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FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 118075. September 5, 1997]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. EMILIANO CATANTAN y TAYONG, accused-appellant.

DECISION

BELLOSILLO, J.:

EMILIANO CATANTAN and JOSE MACVEN URSAL alias "Bimbo" were charged with violation of PD No. 532 otherwise
known as the Anti-Piracy and Highway Robbery Law of 1974 for having on 27 June 1993, while armed with a firearm and a bladed
weapon, acting in conspiracy with one another, by means of violence and intimidation, wilfully and feloniously attacked, assaulted
and inflicted physical injuries on Eugene Pilapil and Juan Pilapil Jr. who were then fishing in the seawaters of Tabogon, Cebu, and
seized their fishing boat, to their damage and prejudice. [1]

The Regional Trial Court of Cebu, after trial, found both accused Emiliano Catantan y Tayong and Jose Macven Ursal alias
"Bimbo" guilty of the crime charged and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua. [2] Of the duo only Emiliano Catantan appealed.

In his appeal, accused Catantan contends that the trial court erred in convicting him of piracy as the facts proved only
constitute grave coercion defined in Art. 286 of the Revised Penal Code and not piracy under PD No. 532.

The evidence for the prosecution is that at 3:00 o'clock in the morning of 27 June 1993, the Pilapil brothers Eugene, 21, and
Juan Jr., 18, were fishing in the sea some 3 kilometers away from the shores of Tabogon, Cebu. Suddenly, another boat caught up
with them. One of them, later identified as the accused Emiliano Catantan, boarded the pumpboat of the Pilapils and leveled his gun
at Eugene. With his gun, Catantan struck Eugene on the left cheekbone and ordered him and Juan Jr. to "dapa." [3] Then Catantan
told Ursal to follow him to the pumpboat of the Pilapils. There they hogtied Eugene, forced him to lie down at the bottom of the boat,
covered him with a tarpaulin up to his neck, stepped on him and ordered Juan Jr. to ferry them to Daan Tabogon. They left behind
the other pumpboat which the accused had earlier used together with its passengers one of whom was visibly tied.

Noting that they were already far out into the sea, Eugene reminded Catantan that they were now off-course but Catantan told
Eugene to keep quiet or he would be killed. Later, the engine conked out and Juan Jr. was directed to row the boat. Eugene asked
to be set free so he could help but was not allowed; he was threatened with bodily harm instead.

Meanwhile Juan Jr. managed to fix the engine, but as they went farther out into the open sea the engine stalled again. This
time Eugene was allowed to assist his brother. Eugene's hands were set free but his legs were tied to the outrigger. At the point of
a tres cantos [4]held by Ursal, Eugene helped row the boat.

As they passed the shoreline of Nipa, they saw another boat. Catantan asked whose boat that was and the Pilapils told him
that it was operated by a certain Juanito and that its engine was new. Upon learning this, Catantan ordered the Pilapil brothers to
approach the boat cautioning them however not to move or say anything.

On the pretext that they were buying fish Catantan boarded the "new" pumpboat. Once aboard he ordered the operator
Juanito to take them to Mungaz, another town of Cebu.When Juanito tried to beg-off by saying that he would still pull up his net and
harvest his catch, Catantan drew his revolver and said, "You choose between the two, or I will kill you." [5] Juanito, obviously terrified,
immediately obeyed and Ursal hopped in from the other pumpboat and joined Catantan.

But, as Ursal was transferring to the "new" pumpboat, its outrigger caught the front part of the pumpboat of the Pilapils so he
kicked hard its prow; it broke. The jolt threw Eugene into the sea and he landed on the water headlong. Juan Jr. then untied his
brother's legs and the two swam together clinging to their boat. Fortunately another pumpboat passed by and towed them safely
ashore.

Section 2, par. (d), of PD No. 532, defines piracy as "any attack upon or seizure of any vessel, or the taking away of the whole
or part thereof or its cargo, equipment, or the personal belongings of the complement or passengers, irrespective of the value
thereof, by means of violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things, committed by any person, including a
passenger or member of the complement of said vessel, in Philippine waters, shall be considered as piracy. The offenders shall be
considered as pirates and punished as hereinafter provided." And a vessel is construed in Sec. 2, par. (b), of the same decree
as "any vessel or watercraft used for transport of passengers and cargo from one place to another through Philippine waters. It shall
include all kinds and types of vessels or boats used in fishing (underscoring supplied).

