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Panaguiton v.

DOJ, Tongson, Cawili


FACTS: Cawili borrowed money from petitioner. As payment for the loan, Cawili and
Tongson jointly issued three checks in favor of petitioner. The checks were dishonored, either
for insufficiency of funds or by closure of the account. Petitioner filed a complaint for violation of
BP 22. The prosecutor found probable cause only with respect to Cawili as Tongsons defense
that his signatures on the checks had been falsified. Petitioner then filed a partial appeal before
the DOJ even while the case against Cawili was already filed in court. The Chief State
Prosecutor directed the city prosecutor to conduct a reinvestigation and to refer the falsified
document to the NBI. After reinvestigation, still only probable cause with respect to Cawili was
sustained. In the city prosecutors resolution, it was held that the case with respect to Tongson
had already prescribed pursuant to Act No. 3326 which provides that violations penalized by
B.P. Blg. 22 shall prescribe after four (4) years. n this case, the four (4)-year period started on
the date the checks were dishonored, or on 20 January 1993 and 18 March 1993. The filing of
the complaint before the Quezon City Prosecutor on 24 August 1995 did not interrupt the
running of the prescriptive period, as the law contemplates judicial, and not administrative
proceedings. Thus, considering that from 1993 to 1998, more than four (4) years had already
elapsed and no information had as yet been filed against Tongson, the alleged violation of B.P.
Blg. 22 imputed to him had already prescribed. Ultimately, the DOJ held that the action on the
crime has prescribed.
In justifying its resolution, the DOJ explained that Act No. 3326 applies to violations of special
acts that do not provide for a prescriptive period for the offenses thereunder. Since B.P. Blg. 22,
as a special act, does not provide for the prescription of the offense it defines and punishes, Act
No. 3326 applies to it, and not Art. 90 of the Revised Penal Code which governs the prescription
of offenses penalized thereunder.
ISSUE: Is the running of the prescriptive period tolled upon the filing of the information in
court or upon the filing of the complaint with the prosecutor for preliminary investigation.
HELD: Act No. 3326 is the law applicable to offenses under special laws which do not provide
their own prescriptive periods. Act 3326 provides:
Sec. 2. Prescription shall 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 the institution of
judicial proceedings for its investigation and punishment.
The prescription shall be interrupted when proceedings are instituted against the guilty person,
and shall begin to run again if the proceedings are dismissed for reasons not constituting
jeopardy.
It must be pointed out that when Act No. 3326 was passed on 4 December 1926, preliminary
investigation of criminal offenses was conducted by justices of the peace, thus, the phraseology
in the law, "institution of judicial proceedings for its investigation and punishment," and the
prevailing rule at the time was that once a complaint is filed with the justice of the peace for
preliminary investigation, the prescription of the offense is halted. the term proceedings
should now be understood either executive or judicial in character (citing SEC v. Interport
Resources). To rule otherwise would deprive the injured party the right to obtain vindication on
account of delays that are not under his control (citing People v. Olarte).