Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1976 > June 1976 Decisions > G.R. No. L-40527 June 30, 1976 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. HERMOGENES MARIANO, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-40527. June 30, 1976.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. HERMOGENES MARIANO and HON. AMBROSIO M. GERALDEZ, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch V, Respondents.

Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza, Assistant Solicitor General Nathanael P. Pano, Jr., Solicitor Oswaldo D. Agcaoili, Provincial P. C. Cliachko and Assistant Provincial Fiscal C. G. Perfecta, for Petitioner.

Eustaquio Evangelista, for respondent Hermogenes Mariano.

SYNOPSIS


Private respondent, then, Liaison Officer of the Municipal Mayor received in behalf of the Municipality of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, several feet of electric cables and cable power from USAID/NEC. Instead of delivering said items to the Municipality, respondent appropriated and converted the same to his own use. Thereafter, the Provincial Fiscal of Bulacan filed an information charging said private respondent with the offense of estafa. Accused moved to quash the information on the grounds that the Court lacked jurisdiction to try the case; that the criminal liability had been extinguished; that the information contained averments which, if true, would constitute a legal excuse; and that the items which were subject matter of the information were the same items for which the Mayor of San Jose del Monte had been indicted and convicted of malversation of public property by the Military Tribunal. Movant claimed that since the case against the Mayor had already been decided by the Military Tribunal, the Court of First Instance had lost jurisdiction over the case against him.

Respondent court granted the motion to quash on the ground that since the Military Commission first took cognizance of the case, it had already lost jurisdiction to pass a new upon the same subject matter. The People of the Philippines sought a review of the order granting the motion to quash the information.

The Supreme Court held that the situation does not involve two tribunals vested with concurrent jurisdiction over a particular crime so as to apply the rule that the court or tribunal which first takes cognizance of the case acquires jurisdiction thereof exclusive of the other. Estafa and malversation are two separate and distinct offenses, and in the case at bar the accused in the estafa case respondent) is different from the accused in the alleged malversation case (the municipal mayor).

Questioned order was set aside, the Court ordering respondent Judge to try the criminal charge against private respondent without delay.


SYLLABUS


1. WORDS AND PHRASES; "JURISDICTION" ; ORIGIN AND MEANING OF THE WORD EXPLAINED. — "Jurisdiction" is the basic foundation of judicial proceedings. The word "Jurisdiction" is derived from two Latin words "juris" and "dico" — "I speak by the law" — which means fundamentally the power or capacity given by the law to a court or tribunal to entertain, hear, and determine certain controversies. Bouvier’s own definition of the term "jurisdiction" has found judicial acceptance, to wit: "Jurisdiction is the right of a Judge to pronounce a sentence of the law in a case or issue before him, acquired through due process of law;" it is "the authority by which judicial officers take cognizance of and decide cases." In Herrera v. Barretto, (September 10, 1913), 25 Phil. 254, 251, this Court, defined "jurisdiction" simply as the authority to hear and determine a cause — the right to act in a case. "Jurisdiction" has also been aptly described as the right to put the wheels of justice in motion and to proceed to the final determination of a cause upon the pleadings and evidence.

2. ID.; ID.; CRIMINAL JURISDICTION DEFINED. — "Criminal Jurisdiction" is necessarily the authority to hear and try a particular offense and impose the punishment for it.

3. REMEDIAL LAW, JURISDICTION OF COURTS IS CONFERRED BY THE CONSTITUTION OR BY LAW. — The conferment of jurisdiction upon courts or judicial tribunals is derived exclusively from the constitution and statutes of the forum. Thus, the question of jurisdiction of Courts over a case filed before it is to be resolved on the basis of the law or statute providing for or defining its jurisdiction.

4. ID.; ID.; ORIGINAL CRIMINAL JURISDICTION OF COURTS OF FIRST INSTANCE. — Section 44(f) of the Judiciary Act of 1948 as amended, provides that the Court of First Instance shall have original jurisdiction over all criminal cases in which the penalty provided by law is imprisonment for more than six months, or a fine of more than two hundred pesos.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; IF IMPOSABLE PENALTY OF ESTAFA EXCEEDS SIX MONTHS IMPRISONMENT, SAME FALLS WITHIN THE ORIGINAL JURISDICTION OF COURTS OF FIRST INSTANCE. — Where the offense of estafa charged against respondent is penalized with arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its a minimum period or imprisonment from four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months, the offense falls within the original jurisdiction of courts of first instance.

6. ID.; ID.; COURTS OF FIRST INSTANCE NOT VESTED WITH CONCURRENT JURISDICTION WITH THE MILITARY TRIBUNAL OVER OFFENSE OF ESTAFA. — The claim of respondent judge that his court exercises concurrent jurisdiction with the Military Commission over the offense of estafa, so that, when the latter tribunal first took cognizance of the case of malversation against the Municipal Mayor involving the same items which were the subject matter of the offense of estafa against private respondent, the respondent court thereby lost jurisdiction over the latter offense is incorrect, because such jurisdiction was vested upon respondent court by the law in force at that time which was the Judiciary Act of 1948, the particular provision of which was not affected by any Presidential issuances under martial law defining the jurisdiction of military tribunals. The settled rule is that the jurisdiction of a court is determined by the statue in force at the time of the commencement of the action.