On the other hand, grave coercion as defined in Art. 286 of the Revised Penal Code is committed by "any person who, without
authority of law, shall, by means of violence, prevent another from doing something not prohibited by law, or compel him to do
something against his will, whether it be right or wrong."
Accused-appellant argues that in order that piracy may be committed it is essential that there be an attack on or seizure of a
vessel. He claims that he and his companion did not attack or seize the fishing boat of the Pilapil brothers by using force or
intimidation but merely boarded the boat, and it was only when they were already on board that they used force to compel the
Pilapils to take them to some other place. Appellant also insists that he and Ursal had no intention of permanently taking possession
or depriving complainants of their boat.As a matter of fact, when they saw another pumpboat they ordered the brothers right away to
approach that boat so they could leave the Pilapils behind in their boat. Accordingly, appellant claims, he simply committed grave
coercion and not piracy.

We do not agree. Under the definition of piracy in PD No. 532 as well as grave coercion as penalized in Art. 286 of the
Revised Penal Code, this case falls squarely within the purview of piracy. While it may be true that Eugene and Juan Jr. were
compelled to go elsewhere other than their place of destination, such compulsion was obviously part of the act of seizing their
boat. The testimony of Eugene, one of the victims, shows that the appellant actually seized the vessel through force and
intimidation. The direct testimony of Eugene is significant and enlightening -

Q: Now, while you and your younger brother were fishing at the seawaters of Tabogon at that time, was there anything unusual that happened?

A: Yes.

Q: Will you please tell the Court what that was?

A: While we were fishing at Tabogon another pumpboat arrived and the passengers of that pumpboat boarded our pumpboat.

Q: Now, that pumpboat which you said approached you, how many were riding in that pumpboat?

A: Four.

Q: When you said the passengers of that pumpboat boarded your pumpboat, how did they do that?

A: They approached somewhat suddenly and came aboard the pumpboat (underscoring supplied).

Q: How many suddenly came aboard your pumpboat?

A: Only one.

Q: What did that person do when he came aboard your pumpboat?

A: When he boarded our pumpboat he aimed his revolver at us (underscoring supplied).

Q: By the way, when he aimed his revolver to you, did he say anything to you?

xxxx

A: He said, "dapa," which means lie down (underscoring supplied).

COURT:

Q: To whom did he aim that revolver?

A: He aimed the revolver on me.

TRIAL PROS. ECHAVEZ:

Q: What else did he do?

A: Then he ordered his companion to come aboard the pumpboat.

Q: What did he do with his revolver?


A: He struck my face with the revolver, hitting the lower portion of my left eye.

Q: Now, after you were struck with the revolver, what did these persons do?

A: We were ordered to take them to a certain place.

Q: To what place did he order you to go?

A: To Daan Tabogon. [6]

To sustain the defense and convert this case of piracy into one of grave coercion would be to ignore the fact that a fishing
vessel cruising in Philippine waters was seized by the accused by means of violence against or intimidation of persons. As Eugene
Pilapil testified, the accused suddenly approached them and boarded their pumpboat and Catantan aimed his revolver at them as
he ordered complaining witness Eugene Pilapil to "dapa" or lie down with face downwards, and then struck his face with a revolver,
hitting the lower portion of his left eye, after which, Catantan told his victims at gun point to take them to Daan Tabogon.

The incident happened at 3:00 o'clock in the morning. The sudden appearance of another pumpboat with four passengers, all
strangers to them, easily intimidated the Pilapil brothers that they were impelled to submit in complete surrender to the marauders.
The moment Catantan jumped into the other pumpboat he had full control of his victims. The sight of a drawn revolver in his hand
drove them to submission. Hence the issuance of PD No. 532 designed to avert situations like the case at bar and discourage and
prevent piracy in Philippine waters. Thus we cite the succeeding "whereas" clauses of the decree -

Whereas, reports from law-enforcement agencies reveal that lawless elements are still committing acts of depredations upon the persons and
properties of innocent and defenseless inhabitants who travel from one place to another, thereby disturbing the peace, order and tranquility of the
nation and stunting the economic and social progress of the people;

Whereas, such acts of depredations constitute either piracy or highway robbery/brigandage which are among the highest forms of lawlessness
condemned by the penal statutes of all countries; and,

Whereas, it is imperative that said lawless elements be discouraged from perpetrating such acts of depredations by imposing heavy penalty on the
offenders, with the end in view of eliminating all obstacles to the economic, social, educational and community progress of the people.

