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Section 1. Institution of criminal actions.

Criminal actions shall be instituted as follows: (a) For offenses where a preliminary investigation is required pursuant to section 1 of Rule 112, by filing the complaint with the proper officer for the purpose of conducting the requisite preliminary investigation. (b) For all other offenses, by filing the complaint or information directly with the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, or the complaint with the office of the prosecutor. In Manila and other chartered cities, the complaints shall be filed with the office of the prosecutor unless otherwise provided in their charters. The institution of the criminal action shall interrupt the running of the period of prescription of the offense charged unless otherwise provided in special laws. __________________________________________________ PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER, VS. CLEMENTE BAUTISTA, RESPONDENT. Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by the People of the Philippines assailing the Decision of the (CA) dated June 22, 2005, reversing the Order of the (RTC), Branch 19, Manila and dismissing the criminal case for slight physical injuries against respondent on the ground that the offense charged had already prescribed. On June 12, 1999, a dispute arose between respondent and his co-accused Leonida Bautista, on one hand, and private complainant Felipe Goyena, Jr., on the other Goyena, Jr filed a Complaint with the Office of the Barangay of Malate, Manila, but no settlement was reached. The barangay chairman then issued a Certification to file action dated August 11, 1999. On August 16, 1999, Goyena, Jr filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) a Complaint for slight physical injuries against herein respondent and his coaccused. After conducting the preliminary investigation, Prosecutor Jessica Junsay-Ong issued a Joint Resolution dated November 8, 1999 recommending the filing of an Information against herein respondent. Such recommendation was approved by the City Prosecutor, represented by First Assistant City Prosecutor Eufrocino A. Sulla, but the date of such approval cannot be found in the records. The Information was, however, filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Manila, Branch 28 only on June 20, 2000. Respondent sought the dismissal of the case against him on the ground that by the time the Information was filed, the 60-day period of prescription from the date of the commission of the crime, that is, on June 12, 1999 had already elapsed. The MeTC ruled that the offense had not yet prescribed. Respondent elevated the issue to the RTC via a Petition for Certiorari, but the RTC denied said petition and concurred with the opinion of the MeTC. Respondent then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the CA. On June 22, 2005, the CA rendered its Decision wherein it held that, indeed, the 60-day prescriptive period was interrupted when the offended party filed a Complaint with the OCP of Manila on August 16, 1999. Nevertheless, the CA concluded that the offense had prescribed by the time the Information was filed with the MeTC, reasoning as follows: In the case on hand, although the approval of the Joint Resolution of ACP Junsay-Ong bears no date, it effectively terminated the proceedings at the OCP. Hence, even if the 10-day period for the CP or ACP Sulla, his designated alter ego, to act on the resolution is extended up to the utmost limit, it ought not have been taken as late as the last day of the year 1999. Yet, the information was filed with the MeTC only on June 20, 2000, or already nearly six (6) months into the next year.To use once again the language of Article 91 of the RPC, the proceedings at the CPO was "unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him (the accused)" for a time very much more than the prescriptive period of only two (2) months.The offense charged had, therefore, already prescribed when filed with the court on June 20, 2000. x x x[3] WHEREFORE, we hereby REVERSE and SET ASIDE the appealed Orders of both courts below and Criminal Case No. 344030-CR, entitled: "People of the Philippines, Plaintiff, -versus- Clemente Bautista and Leonida Bautista, Accused," is ordered DISMISSED. Costs de oficio. SO ORDERED Petitioner now comes before this Court seeking the reversal of the foregoing CA Decision. The Court gives due course to the petition notwithstanding the fact that petitioner did not file a Motion for Reconsideration of the decision of the CA before the filing of herein petition. It is not a condition sine qua non for the filing of a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

The

Court

finds

merit

in

the

petition.

It is not disputed that the filing of the Complaint with the OCP effectively interrupted the running of the 60-day prescriptive period for instituting the criminal action for slight physical injuries. However, the sole issue for resolution in this case is whether the prescriptive period began to run anew after the investigating prosecutor's recommendation to file the proper criminal information against respondent was approved by the City Prosecutor. NO! Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code provides thus: Art. 91. Computation of prescription of offenses. The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, andshall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him. The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philipppine Archipelago. The CA and respondent are of the view that upon approval of the investigating prosecutor's recommendation for the filing of an information against respondent, the period of prescription began to run again. The Court does not agree. It is a well-settled rule that the filing of the complaint with the fiscal's office suspends the running of the prescriptive period. The proceedings against respondent was not terminated upon the City Prosecutor's approval of the investigating prosecutor's recommendation that an information be filed with the court. The prescriptive period remains tolled from the time the complaint was filed with the Office of the Prosecutor until such time that respondent is either convicted or acquitted by the proper court. The Office of the Prosecutor miserably incurred some delay in filing the information but such mistake or negligence should not unduly prejudice the interests of the State and the offended party. As held in People v. Olarte,[7] it is unjust to deprive the injured party of the right to obtain vindication on account of delays that are not under his control. All that the victim of the offense may do on his part to initiate the prosecution is to file the requisite complaint.[8] The constitutional right of the accused to a speedy trial cannot be invoked by the petitioner in the present petition considering that the delay occurred not in the conduct of preliminary investigation or trial in court but in the filing of the Information after the City Prosecutor had approved the recommendation of the investigating prosecutor to file the information. The Office of the Solicitor General does not offer any explanation as to the delay in the filing of the information. The Court will not be made as an unwitting tool in the deprivation of the right of the offended party to vindicate a wrong purportedly inflicted on him by the mere expediency of a prosecutor not filing the proper information in due time. The Court will not tolerate the prosecutors' apparent lack of a sense of urgency in fulfilling their mandate. Under the circumstances, the more appropriate course of action should be the filing of an administrative disciplinary action against the erring public officials. WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 72784 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Civil Case No. 02-103990 is herebyREINSTATED. Let the Secretary of the Department of Justice be furnished a copy of herein Decision for appropriate action against the erring officials. SO ORDERED.

