court to impose as fine. In setting aside the
order of dismissal by the respondent Court of First Instance and remanding
the case to the trial court for further proceedings, the Supreme Court said:

"[The third paragraph of Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code]


simply means that if there is only damage to property the amount
fixed therein shall be imposed, but if there are also physical injuries
there should be an additional penalty for the latter. The information
cannot be split into two; one for the physical injuries, and another for
the damage to property, for both the injuries and the damage committed
were caused by one single act of the defendant and constitute what may
be called a complex crime of physical injuries and damage to property. It
is clear that the fine filed by law in this case is beyond the jurisdiction of
the municipal court and within that of the court of first
instance." 3 (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, in Angeles, we held that the jurisdiction of the Court to take cognizance
of the case must be determined, not by the penalty for the physical injuries
charged but by the fine imposable for the damage to property resulting from
reckless imprudence. Damage to property through reckless imprudence
need not be a lighter offense than less serious physical injuries through
reckless imprudence. Because the maximum fine (P1,962.66) imposable
upon the accused in the Angeles case was beyond the jurisdiction of the
Municipal Court of Manila to impose, the criminal case fell within the
jurisdiction of the respondent Court of First Instance of Manila. cdll
People v. Villanueva 4 followed the rule set out in Angeles. In Villanueva, the
accused was charged before the Justice of Peace Court of Batangas, Batangas
with the crime of serious and less serious physical injuries, with damage to
property in the amount of P2,636.00, through reckless imprudence. The
Justice of Peace Court subsequently declared itself without jurisdiction to try
the case and forwarded the same to the Court of First Instance. The latter
court then declared itself similarly without jurisdiction over the complex
crime charged in the information, upon the ground that the penalty for the
graver offense of physical injuries through reckless imprudence was
only arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods which penalty, even
if applied in its maximum degree (in view of the complex nature of the
crime), would remain within the jurisdiction of the Justice of Peace Court.
Upon appeal by the prosecution, the Court, speaking through Mr. Justice
J.B.L. Reyes, held that the Court of First Instance had jurisdiction over the
complex crime there involved:

"We find the appeal well taken, for this case comes squarely under
the rule laid down by us in Angeles, et al. v. Jose, et al. [96 Phil. 151
(1954)], wherein we held that

xxx xxx xxx

Considering that it is the court of first instance that would


undoubtedly have jurisdiction if the only offense that resulted from
appellant's imprudence were the damage to property in the amount
of P2,636.00, it would be absurd to hold that for the graver offense of
serious and less serious physical injuries combined with damage to
property through reckless imprudence, jurisdiction would be in the
justice of the peace court. The presumption is against absurdity, and
it is the duty of the courts to interpret the law in such a way as to
avoid absurd results. Our system of apportionment of criminal
jurisdictions among the various trial courts proceeds on the basic
theory that crimes cognizable by the Courts of First Instance are
more serious than those triable in justice of the peace or municipal
courts.

Moreover, we cannot discard the possibility that the prosecution may


not be able to prove all the supposed offenses constituting the
complex crime charge. Were we to hold that it is the justice of the
peace court that has jurisdiction in this case, if later the prosecution
should fail to prove the physical injuries aspect of the case and
establish only the damage to property in the amount of P2,636.00,
the inferior court would find itself without jurisdiction to impose the
fine for the damage to property committed, since such fine can not
be less than the amount of the damage. Again, it is to avoid this
further absurdity that we must hold that the jurisdiction lies in the
court of first instance in this case." 5

The applicable rule on the allocation of jurisdiction between an inferior court


on the one hand and the Regional Trial Court on the other, in respect of
complex crimes involving reckless imprudence resulting in homicide or
physical injuries and damage to property, was summarized by Mr. Justice
Barrera in People v. Malabanan: 6

"It is true that, following the ruling of this Court in the case of Lapuz
v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-6382, March 30, 1954 (40 O.G. 18
supp.), in imposing the corresponding penalty, to the quasi-offense
of reckless imprudence resulting in physical injuries and damage to
property, Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code should be applied.
However, there may be cases, as the one at bar, where the imposable
penalty for the physical injuries charged would come within the
jurisdiction of the municipal or justice of the peace court, while the fine,
for the damage to property, would fall on the Court of First Instance. As
the information cannot be split into two, one for damages and
another for the physical injuries,the jurisdiction of the court to take
cognizance of the case must be determined not by the corresponding
penalty for the physical injuries charged but by the fine imposable for
the damage to property resulting from the reckless
imprudence." 7(Emphasis supplied)

It remains only to point out that under B.P. Blg. 129, the law presently in
effect, we would have to reach the same result: i.e., that the criminal case
against petitioner falls within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court.
Under Section 32 (2) of B.P. Blg. 129, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal
Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts have:

"(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over all offenses punishable with


imprisonment of not exceeding four (4) years and two (2) months, or a
fine of not more than four thousand pesos, or both such fine and
imprisonment, regardless of other imposable accessory or other
penalties, including the civil liability arising from such offenses or
predicated thereon, irrespective of kind, nature, value, or amount
thereof: Provided, however, That in offenses involving damage to
property through criminal negligence they shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction where the imposable fine does not exceed twenty thousand
pesos." (Emphasis supplied)

Since the maximum fine imposable in the present case is P54,000.00, and the
maximum imprisonment imposable (for the homicide through reckless
imprudence) is six (6) years, clearly, the criminal charge involved falls outside
the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court and consequently within the
jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, Pampanga. prcd

WHEREFORE, the Order of the respondent Municipal Court of 9 September


1977 is hereby SET ASIDE as null and void and the Temporary Restraining
Order issued by this Court on 26 September 1977 is hereby made
PERMANENT. Because the proceedings before the respondent Municipal
Court are null and void, the Provincial Fiscal of Pampanga will have to file a
new information against petitioner in the Regional Trial Court, San Fernando,
Pampanga. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
||| (Cuyos v. Garcia, G.R. No. L-46934 (Resolution), [April 15, 1988], 243 PHIL 454-
465)