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[G.R. No. 114398.

October 24, 1997]

CARMEN LIWANAG, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS and THE
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the Solicitor
General, respondents.

DECISION

ROMERO, J.:

Petitioner was charged with the crime of estafa before the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 93, Quezon City, in an information which reads as follows:

That on or between the month of May 19, 1988 and August, 1988 in Quezon City, Philippines
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with intent of gain, with
unfaithfulness, and abuse of confidence, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
defraud one ISIDORA ROSALES, in the following manner, to wit: on the date and in the place
aforementioned, said accused received in trust from the offended party cash money amounting
to P536,650.00, Philippine Currency, with the express obligation involving the duty to act as
complainants agent in purchasing local cigarettes (Philip Morris and Marlboro cigarettes), to
resell them to several stores, to give her commission corresponding to 40% of the profits; and to
return the aforesaid amount of offended party, but said accused, far from complying her aforesaid
obligation, and once in possession thereof, misapplied, misappropriated and converted the same
to her personal use and benefit, despite repeated demands made upon her, accused failed and
refused and still fails and refuses to deliver and/or return the same to the damage and prejudice
of the said ISIDORA ROSALES, in the aforementioned amount and in such other amount as
may be awarded under the provision of the Civil Code.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Petitioner Carmen Liwanag (Liwanag) and a certain Thelma Tabligan went to the house of
complainant Isidora Rosales (Rosales) and asked her to join them in the business of buying and
selling cigarettes. Convinced of the feasibility of the venture, Rosales readily agreed.Under their
agreement, Rosales would give the money needed to buy the cigarettes while Liwanag and
Tabligan would act as her agents, with a corresponding 40% commission to her if the goods are
sold; otherwise the money would be returned to Rosales. Consequently, Rosales gave several
cash advances to Liwanag and Tabligan amounting to P633,650.00.
During the first two months, Liwanag and Tabligan made periodic visits to Rosales to report
on the progress of the transactions. The visits, however, suddenly stopped, and all efforts by
Rosales to obtain information regarding their business proved futile.

Alarmed by this development and believing that the amounts she advanced were being
misappropriated, Rosales filed a case of estafa against Liwanag.

After trial on the merits, the trial court rendered a decision dated January 9, 1991, finding
Liwanag guilty as charged. The dispositive portion of the decision reads thus:

WHEREFORE, the Court holds, that the prosecution has established the guilt of the accused,
beyond reasonable doubt, and therefore, imposes upon the accused, Carmen Liwanag, an
Indeterminate Penalty of SIX (6) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS AND TWENTY ONE (21)
DAYS OF PRISION CORRECCIONAL TO FOURTEEN (14) YEARS AND EIGHT (8)
MONTHS OF PRISION MAYOR AS MAXIMUM, AND TO PAY THE COSTS.

The accused is likewise ordered to reimburse the private complainant the sum of P526,650.00,
without subsidiary imprisonment, in case of insolvency.

SO ORDERED.

Said decision was affirmed with modification by the Court of Appeals in a decision dated
November 29, 1993, the decretal portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed with
the correction of the nomenclature of the penalty which should be: SIX (6) YEARS, EIGHT (8)
MONTHS and TWENTY ONE (21) DAYS of prision mayor, as minimum, to FOURTEEN (14)
YEARS and EIGHT (8) MONTHS of reclusion temporal, as maximum. In all other respects, the
decision is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Her motion for reconsideration having been denied in the resolution of March 16, 1994,
Liwanag filed the instant petition, submitting the following assignment of errors:

1. RESPONDENT APPELLATE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE


CONVICTION OF THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER FOR THE CRIME OF ESTAFA, WHEN
CLEARLY THE CONTRACT THAT EXIST (sic) BETWEEN THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER
AND COMPLAINANT IS EITHER THAT OF A SIMPLE LOAN OR THAT OF A
PARTNERSHIP OR JOINT VENTURE HENCE THE NON RETURN OF THE MONEY OF
THE COMPLAINANT IS PURELY CIVIL IN NATURE AND NOT CRIMINAL.
2. RESPONDENT APPELLATE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING THE
ACCUSED-PETITIONER ON GROUNDS OF REASONABLE DOUBT BY APPLYING THE
EQUIPOISE RULE.

Liwanag advances the theory that the intention of the parties was to enter into a contract of
partnership, wherein Rosales would contribute the funds while she would buy and sell the
cigarettes, and later divide the profits between them.[1] She also argues that the transaction can
also be interpreted as a simple loan, with Rosales lending to her the amount stated on an
installment basis.[2]

The Court of Appeals correctly rejected these pretenses.

While factual findings of the Court of Appeals are conclusive on the parties and not
reviewable by the Supreme Court, and carry more weight when these affirm the factual findings
of the trial court,[3] we deem it more expedient to resolve the instant petition on its merits.

Estafa is a crime committed by a person who defrauds another causing him to suffer
damages, by means of unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, or of false pretenses of fraudulent
acts.[4]

From the foregoing, the elements of estafa are present, as follows: (1) that the accused
defrauded another by abuse of confidence or deceit; and (2) that damage or prejudice capable of
pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third party, [5] and it is essential that there
be a fiduciary relation between them either in the form of a trust, commission or administration.
[6]

The receipt signed by Liwanag states thus:

May 19, 1988 Quezon City

Received from Mrs. Isidora P. Rosales the sum of FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY SIX
THOUSAND AND SIX HUNDRED FIFTY PESOS (P526,650.00) Philippine Currency, to
purchase cigarrets (sic) (Philip & Marlboro) to be sold to customers. In the event the said
cigarrets (sic) are not sold, the proceeds of the sale or the said products (shall) be returned to said
Mrs. Isidora P. Rosales the said amount of P526,650.00 or the said items on or before August 30,
1988.

(SGD & Thumbedmarked) (sic)

CARMEN LIWANAG

26 H. Kaliraya St.
Quezon City

Signed in the presence of:

(Sgd) Illegible (Sgd) Doming Z. Baligad

The language of the receipt could not be any clearer. It indicates that the money delivered to
Liwanag was for a specific purpose, that is, for the purchase of cigarettes, and in the event the
cigarettes cannot be sold, the money must be returned to Rosales.

Thus, even assuming that a contract of partnership was indeed entered into by and between
the parties, we have ruled that when money or property have been received by a partner for a
specific purpose (such as that obtaining in the instant case) and he later misappropriated it, such
partner is guilty of estafa.[7]

Neither can the transaction be considered a loan, since in a contract of loan once the money
is received by the debtor, ownership over the same is transferred. [8] Being the owner, the
borrower can dispose of it for whatever purpose he may deem proper.

In the instant petition, however, it is evident that Liwanag could not dispose of the money as
she pleased because it was only delivered to her for a single purpose, namely, for the purchase of
cigarettes, and if this was not possible then to return the money to Rosales. Since in this case
there was no transfer of ownership of the money delivered, Liwanag is liable for conversion
under Art. 315, par. 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals
dated November 29, 1993, is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Melo, Francisco, and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), on leave.


THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 204755, September 17, 2014

SOLEDAD TRIA, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated April 20, 2012 and Resolution2 dated September 18,
2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 33529 which affirmed the
Decision3 dated July 16, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela City, Branch 172,
in Criminal Case No. 970-V-01, finding Soledad Tria (petitioner) guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of estafa and sentencing her to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years and two (2)
months of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum.

The Facts

The criminal information to which the petitioner pleaded Not Guilty


reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

That on or [about] March 8, 2000 in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously defraud and deceive SEVEN SPHERE ENTERPRISES represented by one
GERTRUDES MENESES in the following manner to wit: the said accused received assorted
jewelry from SEVEN SPHERE ENTERPRISES worth P23,375.50 under the express obligation
on the part of the said accused to sell the same and to account for and deliver the proceeds of the
sale or to return the merchandise, if unsold, to SEVEN SPHERE ENTERPRISES, within six (6)
days from receipt thereof, but said accused once in possession of the pieces of jewelry, with
abuse of trust and confidence, misappropriate, misapply and convert to her own personal use and
benefit the said amount of P23,375.50 and despite repeated demands to her to immediately
account for and remit the proceeds of the sale of [sic] to return the goods, refused and failed and
still refuses and fails to do so, to the damage and prejudice of SEVEN SPHERE ENTERPRISES
in the aforementioned amount of P23,375.50.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

In support of the foregoing accusation, the prosecution presented the testimony of its lone
witness, Gertrudes Meneses (Meneses), as well as several pieces of documentary evidence.
Taken together, the evidence for the prosecution showed that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Meneses is a Cash Custodian of Seven Sphere Enterprises (Seven Sphere) while the petitioner
was one of the consignees. On March 8, 2000, the petitioner received on consignment from
Seven Sphere twenty two (22) pieces of jewelry valued at P47,440.00 subject to the condition
that she will remit the proceeds of the sale thereof and return any unsold pieces within six (6)
days.5 The petitioner returned eight (8) unsold pieces of the jewelry valued at P16,380.00 leaving
a balance of P31,060.00. To cover the balance, the petitioner issued four (4) Banco Filipino post-
dated checks all with the equal face value of P7,765.00 to wit: No. 0089027 dated March 30,
2000; No. 0089028 dated April 15, 2000; No. 0089029 dated April 30, 2000, and No. 0089030
dated May 15, 2000. When presented for payment, however, the checks were dishonored by the
issuing bank for the reason: account closed. Upon being informed by Seven Sphere that the
checks were dishonored for payment, the petitioner returned three (3) pieces of jewelry valued at
P7,684.50 thus leaving the unpaid balance of P23,375.50.6cralawlawlibrary

Seven Sphere then sent a demand letter to the petitioner for the payment of the unpaid balance.
Despite receipt of the letter, however, the petitioner failed to pay.7cralawlawlibrary

The defense failed to present evidence despite several opportunities given by the trial court.
Hence, on April 19, 2010, the petitioner was declared to have waived her right to present
evidence and the case was submitted for decision.8cralawlawlibrary

Ruling of the RTC

In its Decision9 dated July 16, 2010, the RTC found the petitioner guilty of estafa, as defined and
penalized under Article 315 (1)(b) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), for misappropriating the
proceeds of the sale of the jewelry consigned to her by Seven Sphere. The RTC found that the
unremitted balance was actually P23,370.00 because the petitioner remitted cash and jewelry
worth P7,690.00.10 Accordingly, the RTC judgment disposed as
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused SOLEDAD TRIA guilty
beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime of estafa under Art. 315 subdivision No. 1
paragraph (b) of the Revised Penal Code. She is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate
penalty of four (4) years two (2) months of prision correccional as minimum to eight (8) years of
prision mayor as maximum. The accused is ordered to indemnify the private complainant of the
unremitted amount of P23,370.00.

There being no showing on record that the private complainant paid the legal fees on the civil
liability arising from the crime as there was no notice to pay sent to the private complainant, the
legal fees shall be considered a lien on the judgment in satisfaction of said lien.

Costs against the accused.