ROBERTO BRILLANTE, PETITIONER, VS. COURT OF APPEALS AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENTS. In these consolidated petitions for review on certiorari,petitioner Roberto Brillante (Brillante), also known as Bobby Brillante, questions his convictions for libel for writing and causing to be published in 1988 an open letter addressed to then President of the Republic of the Philippines Corazon C. Aquino discussing the alleged participation of Atty. Jejomar Binay (Binay), then the OIC Mayor and a candidate for the position of Mayor of Makati, and Dr. Nemesio Prudente (Prudente), then President of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, in an assassination plot against Augusto Syjuco (Syjuco), another candidate for Mayor of Makati at that time. On January 7, 1988, Brillante, then a candidate for the position of Councilor in Makati, held a press conference at the Makati Sports Club which was attended by some 50 journalists. In the course of the press conference, Brillante accused Binay of plotting the assassination of Syjuco. He further accused Binay of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of the Makati electorate. Brillante also circulated among the journalists copies of an open letter to President Aquino which discussed in detail his charges against Binay. Several journalists who attended the press conference wrote news articles about the same. As a result of the publication of the open letter, Binay filed with the Makati fiscals office four complaints for libel against Brillante, as the author of the letter; Gonong, Buan and Camino for writing and publishing the news article on Brillantes accusations against him in the Peoples Journal;[7] Hernandez, Villanueva and Manuel for writing and publishing a similar news article in the News Today;[8] and for publishing the open letter, Buan and Camino of the Peoples Journal;[9] and Arcadio A. Sison (Sison) as President of A. Sison and Associates, an advertising agency. [10] Francisco Baloloy (Baloloy), who was identified in the open letter as among the persons who attended the meeting organized by Binay and Prudente to plan the assassination of Syjuco, likewise filed a criminal complaint for libel against Brillante, Domingo Quimlat (Quimlat), Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Balita, and Sison as President of A. Sison and Associates.[11] Subsequently, five Informations for libel against Brillante were filed with the (RTC) of Makati. Similarly, on January 15, 1988, Prudente filed four complaints for libel against Brillante and the editors and publishers of the newspapers where the open letter was published. On January 16, 1989, four Informations for libel were filed against Brillante and several co-accused with the RTC of Manila. Only Brillante and Sison remained as accused. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. On January 25, 1993, the RTC-Manila acquitted Sison but found Brillante guilty of libel on four counts defined under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and penalized under Article 355 of the same code, and sentencing him in each count to the indeterminate penalty of FOUR (4) MONTHS of arresto mayor, as minimum, to TWO (2) YEARS of prision mayor, as maximum, and to pay a fine of P2,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency at the rate of ONE (1) DAY for every P8.00 that he is unable to pay, but which subsidiary imprisonment shall not exceed EIGHT (8) months. Subsequently, Brillante appealed the Decision of the RTC-Manila to the Court of Appeals. Brillante contended that when the Informations in Criminal Cases were filed by the prosecutor on January 16, 1989, the offense had already prescribed because more than one year had elapsed since the publication of the open letter on January 10, 11 and 12, 1988. He also averred that the open letter which he wrote and caused to be published was not defamatory and was without malice. Brillante also claimed that the publication is considered privileged communication. Finally, he argued that he is entitled to equal protection of the laws and should be acquitted of the offenses charged like his co-accused. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the RTC-Manila. The appellate court held that the offense of libel had not yet prescribed because the one-year prescription period should be reckoned from the time that the private complainant Prudente filed his complaint with the fiscals office on January 15, 1988 and not when the Informations were filed by the prosecutor on January 16, 1989. The Court of Appeals added that under Section 1, Rule 110, which took effect during the pendency of the cases against Brillante, the institution of the complaint before the fiscals office or the courts for preliminary investigation interrupts the prescriptive period of the offense charged. It held that being a procedural rule, Section 1, Rule 110, applies to the cases against Brillante.] The Court of Appeals further held that the RTC-Manila did not err in finding that Brillante had committed libel against Prudente. According to the appellate court, the open letter is a malicious defamation which produced in the minds of the readers Brillantes intent and purpose to injure the reputation of Prudente, thereby exposing him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule. The Court of Appeals rejected Brillantes argument that the open letter may be considered privileged communication because the evidence does not show that Brillante wrote and published it out of a legal, moral or social duty. [22] Brillante filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the decision of the Court of Appeals, but the motion was denied . In the meantime, Brillante was likewise convicted for libel on five counts by the RTC-Makati . Brillante appealed the Decision of the RTC-Makati to the Court of Appeals,[27] raising essentially the same arguments in his appeal in CA-G.R. CR No. 14475. Again, The Court of Appeals rendered affirmed the decision of the RTC-Makati. It held that the filing of the complaint before the fiscals office interrupts the period of prescription because Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code did not make any distinction whether the complaint is filed in court for preliminary investigation or for trial on the merits, because the filing of the complaint for preliminary investigation is the initial step of criminal proceedings. It added that it would be unfair to deprive the injured party of the right to obtain vindication on account of delays which are not within his control. Thereafter, Brillante filed the present Petitions for Review on March 13, 1995 in G.R. No. 118757 and on October 10, 1995 in G.R. No. 121571. In G.R. No. 118757, he raises the following arguments. Issue: THE OFFENSE OF LIBEL CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION (sic) HAD ALREADY PRESCRIBED WHEN THE SAID INFORMATION (sic) WAS FILED.With respect to the issue of prescription, Brillante anchors his claim on the Courts ruling in People v. Tayco that the prescriptive period of a crime is interrupted only upon the filing of the complaint in court and not the filing thereof with the fiscals office. According to Brillante, the ruling in People v. Olarte did not modify the doctrine in Tayco because in Olarte, the Court referred to a complaint filed in court, not in the fiscals office. The ruling in Francisco v. Court of Appeals that a complaint filed with the fiscals office also interrupts the prescriptive period of a criminal offense allegedly cannot overturn the ruling in Olarte because the latter was decided by the Court En Banc while Francisco was decided by a mere division of the Court. It is further asserted by Brillante that the rule in the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure that the filing of the criminal complaint with the fiscals office interrupts the prescriptive period, cannot be applied retroactively to the cases against him because it impairs his vested right to have the cases against him dismissed on the ground of prescription.[39] In addition, he claims that Section 6(b), Rule 3 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure which states that [t]he pendency of a petition for suspension of the criminal action still undergoing preliminary investigation in the fiscals office shall interrupt the prescriptive period for filing the corresponding complaint of information supports his position that prior to the amendment of the Rules on Criminal Procedure in 1985, the prevailing rule was that only the filing of the complaint or information in court tolls the prescriptive period for a criminal offense. [40] The Solicitor General filed a Comment on each of the petitions. The Solicitor General insists that the one-year prescriptive period for libel should be reckoned from the date of filing of the complaints with the office of the prosecutor as clarified by the Court in Olarte and Francisco and as stated in the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended in 1988, which applies to the

