G.R. No. 2302. July 01, 1905

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4 Phil. 566

[ G.R. No. 2302. July 01, 1905 ]




The complaint in this case is as follows: ”

[Criminal No. 225. For unlawful possession of a revolver.]

“The United States vs. Pedro Sarabia.

“In the Court of First Instance of Bataan, Sixth District, Balanga, September 14, 1904.

undersigned .provincial fiscal accuses Pedro Sarabia of the crime of
the unlawful possession of a revolver, in the following form:

the night of the 6th of September, 1904, the said Pedro Sarabia was
arrested by the Constabulary in the barrio of Sisiman, Mariveles,
Bataan, for having fired a revolver, his own property, without having
the necessary license, in violation of section 1 of Act No. 652 of the
Philippine Commission.


Under this complaint the defendant was convicted of having in his
possession a revolver without any license authorizing such possession,
and was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment and to a fine of 200
pesos. The judgment provided that if the fine was not paid he should
suffer three months’ imprisonment.

The evidence is sufficient to justify the judgment so far as the
unlawful possession of the revolver is concerned. The defendant,
however, in this court claims that the complaint is insufficient in
several respects. He alleges that the complaint charges the defendant
with having fired the revolver and not with having the revolver in his
possession. It will be observed that the complaint notifies the
defendant three times of the general nature of the offense charged
against him. In the title it is declared that the case relates to the
illegal possession of a revolver. At the commencement of the body of
the complaint he is charged with the crime of the unlawful possession
of a revolver, and at the end of the complaint the precise section of
the law under which he is prosecuted is stated. He had, therefore,
abundant notice that he was to be prosecuted for having in his
possession a revolver contrary to law. When the fiscal came to state
how the offense was committed he alleged that the defendant discharged
a revolver which was his property. This is a sufficient allegation that
he had the revolver in his possession at the time he discharged it.

General Orders, No. 58, section 6, paragraph 3, provides that the
facts shall be stated “in such a form as to enable a person of, common
understanding to know what is intended.” There can be no doubt but that the fiscal intended to make such an allegation.

It is also claimed that the complaint is insufficient because it
does not allege the place where nor the time when the offense was
committed, nor that the defendant was not connected with the Army or
Navy of the United States and was not otherwise authorized by law to
have in his possession this revolver. With reference to these
objections to the complaint, it may be said that the defendant in the
court below was represented by the same American lawyer who represents
him in this court. That lawyer was present and took part in the trial
in the court below. He was of course furnished before the trial with a
copy of this complaint. He made no objection to its sufficiency, either
by demurrer or motion or in any other way. Evidence was produced at the
trial to show when the offense was committed. He made no objection to
this evidence on the ground that the time the offense was committed was
not stated in the complaint. Evidence also was presented to show where
the offense was committed. He made no objection to this evidence on the
ground that the place where the offense was committed was not stated in
the complaint. Evidence was produced to show that the defendant was the
captain of a steam launch belonging to the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific
Company, and that he was engaged in transporting stone from Mariveles
to the works of the port which this company was then engaged in
constructing. This evidence tended to show that the defendant was not
connected with the Army or Navy, but the defendant made no objection to
its introduction on the ground that such fact was not alleged in the
complaint. The alleged defects in the complaint which his counsel now
points out must have been as apparent to such counsel then as they are
now, and why, if the complaint was in fact insufficient and if from it
he could not understand the acts with the commission of which his
client was charged, he did not take some action to secure further
information, does not appear. The presumption would be, from his
failure to seek any further information, that he was sufficiently
informed of the charge and was satisfied with the complaint, understood
what it meant, and was willing to go to trial on the assumption that it
was sufficient.

The law requires the court to appoint a lawyer to defend the accused
gratuitously if he so requests. By section 19 of General Orders, No.
58, he and his counsel are allowed at least one day to study the
complaint. If after such an examination they can not understand what it
means, the law furnishes them a way by which they can obtain further
information. They may demur to it on the ground that it does,not, as
they understand it, charge any offense. They have the right to submit
an oral argument or one in writing in support of the demurrer in which
they can set forth fully the reasons why they think that they are not
sufficiently informed of the nature of the charge against the
defendant. During the progress of the trial, if evidence is introduced
to prove a fact of which the complaint gave them no notice,, they can,
on that ground, object to its being received. After the evidence is
closed, they can, in the final argument, call, the court’s attention to
any defects in the complaint which, in their opinion, would render a
judgment void. After judgment against them they can, by a motion for a
new trial, again raise the question as to the sufficiency of the
statement of facts in the complaint.