SO ORDERED.11

Ruling of the CA

In its Decision12 dated April 20, 2012, the CA sustained the conviction meted upon the petitioner
upon finding that all the elements of estafa were established beyond reasonable doubt by the
prosecution. The CA ruling disposed thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision in Criminal Case No. 970-V-01 is
hereby AFFIRMED and the instant appeal is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.13chanrobleslaw

The petitioner sought reconsideration14 but her motion was denied in the CA Resolution15 dated
September 18, 2012. Hence, this petition.

The Arguments of the Petitioner

In lobbying for her acquittal, the petitioner asserts that the element of fraud in estafa is absent in
view of Meneses admission that the petitioner returned the unsold pieces of jewelry and remitted
part of the sale proceeds of the sold pieces. The petitioner also claims that during the pendency
of the case, she has been paying her balance to Seven Sphere upon the latters declaration that
she will be eventually absolved from liability once she settles the full amount. The petitioner
avers that if it was her intention to defraud Seven Sphere, then she could have evaded paying the
balance or even denied receipt of the jewelry entrusted to her.16cralawlawlibrary

The petitioner further argues that the penalty imposed by the courts a quo was incorrect because
the fact that the amount involved exceed P22,000.00 should not be considered in the initial
determination of the indeterminate penalty and instead, the matter should be taken as analogous
to modifying circumstances in the imposition of the maximum term of the full indeterminate
sentence. She proffers that the minimum of her indeterminate sentence should be anywhere
within six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years while the maximum term should be at
least six (6) years and one (1) day, plus an additional one (1) year for each additional P10,000.00
in excess of P22,000.00.17cralawlawlibrary

In its Comment,18 filed through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the respondent prays
that the petition be denied and the conviction meted by the courts a quo upon the petitioner be
sustained for lack of reversible error.

In her Reply,19 the petitioner explains that her failure to present any evidence during trial was due
to her verbal agreement with Seven Sphere, through Meneses. Apparently, the petitioner agreed
to render services to Seven Sphere in order to settle her unpaid accountabilities by deducting
portions thereof from her monthly salary. The petitioner claims that she relied in good faith on
the representation of Seven Sphere that such arrangement will cause the dismissal of the case
filed against her. Attached to her Reply are copies of the front pages of her pay envelopes
showing that she started working for Seven Sphere in September 2006 and from then on until
February 2008, payments for her unpaid balance to Seven Sphere were deducted from her
monthly salary.20cralawlawlibrary

Lastly, the petitioner contends that she failed to account for the jewelries or their equivalent
value because [they] were, in truth and in fact, sold on credit, to different customers, who,
however, failed and/or refused to return the jewelries or pay the value thereof.21cralawlawlibrary

Ruling of the Court


The appeal is devoid of merit.

Preliminarily, it bears emphasizing that factual findings of the trial court, especially when
affirmed by the appellate court, are binding on and accorded great respect by this Court.22 There
are instances when this rule is not applicable such as: (1) when there is grave abuse of discretion;
(2) when the findings are grounded on speculations; (3) when the inference made is manifestly
mistaken; (4) when the judgment of the CA is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the
factual findings are conflicting; (6) when the CA went beyond the issues of the case and its
findings are contrary to the admissions of the parties; (7) when the CA overlooked undisputed
facts which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (8) when the findings of
the CA are contrary to those of the trial court; (9) when the facts set forth by the petitioner are
not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings of the CA are premised on the
absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record.23cralawlawlibrary

None of these situations are, however, attendant in the present case. Instead, a re-examination of
the evidence proffered by the prosecution and all records in the trial proceedings confirm the
moral certainty of the petitioners guilt for the crime imputed to her.

Estafa through misappropriation or conversion is defined and penalized under Article 315,
paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which states:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). - Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means
mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum
period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos, and if
such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in
its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty
which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the
accessory penalties which may be imposed under the provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be
termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be.
xxxx

1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


xxxx

(b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another, money, goods or any other
personal property received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or
under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same, even
though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having
received such money, goods, or other property.

The elements of estafa under this provision are: (1) that the money, good or other personal
property is received by the offender in trust, or on commission, or for administration, or under
any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of, or to return, the same; (2) that there
be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender or denial on his
part of such receipt; (3) that such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of
another; and (4) that there is a demand made by the offended party on the
offender.24cralawlawlibrary

The first, third and fourth elements are immediately discernible from the prosecutions evidence.
Exhibit B which is the Receipt of Goods on Consignment shows that on March 8, 2000, the
petitioner received pieces of jewelry on consignment from Seven Sphere with the obligation to
return the unsold pieces or remit the sale proceeds of the sold items. This documentary evidence
was corroborated by the testimony of Meneses, who signed the document in behalf of the
consignor at the time of its execution. She identified the petitioners signature on the document
and she confirmed the contents of the agreement as being a consignment contract, as well as the
petitioners consequent duties thereunder to remit sale proceeds or return the unsold pieces of
jewelry.

It is also indubitable from Meneses unrebutted testimony that Seven Sphere was prejudiced in
the amount of P23,370.00 after the petitioner failed to return the remaining eleven (11) pieces of
jewelry consigned to her or their value. Demand for payment was made upon the petitioner in a
letter dated August 21, 2001 but despite receipt thereof, she was unable to return the remaining
pieces of jewelry or remit their sale proceeds.

Meanwhile, the second element of misappropriation or conversion has been defined in this
wise:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The words convert and misappropriate connote the act of using or disposing of anothers
property as if it were ones own, or of devoting it to a purpose or use different from that agreed
upon. To misappropriate for ones own use includes not only conversion to ones personal
advantage, but also every attempt to dispose of the property of another without right. In proving
the element of conversion or misappropriation, a legal presumption of misappropriation arises
when the accused fails to deliver the proceeds of the sale or to return the items to be sold and
fails to give an account of their whereabouts.25chanrobleslaw

Indeed, misappropriation or conversion is deducible from the petitioners failure to return the last
eleven (11) pieces of jewelry entrusted to her. She never endeavoured to refute this fact during
trial and even until the herein appellate proceedings. Instead, the petitioner anchors her plea for
acquittal on the claim that intent to defraud is negated by the established fact that out of the
twenty two (22) jewelry items entrusted to her, she was able to return eleven (11) pieces.

The argument fails to convince. The petitioners asseveration bolsters rather than weakens the
case for the prosecution, as it implies an admission of her receipt of twenty two (22) jewelry
items from Seven Sphere and her failure to account for all of them.

The return of eleven (11) pieces of the jewelry items is inconsequential because she received
twenty two (22) items on consignment and bound herself to return ALL of them if unsold. The
petitioner breached her legal duty under the consignment contract to return or remit the sale
proceeds of ALL of such items when she was able to return only half of them while the other
eleven (11) pieces remained unreturned and unaccounted for, to the damage and prejudice of the
consignor.
Neither can we lend credence to the petitioners claim that her failure to account for the jewelry
subject of this indictment was because she sold the same on credit. Such act directly contravenes
the explicit terms of the authority granted to her because the consignment transaction with Seven
Sphere prohibited her from selling the jewelry on credit, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

And which pieces of Jewelry I received in TRUST ONLY shall remain the property of the
consignor until and unless fully paid and for me to sell within a period of six (6) days under the
condition that should any or all said pieces of jewelry be sold by me. I am under obligation to
remit to __________ the proceeds of the said sale and if the same are not sold, for me to return
the remaining unsold goods to the consignor all within six (6) days as previously adverted to.

That finally, the consignee shall have no right or privilege to sell the goods on credit nor to
name, appoint, or employ sub-agent(s) without the written authority of the consignor MARICHU
REYES. Partial remittance of proceeds and acceptance thereof after the lapse of the period
herein mentioned will not alter, modify nor constitute a novation of this receipt/agreement. In
case of suit or Litigation, the venue shall be brought before the proper courts of Valenzuela.

I likewise certify that I have read and understood the contents and consequences of this
receipt/agreement before I affix my signature.26 (Emphasis supplied)

Misappropriation and conversion is again palpable from these circumstances. By selling the
jewelry on credit, the petitioner used the property for a purpose other than that agreed upon. The
words convert and misappropriate connote an act of using or disposing of anothers property
as if it were ones own or devoting it to a purpose or use different from that agreed
upon.27cralawlawlibrary

Further, her alleged verbal agreement with Seven Sphere that she can render services in
exchange for the dismissal of the case, casts no significant bearing to the herein proceedings.
Only the State may validly waive the criminal action against an accused.28 The consequences
of such agreement with Seven Sphere can affect only her civil liability to the former for the value
of the misappropriated jewelry items. Such matter can be more properly threshed out during the
execution stage of the civil aspect of this case before the trial court where the evidence of such
verbal agreement as well as the deductions made on the petitioners salary can be received.

In fine, we find no reversible error in the CA decision affirming the findings of the RTC on the
petitioners criminal liability for estafa. However, the penalty imposed upon her must be
corrected.

Under Article 315 (1)(b) of the RPC, the penalty of estafa shall be prision correccional in its
maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over
12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos. If such amount exceeds 22,000.00 pesos, the
penalty so provided shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional
10,000 pesos provided that the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty
years.

Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law (ISL), the minimum term of the imposable penalty
shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed for the offense, without
first considering any modifying circumstance attendant to the commission of the
crime.29cralawlawlibrary

The penalty prescribed by law for the crime of estafa is prision correccional maximum
to prision mayor minimum; hence, the penalty next lower would then be prision
correccional minimum to medium. The minimum term of the indeterminate sentence should thus
be anywhere within six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2)
months.30cralawlawlibrary

Meanwhile, the maximum term shall be taken from the prescribed penalty of prision
correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum in its maximum period, adding 1 year of
imprisonment for every P10,000.00 in excess of P22,000.00. To compute the maximum period of
the prescribed penalty, prision correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum should be
divided into three equal portions of time each of which portion shall be deemed to form one
period in accordance with Article 65 of the RPC,31viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Minimum: 4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 5 years, 5 months and 10 days


Medium: 5 years, 5 months and 11 days to 6 years, 8 months and 20 days
Maximum: 6 years, 8 months and 21 days to 8 years32chanrobleslaw

Thus, the maximum period of the imposable penalty shall be anywhere within six (6) years, eight
(8) months and twenty-one (21) days to eight (8) years.33cralawlawlibrary

Considering however that the amount in excess of P22,000.00 is only P1,370.00 or short of the
P10,000.00 set by law to justify the imposition of incremental penalty, it is not appropriate to add
an additional one (1) year to the maximum term of the penalty imposable upon the petitioner
because the excess amount of P1,370.00 should be disregarded. This is pursuant to the rule that
in computing the incremental penalty, the amount defrauded shall be subtracted by P22,000.00,
and the difference shall be divided by P10,000.00, and any fraction of P10,000.00 shall be
discarded.34cralawlawlibrary

Observing the foregoing guidelines, the Court deems it proper to impose upon the petitioner the
indeterminate sentence of six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional as minimum to
six (6) years, eight (8) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor as maximum.

WHEREFORE, foregoing considered, the Decision dated April 20, 2012 and Resolution dated
September 18, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 33529 which affirmed the
Decision dated July 16, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela City, Branch 172, in
Criminal Case No. 970-V-01, finding petitioner Soledad Tria, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime of Estafa under Article 315, paragraph (1), sub-paragraph (b) of the Revised Penal
Code, are hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that she shall suffer the
indeterminate sentence of six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum to
six (6) years, eight (8) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.cralawred

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Bersamin,* and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 187730
Petitioner,
Present:

- versus - CORONA, C.J., Chairperson,


VELASCO, JR.,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
RODOLFO GALLO y GADOT, DEL CASTILLO, and
Accused-Appellant, PEREZ, JJ.

FIDES PACARDO y JUNGCO and Promulgated:


PILAR MANTA y DUNGO, June 29, 2010
Accused.

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

This is an appeal from the Decision[1] dated December 24, 2008 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02764 entitled People of the Philippines v. Rodolfo Gallo y
Gadot (accused-appellant), Fides Pacardo y Jungco and Pilar Manta y Dungo (accused), which
affirmed the Decision[2] dated March 15, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 30 in
Manila which convicted the accused-appellant Rodolfo Gallo y Gadot (accused-appellant) of
syndicated illegal recruitment in Criminal Case No. 02-206293 and estafa in Criminal Case No.
02-206297.

The Facts

Originally, accused-appellant Gallo and accused Fides Pacardo (Pacardo) and Pilar Manta
(Manta), together with Mardeolyn Martir (Mardeolyn) and nine (9) others, were charged with
syndicated illegal recruitment and eighteen (18) counts of estafacommitted against eighteen
complainants, including Edgardo V. Dela Caza (Dela Caza), Sandy Guantero (Guantero) and
Danilo Sare (Sare). The cases were respectively docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 02-2062936 to
02-206311. However, records reveal that only Criminal Case No. 02-206293, which was filed
against accused-appellant Gallo, Pacardo and Manta for syndicated illegal recruitment, and
Criminal Case Nos. 02-206297, 02-206300 and 02-206308, which were filed against accused-
appellant Gallo, Pacardo and Manta for estafa, proceeded to trial due to the fact that the rest of
the accused remained at large. Further, the other cases, Criminal Case Nos. 02-206294 to 02-
206296, 02-206298 to 02-206299, 02-206301 to 02-206307 and 02-206309 to 02-206311 were
likewise provisionally dismissed upon motion of Pacardo, Manta and accused-appellant for
failure of the respective complainants in said cases to appear and testify during trial.

It should also be noted that after trial, Pacardo and Manta were acquitted in Criminal
Case Nos. 02-206293, 02-206297, 02-206300 and 02-206308 for insufficiency of evidence.
Likewise, accused-appellant Gallo was similarly acquitted in Criminal Case Nos. 02-206300, the
case filed by Guantero, and 02-206308, the case filed by Sare. However, accused-appellant was
found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case Nos. 02-206293 and 02-206297, both
filed by Dela Caza, for syndicated illegal recruitment and estafa, respectively.

Thus, the present appeal concerns solely accused-appellants conviction for syndicated
illegal recruitment in Criminal Case No. 02-206293 and for estafa in Criminal Case No. 02-
206297.

In Criminal Case No. 02-206293, the information charges the accused-appellant, together
with the others, as follows:

The undersigned accuses MARDEOLYN MARTIR, ISMAEL


GALANZA, NELMAR MARTIR, MARCELINO MARTIR, NORMAN
MARTIR, NELSON MARTIR, MA. CECILIA M. RAMOS, LULU
MENDANES, FIDES PACARDO y JUNGCO, RODOLFO GALLO y
GADOT, PILAR MANTA y DUNGO, ELEONOR PANUNCIO and YEO SIN
UNG of a violation of Section 6(a), (l) and (m) of Republic Act 8042, otherwise
known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Workers Act of 1995,
committed by a syndicate and in large scale, as follows:
That in or about and during the period comprised between November 2000
and December, 2001, inclusive, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused conspiring and confederating together and helping with one another,
representing themselves to have the capacity to contract, enlist and transport
Filipino workers for employment abroad, did then and there willfully and
unlawfully, for a fee, recruit and promise employment/job placement abroad to
FERDINAND ASISTIN, ENTICE BRENDO, REYMOND G. CENA,
EDGARDO V. DELA CAZA, RAYMUND EDAYA, SANDY O. GUANTENO,
RENATO V. HUFALAR, ELENA JUBICO, LUPO A. MANALO, ALMA V.
MENOR, ROGELIO S. MORON, FEDILA G. NAIPA, OSCAR RAMIREZ,
MARISOL L. SABALDAN, DANILO SARE, MARY BETH SARDON,
JOHNNY SOLATORIO and JOEL TINIO in Korea as factory workers and charge
or accept directly or indirectly from said FERDINAND ASISTIN the amount of
P45,000.00; ENTICE BRENDO P35,000.00; REYMOND G. CENA P30,000.00;
EDGARDO V. DELA CAZA P45,000.00; RAYMUND EDAYA P100,000.00;
SANDY O. GUANTENO P35,000.00; RENATO V. HUFALAR P70,000.00;
ELENA JUBICO P30,000.00; LUPO A. MANALO P75,000.00; ALMA V.
MENOR P45,000.00; ROGELIO S. MORON P70,000.00; FEDILA G. NAIPA
P45,000.00; OSCAR RAMIREZ P45,000.00; MARISOL L. SABALDAN
P75,000.00; DANILO SARE P100,000.00; MARY BETH SARDON P25,000.00;
JOHNNY SOLATORIO P35,000.00; and JOEL TINIO P120,000.00 as placement
fees in connection with their overseas employment, which amounts are in excess
of or greater than those specified in the schedule of allowable fees prescribed by
the POEA Board Resolution No. 02, Series 1998, and without valid reasons and
without the fault of the said complainants failed to actually deploy them and
failed to reimburse the expenses incurred by the said complainants in connection
with their documentation and processing for purposes of their deployment.
[3]
(Emphasis supplied)

In Criminal Case No. 02-206297, the information reads:

That on or about May 28, 2001, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused conspiring and confederating together and helping with [sic] one another,
did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud EDGARDO V.
DELA CAZA, in the following manner, to wit: the said accused by means of false
manifestations and fraudulent representations which they made to the latter, prior
to and even simultaneous with the commission of the fraud, to the effect that they
had the power and capacity to recruit and employ said EDGARDO V. DELA
CAZA in Korea as factory worker and could facilitate the processing of the
pertinent papers if given the necessary amount to meet the requirements thereof;
induced and succeeded in inducing said EDGARDO V. DELA CAZA to give and
deliver, as in fact, he gave and delivered to said accused the amount of
P45,000.00 on the strength of said manifestations and representations, said
accused well knowing that the same were false and untrue and were made [solely]
for the purpose of obtaining, as in fact they did obtain the said amount of
P45,000.00 which amount once in their possession, with intent to defraud said
[EDGARDO] V. DELA CAZA, they willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
misappropriated, misapplied and converted the said amount of P45,000.00 to their
own personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the said EDGARDO
V. DELA CAZA in the aforesaid amount of P45,000.00, Philippine currency.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[4]

When arraigned on January 19, 2004, accused-appellant Gallo entered a plea of not guilty
to all charges.

On March 3, 2004, the pre-trial was terminated and trial ensued, thereafter.

During the trial, the prosecution presented as their witnesses, Armando Albines Roa, the
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) representative and private
complainants Dela Caza, Guanteno and Sare. On the other hand, the defense presented as its
witnesses, accused-appellant Gallo, Pacardo and Manta.

Version of the Prosecution

On May 22, 2001, Dela Caza was introduced by Eleanor Panuncio to accused-appellant
Gallo, Pacardo, Manta, Mardeolyn, Lulu Mendanes, Yeo Sin Ung and another Korean national at
the office of MPM International Recruitment and Promotion Agency (MPM Agency) located in
Malate, Manila.

Dela Caza was told that Mardeolyn was the President of MPM Agency, while Nelmar
Martir was one of the incorporators. Also, that Marcelino Martir, Norman Martir, Nelson Martir
and Ma. Cecilia Ramos were its board members. Lulu Mendanes acted as the cashier and
accountant, while Pacardo acted as the agencys employee who was in charge of the records of
the applicants. Manta, on the other hand, was also an employee who was tasked to deliver
documents to the Korean embassy.
Accused-appellant Gallo then introduced himself as a relative of Mardeolyn and
informed Dela Caza that the agency was able to send many workers abroad. Together with
Pacardo and Manta, he also told Dela Caza about the placement fee of One Hundred Fifty
Thousand Pesos (PhP 150,000) with a down payment of Forty-Five Thousand Pesos (PhP
45,000) and the balance to be paid through salary deduction.

Dela Caza, together with the other applicants, were briefed by Mardeolyn about the
processing of their application papers for job placement in Korea as a factory worker and their
possible salary. Accused Yeo Sin Ung also gave a briefing about the business and what to expect
from the company and the salary.

With accused-appellants assurance that many workers have been sent abroad, as well as
the presence of the two (2) Korean nationals and upon being shown the visas procured for the
deployed workers, Dela Caza was convinced to part with his money. Thus, on May 29, 2001, he
paid Forty-Five Thousand Pesos (PhP 45,000) to MPM Agency through accused-appellant Gallo
who, while in the presence of Pacardo, Manta and Mardeolyn, issued and signed Official Receipt
No. 401.

Two (2) weeks after paying MPM Agency, Dela Caza went back to the agencys office in
Malate, Manila only to discover that the office had moved to a new location at Batangas Street,
Brgy. San Isidro, Makati. He proceeded to the new address and found out that the agency was
renamed to New Filipino Manpower Development & Services, Inc. (New Filipino). At the new
office, he talked to Pacardo, Manta, Mardeolyn, Lulu Mendanes and accused-appellant Gallo. He
was informed that the transfer was done for easy accessibility to clients and for the purpose of
changing the name of the agency.

Dela Caza decided to withdraw his application and recover the amount he paid but
Mardeolyn, Pacardo, Manta and Lulu Mendanes talked him out from pursuing his decision. On
the other hand, accused-appellant Gallo even denied any knowledge about the money.
After two (2) more months of waiting in vain to be deployed, Dela Caza and the other
applicants decided to take action. The first attempt was unsuccessful because the agency again
moved to another place. However, with the help of the Office of Ambassador Seeres and the
Western Police District, they were able to locate the new address at 500 Prudential Building,
Carriedo, Manila. The agency explained that it had to move in order to separate those who are
applying as entertainers from those applying as factory workers. Accused-appellant Gallo,
together with Pacardo and Manta, were then arrested.

The testimony of prosecution witness Armando Albines Roa, a POEA employee, was
dispensed with after the prosecution and defense stipulated and admitted to the existence of the
following documents:

1. Certification issued by Felicitas Q. Bay, Director II, Licensing Branch of the


POEA to the effect that New Filipino Manpower Development & Services,
Inc., with office address at 1256 Batangas St., Brgy. San Isidro, Makati City,
was a licensed landbased agency whose license expired on December 10,
2001 and was delisted from the roster of licensed agencies on December 14,
2001. It further certified that Fides J. Pacardo was the agencys Recruitment
Officer;
2. Certification issued by Felicitas Q. Bay of the POEA to the effect that MPM
International Recruitment and Promotion is not licensed by the POEA to
recruit workers for overseas employment;
3. Certified copy of POEA Memorandum Circular No. 14, Series of 1999
regarding placement fee ceiling for landbased workers.
4. Certified copy of POEA Memorandum Circular No. 09, Series of 1998 on
the placement fee ceiling for Taiwan and Korean markets, and
5. Certified copy of POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 02, series of
1998.

