Whether it is the Regional Trial Court, or the Metropolitan Trial Court or other first level court which has exclusive original jurisdiction over criminal actions of libel, is the issue raised by the People of the Philippines, as petitioner in the special civil action of certiorari
, prohibition and mandamus at bar. The fairly simple facts from which the issue has arisen are hereunder briefly narrated.
On January 30, 1995 an information for libel was filed against Isah V. Red in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. The case thereby initiated was docketed as Criminal Case No. 95-60134 and raffled to Branch 82.
Red filed a motion to quash the information on the ground that the RTC had no jurisdiction of the offense. The Judge found merit in the motion and by an Order dated March 29, 1995, remanded the case to the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City "for proper action/disposition in the premises." His Honor declared that" (u)nder Section 2 of R.A. No. 7691, which took effect on April 15, 1994, exclusive original jurisdiction over ‘all offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years, irrespective of the amount of fine, and 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’ is vested in the Municipal Trial Court. ** "The case was accordingly transferred to the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court where it was docketed as Case No. 43-00548 and raffled to Branch 43.
Thereafter, the private prosecutor, "under the control and supervision of the Fiscal," filed a "Manifestation and Motion to Remand" dated August 1, 1995 praying that the case be returned to the RTC. The movant invoked Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, which pertinently provides that: 1
x x x
The criminal action and civil action for damages in case of written defamation, 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 **,
and argued that —
" ** Laws vesting jurisdiction exclusively with a particular court (such as the Court of Tax Appeals} are special in character, and should prevail over the Judiciary Act defining the jurisdiction of other courts (such as the Court of First Instance) which is a general law. (De Joya v. Lantin, 19 SCRA 893). Moreover, a general law cannot repeal or amend by implication a specific provision or a special law. Otherwise stated: a subsequent statute, general in character as to its terms and operation, is not to be construed as repealing a special or specific enactment, unless the legislative purpose to do so is manifested. This is so, even if the provisions of the latter are sufficiently comprehensive to include what was set forth in the special act. (Philippine Railway Co. v. CIR, 91 Phil. 35; Villegas v. Subido, 41 SCRA 190; Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. CA, 207 SCRA 487)."cralaw virtua1aw library
The MetroTC denied the motion by Order dated August 14, 1995. It opined that "Rep. Act No. 7691, which took effect on April 15. 1994, would partake of the nature of a ‘modern’ law which impliedly repeals an ‘ancient’ law (the Revised Penal Code) which is of 1932 vintage, which is inconsistent with the later law **; (and that) if the repeal makes the penalty lighter in the new law, the new law shall be applied." 2 Later, the MetroTC also denied the private prosecutor’s motion for reconsideration, by Order dated September 7, 1995. Still later, in an Order dated October 18, 1995, it denied another motion by the same counsel reiterating the plea to remand the case back to the RTC, and further directed "the prosecution to present ** (its) next witness," trial having in the meantime commenced.
Now, in this proceeding, the State prays for judgment:" (1) declaring the questioned Orders dated August 14, 1995, September 7, 1995, and October 18, 1995 as null and void for having been issued by the respondent court acting without jurisdiction; (2) enjoining the respondent court from further conducting trials in Criminal Case No. 43-00548; and (3) commanding the respondent court to remand Criminal Case No. 43-00548 to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for proper disposition." It cites Jalandoni v. Endaya (55 SCRA 261 , where this Court (a) drew attention to the categorical language of Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code to the effect that "it is a court of first instance that is specifically designated to try a libel case," and (b) indicated "thirteen (13) cases, from People v. Topacio, 59 Phil. 356 (1934) to Time, Inc. v. Reyes, 39 SCRA 303 (1971), wherein this ** Court ruled that municipal courts do not have jurisdiction over libel cases." 3 It further argues that in light of Jalandoni, and Berces v. Guingona (241 SCRA 539 ) — to the effect that a subsequent statute, general in character as to its terms and application, is not to be construed as repealing a special or specific enactment unless the legislative purpose to do so is manifest or an irreconcilable inconsistency and repugnancy exists between them — Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code may not be deemed to have been superseded by Republic Act No. 7691.
