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Sasot vs. People Case Digest


The crime of Unfair Competition punishable under Article 189 of the Revised Penal Code is a public crime. It is essentially an act against the State and it is the latter which principally stands as the injured party. The complainant's capacity to sue in such case becomes immaterial.

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Facts: 

In May 1997, the NBI conducted an investigation pursuant to a complaint by the NBA Properties, Inc., against petitioners for possible violation of Article 189 of the Revised Penal Code on unfair competition. In its Report, the NBI stated that NBA Properties, Inc., is a foreign corporation organized under the laws of the United States of America, and is the registered owner of NBA trademarks and names of NBA basketball teams such as Chicago Bulls, etc. These names are used on hosiery, footwear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, pajamas, sport shirts, and other garment products, which are allegedly registered with the Bureau of Patents, Trademarks and Technology Transfer. The Report further stated that during the investigation, it was discovered that petitioners are engaged in the manufacture, printing, sale, and distribution of counterfeit NBA garment products. Hence, it recommended petitioners prosecution for unfair competition under Article 189 of the Revised Penal Code.

In a Special Power of Attorney, Rick Welts, as President of NBA Properties, Inc., constituted the law firm of Ortega, Del Castillo, Bacorro, Odulio, Calma & Carbonell, as the companys attorney-in-fact, and to act for and on behalf of the company, in the filing of criminal, civil and administrative complaints, among others. The Special Power of Attorney was notarized by Nicole Brown of New York County and certified by Norman Goodman, County Clerk and Clerk of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Consul Cecilia B. Rebong of the Consulate General of the Philippines, New York, authenticated the certification. Welts also executed a Complaint-Affidavit on February 12, 1998, before Notary Public Nicole J. Brown of the State of New York.

Before arraignment, petitioners filed a Motion to Quash the Information on the following grounds: (1) the facts charged do not constitute an offense and (2) the court has no jurisdiction over the offense charged or the person of the accused. Petitioners argue that the fiscal should have dismissed Welts's complaint because under the rules, the complaint must be sworn to before the prosecutor and the copy on record appears to be only a fax transmittal.

The prosecutor filed his Comment/Opposition to the motion to quash, stating that he has the original copy of the complaint, and that complainant has an attorney-in-fact to represent it. The prosecutor also contended that the State is entitled to prosecute the offense even without the participation of the private offended party, as the crime charged is a public crime.

The trial court sustained the prosecutions arguments and denied petitioners motion to quash.


Issue:

Was the complaint substantially sufficient?


Held:

Yes. Under Section 3, Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, a complaint is substantially sufficient if it states the known address of the respondent, it is accompanied by complainant's affidavit and his witnesses and supporting documents, and the affidavits are sworn to before any fiscal, state prosecutor or government official authorized to administer oath, or in their absence or unavailability, a notary public who must certify that he personally examined the affiants and that he is satisfied that they voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits. All these have been duly satisfied in the complaint filed before Prosecution Attorney Aileen Marie S. Gutierrez. It must be noted that even the absence of an oath in the complaint does not necessarily render it invalid. Want of oath is a mere defect of form, which does not affect the substantial rights of the defendant on the merits.

In this case, Welts's Complaint-Affidavit contains an acknowledgement by Notary Public Nicole Brown of the State of New York that the same has been subscribed and sworn to before her on February 12, 1998, duly authenticated by the Philippine Consulate. While the copy on record of the complaint-affidavit appears to be merely a photocopy thereof, Prosecution Attorney Gutierrez stated that complainants representative will present the authenticated notarized original in court, and Prosecutor Guray manifested that the original copy is already on hand. It is apt to state at this point that the prosecutor enjoys the legal presumption of regularity in the performance of his duties and functions, which in turn gives his report the presumption of accuracy.

Moreover, records show that there are other supporting documents from which the prosecutor based his recommendation.

Consequently, if the information is valid on its face, and there is no showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion and prejudice on the part of public prosecutor, as in the present case, the trial court should respect such determination.

More importantly, the crime of Unfair Competition punishable under Article 189 of the Revised Penal Code is a public crime. It is essentially an act against the State and it is the latter which principally stands as the injured party. The complainant's capacity to sue in such case becomes immaterial. (Sasot vs. People, G.R. No. 143193. June 29, 2005)

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