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539 Phil. 25


[ G.R. NO. 168340, December 05, 2006 ]




Assailed via petition for review on certiorari is the May 26, 2005 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Tranquil P. Salvador, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 63 in issuing the Orders dated July 16, 2003 and June 10, 2004 in Criminal Case No. 99-1567, "People of the Philippines vs. Glen Dale a.k.a. Rene Martel."

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Rafael Gonzales (petitioner) filed before the Makati City Prosecutor's Office a complaint against respondent Glen Dale arising from the publication in the January 7, 1999 issue of Today of his article, entitled "Glad Tidings for Manila Polo Club members" in the "Bizz 'N' Fizz" column, under the nom de plume Rene Martel.[2]

By Resolution of May 31, 1999, the Prosecutor's Office found probable cause to hale respondent into court for Libel. An Information was thus filed before the Makati RTC against respondent reading:
x x x x

That on or about the 7th day of January 1999 in the City of Makati, Philippines, a place within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, has a regular column named "BIZZ 'N' FIZZ" in Today newspaper, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with malicious intent of impeaching the honesty, virtue and reputation of the complainant RAFAEL GONZALES, and with further malicious intent of injuring his good name and exposing him to public hatred, contempt and ridicule, publish or cause to be published in a column of Today, a newspaper of general circulation, the words and phrases which reads, among others, the following:
"A lone voice of dissent has been raised by board member Ambassador Rafael Gonzales, who circulated a letter expressing his opposition to the plan to bring in a management company to run the show at the MPC.

"Gonzales (who sounds in his letter to members like a type-writer salesman making his pitch in the age of the word-processor) outlines in passionate terms several reasons why he is against the plan. But then, curiously, he self-defeatingly goes on to say that the "biggest plus in hiring a management company is to streamline the operations and make the club financially viable" Hello... Ambassador Gonzales are you in outer space or what?

"History note: Ambassador Gonzales, who now fronts an obscure real-estate company called Worldmaster Corp: used to be the gofer of Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez (brother of you know-who) and later the baby-sitter of Bongbong Marcos.

"Some MPC members are taking a cynical view of Gonzales's opposition. They claim that his previously held view that matters be held in abeyance for at least a year might have to do with the fact that by that time his term as a director would have expired– and with all the signing privileges that go with the position". (underscoring supplied).
wherein the said accused maliciously and without justifiable motive falsely imputed, inferred and insinuated in the column published in Today, which tends and is calculated to induce the reader or public to suppose and understand that Rafael Gonzales his nice (sic) or defect or committed on (sic) act or omission, condition or status that is sufficient to impeach his honesty, virtue or imputation (sic) or to hold Rafael Gonzales in public ridicule, to the damage and prejudice of the said complainant Rafael Gonzales in such amount or amounts as maybe (sic) proven in court.

The case was raffled to Branch 63 of the Makati RTC.

After posting the necessary cash bond for his provisional liberty,[4] respondent filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) a Petition for Review[5] challenging the Resolution of the City Prosecutor's Office.

By Resolutions of May 4, 2000 and January 12, 2001, the DOJ dismissed respondent's Petition for Review and denied his Motion for Reconsideration, respectively.[6]

Respondent elevated the DOJ Resolutions to the Court of Appeals via Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for the issuance of preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order.[7]

As no preliminary injunction or restraining order was issued by the Court of Appeals, respondent was arraigned before the trial court and pleaded "not guilty" to the offense charged.[8]

Respondent later filed a Motion to Quash[9] on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged,[10] there being no allegation in the Information that the offended party-herein petitioner actually resides in Makati or that the allegedly libelous article was printed or first published in Makati. Respondent cited Article 360[11] of the Revised Penal Code as prescribing a specific venue for libel.

After the parties ventilated their respective positions, the trial court, by Order of May 29, 2002,[12] granted respondent's Motion to Quash, holding that the Information was defective for failure to allege that the newspaper article was printed and first published in Makati or that petitioner actually resided in Makati at the time of the commission of the act complained of.

On June 25, 2002, 26 days after receiving[13] the May 29, 2002 Order, petitioner filed a Motion (to Order the Public Prosecutor to Amend the Information and to Admit said Amended Information),[14] invoking Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 117 of the Rules of Court. Respondent opposed[15] the motion on the ground that it was beyond the jurisdiction of the trial court to reconsider or recall its May 29, 2002 Order which became final after the lapse of 15 days. Respondent added that there was nothing to consider for admission since the supposed amended information was not attached to the motion.