complaints filed against Brillante as of October 1988.[49] Thus, the Solicitor General prays that Brillantes petitions be denied. [56] Brillante thereafter filed a Reply to each of the Solicitor Generals Comments. The replies reiterate Brillantes arguments in his petitions. [57] The Court is tasked to resolve the following issues: (1) whether the offense of libel had already prescribed when the Informations were filed with the RTCManila and RTC-Makati; With respect to the issue of prescription, the fourth paragraph of Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the crime of libel or other similar offenses shall prescribe in one year. In determining when the one-year prescriptive period should be reckoned, reference must be made to Article 91 of the same code which sets forth the rule on the computation of prescriptive periods of offenses: Computation of prescription of offenses.The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him. The aforequoted provision expressly states that prescriptive period shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information. The meaning of the phrase shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information in Article 91 has been settled in the landmark case of People v. Olarte,[58] where the Court settled divergent views as to the effect of filing a complaint with the Municipal Trial Court for purposes of preliminary investigation on the prescriptive period of the offense. The Court therein held that the filing of the complaint for purposes of preliminary investigation interrupts the period of prescription of criminal responsibility. It explained thus: the filing of the complaint with the Municipal Court, even if it be merely for purposes of preliminary examination or investigation, should, and does, interrupt the period of prescription of the criminal responsibility, even if the court where the complaint or information is filed can not try the case on its merits. Several reasons buttress this conclusion: first, the text of Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code, in declaring that the period of prescription shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information without distinguishing whether the complaint is filed in the court for preliminary examination or investigation merely, or for action on the merits. Second, even if the court where the complaint or information is filed may only proceed to investigate the case, its actuations already represent the initial step of the proceedings against the offender. Third, it is unjust to deprive the injured party the right to obtain vindication on account of delays that are not under his control. All that the victim of the offense may do on his part to initiate the prosecution is to file the requisite complaint. And it is no argument that Article 91 also expresses that the interrupted prescription shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, thereby indicating that the court in which the complaint or information is filed must have the power to convict or acquit the accused. Precisely, the trial on the merits usually terminates in conviction or acquittal, not otherwise. But it is in the court conducting a preliminary investigation where the proceedings may terminate without conviction or acquittal, if the court should discharge the accused because no prima facie case had been shown.[59] Thereafter, the Court in Francisco v. Court of Appeals[60] clarified that the filing of the complaint with the fiscals office also suspends the running of the prescriptive period of a crime: As is a well-known fact, like the proceedings in the court conducting a preliminary investigation, a proceeding in the Fiscal's Office may terminate without conviction or acquittal. As Justice Claudio Teehankee has observed: To the writer's mind, these reasons logically call with equal force, for the express overruling also of the doctrine in People vs. Tayco, 73 Phil. 509, (1941) that the filing of a complaint or denuncia by the offended party with the City Fiscal's Office which is required by law to conduct the preliminary investigation does not interrupt the period of prescription. In chartered cities, criminal prosecution is generally initiated by the filing of the complaint or denuncia with the city fiscal for preliminary investigation. In the case of provincial fiscals, besides being empowered like municipal judges to conduct preliminary investigations, they may even reverse actions of municipal judges with respect to charges triable by Courts of First instance . . .. [61] There is no conflict in the pronouncements of the Court in Olarte and Francisco as Brillante erroneously suggests. Olarte laid down the doctrine that a complaint filed for purposes of preliminary investigation tolls the running of the prescriptive period of a criminal offense. The criminal complaint for libel in that case was filed, for the purpose of preliminary investigation, with the Justice of the Peace Court in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. Hence, in setting the doctrine, the Court referred to the filing of the complaint in the Municipal Court.[62] The question of whether the doctrine laid down in Olarte also applies to criminal complaints filed with the prosecutors office was settled in Francisco. Specifically, the Court in Francisco amplified the Olarte doctrine when it categorically ruled that the filing of a complaint with the fiscals office suspends the running of the prescriptive period of a criminal offense. Thus, the Court of Appeals committed no reversible error in ruling that the offense of libel had not yet prescribed when the informations against Brillante and his coaccused were filed in the RTC-Manila and RTC-Makati.

SANRIO COMPANY LIMITED, vs. EDGAR C. LIM, doing business as ORIGNAMURA TRADING, Respondent. Petitioner Sanrio Company Limited, a Japanese corporation, owns the copyright of various animated characters such as Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars, My Melody, Tuxedo Sam and Zashikibuta among others.[4] While it is not engaged in business in the Philippines, its products are sold locally by its exclusive distributor, Gift Gate Incorporated (GGI). [5] As such exclusive distributor, GGI entered into licensing agreements with JC Lucas Creative Products, Inc., Paper Line Graphics, Inc. and Melawares Manufacturing Corporation.[6] These local entities were allowed to manufacture certain products (bearing petitioner's copyrighted animated characters) for the local market. Sometime in 2001, due to the deluge of counterfeit Sanrio products, GGI asked IP Manila Associates (IPMA) to conduct a market research. The research's objective was to identify those factories, department stores and retail outlets manufacturing and/or selling fake Sanrio items.[7] After conducting several test-buys in various commercial areas, IPMA confirmed that respondent's Orignamura Trading in Tutuban Center, Manila was selling imitations of petitioner's products.[8] Consequently, on May 29, 2000, IPMA agents Lea A. Carmona and Arnel P. Dausan executed a joint affidavit attesting to the aforementioned facts.[9] IPMA forwarded the said affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which thereafter filed an application for the issuance of a search warrant in the office of the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila.[10] After conducting the requisite searching inquiry, the executive judge issued a search warrant on May 30, 2000.[11] On the same day, agents of the NBI searched the premises of Orignamura Trading. As a result thereof, they were able to seize various Sanrio products.[12] On April 4, 2002, petitioner filed a complaint-affidavit[13] with the Task-Force on Anti-Intellectual Property Piracy (TAPP) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) against respondent for violation of Section 217 (in relation to Sections 177[14] and 178[15]) of the Intellectual Property Code (IPC Respondent asserted in his counter-affidavit[16] that he committed no violation of the provisions of the IPC because he was only a retailer. [17] Respondent neither reproduced nor manufactured any of petitioner's copyrighted item; thus, he did not transgress the economic rights of petitioner. [18] Moreover, he obtained his merchandise from authorized manufacturers of petitioner's products.[19] On September 25, 2002, the TAPP found that: Evidence on record would show that respondent bought his merchandise from legitimate sources, as shown by official receipts. While it appears that some of the items seized during the search are not among those products which [GGI] authorized these establishments to produce, the fact remains that respondent bought these from the abovecited legitimate sources. At this juncture, it bears stressing that respondent relied on the representations of these manufacturers and distributors that the items they sold were genuine. As such, it is not incumbent upon respondent to verify from these sources what items [GGI] only authorized them to produce. Thus, as far as respondent is concerned, the items in his possession are not infringing copies of the original[petitioner's] products. (emphasis supplied)[20] It dismissed the complaint due to insufficiency of evidence. Petitioner moved for reconsideration but it was denied.[22] Hence, it filed a petition for review in the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor of the DOJ. The Office of the Chief State Prosecutor affirmed the TAPP resolution. The petition was dismissed for lack of reversible error. Aggrieved, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari in the CA and dismissed the petition on the ground of prescription. It based its action on Act 3326 which states: Section 1. Violations penalized by special acts shall, unless otherwise provided in such acts, prescribe in accordance with the following rules: (a) after a year for offenses punished only by a fine or by imprisonment for not more than one month, or both; (b) after four years for those punished by imprisonment for more than one month, but less than two years; (c) after eight years for those punished by imprisonment for two years or more, but less than six years;and (d) after twelve years for any other offense

