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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 10534. January 11, 1915. ]

J. C. COWPER, Petitioner, v. W. H. DADE, Director of Prisons, Respondent.

Paul F. Faison for Petitioner.

Attorney-General Avanceña for Respondent.

SYLLABUS


1. HABEAS CORPUS; EXISTENCE OF REMEDY BY APPEAL. — Where the right to appeal exists the writ of habeas corpus will not lie.


D E C I S I O N


In the matter of the proceedings for a writ of habeas corpus, No. 10534, brought by J.C. Cowper against W. H. Dade, Director of Prisons, Manila, the court resolved: It appearing from the proceedings in this court that a remedy by appeal was available, the writ is denied. The body of J.C. Cowper will be remanded to the Director of Prisons and his bond canceled. Let judgment be entered to this effect, dismissing the complaint with costs against the petitioner.

Separate Opinions


MORELAND, J., concurring and dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The petitioner in this case was charged in the municipal court with the embezzlement of P20, funds of a mutual benefit association. He was tried, not under section 4 of Act No. 701 which punishes the crime of embezzlement when committed against a mutual benefit association, but under the provisions of the Penal Code defining estafa. He was convicted in the municipal court of the crime of estafa as defined by the Penal Code and sentenced to two months and one day of arresto mayor. He appealed to the Court of First Instance, which also tried him on the same charge and in the same manner and imposed the same penalty. The contention of the petitioner is that the crime described in the information in the municipal court being defined and punished by what he is pleased to term a special law and the punishment prescribed by that law being beyond the jurisdiction of the municipal court to impose, that court had no jurisdiction of the subject matter. He also contends that estafa committed against a mutual benefit association being, at the time of the trial, punishable under a special law, the provisions of the Penal Code which, before the law was passed, would have been applicable to such an estafa or embezzlement must give way to the Act; that, as a necessary consequence, the penalty imposed by the municipal court was imposed without sanction of law, the Act not authorizing the penalty of arresto mayor. By virtue of these considerations the petitioner asserts that the municipal court had no jurisdiction; that by reason of that fact the appellate court was limited in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction to the vacation, reversal, or annulment of the judgment of conviction and the penalty imposed thereunder and, therefore, had no jurisdiction to try the case on the merits. He declares, as a necessary consequence, that the judgment of conviction of the Court of First Instance and the penalty imposed thereunder are void and of no effect, having been entered and imposed without jurisdiction.

I agree, with the slight limitation hereinafter mentioned, with the court in dismissing the application for the writ and remanding the prisoner. I do not put the dismissal of the petition on the ground that there is an appeal from the judgment of conviction, the imprisonment under which is the subject of the application. I cannot conceive that the right to appeal is an obstacle to the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus where the grounds exist which authorize and require its issuance. I base my concurrence on two grounds: (1) The municipal court had jurisdiction of the crime; and (2) if there was no jurisdiction in the municipal court, the trial in the Court of First Instance must be held, under the repeated decisions of this court, to have been one had in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, no objection to the exercise of that jurisdiction having been made. (U. S. v. Bernardo, 19 Phil. Rep., 265; Carroll v. Paredes, 17 Phil. Rep., 94; U. S. v. Ang Suyco, 17 Phil. Rep., 92; Falcon v. Barretto, 26 Phil. Rep., 72; Nolan v. Montelibano, post, p. 236.)

(1) I base my opinion, that the municipal court had jurisdiction of the crime described in the information, on the express provisions of the charter of the city of Manila, as amended, and Act No. 2017. Section 40 of the charter provides in part:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The limitations upon the criminal jurisdiction of the municipal court hereinbefore stated are subject, nevertheless, to the proviso that said court shall also have concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of First Instance over all criminal cases arising under the laws relating to gambling and management of lotteries, and to assaults where the intent to kill is not charged or evident upon the trial, to larceny and embezzlement where the amount of money or property stolen or embezzled does not exceed the sum or value of two hundred pesos, to the sale of intoxicating liquors, to falsely impersonating an officer, to malicious mischief, to trespass on Government or private property, and threatening to take human life; but in all such cases an appeal to the Court of First Instance upon proper application shall be allowed as in other cases."cralaw virtua1aw library

