(47)Comelec.noynay(Electionoffenses)

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    EN BANC [G.R. No. 132365. July 9, 1998.] COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS ,  petitioner  , vs . HON. TOMAS B.NOYNAY  , Acting Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch23, Allen, Northern Samar and DIOSDADA F. AMOR, ESBELCHUA, and RUBEN MAGLUYOAN, respondents . The Solicitor General for petitioner.Esteban D. Francisco, Jr. for private respondents. SYNOPSIS Nine informations for violation of Section 261 (i) of the Omnibus Election Codewere filed with the RTC of Northern, Samar by the COMELEC against privaterespondents who are public school teachers for having engaged in partisanpolitical activities. Respondent RTC Judge Tomas B. Noynay motu proprio  orderedthe records of the cases to be withdrawn and directed the COMELEC to file thecases with the appropriate MTC on the ground that pursuant to Section 32 of B.P.Blg. 129 as amended by R.A. 7691, the Regional Trial Court has no jurisdictionover the cases since the maximum imposable penalty in each of the cases doesnot exceed six years of imprisonment. In this Special Civil Action for Certiorari with mandamus, petitioner contends that public respondent erroneouslymisconstrued the provisions of R.A. 7691 in arguing that the MTC has exclusivesrcinal jurisdiction to try and decide election offenses because pursuant toSection 28 of the Omnibus Election Code and the Supreme Court's ruling in  Alberto vs. Judge Lavilles, Jr  ., Regional Trial Courts have the exclusive srcinal jurisdiction over election offenses. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the petitioner. It held that by virtue of theexception provided for in the opening sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 asamended by R.A. 7691, the exclusive srcinal jurisdiction of MeTCs, MTCs, andMCTCs, does not cover those criminal cases which by specified provisions of lawfall within the exclusive srcinal jurisdiction of RTCs and of the Sandiganbayan,regardless of the penalty prescribed therefor. In short, even if those expectedcases are punishable by imprisonment of not exceeding six (6) years, jurisdictionthereon is retained by the RTC or the Sandiganbayan as the case may be. TheSupreme Court took the opportunity to remind respondent judge as well as other judges, of his duty to be studious of the principles of law, to administer his officewith due regard to the integrity of the system of the law itself, to be faithful tothe law, and to maintain professional competence. SYLLABUS CD Technologies Asia, Inc. © 2016cdasiaonline.com  1. POLITICAL LAW; ELECTIONS; ELECTION OFFENSES; JURISDICTION OFREGIONAL TRIAL COURTS. — Under Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code,Regional Trial Courts have exclusive srcinal jurisdiction to try and decide anycriminal action or proceedings for violation of the Code except those relating tothe offense of failure to register or failure to vote. Under Section 264 of the Codethe penalty for an election offense under the Code, except that of failure toregister or failure to vote, is imprisonment of not less than one year but notmore than six years. Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 as amended by Section 2 of R.A.No. 7691, which provides that except in cases falling within the exclusive srcinal jurisdiction of Regional Trial Court and of the Sandiganbayan, the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shallexercise exclusive srcinal jurisdiction over all offenses punishable withimprisonment not exceeding six (6) years. We have explicitly ruled in Morales vs.Court of Appeals  that by virtue of the exception provided for in the openingsentence of Section 32, the exclusive srcinal jurisdiction of Metropolitan TrialCourts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts does not coverthose criminal cases which by specific provisions of law fall within the exclusivesrcinal jurisdiction of Regional Trial Courts and of the Sandiganbayan, regardlessof the penalty prescribed therefor. Otherwise stated, even if those excepted casesare punishable by imprisonment of not exceeding six (6) years ( i.e. ,  prisioncorreccional, arresto mayor, or arresto menor  ), jurisdiction thereon is retained bythe Regional Trial Courts or the Sandiganbayan, as the case may be.Undoubtedly, pursuant to Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Code, electionoffenses also fall within the exception.2. ID.; ID.; ID.; REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7691 DID NOT REPEAL EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OF REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS AND SANDIGANBAYAN ON ELECTIONOFFENSES. — R.A. No. 7691 can by no means be considered as a special law on jurisdiction; it is merely an amendatory law intended to amend specific sectionsof the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980. Hence, R.A. No. 7691 does not havethe effect of repealing laws vesting upon Regional Trial Courts or theSandiganbayan exclusive srcinal jurisdiction to hear and decide the cases thereinspecified. That Congress never intended that R.A. No. 7691 should repeal suchspecial provisions is indubitably evident from the fact that it did not touch at allthe opening sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 providing for the exception.3. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; WITH DUTY TO BE STUDIOUS OF THEPRINCIPLES OF LAW; CASE AT BAR. — It is obvious that respondent judge did notread at all the opening sentence of Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended. It isthus an opportune time, as any, to remind him, as well as other judges, of hisduty to be studious of the principles of law, to administer his office with dueregard to the integrity of the system of the law itself, to be faithful to the law,and to maintain professional competence. Respondent Judge is DIRECTED to tryand decide said cases with purposeful dispatch and, further, ADMONISHED tofaithfully comply with Canons 4 and 18 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and Rule3.01, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.4. LEGAL ETHICS; ATTORNEYS; MUST NOT KNOWINGLY MISQUOTE ORMISREPRESENT TEXT OF DECISION OR AUTHORITY. — Counsel for petitioner,Atty. Jose P. Balbuena, Director IV of petitioners Law Department, must also beadmonished for his utter carelessness in his reference to the case against Judge Juan Lavilles, Jr. If Atty. Balbuena was diligent enough, he would have known CD Technologies Asia, Inc. © 2016cdasiaonline.com  that the correct name of the complainant in the case referred to is neitherAlberto Naldeza as indicated in the motion for reconsideration nor Alberto aloneas stated in the petition, but ALBERTO NALDOZA. Moreover, the case was notreported in Volume 245 of the Supreme Court Reports Annotated (SCRA) asfalsely represented in the paragraph 16 of the petition, but in Volume 254 of theSCRA. Worse, in both the motion for reconsideration and the petition, Atty.Balbuena deliberately made it appear that the quoted portions were our findingsor rulings, or, put a little differently, our own words. The truth is, the quotedportion is just a part of the memorandum of the Court Administrator quoted inthe decision. Rule 10.02 of Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibilitymandates that a lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the textof a decision or authority. Atty. Jose P. Balbuena is ADMONISHED to be morecareful in the discharge of his duty to the court as a lawyer under the Code of Professional Responsibility. D E C I S I O NDAVIDE ,  JR. ,  J p : The pivotal issue raised in this special civil action for certiorari  with mandamus  iswhether R.A. No. 7691 1   has divested Regional Trial Courts of jurisdiction overelection offenses, which are punishable with imprisonment of not exceeding six(6) years. LLpr  The antecedents are not disputed.In its Minute Resolution No. 96-3076 of 29 October 1996, the Commission onElections (COMELEC) resolved to file an information for violation of Section261(i) of the Omnibus Election Code against private respondents Diosdada Amor,a public school principal, and Esbel Chua and Ruben Magluyoan, both publicschool teachers, for having engaged in partisan political activities. The COMELECauthorized its Regional Director in Region VIII to handle the prosecutions of thecases.  cdrep Forthwith, nine informations for violation of Section 261(i) of the OmnibusElection were filed with Branch 23 of the Regional Trial Court of Allen, NorthernSamar, and docketed therein as follows:a) Criminal Cases Nos. A-1439 and A-1442, against privaterespondents Diosdada Amor, Esbel Chua, and RubenMagluyoan.b) Criminal Case No. A-1443, against private respondents EsbelChua and Ruben Magluyoan.c) Criminal Cases Nos. A-1444 and A-1445, against privaterespondent Esbel Chua only.d) Criminal Cases Nos. A-1446 to A-1449, against privaterespondent Diosdada Amor only.In an Order 2   issued on 25 Auust 1997, resondent ude Tomas B. Nona, as CD Technologies Asia, Inc. © 2016cdasiaonline.com   presiding judge of Branch 23, motu proprio  ordered the records of the cases to bewithdrawn and directed the COMELEC Law Department to file the cases with theappropriate Municipal Trial Court on the ground that pursuant to Section 32 of B.P. Blg. 129 as amended by R.A. No. 7691, 3   the Regional Trial Court has no jurisdiction over the cases since the maximum imposable penalty in each of thecases does not exceed six years of imprisonment. Pertinent portions of the Orderread as follows: [I]t is worth pointing out that all the accused are uniformly charged for[ sic ] Violation of Sec. 261(i) of the Omnibus Election Code, which underSec. 264 of the same Code carries a penalty of not less than one (1) yearbut not more than six (6) years of imprisonment and not subject toProbation plus disqualification to hold public office or deprivation of theright of suffrage.Sec. 31 [ sic ] of the judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 (B.P.) Blg. 129 asAmended by Rep. Act. 6691 [ sic ] (Expanded Jurisdiction) states: Sec. 32. Jurisdiction — Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Circuit Trial Courts,Municipal Trial Courts in Criminal Cases — Except [in] cases falling withinthe exclusive srcinal jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts and theSandiganbayan, the Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts andthe Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise: (1) Exclusive original jurisdiction over all violations of city ormunicipal ordinance committed within their respectiveterritorial jurisdiction; and(2) Exclusive original jurisdiction over all offenses punishablewith an imprisonment of not exceeding six (6) yearsirrespective of the amount or fine and regardless of otherimposable accessory and other penalties including the civilliability arising from such offenses or predicated thereon,irrespective of time [ sic ], nature, value and amount thereof,Provided, However, that in offenses including damages toproperty through criminal negligence, they shall haveexclusive srcinal jurisdiction thereof.  cda In light of the foregoing, this Court has therefore, no jurisdiction over thecases filed considering that the maximum penalty imposable did notexceed six (6) years.  The two motions 4   for reconsideration separately filed by the COMELEC RegionalDirector of Region VIII and by the COMELEC itself through its Legal Departmenthaving been denied by the public respondent in the Order of 17 October 1997, 5 the petitioner filed this special civil action. It contends that public respondent has erroneously misconstrued the provisions of Rep. Act No. 7691 in arguingthat the Municipal Trial Court has exclusive srcinal jurisdiction to try and decideelection offenses because pursuant to Section 268 of the Omnibus Election Codeand this Court's ruling in  Alberto [sic] vs .  Judge Juan Lavilles, Jr  . , Regional TrialCourts have the exclusive srcinal jurisdiction over election offenses.On 17 February 1998, we required the respondents and the Office of the SolicitorGeneral to comment on the petition. CD Technologies Asia, Inc. © 2016cdasiaonline.com
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