Criminal Law, Remedial Law

Jadewell Parking v. Judge Lidua, G.R. No. 169588 October 7, 2013 J. Leonen Prescription of Offenses, Violation of Ordinances

FACTS:

Jadewell Parking Systems Corporation, through its General Manager Norma Tan, et al., alleged in their affidavit-complaint that on May 17, 2003, respondents Edwin Ang, Benedicto Balajadia and John Doe dismantled, took and carried away the clamp attached to the left front wheel of a Mitsubishi Adventure owned by Edwin Ang, which was then illegally parked and left unattended at a Loading and Unloading Zone. The value of the clamp belonging to Jadewell which was allegedly forcibly removed with a piece of metal is ₱26,250.00. The fines of ₱500.00 for illegal parking and the declamping fee of ₱500.00 were also not paid by the respondents herein.

Jadewell likewise filed a complaint alleging that on May 7, 2003, along Upper Mabini Street, Baguio City, respondents Benedicto Balajadia, Jeffrey Walan and two (2) John Does forcibly removed the clamp on the wheel of a Nissan Cefiro car belonging to Jeffrey Walan which was then considered illegally parked for failure to pay the prescribed parking fee. 

Petitioner Jadewell filed two Robbery cases against respondents.

The Affidavit-Complaint was filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Baguio City on May 23, 2003. A preliminary investigation took place on May 28, 2003. 

The Office of the Provincial Prosecutor found probable cause for violation of Section 21 of City Ord. No. 003-2000 for the acts of respondents in removing the wheel clamps on the wheels of the cars involved in these cases and their failure to pay the prescribed fees.

Two criminal Informations were filed with the Municipal Trial Court of Baguio City. Respondent Benedicto Balajadia and the other accused filed Motion to Quash and/or Manifestation seeking the quashal of the two Informations on the following grounds: extinguishment of criminal action or liability due to prescription under Article 89 of the RPC; failure of the Information to state facts that charged an offense; and the imposition of charges on respondents with more than one offense.

Respondent Judge Nelson F. Lidua, Sr., Presiding Judge of the MTC of Baguio City, granted the accused’s Motion to Quash and dismissed the cases.

Jadewell filed a motion for reconsideration. Respondent Judge issued a resolution upholding the Order granting respondents’ Motion to Quash.

Petitioner then filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 with the RTC, which was dismissed. 

Petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration which was denied. Hence this petition.

ISSUE:

Whether the filing of the Complaint with the Office of the City Prosecutor on May 23, 2003 tolled the prescription period of the commission of the offense charged against respondents.

RULING:

The Petition is denied.

In Romualdez v. Hon. Marcelo, this Court defined the parameters of prescription:

In resolving the issue of prescription of the offense charged, the following should be considered: 

(1) the period of prescription for the offense charged; 

(2) the time the period of prescription starts to run; and 

(3) the time the prescriptive period was interrupted.

With regard to the period of prescription, it is now without question that it is two months for the offense charged under City Ordinance 003-2000.

The commencement of the prescription period is also governed by statute. Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code reads:

Art. 91. Computation of prescription of offenses. — The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, 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 offense was committed on May 7, 2003 and was discovered by the attendants of the petitioner on the same day. These actions effectively commenced the running of the prescription period.

The procedural rules that govern this case are the 1991 Revised Rules on Summary Procedure.

SECTION 1. Scope – This rule shall govern the summary procedure in the Metropolitan Trial Courts, the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, the Municipal Trial Courts, and the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in the following cases falling within their jurisdiction:

x x x x

B. Criminal Cases:

(1) Violations of traffic laws, rules and regulations;

(2) Violations of the rental law;

(3) Violations of municipal or city ordinances 

Section 11 of the Rules provides that:

Sec. 11. How commenced. — The filing of criminal cases falling within the scope of this Rule shall be either by complaint or by information: Provided, however, that in Metropolitan Manila and in Chartered Cities, such cases shall be commenced only by information, except when the offense cannot be prosecuted de officio.

As provided in the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure, only the filing of an Information tolls the prescriptive period where the crime charged is involved in an ordinance. 

When the representatives of the petitioner filed the Complaint before the Provincial Prosecutor of Baguio, the prescription period was running. It continued to run until the filing of the Information. They had two months to file the Information and institute the judicial proceedings by filing the Information with the MTC. The conduct of the preliminary investigation, the original charge of Robbery, and the subsequent finding of the violation of the ordinance did not alter the period within which to file the Information. Respondents were correct in arguing that the petitioner only had two months from the discovery and commission of the offense before it prescribed within which to file the Information with the MTC.

Unfortunately, when the Office of the Prosecutor filed the Informations on October 5, 2003, the period had already prescribed. Thus, respondent Judge Nestor Lidua, Sr. did not err when he ordered the dismissal of the case against respondents.

For violation of a special law or ordinance, the period of prescription shall commence to run from the day of the commission of the violation, and if the same is not known at the time, from the discovery and the institution of judicial proceedings for its investigation and punishment. The prescription shall be interrupted only by the filing of the complaint or information in court and shall begin to run again if the proceedings are dismissed for reasons not constituting double jeopardy.

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