punished by imprisonment for six years or more, except the crime of treason, which shall prescribe after twenty years; Provided, however, That all offenses against any law or part of law administered by the Bureau of Internal Revenue shall prescribe after five years. Violations penalized by municipal ordinances shall prescribe after two months. Section 2. Prescription shall begin to run from the day of the commission of the violation of the law, and if the same may not be known at the time, from the discovery thereof and the institution of judicial proceedings for its investigation and punishment. The prescription shall be interrupted when proceedings are instituted against the guilty person, and shall begin to run again if the proceedings are dismissed for reasons not constituting jeopardy. (emphasis supplied) According to the CA, because no complaint was filed in court within two years after the commission of the alleged violation, the offense had already prescribed. Issue: WON avers that the CA erred in concluding that the alleged violations of the IPC had prescribed. Recent jurisprudence holds that the pendency of a preliminary investigation suspends the running of the prescriptive period. FILING OF THE COMPLAINT IN THE DOJ TOLLED THE PRESCRIPTIVE PERIOD Section 2 of Act 3326 provides that the prescriptive period for violation of special laws starts on the day such offense was committed and is interrupted by the institution of proceedings against respondent (i.e., the accused). Petitioner in this instance filed its complaint-affidavit on April 4, 2002 or one year, ten months and four days after the NBI searched respondent's premises and seized Sanrio merchandise therefrom. Although no information was immediately filed in court, respondent's alleged violation had not yet prescribed.[30] In the recent case of Brillantes v. Court of Appeals,[31] we affirmed that the filing of the complaint for purposes of preliminary investigation interrupts the period of prescription of criminal responsibility.[32] Thus, the prescriptive period for the prosecution of the alleged violation of the IPC was tolled by petitioner's timely filing of the complaint-affidavit before the TAPP. IN THE ABSENCE OF GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION, THE FACTUAL FINDINGSOF THE DOJ IN PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS WILL NOT BE DISTURBED In a preliminary investigation, a public prosecutor determines whether a crime has been committed and whether there is probable cause that the accused is guilty thereof.[33] Probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances that will engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial.[34] Because a public prosecutor is the one conducting a preliminary investigation, he determines the existence of probable cause.[35] Consequently, the decision to file a criminal information in court or to dismiss a complaint depends on his sound discretion.[36] As a general rule, a public prosecutor is afforded a wide latitude of discretion in the conduct of a preliminary investigation. For this reason, courts generally do not interfere with the results of such proceedings. A prosecutor alone determines the sufficiency of evidence that will establish probable cause justifying the filing of a criminal information against the respondent. [37] By way of exception, however, judicial review is allowed where respondent has clearly established that the prosecutor committed grave abuse of discretion. [38] Otherwise stated, such review is appropriate only when the prosecutor has exercised his discretion in an arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, patent and gross enough to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law.[39] The prosecutors in this case consistently found that no probable cause existed against respondent for violation of the IPC. They were in the best position to determine whether or not there was probable cause. We find that they arrived at their findings after carefully evaluating the respective evidence of petitioner and respondent. Their conclusion was not tainted with grave abuse of discretion.