Version of the Defense

For his defense, accused-appellant denied having any part in the recruitment of Dela
Caza. In fact, he testified that he also applied with MPM Agency for deployment to Korea as a
factory worker. According to him, he gave his application directly with Mardeolyn because she
was his town mate and he was allowed to pay only Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP 10,000) as
processing fee. Further, in order to facilitate the processing of his papers, he agreed to perform
some tasks for the agency, such as taking photographs of the visa and passport of applicants,
running errands and performing such other tasks assigned to him, without salary except for some
allowance. He said that he only saw Dela Caza one or twice at the agencys office when he
applied for work abroad. Lastly, that he was also promised deployment abroad but it never
materialized.

Ruling of the Trial Court

On March 15, 2007, the RTC rendered its Decision convicting the accused of syndicated
illegal recruitment and estafa. The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

I. Accused FIDES PACARDO y JUNGO and PILAR MANTA


y DUNGO are hereby ACQUITTED of the crimes charged in
Criminal Cases Nos. 02-206293, 02-206297, 02-206300 and 02-
206308;

II. Accused RODOLFO GALLO y GADOT is found guilty


beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case No. 02-206293 of the
crime of Illegal Recruitment committed by a syndicate and is
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to
pay a fine of ONE MILLION (Php1,000,000.00) PESOS. He is
also ordered to indemnify EDGARDO DELA CAZA of the sum of
FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND (Php45,000.00) PESOS with legal
interest from the filing of the information on September 18, 2002
until fully paid.

III. Accused RODOLFO GALLO y GADOT in Criminal Case


No. 02-206297 is likewise found guilty and is hereby sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of FOUR (4) years of prision
correccional as minimum to NINE (9) years of prision mayor as
maximum.

IV. Accused RODOLFO GALLO y GADOT is hereby


ACQUITTED of the crime charged in Criminal Cases Nos. 02-
206300 and 02-206308.

Let alias warrants for the arrest of the other accused be issued anew in all
the criminal cases. Pending their arrest, the cases are sent to the archives.
The immediate release of accused Fides Pacardo and Pilar Manta is hereby
ordered unless detained for other lawful cause or charge.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Ruling of the Appellate Court

On appeal, the CA, in its Decision dated December 24, 2008, disposed of the case as follows:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila,


Branch 30, in Criminal Cases Nos. 02-206293 and 02-206297, dated March 15,
2007, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that in Criminal Case No. 02-
206297, for estafa, appellant is sentenced to four (4) years of prision
correccional to ten (10) years of prision mayor.

SO ORDERED.[6]

The CA held the totality of the prosecutions evidence showed that the accused-appellant,
together with others, engaged in the recruitment of Dela Caza. His actions and representations to
Dela Caza can hardly be construed as the actions of a mere errand boy.

As determined by the appellate court, the offense is considered economic sabotage having been
committed by more than three (3) persons, namely, accused-appellant Gallo, Mardeolyn, Eleonor
Panuncio and Yeo Sin Ung. More importantly, a personal found guilty of illegal recruitment may
also be convicted of estafa.[7] The same evidence proving accused-appellants commission of the
crime of illegal recruitment in large scale also establishes his liability for estafa under paragragh
2(a) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

On January 15, 2009, the accused-appellant filed a timely appeal before this Court.

The Issues

Accused-appellant interposes in the present appeal the following assignment of errors:


I
The court a quo gravely erred in finding the accused-appellant guilty of illegal
recruitment committed by a syndicate despite the failure of the prosecution to
prove the same beyond reasonable doubt.

II
The court a quo gravely erred in finding the accused-appellant guilty
of estafa despite the failure of the prosecution to prove the same beyond
reasonable doubt.

Our Ruling

The appeal has no merit.

Evidence supports conviction of the crime of


Syndicated Illegal Recruitment

Accused-appellant avers that he cannot be held criminally liable for illegal recruitment
because he was neither an officer nor an employee of the recruitment agency. He alleges that the
trial court erred in adopting the asseveration of the private complainant that he was indeed an
employee because such was not duly supported by competent evidence. According to him, even
assuming that he was an employee, such cannot warrant his outright conviction sans evidence
that he acted in conspiracy with the officers of the agency.

We disagree.

To commit syndicated illegal recruitment, three elements must be established: (1) the
offender undertakes either any activity within the meaning of recruitment and placement defined
under Article 13(b), or any of the prohibited practices enumerated under Art. 34 of the Labor
Code; (2) he has no valid license or authority required by law to enable one to lawfully engage in
recruitment and placement of workers;[8] and (3) the illegal recruitment is committed by a group
of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another.[9] When illegal
recruitment is committed by a syndicate or in large scale, i.e., if it is committed against three (3)
or more persons individually or as a group, it is considered an offense involving economic
sabotage.[10]

Under Art. 13(b) of the Labor Code, recruitment and placement refers to any act of
canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers, and
includes referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad,
whether for profit or not.

After a thorough review of the records, we believe that the prosecution was able to
establish the elements of the offense sufficiently. The evidence readily reveals that MPM Agency
was never licensed by the POEA to recruit workers for overseas employment.

Even with a license, however, illegal recruitment could still be committed under Section
6 of Republic Act No. 8042 (R.A. 8042), otherwise known as the Migrants and Overseas
Filipinos Act of 1995, viz:

Sec. 6. Definition. For purposes of this Act, illegal recruitment shall mean
any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or
procuring workers and includes referring, contract services, promising or
advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by
a non-licensee or non-holder of authority contemplated under Article 13(f) of
Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of
the Philippines: Provided, That any such non-licensee or non-holder who, in any
manner, offers or promises for a fee employment abroad to two or more persons
shall be deemed so engaged. It shall, likewise, include the following act, whether
committed by any person, whether a non-licensee, non-holder, licensee or holder
of authority:
(a) To charge or accept directly or indirectly any amount greater than
that specified in the schedule of allowable fees prescribed by the
Secretary of Labor and Employment, or to make a worker pay any
amount greater than that actually received by him as a loan or advance;
xxxx
(l) Failure to actually deploy without valid reason as determined by the
Department of Labor and Employment; and
(m) Failure to reimburse expenses incurred by the worker in connection
with his documentation and processing for purposes of deployment
and processing for purposes of deployment, in cases where the
deployment does not actually take place without the workers fault.
Illegal recruitment when committed by a syndicate or in large scale
shall be considered an offense involving economic sabotage.
Illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a
group of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another.
It is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more
persons individually or as a group.
The persons criminally liable for the above offenses are the principals,
accomplices and accessories. In case of juridical persons, the officers having
control, management or direction of their business shall be liable.

In the instant case, accused-appellant committed the acts enumerated in Sec. 6 of R.A.
8042. Testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution clearly shows that, in consideration of a
promise of foreign employment, accused-appellant received the amount of Php 45,000.00 from
Dela Caza. When accused-appellant made misrepresentations concerning the agencys purported
power and authority to recruit for overseas employment, and in the process, collected money in
the guise of placement fees, the former clearly committed acts constitutive of illegal recruitment.
[11]
Such acts were accurately described in the testimony of prosecution witness, Dela Caza, to
wit:

PROS. MAGABLIN
Q: How about this Rodolfo Gallo?
A: He was the one who received my money.
Q: Aside from receiving your money, was there any other representations
or acts made by Rodolfo Gallo?
A: He introduced himself to me as relative of Mardeolyn Martir and he
even intimated to me that their agency has sent so many workers
abroad.
xxxx
PROS. MAGABLIN
Q: Mr. Witness, as you claimed you tried to withdraw your application at
the agency. Was there any instance that you were able to talk to
Fides Pacardo, Rodolfo Gallo and Pilar Manta?
A: Yes, maam.
Q: What was the conversation that transpired among you before you
demanded the return of your money and documents?
A: When I tried to withdraw my application as well as my money, Mr.
Gallo told me I know nothing about your money while Pilar Manta
and Fides Pacardo told me, why should I withdraw my application
and my money when I was about to be [deployed] or I was about to
leave.
xxxx
Q: And what transpired at that office after this Panuncio introduced you to
those persons whom you just mentioned?
A: The three of them including Rodolfo Gallo told me that the placement
fee in that agency is Php 150,000.00 and then I should deposit the
amount of Php 45,000.00. After I have deposited said amount, I
would just wait for few days
xxxx
Q: They were the one (sic) who told you that you have to pay Php
45,000.00 for deposit only?
A: Yes, maam, I was told by them to deposit Php 45,000.00 and then I
would pay the remaining balance of Php105,000.00, payment of it
would be through salary deduction.
Q: That is for what Mr. Witness again?
A: For placement fee.
Q: Now did you believe to (sic) them?
A: Yes, maam.
Q: Why, why did you believe?
A: Because of the presence of the two Korean nationals and they keep on
telling me that they have sent abroad several workers and they
even showed visas of the records that they have already deployed
abroad.
Q: Aside from that, was there any other representations which have been
made upon you or make you believe that they can deploy you?
A: At first I was adamant but they told me If you do not want to believe
us, then we could do nothing. But once they showed me the [visas]
of the people whom they have deployed abroad, that was the time I
believe them.
Q: So after believing on the representations, what did you do next Mr.
Witness?
A: That was the time that I decided to give the money.
xxxx
PROS. MAGABLIN
Q: Do you have proof that you gave the money?
A: Yes, maam.
Q: Where is your proof that you gave the money?
A: I have it here.
PROS. MAGABLIN:
Witness is producing to this court a Receipt dated May 28, 2001 in the
amount of Php45,000.00 which for purposes of record Your Honor, may I
request that the same be marked in the evidence as our Exhibit F.
xxxx
PROS. MAGABLIN
Q: There appears a signature appearing at the left bottom portion of this
receipt. Do you know whose signature is this?
A: Yes, maam, signature of Rodolfo Gallo.
PROS. MAGABLIN
Q: Why do you say that that is his signature?
A: Rodolfo Gallos signature Your Honor because he was the one who
received the money and he was the one who filled up this O.R. and
while he was doing it, he was flanked by Fides Pacardo, Pilar
Manta and Mardeolyn Martir.
xxxx
Q: So it was Gallo who received your money?
A: Yes, maam.

PROS. MAGABLIN
Q: And after that, what did this Gallo do after he received your money?
A: They told me maam just to call up and make a follow up with our
agency.
xxxx
Q: Now Mr. Witness, after you gave your money to the accused, what
happened with the application, with the promise of employment
that he promised?
A: Two (2) weeks after giving them the money, they moved to a new
office in Makati, Brgy. San Isidro.
xxxx
Q: And were they able to deploy you as promised by them?
A: No, maam, they were not able to send us abroad.[12]

Essentially, Dela Caza appeared very firm and consistent in positively identifying
accused-appellant as one of those who induced him and the other applicants to part with their
money. His testimony showed that accused-appellant made false misrepresentations and
promises in assuring them that after they paid the placement fee, jobs in Korea as factory
workers were waiting for them and that they would be deployed soon. In fact, Dela Caza
personally talked to accused-appellant and gave him the money and saw him sign and issue an
official receipt as proof of his payment. Without a doubt, accused-appellants actions constituted
illegal recruitment.

