Foz vs People

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  Foz Vs People  (G.R. No. 167764, October 9, 2009) Facts:  In an Information filed before the RTC of Iloilo City, petitioners Vicente Foz, Jr., and Danny G.Fajardo, columnist and Editor-Publisher, respectively, of Panay News were charged with the crime of libel. They wrote and publish in the reular issue of the Panay news a certain article maliciously injuring and exposing one Dr. Edgar Portigo, a company physician of San Miguel Corporation office, SMC, as anincompetent doctor and an opportunist who enriched himself at the expense of the poor.The RTC rendered its Decision finding petitioners guilty as charged. Dissatisfied, petitioners filedan appeal with the CA which rendered its assailed Decision affirming in toto  the RTC decision. Hence, thispresent petition. Issue:  Whether or not the RTC of Iloilo City, Branch 23, had jurisdiction over the offense of libel ascharged in the Information dated October 17, 1994. Held:  Venue in criminal cases is an essential element of jurisdiction. The Court held in Macasaet v. People:   “xxx    the jurisdiction of a court over the criminal case is determined by the allegations in the complaintor information. And once it is so shown, the court may validly take cognizance of the case. Xxx”   Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic  Act No. 4363, provides the specific rules as to the venue in cases of written defamation: “xxx The criminal action and civil action for damages in cases of written defamations, as provided for in this chapter shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the court of first instance of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and firstpublished or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of theoffense: xxx ”   Applying the foregoing law to this case, since Dr. Portigo is a private individual at the time of thepublication of the alleged libelous article, the venue of the libel case may be in the province or city wherethe libelous article was printed and first published, or in the province where Dr. Portigo actually resided atthe time of the commission of the offense. The allegations in the Information that “   Panay News  , a daily publication with a considerable circulation in the City of Iloilo and throughout the region” only showed that Iloilo was the place where   Panay News  was in considerable circulation but did not establish that the said publication was printedand first published in Iloilo City.Settled is the rule that jurisdiction of a court over a criminal case is determined by the allegations of the complaint or information, and the offense must have been committed or any one of its essentialingredients took place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. Considering that the Informationfailed to allege the venue requirements for a libel case under Article 360, the Court finds that the RTC of Iloilo City had no jurisdiction to hear this case. Thus, its decision convicting petitioners of the crime of libel should be set aside for want of jurisdiction without prejudice to its filing with the court of competent jurisdiction. Decision:  Petition Granted
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