The Pilapil brothers are mere fisherfolk whose only means of livelihood is fishing in sea waters. They brave the natural
elements and contend with the unknown forces of the sea to bring home a bountiful harvest. It is on these small fishermen that the
townspeople depend for the daily bread. To impede their livelihood would be to deprive them of their very subsistence, and the likes
of the accused within the purview of PD No. 532 are the obstacle to the "economic, social, educational and community progress of
the people." Had it not been for the chance passing of another pumpboat, the fate of the Pilapil brothers, left alone helpless in a
floundering, meandering outrigger with a broken prow and a conked-out engine in open sea, could not be ascertained.

While appellant insists that he and Ursal had no intention of depriving the Pilapils permanently of their boat, proof of which
they left behind the brothers with their boat, the truth is, Catantan and Ursal abandoned the Pilapils only because their pumpboat
broke down and it was necessary to transfer to another pumpboat that would take them back to their lair.Unfortunately for the pirates
their "new" pumpboat ran out of gas so they were apprehended by the police soon after the Pilapils reported the matter to the local
authorities.

The fact that the revolver used by the appellant to seize the boat was not produced in evidence cannot exculpate him from the
crime. The fact remains, and we state it again, that Catantan and his co-accused Ursal seized through force and intimidation the
pumpboat of the Pilapils while the latter were fishing in Philippine waters.

WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the decision appealed from, the conviction of accused-appellant EMILIANO
CATANTAN y TAYONG for the crime of piracy penalized under PD No. 532 and sentencing him accordingly to reclusion perpetua, is
AFFIRMED.Costs against accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Vitug, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Facts :

At 3:00 oclock in the morning of 27 June 1993, the Pilapil brothers Eugene, 21, and
Juan, Jr., 18, were fishing in the sea around 3 kilometers away from the shores of Tabogon,Cebu. Suddenly, another boat caught up with them. They were later
identified as the accusedEmiliano Catantan
and Jose Ursal alias Bimbo.
They boarded the pumpboat of the Pilapilsand pointed his gun at Eugene. With his gun, Catantan struck Eugene on the left cheekboneand ordered him and
Juan, Jr. to dapa. They ho
gtied Eugene and covered him up withtarpaulin, stepped on him and ordered Juan to ferry them to Daan Tabogon using their pumpboat. However, as they went
farther out into the open sea the engine stopped running. And as they passed the shoreline of Nipa, they saw another boat. This was operated
by Juanitoand its engine was new. Catantan ordered the Pilapil brothers to approach the boat cautioningthem not to say anything.
On a pretext that they were buying fish Catantan boarded Juanitos pumpboat. And orde
red himto take them to Mungaz. Juanito tried to beg-off by saying that he would still pull up his net andharvest his catch, but Catalan threatened to kill him. As Ursal was
transferring to the
Juanitos
pumpboat, the Pilapil brothers got the chance to escape.The Regional Trial Court of Cebu, found both accused Emiliano Catantan y Tayong and JoseMacven Ursal
alias Bimbo guilty
of violating of PD No. 532 otherwiseknown as the Anti-Piracy and Highway Robbery Law of 1974. They were charged andsentenced to reclusion perpetua. Of the duo
only Emiliano Catantan appealed.He contends that the trial court erred in convicting him of piracy as the facts proved onlyconstitute grave coercion defined in Art. 286 of
the Revised Penal Code and not piracy under PD No. 532.
Issue:
Whether or not Emiliano Catalan violated PD No. 532 or
Anti-Piracy and Highway RobberyLaw
Held:
The court held that there was no reversible error in the decision appealed. They convictedEMILIANO CATANTAN y TAYONG for the crime of piracy penalized under
PD No. 532 andsentenced him accordingly to reclusion perpetua. The costs against accused-appellant.There was piracy, not grave coercion, where, as part of the act
of seizing their boat, theoccupants of the vessel were forced to go elsewhere other than their place of destination. Gravecoercion as penalized in Art. 286 of the Revised
Penal Code, this case falls squarely within theconcept of piracy. While it may be true that Eugene and Juan, Jr. were compelled to goelsewhere other than their place of
destination, such compulsion was part of the act of seizingtheir boat.Pilapil brothers are mere fisherfolk whose only means of livelihood is fishing in seawaters. To
impede the livelihood of small fishermen would be to deprive them of their verysurvival, and the likes of the accused within the purview of P.D. No. 532 are the obstacle
to the
economic, social, educational and community progress of the people.