Additionally, accused-appellant cannot argue that the trial court erred in finding that he
was indeed an employee of the recruitment agency. On the contrary, his active participation in
the illegal recruitment is unmistakable. The fact that he was the one who issued and signed the
official receipt belies his profession of innocence.

This Court likewise finds the existence of a conspiracy between the accused-appellant
and the other persons in the agency who are currently at large, resulting in the commission of the
crime of syndicated illegal recruitment.

In this case, it cannot be denied that the accused-appellent together with Mardeolyn and
the rest of the officers and employees of MPM Agency participated in a network of
deception. Verily, the active involvement of each in the recruitment scam was directed at one
single purpose to divest complainants with their money on the pretext of guaranteed employment
abroad. The prosecution evidence shows that complainants were briefed by Mardeolyn about the
processing of their papers for a possible job opportunity in Korea, as well as their possible salary.
Likewise, Yeo Sin Ung, a Korean national, gave a briefing about the business and what to expect
from the company. Then, here comes accused-appellant who introduced himself as Mardeolyns
relative and specifically told Dela Caza of the fact that the agency was able to send many
workers abroad. Dela Caza was even showed several workers visas who were already allegedly
deployed abroad. Later on, accused-appellant signed and issued an official receipt
acknowledging the down payment of Dela Caza. Without a doubt, the nature and extent of the
actions of accused-appellant, as well as with the other persons in MPM Agency clearly show
unity of action towards a common undertaking. Hence, conspiracy is evidently present.

In People v. Gamboa,[13] this Court discussed the nature of conspiracy in the context of
illegal recruitment, viz:

Conspiracy to defraud aspiring overseas contract workers was evident


from the acts of the malefactors whose conduct before, during and after the
commission of the crime clearly indicated that they were one in purpose and
united in its execution. Direct proof of previous agreement to commit a crime is
not necessary as it may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the
offense was perpetrated or inferred from the acts of the accused pointing to a joint
purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest. As such, all the
accused, including accused-appellant, are equally guilty of the crime of illegal
recruitment since in a conspiracy the act of one is the act of all.

To reiterate, in establishing conspiracy, it is not essential that there be actual proof that all
the conspirators took a direct part in every act. It is sufficient that they acted in concert pursuant
to the same objective.[14]

Estafa

The prosecution likewise established that accused-appellant is guilty of the crime


of estafa as defined under Article 315 paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code, viz:

Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). Any person who shall defraud another by any
means mentioned hereinbelow
xxxx
2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts
executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:
(a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power,
influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or
imaginary transactions; or by means of other similar deceits.
The elements of estafa in general are: (1) that the accused defrauded another (a) by abuse
of confidence, or (b) by means of deceit; and (2) that damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary
estimation is caused to the offended party or third person. [15] Deceit is the false representation of
a matter of fact, whether by words or conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by
concealment of that which should have been disclosed; and which deceives or is intended to
deceive another so that he shall act upon it, to his legal injury.

All these elements are present in the instant case: the accused-appellant, together with the
other accused at large, deceived the complainants into believing that the agency had the power
and capability to send them abroad for employment; that there were available jobs for them in
Korea as factory workers; that by reason or on the strength of such assurance, the complainants
parted with their money in payment of the placement fees; that after receiving the money,
accused-appellant and his co-accused went into hiding by changing their office locations without
informing complainants; and that complainants were never deployed abroad. As all these
representations of the accused-appellant proved false, paragraph 2(a), Article 315 of the Revised
Penal Code is thus applicable.

Defense of Denial Cannot Prevail


over Positive Identification

Indubitably, accused-appellants denial of the crimes charged crumbles in the face of the
positive identification made by Dela Caza and his co-complainants as one of the perpetrators of
the crimes charged. As enunciated by this Court in People v. Abolidor,[16] [p]ositive identification
where categorical and consistent and not attended by any showing of ill motive on the part of the
eyewitnesses on the matter prevails over alibi and denial.

The defense has miserably failed to show any evidence of ill motive on the part of the
prosecution witnesses as to falsely testify against him.
Therefore, between the categorical statements of the prosecution witnesses, on the one
hand, and bare denials of the accused, on the other hand, the former must prevail.[17]

Moreover, this Court accords the trial courts findings with the probative weight it
deserves in the absence of any compelling reason to discredit the same. It is a fundamental
judicial dictum that the findings of fact of the trial court are not disturbed on appeal except when
it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance
that would have materially affected the outcome of the case. We find that the trial court did not
err in convicting the accused-appellant.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED for failure to sufficiently show reversible error
in the assailed decision. The Decision dated December 24, 2008 of the CA in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
No. 02764 is AFFIRMED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-19450 May 27, 1965

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
SIMPLICIO VILLANUEVA, defendant-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.


Magno T. Buese for defendant-appellant.

PAREDES, J.:

On September 4, 1959, the Chief of Police of Alaminos, Laguna, charged Simplicio Villanueva
with the Crime of Malicious Mischief before the Justice of the Peace Court of said municipality.
Said accused was represented by counsel de officio but later on replaced by counsel de parte. The
complainant in the same case was represented by City Attorney Ariston Fule of San Pablo City,
having entered his appearance as private prosecutor, after securing the permission of the
Secretary of Justice. The condition of his appearance as such, was that every time he would
appear at the trial of the case, he would be considered on official leave of absence, and that he
would not receive any payment for his services. The appearance of City Attorney Fule as private
prosecutor was questioned by the counsel for the accused, invoking the case of Aquino, et al. vs.
Blanco, et al.,
L-1532, Nov. 28, 1947, wherein it was ruled that "when an attorney had been appointed to the
position of Assistant Provincial Fiscal or City Fiscal and therein qualified, by operation of law,
he ceased to engage in private law practice." Counsel then argued that the JP Court in
entertaining the appearance of City Attorney Fule in the case is a violation of the above ruling.
On December 17, 1960 the JP issued an order sustaining the legality of the appearance of City
Attorney Fule.

Under date of January 4, 1961, counsel for the accused presented a "Motion to Inhibit Fiscal Fule
from Acting as Private Prosecutor in this Case," this time invoking Section 32, Rule 27, now Sec.
35, Rule 138, Revised Rules of Court, which bars certain attorneys from practicing. Counsel
claims that City Attorney Fule falls under this limitation. The JP Court ruled on the motion by
upholding the right of Fule to appear and further stating that he (Fule) was not actually enagaged
in private law practice. This Order was appealed to the CFI of Laguna, presided by the Hon.
Hilarion U. Jarencio, which rendered judgment on December 20, 1961, the pertinent portions of
which read:

The present case is one for malicious mischief. There being no reservation by the
offended party of the civil liability, the civil action was deemed impliedly instituted with
the criminal action. The offended party had, therefore, the right to intervene in the case
and be represented by a legal counsel because of her interest in the civil liability of the
accused.

Sec. 31, Rule 127 of the Rules of Court provides that in the court of a justice of the peace
a party may conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed
by him for that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. Assistant City Attorney Fule
appeared in the Justice of the Peace Court as an agent or friend of the offended party. It
does not appear that he was being paid for his services or that his appearance was in a
professional capacity. As Assistant City Attorney of San Pablo he had no control or
intervention whatsoever in the prosecution of crimes committed in the municipality of
Alaminos, Laguna, because the prosecution of criminal cases coming from Alaminos are
handled by the Office of the Provincial Fiscal and not by the City Attornev of San Pablo.
There could be no possible conflict in the duties of Assistant City Attorney Fule as
Assistant City Attorney of San Pablo and as private prosecutor in this criminal case. On
the other hand, as already pointed out, the offended party in this criminal case had a right
to be represented by an agent or a friend to protect her rights in the civil action which was
impliedly instituted together with the criminal action.

In view of the foregoing, this Court holds that Asst. City Attorney Ariston D. Fule may
appear before the Justice of the Peace Court of Alaminos, Laguna as private prosecutor in
this criminal case as an agent or a friend of the offended party.

WHEREFORE, the appeal from the order of the Justice of the Peace Court of Alaminos,
Laguna, allowing the apprearance of Ariston D. Fule as private prosecutor is dismissed,
without costs.

The above decision is the subject of the instant proceeding.

The appeal should be dismissed, for patently being without merits.1wph1.t

Aside from the considerations advanced by the learned trial judge, heretofore reproduced, and
which we consider plausible, the fallacy of the theory of defense counsel lies in his confused
interpretation of Section 32 of Rule 127 (now Sec. 35, Rule 138, Revised Rules), which provides
that "no judge or other official or employee of the superior courts or of the office of the Solicitor
General, shall engage in private practice as a member of the bar or give professional advice to
clients." He claims that City Attorney Fule, in appearing as private prosecutor in the case was
engaging in private practice. We believe that the isolated appearance of City Attorney Fule did
not constitute private practice within the meaning and contemplation of the Rules. Practice is
more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary actions, a succession of
acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual exercise (State vs. Cotner, 127, p. 1,
87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, M.S. 768). Practice of law to fall within the prohibition of statute has been
interpreted as customarily or habitually holding one's self out to the public, as customarily and
demanding payment for such services (State vs. Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644, 647). The
appearance as counsel on one occasion is not conclusive as determinative of engagement in the
private practice of law. The following observation of the Solicitor General is noteworthy:

Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented himself
to be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his professional
services are available to the public for a compensation, as a source of his livelihood or in
consideration of his said services.

For one thing, it has never been refuted that City Attorney Fule had been given permission by his
immediate superior, the Secretary of Justice, to represent the complainant in the case at bar, who
is a relative.

CONFORMABLY WITH ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision appealed from should be, as it
is hereby affirmed, in all respects, with costs against appellant..
G.R. No. 181409 February 11, 2010

INTESTATE ESTATE OF MANOLITA GONZALES VDA. DE CARUNGCONG,


represented by MEDIATRIX CARUNGCONG, as Administratrix, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and WILLIAM SATO, Respondents.

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

ART. 332. Persons exempt from criminal liability. No criminal, but only civil liability shall
result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling, or malicious mischief committed or
caused mutually by the following persons:

1. Spouses, ascendants and descendants, or relatives by affinity in the same line;

2. The widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased
spouse before the same shall have passed into the possession of another; and

3. Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if living together.

The exemption established by this article shall not be applicable to strangers participating in the
commission of the crime. (emphasis supplied)

For purposes of the aforementioned provision, is the relationship by affinity created between the
husband and the blood relatives of his wife (as well as between the wife and the blood relatives
of her husband) dissolved by the death of one spouse, thus ending the marriage which created
such relationship by affinity? Does the beneficial application of Article 332 cover the complex
crime of estafa thru falsification?

