G.R. No. 46551, People v. Alarcon et al.
Republic of the Philippines
December 12, 1939
G.R. No. 46551
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appelle,
SALVADOR ALARCON, ET AL., accused.
FEDERICO MANGAHAS, respondent-appellant.
Araneta, Zaragoza & Araneta for appellant.
Assistant Solicitor-General Salvador Abad Santos for appellee.
As an aftermath of the decision rendered by the Court of first Instance of Pampanga in criminal case No. 5733, The People of the Philippines vs. Salvador Alarcon, et al., convicting the accused therein – except one – of the crime of robbery committed in band, a denunciatory letter, signed by Luis M. Taruc, was addressed to His Excellency, the President of the Philippines. A copy of said letter found its way to the herein respondent, Federico Mañgahas who, as columnist of the Tribune, a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, quoted the letter in an article published by him in the issue of that paper of September 23, 1937. The objectionable portion is inserted in the following petition of the provincial fiscal of Pampanga, filed with the Court of First Instance of that province on September 29, 1937:
PETICION PARA QUE FEDERICO MAÑGAHAS SEA CASTIGADO POR DESACATO
Comparece el fiscal provincial que suscribe y al Hon. Juzgado, como motivos de accion, restuosamente alega:
1.Ã‚Âº Que el 23 de julio de 1937, el que suscribe presento una querella en la causa arriba titulada, por el delito de ROBO EN CUADRILLA, habiendose celebrado la vista de esta causa durante los dias 28, 29 y 30 del mismo mes y año;
2.Ã‚Âº Que el 2 de agosto de 1937, el Hon. Juzgado dicto su decision declarando culpables a los cincuenta y dos acusados, y condenando al acusado Ricardo Serrano 1.Ã‚Âº como jefe de la cuadrilla, a una pena indeterminada no menor de cuatro meses de arresto mayor, ni mayor de cuatro años de prision correccional, y a todos los demas acusados a una pena indeterminada no menor de cuatro meses de arresto mayor, ni mayor de cuatro añ os de prision correccional, y a todos los demas acusados a una pena indeterminada no menor de dos meses y un dia de arresto mayor, ni mayor de tres años, ocho meses y un dia de prision correccional y al pago proporcional de las costas;
3.Ã‚Âº Que el 9 de agosto de 1937, no estando conformes de esta decision, los referidos acusados presentaron su escrito de apelacion para ante la Corte de Apelaciones;
4.Ã‚Âº Que el 23 de septiembre de 1937, el recurrido Federico Mangahas escribio, redacto, imprimio y publico e hizo que se publicara en el periodico diario The Tribune que se edite en la Ciudad de Manila y de general circulacion en las Islas Filipinas, en su numero correspondiente a dicha fecha, un articulo que hacia referencia a este Hon. Juzgado y a la actuacion de este en esta causa, cuyo articulo en parte es del tenor siguiente:
‘Fifty-two (52) tenants in Floridablanca, Pampanga, have been charged and convicted on a trumped up charge of robbery in band because they took each a few cavans of palay for which they issued the corresponding receipts, from the bodega in the hacienda where they are working. These tenants contend that they have the right to take the palay for their food as the hacienda owner has the obligation to give them rations of palay for their maintenance and their families to be paid later with their share of their crop. But this is not all. When the convicted tenants appealed the case and were released on bail pending their appeal, court and public officials exerted pressure upon one of their bondsmen, as this bondsman informed the tenants, to withdraw his bail for them, and the fifty-two tenants were arrested again and put in jail.’