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 153524-25. January 31, 2005]

RODOLFO SORIA and EDIMAR BISTA, petitioners, vs. HON. ANIANO


DESIERTO in his capacity as Head of the Office of the
Ombudsman, HON. ORLANDO C. CASIMIRO in his capacity as
Deputy Ombudsman for Military, P/INS. JEFFREY T. GOROSPE,
SPO2 ROLANDO G. REGACHO, SPO1 ALFREDO B. ALVIAR, JR.,
PO3 JAIME D. LAZARO, PO2 FLORANTE B. CARDENAS, PO1
JOSEPH A. BENAZA, SPO1 FRANKLIN D. CABAYA and SPO4
PEDRO PAREL, respondents.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Yet again, we are tasked to substitute our judgment for that of the Office of the
Ombudsman in its finding of lack of probable cause made during preliminary
investigation. And, yet again, we reaffirm the time-honored practice of non-interference
in the conduct of preliminary investigations by our prosecutory bodies absent a showing
of grave abuse of discretion on their part.
Petitioners, thru a special civil action for certiorari,[1] contend precisely that the
public respondents herein officers of the Office of the Ombudsman gravely abused their
discretion in dismissing the complaint for violation of Article 125 of the Revised Penal
Code (Delay in the delivery of detained persons) against private respondents herein,
members of the Philippine National Police stationed at the Municipality of Santa, Ilocos
Sur.

From the respective pleadings [2] of the parties, the following facts appear to be
indubitable:

1. On or about 8:30 in the evening of 13 May 2001 (a Sunday and the day before the
14 May 2001 Elections[3]), petitioners were arrested without a warrant by respondents
police officers for alleged illegal possession of firearms and ammunition;

2. Petitioner Soria was arrested for alleged illegal possession of .38 cal. revolver (a
crime which carries with it the penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period)
and for violation of Article 261 par. (f) of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to
the Commission on Election Resolution No. 3328 (which carries the penalty of
imprisonment of not less than one [1] year but not more than six [6] years);

3. Petitioner Bista was arrested for alleged illegal possession of sub-machine pistol
UZI, cal. 9mm and a .22 cal. revolver with ammunition;

4. Immediately after their arrest, petitioners were detained at the Santa, Ilocos Sur,
Police Station. It was at the Santa Police Station that petitioner Bista was identified by
one of the police officers to have a standing warrant of arrest for violation of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 6 issued by the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Vigan, Ilocos Sur,
docketed as Criminal Case No. 12272;

5. The next day, at about 4:30 p.m. of 14 May 2001 (Monday and election day),
petitioners were brought to the residence of Provincial Prosecutor Jessica Viloria in
San Juan, Ilocos Sur, before whom a Joint-Affidavit against them was subscribed and
sworn to by the arresting officers. From there, the arresting officers brought the
petitioners to the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and there at about
6:00 p.m. the Joint-Affidavit was filed and docketed;

6. At about 6:30 in the evening of the same day, 14 May 2001, petitioner Soria
was releasedupon the order of Prosecutor Viloria to undergo the requisite preliminary
investigation, while petitioner Bista was brought back and continued to be detained at
the Santa Police Station. From the time of petitioner Sorias detention up to the time of
his release, twenty-two (22) hours had already elapsed;

7. On 15 May 2001, at around 2:00 in the afternoon, petitioner Bista was brought
before the MTC of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, where the case for violation of Batas Pambansa
Blg. 6 was pending. Petitioner Bista posted bail and an Order of Temporary Release
was issued thereafter;

8. At this point in time, no order of release was issued in connection with petitioner
Bistas arrest for alleged illegal possession of firearms. At 4:30 in the afternoon of
the same day (15 May 2001), an information for Illegal Possession of Firearms and
Ammunition, docketed as Criminal Case No. 4413-S, was filed against petitioner
Bista with the 4th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. At 5:00 in the
afternoon, informations for Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition and
violation of Article 261 par. (f) of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to
COMELEC Resolution No. 3328, docketed as Criminal Cases No. 2269-N and No.
2268-N, respectively, were filed in the Regional Trial Court at Narvacan, Ilocos Sur;

9. On 08 June 2001, petitioner Bista was released upon filing of bail bonds in
Criminal Cases No. 2268-N and No. 4413-S. He was detained for 26 days.