Replying,[16] petitioner argued that the motion was timely filed since the Rules allow the filing of a new information "within such further time as the court may allow for good cause" and the May 29, 2002 Order failed to provide a period within which the prosecution could file an amended information. Petitioner further argued that a defective or deficient information cannot be the proper subject of a motion for reconsideration or appeal under the Rules, hence, not subject to the reglementary periods provided therein; and that the Amended Information would be filed once the court directed the amendment of the Information.

By Order of December 26, 2002,[17] the trial court granted petitioner's Motion and directed the public prosecutor to amend the Information within ten (10) days from notice, and to forthwith file the same before the court.

In compliance with the trial court's order, the public prosecutor filed an Amended Information.

From the Order of December 26, 2002, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration[18] on the ground that under Section 4 of Rule 117 the amendment of a defective information may be made only before a motion to quash is granted and, once quashed, especially in a case where the unqualified quashal had become final, the information can no longer be amended. Respondent added that under Section 5 of Rule 117, the order to file another information must be contained in the same order sustaining the motion to quash since the accused would have been discharged by the time the new information is filed.

By Order of July 16, 2003,[19] the trial court granted respondent's Motion for Reconsideration and accordingly set aside its December 26, 2002 Order. Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of said July 16, 2003 Order which the trial court denied by Order of June 10, 2004.[20]

Petitioner thereupon filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari assailing the trial court's Orders dated July 16, 2003 and June 10, 2004.

By the challenged Decision of May 26, 2005, the Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's petition for lack of merit.

Hence, the present appeal which, in the main, faults the appellate court in holding that under Rule 117, Sections 4 and 5, the order to file another information was discretionary with the court.

The pertinent rule applicable to the present petition Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 117 reads:
SEC. 4. Amendment of complaint or information. If the motion to quash is based on an alleged defect of the complaint or information which can be cured by amendment, the court shall order that an amendment be made.

If it is based on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, the prosecution shall be given by the court an opportunity to correct the defect by amendment. The motion shall be granted if the prosecution fails to make the amendment, or the complaint or information still suffers from the same defect despite the amendment.

SEC. 5. Effect of sustaining the motion to quash. If the motion to quash is sustained, the court may order that another complaint or information be filed except as provided in section 6 of this rule. If the order is made, the accused, if in custody, shall not be discharged unless admitted to bail. If no order is made or if having been made, no new information is filed within the time specified in the order or within such further time as the court may allow for good cause, the accused, if in custody, shall be discharged unless he is also in custody for another charge.[21] (Underscoring supplied)
Section 4 covers the amendment of an information. Section 5 deals with the filing of a new information.

The amendment of an information under Section 4 of Rule 117 applies if the trial court finds that there is a defect in the information and the defect can be cured by amendment, in which case the court shall order the prosecution to amend the information. Once the court issues an order granting the motion to quash the information and such order becomes final and executory, however, there is nothing more to amend.

In cases falling under Section 5 of Rule 117, where the motion to quash is sustained on grounds other than those stated in Section 6[22] of the same Rule, the trial court has the discretion to order the filing of another information within a specified period which is extendible to such further time as the court may allow for good cause. The order to file another information, if determined to be warranted by the circumstances of the case, must be contained in the same order granting the motion to quash. If the order sustaining the motion to quash does not order the filing of another information, and said order becomes final and executory, then the court may no longer direct the filing of another information.

It is gathered that petitioner never asserted the propriety of amending the Information, he having maintained that the allegations in the Information provided sufficient and adequate bases to confer jurisdiction. When the trial court granted the motion to quash, petitioner did not assail the same within the reglementary period. The order quashing the Information thus became final and executory.

Petitioner posits, however, that the order to file another information may be separately issued at any time after the quashal of the information. He anchors his argument on the clause "within such further time as the court may allow for good cause" contained in Section 5 of Rule 117.

Petitioner's position does not lie. The clause denotes no other construction than a plain extension of time.[23] The allowance of additional time qualifies the period of filing a new information pursuant to an order, and not the period of issuing an order to file a new information. It presupposes that an order has been previously issued, as signified by the prior phrase "if having been made." As earlier stated, this order to file another information, if the trial court finds that circumstances warrant its issuance, must be included in the order granting the motion to quash. The time limitation in the rule was intended to prevent the accused from being unnecessarily detained at the whim of the prosecution. Since the order granting the motion to quash had attained finality,[24] it had become immutable.