5.Ã‚Âº Que la publicacion de este articulo acotado constituye un verdadero desacato al Tribunal, porque tiene por objeto obstaculizar la recta administracion de justicia, y tiende, ademas, a impresionar en el animo del Tribunal y a ejercer influencia en la decision que se dictare en este causa;
6.Ã‚Âº Que la publicacion de dicho articulo es igualmente un verdadero desacato a este Hon. Juzgado, por ser completamente falsos y tendenciosos los hechos expuestos en el mismo como hechos ejecutados por este Hon. Juzgado;
7.Ã‚Âº Que el recurrido Federico Mangahas con dicho articulo acotado, voluntaria, maliciosa y deliberadamente trato y se propuso atacar la honra, virtud y reputacion de este Hon. Juzgado exponiendolo el menosprecio y ridiculo del publico por las imputaciones falsas, maliciosas y difamatorias contenidas en dicho articulo.
Por tanto, pide se sirva ordenar el emplazamiento del recurrido Federico Mangahas, c/o T.V.T. Publishing Corporation, Calle Florentino Torres, Manila, para que comparezca ante este Hon. Juzgado y conteste a la presente peticion, y, previos los tramites legales, dicho recurido sea castigado por desacato. Pide igualmente se sirva dictar cualquier otra resolucion que en derecho proceda.
San Fernando, Pampanga, septiembre 23, 1937.
On the same date, the lower court ordered the respondent to appear and show cause. The respondent appeared and filed an answer, alleging:
1. That he did not draft and write the paragraph above quoted in the petition of the Provincial Fiscal, but the same is merely a part of a letter addressed to the President of the Philippines, certified copy of which is hereto attached, and marked Exhibit “1.”
2. That he caused the said letter to be copied without comments or remarks as may be seen from the attached issue of the “The Tribune” on September 23, 1937, marked Exhibit “2.”
3. That in having the said letter copied it was not the intention, much less the purpose and design of the respondent to attack the honor, virtue and reputation of this Honorable Court but merely cited it as an instance of the popular tendency to resort to the President in everything.
4. That far from reflecting on the honor, virtue and reputation of this Honorable Court, the publication of the letter to the President simply constitutes an indirect criticism of the methods of the Popular Front in building up its political prestige.
5. That the publication of the letter in question did not and does not embarrass, impede, intimidate or influence this Honorable Court in the exercise of its judicial functions, or prevent an impartial trial in this case, inasmuch as the case has already been decided.
6. That the respondent alleges that this case is no longer pending before this Hon. Court and therefore the Court has lost its jurisdiction over it.
7. The respondents contends that the portion of the article quoted by the provincial fiscal in his petition for contempt does not constitute contempt of court because it does not attack nor question the judgment of the Court but only explain the side of the defendant.
8. “The general rule is that to constitute any publication a contempt it must have reference to a matter then pending in court, and be of a character tending to the injury of pending proceeding before if and of the subsequent proceeding. It is accordingly held that libelous comments upon a sentence already passed in a criminal proceeding is not a contempt.” (Percival v. State, 45 Neb., 741 50 Am. St. Rept., 568; 64 NW. 221; 68 L. R.A., 255.)
9. “But comment upon the lower court’s decision was held not contemptuous because relating to a concluded matter, in Re Dalton, 46 Jan., 256; 26 Pac., 673 and Dumhan v. State, 6 Iowa, 245; although the case was then pending on appeal.” (68 L.R.A., 262.) (Underlining ours.)
10. That the publication of the letter in question is in line with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press.
On November 29, 2937, the lower court entered an order, the dispositive part of which read thus:
Considerando, sin embargo, todas las circunstancias del case, el Juzgado solamente impone al recurrido una multa nominal de P25, o en case de insolvencia, cinco dias de prision sin perjuico de la accion por libelo que el fiscal creyere conviniente incoar contra Luis M. Taruc.
Asi se ordena.
Respondent Mañgahas appealed from this order to the Court of Appeals – which later certified the case to this Court as involving only a question of law – assigning the following errors allegedly committed by the trial court;
I. The lower court erred in finding the respondent guilty of contempt of court.
II. The lower court erred in considering the letter quoted in the article in question as falling under the Rules on the Investigation of Judges of First Instance.
