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[ GR No. 26143, Aug 07, 1926 ]



G49 Phil. 206

[ G. R. No. 26143, August 07, 1926 ]




Restituto  Fajardo was convicted in  the justice of the peace court of Baguio, Mountain Province, on the following complaint:
"That on or about the 5th day of April, 1926, in the City of Baguio,  subprovince of Benguet, Mountain  Province, Philippine Islands, the said accused pawned to Bugtong Otek a watch with its chain and fob for the sum of P50 which  the accused received from said Bugtong Otek who also received and got possession of the aforementioned watch with its chain and fob; that on May 3, 1926, also in the City of  Baguio, the said accused willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously  made  Bugtong Otek believe that he had the sum of P50 to redeem the said watch, chain and fob and he  asked to hold  and  examine the  same  and  if he found them in good condition he  would immediately give him the. money, but as soon  as Bugtong  Otek delivered him the aforementioned watch, chain and fob he pocketed them, refused to return them to  said Bugtong Otek  or to give him said sum of P50,  said accused Restituto Fajardo having thereby deceived  and defrauded Bugtong Otek in the value of  said watch,  chain and  fob,  equivalent to  250 pesetas  to the damage and prejudice of the latter."
The accused was sentenced by  the justice of the peace court and appealed to the Court of First Instance.  At the trial of the case, after a witness  for the prosecution had testified, counsel for the accused raised the question of lack of  jurisdiction of the  Court of First Instance  to proceed with the trial of this case on appeal.  The judge who tried the case, held that the crime complained  of being  penalized with arresto mayor, and  inasmuch  as  this penalty carries with it suspension from public office and the right of suffrage during the term of the sentence, in accordance with article 61 of the Penal Code, the justice of  the peace had no  jurisdiction to  render  judgment and,  therefore, the Court of First Instance could not try the case on appeal. Consequently, the case was dismissed and the accused  released.   The provincial fiscal appealed from said judgment.

The Attorney-General asks for  the dismissal of the appeal for the reason that after a witness for the prosecution has  testified, the accused has been placed in jeopardy and the Government cannot appeal  from the decision of the court.  (Kepner vs. U. S., 195 U. S., 100; 11 Phil., 669; People vs. Borja, 43 Phil., 618.)

It must be noted that the trial judge found that he was without  jurisdiction to  try the  case  on  appeal  upon the grounds that the  justice  of the peace, according to him, lacked jurisdiction to try the case originally.  If the holding of the trial court is correct, the motion of the Attorney- General  must be denied, otherwise it must  be granted. An examination of the complaint shows  that the crime is that of estafa of P50, penalized in paragraph No. 1  of article 538, in  connection with article 537 of the Penal Code, or arresto mayor  in its minimum  and medium degrees, and a fine of not more than  triple the amount of the damage  that has been caused.

That the justice of the peace of Baguio had jurisdiction to try and render judgment in the present case is evident, in our opinion,  inasmuch as the penalty  imposed for the crime complained of does not exceed six months nor a fine of P200.  It is  so provided in section 1  of Act  No. 2131 which amended  section 4 of Act No.  1627 as amended  by section 4 of Act No.  2041.   (See English  text.)