Mediatrix G. Carungcong, in her capacity as the duly appointed administratrix1 of petitioner


intestate estate of her deceased mother Manolita Gonzales vda. de Carungcong, filed a
complaint-affidavit2 for estafa against her brother-in-law, William Sato, a Japanese national. Her
complaint-affidavit read:

I, MEDIATRIX CARUNGCONG Y GONZALE[S], Filipino, of legal age, single, and resident of


Unit 1111, Prince Gregory Condominium, 105 12th Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City, after being
duly sworn, depose and state that:
1. I am the duly appointed Administratrix of the Intestate Estate of Manolita Carungcong
Y Gonzale[s], docketed as Spec. Procs. No. [Q]-95-23621[,] Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City, Branch 104, being one (1) of her surviving daughters. Copy of the Letters
of Administration dated June 22, 1995 is hereto attached as Annex "A" to form an
integral part hereof.

2. As such Administratrix, I am duty bound not only to preserve the properties of the
Intestate Estate of Manolita Carungcong Y Gonzale[s], but also to recover such funds
and/or properties as property belonging to the estate but are presently in the possession or
control of other parties.

3. After my appointment as Administratrix, I was able to confer with some of the children
of my sister Zenaida Carungcong Sato[,] who predeceased our mother Manolita
Carungcong Y Gonzales, having died in Japan in 1991.

4. In my conference with my nieces Karen Rose Sato and Wendy Mitsuko Sato, age[d] 27
and 24 respectively, I was able to learn that prior to the death of my mother Manolita
Carungcong Y Gonzale[s], [s]pecifically on o[r] about November 24, 1992, their father
William Sato, through fraudulent misrepresentations, was able to secure the signature and
thumbmark of my mother on a Special Power of Attorney whereby my niece Wendy
Mitsuko Sato, who was then only twenty (20) years old, was made her attorney-in-fact, to
sell and dispose four (4) valuable pieces of land in Tagaytay City. Said Special Power of
Attorney, copy of which is attached as ANNEX "A" of the Affidavit of Wendy Mitsuko
Sato, was signed and thumbmark[ed] by my mother because William Sato told her that
the documents she was being made to sign involved her taxes. At that time, my mother
was completely blind, having gone blind almost ten (10) years prior to November, 1992.

5. The aforesaid Special Power of Attorney was signed by my mother in the presence of
Wendy, my other niece Belinda Kiku Sato, our maid Mana Tingzon, and Governor
Josephine Ramirez who later became the second wife of my sisters widower William
Sato.

6. Wendy Mitsuko Sato attests to the fact that my mother signed the document in the
belief that they were in connection with her taxes, not knowing, since she was blind, that
the same was in fact a Special Power of Attorney to sell her Tagaytay properties.

7. On the basis of the aforesaid Special Power of Attorney, William Sato found buyers for
the property and made my niece Wendy Mitsuko Sato sign three (3) deeds of absolute
sale in favor of (a) Anita Ng (Doc. 2194, Page No. 41, Book No. V, Series of 1992 of
Notary Public Vicente B. Custodio), (b) Anita Ng (Doc. No. 2331, Page No. 68, Book
No. V, Series of 1992 of Notary Public Vicente B. Custodio) and (c) Ruby Lee Tsai (Doc.
No. II, Page No. 65, Book No. II, Series of 1993 of Notary Public Toribio D. Labid). x x
x

8. Per the statement of Wendy Mitsuko C. Sato, the considerations appearing on the deeds
of absolute sale were not the true and actual considerations received by her father
William Sato from the buyers of her grandmothers properties. She attests that Anita Ng
actually paid P7,000,000.00 for the property covered by TCT No. 3148
and P7,034,000.00 for the property covered by TCT No. 3149. All the aforesaid proceeds
were turned over to William Sato who undertook to make the proper accounting thereof
to my mother, Manolita Carungcong Gonzale[s].

9. Again, per the statement of Wendy Mitsuko C. Sato, Ruby Lee Tsai paid P8,000,000.00
for the property covered by Tax Declaration No. GR-016-0735, and the proceeds thereof
were likewise turned over to William Sato.

10. The considerations appearing on the deeds of sale were falsified as Wendy Mitsuko C.
Sato has actual knowledge of the true amounts paid by the buyers, as stated in her
Affidavit, since she was the signatory thereto as the attorney-in-fact of Manolita
Carungcong Y Gonzale[s].

11. Wendy was only 20 years old at the time and was not in any position to oppose or to
refuse her fathers orders.

12. After receiving the total considerations for the properties sold under the power of
attorney fraudulently secured from my mother, which total P22,034,000.00, William Sato
failed to account for the same and never delivered the proceeds to Manolita Carungcong
Y Gonzale[s] until the latter died on June 8, 1994.

13. Demands have been made for William Sato to make an accounting and to deliver the
proceeds of the sales to me as Administratrix of my mothers estate, but he refused and
failed, and continues to refuse and to fail to do so, to the damage and prejudice of the
estate of the deceased Manolita Carungcong Y Gonzale[s] and of the heirs which include
his six (6) children with my sister Zenaida Carungcong Sato. x x x3

Wendy Mitsuko Satos supporting affidavit and the special power of attorney allegedly issued by
the deceased Manolita Gonzales vda. de Carungcong in favor of Wendy were attached to the
complaint-affidavit of Mediatrix.

In a resolution dated March 25, 1997, the City Prosecutor of Quezon City dismissed the
complaint.4 On appeal, however, the Secretary of Justice reversed and set aside the resolution
dated March 25, 1997 and directed the City Prosecutor of Quezon City to file an Information
against Sato for violation of Article 315, paragraph 3(a) of the Revised Penal Code.5 Thus, the
following Information was filed against Sato in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch
87:6

I N F O R M AT I O N

The undersigned accuses WILLIAM SATO of the crime of ESTAFA under Article 315[,] par.
3(a) of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:

That on or about the 24th day of November, 1992, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named
accused, by means of deceit, did, then and there, wil[l]fully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud
MANOLITA GONZALES VDA. DE CARUNGCONG in the following manner, to wit: the said
accused induced said Manolita Gonzales Vda. De Carungcong[,] who was already then blind and
79 years old[,] to sign and thumbmark a special power of attorney dated November 24, 1992 in
favor of Wendy Mitsuko C. Sato, daughter of said accused, making her believe that said
document involved only her taxes, accused knowing fully well that said document authorizes
Wendy Mitsuko C. Sato, then a minor, to sell, assign, transfer or otherwise dispose of to any
person or entity of her properties all located at Tagaytay City, as follows:

1. One Thousand Eight Hundred Seven(ty) One (1,871) square meters more or less and
covered by T.C.T. No. 3147;

2. Five Hundred Forty (540) square meters more or less and covered by T.C.T. No. 3148
with Tax Declaration No. GR-016-0722, Cadastral Lot No. 7106;

3. Five Hundred Forty (540) square meters more or less and covered by T.C.T. No. 3149
with Tax Declaration No. GR-016-0721, Cadastral Lot No. 7104;

4. Eight Hundred Eighty Eight (888) square meters more or less with Tax Declaration No.
GR-016-1735, Cadastral Lot No. 7062;

registered in the name of Manolita Gonzales Vda. De Carungcong, and once in the possession of
the said special power of attorney and other pertinent documents, said accused made Wendy
Mitsuko Sato sign the three (3) Deeds of Absolute Sale covering Transfer Certificate of Title
[TCT] No. 3148 for P250,000.00, [TCT] No. 3149 for P250,000.00 and [Tax Declaration] GR-
016-0735 for P650,000.00 and once in possession of the proceeds of the sale of the above
properties, said accused, misapplied, misappropriated and converted the same to his own
personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of Manolita Gonzales Vda. De
Carungcong who died in 1994.

Contrary to law.7
Subsequently, the prosecution moved for the amendment of the Information so as to increase the
amount of damages from P1,150,000, the total amount stated in the deeds of sale,
to P22,034,000, the actual amount received by Sato.

Sato moved for the quashal of the Information, claiming that under Article 332 of the Revised
Penal Code, his relationship to the person allegedly defrauded, the deceased Manolita who was
his mother-in-law, was an exempting circumstance.

The prosecution disputed Satos motion in an opposition dated March 29, 2006.

In an order dated April 17, 2006,8 the trial court granted Satos motion and ordered the dismissal
of the criminal case:

The Trial Prosecutors contention is that the death of the wife of the accused severed the
relationship of affinity between accused and his mother-in-law. Therefore, the mantle of
protection provided to the accused by the relationship is no longer obtaining.

A judicious and thorough examination of Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code convinces this
Court of the correctness of the contention of the [d]efense. While it is true that the death of
Zenaida Carungcong-Sato has extinguished the marriage of accused with her, it does not erase
the fact that accused and Zenaidas mother, herein complainant, are still son[-in-law] and mother-
in-law and they remained son[-in-law] and mother-in-law even beyond the death of Zenaida.

Article 332(1) of the Revised Penal Code, is very explicit and states no proviso. "No criminal,
but only civil liability[,] shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling or
malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by xxx 1) spouses, ascendants and
descendants, or relatives by affinity in the same line."

Article 332, according to Aquino, in his Commentaries [to] Revised Penal Code, preserves
family harmony and obviates scandal, hence even in cases of theft and malicious mischief, where
the crime is committed by a stepfather against his stepson, by a grandson against his grandfather,
by a son against his mother, no criminal liability is incurred by the accused only civil (Vicente
Alavare, 52 Phil. 65; Adame, CA 40 OG 12th Supp. 63; Cristobal, 84 Phil. 473).

Such exempting circumstance is applicable herein.

WHEREFORE, finding the Motion to Quash Original Information meritorious, the same is
GRANTED and, as prayed for, case is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.9 (underlining supplied in the original)

The prosecutions motion for reconsideration10 was denied in an order dated June 2, 2006.11
Dissatisfied with the trial courts rulings, the intestate estate of Manolita, represented by
Mediatrix, filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals12 which, however, in a
decision13 dated August 9, 2007, dismissed it. It ruled:

[W]e sustain the finding of [the trial court] that the death of Zenaida did not extinguish the
relationship by affinity between her husband, private respondent Sato, and her mother Manolita,
and does not bar the application of the exempting circumstance under Article 332(1) of the
Revised Penal Code in favor of private respondent Sato.

We further agree with the submission of the [Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)] that nothing
in the law and/or existing jurisprudence supports the argument of petitioner that the fact of death
of Zenaida dissolved the relationship by affinity between Manolita and private respondent Sato,
and thus removed the protective mantle of Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code from said
private respondent; and that notwithstanding the death of Zenaida, private respondent Sato
remains to be the son-in-law of Manolita, and a brother-in-law of petitioner administratrix. As
further pointed out by the OSG, the filing of the criminal case for estafa against private
respondent Sato already created havoc among members of the Carungcong and Sato families as
private respondents daughter Wendy Mitsuko Sato joined cause with her aunt [Mediatrix]
Carungcong y Gonzales, while two (2) other children of private respondent, William Francis and
Belinda Sato, took the side of their father.