In fact, the law of criminal procedure is wisely planned so as to
give to a defendant who is not advised as to the charge against him
every opportunity to secure additional information in this regard. But
it was never intended that a defendant who had been given these
opportunities might neglect them and after a fair trial and a
conviction supported by abundant testimony, say, as a means of escaping
a deserved punishment, that he had never been informed of the nature of
the charge against him.

We hold that no objection to a complaint based upon a defective
statement either in matter of form or substance of “the acts or
omission complained of as required by section 6, paragraph 3 of General
Orders, No. 58, not made in the court below, can be used in this court
to obtain a reversal. We have already so held in United States vs. Emiliano Cajayon[1] (2 Off. Gaz., 157). (See also United States vs. Mabanag, 1 Phil. Rep., 441.)

It may be said that this would require us to sustain a conviction
where there was no complaint at all in the lower court. It is not
possible that such a case could arise. The judges of the Courts of
First Instance are required by Act No. 136 to be men learned in the
law. It is impossible to conceive of such a judge rendering a judgment
of conviction where there was no complaint at all upon which to base
it. And, further, it is impossible to conceive of such a judge
rendering a judgment of conviction upon a complaint which he himself
did not understand.

The general rule in the United States is that an objection to the
complaint, to be available in the appellate court, must have been
raised below. In Coffey vs. United States (116 U. S., 436) it is said, at page 442:

“As to the first assignment, that respecting the
insufficiency of the information, it is supposed, by the claimant, that
his motion for judgment, notwithstanding the verdict, raises that
question. But there is no exception to the order of the court denying
that motion. There is an exception to the written opinion of the court
overruling a motion for a new trial, and to an order made, after
judgment, overruling a motion made, after judgment, for a new trial.
But there is no other exception in the record. Assuming, however, that
the point as to the information can be raised here, it is urged that
the first count, that founded on section 3257, is insufficient because
the count does not set forth the facts from which the court can infer
that Coffey defrauded or attempted to defraud the United States. It is
a sufficient answer to this objection to say that the claimant, in his
answer, denies the allegations of the first count, specifically, as
they are made. After that, he can not, in a court of error, on such a
record as this, be heard to say that he did not know the charge made,
and could not defend against it, although if he had excepted or
demurred to the count the objection might have been presented for

(See also O’Neill vs. Vermont, 144 U. S., 323, 327.)

It is not a complete answer to these cases to say that such courts
in the United States in general sit only for the correction of errors
of law, while this court takes jurisdiction of a case by way of appeal
in the strict sense of that word. A trial court which renders a
judgment upon a materially defective complaint commits an error of law.
But such error will not in the United States be reviewed on a writ of
error unless the defendant called the attention of the court below to
such error.

The practical reason for this rule is obvious and more apparent
here, where we have no grand jury, which in the United States is the
only body, generally speaking, that can present or amend a complaint.
Under our practice, as said below, the lower court itself can, and it
is its duty when its attention is called to a defect in the complaint,
cause it to be corrected. This rule was adopted to prevent the delay
and expense of a trial in the lower court, a trial in the appellate
court, and a second trial in the lower court for a defect in the
proceedings which, if called to the attention of the lower court, could
have been corrected and such delay and expense avoided.

There is nothing in this case to indicate that, knowing the defects
of the complaint, the defendant purposely refrained from objecting to
it, with the plan of proceeding to trial, securing an acquittal if
possible, and, if he failed in that, present for the first time these
objections to the complaint in the Supreme Court for the purpose of
securing a new trial. If, however, a case should arise in which these
facts did appear, the appellate court ought to hold that a defendant
who purposely refrained from calling attention to defects in a
complaint of which he was then aware could not afterwards present them
before the Supreme Court for the purpose of securing a reversal in a
case of conviction.

Had these objections been made to the complaint in the court below,
it would have been the duty of that court, under the provisions of
General Orders, No. 58, sections 23 and 37, to direct a new complaint
to be filed and the trial recommenced, and in no event would the
defendant have been entitled to a discharge, for these defects could
all have been cured. Neither would he be entitled to such” discharge in
this court if we should hold that the complaint was insufficient. The
result would simply be that the judgment would be reserved, and the
case remanded to the court below with instructions to that court to
direct a new complaint to be filed against him, and in the meantime to
hold the defendant in custody.

We change the penalty inflicted by the court below and impose upon
the defendant the penalty of one day’s imprisonment and P200 fine. With
this modification the judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the
costs of this instance against the defendant.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Mapa, Johnson, and Carson, JJ., concur.

[1] 2 Phil. Rep., 570.

Date created: April 25, 2014


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