G.R. No. 1367. January 04, 1904

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3 Phil. 135

[ G.R. No. 1367. January 04, 1904 ]




On October 21, 1902, the provincial fiscal of Cebu filed an
information in the Court of First Instance charging Pacifico Gonzaga
with having, in the month of July of that year and while acting as
president of the municipality of Ronda, Cebu Province, committed the
crime of usurpation of judicial power. It was alleged in the
information that there was in the town at the time referred to a
justice of the peace named Ruperto Gimarino and an auxiliary justice
named Salvador Veloso; that both had been duly appointed and were
clothed with the necessary authority to discharge the duties of their
respective offices whenever called upon; that between the 21st and
the 25th of July, 1902, a woman named Rafaela Mercado appeared before
Gonzaga, who was in the town hall of Ronda, as the president of the
municipality and charged the said justice of the peace, Gimarino,
with the crime of malfeasance; that President Gonzaga, who had long
been an enemy of Gimarino, illegally, willfully, and maliciously
admitted the complaint presented by the woman Mercado, acted upon it,
held a preliminary investigation, took the testimony of the
prosecutrix and her witnesses, and ordered the arrest of Gimarino,
contrary to the statute in the case made and provided.

The accused, having been arraigned upon the information, pleaded
not guilty. The case subsequently came on for trial, evidence was
taken, and upon the proof so adduced the judge entered a decision on
February 24, 1903, condemning the defendant, Gonzaga, to the penalty
of three years of suspension from office and to the payment of the
costs. Against this judgment the defendant appealed.

A judge who assumes authority pertaining to the executive
officials or impedes them in the lawful exercise of their powers is
punishable by suspension.

The same penalty is incurred by any executive officer who assumes
judicial power or prevents the execution of an order or decision
rendered by a competent judge. (Art. 374 of the Penal Code.)

The penalty for this offense is from one month and one day to six
years of suspension from public office, from the right of suffrage,
from qualification for elective office, and from the exercise of a
profession or trade. (Arts. 25 and 96 of the Penal Code.)

The proof in this case establishes the fact that the defendant, as
municipal president of Konda, by virtue of the complaint filed by
Micaela Bucog, the mother-in-law of the complaining witness, Rafaela
Mercado, proceeded to try Ruperto Gimarino, the justice of the peace
of said town, for the crime of malfeasance in office, the said
justice of the peace having been held under arrest for several hours
in the municipal building and the charge being that he had failed to
act upon a complaint filed by the said women and neglected to make
investigation concerning certain ill treatment and abuse of the
prosecutrix and her husband by two Constabulary soldiers.

It is also an established fact that when a demand was made upon
the defendant by the auxiliary justice of the peace for the delivery
to the latter of the records of the preliminary investigation
concerning the charge of malfeasance brought against Gimarino,
although at first the defendant alleged that he had jurisdiction over
such proceedings, he finally acceded to the demand and forwarded the
said record to the auxiliary justice.

Both the Municipal Code and Act No. 194 invest the municipal
presidents with judicial authority in criminal cases in the absence
of the justice of the peace or his auxiliary, or when these two
officers are absent or disqualified from acting in any particular

From the mere fact that the municipal president, upon the demand
of the auxiliary justice, discontinued the prosecution he had
commenced against Gimarino for malfeasance, we conclude that in this
case the defendant did not act in bad faith and with malice, but
merely exceeded his authority. Although the justice of the peace and
his auxiliary are absolutely without executive authority, the
municipal president on the other hand is authorized by the law cited
to make in certain cases, like those above mentioned, an
investigation concerning criminal acts, and to take steps for their

This being so, it is to be presumed that the defendant believed in
good faith in view of the complaint presented by the prosecutrix
that it was his duty to conduct the prosecution against the justice
of the peace for malfeasance upon the ground that the latter had
refused to administer justice and under the belief that the auxiliary
justice had also refused to take any action upon the complaint of the
prosecutrix, Mercado.

For the reasons stated we are of the opinion that the judgment of
the court below should be reversed and the defendant dismissed with
the costs de oficio. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Cooper, Willard, Mapa, McDonough, and
Johnson, JJ., concur.

Date created: January 07, 2019


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