Clutching at straws, petitioner implores a relaxation of the application of the Rules to promote substantial justice.

Not all defects in an information can be cured by amendment, however. In Agustin v. Pamintuan,[25] this Court held that the absence of any allegation in the information that the therein offended party was actually residing in Baguio City at the time of the commission of the alleged offense or that the alleged libelous articles were printed and first published in Baguio City is a substantial defect, which cannot be amended after the accused enters his plea.[26] Amendments of the information to vest jurisdiction upon a court is not permissible.[27]

At all events, the prosecution is not, under the circumstances attendant to the case, precluded from refiling an information against respondent as long as prescription has not set in.[28]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

Costs against petitioner.


Quisumbing, (Chairperson), Carpio, Tinga, and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

Section 4, Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court reads:

SEC. 4. Contents of petition. The petition shall be filed in eighteen (18) copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall (a) state the full name of the appealing party as the petitioner and the adverse party as respondent, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or respondents; (b) indicate the material dates showing when notice of the judgment or final order or resolution subject thereof was received, when a motion for new trial or reconsideration, if any, as filed and when notice of the denial thereof was received; (c) set forth concisely a statement of the matters involved, and the reasons or arguments relied on for the allowance of the petition; (d) be accompanied by a clearly legible duplicate original, or a certified true copy of the judgment or final order or resolution certified by the clerk of court of the court a quo and the requisite number of plain copies thereof, and such material portions of the record as would support the petition; and (e) contain a sworn certification against forum shopping as provided in the last paragraph of section 2, Rule 42.

[1] Penned by Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente, with Justices Godardo A. Jacinto and Bienvenido L. Reyes, concurring. Rollo, pp. 27-34.

[2] Records, pp. 22-28.

[3] Id. at 1-2.

[4] Id. at 28-38.

[5] Id. at 48-73.

[6] Id. at 145, 182-183.

[7] Id. at 193-224.

[8] Id. at 304.

[9] Rollo, pp. 35-41.

[10] Under Sec. 9(a) of Rule 117, lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged is not deemed waived even if the accused did not file a motion to quash on that ground before arraignment.

[11] Art. 360. Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamations contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.

The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations as provided for in this chapter, shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the Court of First Instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense; Provided, however, That where one of the offended parties is a public officer whose office is in the City of Manila at the time of the commission of the offense, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the City of Manila or of the city or province where the libelous article is printed and first published, and in case such public officer does not hold office in the City of Manila, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance or the province or city where he held office at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous article is printed and first published and in case one of the offended parties is a private individual, the action shall be filed in the Court of First Instance of the province or city where he actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense or where the libelous matter is printed and first published: Provided, further, That the civil action shall be filed in the same court where the criminal action is filed and vice versa: Provided, furthermore, That the court where the criminal action or civil action for damages is first filed, shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts: And provided, finally, That this amendment shall not apply to cases of written defamations, the civil and/or criminal actions to which have been filed in court at the time of the effectivity of this law.

x x x (emphasis supplied)

[12] Rollo, pp. 42-43.

[13] The records show that petitioner received the Order on May 30, 2002; see records, p. 348.

[14] Rollo, pp. 44-48 (underscoring supplied).

[15] Id. at 49-51.

[16] Id. at 52-57.

[17] Id. at 61-62.

[18] Id. at 63-68.

[19] Id. at 85.

[20] Id. at 105-106.

[21] RULES OF COURT, Rule 117.

[22] Sec. 6, Rule 117. An order sustaining the motion to quash is not a bar to another prosecution for the same offense unless the motion was based on grounds specified in section 3(g) and (i) of this Rule.

Sec. 3, Rule 117. The accused may move to quash the complaint or information on any of the following grounds:

x x x x

(g) That the criminal action or liability has been extinguished;

x x x x

(i) That the accused has been previously convicted or acquitted of the offense charged, or the case against him was dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent. [RULES OF COURT, Rule 117].

[23] Vide rules containing a similar proviso, i.e., RULES OF COURT, Rule 26, Sec. 2; Rule 116, Sec. 9.

[24] Petitioner filed neither a motion for reconsideration nor a notice of appeal.

[25] G.R. No. 164938, August 22, 2005, 467 SCRA 601.

[26] Vide RULES OF COURT, Rule 110, Sec. 14.

[27] Supra note 25.

[28] Vide note 22.

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