III. The lower court erred in taking jurisdiction of the motion for contempt.
Consideration of the first error is all that is necessary as the same will lead incidentally to the disposition of the other two.
The elements of contempt by newspaper publications are well defined by the cases adjudicated in this as in other jurisdictions. Newspaper publications tending to impede, obstruct, embarrass, or influence the courts in administering justice in a pending suit or proceeding constitutes criminal contempt which is summarily punishable by the courts. The rule is otherwise after the cause is ended. (In re Lozano and Quevedo, 54 Phil. 801; In re Abistado, 57 Phil. 668.) It must, however, clearly appear that such publications do impede, interfere with, and embarrass the administration of justice before the author of the publications should be held for contempt. (Nixon v. State 207 Ind., 426, 193 N.E., 591, 97 A.L.R., 894.) What is thus sought to be shielded against the influence of newspaper comments is the all-important duty of the court to administer justice in the decision of a pending case. There is no pending case to speak of when and once the court has come upon a decision and has lost control either to reconsider or amend it. That, we believe, is the case at bar, for here we have a concession that the letter complained of was published after the Court of First Instance of Pampanga had decided the aforesaid criminal case for robbery in band, and after that decision had been appealed to the Court of Appeals. The fact that a motion to reconsider its order confiscating the bond of the accused therein was subsequently filed may be admitted; but, the important consideration is that it was then without power to reopen or modify the decision which it had rendered upon the merits of the case, and could not have been influenced by the questioned publication.
If it be contended, however, that the publication of the questioned letter constitutes contempt of the Court of Appeals where the appeal in the criminal case was then pending, as was the theory of the provincial fiscal below which was accepted by the lower court, we take the view that in the interrelation of the different courts forming our integrated judicial system, one court is not an agent or representative of another and may not, for this reason, punish contempts in vindication of the authority and decorum which are not its own. The appeal transfer the proceedings to the appellate court, and this last word becomes thereby charged with the authority to deal with contempts committed after the perfection of the appeal.
The Solicitor-General, in his brief, suggests that “even if there had been nothing more pending before the trial court, this still had jurisdiction to punish the accused for contempt, for the reason that the publication scandalized the court. (13 C.J., p. 37, 45; 6 R.C.L., 513.)” The rule suggested, which has its origin at common law, is involved in some doubt under modern English law and in the United States, “the weight of authority, however, is clearly to the effect that comment upon concluded cases is unrestricted under our constitutional guaranty of the liberty of the press.” (Annotations, 68 L.R.A., 255.) Other considerations argue against our adoption of the suggested holding. As stated, the rule imported into this jurisdiction is that “newspaper publications tending to impede, obstruct, embarrass, or influence the courts in administering justice in a pending suit or proceeding constitute criminal contempt which is summarily punishable by the courts; that the rule is otherwise after the case is ended.” (In re Lozano and Quevedo, supra; In re Abistado, supra.) In at least two instances, this Court has exercised the power to punish for contempt “on the preservative and on the vindicative principle” (Villavicencio vs. Lukban, 39 Phil. 778), “on the corrective and not on the retaliatory idea of punishment”. In re Lozano and Quevedo, supra.) Contempt of court is in the nature of a criminal offense (Lee Yick Hon vs. Collector of Customs, 41 Phil. 548), and in considering the probable effects of the article alleged to be contemptuous, every fair and reasonable inference consistent with the theory of defendant’s innocence will be indulged (State v. New Mexican Printing Co., 25 N. M., 102, 177 p. 751), and where a reasonable doubt in fact or in law exists as to the guilt of one of constructive contempt for interfering with the due administration of justice the doubt must be resolved in his favor, and he must be acquitted. (State v. Hazeltine, 82 Wash., 81, 143 p. 436.) The appealed order is hereby reversed, and the respondent acquitted, without pronouncement as to costs. So ordered.
Avanceña, C.P., Villa-Real, Imperial, Diaz and Concepcion, JJ., concur.