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Gina Gomez was prosecuted for bribery. The case was tried in court and after the prosecution and Gomez presented their respective pieces of evidence, the case was submitted for decision. But instead of promulgating a decision, the trial court issued an order dismissing the case and acquitting Gomez on the ground that the Information was only signed by an Assistant City Prosecutor and there was no showing that the Information was approved by the City Prosecutor. As such, the prosecutor who filed the Information had no authority to file the Information. According to the trial court, the absence of the approval and signature of he City Prosecutor in the Information is a jurisdictional defect which cannot be cured. The bases of the trial court’s decision were (1) Sections 3d and 9, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court which provide that an Information may be quashed if the prosecutor who filed it had no authority to do so, and (2) the 1951 case of Villa vs. Ibanez (88 Phil. 402) which had been affirmed by the Supreme Court numerous times.
ISSUE: Whether or not a trial court has no jurisdiction over a criminal case if the Information lacks on its face (1) the word “approved” and (2) the signature of the city prosecutor (or the provincial or chief state prosecutor).
HELD: No. The case of Villa vs. Ibanez was abandoned by the Supreme Court.
Firstly, there is no law that requires that an Information filed must be signed by the provincial, city, or chief state prosecutor in order for trial courts to acquire jurisdiction over a criminal case. The ruling in Villa vs. Ibanez which states that the absence of the signature of a city, provincial, or chief state prosecutor results in a jurisdictional defect is unconstitutional. Only a law may confer jurisdiction to courts of law. Once jurisdiction is conferred, the jurisdiction does not cease simply because the prosecutor who filed the Information had no authority. At worst, the absence of authority on the part of the prosecutor who filed the Information only gives rise to a question on his standing in court.
The Supreme Court also emphasized that to allow the ruling in Villa vs Ibanez to subsist is tantamount to judicial legislation – violation of the separation of powers. The court requiring that a city prosecutor, provincial prosecutor, or chief state prosecutor must first sign an Information filed before the court can acquire jurisdiction is improper because only law may confer jurisdiction and its requirements.
Secondly, this defect (which is just a formal defect not a jurisdictional defect) must be raised by the Accused prior to entering his or her plea. Once a plea is made, any defect in the Information is deemed waived except those that pertain to Sections 3a (facts charged do not constitute an offense), 3b (lack of jurisdiction over the offense), 3g (prescription), and 3i (double jeopardy) of Rule 117 of the Rules of Court.
SIDE ISSUE: But Gomez was already acquitted by the trial court due to the finding that the Information was defective, if the acquittal is overturned, will it not violate Gomez’ right against double jeopardy considering that an acquittal is immediately final and executory?
HELD: No. The trial court’s acquittal was tainted with grave abuse of discretion. As such, the acquittal is not valid and its reversal will not amount to double jeopardy.