G.R. No. 2805. September 27, 1905

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5 Phil. 60

[ G.R. No. 2805. September 27, 1905 ]




In this case a writ of habeas corpus having been issued, it
appeared that the petitioner was tried before a justice of the peace of
the Province of Rizal for the crime of theft, and was sentenced to two
months imprisonment, and to pay an indemnity of 10 pesos to the injured
party. He appealed from this judgment to the Court of First Instance of
the Province of Rizal, in which court the appeal was duly entered.
Thereafter the provincial fiscal filed a complaint against the
defendant charging him with the same offense with which he was charged
in the court of the justice of the peace. The complaint in that court
was filed by a private person—the party injured. The petitioner
claiming that this complaint filed by the fiscal was the institution of
a new proceeding, presented an objection to it in the court below,
claiming that he had been once tried for the same offense. That court
held that this complaint was not the commencement of a new proceeding,
but was a continuation of the appeal taken from the justice of the
peace, and was filed in and was a part of that proceeding. It convicted
the defendant and sentenced him to one month and one day imprisonment (arresto mayor)
and the return of the 10 pesos, and the defendant is in confinement
under that judgment. He claims in his petition for the writ of habeas corpus that the judgment against him is void.

That there was only one proceeding pending against the petitioner in
the court below we think is free from doubt. The complaint filed by the
fiscal was a substitution of the complaint presented before the justice
of the peace, and was intended to and did take its place. There is
nothing in the petition to show that there is any other proceeding now
pending in the court below.

It is claimed by the petitioner that the provincial fiscal had no
power under the law to amend the complaint presented before the justice
of the peace, and that consequently the judgment against him is void.
To this claim there are several sufficient answers.

Relief under the writ of habeas corpus can be granted in
this class of cases only when the judgment against the defendant is
absolutely void. It can not be used to correct errors which may have
been committed by a court that had jurisdiction of the subject-matter
and the person of defendant, unless those errors made the judgment
absolutely void.

In the case of Ex parte Bigelow (113 U. S., 328) the court said:

“It is said, however, that the court below exceeded
its jurisdiction, and that this court has the power, in such case and
for that reason, to discharge the prisoner from confinement under a
void sentence. The proposition itself is sound if the facts justify the
conclusion that the court of the district was without authority in the

“But that court had jurisdiction of the offense
described in the indictment on which the prisoner was tried. It had
jurisdiction of the prisoner, who was properly brought before the
court. It had jurisdiction to hear the charge and the evidence against
the prisoner. It had jurisdiction to hear and to decide upon the
defenses offered by him. The matter now presented was one of those
defenses. Whether is was a sufficient defense was a matter of law on
which that court must pass so far as it was purely a question of law,
and on which the jury under the instructions of the court must pass if
we can suppose any of the facts were such as required submission to the

“If the question had been one of former acquittal—a
much stronger case than this—the court would have had jurisdiction to
decide upon the record whether there had been a former acquittal for
the same offense, and if the identity of the offense were in dispute,
it might be necessary on such a plea to submit that question to the
jury on the issue raised by the plea.

“The same principle
would apply to a plea of a former conviction. Clearly in these cases
the court not only has jurisdiction to try and decide the question
raised, but it is its imperative duty to do so. If the court makes a
mistake on such trial it is error which may be corrected by the usual
modes of correcting such errors, but that the court had jurisdiction to
decide upon the matter raised by the plea both as matter of law and of
fact can not be doubted.

“This Article V of the Amendments,
and Articles VI and VII, contain other provisions concerning trials in
the courts of the United States designed as safeguards to the rights of
parties. Do all of these go to the jurisdiction of the courts? And are
all judgments void where they have been disregarded in the progress of
the trial? Is a judgment of conviction void when a deposition has been
read against a person on trial for crime because he was not confronted
with the witness, or because the indictment did not inform him with
sufficient clearness of the nature and cause of the accusation?

may be confessed that it is not always very easy to determine what
matters go to the jurisdiction of a court so as to make its action when
erroneous a nullity. But the general rule is that when the court has
jurisdiction by law of the offense charged, and of the party who is so
charged, its judgments are not nullities.”

In the case at bar the Court of First Instance acquired jurisdiction
of the subject-matter and of the person of the defendant by his appeal
from the judgment of the court of the justice of the peace. The
question of the right of the fiscal to present an additional or amended
complaint was presented to that court for decision. It had jurisdiction
to decide it, and the fact that in that decision he may have committed
error does not make the judgment absolutely void. In all the cases
cited by the petitioner which we have had an opportunity to examine, it
appears that the case reached the Supreme Court by appeal. In no one of
them was the question raised by means of a writ of habeas corpus.
It is alleged in the petition, apparently as a ground for relief, that
the defendant has no right to appeal from that erroneous judgment. The
fact that there is an appeal from a judgment is sometimes a reason for
denying a writ of habeas corpus. (Collins vs. Wolfe,[1] 3 Off. Gaz., 401.) But the fact that there is no appeal is never a ground for granting relief under the writ.

We think, also, that the fiscal was authorized, under the law, to
present the new complaint, and that the court committed no error in
allowing it to be filed, inasmuch as it related to the same criminal
act for which the petitioner was tried by the justice of the peace.

General Orders, No. 58, section 54, is as follows:

“All cases appealed from a justice’s court shall be
tried in all respects anew in the court to which the same are appealed;
but on the hearing of such appeals it shall not be necessary, unless
the appeal shall involve the constitutionality or legality of a
statute, that written record of the proceedings be kept, but shall be
sufficient if the appellate court keeps a docket of the proceedings in
the form prescribed in the next preceding section.”

It has been held in the United States that an indictment can not be
amended by the court. It has also been held, as appears from some cases
cited by the petitioner, that in some States where the law requires a
particular person to present a complaint before the justice of the
peace, such complaint can not afterwards be amended in the superior
court, but those authorities have no application to this case. Here,
under the law, anyone can file a complaint before a justice of the
peace. The complaint in this case before the justice of the peace could
have been presented by the provincial fiscal.

The relief asked for by the petitioner is denied, and he is remanded to the warden of Bilibid Prison, with costs. So ordered.

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

[1] 4 Phil. Rep., 534




I can not agree with the doctrine that the fiscal can file a new
complaint in the Court of First Instance in an appeal by the defendant
in a criminal cause from the sentence of a justice of the peace. This
court has decided in the case of the United States vs. Sarabia[1] that
no objection can be raised by the defendant to the sufficiency of a
complaint with he did not raise in the first instance. If the defendant
can not present objections to the sufficiency of the complaint on
appeal, I am at a loss to understand why this privilege should be
accorded to the fiscal. In this case a new complaint was filed. It did
not pretend to be an amended complaint. To allow the fiscal to file a
new complaint in a criminal cause appealed from the court of a justice
of the peace is a dangerous practice and should not be allowed. To
permit this would be to create the possibility of placing the defendant
upon trial for a different offense than that for which he was tried in
the court below. When the defendant appeals he thereby asserts that the
sentence of the inferior court is wrong with reference to the issue
presented in the lower court. The fiscal should not be permitted to
present a new or a different issue in the appellate court. The
provisions of General Orders, No. 58, with reference to a trial de novo in a criminal cause on appeal, simply mean that the parties have the right to present their proofs de novo upon the issue presented in the court below.

[1] 4 Phil. Rep., 566.

Date created: April 25, 2014


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