This Court has already had occasion to resolve the issue, substantially in line with the position taken by the People, account having been taken of substantially the same arguments adduced by the opposing parties in this case. In G.R. No. 122126 entitled Lydia Caro v. Court of Appeals and Violeta Sarigumba, involving the same jurisdictional issue as that specifically presented in the case at bar, this Court promulgated a Resolution on June 19, 1996 pertinently reading as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Anent the question of jurisdiction, we ** find no reversible error committed by public respondent Court of Appeals in denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The contention ** that R.A. No. 7691 divested the Regional Trial Courts of jurisdiction to try libel cases cannot be sustained. While libel is punishable by imprisonment of six months and one day to four years and two months (Art. 360, Revised Penal Code) which imposable penalty is lodged within the Municipal Trial Courts’ jurisdiction under R.A. No. 7691 (Sec. 32 121), said law, however, excludes therefrom ‘** cases falling within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts **.’ The Court in Bocobo v. Estanislao, 72 SCRA 520 and Jalandoni v. Endaya, 55 SCRA 261, correctly cited by the Court of Appeals, has laid down the rule that Regional Trial Courts have the exclusive jurisdiction over libel cases, hence, the expanded jurisdiction conferred by R.A. 7691 to inferior courts cannot be applied to libel cases."cralaw virtua1aw library
Moreover, Administrative Order No. 104-96 — treating of the subject:" ** DESIGNATION OF SPECIAL COURTS FOR KIDNAPPING, ROBBERY, CARNAPPING, DANGEROUS DRUGS CASES AND OTHER HEINOUS CRIMES; INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND JURISDICTION IN LIBEL CASES" — issued on October 21, 1996 by the Chief Justice upon the advice and consent of the Court En Banc, inter alia provides, in categorical acknowledgment of the validity of the doctrine just adverted to, that "LIBEL CASES SHALL BE TRIED BY THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS HAVING JURISDICTION OVER THEM TO THE EXCLUSION OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURTS, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURTS IN CITIES, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURTS AND MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURTS."cralaw virtua1aw library
The proposition is hereby reaffirmed, the Court perceiving no argument advanced by respondents justifying its abrogation or modification.
Concerning respondents’ contention that the challenged orders are now immutable, having become final and executory for failure of the prosecution to take an appeal therefrom, it suffices to advert to the familiar and uniformly applied axiom that only final orders — i.e., those that finally dispose of a case, leaving nothing more to be done by the court respecting the merits of a case — can become final and executory — in the sense of becoming unalterable through an appeal or review proceeding. 4 Interlocutory orders, on the other hand — i.e., those which resolve incidental motions or collateral matters but do not put an end to the case — never become final in the sense of becoming unchangeable and impervious to impugnation after expiration of the period prescribed for taking an appeal from a final judgment. 5
Respecting respondents’ claim that venue is merely procedural, suffice it to point out that unlike in civil cases, in criminal cases venue is jurisdictional. 6
WHEREFORE, the petition is granted; the respondent Court’s Orders dated August 14, 1995, September 7, 1995, and October 18, 1995 are declared null and void for having been issued without jurisdiction; and said Court is enjoined from further taking cognizance of and proceeding with Criminal Case No. 43-00548, which it is commanded to remand to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for proper disposition.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ.
1. Emphasis, movant’s
2. Emphasis in original text
3. Rollo, p. 11
4. In Re Joaquin T. Borromeo. Ex Rel. Cebu City Chapter, IBP, 241 SCRA 405 (1995), citing Garbo v. C.A., 226 SCRA 250 (1993), GSIS v. Gines, 219 SCRA 724; Gesulgon v. NLRC, 219 SCRA 561 (1993); Paramount Insurance Corporation v. Japson, 211 SCRA 879 (1992); Cachola v. C.A., 208 SCRA 496 (1992); Enriquez v. C.A., 202 SCRA 487 (1991); Alvendia v. IAC, 181 SCRA 252 (1990); Turqueza v. Hernando, 97 SCRA 483 (1980); Lee Gun Tin v. Aligaen, 76 SCRA 416 (1977); SEE also Javier v. C.A., 224 SCRA 774 (1993), citing Gabaya v. Mendoza, 113 SCRA 400 (1982); Ceniza v. C.A., 218 SCRA 390 (1993)
5. Denso (Phils.) Inc. v. IAC, Et Al., 148 SCRA 280 (1987); Romualdez v. Sandiganbayan (First Division), Et Al., 244 SCRA 152 (1995); Dizon v. C.A., 210 SCRA 107 (1992)
6. Peo. v. Mercado, 65 Phil. 665; Alfelor, Et. Al. v. Intia, Et Al., 70 SCRA 460, citing Lopez v. City Judge, 18 SCRA 616, in turn citing US v. Pagdayuman, 5 Phil. 265; Beltran v. Ramos, 96 Phil. 149; Ragpala v. Justice of the Peace of Tubod, 109 Phil. 373; Peo. v. Yumang, 11 SCRA 279; Peo. v. San Antonio, 14 SCRA 63; Bala v. Martinez, 181 SCRA 459, 569, citing Ragpala v. Tubod, 109 Phil. 373.