10. On 15 August 2001, petitioners filed with the Office of the Ombudsman for
Military Affairs a complaint-affidavit for violation of Art. 125 of the Revised Penal
Code against herein private respondents.

11. After considering the parties respective submissions, the Office of the
Ombudsman rendered the first assailed Joint Resolution dated 31 January 2002
dismissing the complaint for violation of Art. 125 of the Revised Penal Code for lack
of merit; and

12. On 04 March 2002, petitioners then filed their motion for reconsideration which
was denied for lack of merit in the second assailed Resolution dated 25 March 2002.

Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code states:

Art. 125. Delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities. -
The penalties provided in the next preceding article shall be imposed upon the public
officer or employee who shall detain any person for some legal ground and shall fail
to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the period of: twelve
(12) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties, or their equivalent;
eighteen (18) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by correctional penalties, or
their equivalent; and thirty-six (36) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by
afflictive or capital penalties, or their equivalent.

In every case, the person detained shall be informed of the cause of his detention and
shall be allowed, upon his request, to communicate and confer at any time with his
attorney or counsel.

It is not under dispute that the alleged crimes for which petitioner Soria was arrested
without warrant are punishable by correctional penalties or their equivalent, thus,
criminal complaints or information should be filed with the proper judicial authorities
within 18 hours of his arrest. Neither is it in dispute that the alleged crimes for which
petitioner Bista was arrested are punishable by afflictive or capital penalties, or their
equivalent, thus, he could only be detained for 36 hours without criminal complaints or
information having been filed with the proper judicial authorities.

The sole bone of contention revolves around the proper application of the 12-18-36
periods. With respect specifically to the detention of petitioner Soria which lasted for 22
hours, it is alleged that public respondents gravely erred in construing Article 125 [4] as
excluding Sundays, holidays and election days in the computation of the periods
prescribed within which public officers should deliver arrested persons to the proper
judicial authorities as the law never makes such exception. Statutory construction has it
that if a statute is clear and unequivocal, it must be given its literal meaning and applied
without any attempts at interpretation. [5] Public respondents, on the other hand, relied on
the cases of Medina v. Orozco, Jr.,[6] and Sayo v. Chief of Police of Manila [7] and on
commentaries[8] of jurists to bolster their position that Sundays, holidays and election
days are excluded in the computation of the periods provided in Article 125, [9] hence, the
arresting officers delivered petitioners well within the allowable time.

In addition to the foregoing arguments and with respect specifically to petitioner


Bista, petitioners maintain that the filing of the information in court against petitioner
Bista did not justify his continuous detention. The information was filed at 4:30 p.m. of
15 May 2001 but the orders for his release were issued by the Regional Trial Court and
Municipal Trial Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, only on 08 June 2001. They argued that
based on law and jurisprudence, if no charge is filed by the prosecutor within the period
fixed by law, the arresting officer must release the detainee lest he be charged with
violation of Article 125.[10] Public respondents countered that the duty of the arresting
officers ended upon the filing of the informations with the proper judicial authorities
following the rulings in Agbay v. Deputy Ombudsman for the Military,[11] and People v.
Acosta.[12]

From a study of the opposing views advanced by the parties, it is evident that public
respondents did not abuse their discretion in dismissing for lack of probable cause the
complaint against private respondents.

Grave abuse of discretion is such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment on


the part of the public officer concerned which is equivalent to an excess or lack of
jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an
evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act
at all in contemplation of law as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and
despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility.[13]

No grave abuse of discretion, as defined, can be attributed to herein public


respondents. Their disposition of petitioners complaint for violation of Article 125 of the
Revised Penal Code cannot be said to have been conjured out of thin air as it was
properly backed up by law and jurisprudence. Public respondents ratiocinated thus:

As aptly pointed out by the respondents insofar as the complaint of Rodolfo Soria is
concerned, based on applicable laws and jurisprudence, an election day or a special
holiday, should not be included in the computation of the period prescribed by law for
the filing of complaint/information in courts in cases of warrantless arrests, it being a
no-office day. (Medina vs. Orosco, 125 Phil. 313.) In the instant case, while it appears
that the complaints against Soria for Illegal Possession of Firearm and Violation of
COMELEC Resolution No. 3328 were filed with the Regional Trial Court and
Municipal Trial Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, only on May 15, 200[1] at 4:30 p.m.,
he had already been released the day before or on May 14, 2001 at about 6:30 p.m. by
the respondents, as directed by Prov. Prosecutor Jessica [Viloria]. Hence, there could
be no arbitrary detention or violation of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code to
speak of.[14]

Indeed, we did hold in Medina v. Orozco, Jr.,[15] that

. . . The arresting officers duty under the law was either to deliver him to the proper
judicial authorities within 18 hours, or thereafter release him. The fact however is that
he was not released. From the time of petitioners arrest at 12:00 oclock p.m. on
November 7 to 3:40 p.m. on November 10 when the information against him for
murder actually was in court, over 75 hours have elapsed.

But, stock should be taken of the fact that November 7 was a Sunday; November 8
was declared an official holiday; and November 9 (election day) was also an official
holiday. In these three no-office days, it was not an easy matter for a fiscal to look for
his clerk and stenographer, draft the information and search for the Judge to have him
act thereon, and get the clerk of court to open the courthouse, docket the case and
have the order of commitment prepared. And then, where to locate and the uncertainty
of locating those officers and employees could very well compound the fiscals
difficulties. These are considerations sufficient enough to deter us from declaring that
Arthur Medina was arbitrarily detained. For, he was brought to court on the very first
office day following arrest.

And, in Sayo v. Chief of Police of Manila[16] --

. . . Of course, for the purpose of determining the criminal liability of an officer


detaining a person for more than six hours prescribed by the Revised Penal Code, the
means of communication as well as the hour of arrest and other circumstances, such
as the time of surrender and the material possibility for the fiscal to make the
investigation and file in time the necessary information, must be taken into
consideration.

As to the issue concerning the duty of the arresting officer after the information has
already been filed in Court, public respondents acted well within their discretion in ruling
thus:

In the same vein, the complaint of Edimar Bista against the respondents for Violation
of Article 125, will not prosper because the running of the thirty-six (36)-hour period
prescribed by law for the filing of the complaint against him from the time of his
arrest was tolled by one day (election day). Moreover, he has a standing warrant of
arrest for Violation of B.P. Blg. 6 and it was only on May 15, 2001, at about 2:00 p.m.
that he was able to post bail and secure an Order of Release. Obviously, however, he
could only be released if he has no other pending criminal case requiring his
continuous detention.

The criminal Informations against Bista for Violations of Article 125, RPC and
COMELEC Resolution No. 3328 were filed with the Regional Trial Court and
Municipal Trial Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, on May 15, 2001 (Annexes G and I,
Complaint-Affidavit of Edimar Bista) but he was released from detention only on
June 8, 2001, on orders of the RTC and MTC of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur (Annexes J and
K, Complaint-Affidavit). Was there a delay in the delivery of detained person to the
proper judicial authorities under the circumstances? The answer is in the negative. The
complaints against him was (sic) seasonably filed in the court of justice within the
thirty-six (36)-hour period prescribed by law as discussed above. The duty of the
detaining officers is deemed complied with upon the filing of the complaints. Further
action, like issuance of a Release Order, then rests upon the judicial authority (People
v. Acosta [CA] 54 O.G. 4739).[17]

The above disposition is in keeping with Agbay v. Deputy Ombudsman for the
Military,[18] wherein we ordained that

. . . Furthermore, upon the filing of the complaint with the Municipal Trial Court, the
intent behind Art. 125 is satisfied considering that by such act, the detained person is
informed of the crime imputed against him and, upon his application with the court,
he may be released on bail. Petitioner himself acknowledged this power of the MCTC
to order his release when he applied for and was granted his release upon posting bail.
Thus, the very purpose underlying Article 125 has been duly served with the filing of
the complaint with the MCTC. We agree with the position of the Ombudsman that
such filing of the complaint with the MCTC interrupted the period prescribed in said
Article.

All things considered, there being no grave abuse of discretion, we have no choice
but to defer to the Office of the Ombudsmans determination that the facts on hand do
not make out a case for violation of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code.

