CASE TITLE People v. Hon. Zeida Aurora Garfin & Serafin Seballegue
KEYWORDS / DOCTRINE Businessman (employer) who refused to pay his employee’s SSS contributions gets sued (Branch 19RTC Naga City) Doctrine: Lack of authority on the part of the filing officer prevents the court from acquiring jurisdiction over the case
FACTS Respondent S. Seballegue is the owner of Saballegue Printing Press. Seballegue was charged with violation of the "Social Security Act or RA 8282 (Section 22(a) in rel. to Sec. 19(b) and 28(e)," due to his failure and continuous refusal to remit the SSS premiums due to one of his employees (in the amount of (P6,533.00 from January 1990 to December 1999 and the 3% penalty per month for late remittance in the amount of P11,143.28) despite repeated demands. A complaint was filed against Seballegue. Seballegue filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the information was filed without the prior written authority or approval of the city prosecutor as required under Section 4, Rule 112 of the ROC. State Prosecutor (SP) Tolentino, filed an opposition, against which the accused filed a rejoinder. An MR (Motion for Reconsideration) was filed by SP Tolentino contending that as a special prosecutor designated by the regional state prosecutor to handle SSS cases within Region V, SP Tolentino is authorized to file the information involving violations of the SSS law without need of prior approval from the city prosecutor. Letters of commendation from Chief SP Zuo and DOJ Sec. Perez were offered as proofs to show that SP Tolentino’s authority to file the information was recognized. In response, the defense pointed out in its opposition that the MR lacked a notice of hearing, hence it is pro forma or a mere scrap of paper. RTC: Motion to dismiss granted OSG: “The lack of authority or approval of the city or provincial prosecutor/chief state prosecutor is an infirmity = Lacks jurisdiction CA: Affirmed
ISSUE AND RULING ISSUE: WON lack of authority on the part of the filing officer prevents the court from acquiring jurisdiction over the case HELD: YES. As provided under Rule 117 section 3 of the ROC, “the accused may move to quash the complaint or information on any of the following grounds… (d) That the officer who filed the information had no authority to do so; In relation to Rule 112, Sec 4 (par 3), ROC “No complaint or information may be filed or dismissed by an investigating prosecutor without the prior written authority or approval of the provincial or city prosecutor or chief state prosecutor or the Ombudsman or his deputy.” And in view of the Villa ruling that if the filing officer lacks authority to file the information, jurisdiction is not conferred on the court and this infirmity cannot be cured by silence or waiver, acquiescence or even by express consent. In this case, the absence of a directive from Sec. of Justice designating SP Tolentino as a Special Prosecutor for SSS cases or a prior written approval of the information by the provincial or city prosecutor, the information in the criminal case was filed by an officer without authority to file the same. Having such an infirmity in the information constitutes a jurisdictional defect that cannot be cured. Therefore, the lack of prior authority or approval by the city or provincial
prosecutor or chief state prosecutor being an infirmity in the information, prevented the court from acquiring jurisdiction over the case. Criminal Case is Dismissed.