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RULE 110 PROSECUTION OF OFFENSES

G.R. No. 125066 July 8, 1998 ISABELITA REODICA, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. FACTS: On the evening of 17 October 1987, Petitioner Isabelita Reodica was driving a van along Doa Soledad Avenue, Better Living Subdivision, Paraaque, Metro Manila. Allegedly because of her recklessness, her van hit the car of complainant Norberto Bonsol. As a result, complainant sustained physical injuries, while the damage to his car amounted to P8,542.00. Thus, on 20 October 1987, complainant filed an Affidavit of Complaint against petitioner with the Fiscal's Office. Later, on 13 January 1988, an information was filed before the Regional Trial Court of Makati charging petitioner with "Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Damage to Property with Slight Physical Injury." Upon arraignment, petitioner pleaded not guilty to the charge. Trial then ensued.

RULING OF RTC: The RTC of Makati, Branch 145, rendered a decision convicting petitioner of the "quasi offense of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property with slight physical injuries," and sentencing her to suffer imprisonment of six (6) months of arresto mayor, and to pay the complainant, Norberto Bonsol y Atienza, the sum of Thirteen P13,542, representing the cost of the car repairs (P8,542.00) and medical expenses (P5,000.00) without subsidiary impairment in case of insolvency; and to pay the costs. Petitioner appealed from the decision to the Court of Appeals

RULING OF COURT OF APPEALS: Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court. Petitioner subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration, where: Now that an acquittal seems impossible, may we revisit the penalty and move that it be reviewed and set aside since it is respectfully submitted to be error to complex damage to property and slight physical injuries, as both are light offenses, over which the respondent court had no jurisdiction and even assuming such jurisdiction, it cannot impose a penalty in excess of what is authorized by law. CA denied. Hence, this petitions before the Supreme Court for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

ISSUES: 1. Whether or not the respondent court of appeals gravely abused its discretion when it complexed the crime of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property and slight physical injuries imposing a single excessive penalty Whether or not the respondent court of appeals gravely erred when it affirmed the trial court's decision notwithstanding the defense of prescription and lack of jurisdiction.

2.

RULE 110 PROSECUTION OF OFFENSES


3. Whether or not the duplicity of the information may be questioned for the first time on appeal.

HELD: 1. In the instant case, following the ruling in the Turla case, the offense of lesiones leves through reckless imprudence should have been charged in a separate information. Reckless imprudence resulting in slight physical injuries is punishable by public censure only. Article 9, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code defines light felonies as infractions of law carrying the penalty of arresto menor or a fine not exceeding P200.00, or both. Since public censure is classified under Article 25 of the Code as a light penalty, and is considered under the graduated scale provided in Article 71 of the same Code as a penalty lower than arresto menor, it follows that the offense of reckless imprudence resulting in slight physical injuries is a light felony. On the other hand, reckless imprudence also resulting in damage to property is, as earlier discussed, penalized with arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods. Since arresto mayor is a correctional penalty under Article 25 of the Revised Penal Code, the quasi offense in question is a less grave felony not a light felony as claimed by petitioner. Hence, the trial court erred in considering the following felonies as a complex crime: the less grave felony of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property in the amount of P8,542.00 and the light felony of reckless imprudence resulting in physical injuries. 2. Which Court Has Jurisdiction Over the Quasi Offenses in Question. The jurisdiction to try a criminal action is to be determined by the law in force at the time of the institution of the action, unless the statute expressly provides, or is construed to the effect that it is intended to operate as to actions pending before its enactment. The criminal jurisdiction of the lower courts was then determined by the duration of the imprisonment and the amount of fine prescribed by law for the offense charged. Since offenses punishable by imprisonment of not exceeding 4 years and 2 months were within the jurisdictional ambit of the MeTCs, MTCs and MCTCs, it follows that those penalized with censure, which is a penalty lower than arresto menor under the graduated scale in Article 71 of the Revised Penal Code and with a duration of 1 to 30 days, should also fall within the jurisdiction of said courts. Thus, reckless imprudence resulting in slight physical injuries was cognizable by said courts. As to the reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property in the amount of P8,542.00, the same was also under the jurisdiction of MeTCs, MTCs or MCTCs because the imposable penalty therefor was arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods the duration of which was from 1 month and 1 day to 4 months. Therefore, be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC of Makati. Prescription of the Quasi Offenses in Question. Pursuant to Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, reckless imprudence resulting in slight physical injuries, being a light felony, prescribes in two months. On the other hand, reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property in the amount of P8,542.00, being a less grave felony whose penalty is arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, prescribes in five years. Art. 91 of the Revised Penal Code 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

RULE 110 PROSECUTION OF OFFENSES


interrupted by the filing of the complaint of information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped by any reason not imputable to him.

It must be stressed that prescription in criminal cases is a matter of substantive law. Pursuant to Section 5(5), Article VIII of the Constitution, this Court, in the exercise of its rule-making power, is not allowed to diminish, increase or modify substantive rights. Hence, in case of conflict between the Rule on Summary Procedure promulgated by this Court and the Revised Penal Code, the latter prevails. In the instant case, as the offenses involved are covered by the Revised Penal Code, Article 91 thereof shall apply. Thus, the prescriptive period for the quasi offenses in question was interrupted by the filing of the complaint with the fiscal's office three days after the vehicular mishap and remained tolled pending the termination of this case. We cannot, therefore, uphold petitioner's defense of prescription of the offenses charged in the information in this case. 3. Following Lontok, the conclusion is inescapable here, that the quasi offense of reckless imprudence resulting in slight physical injuries should have been charged in a separate information because it is not covered by Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code. However, petitioner may no longer question, at this stage, the duplicitous character of the information, i.e., charging two separate offenses in one information, to wit: (1) reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property; and (2) reckless imprudence resulting in slight physical injuries. This defect was deemed waived by her failure to raise it in a motion to quash before she pleaded to the information. Under Section 3, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, when two or more offenses are charged in a single complaint or information and the accused fails to object to it before trial, the court may convict the accused of as many offenses as are charged and proved and impose on him the penalty for each of them.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED.