“Any person who, although physically outside the territorial limits of the Philippines, commits, conspires, or plots to finance terrorism in the Philippines shall be tried in the country”
Criminal action must be commenced in the place where the crime was committed, or in any place where one of the essential ingredients or elements thereof occurred (Section 15, Rule 110, Rules of Criminal Procedure).
This is unlike in civil cases, where it may be instituted in the place where the property is located, if it is a real action, or where the parties reside, if it is a personal action, at the option of the plaintiff (Rule 4, Civil Procedure).
For example, for homicide, the action must be commenced in the city or municipality where the victim was stabbed to death; for carnapping, it must be in the place where the motor vehicle was taken; and for the sale of illegal drugs, it will be where the buy-bust operation and arrest took place.
There are two reasons for the rule: first, trial courts can only hear and try cases involving crimes committed within their territorial jurisdiction. Second, it is grounded on the fact that where the crime took place is where the witnesses and other facilities for his defense are available (Tranquil Salvador III, Criminal Procedure citing Union Bank v. People, G.R. No. 192565, 28 February 2012).
However, there are “transitory or continuing offenses”, which are crimes where “some acts material and essential to the crimes and requisite to their consummation occur in one municipality or territory and some in another”(Rigor v. People, G.R. No. 144887, 17 November 2004) In such cases, the action can be instituted where any of its essential ingredients, or elements, occurred.
For example, in violations of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, the venue shall be in any of the places where the check is drawn, issued, delivered, or dishonored (Rigor v. People).
In a prosecution for estafa under Article 315(3) of the Revised Penal Code, the venue shall be either in the place where the deceitful manipulations or false pretenses of the accused were made, or where the damage was consummated; as “deceit and damage are the basic elements of estafa” (Tuzon v. Cruz, G.R. No. L-27410, 28 August 1975).
In kidnapping, the venue shall be wherever the victim is deprived of liberty, as “deprivation of liberty is persistent and continuing from one place to another” People v. Grospe, G.R. 74053, 20 January 1988).
To determine whether the court has jurisdiction over a criminal case, the allegations in the criminal complaint or information are examined. However, the court should dismiss the action for want of jurisdiction, if in the course of the trial, evidence shows that the offense was committed elsewhere (Isip v. People, G.R. No. 170298, 26 June 2007).
While as a general rule, criminal actions can only be instituted within the territorial borders of the place where the crime was committed, there are crimes committed outside of the Philippines but can be prosecuted here.
An example is when a person outside of the Philippines, creates counterfeit Philippine coins, currency, or securities (Article 2, Revised Penal Code).
Similarly, any person who, although physically outside the territorial limits of the Philippines, commits, conspires, or plots to finance terrorism in the Philippines shall be tried in the country (Section 19, Republic Act 10168).
This is likewise seen in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, where a Filipino citizen or national outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines who conspires to commit terrorism, incites to commit terrorism, recruits people to a terrorist organization, or provides material support to terrorists shall still be tried here (Section 49, Republic Act 11479).
Any violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act may be prosecuted in the Philippines against any Filipino national regardless of the place of commission (Section 21, Republic Act 10175).
Hence, Filipinos abroad who impute a vice, crime or defect against a natural or juridical person in the Philippines through any online or virtual platform such as YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter can be prosecuted in the Philippines. They cannot raise the defense that they are outside the jurisdiction of the Philippines.
In the case of AAA v. BBB, the Supreme Court declared that the psychological and mental anguish experienced by a woman constitutes a material element of the offense of psychological violence under Republic Act No. 9262. Hence, psychological violence committed through marital infidelity is a transitory or continuing crime.
The Supreme Court explained that even if the extramarital affair causing the mental and emotional anguish is committed abroad, this does not place the offender beyond the reach of Philippine courts.
This ruling has addressed the suffering of Filipina spouses who have been victims of philandering husbands who commit infidelities outside the Philippines (G.R. No. 212448, 11 January 2018).
It must be noted that the rule that venue is jurisdictional in criminal cases does not extend to applications for search warrants, because strictly speaking there are no criminal cases yet. In Pilipinas Shell, et al. v. Romars, the court characterized a search warrant as “a special criminal process”, and concluded that “proceeding for said applications are not [being] criminal in nature … the rule that venue is jurisdictional does not apply thereto” (G.R. No. 189669, 16 February 2015).
Knowing the place where the crime or any of its elements is committed is only one aspect of jurisdiction that the prosecution should know before commencing the action.
The other aspect is the penalty of the offense. If the penalty of imprisonment exceeds six years, then the case will be filed in the Regional Trial Court; however, if it does not exceed six years regardless of the fine or accessory penalties, it will be filed in the Metropolitan or Municipal Trial Court, subject to exceptions in law (Republic Act 7691).