There is a dearth of jurisprudence and/or commentaries elaborating on the provision of Article


332 of the Revised Penal Code. However, from the plain language of the law, it is clear that the
exemption from criminal liability for the crime of swindling (estafa) under Article 315 of the
Revised Penal Code applies to private respondent Sato, as son-in-law of Manolita, they being
"relatives by affinity in the same line" under Article 332(1) of the same Code. We cannot draw
the distinction that following the death of Zenaida in 1991, private respondent Sato is no longer
the son-in-law of Manolita, so as to exclude the former from the exempting circumstance
provided for in Article 332 (1) of the Revised Penal Code.

Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemos. Basic is the rule in statutory construction
that where the law does not distinguish, the courts should not distinguish. There should be no
distinction in the application of law where none is indicated. The courts could only distinguish
where there are facts or circumstances showing that the lawgiver intended a distinction or
qualification. In such a case, the courts would merely give effect to the lawgivers intent. The
solemn power and duty of the Court to interpret and apply the law does not include the power to
correct by reading into the law what is not written therein.

Further, it is an established principle of statutory construction that penal laws are strictly
construed against the State and liberally in favor of the accused. Any reasonable doubt must be
resolved in favor of the accused. In this case, the plain meaning of Article 332 (1) of the Revised
Penal Codes simple language is most favorable to Sato.14

The appellate court denied reconsideration.15 Hence, this petition.

Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred in not reversing the orders of the trial court. It
cites the commentary of Justice Luis B. Reyes in his book on criminal law that the rationale of
Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code exempting the persons mentioned therein from criminal
liability is that the law recognizes the presumed co-ownership of the property between the
offender and the offended party. Here, the properties subject of the estafa case were owned by
Manolita whose daughter, Zenaida Carungcong-Sato (Satos wife), died on January 28, 1991.
Hence, Zenaida never became a co-owner because, under the law, her right to the three
parcels of land could have arisen only after her mothers death. Since
Zenaida predeceased her mother, Manolita, no such right came about and the mantle of
protection provided to Sato by the relationship no longer existed.

Sato counters that Article 332 makes no distinction that the relationship may not be invoked in
case of death of the spouse at the time the crime was allegedly committed. Thus, while the death
of Zenaida extinguished her marriage with Sato, it did not dissolve the son-in-law and mother-in-
law relationship between Sato and Zenaidas mother, Manolita.

For his part, the Solicitor General maintains that Sato is covered by the exemption from criminal
liability provided under Article 332. Nothing in the law and jurisprudence supports petitioners
claim that Zenaidas death dissolved the relationship by affinity between Sato and Manolita. As it
is, the criminal case against Sato created havoc among the members of the Carungcong and Sato
families, a situation sought to be particularly avoided by Article 332s provision exempting a
family member committing theft, estafa or malicious mischief from criminal liability and
reducing his/her liability to the civil aspect only.

The petition has merit.

The resolution of this case rests on the interpretation of Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code. In
particular, it calls for the determination of the following: (1) the effect of death on the
relationship by affinity created between a surviving spouse and the blood relatives of the
deceased spouse and (2) the extent of the coverage of Article 332.

Effect of Death on Relationship By Affinity as Absolutory Cause

Article 332 provides for an absolutory cause16in the crimes of theft, estafa (or swindling) and
malicious mischief. It limits the responsibility of the offender to civil liability and frees him from
criminal liability by virtue of his relationship to the offended party.
In connection with the relatives mentioned in the first paragraph, it has been held that included in
the exemptions are parents-in-law, stepparents and adopted children.17 By virtue thereof, no
criminal liability is incurred by the stepfather who commits malicious mischief against his
stepson;18 by the stepmother who commits theft against her stepson;19 by the stepfather who
steals something from his stepson;20 by the grandson who steals from his grandfather;21 by the
accused who swindles his sister-in-law living with him;22 and by the son who steals a ring from
his mother.23

Affinity is the relation that one spouse has to the blood relatives of the other spouse. It is a
relationship by marriage or

a familial relation resulting from marriage.24 It is a fictive kinship, a fiction created by law in
connection with the institution of marriage and family relations.

If marriage gives rise to ones relationship by affinity to the blood relatives of ones spouse, does
the extinguishment of marriage by the death of the spouse dissolve the relationship by affinity?

Philippine jurisprudence has no previous encounter with the issue that confronts us in this case.
That is why the trial and appellate courts acknowledged the "dearth of jurisprudence and/or
commentaries" on the matter. In contrast, in the American legal system, there are two views on
the subject. As one Filipino author observed:

In case a marriage is terminated by the death of one of the spouses, there are conflicting views.
There are some who believe that relationship by affinity is not terminated whether there are
children or not in the marriage (Carman vs. Newell, N.Y. 1 [Denio] 25, 26). However, the better
view supported by most judicial authorities in other jurisdictions is that, if the spouses have no
living issues or children and one of the spouses dies, the relationship by affinity is dissolved. It
follows the rule that relationship by affinity ceases with the dissolution of the marriage which
produces it (Kelly v. Neely, 12 Ark. 657, 659, 56 Am Dec. 288). On the other hand, the
relationship by affinity is continued despite the death of one of the spouses where there are living
issues or children of the marriage "in whose veins the blood of the parties are commingled, since
the relationship of affinity was continued through the medium of the issue of the marriage"
(Paddock vs. Wells, 2 Barb. Ch. 331, 333).25

The first view (the terminated affinity view) holds that relationship by affinity terminates with
the dissolution of the marriage either by death or divorce which gave rise to the relationship of
affinity between the parties.26 Under this view, the relationship by affinity is simply coextensive
and coexistent with the marriage that produced it. Its duration is indispensably and necessarily
determined by the marriage that created it. Thus, it exists only for so long as the marriage
subsists, such that the death of a spouse ipso facto ends the relationship by affinity of the
surviving spouse to the deceased spouses blood relatives.
The first view admits of an exception. The relationship by affinity continues even after the death
of one spouse when there is a surviving issue.27 The rationale is that the relationship is preserved
because of the living issue of the marriage in whose veins the blood of both parties is
commingled.28

The second view (the continuing affinity view) maintains that relationship by affinity between
the surviving spouse and the kindred of the deceased spouse continues even after the death of the
deceased spouse, regardless of whether the marriage produced children or not.29 Under this view,
the relationship by affinity endures even after the dissolution of the marriage that produced it as a
result of the death of one of the parties to the said marriage. This view considers that, where
statutes have indicated an intent to benefit step-relatives or in-laws, the "tie of affinity" between
these people and their relatives-by-marriage is not to be regarded as terminated upon the death of
one of the married parties.30

After due consideration and evaluation of the relative merits of the two views, we hold that the
second view is more consistent with the language and spirit of Article 332(1) of the Revised
Penal Code.

First, the terminated affinity view is generally applied in cases of jury disqualification
and incest.31 On the other hand, the continuing affinity view has been applied in the
interpretation of laws that intend to benefit step-relatives or in-laws. Since the purpose of
the absolutory cause in Article 332(1) is meant to be beneficial to relatives by affinity
within the degree covered under the said provision, the continuing affinity view is more
appropriate.

Second, the language of Article 332(1) which speaks of "relatives by affinity in the same
line" is couched in general language. The legislative intent to make no distinction
between the spouse of ones living child and the surviving spouse of ones deceased child
(in case of a son-in-law or daughter-in-law with respect to his or her parents-in-law)32 can
be drawn from Article 332(1) of the Revised Penal Code without doing violence to its
language.

Third, the Constitution declares that the protection and strengthening of the family as a
basic autonomous social institution are policies of the State and that it is the duty of the
State to strengthen the solidarity of the family.33 Congress has also affirmed as a State and
national policy that courts shall preserve the solidarity of the family.34 In this connection,
the spirit of Article 332 is to preserve family harmony and obviate scandal.35 The view
that relationship by affinity is not affected by the death of one of the parties to the
marriage that created it is more in accord with family solidarity and harmony.
Fourth, the fundamental principle in applying and in interpreting criminal laws is to
resolve all doubts in favor of the accused. In dubio pro reo. When in doubt, rule for the
accused.36 This is in consonance with the constitutional guarantee that the accused shall
be presumed innocent unless and until his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt.37

Intimately related to the in dubio pro reo principle is the rule of lenity.38 The rule applies when
the court is faced with two possible interpretations of a penal statute, one that is prejudicial to the
accused and another that is favorable to him. The rule calls for the adoption of an interpretation
which is more lenient to the accused.

Lenity becomes all the more appropriate when this case is viewed through the lens of the basic
purpose of Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code to preserve family harmony by providing an
absolutory cause. Since the goal of Article 332(1) is to benefit the accused, the Court should
adopt an application or interpretation that is more favorable to the accused. In this case, that
interpretation is the continuing affinity view.

Thus, for purposes of Article 332(1) of the Revised Penal Code, we hold that the relationship by
affinity created between the surviving spouse and the blood relatives of the deceased spouse
survives the death of either party to the marriage which created the affinity. (The same principle
applies to the justifying circumstance of defense of ones relatives under Article 11[2] of the
Revised Penal Code, the mitigating circumstance of immediate vindication of grave offense
committed against ones relatives under Article 13[5] of the same Code and the absolutory cause
of relationship in favor of accessories under Article 20 also of the same Code.)

Scope of Article 332 of The Revised Penal Code

The absolutory cause under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code only applies to the felonies of
theft, swindling and malicious mischief. Under the said provision, the State condones the
criminal responsibility of the offender in cases of theft, swindling and malicious mischief. As an
act of grace, the State waives its right to prosecute the offender for the said crimes but leaves the
private offended party with the option to hold the offender civilly liable.

However, the coverage of Article 332 is strictly limited to the felonies mentioned therein. The
plain, categorical and unmistakable language of the provision shows that it applies exclusively to
the simple crimes of theft, swindling and malicious mischief. It does not apply where any of the
crimes mentioned under Article 332 is complexed with another crime, such as theft through
falsification or estafa through falsification.39

The Information against Sato charges him with estafa. However, the real nature of the offense is
determined by the facts alleged in the Information, not by the designation of the offense.40 What
controls is not the title of the Information or the designation of the offense but the actual facts
recited in the Information.41 In other words, it is the recital of facts of the commission of the
offense, not the nomenclature of the offense, that determines the crime being charged in the
Information.42 It is the exclusive province of the court to say what the crime is or what it is
named.43 The determination by the prosecutor who signs the Information of the crime committed
is merely an opinion which is not binding on the court.44

A reading of the facts alleged in the Information reveals that Sato is being charged not with
simple estafa but with the complex crime of estafa through falsification of public documents. In
particular, the Information states that Sato, by means of deceit, intentionally defrauded Manolita
committed as follows:

(a) Sato presented a document to Manolita (who was already blind at that time) and
induced her to sign and thumbmark the same;

(b) he made Manolita believe that the said document was in connection with her taxes
when it was in fact a special power of attorney (SPA) authorizing his minor daughter
Wendy to sell, assign, transfer or otherwise dispose of Manolitas properties in Tagaytay
City;

(c) relying on Satos inducement and representation, Manolita signed and thumbmarked
the SPA in favor of Wendy Mitsuko Sato, daughter of Sato;

(d) using the document, he sold the properties to third parties but he neither delivered the
proceeds to Manolita nor accounted for the same and

(d) despite repeated demands, he failed and refused to deliver the proceeds, to the damage
and prejudice of the estate of Manolita.

