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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. L-75079 January 26, 1989

SOLEMNIDAD M. BUAYA, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE WENCESLAO M. POLO, Presiding Judge, Branch XIX, Regional Trial)
Court of Manila and the COUNTRY BANKERS INSURANCE CORPORATION, respondents.

Apolinario M. Buaya for petitioner.

Romeo G. Velasquez for respondent Country Bankers Insurance Corporation.

PARAS, J.:

Petitioner, Solemnidad M. Buaya, in the instant petition for certiorari, seeks to annul and set aside
the orders of denial issued by the respondent Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch
XIX on her Motion to Quash/Dismiss and Motion for Reconsideration in Criminal Case No. L-83-
22252 entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Solemnidad M. Buaya." The Motion to Dismiss was
anchored on the following grounds (a) the court has no jurisdiction over the case and (b) the subject
matter is purely civil in nature.

It appears that petitioner was an insurance agent of the private respondent, who was authorized to
transact and underwrite insurance business and collect the corresponding premiums for and in
behalf of the private respondent. Under the terms of the agency agreement, the petitioner is required
to make a periodic report and accounting of her transactions and remit premium collections to the
principal office of private respondent located in the City of Manila. Allegedly, an audit was conducted
on petitioner's account which showed a shortage in the amount of P358,850.72. As a result she was
charged with estafa in Criminal Case No. 83-22252, before the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
Branch XIX with the respondent Hon. Wenceslao Polo as the Presiding Judge. Petitioner filed a
motion to dismiss. which motion was denied by respondent Judge in his Order dated March 26,
1986. The subsequent motion for reconsideration of this order of denial was also denied.

These two Orders of denial are now the subject of the present petition. It is the contention of
petitioner that the Regional trial Court of Manila has no jurisdiction because she is based in Cebu
City and necessarily the funds she allegedly misappropriated were collected in Cebu City.

Petitioner further contends that the subject matter of this case is purely civil in nature because the
fact that private respondent separately filed Civil Case No. 83-14931 involving the same alleged
misappropriated amount is an acceptance that the subject transaction complained of is not proper
for a criminal action.

The respondents on the other hand, call for adherence to the consistent rule that the denial of a
motion to dismiss or to quash, being interlocutory in character, cannot be questioned
by certiorari and it cannot be the subject of appeal until final judgment or order rendered (See. 2,
Rule 41, Rules of Court). the ordinary procedure to be followed in such a case is to enter a Plea, go
to trial and if the decision is adverse, reiterate the issue on appeal from the final judgment
(Newsweek Inc. v. IAC, 142 SCRA 171).

The general rule is correctly stated. But this is subject to certain exceptions the reason is that it
would be unfair to require the defendant or accused to undergo the ordeal and expense of a trial if
the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter or offense or it is not the court of proper venue.

Here, petitioner questions the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court of Manila to take cognizance of
this criminal case for estafa.

It is well-settled that the averments in the complaint or information characterize the crime to be
prosecuted and the court before which it must be tried (Balite v. People, L-21475, Sept. 30,1966
cited in People v. Masilang, 142 SCRA 680).

In Villanueva v. Ortiz, et al . (L-15344, May 30, 1960, 108 Phil, 493) this Court ruled that in order to
determine the jurisdiction of the court in criminal cases, the complaint must be examined for the
purpose of ascertaining whether or not the facts set out therein and the punishment provided for by
law fall within the jurisdiction of the court where the complaint is filed. The jurisdiction of courts in
criminal cases is determined by the allegations of the complaint or information, and not by the
findings the court may make after the trial (People v. Mission, 87 Phil. 641).

The information in the case at reads as follows:

The undersigned accuses Solemnidad Buaya of the crime of estafa, committed as follows:

That during the period 1980 to June 15, 1982, inclusive, in the City of
Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously defraud the Country Bankers Insurance
Corporation represented by Elmer Banez duly organized and earth
under the laws of the Philippine with principal address at 9th floor,
G.R. Antonio Bldg., T.M. Kalaw, Ermita, in said City, in the following
manner, to wit. the said having been authorized to act as insurance
agent of said corporation, among whose duties were to remit
collections due from customers thereat and to account for and turn
over the same to the said Country Bankers Insurance Corporation
represented by Elmer Banez, as soon as possible or immediately
upon demand, collected and received the amount of P368,850.00
representing payments of insurance premiums from customers, but
herein accused, once in possession of said amount, far from
complying with her aforesaid obligation, failed and refused to do so
and with intent to defraud, absconded with the whole amount thereby
misappropriated, misapplied and converted the said amount of
P358,850.00 to her own personal used and benefit, to the damage
and prejudice of said Country Bankers Insurance Corporation in the
amount of P358,850.00 Philippine Currency.

CONTRARY TO LAW. (p. 44, Rollo)

Section 14(a), Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Court provides: In all criminal prosecutions the
action shall be instituted and tried in the court of the municipality or province wherein the offense
was committed or any of the essential elements thereof took place.
The subject information charges petitioner with estafa committed "during the period 1980 to June 15,
1982 inclusive in the City of Manila, Philippines . . . ." (p. 44, Rollo)

Clearly then, from the very allegation of the information the Regional Trial Court of Manila has
jurisdiction.

Besides, the crime of estafa is a continuing or transitory offense which may be prosecuted at the
place where any of the essential elements of the crime took place. One of the essential elements of
estafa is damage or prejudice to the offended party. The private respondent has its principal place of
business and office at Manila. The failure of the petitioner to remit the insurance premiums she
collected allegedly caused damage and prejudice to private respondent in Manila.

Anent petitioners other contention that the subject matter is purely civil in nature, suffice it to state
that evidentiary facts on this point have still to be proved.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit The case is remanded to the Regional
Trial Court of Manila, Branch XIX for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.

Melencio-Herrera, (Chairperson), Padilla, Sarmiento and Regalado JJ., concur.


G.R. No. 158763 March 31, 2006

JOSE C. MIRANDA, ALBERTO P. DALMACIO, and ROMEO B. OCON, Petitioners,


vs.
VIRGILIO M. TULIAO, Respondent.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the 18
December 2002 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 67770 and its 12 June 2003
Resolution denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The dispositive portion of the assailed
decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding public respondent Judge Anastacio D. Anghad to have acted with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the assailed Orders, the
instant petition for certiorari, mandamus and prohibition is hereby GRANTED and GIVEN DUE
COURSE, and it is hereby ordered:

1. The assailed Joint Order dated August 17, 2001, Order dated September 21, 2001, Joint
Order dated October 16, 2001 and Joint Order dated November 14, 2001 dismissing the two
(2) Informations for Murder, all issued by public respondent Judge Anastacio D. Anghad in
Criminal Cases Nos. 36-3523 and 36-3524 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE for
having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction, and another entered UPHOLDING, AFFIRMING[,] and REINSTATING the Order
dated June 25, 2001 and Joint Order dated July 6, 2001 issued by the then acting Presiding
Judge Wilfredo Tumaliuan;

2. Criminal Cases Nos. 36-3523 and 36-3524 are hereby ordered REINSTATED in the
docket of active criminal cases of Branch 36 of the Regional Trial Court of Santiago City,
Isabela; and

3. Public respondent Judge Anastacio D. Anghad is DIRECTED to ISSUE forthwith Warrants


of Arrest for the apprehension of private respondents Jose "Pempe" Miranda, SPO3 Alberto
P. Dalmacio, PO3 Romeo B. Ocon and accused Rodel T. Maderal in said Criminal Cases
Nos. 36-3523 and 36-3524. 2

The factual and procedural antecedents of the case are as follows:

On 8 March 1996, two burnt cadavers were discovered in Purok Nibulan, Ramon, Isabela, which
were later identified as the dead bodies of Vicente Bauzon and Elizer Tuliao, son of private
respondent Virgilio Tuliao who is now under the witness protection program.

Two informations for murder were filed against SPO1 Wilfredo Leao, SPO1 Ferdinand Marzan,
SPO1 Ruben B. Agustin, SPO2 Alexander Micu, SPO2 Rodel Maderal, and SPO4 Emilio Ramirez in
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Santiago City.

The venue was later transferred to Manila. On 22 April 1999, the RTC of Manila convicted all of the
accused and sentenced them to two counts of reclusion perpetua except SPO2 Maderal who was
yet to be arraigned at that time, being at large. The case was appealed to this Court on automatic
review where we, on 9 October 2001, acquitted the accused therein on the ground of reasonable
doubt.

Sometime in September 1999, SPO2 Maderal was arrested. On 27 April 2001, he executed a sworn
confession and identified petitioners Jose C. Miranda, PO3 Romeo B. Ocon, and SPO3 Alberto P.
Dalmacio, a certain Boyet dela Cruz and Amado Doe, as the persons responsible for the deaths of
Vicente Bauzon and Elizer Tuliao.

Respondent Tuliao filed a criminal complaint for murder against petitioners, Boyet dela Cruz, and
Amado Doe, and submitted the sworn confession of SPO2 Maderal. On 25 June 2001, Acting
Presiding Judge Wilfredo Tumaliuan issued warrants of arrest against petitioners and SPO2
Maderal.

On 29 June 2001, petitioners filed an urgent motion to complete preliminary investigation, to


reinvestigate, and to recall and/or quash the warrants of arrest.

In the hearing of the urgent motion on 6 July 2001, Judge Tumaliuan noted the absence of
petitioners and issued a Joint Order denying said urgent motion on the ground that, since the court
did not acquire jurisdiction over their persons, the motion cannot be properly heard by the court. In
the meantime, petitioners appealed the resolution of State Prosecutor Leo T. Reyes to the
Department of Justice.

On 17 August 2001, the new Presiding Judge Anastacio D. Anghad took over the case and issued a
Joint Order reversing the Joint Order of Judge Tumaliuan. Consequently, he ordered the cancellation
of the warrant of arrest issued against petitioner Miranda. He likewise applied this Order to
petitioners Ocon and Dalmacio in an Order dated 21 September 2001. State Prosecutor Leo S.
Reyes and respondent Tuliao moved for the reconsideration of the said Joint Order and prayed for
the inhibition of Judge Anghad, but the motion for reconsideration was denied in a Joint Order dated
16 October 2001 and the prayer for inhibition was denied in a Joint Order dated 22 October 2001.

On 25 October 2001, respondent Tuliao filed a petition for certiorari, mandamus and prohibition with
this Court, with prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order, seeking to enjoin Judge Anghad from
further proceeding with the case, and seeking to nullify the Orders and Joint Orders of Judge
Anghad dated 17 August 2001, 21 September 2001, 16 October 2001, and 22 October 2001.

On 12 November 2001, this Court issued a Resolution resolving to grant the prayer for a temporary
restraining order against Judge Anghad from further proceeding with the criminal cases. Shortly after
the aforesaid resolution, Judge Anghad issued a Joint Order dated 14 November 2001 dismissing
the two Informations for murder against petitioners. On 19 November 2001, this Court took note of
respondents cash bond evidenced by O.R. No. 15924532 dated 15 November 2001, and issued the
temporary restraining order while referring the petition to the Court of Appeals for adjudication on the
merits.

Respondent Tuliao filed with this Court a Motion to Cite Public Respondent in Contempt, alleging
that Judge Anghad "deliberately and willfully committed contempt of court when he issued on 15
November 2001 the Order dated 14 November 2001 dismissing the informations for murder." On 21
November 2001, we referred said motion to the Court of Appeals in view of the previous referral to it
of respondents petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus.

On 18 December 2002, the Court of Appeals rendered the assailed decision granting the petition
and ordering the reinstatement of the criminal cases in the RTC of Santiago City, as well as the
issuance of warrants of arrest against petitioners and SPO2 Maderal. Petitioners moved for a
reconsideration of this Decision, but the same was denied in a Resolution dated 12 June 2003.

Hence, this petition.

The facts of the case being undisputed, petitioners bring forth to this Court the following assignments
of error:

FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

With all due respect, the Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred in reversing and setting aside the
Joint Order of Judge Anastacio D. Anghad dated August 17, 2001, September 21, 2001, October 16,
2001 and November 14, 2001 issued in criminal cases numbered 36-3523 and 36-3524; and, erred
in upholding, affirming and reinstating the Order dated July 6, 2001 issued by then Acting Presiding
Judge Wilfredo Tumaliuan, on the alleged rule that an accused cannot seek any judicial relief if he
does not submit his person to the jurisdiction of the court.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

With all due respect, the Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred in directing the reinstatement of
Criminal Cases No. 36-3523 and 36-3524 in the docket of Active Criminal Cases of Branch 36 of the
Regional Trial Court of Santiago City, Philippines, and in ordering the public respondent to re-issue
the warrants of arrest against herein petitioners.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

Wit all due respect, the Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error in ordering the
reinstatement of Criminal Cases No. 36-3523 and No. 36-3524 in the docket of active criminal cases
of Branch 36 of the regional trial court of Santiago City, Philippines, and in ordering the public
respondent to issue warrants of arrest against herein petitioners, the order of dismissal issued
therein having become final and executory.

Adjudication of a motion to quash a warrant of arrest requires neither jurisdiction over the person of
the accused, nor custody of law over the body of the accused.

The first assignment of error brought forth by the petitioner deals with the Court of Appeals ruling
that:

[A]n accused cannot seek any judicial relief if he does not submit his person to the jurisdiction of the
court. Jurisdiction over the person of the accused may be acquired either through compulsory
process, such as warrant of arrest, or through his voluntary appearance, such as when he
surrenders to the police or to the court. It is only when the court has already acquired jurisdiction
over his person that an accused may invoke the processes of the court (Pete M. Pico vs. Alfonso V.
Combing, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-91-764, November 6, 1992). Thus, an accused must first be placed in
the custody of the law before the court may validly act on his petition for judicial reliefs. 3

Proceeding from this premise, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioners Miranda, Ocon and
Dalmacio cannot seek any judicial relief since they were not yet arrested or otherwise deprived of
their liberty at the time they filed their "Urgent Motion to complete preliminary investigation; to
reinvestigate; to recall and/or quash warrants of arrest." 4
Petitioners counter the finding of the Court of Appeals by arguing that jurisdiction over the person of
the accused is required only in applications for bail. Furthermore, petitioners argue, assuming that
such jurisdiction over their person is required before the court can act on their motion to quash the
warrant for their arrest, such jurisdiction over their person was already acquired by the court by their
filing of the above Urgent Motion.

In arguing that jurisdiction over the person is required only in the adjudication of applications for bail,
petitioners quote Retired Court of Appeals Justice Oscar Herrera:

Except in applications for bail, it is not necessary for the court to first acquire jurisdiction over the
person of the accused to dismiss the case or grant other relief. The outright dismissal of the case
even before the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused is authorized under
Section 6(a), Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Revised Rules on
Summary Procedure (Sec. 12a). In Allado vs. Diokno (232 SCRA 192), the case was dismissed on
motion of the accused for lack of probable cause without the accused having been arrested. In Paul
Roberts vs. Court of Appeals (254 SCRA 307), the Court was ordered to hold the issuance of a
warrant of arrest in abeyance pending review by the Secretary of Justice. And in Lacson vs.
Executive Secretary (301 SCRA 1025), the Court ordered the case transferred from the
Sandiganbayan to the RTC which eventually ordered the dismissal of the case for lack of probable
cause.6

In arguing, on the other hand, that jurisdiction over their person was already acquired by their filing
of the above Urgent Motion, petitioners invoke our pronouncement, through Justice Florenz D.
Regalado, in Santiago v. Vasquez7:

The voluntary appearance of the accused, whereby the court acquires jurisdiction over his person, is
accomplished either by his pleading to the merits (such as by filing a motion to quash or other
pleadings requiring the exercise of the courts jurisdiction thereover, appearing for arraignment,
entering trial) or by filing bail. On the matter of bail, since the same is intended to obtain the
provisional liberty of the accused, as a rule the same cannot be posted before custody of the
accused has been acquired by the judicial authorities either by his arrest or voluntary surrender.

Our pronouncement in Santiago shows a distinction between custody of the law and jurisdiction over
the person. Custody of the law is required before the court can act upon the application for bail, but
is not required for the adjudication of other reliefs sought by the defendant where the mere
application therefor constitutes a waiver of the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the
accused.8 Custody of the law is accomplished either by arrest or voluntary surrender, 9 while
jurisdiction over the person of the accused is acquired upon his arrest or voluntary
appearance. 10 One can be under the custody of the law but not yet subject to the jurisdiction of the
court over his person, such as when a person arrested by virtue of a warrant files a motion before
arraignment to quash the warrant. On the other hand, one can be subject to the jurisdiction of the
court over his person, and yet not be in the custody of the law, such as when an accused escapes
custody after his trial has commenced. 11 Being in the custody of the law signifies restraint on the
person, who is thereby deprived of his own will and liberty, binding him to become obedient to the
will of the law. 12 Custody of the law is literally custody over the body of the accused. It includes, but
is not limited to, detention.

The statement in Pico v. Judge Combong, Jr., 13 cited by the Court of Appeals should not have been
separated from the issue in that case, which is the application for admission to bail of someone not
yet in the custody of the law. The entire paragraph of our pronouncement in Pico reads:
A person applying for admission to bail must be in the custody of the law or otherwise deprived of his
liberty. A person who has not submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court has no right to invoke
the processes of that court. Respondent Judge should have diligently ascertained the whereabouts
of the applicant and that he indeed had jurisdiction over the body of the accused before considering
the application for bail. 13

While we stand by our above pronouncement in Pico insofar as it concerns bail, we clarify that, as a
general rule, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of
the court. 15 As we held in the aforecited case of Santiago, seeking an affirmative relief in court,
whether in civil or criminal proceedings, constitutes voluntary appearance.

Pico deals with an application for bail, where there is the special requirement of the applicant being
in the custody of the law. In Feliciano v. Pasicolan, 16 we held that "[t]he purpose of bail is to secure
ones release and it would be incongruous to grant bail to one who is free. Thus, bail is the security
required and given for the release of a person who is in the custody of law." The rationale behind
this special rule on bail is that it discourages and prevents resort to the former pernicious practice
wherein the accused could just send another in his stead to post his bail, without recognizing the
jurisdiction of the court by his personal appearance therein and compliance with the requirements
therefor. 17

There is, however, an exception to the rule that filing pleadings seeking affirmative relief constitutes
voluntary appearance, and the consequent submission of ones person to the jurisdiction of the
court. This is in the case of pleadings whose prayer is precisely for the avoidance of the jurisdiction
of the court, which only leads to a special appearance. These pleadings are: (1) in civil cases,
motions to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, whether or
not other grounds for dismissal are included; 18 (2) in criminal cases, motions to quash a complaint
on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the accused; and (3) motions to quash a
warrant of arrest. The first two are consequences of the fact that failure to file them would constitute
a waiver of the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the person. The third is a consequence of the fact
that it is the very legality of the court process forcing the submission of the person of the accused
that is the very issue in a motion to quash a warrant of arrest.