Sec. 4. Information defined. An information is an accusation in writing charging a person with an offense, subscribed by the prosecutor and filed with the court. BERNIE G. MIAQUE, PETITIONER, VS. HON. VIRGILIO M. PATAG, IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDING JUDGE OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF ILOILO CITY, BRANCH 33, VICENTE C. ARAGONA, AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENTS. This is a special civil action for certiorari[1] assailing the orders of the (RTC) of Iloilo City, Branch 33 dated August 25, 2005 [2] and September 19, 2005[3] in Criminal Case Nos. 05-61407 to 05-61411 captioned People of the Philippines versus Bernie Miaque, et al. On January 31, 2000, five Informations for libel[4] were filed in the RTC of Iloilo City against petitioner Bernie G. Miaque and three others. [5] In an order dated February 17, 2005,[6] these Informations were quashed for lack of jurisdiction over the offenses charged. Specifically, said Informations failed to allege either that private respondent (therein private complainant) Vicente Aragona actually held office in Iloilo City at the time of the commission of the offenses or that the alleged libelous remarks were printed or first published in Iloilo City.[7] On June 22, 2005, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jerry Maraon issued a resolution recommending the filing of Informations for libel against petitioner and his coaccused. Accordingly, five new Informations for libel were filed against petitioner and his co-accused in the RTC of Iloilo City, Branch 33, presided by respondent Judge Virgilio M. Patag. The new Informations were similarly worded as those previously quashed but with these added allegations: (1) Aragona, Regional State Prosecutor VI of the Department of Justice, held office at the Hall of Justice, Iloilo City or (2) the alleged libelous remarks were written, printed and published in Iloilo City (on the pertinent dates thereof). Said Informations were likewise signed and filed by Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Maraon. In view of the filing of the new Informations, petitioner filed his motions (dated August 8, 2005) not to issue warrants of arrest and, if already issued, to recall them and remand the Informations to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office for preliminary investigation.[8] In an order dated August 25, 2005, respondent judge denied petitioner's motions on the ground that petitioner was beyond the court's jurisdiction as he was not under the custody of the court. [9] Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied in an order dated September 19, 2005. Hence, this petition. Petitioner challenges the August 25, 2005 and September 19, 2005 orders of respondent judge for being contrary to law and for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. He contends that the Informations were filed without the mandatory preliminary investigation. Moreover, the new Informations were filed by one who had no authority to do so because these were filed by the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor's Office and not the Iloilo City Prosecutor's Office. Jurisdiction over the subject matter supposedly belonged to the latter. Petitioner likewise assails the refusal of respondent judge to recall the warrants of arrest issued against him. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the People of the Philippines, contends that the quashed Informations were merely amended to include the allegations that Aragona actually held office in Iloilo City at the time of the commission of the offenses or that the libelous remarks were printed and first published in Iloilo City. A new preliminary investigation was therefore unnecessary. On the warrant of arrest, the OSG alleges that the trial court acquired jurisdiction over petitioner in view of the filing of his August 8, 2005 motions. The filing of the motions supposedly was tantamount to voluntarily submitting to the jurisdiction of the court. Generally, a direct resort to us in a petition for certiorari is incorrect for it violates the hierarchy of courts.[10] A regard for judicial hierarchy most certainly 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.[11] This rule, however, may be relaxed when pure questions of law[12] are raised as in this case. We grant the petition. The Informations must be quashed. One of the issues raised in the petition is the authority of the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor's Office to file and sign the new Informations against petitioner. The offenses charged in each of the new Informations were alleged to have been committed in Iloilo City but said Informations were filed by the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor's Office. Sections 9 and 11 of Presidential Decree No. 1275[13] provide: SEC. 9. Offices of Provincial Fiscals and City Fiscals' Staffing. -- There shall be in each province and each subprovince; one provincial fiscal and such number of assistant provincial fiscals as may hereinafter be provided for. There shall be in each city one city fiscals and such number of assistant city fiscals as may hereinafter be provided. SEC. 11. Provincial Fiscals and City Fiscals; Duties and Functions. - The provincial fiscal or the city fiscal shall: a) b) Investigate and/or cause to be investigated all charges of crimes, misdemeanors and violations of all penal laws and ordinances within their respective jurisdictionsand have the necessary information or complaint prepared or made against the persons accused. xxx (emphasis supplied) It is undisputed that the alleged acts of libel were committed in Iloilo City. Who then had the authority to file and sign the new informations against petitioner and his co-accused? The Charter of the City of Iloilo provides:[14] [The City Fiscal, now City Prosecutor] shall also have charge of the prosecution of all crimes, misdemeanors and violations of city ordinances, in the Court of First Instance (now RTC) and in the Municipal Trial Court of the city, and shall discharge all the duties in respect to criminal prosecutions enjoined by law upon provincial fiscals. The city fiscal shall cause to be investigated all charges of crimes, misdemeanors, and violations of ordinances, and have the necessary informations or complaints prepared against the persons accused. xxx[15] The authority to sign and file the new Informations is properly lodged with the Iloilo City Prosecutor's Office. The Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor's Office was clearly bereft of authority to file the new Informations against petitioner. An Information, when required by law to be filed by a public prosecuting officer, cannot be filed by another.[16] The court does not acquire jurisdiction over the case because there is a defect in the Information. We held in People v. Hon. Garfin:[17] It is a valid information signed by a competent officer which, among other requisites, confers jurisdiction on the court over the person of the accused and the subject matter thereof. xxx Questions relating to lack of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceeding. An infirmity in the information, such as lack of authority of the officer signing it, cannot be cured by silence, acquiescence, or even by express consent. The foregoing considered, the Informations corresponding to Criminal Case Nos. 05-61407 to 05-61411 were fatally defective. The common infirmity in the Informations constituted a jurisdictional defect that could not be cured. [18] There was no point in proceeding under a defective Information that could never be the basis of a valid conviction.[19] WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The orders of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 33 dated August 25, 2005 and September 19, 2005 are herebyREVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Criminal Case Nos. 05-61407 to 05-61411 areDISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to the filing of new Informations by an authorized officer. The warrants of arrest issued are likewise QUASHED.