The above averments in the Information show that the estafa was committed by attributing to
Manolita (who participated in the execution of the document) statements other than those in fact
made by her. Manolitas acts of signing the SPA and affixing her thumbmark to that document
were the very expression of her specific intention that something be done about her taxes. Her
signature and thumbmark were the affirmation of her statement on such intention as she only
signed and thumbmarked the SPA (a document which she could not have read) because of Satos
representation that the document pertained to her taxes. In signing and thumbmarking the
document, Manolita showed that she believed and adopted the representations of Sato as to what
the document was all about, i.e., that it involved her taxes. Her signature and thumbmark,
therefore, served as her conformity to Satos proposal that she execute a document to settle her
taxes.
Thus, by inducing Manolita to sign the SPA, Sato made it appear that Manolita granted his
daughter Wendy a special power of attorney for the purpose of selling, assigning, transferring or
otherwise disposing of Manolitas Tagaytay properties when the fact was that Manolita signed
and thumbmarked the document presented by Sato in the belief that it pertained to her taxes.
Indeed, the document itself, the SPA, and everything that it contained were falsely attributed to
Manolita when she was made to sign the SPA.

Moreover, the allegations in the Information that

(1) "once in the possession of the said special power of attorney and other pertinent
documents, [Sato] made Wendy Mitsuko Sato sign the three (3) Deeds of Absolute Sale"
and

(2) "once in possession of the proceeds of the sale of the above properties, said accused,
misapplied, misappropriated and converted the same to his own personal use and benefit"
raise the presumption that Sato, as the possessor of the falsified document and the one
who benefited therefrom, was the author thereof.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the prosecution moved for the amendment of the
Information so as to increase the amount of damages from P1,150,000 to P22,034,000. This was
granted by the trial court and was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on certiorari. This meant that
the amended Information would now state that, while the total amount of consideration stated in
the deeds of absolute sale was only P1,150,000, Sato actually received the total amount
of P22,034,000 as proceeds of the sale of Manolitas properties.45 This also meant that the deeds
of sale (which were public documents) were also falsified by making untruthful statements as to
the amounts of consideration stated in the deeds.

Therefore, the allegations in the Information essentially charged a crime that was not simple
estafa. Sato resorted to falsification of public documents (particularly, the special power of
attorney and the deeds of sale) as a necessary means to commit the estafa.

Since the crime with which respondent was charged was not simple estafa but the complex crime
of estafa through falsification of public documents, Sato cannot avail himself of the absolutory
cause provided under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code in his favor.

Effect of Absolutory Cause Under Article 332 on Criminal Liability For The Complex
Crime of Estafa Through Falsification of Public Documents

The question may be asked: if the accused may not be held criminally liable for simple estafa by
virtue of the absolutory cause under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code, should he not be
absolved also from criminal liability for the complex crime of estafa through falsification of
public documents? No.

True, the concurrence of all the elements of the two crimes of estafa and falsification of public
document is required for a proper conviction for the complex crime of estafa through
falsification of public document. That is the ruling in Gonzaludo v. People.46 It means that the
prosecution must establish that the accused resorted to the falsification of a public document as a
necessary means to commit the crime of estafa.

However, a proper appreciation of the scope and application of Article 332 of the Revised Penal
Code and of the nature of a complex crime would negate exemption from criminal liability for
the complex crime of estafa through falsification of public documents, simply because the
accused may not be held criminally liable for simple estafa by virtue of the absolutory cause
under Article 332.

The absolutory cause under Article 332 is meant to address specific crimes against property,
namely, the simple crimes of theft, swindling and malicious mischief. Thus, all other crimes,
whether simple or complex, are not affected by the absolutory cause provided by the said
provision. To apply the absolutory cause under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code to one of
the component crimes of a complex crime for the purpose of negating the existence of that
complex crime is to unduly expand the scope of Article 332. In other words, to apply Article 332
to the complex crime of estafa through falsification of public document would be to mistakenly
treat the crime of estafa as a separate simple crime, not as the component crime that it is in that
situation. It would wrongly consider the indictment as separate charges of estafa and falsification
of public document, not as a single charge for the single (complex) crime of estafa through
falsification of public document.

Under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code, the State waives its right to hold the offender
criminally liable for the simple crimes of theft, swindling and malicious mischief and considers
the violation of the juridical right to property committed by the offender against certain family
members as a private matter and therefore subject only to civil liability. The waiver does not
apply when the violation of the right to property is achieved through (and therefore inseparably
intertwined with) a breach of the public interest in the integrity and presumed authenticity of
public documents. For, in the latter instance, what is involved is no longer simply the
property right of a family relation but a paramount public interest.

The purpose of Article 332 is to preserve family harmony and obviate scandal.47 Thus, the action
provided under the said provision simply concerns the private relations of the parties as family
members and is limited to the civil aspect between the offender and the offended party. When
estafa is committed through falsification of a public document, however, the matter acquires a
very serious public dimension and goes beyond the respective rights and liabilities of family
members among themselves. Effectively, when the offender resorts to an act that breaches public
interest in the integrity of public documents as a means to violate the property rights of a family
member, he is removed from the protective mantle of the absolutory cause under Article 332.

In considering whether the accused is liable for the complex crime of estafa through falsification
of public documents, it would be wrong to consider the component crimes separately from each
other. While there may be two component crimes (estafa and falsification of documents), both
felonies are animated by and result from one and the same criminal intent for which there is only
one criminal liability.48 That is the concept of a complex crime. In other words, while there are
two crimes, they are treated only as one, subject to a single criminal liability.

As opposed to a simple crime where only one juridical right or interest is violated (e.g., homicide
which violates the right to life, theft which violates the right to property),49 a complex crime
constitutes a violation of diverse juridical rights or interests by means of diverse acts, each of
which is a simple crime in itself.50 Since only a single criminal intent underlies the diverse acts,
however, the component crimes are considered as elements of a single crime, the complex crime.
This is the correct interpretation of a complex crime as treated under Article 48 of the Revised
Penal Code.

In the case of a complex crime, therefore, there is a formal (or ideal) plurality of crimes where
the same criminal intent results in two or more component crimes constituting a complex crime
for which there is only one criminal liability.51 (The complex crime of estafa through falsification
of public document falls under this category.) This is different from a material (or real) plurality
of crimes where different criminal intents result in two or more crimes, for each of which the
accused incurs criminal liability.52 The latter category is covered neither by the concept of
complex crimes nor by Article 48.

Under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, the formal plurality of crimes (concursus
delictuorum or concurso de delitos) gives rise to a single criminal liability and requires the
imposition of a single penalty:

Although [a] complex crime quantitatively consists of two or more crimes, it is only one crime in
law on which a single penalty is imposed and the two or more crimes constituting the same are
more conveniently termed as component crimes.53 (emphasis supplied)

In [a] complex crime, although two or more crimes are actually committed, they constitute only
one crime in the eyes of the law as well as in the conscience of the offender. The offender has
only one criminal intent. Even in the case where an offense is a necessary means for committing
the other, the evil intent of the offender is only one.54
For this reason, while a conviction for estafa through falsification of public document requires
that the elements of both estafa and falsification exist, it does not mean that the criminal liability
for estafa may be determined and considered independently of that for falsification. The two
crimes of estafa and falsification of public documents are not separate crimes but component
crimes of the single complex crime of estafa and falsification of public documents.

Therefore, it would be incorrect to claim that, to be criminally liable for the complex crime of
estafa through falsification of public document, the liability for estafa should be considered
separately from the liability for falsification of public document. Such approach would disregard
the nature of a complex crime and contradict the letter and spirit of Article 48 of the Revised
Penal Code. It would wrongly disregard the distinction between formal plurality and material
plurality, as it improperly treats the plurality of crimes in the complex crime of estafa through
falsification of public document as a mere material plurality where the felonies are considered as
separate crimes to be punished individually.

Falsification of Public Documents May Be a Necessary Means for Committing Estafa Even
Under Article 315 (3[a])

The elements of the offense of estafa punished under Article 315 (3[a]) of the Revised Penal
Code are as follows:

(1) the offender induced the offended party to sign a document;

(2) deceit was employed to make the offended party sign the document;

(3) the offended party personally signed the document and

(4) prejudice is caused to the offended party.

While in estafa under Article 315(a) of the Revised Penal Code, the law does not require that the
document be falsified for the consummation thereof, it does not mean that the falsification of the
document cannot be considered as a necessary means to commit the estafa under that provision.

The phrase "necessary means" does not connote indispensable means for if it did, then the
offense as a "necessary means" to commit another would be an indispensable element of the
latter and would be an ingredient thereof.55 In People v. Salvilla,56 the phrase "necessary means"
merely signifies that one crime is committed to facilitate and insure the commission of the
other.57 In this case, the crime of falsification of public document, the SPA, was such a
"necessary means" as it was resorted to by Sato to facilitate and carry out more effectively his
evil design to swindle his mother-in-law. In particular, he used the SPA to sell the Tagaytay
properties of Manolita to unsuspecting third persons.
When the offender commits in a public document any of the acts of falsification enumerated in
Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code as a necessary means to commit another crime, like
estafa, theft or malversation, the two crimes form a complex crime under Article 48 of the same
Code.58 The falsification of a public, official or commercial document may be a means of
committing estafa because, before the falsified document is actually utilized to defraud another,
the crime of falsification has already been consummated, damage or intent to cause damage not
being an element of the crime of falsification of a public, official or commercial document.59 In
other words, the crime of falsification was committed prior to the consummation of the crime of
estafa.60 Actually utilizing the falsified public, official or commercial document to defraud
another is estafa.61 The damage to another is caused by the commission of estafa, not by the
falsification of the document.621avvphi1

Applying the above principles to this case, the allegations in the Information show that the
falsification of public document was consummated when Sato presented a ready-made SPA to
Manolita who signed the same as a statement of her intention in connection with her taxes. While
the falsification was consummated upon the execution of the SPA, the consummation of the
estafa occurred only when Sato later utilized the SPA. He did so particularly when he had the
properties sold and thereafter pocketed the proceeds of the sale. Damage or prejudice to Manolita
was caused not by the falsification of the SPA (as no damage was yet caused to the property
rights of Manolita at the time she was made to sign the document) but by the subsequent use of
the said document. That is why the falsification of the public document was used to facilitate and
ensure (that is, as a necessary means for) the commission of the estafa.

The situation would have been different if Sato, using the same inducement, had made Manolita
sign a deed of sale of the properties either in his favor or in favor of third parties. In that case, the
damage would have been caused by, and at exactly the same time as, the execution of the
document, not prior thereto. Therefore, the crime committed would only have been the simple
crime of estafa.63 On the other hand, absent any inducement (such as if Manolita herself had been
the one who asked that a document pertaining to her taxes be prepared for her signature, but what
was presented to her for her signature was an SPA), the crime would have only been the simple
crime of falsification.64

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision dated August 9, 2007 and the
resolution dated January 23, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. S.P. No. 95260
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is remanded to the trial court which is directed to
try the accused with dispatch for the complex crime of estafa through falsification of public
documents.

SO ORDERED.