Act No. 2017 consists of one section and reads: "The word ’embezzlement’ as used in section forty of Act Numbered One hundred and eighty-three, entitled ’An Act to incorporate the city of Manila,’ as amended by section ten of Act Numbered Two hundred and sixty-seven, shall be construed to include the offense of ’estafa’ punished by the Penal Code."cralaw virtua1aw library

If these Acts mean anything, or have any force, they confer jurisdiction on the municipal court, concurrent with that of the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila, to take cognizance of the crimes therein named and to try persons charged with those offenses and dispose of all matters involved in the trials as fully and completely as the Court of First Instance. This means, of course, that the municipal court has authority to impose the penalty required by law in case of conviction for any of the crimes referred to. It means nothing, legally speaking, that section 40 of Act No. 136 originally limited the jurisdiction of courts of justices of the peace to the imposition of a penalty not to exceed six months’ imprisonment or a fine not to exceed P200, or both. That provision was in existence at the time the jurisdiction of the municipal court was extended and the Legislature must be deemed to have enacted the amendments, including that made by Act No. 2017, if it may be called an amending Act, with full knowledge of the existence of that section and with the intent to deprive it of force where, by its application, it would prevent the municipal court from dealing fully and completely with the crimes which the amended charter authorized it to cognize. To hold that, while the municipal court has jurisdiction to try a person for the commission of an assault, for example, whereby the person assaulted lost an eye, the punishment for which might be twelve years under certain circumstances, it cannot impose on the offender more than six months’ imprisonment and P200 fine, is to abrogate and repeal the laws referred to. Such a penalty would be far below the minimum which could lawfully be imposed in such a case; and the necessary result would be that, while the court might try the case, it could impose no punishment.

If the municipal court has jurisdiction of the crimes of embezzlement and estafa in all cases where the amount embezzled does not exceed P200, then it has jurisdiction of the crime defined and punished under section 4 of Act No 701. That Act is one which punishes the embezzlement of the funds of a mutual benefit association. The crime, by the wording of the statute and by all its essential elements, is embezzlement and the municipal court is, by the charter of the city of Manila, given jurisdiction over that crime no matter against whom or what it may be committed. The fact that Act No. 701 punishes the embezzlement of the funds of a mutual benefit association with a penalty which may reach five years’ imprisonment or P10,000 fine, or both, furnishes no reason for denying jurisdiction in that case to the municipal court; nor does the fact that Act No. 701 punishes the crime of embezzlement when committed against a particular entity make it such a special law as to take the crime out of the general class to which, by its very nature, it properly belongs. By virtue of its elements, as defined by the Act, it is the crime of embezzlement; and over that crime the municipal court is given complete jurisdiction without regard to the severity of the punishment or the person or thing against whom or which it is committed, provided the amount embezzled does not exceed P200.

There is merit in the argument of the petitioner that Act No. 701 having punished, by a special penalty therein prescribed, the commission of the crime of estafa or embezzlement against a mutual benefit association, those provisions of the Penal Code under which, prior to the passage of the Act referred to, estafa or embezzlement against such an association would have been punished, are no longer applicable to such case. Viewed from this standpoint, the provisions of the Penal Code relative to estafa, when it is sought to apply them in a case where estafa has been committed against a mutual benefit association, and Act No. 701, deal with the same subject matter and define the same crime. It should be noted, however, that they punish the crime in a different manner. In a conviction under the Act it is impossible to apply the penalty prescribed by the Penal Code and in a conviction under the Penal Code it is impossible to apply the penalty prescribed by the Act. The two statutes in that respect are repugnant to each other and ought not to stand together. It is not permissible that two laws dictated by the same entity shall punish the commission of the same crime in a manner altogether different. This being the case, both courts were without jurisdiction to impose the penalty of arresto mayor. Both had the authority to imprison for two months and one day but not to impose the accessory penalties, or some of them, consequent upon the imposition of the penalty of arresto mayor. The writ should have been allowed, therefore, to the extent of remanding the prisoner with instructions to impose the proper penalty. This court, however, in view of the fact that an appeal was pending, thought, I assume, that such a correction could be made on the appeal when the matter came up for review on the merits, the character of the imprisonment suffered under the penalty imposed being precisely that which would be suffered if the penalty had been imposed under Act No. 701.