7. ID.; ID.; MILITARY COMMISSION LACKS JURISDICTION OVER ESTAFA CASES. — General Order No. 49 dated October 4, 1974, which repeals General Order No. 12 and the latter’s amendments and related General Orders inconsistent with the former, redefines the jurisdiction of military tribunals over certain offenses, and estafa and malversation are not among those enumerated therein, hence, the Military Commission is not vested with jurisdiction over the crime of estafa.

8. CRIMINAL LAW; ESTAFA DISTINCT FROM MALVERSATION. — Estafa and malversation are two separate and distinct offenses.


D E C I S I O N


MUÑOZ PALMA, J.:


This petition for Certiorari postulates a ruling on the question of whether or not civil courts and military commissions exercise concurrent jurisdiction over the offense of estafa of goods valued at not more than six thousand pesos and allegedly committed by a civilian. 1

On December 18, 1974, the office of the Provincial Fiscal of Bulacan filed an Information (Criminal Case No. SM-649) accusing private respondent herein Hermogenes Mariano of estafa alleged to have been committed as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"That on or about and during the period from May 11 and June 8, 1971, in the municipality of San Jose del Monte, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused Hermogenes Mariano, being then appointed as Liaison Officer by the then incumbent Municipal Mayor, Constantino Nolasco, acting for and in behalf of the municipality of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and authorized to receive and be receipted for US excess property of USAID/NEC for the use and benefit of said municipality, received from the said USAID/NEC the following items, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"150 ft. electric cable valued

at $15 or P100.50

"525 ft. cable power valued at

$577.50 or P3,859.35

"250 ft. electric cable at

$125.00 or P837.50.

with a total value of $717.50 or P4,797.35, involving the duty of making delivery of said items to the said Municipal Mayor, but the said accused Hermogenes Mariano once in possession of the said items and far from complying with his aforesaid obligation and in spite of repeated demands, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with grave abuse of confidence and with deceit, misappropriate, misapply and convert to his own personal use and benefit the said items valued at P717.50 or P4,79 7.35, belonging to the said USAID/NEC, to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the said sum of $717.50 or P4,797.35" (pp. rollo).

On February 19, 1975, Hermogenes Mariano thru his counsel filed a motion to quash the Information on the following grounds:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. That the court trying the cause has no jurisdiction of the offense charged or of the person of the defendant;

"2. That the criminal action or liability has been extinguished;

"3. That it contains averments which, if true, would constitute a legal excuse or justification." (p. 19, rollo)

In his motion to quash, Mariano claimed that the items which were the subject matter of the Information against him were the same items for which Mayor Constantino A. Nolasco of San Jose del Monte, province of Bulacan, was indicted before a Military Commission under a charge of malversation of public property, and for which Mayor Nolasco had been found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor for ten (10) years and one (1) day to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months with perpetual disqualification plus a fine of P19,646.15 (see pp. 23-24, rollo), and that inasmuch as the case against Mayor Nolasco had already been decided by the Military Tribunal, the Court of First Instance of Bulacan had lost jurisdiction over the case against him. (pp. 19-20, ibid)

On March 14, 1975 respondent Judge issued an Order granting the motion to quash on the ground of lack of jurisdiction reasoning as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Considering that the Military Commission had already taken cognizance of the malversation case against Mayor Nolasco involving the same subject matter in its concurrent jurisdiction with this Court, the case involving the subject properties had already been heard and decided by a competent tribunal, the Military Commission, and as such this Court is without jurisdiction to pass upon anew the same subject matter." (pp 30-31, rollo, Emphasis supplied)

Respondent Judge did not rule on the other grounds invoked in the motion to quash.chanrobles.com : virtual law library

The people now seeks a review of the aforesaid Order and presents the sole issue of jurisdiction of respondent Court over the estafa, case filed against respondent Mariano.

"Jurisdiction" is the basic foundation of judicial proceedings. 2 The word "jurisdiction" is derived from two Latin words "juris" and "dico" — "I speak by the law" — which means fundamentally the power or capacity given by the law to a court or tribunal to entertain, hear, and determine certain controversies. 3 Bouvier’s own definition of the term "jurisdiction" has found judicial acceptance, to wit: "Jurisdiction is the right of a Judge to pronounce a sentence of the law in a case or issue before him, acquired through due process of law;" it is "the authority by which judicial officers take cognizance of and decide cases." 4

In Herrera v. Barretto, September 10, 1913, 25 Phil. 245, 251, this Court, in the words of Justice Moreland, invoking American jurisprudence, defined "jurisdiction" simply as the authority to hear and determine a cause — the right to act in a case. "Jurisdiction" has also been aptly described as the right to put the wheels of justice in notion, and to proceed to the final determination of a cause upon the pleadings and evidence. 5

"Criminal Jurisdiction" is necessarily the authority to hear and try a particular offense and impose the punishment for it. 6