To recapitulate what we have discussed so far, in criminal cases, jurisdiction over the person of the
accused is deemed waived by the accused when he files any pleading seeking an affirmative relief,
except in cases when he invokes the special jurisdiction of the court by impugning such jurisdiction
over his person. Therefore, in narrow cases involving special appearances, an accused can invoke
the processes of the court even though there is neither jurisdiction over the person nor custody of
the law. However, if a person invoking the special jurisdiction of the court applies for bail, he must
first submit himself to the custody of the law.

In cases not involving the so-called special appearance, the general rule applies, i.e., the accused is
deemed to have submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court upon seeking affirmative relief.
Notwithstanding this, there is no requirement for him to be in the custody of the law. The following
cases best illustrate this point, where we granted various reliefs to accused who were not in the
custody of the law, but were deemed to have placed their persons under the jurisdiction of the court.
Note that none of these cases involve the application for bail, nor a motion to quash an information
due to lack of jurisdiction over the person, nor a motion to quash a warrant of arrest:

1. In Allado v. Diokno, 19 on the prayer of the accused in a petition for certiorari on the ground of lack
of probable cause, we issued a temporary restraining order enjoining PACC from enforcing the
warrant of arrest and the respondent judge therein from further proceeding with the case and,
instead, to elevate the records to us.
2. In Roberts, Jr. v. Court of Appeals,20 upon the accuseds Motion to Suspend Proceedings and to
Hold in Abeyance Issuance of Warrants of Arrest on the ground that they filed a Petition for Review
with the Department of Justice, we directed respondent judge therein to cease and desist from
further proceeding with the criminal case and to defer the issuance of warrants of arrests against the
accused.

3. In Lacson v. Executive Secretary,21 on the prayer of the accused in a petition for certiorari on the
ground of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Sandiganbayan, we directed the Sandiganbayan to
transfer the criminal cases to the Regional Trial Court even before the issuance of the warrants of
arrest.

We hold that the circumstances forcing us to require custody of the law in applications for bail are
not present in motions to quash the warrant of arrest. If we allow the granting of bail to persons not
in the custody of the law, it is foreseeable that many persons who can afford the bail will remain at
large, and could elude being held to answer for the commission of the offense if ever he is proven
guilty. On the other hand, if we allow the quashal of warrants of arrest to persons not in the custody
of the law, it would be very rare that a person not genuinely entitled to liberty would remain scot-free.
This is because it is the same judge who issued the warrant of arrest who will decide whether or not
he followed the Constitution in his determination of probable cause, and he can easily deny the
motion to quash if he really did find probable cause after personally examining the records of the
case.

Moreover, pursuant to the presumption of regularity of official functions, the warrant continues in
force and effect until it is quashed and therefore can still be enforced on any day and at any time of
the day and night.22Furthermore, the continued absence of the accused can be taken against him in
the determination of probable cause, since flight is indicative of guilt.

In fine, as much as it is incongruous to grant bail to one who is free, it is likewise incongruous to
require one to surrender his freedom before asserting it. Human rights enjoy a higher preference in
the hierarchy of rights than property rights,23 demanding that due process in the deprivation of liberty
must come before its taking and not after.

Quashing a warrant of arrest based on a subsequently filed petition for review with the Secretary of
Justice and based on doubts engendered by the political climate constitutes grave abuse of
discretion.

We nevertheless find grave abuse of discretion in the assailed actions of Judge Anghad. Judge
Anghad seemed a little too eager of dismissing the criminal cases against the petitioners. First, he
quashed the standing warrant of arrest issued by his predecessor because of a subsequently filed
appeal to the Secretary of Justice, and because of his doubts on the existence of probable cause
due to the political climate in the city. Second, after the Secretary of Justice affirmed the prosecutors
resolution, he dismissed the criminal cases on the basis of a decision of this Court in another case
with different accused, doing so two days after this Court resolved to issue a temporary restraining
order against further proceeding with the case.

After Judge Tumaliuan issued warrants for the arrest of petitioners, petitioner Miranda appealed the
assistant prosecutors resolution before the Secretary of Justice. Judge Anghad, shortly after
assuming office, quashed the warrant of arrest on the basis of said appeal. According to Judge
Anghad, "x x x prudence dictates (that) and because of comity, a deferment of the proceedings is but
proper."24
Quashal on this basis is grave abuse of discretion. It is inconceivable to charge Judge Tumaliuan as
lacking in prudence and oblivious to comity when he issued the warrants of arrest against petitioners
just because the petitioners might, in the future, appeal the assistant prosecutors resolution to the
Secretary of Justice. But even if the petition for review was filed before the issuance of the warrants
of arrest, the fact remains that the pendency of a petition for the review of the prosecutors resolution
is not a ground to quash the warrants of arrest.

In Webb v. de Leon,25 we held that the petitioners therein cannot assail as premature the filing of the
information in court against them on the ground that they still have the right to appeal the adverse
resolution of the DOJ Panel to the Secretary of Justice. Similarly, the issuance of warrants of arrest
against petitioners herein should not have been quashed as premature on the same ground.

The other ground invoked by Judge Anghad for the quashal of the warrant of arrest is in order if true:
violation of the Constitution. Hence, Judge Anghad asked and resolved the question:

In these double murder cases, did this Court comply or adhere to the above-quoted constitutional
proscription, which is Sec. 2, Article III Bill of Rights; to Sec. 6(a), Rule 112, Rules of Criminal
Procedure and to the above-cited decisional cases? To this query or issue, after a deep perusal of
the arguments raised, this Court, through [its] regular Presiding Judge, finds merit in the contention
of herein accused-movant, Jose "Pempe" Miranda.26

Judge Anghad is referring to the following provision of the Constitution as having been violated by
Judge Tumaliuan:

Sec. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against
unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and
no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the
witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or
things to be seized.27

However, after a careful scrutiny of the records of the case, including the supporting evidence to the
resolution of the prosecutor in his determination of probable cause, we find that Judge Anghad
gravely abused his discretion.

According to petitioners:

In this case, the nullity of the order of Judge Tumaliuan, for the arrest of the petitioners is apparent
from the face of the order itself, which clearly stated that the determination of probable cause was
based on the certification, under oath, of the fiscal and not on a separate determination personally
made by the Judge. No presumption of regularity could be drawn from the order since it expressly
and clearly showed that it was based only on the fiscals certification. 28

Petitioners claim is untrue. Judge Tumaliuans Joint Order contains no such indication that he relied
solely on the prosecutors certification. The Joint Order even indicated the contrary:

Upon receipt of the information and resolution of the prosecutor, the Court proceeded to determine
the existence of a probable cause by personally evaluating the records x x x.[29]
The records of the case show that the prosecutors certification was accompanied by supporting
documents, following the requirement under Lim, Sr. v. Felix 30 and People v. Inting.31 The supporting
documents are the following:

1. Resolution dated 21 June 2001 of State Prosecutor Leo S. Reyes;

2. Affidavit dated 22 May 2001 of Modesto Gutierrez;

3. Affidavit dated 19 May 2001 of Romeo B. Ocon;

4. Joint Counter Affidavit dated 23 May 2001 of Mayor Jose C. Miranda and Reynaldo de la
Cruz;

5. Affidavit dated 19 May 2001 of Alberto Dalmacio;

6. Decision dated 22 April 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 41 in Criminal
Case No. 97-160355;

7. Sworn statement dated 27 April 2001 of Rodel Maderal;

8. Information dated 22 June 2001;

9. Affidavit-complaint of Virgilio Tuliao; and

10. Medico-legal Reports of the cadavers of Elezer Tuliao and Vicente Buazon.

Hence, procedurally, we can conclude that there was no violation on the part of Judge Tumaliuan of
Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution. Judge Anghad, however, focused on the substantive part of
said section, i.e., the existence of probable cause. In failing to find probable cause, Judge Anghad
ruled that the confession of SPO2 Maderal is incredible for the following reasons: (1) it was given
after almost two years in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation; (2) it was given by
someone who rendered himself untrustworthy for being a fugitive for five years; (3) it was given in
exchange for an obvious reward of discharge from the information; and (4) it was given during the
election period amidst a "politically charged scenario where "Santiago City voters were pitted against
each other along the lines of the Miranda camp on one side and former City Mayor Amelita S.
Navarro, and allegedly that of DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez on the other." 32

We painstakingly went through the records of the case and found no reason to disturb the findings of
probable cause of Judge Tumaliuan.

It is important to note that an exhaustive debate on the credibility of a witness is not within the
province of the determination of probable cause. As we held in Webb 33:

A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not a crime
has been committed and was committed by the suspects. Probable cause need not be based on
clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable
doubt and definitely, not on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt. As well put in Brinegar v.
United States, while probable cause demands more than "bare suspicion," it requires "less than
evidence which would justify x x x conviction." A finding of probable cause merely binds over the
suspect to stand trial. It is not a pronouncement of guilt.
x x x Probable cause merely implies probability of guilt and should be determined in a summary
manner. Preliminary investigation is not a part of trial x x x.

Dismissing a criminal case on the basis of a decision of this Court in another case with different
accused constitutes grave abuse of discretion.