Sec. 5. Who must prosecute criminal actions. All criminal actions commenced by a complaint or information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of the prosecutor. However, in Municipal Trial Courts or Municipal Circuit Trial Courts when the prosecutor assigned thereto or to the case is not available, the offended party, any peace officer, or public officer charged with the enforcement of the law violated may prosecute the case. This authority shall cease upon actual intervention of the prosecutor or upon elevation of the case to the Regional Trial Court. (Read A.M. NO. 02-2-07-SC [Effective May 01, 2002] Latest Amendments to Section 5, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides: " Section 5. Who must prosecute criminal action. - All criminal actions either commenced by complaint or by information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of a public prosecutor. In case of heavy work schedule of the public prosecutor or in the event of lack of public prosecutors, the private prosecutor may be authorized in writing by the Chief of the Prosecution Office or the Regional State Prosecutor to prosecute the case subject to the approval of the court. Once so authorized to prosecute the criminal action, the private prosecutor shall continue to prosecute the case up to end of the trial even in the absence of a public prosecutor, unless the authority is revoked or otherwise withdrawn. x x x" ). The crimes of adultery and concubinage shall not be prosecuted except upon a complaint filed by the offended spouse. The offended party cannot institute criminal prosecution without including the guilty parties, if both are alive, nor, in any case, if the offended party has consented to the offense or pardoned the offenders. The offenses of seduction, abduction and acts of lasciviousness shall not be prosecuted upon a complaint filed by the offended party of her parents, grandparents or guardian, nor, in any case, if the offender has been expressly pardoned by any of them. If the offended party dies or becomes incapacitated before she can file the complaint, and she has no known parents, grandparents or guardian, the State shall initiate the criminal action in her behalf. chan robles virtual law library The offended party, even if a minor, has the right to initiate the prosecution of the offenses of seduction, abduction and acts of lasciviousness independently of her parents, grandparents, or guardian, unless she is incompetent or incapable of doing so. Where the offended party, who is a minor, fails to file the complaint, her parents, grandparents, or guardian may file the same. The right to file the action granted to parents, grandparents, or guardian shall be exclusive of all other persons and shall be exercised successively in the order herein provided, except as stated in the preceding paragraph. No criminal action for defamation which consists in the imputation of any of the offenses mentioned above shall be brought except at the instance of and upon complaint filed by the offended party. The prosecution for violation of special laws shall be governed by the provision thereof. WILSON CHUA, RENITA CHUA, THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE AND THE CITY PROSECUTOR OF LUCENA CITY, PETITIONERS, VS. RODRIGO PADILLO AND MARIETTA PADILLO, RESPONDENTS. For our resolution is the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Amended Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals dated May 15, 2003 reversing its Decision[2] dated January 24, 2001 in CA-G.R. SP No. 62401, entitled "Rodrigo Padillo and Marietta Padillo, Complainants-Petitioners, versus The Secretary of Justice, et al., Respondents." Rodrigo Padillo and Marietta Padillo, respondents, are the owners of Padillo Lending Investor engaged in the money lending business in Lucena City. Their niece, Marissa Padillo-Chua, served as the firm's manager. Marissa is married to Wilson Chua, brother of Renita Chua, herein petitioners. One of Marissa's functions was to evaluate and recommend loan applications for approval by respondents. Once a loan application had been approved, respondents would authorize the release of a check signed by them or their authorized signatory, a certain Mila Manalo. Sometime in September 1999, a post-audit was conducted. It was found that Marissa was engaged in illegal activities. Some of the borrowers whose loan applications she recommended for approval were fictitious and their signatures on the checks were spurious. Marissa's modus operandi was to alter the name of the payee appearing on the check by adding another name as an alternative payee. This alternative payee would then personally encash the check with the drawee bank. The cash amounts received were turned over to Marissa or her husband Wilson for deposit in their personal accounts. To facilitate encashment, Marissa would sign the check to signify to the bank that she personally knew the alternative payee. The alternative payees included employees of Wilson or his friends. The total amount embezzled reached P7 million. Respondents filed complaints against petitioners and several others with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Lucena City. In turn, the NBI forwarded their complaints to the Office of the City Prosecutor, same city, for preliminary investigation, docketed as I.S. Nos. 98-1487, 98-1621, 98-1629, and 98-1605. In a Resolution dated March 18, 1999, Lucena City Prosecutor Romeo A. Datu (now retired), disposed of the complaints as follows: WHEREFORE, after preliminary investigation, finding sufficient evidence to warrant a finding of a prima facie case of Estafa Thru Falsification of Commercial Documents, let an Information be filed against Marissa Padillo-Chua, Wilson Chua, Renita Chua, and several John Does, the same to be filed with the Regional Trial Court. The case against the other respondents, namely, Perla Correa, Giovani Guia, Emmanuel Garcia, Zenaida Nantes, Cherrylyn Mendoza, Rosalie Mazo, Fernando Loreto, Cesar Salamat, Antonio Bana, Isidro Manalo, Jr., Ramon Villanueva, Alexander Asiado, Peter Tan, Jun Tan, Flaviano Evaso, Edgar Sebastian, Crisencio Asi, Roberto Ong and Gregorio Flancia is provisionally dismissed. Forthwith, the City Prosecutor filed an Information for estafa against Marissa, Wilson, and Renita with the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City, docketed therein as Criminal Cse No. 99-182. It was raffled of to Branch 59. Believing that a more serious offense should have been charged against petitioners, respondents interposed an appeal to the Secretary of Justice who issued a Resolution dated January 3, 2000, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, the appealed resolution is modified. The City Prosecution Office of Lucena City is hereby directed to file the Information of the complex crime of estafa through falsification of commercial documents defined and penalized under Article 315 par. 1(b) in relation to Articles 171 and 172 (58 counts) against respondent Marissa Padillo-Chua and to cause the withdrawal of the Information of estafa through falsification of commercial documents against respondents Wilson Chua and Renita Chua. Report to us the action taken within ten (10) days from receipt hereof. The Secretary of Justice found that the participation of Wilson Chua in the commission of the crime was not clearly established by the evidence. There was no showing that he abused the trust and confidence of respondents when two (2) of the questioned checks were deposited in his bank account. As to Renita Chua, the Secretary of Justice found no proof of conspiracy between her and Marissa. Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied with finality by the Secretary of Justice on November 6, 2000. Respondents then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 62401. They alleged that in issuing the Resolution dated January 3, 2000 directing the Prosecutor's Office of Lucena City to file the corresponding Information only against Marissa, the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion. They prayed that the Court of Appeals order the Lucena City Prosecutor to withdraw the Information in Criminal Case No. 99-182 and instead, file several Informations against petitioners. On January 24, 2001, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dismissing the petition, holding that there was no conspiracy among the petitioners.