The conferment of jurisdiction upon courts or judicial tribunals is derived exclusively from the constitution and statutes of the forum. Thus, the question of jurisdiction of respondent Court of First Instance over the case filed before it is to be resolved on the basis of the law or statute providing for or defining its jurisdiction. That, We find in the Judiciary Act of 1948 where in its Section 44 (f) it is provided:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 44. Original jurisdiction. — Courts of first Instance shall have original jurisdiction:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"x       x       x

"(f) In all criminal cases in which the penalty provided by law is imprisonment for more than six months, or a fine of more than two hundred pesos," (Emphasis supplied)

The offense of estafa charged against respondent Mariano is penalized with arresto mayor, in its maximum period to prision correccional, in its minimum period, or imprisonment from four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months. 7 By reason of the penalty imposed which exceeds six (6) months imprisonment, the offense alleged to have been committed by the accused, now respondent, Mariano, falls under the original jurisdiction of courts of first instance.chanrobles law library : red

The above of course is not disputed by respondent Judge; what he claims in his Order is that his court exercises concurrent jurisdiction with the military commission and because the latter tribunal was the first to take cognizance of the subject matter, respondent court lost jurisdiction over it. That statement of respondent court is incorrect.

In People v. Fontanilla, this Court speaking through then Justice now Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro, categorically reiterated the settled rule that the jurisdiction of a court is determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement of the act on. 8 In the case at bar, it is rightly contended by the Solicitor General that at the time Criminal Case No. SM-649 was filed, with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, that was December 18, 1974, the law in force vesting jurisdiction upon said court was the Judiciary Act of 1948, the particular provision of which was not affected one way or the other by any Presidential issuances under Martial Law. General Order No. 49 dated October 4, 1974, which repeals General Order No. 12 and the latter’s amendments and related General Orders inconsistent with the former, redefines the jurisdiction of military tribunals over certain offenses, and estafa, and malversation are not among those enumerated therein. 9 In other words the Military Commission is not vested with jurisdiction over the crime of estafa. 9*

Respondent court therefore gravely erred when it ruled that it lost jurisdiction over the estafa, case against respondent Mariano with the filing of the malversation charge against Mayor Nolasco before the Military Commission. Estafa and Malversation are two separate and distinct offenses and in the case now before Us the accused in one is different from the accused in the other. But more fundamental is the fact that We do not have here a situation involving two tribunals vested with concurrent jurisdiction over a particular crime so as to apply the rule that the court or tribunal which first takes cognizance of the case acquires jurisdiction thereof exclusive of the other. 10 The Military Commission as stated earlier is without power or authority to hear and determine the particular offense charged against respondent Mariano, hence, there is no concurrent jurisdiction between it and respondent court to speak of. Estafa as described in the Information, filed in Criminal Case No. SM-649 falls within the sole exclusive jurisdiction of civil courts.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the appealed Order dated March 14, 1975, is set aside and respondent Judge is directed to proceed with the trial of Criminal Case No. SM-649 without further delay.

SO ORDERED.

Teehankee, Makasiar, Aquino and Martin, JJ.,, concur.

Aquino, J., was designated to sit in the First Division.

Endnotes:



1. This Petition for Review was filed by Asst. Provincial Fiscal Clemente G. Perfecto of the Province of Bulacan. In the Court’s Resolution of July 16, 1975, the Court Resolved to give due course to the Petition, treat the same as a special civil action, granting the parties time within which to file their memoranda. Respondent Mariano did not answer this Petition nor did he file any memorandum. On May 28, 1976, the Solicitor General filed his memorandum supporting this Petition of the Provincial Fiscal of Bulacan.

2 Moody v. Port Clyde Development Co., 102 Me. 365.

3 In re Adoption and Custody of Underwood, 107 S. E. 2d 608, 616, 144 W. Va. 312; Wesley v. Schneckloth, 346 P. 2d 658, 660, 55 Wash. 2d 90; Atwood v. Cox, 55 P. 2d 377, 380; Barrs v. State, 97 S.E. 86, 87; Long Flame Coal Co. v. State Compensation Com’r, 163 S.E. 16, 19; 23A Words & Phrases 136.

4 Chicago Title and Trust Co. v. Brown, 47 L.R.A. 798; In re Taylor, 45 L.R.A. 136; State v. Wakefield, 15 A. 181, 183, 60 Vt. 618.

5 Wabash R. Co. v. Duncan, C.A. Mo., 170 F. 2d 38, 41.

6 Moran, Rules of Court, 1970 Ed., Vol. 1, p. 36.

7 ART 315. Swindling (estafa), — Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


3d. The penalty of arresto mayor, in its maximum period to prision correccional, in its minimum period, if such amount is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000 pesos.

8 L-25354, June 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 1227.

9 Memorandum, pp. 3-4.

9* General Order No. 49 was amended by General Order No. 54, dated October 22, 1975, to include estafa, as among those cognizable by the military tribunals but only when the crime is committed in large scale or by a syndicate.

10. People v. Fernando, L-25942, May 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 867.




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