(2) I am convinced that the writ should not be allowed, except to the extent just stated, on the further ground that, even though there was no jurisdiction in the municipal court over the subject matter of the action, the trial in the Court of First Instance must be held, under the decisions of this court, to have been had in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, no objection to the exercise of that jurisdiction having been made. (See cases already cited.) We have held in the cases referred to that, where a justice’s court has no jurisdiction of the subject matter of an action and an appeal is taken to the Court of First Instance from judgment pronounced therein which expressly or impliedly sustains its jurisdiction, and the Court of First Instance, although it has no appellate jurisdiction to try the case on the merits, nevertheless, proceeds to try the case on the merits, it will be held that it was exercising its original and not its appellate jurisdiction, and if there was no objection by the appellant to the action of the court in trying the case on the merits, he will be deemed to have consented to the exercise by the court of its original jurisdiction and cannot thereafter be heard to say that it had no jurisdiction to perform the acts which he, by his failure to object, impliedly consented that it should perform.

From these observations it is apparent that the Court of First Instance having, unquestionably, original jurisdiction of the subject matter of actions of the class before us, and having exercised its original jurisdiction in trying the case on the merits, it is of no consequence to the validity of its judgment whether the municipal court had jurisdiction or not. Its judgment is valid and the penalty imposed thereunder, when imposed in accordance with law, is a valid penalty.

In some of the cases considered by this court where the question just discussed has been in issue the court has failed to distinguish between an objection made in the Court of First Instance to the effect that the municipal court had no jurisdiction of the action, and an assignment of error in the Court of First Instance, as an appellate court, based on the lack of jurisdiction of the municipal court. Strictly speaking, an objection in the appellate court of the lack of jurisdiction of the justice’s court has no significance as it is not addressed to any question pending before the appellate court, nor does it present a question for its determination. The case is before that court on appeal and the only questions which can arise are those presented by the appeal. The duty of the appellant is fully discharged in pointing out the errors committed by the justice’s court upon which he bases his claim for a reversal or annulment, and the duty of the appellate court is equally well performed in resolving the questions raised by the errors assigned. The error which the appellant should assign, when the justice’s court had no jurisdiction, is that the justice’s court erred in taking cognizance of the case and resolving the questions involved; and, basing himself on that error, he should pray for the annulment of the judgment. He should not ask for or consent to, expressly or impliedly, a trial on the merits; and if the appellate court proceeds to a trial on the merits, he should register his objection.

If the appellant desires to limit the appellate court strictly to the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, he should not consent, expressly or impliedly, to the exercise by the appellate court of its original, instead of its appellate, jurisdiction. An objection made in a Court of First Instance directed against an act of a justice’s court can have no bearing on the conduct of the Court of First Instance. If a party desires to influence the action of a Court of First Instance, he must present his objection to the acts of that court or he must pray for some act of that court. It is evident that an objection directed to a Court of First Instance against an act of a justice’s court, giving the word "objection" its ordinary and real significance, goes to no question pending in that court and raises no question for its consideration. It is substantially meaningless. On the other hand, an assignment of error in the appellate court based on some act of a justice’s court is quite another matter. Such a proceeding goes directly to a question pending in that court and one which the appellate court has before it for resolution, viz., that arising on the appeal from the justice’s court.

I am quite agreeable to the pronouncement of the court that there is an appeal in this case, and that irrespective of whether the municipal court had jurisdiction of the crime or not. It was certainly a crime over which the Court of First Instance had original jurisdiction and, in all such cases, the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is preserved by the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902. So that, while the municipal court had jurisdiction to try the case, the jurisdiction was concurrent with that of the Court of First Instance, and was one in which the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction. It will not be presumed that, in granting the municipal court jurisdiction concurrent with that of the Court of First Instance over certain crimes, the Legislature attempted or intended to deprive the Supreme Court of the appellate jurisdiction which it previously had in such cases. Moreover the wording of section 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is worthy of note. So far as material it reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 43. Appeals. — From all final judgments of the Court of First Instance or courts of similar jurisdiction, and in all cases in which the law now provides for appeals from said courts, an appeal may be taken to the Supreme Court as hereinafter prescribed . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

Is the justice’s court a court of "similar jurisdiction" when it has concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of First Instance? When two courts have concurrent jurisdiction are they not, to that extent, not only courts of "similar jurisdiction" but courts of equal jurisdiction? And, in cases where the justice’s court has jurisdiction concurrent with the Court of First Instance, does this section not permit an appeal direct to the Supreme Court from the justice’s court? I ask these questions by way of suggestion and not for the purpose of answering them.

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