Judge Anghad had quashed the warrant of arrest on the ground, among other things, that there was
a petition for review of the assistant prosecutors resolution before the Secretary of Justice.
However, after the Secretary of Justice affirmed the prosecutors resolution, Judge Anghad
summarily dismissed the two criminal cases against the petitioners on the basis of the following
explanation:

Rodel Maderal was one of the accused in People vs. Wilfredo Leano, et al., RTC, Branch 41, Manila,
and based from his sworn statements, he pinpointed to Mr. Miranda the mastermind and with him
and the other police officers as the direct perpetrators, the October 9, 2001 Decision of the Supreme
Court absolving the five cops of murder, certainly makes his sworn Statements a "narration of
falsehood and lies" and that because of the decision acquitting said officers "who were likewise
falsely linked by said Rodel Maderal in his April 27, 2001 statements, it is now beyond doubt that
Rodel Maderal made untruthful, fabricated and perjured statements and therefore the same is
without probable value." This Court agrees with the defenses views. Indeed, of what use is
Maderals statements when the Supreme Court rejected the prosecutions evidence presented and
adduced in Criminal Case No. 97-160355. Rodel Maderal is supposed to turn state witness in these
two (2) cases but with the Supreme Court decision adverted to, the probative value of his statements
is practically nil.

xxxx

This Court finds merit to the manifestation of the accused Miranda dated October 18, 2001, praying
for the summary dismissal of the two (2) murder charges in view of the latest decision of the
Supreme Court in People of the Philippines vs. Wilfredo Leao, et al., G.R. No. 13886, acquitting the
accused therein and in effect disregarding all the evidence presented by the prosecution in that
case. Accordingly, the two (2) informations [for] murder filed against Jose Miranda are ordered
dismissed.34

This is a clear case of abuse of discretion. Judge Anghad had no right to twist our decision and
interpret it to the discredit of SPO2 Maderal, who was still at large when the evidence of the
prosecution in the Leao case was presented. A decision, even of this Court, acquitting the accused
therein of a crime cannot be the basis of the dismissal of criminal case against different accused for
the same crime. The blunder of Judge Anghad is even more pronounced by the fact that our
decision in Leao was based on reasonable doubt. We never ruled in Leao that the crime did not
happen; we just found that there was reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused therein, since
the prosecution in that case relied on circumstantial evidence, which interestingly is not even the
situation in the criminal cases of the petitioners in the case at bar as there is here an eyewitness:
Rodel Maderal. The accused in Leao furthermore had no motive to kill respondent Tuliaos son,
whereas petitioners herein had been implicated in the testimony of respondent Tuliao before the
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

It is preposterous to conclude that because of our finding of reasonable doubt in Leao, "it is now
beyond doubt that Rodel Maderal made untruthful, fabricated and perjured statements and therefore
the same is without probable value." 35 On the contrary, if we are to permit the use of our decision in
Leao, an acquittal on the ground of reasonable doubt actually points to the probability of the
prosecutions version of the facts therein. Such probability of guilt certainly meets the criteria of
probable cause.

We cannot let unnoticed, too, Judge Anghads dismissal of the informations two days after we
resolved to issue, upon the filing of a bond, a temporary restraining order prohibiting him from further
proceeding with the case. The bond was filed the day after the informations were dismissed. While
the dismissal of the case was able to beat the effectivity date of the temporary restraining order, such
abrupt dismissal of the informations (days after this Courts resolve to issue a TRO against Judge
Anghad) creates wild suspicions about the motives of Judge Anghad.

Nullification of a proceeding necessarily carries with it the reinstatement of the orders set aside by
the nullified proceeding.

In their second assignment of error, petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals did not recall or
reinstate the warrants of arrest issued by Judge Tumaliuan, but instead directed Judge Anghad to
issue apparently new warrants of arrest.36 According to the petitioners, it was an error for the Court of
Appeals to have done so, without a personal determination of probable cause.

We disagree. Whether the Court of Appeals ordered the issuance of new warrants of arrest or
merely ordered the reinstatement of the warrants of arrest issued by Judge Tumaliuan is merely a
matter of scrupulous semantics, the slight inaccuracy whereof should not be allowed to affect the
dispositions on the merits, especially in this case where the other dispositions of the Court of
Appeals point to the other direction. Firstly, the Court of Appeals had reinstated the 25 June 2001
Order of Judge Tumaliuan,37 which issued the warrants of arrest. Secondly, the Court of Appeals
likewise declared the proceedings conducted by Judge Anghad void. Certainly, the declaration of
nullity of proceedings should be deemed to carry with it the reinstatement of the orders set aside by
the nullified proceedings. Judge Anghads order quashing the warrants of arrest had been nullified;
therefore those warrants of arrest are henceforth deemed unquashed.

Even if, however, the Court of Appeals had directed the issuance of new warrants of arrest based on
a determination of probable cause, it would have been legally permissible for them to do so. The
records of the preliminary investigation had been available to the Court of Appeals, and are also
available to this Court, allowing both the Court of Appeals and this Court to personally examine the
records of the case and not merely rely on the certification of the prosecutor. As we have ruled in
Allado v. Diokno and Roberts v. Court of Appeals, the determination of probable cause does not rest
on a subjective criteria. As we had resolved in those cases to overrule the finding of probable cause
of the judges therein on the ground of grave abuse of discretion, in the same vein, we can also
overrule the decision of a judge reversing a finding of probable cause, also on the ground of grave
abuse of discretion.

There is no double jeopardy in the reinstatement of a criminal case dismissed before arraignment

In their third assignment of error, petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals committed a reversible
error in ordering the reinstatement of Criminal Cases No. 36-3523 and No. 36-3524, alleging that the
order of dismissal issued therein had become final and executory. According to petitioners:

It is also worthy to point out at this juncture that the Joint Order of Judge Anghad dated November
14, 2001 is NOT ONE of those Orders which were assailed in the private respondent Tuliaos
Petition for Certiorari, Mandamus and Prohibition filed by the private respondent before the Court of
Appeals. As carefully enumerated in the first page of the assailed Decision, only the following Orders
issued by Judge Anghad were questioned by private respondent, to wit:
1.) Joint Order dated August 17, 2001;

2.) Order dated September 21, 2001;

3.) Joint Order dated October 16, 2001; and

4.) Joint Order dated October 22, 2001.

Obviously, the Joint Order dated November 14, 2001 of Judge Anghad, which ultimately dismissed
Criminal Cases Nos. 36-3523 AND 36-3524 is NOT included in the list of the assailed Order/Joint
Orders. Hence, the Court of Appeals should not have passed upon the validity or nullity of the Joint
Order of November 14, 2001.38

Petitioners must have forgotten that respondent Tuliaos Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and
Mandamus was filed not with the Court of Appeals, but with this Court. The Court of Appeals decided
the case because we referred the same to them in our 19 November 2001 Resolution. Such petition
was filed on 25 October 2001, around three weeks before the 14 November 2001 Order. Upon
receipt of the 14 November 2001 Order, however, respondent Tuliao lost no time in filing with this
Court a Motion to Cite Public Respondent in Contempt, alleging that Judge Anghad "deliberately and
willfully committed contempt of court when he issued on 15 November 2001 the Order dated 14
November 2001 dismissing the informations for murder." On 21 November 2001, we referred said
motion to the Court of Appeals, in view of the previous referral of respondent Tuliaos petition for
certiorari, prohibition and mandamus.

Our referral to the Court of Appeals of the Motion to Cite Public Repondent in Contempt places the
14 November 2001 Order within the issues of the case decided by the Court of Appeals. In claiming
that Judge Anghad committed contempt of this Court in issuing the 14 November 2001 Order,
respondent Tuliao had ascribed to Judge Anghad an act much more serious than grave abuse of
discretion.

Respondent Tuliao claims that Judge Anghad issued the 14 November 2001 Order on 15 November
2001, antedating it so as to avoid the effects of our 12 November 2001 Resolution. In said 12
November 2001 Resolution, we resolved to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining Judge
Anghad from further proceeding with the criminal cases upon the respondent Tuliaos filing of a bond
in the amount of P20,000.00. Respondent Tuliao had filed the bond on 15 November 2005.

While we cannot immediately pronounce Judge Anghad in contempt, seeing as disobedience to


lawful orders of a court and abuse of court processes are cases of indirect contempt which require
the granting of opportunity to be heard on the part of respondent, 39 the prayer to cite public
respondent in contempt and for other reliefs just and equitable under the premises should be
construed to include a prayer for the nullification of said 14 November 2001 Order.

In any case, the reinstatement of a criminal case dismissed before arraignment does not constitute
double jeopardy. Double jeopardy cannot be invoked where the accused has not been arraigned and
it was upon his express motion that the case was dismissed. 40

As to respondent Tuliaos prayer (in both the original petition for certiorari as well as in his motion to
cite for contempt) to disqualify Judge Anghad from further proceeding with the case, we hold that the
number of instances of abuse of discretion in this case are enough to convince us of an apparent
bias on the part of Judge Anghad. We further resolve to follow the case of People v. SPO1
Leao,41 by transferring the venue of Criminal Cases No. 36-3523 and No. 36-3524 to the City of
Manila, pursuant to Article VIII, Section 4, of the Constitution.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated 18 December 2002 and the Resolution
dated 12 June 2003 of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED, with the modification that
Criminal Cases No. 36-3523 and No. 36-3524 be transferred to and raffled in the Regional Trial
Court of the City of Manila. In this connection,

1) Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Executive Judge of the RTC of the City of
Santiago, Isabela, who is directed to effect the transfer of the cases within ten (10) days after
receipt hereof;

2) The Executive Judge of the RTC of the City of Santiago, Isabela, is likewise directed to
report to this Court compliance hereto within ten (10) days from transfer of these cases;

3) The Executive Judge of the City of Manila shall proceed to raffle the criminal cases within
ten (10) days from the transfer;

4) The Executive Judge of the City of Manila is likewise directed to report to this Court
compliance with the order to raffle within ten (10) days from said compliance; and

5) The RTC Judge to whom the criminal cases are raffled is directed to act on said cases
with reasonable dispatch.

6) Finally, Judge Anastacio D. Anghad is directed to issue forthwith warrants of arrest for the
apprehension of petitioners Jose C. Miranda, Alberto P. Dalmacio, Romeo B. Ocon, and
accused Rodel T. Maderal, conformably with the decision of the Court of Appeals dated 18
December 2002.

The Temporary Restraining Order issued by this Court dated 4 August 2003 is hereby LIFTED. Costs
against Petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

ISIDRO PABLITO M. PALANA, G.R. No. 149995


Petitioner,
Present:
Ynares-Santiago, J. (Chairperson),
- versus - Austria-Martinez,
Chico-Nazario,
Nachura, and
Reyes, JJ.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent. Promulgated:

September 28, 2007

x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

For review is the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.


21879 dated September 17, 2001,[1] affirming the September 23, 1997 Decision of
the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 63, in Criminal Case No. 91-5617
convicting petitioner Isidro Pablito Palana with violation of Batas Pambansa (B.P.)
Blg. 22 otherwise known as the Bouncing Checks Law.

On August 19, 1991, petitioner was charged with violation of B.P. Blg. 22 in
an Information which reads as follows:

That on or about September 1987, in the Municipality of Makati, Metro


Manila, Philippines, a place within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and knowingly
make or draw and issue to Alex B. Carlos to apply on account or for the value the
check described below:

Check No. : 326317PR


Drawn Against : Asian Savings Bank
Paseo de Roxas Branch
In the amount of : P590,000.00
Postdated : February 15, 1988
Payable to : Dr. Alex B. Carlos

said accused well knowing that at the time of issue, he did not have sufficient
funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment in full of the face amount
of such check when presented for payment within (90) days from the date thereof,
was subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for the reason Drawn Against
Insufficient Funds and despite receipt of notice of such dishonor, the accused
failed to pay said payee the face amount of said check or make arrangement for
full payment within five (5) banking days after receiving notice.[2]

On January 30, 1992, the case was archived due to petitioners non-
apprehension despite the issuance of a warrant for his arrest. [3] On June 27, 1995,
the warrant of arrest was recalled and set aside[4] after petitioner posted the required
bail. He was arraigned on July 25, 1995 when he pleaded not guilty to the offense
charged.[5]

Private complainant Alex B. Carlos testified that sometime in September


1987, petitioner and his wife borrowed money from him in the amount
of P590,000.00. To secure the payment of the loan, petitioner issued a postdated
check for the same amount in favor of the complainant. [6] However, when the
check was presented for payment, it was dishonored by the bank for insufficiency
of funds. Subsequent demand notwithstanding, petitioner failed to make good the
said dishonored check.[7]

Petitioner alleged that the amounts given to him by private complainant was an
investment by the latter who was his business partner. He argued that the subject
check was not issued in September 1987 to guarantee the payment of a loan since
his checking account was opened only on December 1, 1987.[8] He claimed that
private complainant cajoled him to issue a check in his favor allegedly to be shown
to a textile supplier who would provide the partnership with the necessary raw
materials. Petitioner alleged that when the check was issued sometime in February
1988,[9] complainant knew that the same was not funded.[10]
After trial on the merits, the Regional Trial Court rendered on September 23,
1997 a Decision[11] finding petitioner guilty as charged, the dispositive portion of
which reads:

Wherefore, this court finds the accused Isidro Pablito M. Palana guilty as
charged and sentences him to a prison term of Six (6) months and to indemnify
the private complainant the sum of P590,000.00 plus legal interest from filing of
this case until full payment.

SO ORDERED.

Petitioner appealed but it was dismissed by the Court of Appeals which affirmed
the trial courts decision in toto.[12]

Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the check was issued
as a guaranty for the loan, thereby rejecting petitioners investment theory. In ruling
against the existence of a partnership between them, the trial court noted that the
so-called partnership venture, Palanas General Merchandising, was registered
on December 1, 1987 only in the name of petitioner.[13] The Court of Appeals also
held that the act of lending money does not necessarily amount to an investment of
capital.
Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues:

I.

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE FINDING OF THE


LOWER COURT DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE OF THE ACCUSED
THAT THE ISSUANCE OF THE SUBJECT ASIAN BANK CHECK, WAS NOT
FOR A CONSIDERATION OR FOR VALUE, AS THE ACCUSED WAS ONLY
TRICKED BY THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT TO ISSUE THE SAID CHECK
AS A MEANS OF BINDING THE ACCUSED TO RETURN HIS
INVESTMENT IN THE PARTNERSHIP WHICH WAS THEN SUFFERING
FROM BUSINESS REVERSALS.

II.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE FINDINGS OF THE
LOWER COURT THAT THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT HAS
JURISDICTION OVER THE CASE, DESPITE THE FACT THAT AT THE
TIME THE ACCUSED WAS ARRAIGNED ON JULY 25, 1995 R.A. 7691
EXPANDING THE JURISDICTION OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL
COURT WAS ALREADY IN EFFECT.[14]
The issues to be resolved are: 1) whether petitioner was guilty of violation of B.P.
Blg. 22; and 2) whether the Regional Trial Court has jurisdiction over the case.

Petitioners argument that it is the Metropolitan Trial Court and not the
Regional Trial Court which has jurisdiction over the case pursuant to R.A. 7691 is
without merit.

It is hornbook doctrine that jurisdiction to try a criminal action is determined


by the law in force at the time of the institution of the action[15] and not during the
arraignment of the accused. The Information charging petitioner with violation of
B.P. Blg. 22 was filed on August 19, 1991. At that time, the governing law
determinative of jurisdiction is B.P. Blg. 129[16] which provides:

Sec. 20. Jurisdiction in criminal cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
exclusive original jurisdiction in all criminal cases not within the exclusive
jurisdiction of any court, tribunal or body, except those now falling under the
exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan which shall hereafter
be exclusively taken cognizance by the latter.

xxxx

Sec. 32. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Criminal Cases. Except in cases falling within
the exclusive original jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts and the
Sandiganbayan, the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

xxxx

(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over all offenses punishable


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

Violation of B.P. Blg. 22 is punishable with imprisonment of not less than 30


days but not more than one year or by a fine of not less than but not more than
double the amount of the check which fine shall in no case exceed P200,000.00, or
both fine and imprisonment[17] at the discretion of the court. In the present case, the
fine imposable is P200,000.00 hence, the Regional Trial Court properly acquired
jurisdiction over the case.[18] The Metropolitan Trial Court could not acquire
jurisdiction over the criminal action because its jurisdiction is only for offenses
punishable with a fine of not more than P4,000.00.

The subsequent amendment of B.P. 129 by R.A. No. 7691, An Act


Expanding the Jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Courts, Municipal Circuit Trial
Courts and the Metropolitan Trial Court[19]on June 15, 1994 cannot divest the
Regional Trial Court of jurisdiction over petitioners case. Where a court has
already obtained and is exercising jurisdiction over a controversy, its jurisdiction to
proceed to the final determination of the cause is not affected by new legislation
placing jurisdiction over such proceedings in another tribunal unless the statute
expressly provides, or is construed to the effect that it is intended to operate on
actions pending before its enactment. Indeed, R.A. No. 7691 contains retroactive
provisions. However, these only apply to civil cases that have not yet reached the
pre-trial stage. Neither from an express proviso nor by implication can it be
construed that R.A. No. 7691 has retroactive application to criminal cases pending
or decided by the Regional Trial Courts prior to its effectivity. [20] The jurisdiction
of the RTC over the case attached upon the commencement of the action by the
filing of the Information and could not be ousted by the passage of R.A. No. 7691
reapportioning the jurisdiction of inferior courts, the application of which to
criminal cases is prospective in nature.[21]

After a careful review of the records, this Court sustains petitioners


conviction for violation of B.P. Blg. 22. The elements of the offense penalized
under B.P. Blg. 22 are as follows: (1) the accused makes, draws, or issues any
check to apply on account or for value; (2) the accused knows at the time of issue
that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the
payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and (3) the check is
subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or
would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any
valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment.

Each element of the offense was duly proven by the prosecution. Petitioner
admitted that at the time he issued the subject check, he knew that he does not have
sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for payment of such
check. Consequently, when the check was presented for payment, it was
dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds. Thereafter, he received
demand letters to pay the amount of the check from private complainant but he did
not comply with it.[22]
In ruling that the amount of the check was for consideration or value, both
the trial court and the Court of Appeals upheld private complainants claim that the
check was issued as a guaranty for the loan and rejected petitioners investment
theory. The issue as to whether the amount of the subject check represents the
amount of the money loaned by private complainant to petitioner or as an
investment in the alleged partnership is a factual question involving the credibility
of witnesses. Where the issue is one of credibility, the appellate court will not
generally disturb the findings of the lower court considering that it is in a better
position to settle that issue since it had the advantage of hearing the witnesses and
observing their conduct during the trial, which circumstances carry great weight in
assessing their credibility. In the present case, we see no reason to reverse the
finding of the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals that the amount of the
subject check was a loan and not an investment.[23]

Upon issuance of a check, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is


presumed that the same was issued for valuable consideration, which may consist
either in some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the party who makes the
contract, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or some responsibility, to act, or
labor, or service given, suffered or undertaken by the other side. Since it was
established that petitioner received money from private complainant in various
amounts,[24] petitioner cannot now claim that the checks were not issued for value.
[25]

The allegation that the check was intended to be shown to potential suppliers
is not a valid defense. In Cueme v. People,[26] the Court held thus:

The allegation of petitioner that the checks were merely intended to be


shown to prospective investors of her corporation is, to say the least, not a
defense. The gravamen of the offense punished under B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of
making or issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon its
presentment for payment. The law has made the mere act of issuing a bad check
malum prohibitum, an act proscribed by the legislature for being deemed
pernicious and inimical to public welfare. Considering the rule in mala
prohibita cases, the only inquiry is whether the law has been breached. Criminal
intent becomes unnecessary where the acts are prohibited for reasons of public
policy, and the defenses of good faith and absence of criminal intent are
unavailing.

The checks issued, even assuming they were not intended to be encashed
or deposited in a bank, produce the same effect as ordinary checks. What the law
punishes is the issuance of a rubber check itself and not the purpose for which the
check was issued nor the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. This is not
without good reasons. To determine the purpose as well as the terms and
conditions for which checks are issued will greatly erode the faith the public
reposes in the stability and commercial value of checks as currency substitutes,
and bring about havoc in the trading and banking communities. Besides, the law
does not make any distinction as to the kind of checks which are the subject of its
provisions, hence, no such distinction can be made by means of interpretation or
application. What is important is the fact that petitioner deliberately issued the
checks in question and those checks were dishonored upon presentment for
payment.
Hence, the agreement surrounding the issuance of a check is irrelevant to the
prosecution and conviction of the petitioner.[27]

The alleged inconsistency in the date of issuance of the subject check is


likewise immaterial. Issuance, as defined under the Negotiable Instruments Law, is
the first delivery of the check.[28] In the case at bar, the Information alleged that the
check was postdated February 15, 1988 although issued in or about September
1987. During trial, petitioner testified that the Checking Account was opened only
on December 1, 1987 and that the check was issued sometime in February 1988.

The rule is that a variance between the allegation in the information and
proof adduced during trial shall be fatal to the criminal case if it is material and
prejudicial to the accused so much so that it affects his substantial rights. [29] In a
prosecution for violation of B.P. 22, the time of the issuance of the subject check is
material since it forms part of the second element of the offense that at the time of
its issuance, petitioner knew of the insufficiency of funds. However, it cannot be
said that petitioner was prejudiced by such variance nor was surprised by
it. Records show that petitioner knew at the time he issued the check that he does
not have sufficient funds in the bank to cover the amount of the check. Yet, he
proceeded to issue the same claiming that the same would only be shown to
prospective suppliers, a defense which is not valid.

Moreover, there is no merit in petitioners allegation that private complainant knew


that the check is not funded. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found
that the subject check was issued as guaranty for payment of the loan hence, was
intended to apply for account or for value. As such, it was incumbent upon
petitioner to see to it that the check is duly covered when presented for payment.

Pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 12-2000, as clarified


by Administrative Circular No. 13-2001, the alternative penalty of fine may be
imposed in lieu of imprisonment considering that the prosecution failed to prove or
allege that petitioner is not a first-time offender.[30] Hence, in lieu of imprisonment,
a fine of P200,000.00 shall be imposed upon petitioner.[31]
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
CR No. 21879 dated September 17, 2001, finding petitioner ISIDRO PABLITO M.
PALANA guilty of violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. Petitioner is ordered to pay private complainant the amount
of P590,000.00, representing the value of the check, with six (6%) percent interest
from date of filing of the Information until the finality of the decision, the amount
of which, inclusive of the interest, is subject to twelve percent (12%) interest, from
finality of the decision until fully paid. In lieu of imprisonment, petitioner is
ordered to pay a fine of P200,000.00.
FIRST DIVISION

IRENE SANTE AND REYNALDO


SANTE, G.R. No. 173915

Petitioners,
Present:

- versus - PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,


CARPIO MORALES,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

HON. EDILBERTO T. CLARAVALL, in his BERSAMIN, and


capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.
60, Regional Trial Court of Baguio City,
and VITA N. KALASHIAN,
Promulgated:

Respondents.
February 22, 2010
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before this Court is a petition for certiorari[1] under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure, as amended, filed by petitioners Irene and Reynaldo Sante assailing
the Decision[2] dated January 31, 2006 and the Resolution[3] dated June 23, 2006 of
the Seventeenth Division of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 87563. The
assailed decision affirmed the orders of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Baguio
City, Branch 60, denying their motion to dismiss the complaint for damages filed by
respondent Vita Kalashian against them.

The facts, culled from the records, are as follows:

On April 5, 2004, respondent filed before the RTC of Baguio City a complaint for
damages[4] against petitioners. In her complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 5794-
R, respondent alleged that while she was inside the Police Station of Natividad,
Pangasinan, and in the presence of other persons and police officers, petitioner
Irene Sante uttered words, which when translated in English are as follows, How
many rounds of sex did you have last night with your boss, Bert? You fuckin
bitch! Bert refers to Albert Gacusan, respondents friend and one (1) of her hired
personal security guards detained at the said station and who is a suspect in the
killing of petitioners close relative. Petitioners also allegedly went around
Natividad, Pangasinan telling people that she is protecting and cuddling the
suspects in the aforesaid killing. Thus, respondent prayed that petitioners be held
liable to pay moral damages in the amount of P300,000.00; P50,000.00 as
exemplary damages; P50,000.00 attorneys fees; P20,000.00 litigation expenses;
and costs of suit.

Petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss [5] on the ground that it was the Municipal
Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) and not the RTC of Baguio, that had jurisdiction over
the case. They argued that the amount of the claim for moral damages was not
more than the jurisdictional amount of P300,000.00, because the claim for
exemplary damages should be excluded in computing the total claim.

On June 24, 2004,[6] the trial court denied the motion to dismiss citing our ruling
in Movers-Baseco Integrated Port Services, Inc. v. Cyborg Leasing Corporation.
[7]
The trial court held that the total claim of respondent amounted to P420,000.00
which was above the jurisdictional amount for MTCCs outside Metro Manila. The
trial court also later issued Orders on July 7, 2004 [8] and July 19, 2004,
[9]
respectively reiterating its denial of the motion to dismiss and denying
petitioners motion for reconsideration.
Aggrieved, petitioners filed on August 2, 2004, a Petition for Certiorari and
Prohibition,[10] docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 85465, before the Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, on July 14, 2004, respondent and her husband filed an Amended
Complaint[11] increasing the claim for moral damages from P300,000.00
to P1,000,000.00. Petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss with Answer Ad
Cautelam and Counterclaim, but the trial court denied their motion in an
Order[12] dated September 17, 2004.

Hence, petitioners again filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition[13] before the
Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 87563, claiming that the trial court
committed grave abuse of discretion in allowing the amendment of the complaint
to increase the amount of moral damages from P300,000.00 to P1,000,000.00.
The case was raffled to the Seventeenth Division of the Court of Appeals.

On January 23, 2006, the Court of Appeals, Seventh Division, promulgated a


decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 85465, as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding grave abuse of discretion on the part of [the]


Regional Trial Court of Baguio, Branch 60, in rendering the assailed
Orders dated June 24, 2004 and July [19], 2004 in Civil Case No. 5794-R
the instant petition for certiorari is GRANTED. The assailed Orders are
hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Civil Case No. 5794-R for damages is
ordered DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction.

SO ORDERED.[14]

The Court of Appeals held that the case clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the
MTCC as the allegations show that plaintiff was seeking to recover moral damages in
the amount of P300,000.00, which amount was well within the jurisdictional amount
of the MTCC. The Court of Appeals added that the totality of claim rule used for
determining which court had jurisdiction could not be applied to the instant case
because plaintiffs claim for exemplary damages was not a separate and distinct cause
of action from her claim of moral damages, but merely incidental to it. Thus, the
prayer for exemplary damages should be excluded in computing the total amount of
the claim.
On January 31, 2006, the Court of Appeals, this time in CA-G.R. SP No. 87563,
rendered a decision affirming the September 17, 2004 Order of the RTC denying
petitioners Motion to Dismiss Ad Cautelam. In the said decision, the appellate
court held that the total or aggregate amount demanded in the complaint
constitutes the basis of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals did not find merit in
petitioners posture that the claims for exemplary damages and attorneys fees are
merely incidental to the main cause and should not be included in the
computation of the total claim.

The Court of Appeals additionally ruled that respondent can amend her complaint
by increasing the amount of moral damages from P300,000.00 to P1,000,000.00,
on the ground that the trial court has jurisdiction over the original complaint and
respondent is entitled to amend her complaint as a matter of right under the
Rules.

Unable to accept the decision, petitioners are now before us raising the following
issues:
I.

WHETHER OR NOT THERE WAS GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION


AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION ON THE PART OF
THE (FORMER) SEVENTEENTH DIVISION OF THE HONORABLE COURT OF
APPEALS WHEN IT RESOLVED THAT THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF
BAGUIO CITY BRANCH 60 HAS JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT
MATTER OF THE CASE FOR DAMAGES AMOUNTING TO P300,000.00;

II.

WHETHER OR NOT THERE WAS GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION ON THE


PART OF THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE OF THE REGIONAL
TRIAL COURT OF BAGUIO BRANCH 60 FOR ALLOWING THE
COMPLAINANT TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT (INCREASING THE
AMOUNT OF DAMAGES TO 1,000,000.00 TO CONFER JURISDICTION
OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CASE DESPITE THE PENDENCY OF A
PETITION FOR CERTIORARI FILED AT THE COURT OF APPEALS, SEVENTH
DIVISION, DOCKETED AS CA G.R. NO. 85465.[15]
In essence, the basic issues for our resolution are:
1) Did the RTC acquire jurisdiction over the case? and
2) Did the RTC commit grave abuse of discretion in allowing the
amendment of the complaint?

Petitioners insist that the complaint falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the
MTCC. They maintain that the claim for moral damages, in the amount
of P300,000.00 in the original complaint, is the main action. The exemplary
damages being discretionary should not be included in the computation of the
jurisdictional amount. And having no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
case, the RTC acted with grave abuse of discretion when it allowed the
amendment of the complaint to increase the claim for moral damages in order to
confer jurisdiction.

In her Comment,[16] respondent averred that the nature of her complaint is for
recovery of damages. As such, the totality of the claim for damages, including the
exemplary damages as well as the other damages alleged and prayed in the
complaint, such as attorneys fees and litigation expenses, should be included in
determining jurisdiction. The total claim being P420,000.00, the RTC has
jurisdiction over the complaint.

We deny the petition, which although denominated as a petition for certiorari, we


treat as a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 in view of the issues
raised.

Section 19(8) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129,[17] as amended by Republic Act No.
7691,[18] states:
SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional Trial Courts shall exercise
exclusive original jurisdiction:

xxxx

(8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest,


damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses, and costs
or the value of the property in controversy exceeds One hundred
thousand pesos (P100,000.00) or, in such other cases in Metro Manila,
where the demand, exclusive of the abovementioned items exceeds
Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00).

Section 5 of Rep. Act No. 7691 further provides:

SEC. 5. After five (5) years from the effectivity of this Act, the jurisdictional

amounts mentioned in Sec. 19(3), (4), and (8); and Sec. 33(1) of Batas Pambansa

Blg. 129 as amended by this Act, shall be adjusted to Two hundred thousand

pesos (P200,000.00). Five (5) years thereafter, such jurisdictional amounts shall

be adjusted further to Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00): Provided,

however, That in the case of Metro Manila, the abovementioned jurisdictional

amounts shall be adjusted after five (5) years from the effectivity of this Act to

Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00).

Relatedly, Supreme Court Circular No. 21-99 was issued declaring that the first
adjustment in jurisdictional amount of first level courts outside of Metro Manila
from P100,000.00 to P200,000.00 took effect on March 20, 1999. Meanwhile, the
second adjustment from P200,000.00 to P300,000.00 became effective on February
22, 2004 in accordance with OCA Circular No. 65-2004 issued by the Office of the
Court Administrator on May 13, 2004.

Based on the foregoing, there is no question that at the time of the filing of the
complaint on April 5, 2004, the MTCCs jurisdictional amount has been adjusted
to P300,000.00.

But where damages is the main cause of action, should the amount of moral
damages prayed for in the complaint be the sole basis for determining which court
has jurisdiction or should the total amount of all the damages claimed regardless of
kind and nature, such as exemplary damages, nominal damages, and attorneys
fees, etc., be used?

In this regard, Administrative Circular No. 09-94[19] is instructive:

xxxx

2. The exclusion of the term damages of whatever kind in determining the

jurisdictional amount under Section 19 (8) and Section 33 (1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as

amended by R.A. No. 7691, applies to cases where the damages are merely

incidental to or a consequence of the main cause of action. However, in cases

where the claim for damages is the main cause of action, or one of the causes

of action, the amount of such claim shall be considered in determining the

jurisdiction of the court. (Emphasis ours.)

In the instant case, the complaint filed in Civil Case No. 5794-R is for the recovery of
damages for the alleged malicious acts of petitioners. The complaint principally
sought an award of moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorneys fees and
litigation expenses, for the alleged shame and injury suffered by respondent by
reason of petitioners utterance while they were at a police station in Pangasinan. It is
settled that jurisdiction is conferred by law based on the facts alleged in the
complaint since the latter comprises a concise statement of the ultimate facts
constituting the plaintiffs causes of action.[20] It is clear, based on the allegations of
the complaint, that respondents main action is for damages. Hence, the other forms
of damages being claimed by respondent, e.g., exemplary damages, attorneys fees
and litigation expenses, are not merely incidental to or consequences of the main
action but constitute the primary relief prayed for in the complaint.

In Mendoza v. Soriano,[21] it was held that in cases where the claim for damages is
the main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of such claim
shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court. In the said case,
the respondents claim of P929,000.06 in damages and P25,000 attorneys fees
plus P500 per court appearance was held to represent the monetary equivalent
for compensation of the alleged injury. The Court therein held that the total
amount of monetary claims including the claims for damages was the basis to
determine the jurisdictional amount.

Also, in Iniego v. Purganan,[22] the Court has held:

The amount of damages claimed is within the jurisdiction of the RTC, since it is

the claim for all kinds of damages that is the basis of determining the jurisdiction

of courts, whether the claims for damages arise from the same or from different

causes of action.

xxxx

Considering that the total amount of damages claimed was P420,000.00, the Court
of Appeals was correct in ruling that the RTC had jurisdiction over the case.

Lastly, we find no error, much less grave abuse of discretion, on the part of the
Court of Appeals in affirming the RTCs order allowing the amendment of the
original complaint from P300,000.00 to P1,000,000.00 despite the pendency of a
petition for certiorari filed before the Court of Appeals. While it is a basic
jurisprudential principle that an amendment cannot be allowed when the court has
no jurisdiction over the original complaint and the purpose of the amendment is to
confer jurisdiction on the court,[23] here, the RTC clearly had jurisdiction over the
original complaint and amendment of the complaint was then still a matter of right.
[24]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, for lack of merit. The Decision


and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated January 31, 2006 and June 23, 2006,
respectively, are AFFIRMED. The Regional Trial Court of Baguio City, Branch
60 is DIRECTED to continue with the trial proceedings in Civil Case No. 5794-R
with deliberate dispatch.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

VICTORINO QUINAGORAN, G.R. NO. 155179


Petitioner,
Present:

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
REYES, JJ.

COURT OF APPEALS and


THE HEIRS OF JUAN DE LA
CRUZ, Promulgated:
Respondents. August 24, 2007
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court, assailing the Decision[1] of the Court Appeals (CA) in CA-GR SP No.
60443 dated May 27, 2002 and its Resolution [2] dated August 28, 2002, which
denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration.

The factual antecedents.

The heirs of Juan dela Cruz, represented by Senen dela Cruz (respondents), filed
on October 27, 1994 a Complaint for Recovery of Portion of Registered Land with
Compensation and Damages against Victorino Quinagoran (petitioner) before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch XI of Tuao, Cagayan, docketed as Civil Case
No. 240-T.[3] They alleged that they are the co-owners of a aparcel of land
containing 13,100 sq m located at Centro, Piat, Cagayan, which they inherited
from the late Juan dela Cruz;[4] that in the mid-70s, petitioner started occupying a
house on the north-west portion of the property, covering 400 sq m, by tolerance of
respondents; that in 1993, they asked petitioner to remove the house as they
planned to construct a commercial building on the property; that petitioner refused,
claiming ownership over the lot; and that they suffered damages for their failure to
use the same.[5] Respondents prayed for the reconveyance and surrender of the
disputed 400 sqm, more or less, and to be paid the amount of P5,000.00 monthly
until the property is vacated, attorney's fees in the amount of P20,000.00, costs of
suit and other reliefs and remedies just and equitable.[6]

Petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss claiming that the RTC has no jurisdiction over
the case under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691, which expanded the exclusive
original jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) to include all civil actions
which involve title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein which
does not exceed P20,000.00. He argued that since the 346 sq m lot which he owns
adjacent to the contested property has an assessed value of P1,730.00, the assessed
value of the lot under controversy would not be more than the said amount.[7]

The RTC denied petitioner's Motion to Dismiss in an Order dated November 11,
1999, thus:
The Court finds the said motion to be without merit. The present action on
the basis of the allegation of the complaint partakes of the nature of
action publicciana (sic) and jurisdiction over said action lies with the
Regional Trial Court, regardless of the value of the property. This is so
because in paragraph 8 of the complaint, it is alleged that the plaintiff
demanded from the defendant the removal of the house occupied by the
defendant and the possession of which is Only due to Tolerance (sic) of
herein plaintiffs.

WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the motion to dismiss is hereby denied. [8]

Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration was also denied by the RTC.[9]

Petitioner then went to the CA on a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition seeking
the annulment of the Orders of the RTC.[10]

On May 27, 2002, the CA rendered the herein assailed Decision dismissing
petitioner's action and affirming in toto the RTC.[11] Pertinent portions of
said Decision, read:

At the onset, we find that the complaint filed by the Heirs of


Juan dela Cruz, represented by Senen dela Cruz adequately set forth the
jurisdictional requirements for a case to be cognizable by the Regional
Trial Court.The Complaint is captioned recovery of portion of registered
land and it contains the following allegations:
7. That since plaintiffs and defendant were neighbors, the latter
being the admitted owner of the adjoining lot,
the former's occupancy of said house by defendant was only
due to the tolerance of herein plaintiffs;

8. That plaintiffs, in the latter period of 1993, then demanded


the removal of the subject house for the purpose of
constructing a commercial building and which herein
defendant refused and in fact now claims ownership of the
portion in which said house stands;

9. That repeated demands relative to the removal of the subject


house were hence made but which landed on deaf ears;
10. That a survey of the property as owned by herein plaintiffs
clearly establishes that the subject house is occupying Four
Hundred (400) square meters thereof at the north-west portion
thereof, as per the approved survey plan in the records of the
Bureau of Lands.

xxxx

It is settled that when the complaint fails to aver facts constitutive of


forcible entry or unlawful detainer, as where it does not state how entry
was effected or how and when dispossession started, the remedy should
either be an accion publiciana or an accion reinvindicatoria in the proper
regional trial court. In the latter instances, jurisdiction pertains to the
Regional Trial Court.

As another legal recourse from a simple ejectment case governed by the


Revised Rules of Summary Procedure, an accion publiciana is the
plenary action to recover the right of possession when dispossession has
lasted more than one year or when dispossession was effected by means
other than those mentioned in Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. Where there
is no allegation that there was denial of possession through any of the
methods stated in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, or where
there is no lease contract between the parties, the proper remedy is the
plenary action of recovery of possession. Necessarily, the action falls
within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. Thus, we find that the
private respondents [heirs of dela Cruz] availed of the proper remedy
when they filed the action before the court a quo.

Undoubtedly, the respondent court therefore did not act with grave abuse
of discretion amounting to or in excess of jurisdiction in
denying Quinagoran's Motion to Dismiss and the Motion for
Reconsideration, thereof, because it has jurisdiction to hear and decide
the instant case.

xxxx

It would not be amiss to point out that the nature of the action and
jurisdiction of courts are determined by the allegations in the
complaint. As correctly held by the Regional Trial Court, the present
action on the basis of the allegation of the complaint partakes of the
nature of action publiciana and jurisdiction over said action lies with the
Regional Trial Court regardless of the value of the property. Therefore,
we completely agree with the court a quo's conclusion that the complaint
filed by the Heirs of Juan dela Cruz, represented by Senen dela Cruz, is
in the nature of an accion publiciana and hence it is the Regional Trial
Court which has jurisdiction over the action, regardless of the assessed
value of the property subject of present controversy. [12]
Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration was denied on August 28, 2002 for lack of
merit.[13]

Petitioner now comes before this Court on a petition for review claiming that under
R.A. No. 7691 the jurisdiction of the MTC, Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), and
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) was expanded to include exclusive
original jurisdiction over civil actions when the assessed value of the property does
not exceed P20,000.00 outside Metro Manila and P50,000.00 within Metro Manila.
[14]
He likewise avers that it is an indispensable requirement that the complaint
should allege the assessed value of the property involved. [15] In this case, the
complaint does not allege that the assessed value of the land in question is more
than P20,000.00. There was also no tax declaration attached to the complaint to
show the assessed value of the property. Respondents therefore failed to allege that
the RTC has jurisdiction over the instant case. [16] The tax declaration covering
Lot No. 1807 owned by respondents and where the herein disputed property is
purportedly part -- a copy of which petitioner submitted to the CA -- also shows
that the value of the property is only P551.00.[17] Petitioner then prays that the CA
Decision and Resolution be annulled and set aside and that the complaint of herein
respondents before the trial court be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.[18]

Respondents contend that: the petition is without factual and legal bases, and the
contested decision of the CA is entirely in accordance with law; [19] nowhere in the
body of their complaint before the RTC does it state that the assessed value of the
property is below P20,000.00;[20] the contention of petitioner in his Motion
to Dismiss before the RTC that the assessed value of the disputed lot is
below P20,000.00 is based on the assessed value of an adjacent property and no
documentary proof was shown to support the said allegation; [21] the tax declaration
which petitioner presented,together with his Supplemental Reply before the CA,
and on the basis of which he claims that the disputed property's assessed value is
only P551.00, should also not be given credence as the said tax declaration reflects
the amount of P56,100.00 for the entire property.[22]
The question posed in the present petition is not complicated, i.e., does the RTC
have jurisdiction over all cases of recovery of possession regardless of the value of
the property involved?

The answer is no. The doctrine on which the RTC anchored its denial of
petitioner's Motion to Dismiss, as affirmed by the CA -- that all cases of recovery
of possession or accion publiciana lies with the regional trial courts regardless of
the value of the property -- no longer holds true. As things now stand, a distinction
must be made between those properties the assessed value of which is
below P20,000.00, if outside Metro Manila; and P50,000.00, if within.

Republic Act No. 7691[23] which amended Batas Pambansa Blg. 129[24] and which
was already in effect[25] when respondents filed their complaint with the RTC
on October 27, 1994,[26]expressly provides:

SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases Regional Trial Courts shall


exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
xxxx
(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to or possession of, real
property, or any interest therein, where the assessed value of the
property involved exceeds Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or,
for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value exceeds Fifty
thousand pesos (P50,000.00) except for forcible entry into and
unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which
is conferred upon the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts,
and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.
xxxx
SEC. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial
Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil
Cases. --- Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:
xxxx
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve
title to, or possession of , real property, or any interest therein where
the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed
Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro
Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos
(P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages or whatever kind, attorney's
fees, litigation expenses and costs: Provided That in cases of land not
declared for taxation purposes, the value of such property shall be
determined by the assessed value of the adjacent lots.(Emphasis
supplied)

The Court has also declared that all cases involving title to or possession of real
property with an assessed value of less than P20,000.00 if outside Metro Manila,
falls under the original jurisdiction of the municipal trial court.[27]
In Atuel v. Valdez[28] the Court likewise expressly stated that:

Jurisdiction over an accion publiciana is vested in a court of general


jurisdiction. Specifically, the regional trial court exercises exclusive
original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve x x x possession of
real property. However, if the assessed value of the real property
involved does not exceed P50,000.00 in Metro Manila, and P20,000.00
outside of Metro Manila, the municipal trial court exercises
jurisdiction over actions to recover possession of real property.[29]

That settled, the next point of contention is whether the complaint must allege the
assessed value of the property involved. Petitioner maintains that there should be
such an allegation, while respondents claim the opposite.

In no uncertain terms, the Court has already held that a complaint must allege the
assessed value of the real property subject of the complaint or the interest thereon
to determine which court has jurisdiction over the action.[30] This is because the
nature of the action and which court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the
same is determined by the material allegations of the complaint, the type of relief
prayed for by the plaintiff and the law in effect when the action is filed,
irrespective of whether the plaintiffs are entitled to some or all of the claims
asserted therein.[31]

In this case, the complaint denominated as Recovery of Portion of Registered Land


with Compensation and Damages, reads:

1. That plaintiffs are the only direct and legitimate heirs of the late
Juan dela Cruz, who died intestate on February 3, 1977, and are all
residents of Centro, Piat, Cagayan;
xxxx
4. That plaintiffs inherited from x x x Juan dela Cruz x x x a certain parcel
of land x x x containing an area of 13,111 square meters.
5. That sometime in the mid-1960's, a house was erected on the north-west
portion of the aforedescribed lot x x x.
xxxx

7. That since plaintiffs and defendant were neighbors, the latter being the
admitted owner of the adjoining lot, the former's occupancy of said house
by defendant was only due to the tolerance of herein plaintiffs;

8. That plaintiffs, in the latter period of 1993, then demanded the removal
of the subject house for the purpose of constructing a commercial building
and which herein defendant refused and in fact now claims ownership of
the portion in which said house stands;

9. That repeated demands relative to the removal of the subject house were
hence made but which landed on deaf ears;

10. That a survey of the property as owned by herein plaintiffs clearly


establishes that the subject house is occupying Four Hundred (400) square
meters thereof at the north-west portion thereof, as per the approved
survey plan in the records of the Bureau of Lands. [32]

Nowhere in said complaint was the assessed value of the subject property ever
mentioned. There is therefore no showing on the face of the complaint that the
RTC has exclusive jurisdiction over the action of the respondents. [33] Indeed, absent
any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it cannot be
determined whether the RTC or the MTC has original and exclusive jurisdiction
over the petitioner's action.[34] The courts cannot take judicial notice of the assessed
or market value of the land.[35]

Jurisdiction of the court does not depend upon the answer of the defendant or even
upon agreement, waiver or acquiescence of the parties.[36] Indeed, the jurisdiction
of the court over the nature of the action and the subject matter thereof cannot be
made to depend upon the defenses set up in the court or upon a motion to
dismiss for, otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on
the defendant.[37]
Considering that the respondents failed to allege in their complaint the assessed
value of the subject property, the RTC seriously erred in denying the motion to
dismiss. Consequently, all proceedings in the RTC are null and void, [38] and the CA
erred in affirming the RTC.[39]

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals's Decision in


CA-GR SP No. 60443 dated May 27, 2002 and its Resolution dated August 28,
2002, are REVERSED and SETASIDE. The Regional Trial Courts Orders
dated November 11, 1999 and May 11, 2000, and all proceedings therein are
declared NULL and VOID. The complaint in Civil Case No. 240-T is
dismissed without prejudice.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.