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Rocaberte vs People Case Digest


A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the approximate time of the commission of the offense.  A defect in the averment as to the time of the commission of the crime charged is not, however, a ground for a motion to quash under Rule 116 of the Rules of Court. The remedy against an indictment that fails to allege the time of the commission of the offense with sufficient definiteness is a motion for a bill of particulars.


Facts:

Rocaberte and two others were charged with the crime of theft. The Information states:

That on or about the period from 1977 to December 28, 1983 at the off offshore of West Canayaon, municipal of Garcia-Hernandez, province of Bohol, Philippines, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and helping each other, with intent to gain and without the consent of the owner, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away the following properties...

Rocaberte moved to quash the information, alleging that the statement of the time of commission of the felony charged, "from 1977 to December 1983, a period of 7 years," or "about 2,551 days," was fatally defective; there was "so great a gap as to defy approximation in the commission of one and the same offense"; "the variance is certainly unfair to the accused for it violates their constitutional right to be informed before the trial of the specific charge against them and deprives them of the opportunity to defend themselves. The trial court denied the motion. Hence, the appeal.


Issues:

1. Is the statement of the time of the commission of the offense "between October, 1910 to August, 1912," defective?

2. Is a defect in the averment as to the time of the commission of the crime charged a ground for a motion to quash?

3. What then is the remedy against an indictment that fails to allege the time of the commission of the offense with sufficient definiteness?


Held:

1. The rules of criminal procedure declare that a complaint or information is sufficient if it states the approximate time of the commission of the offense. Where, however, the statement of the time of the commission of the offense is so general as to span a number of years, i.e., "between October, 1910 to August, 1912," it has been held to be fatally defective because it deprives the accused an opportunity to prepare his defense.


2. A defect in the averment as to the time of the commission of the crime charged is not, however, a ground for a motion to quash under Rule 116 of the Rules of Court. Even if it were, a motion for quashal on that account will be denied since the defect is one that can be cured by amendment.


3. The remedy against an indictment that fails to allege the time of the commission of the offense with sufficient definiteness is a motion for a bill of particulars.

The information against Rocaberte is indeed seriously defective. It places on him and his co-accused the unfair and unreasonable burden of having to recall their activities over a span of more than 2,500 days. It is a burden nobody should be made to bear. The public prosecutor must make more definite and particular the time of the commission of the crime of theft attributed to Rocaberte and his co-defendants. If he cannot, the prosecution cannot be maintained, the case must be dismissed. (Rocaberte vs People, G.R. No. 72994, January 23, 1991)

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