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People vs Pacificador (2001)

Summary Cases:

● People vs Arturo Pacificador

Subject:

Computation of Prescriptive Period of Offenses Punished Under Special Laws; Penal Laws Given
Retroactive Effect only when Favorable to the Accused; Statutory Construction: Law on Prescription of
Crimes

Facts:

Respondents Arturo Pacificador y Fullon and Jose T. Marcelo were charged before the Sandiganbayan
with violation of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

Sometime in 1975, the National Shipyard and Steel Corporation (NSSC), a government-owned
corporation, through its Chairman of the Board (Arturo Pacificador) sold to Philippine Smelters
Corporation (PSC), a private corporation, through its President (Jose Marcelo, Jr.) its interests over
parcels of land in Camarines Norte where the Jose Panganiban Smelting Plant is located, including all
the reclaimed and foreshore areas of about 50 hectares, at the grossly disadvantageous price of
P85,144.50 when the fair market value thereof at that time was P862,150.00, thereby giving PSC
unwarranted benefits and profits and causing undue injury and prejudice to the government in the
amount of P777,005.50.

On July 15, 1998, respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that (1) the crime has prescribed;
and (2) the information does not charge an offense in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in San
Mauricio Mining Corporation vs. Ancheta dated July 10, 1981.

The Sandiganbayan initially denied the motion relying on Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC)
and the doctrine laid down in Francisco vs. CA to the effect that the filing of the complaint with the fiscal's
office or investigating body interrupts the running of the period of prescription.

The Sandiganbayan later reconsidered its resolution and granted the motion to dismiss reasoning that it
erred in applying Art 91 of the RPC. As the offense involved is the violation of R.A. 3019, a special law, it
is Act No. 3326 which should govern in computing the prescriptive period of the offense. The offense
was allegedly committed from December 6, 1975 to January 6, 1976. The offense prescribed on January
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3, 1986, or ten years from January 6, 1976.

For its part, the government contends that Act No. 3326 is not applicable because R.A. 3019 provides for
its own prescriptive period. Section 11 thereof provides that offenses committed and punishable under
the said law shall prescribe in fifteen years. However, inasmuch as R.A. 3019 does not state exactly
when the fifteen year prescriptive period begins to run, Article 91 of the RPC should be applied
suppletorily. Applying the "discovery rule" for the prescription of offenses under the RPC, the crime
should be deemed as discovered only on May 13, 1987 when a complaint was filed with the Presidential
Commission on Good Government (PCGG) by the then Solicitor General Francisco Chavez. Hence, the
filing of the information on October 27, 1988 with the Sandiganbayan was well within the prescriptive
period.

Held:

Applicable Law for Computation of Prescriptive Period of Offenses Punished Under Special Law

1. Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code, which adopts the "discovery rule" for the prescription of
offenses, provides:

ART. 91. Computation of prescription of offenses.- The period of prescription shall commence to
run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their
agents, and shall be interrupted by filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to
run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or
are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him.

The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine Archipelago.

2. However, since R.A. No. 3019, as amended, is a special law, the applicable rule in the computation
of the prescriptive period is Section 2 of Act No. 3326, as amended, which provides:

Sec. 2. Prescription should begin to run from the day of the commission of the violation of the law,
and if the same be not known at the time, from the discovery thereof and institution of judicial
proceedings for its investigation and punishment.

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The prescription shall be interrupted when the proceedings are instituted against the guilty person
and shall begin to run again if the proceedings are dismissed for reasons not constituting double
jeopardy.

Penal Laws Given Retroactive Effect only when Favorable to the Accused

3. Prior to the amendment of Section 11 of RA 3019 by B.P. Blg. 195 (approved on March 16, 1982), the
prescriptive period for offenses punishable under the said statute was only ten years.

4. The longer prescriptive period of fifteen years, as provided in Section 11 of R.A. No. 3019 as
amended by B.P. Blg. 195, does not apply in this case for the reason that the amendment, not being
favorable to the accused, cannot be given retroactive effect. Hence, the crime prescribed on January 6,
1986 or ten years from January 6, 1976.

Registration as Constructive Notice to the World

5. While petitioner may not have knowledge of the alleged crime at the time of its commission, the
registration of the subject Deed of Sale with the Registry of Deeds constitutes constructive
notice thereof to the whole world including the petitioner.

6. Well entrenched is the jurisprudential rule that registration of deeds in the public real estate registry is
a notice thereof to the whole world. The registration is a constructive notice of its contents as well as all
interests, legal and equitable, included therein. All persons are charged with the knowledge of what it
contains.

7. Hence, even if the period of prescription is reckoned from February 28, 1977 (when PSC filed action
to quiet title over the land), the crime had already prescribed when the Information in this case was filed
with the Sandiganbayan on October 27, 1988.

Statutory Construction: Law on Prescription of Crimes

8. In the interpretation of the law on prescription of crimes, that which is more favorable to the accused
is to be adopted. The said legal principle takes into account the nature of the law on prescription of
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crimes which is an act of amnesty and liberality on the part of the state in favor of the offender.

9. Statutes of limitation are to be liberally construed in favor of the defendant, not only because such
liberality of construction belongs to all acts of amnesty and grace, but because the very existence of the
statute is a recognition and notification by the legislature of the fact that time, while it gradually wears out
proofs of innocence, has assigned to it fixed and positive periods in which it destroys proofs of guilt.

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