Respondents seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration. Revisiting its Decision, the Court of Appeals, on May 15, 2003, promulgated its Amended Decision granting respondents' motion, thus: WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby GRANTED. ACCORDINGLY, the Court orders the DOJ, City Prosecutor, Lucena City to include Wilson Chua and Renita Chua as accused in the said case. SO ORDERED. In reversing itself, the Court of Appeals found that it overlooked certain facts and circumstances which, if considered, would establish probable cause against Wilson and Renita. The Court of Appeals identified these facts to be: (1) Marissa's consistent practice of depositing checks with altered names of payees to the respective accounts of Wilson Chua and Renita Chua; (2) considering that Wilson and Marissa are husband and wife, it can be inferred that one knows the transactions of the other; and (3) Wilson had full knowledge of the unlawful activities of Marissa. This is supported by the affidavit of Ernesto Alcantara dated November 26, 1998. Wilson Chua and Renita Chua filed their motion for reconsideration of the Amended Decision, but the Court of Appeals denied the same on May 28, 2004. Hence, the instant petition. Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals erred in compelling the Secretary of Justice to include in the Information Wilson and Renita. Section 5, Rule 110 of the 200 Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, partly provides that "All criminal actions either commenced by a complaint or information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of a public prosecutor." The rationale for this rule is that since a criminal offense is an outrage to the sovereignty of the State, it necessarily follows that a representative of the State shall direct and control the prosecution thereof. [3] In Suarez v. Platon,[4] this Court described the prosecuting officer as: [T]he representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense a servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. Having been vested by law with the control of the prosecution of criminal cases, the public prosecutor, in the exercise of his functions, has the power and discretion to: (a) determine whether a prima facie case exists;[5] (b) decide which of the conflicting testimonies should be believed free from the interference or control of the offended party;[6] and (c) subject only to the right against self-incrimination, determine which witnesses to present in court. [7] Given his discretionary powers, a public prosecutor cannot be compelled to file an Information where he is not convinced that the evidence before him would warrant the filing of an action in court. For while he is bound by his oath of office to prosecute persons who, according to complainant's evidence, are shown to be guilty of a crime, he is likewise duty-bound to protect innocent persons from groundless, false, or malicious prosecution.[8] We must stress, however, that the public prosecutor's exercise of his discretionary powers is not absolute. First, the resolution of the investigating prosecutor is subject to appeal to the Secretary of Justice who, under the Administrative Code of 1987, as amended, exercises control and supervision over the investigating prosecutor. Thus, the Secretary of Justice may affirm, nullify, reverse, or modify the ruling of said prosecutor." In special cases, the public prosecutor's decision may even be reversed or modified by the Office of the President. [9] Second, the Court of Appeals may review the resolution of the Secretary of Justice on a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, on the ground that he committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. [10] Here, we note that the Court of Appeals, on motion for reconsideration by respondents, ruled that the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion in resolving that only Marissa should be charged. We agree. Grave abuse of discretion implies a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment that is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. [11] We have carefully examined the Resolution of the Secretary of Justice dated January 3, 2000 wherein he ruled that there was no probable cause to hold Wilson Chua and Renita Chua for estafa through falsification of commercial documents. As found by the Court of Appeals, the Secretary of Justice either overlooked or patently ignored the following circumstances: (1) Marissa's practice of depositing checks, with altered names of payees, in the respective accounts of Wilson and Renita Chua; (2) the fact that Wilson and Marissa are husband and wife makes it difficult to believe that one has no idea of the transactions entered into by the other; and (3) the affidavit of Ernesto Alcantara dated November 26, 1998 confirming that Wilson had knowledge of Marissa's illegal activities. Indeed, as we ruled in Sanchez v. Demetriou,[12] not even the Supreme Court can order the prosecution of a person against whom the prosecutor does not find sufficient evidence to support at least a prima facie case. The only possible exception to this rule is where there is an unmistakable showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the prosecutor, as in this case. Verily, the Court of Appeals did not err in directing the City Prosecutor of Lucena City to include Wilson and Renita Chua in the Information for the complex crime of estafathrough falsification of commercial documents. WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition and AFFIRM the Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62401. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED.