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People of the Philippines, petitioner,vs.

The Honorable Court of Appeals, 12

Division, Rico Lipao, and Rickson Lipao, respondents.
Facts of the Case:
On October 21, 1991, Rico Lipao and Rickson Lipao were found in possession
of 8 pieces of round timbers and 160 bundles of firewood with a market value
of Php 3,100.00. Having failed to show the necessary license to transportthe
aforementioned forest products, Rico Lipao and Rickson Lipao were accused
of violating Section 68 ofPresidential Decree No. 705 as amended by
Executive Order No. EO 277. Accordingly, the offense charged is punishable
by Prision Correcional in its medium period is imprisonment from 2 years, 4
months and 1 day up to 4years and 2 months. While on its maximum, Prision
Correcional is imprisonment from 4 years, 2 months and 1 dayup to 6 years.
The Surigao City RTC Branch 32 found private respondents guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of theoffense charged.The private respondents appealed to
the Court of Appeals. They argued that private respondent Rickson
wassubjected to an illegal search and seizure of the round posts and
firewood which cannot be used as evidence againsthim. Moreover, private
respondents argued that the prosecution failed to prove their lack of license
to possesstimber. They contended that since private respondent Rico is
merely the owner of the pumpboat and was not presentwhen the posts and
firewood were seized, he could never be held liable for illegal possession of
timber as he wasnever in possession of the round posts.Amidst the
proceedings in this criminal case docketed as Criminal Case No, 551 and
before the Surigao City RTCBranch 32 rendered its judgment, RA 7691. This
expanded the exclusive original jurisdiction of MTCs and MCTCsin criminal
cases to cover all offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six
years irrespective of theamount fine. This is the reason why on June 13,
2002, the Court of Appeals granted the appeal of privaterespondents and
dismissing the case before it on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of RTC
despite the fact that theissue of jurisdiction was never raised by the private
Whether or not the RTC has jurisdiction over the criminal case against private
respondents despite the effectivity ofRA 7691.
The petition was granted. The assailed CA decision was revised and set
aside. The CA was directed to resolve theappeal of private respondents on
the merits and with dispatch. It has been held as a general rule that the
jurisdictionof a court to try a criminal case is to be determined by the law in
force at the time of the institution of the action.Where a court has already
obtained and is exercising jurisdiction over a controversy, its jurisdiction to
proceed to thefinal determination of the cause is not affected by new
legislation placing jurisdiction over such proceedings inanother tribunal.

Jurisdiction attached upon the commencement of the action could not be

ousted by the passage ofR.A. 7691 reapportioning the jurisdiction of inferior
courts, the application of which to criminal cases is, to stress, prospective in
nature. Thus, where private respondents had been charges with illegal
logging punishable underArticles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, the
RTC clearly has jurisdiction at the inception of the criminalcase.Source:
(People of the Philippines vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals, 12th Division,
Rico Lipao and RicksonLipao, 2008)