In the case of  United States vs. Mendoza (14 Phil., 198), the defendants were accused in the Court of First Instance of having violated article 343 of the Penal  Code which punishes bankers and owners of houses where a game  of luck,  chance,  or hazard  is  played,  with the penalty of arresto mayor and a fine of "from 625 to 6,250 pesetas.  The court found the accused guilty of the crime charged and sentenced them to two months of arresto mayor with hard work  in the provincial jail of Ambos Camarines and to pay a fine of P125 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.   The accused appealed from this judgment and assigned as one of the grounds for the appeal, the lack of original  jurisdiction  of the  court to try the case which was within the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace.  In deciding this phase of the appeal, this court said:
  "The defendants cite  section 108 of General Orders, No. 58, as well as section  56, paragraph  6 of Act No.  136, and also section 4 of Act No. 1627, for the purpose of sustaining  their  contention  that  the present action  was within the  original jurisdiction of the justice of the peace. It will be noted, upon a reading of these provisions of the law relating to the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace, that he has original jurisdiction only of cases where the imprisonment is six  months and a fine not exceeding $100 (P200).  It is clear, therefore, that the justice of the peace did not have jurisdiction of the present crime. The Court of  First Instance had  jurisdiction  of the  crime charged against the defendants."
In United States vs. Ang Suyco (17 Phil., 92), this court held that justices of the peace (with the exception of those in Manila)  have no jurisdiction to try cases where the penalty for any offense included in the complaint exceeds six months of  imprisonment or a fine of P200 or both.  (Sec 4 of Act No.  1627.)  Therefore, if  the  penalty provided for any offense included in the complaint does not exceed six months of imprisonment or a fine of P200, or both, the justice of  the peace has jurisdiction to try the  case  and render judgment provided the act complained of was committed within his territorial  jurisdiction.   (Sec.  2,  Act No. 2131.)

The accessories to the penalty of arresto mayor provided for in article 61 of the Penal Code do not affect the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace court in the case  now before us, for they do not modify nor alter the nature of the penalty provided by the law.  The accessory penalties do not determine  the  jurisdiction of the court in which the complaint is filed.  What determines the  jurisdiction of the court in criminal cases is the  extent of the  penalty which the law imposes for the misdemeanor, crime or violation charged  in the complaint.   If the  penalty does  not exceed six months or  a fine  of P200, the justice of  the peace court has original jurisdiction;  otherwise  the Court of First  Instance.   (U. S. vs. Jimenez, 41 Phil., 1.)

It is true that in the case of United States  vs. Nobleza (8 Phil., 515) and United States vs. Regala (28 Phil., 57) this court held that a justice of the peace has  no jurisdiction to try a case of estafa committed by a justice of the peace although the penalty provided by law is only  arresto mayor; but that is because article 399 of the Penal Code provides  an additional  penalty, ranging from temporary disqualification in its maximum degree to perpetual  special disqualification, for a Government employee who, taking advantage of his office  commits estafa.

Similarly, the justice of the peace has no jurisdiction in cases  of rape  although article  443,  paragraph  3,  of  the Penal Code provides the penalty only of arresto mayor and that is because article 449 provides that any person guilty of rape,  seduction, or abduction shall also be sentenced to pay by way of indemnity:
"1.  To endow the offended woman, if she be single  or a widow.

"2.  To recognize the offspring, unless the situation of the parents be such that the status  of  a recognized  natural child  cannot be conferred upon such offspring.

"3.  In every case to support the offspring."
In the case of United States vs. Bernardo (19 Phil., 265) this court said:
"These declarations, necessarily required by statute, are not really, in a strict legal sense, accessories of the personal penalty imposed by the Penal Code upon the seducer, but are rather those which the penal law prescribes  shall be made by the judge in passing final sentence in the cause, in order that it may be  shown that, besides the personal penalty, the accused, in consequence of his  crime, has incurred  the obligations  expressly stated by  the  said code.

"These obligations imposed  upon  the  culprit ordinarily exceed the amount of the penalty fixed by the law as being within  the jurisdiction of  the justice of the peace court and comprise, moreover,  by virtue of the forced recognition imposed by article 135 of the Civil Code, the  special determination of the civil status of the offspring which resulted from the crime, consequently, although the said crime of seduction  is  only punished by  the penalty of arresto mayor,  a judgment of conviction cannot be pronounced by a justice of the peace, on account of his lack of jurisdiction."
In view of all of the foregoing, we hold that the  justice of the  peace of Baguio  had jurisdiction to try the case presented to him against  Restituto Fajardo,  and this being so,  the  trial  court  committed an  error  of law in holding that it had no jurisdiction to try the case on  appeal.  Its judgment, however, dismissing the case and releasing the accused is unappealable for the reason that he was already in jeopardy, and therefore the motion of the  Attorney-General must be granted and this appeal must, as  it is hereby, dismissed,  with  the costs de oficio.  So ordered.

Avanceña, C. J., Street, Ostrand, Johns, Romualdez, and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.