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People of the Philippines vs.

Ascencion Olarte
June 30, 1960

Facts:
Asuncion Olarte is charged with libel by Visitacion Meris after sending her several letters
with libelous and contemptuous accusations. The letters started in February 24, 1954. On
January 7, 1956, a libel case was filed with the provincial fiscal and on February 26 1956,
filed the case with the Justice of Peace Court. On July 3, 1956, an information was filed in
the Court of First Instance. The defendant then moved for the quashal of the info on the
ground that it prescribed already. The Solicitor General on the other hand claims that the
filing of the complaint in the Court of Justice of Peace interrupted the prescription period of
the case. The defendant however claims that according to Article 360 of the Revised Penal
Code:
The criminal action and the civil action for damages in cases of written defamation,
as provided in this chapter, may be filed simultaneously or separately with the court
of first instance of the province wherein the libel was published, displayed or
exhibited, regardless of the place where the same was written, printed or composed.

This provision provides that interruption begins when the case is filed with the CFI. The
lower court dismissed the complaint.

Issue:
Did the libel case prescribed already?

Held:
No. Act 277 was the old law on libel. Libel case were then in the jurisdiction of the Court of
First Instance, regardless of the amount involved. Article 360 however specifically provides
that the case is in the jurisdiction of the CFI.

Act 194 on the other hand authorizes justices of the peace to make preliminary
investigation of any crime alleged to have been committed within his municipality. The
question is whether Act 277 is an exception to Act 194 in the jurisdiction of Justices of the
peace. The Court answered this to the negative. 1) Nothing in Act 277 mentioned such
intent. 2) Amendments by implication are frowned upon 3) Authority of the justices of
peace to conduct prelim investigation is far from inconsistent with the authority of the CFI.
Does the filing then of a libel case in the Court of Justice stop the running period of
prescription? Jurisdiction to hear the case is different from authority to make preliminary
investigation. The Courts of the Justice of Peace have jurisdiction to conduct preliminary
investigation on libel cases. When it is instituted in such court, the prescriptive period is
interrupted.

Dissenting opinion:
The law provides an express provision that jurisdiction is with the CFI. Framers of the RPC
did not want the intervention of JPC. Some judges in the JPC are not lawyers, and such
might be the intention of giving exclusive jurisdiction to CFI. Commencement of the judicial
proceeding cannot start at the investigation of the JCP