As we have underscored in numerous decisions --

We have consistently refrained from interfering with the investigatory and


prosecutorial powers of the Ombudsman absent any compelling reason. This policy is
based on constitutional, statutory and practical considerations. We are mindful that the
Constitution and RA 6770 endowed the Office of the Ombudsman with a wide
latitude of investigatory and prosecutorial powers, virtually free from legislative,
executive or judicial intervention, in order to insulate it from outside pressure and
improper influence. Moreover, a preliminary investigation is in effect a realistic
judicial appraisal of the merits of the case. Sufficient proof of the guilt of the accused
must be adduced so that when the case is tried, the trial court may not be bound, as a
matter of law, to order an acquittal. Hence, if the Ombudsman, using professional
judgment, finds the case dismissible, the Court shall respect such findings, unless
clothed with grave abuse of discretion. Otherwise, the functions of the courts will
be grievously hampered by innumerable petitions assailing the dismissal of
investigatory proceedings conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman with regard to
complaints filed before it. In much the same way, the courts will be swamped with
cases if they will have to review the exercise of discretion on the part of fiscals or
prosecuting attorneys each time the latter decide to file an information in court or
dismiss a complaint by a private complainant. [19] (Emphasis supplied)

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition dated 27 May 2002 is hereby


DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Joint Resolution dated 31 January 2002 and the
Order dated 25 March 2002 of the Office of the Ombudsman are hereby AFFIRMED. No
costs.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Soria vs
DesiertoFacts:Petit
ioners Rodolfo
Soria and Edimar
Bista were arrested
on May 13, 2001
(a Sundayand the
day before May
14 elections)
without a warrant
by respondents for
alleged
illegal possession
of firearms and
ammunition.
One police
identified Bista to
have a standing
warrantof arrest
for violation of BP
Blg. 6.From the
time of Sorias
detention up to the
time of hisrelease,
22 hours had
already
elapsed and Bista
was detained for
26 days.The
crimes for which
Soria was arrested
without warrant
are punishable by
correctional penalt
ies or their
equivalent, thus,
criminal
complaints or
information should
be filed with
the proper judicial
authorities within
18 hours of his
arrest. The crimes
for which Bista
was arrestedare
punishable by
afflictive or capital
penalties, or their
equivalent, thus,
he could only
bedetained for 36
hours without
criminal
complaints or
information
having been filed
with the proper
judicial
authorities.
Article 125 stated
that Delay in the
delivery of
detained persons
to the proper
judicial authoritie
s. - The penalties
provided in the
next preceding
article shall be
imposed upon
the public officer
or employee who
shall detain any
person for some
legal ground and
shall fail todeliver
such person to the
proper judicial
authorities within
the period of:
twelve (12) hours,
for crimes or
offenses
punishable by
light penalties, or
their equivalent;
eighteen (18)
hours, for crimes
or offenses
punishable by
correctional
penalties, or their
equivalent; and
thirty-six
(36)hours, for
crimes or offenses
punishable by
afflictive or
capital penalties,
or their
equivalent.
Petitioners filed
with the Office of
the Ombudsman
for Military
Affairs a
complaint-
affidavit for
violation of Art.
125 of the
Revised Penal
Code against
herein private
respondents.The
office dismissed
the complaint for
lack of merit.
Petitioners then
filed their
motion for reconsi
deration which
was denied for
lack of merit in the
second assailed
Resolution.Issue:
W/O officers of
the Office of the
Ombudsman
gravely
abused their
discretion
indismissing the
complaint for
violation of Article
125 of the
Revised Penal
Code (Delay in
thedelivery of
detained
persons)Held:Grav
e abuse
of discretion is
such capricious
and whimsical
exercise of
judgment
on the part of the
public officer
concerned which
is equivalent to an
excess or lack of
jurisdiction.
Theabuse of
discretion must be
so patent and gross
as to amount to an
evasion of a
positive duty or
avirtual refusal to
perform a duty
enjoined by law
G.R. Nos. 186739-960 April 17, 2013

LEOVEGILDO R. RUZOL, Petitioner,


vs.
THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN and the PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

This is an appeal seeking to nullify the December 19, 2008 Decision1 of the First Division of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case
Nos. SB-08-CRIM-0039 to 0259, which convicted Leovegildo R. Ruzol (Ruzol), then Mayor of General Nakar, Quezon, of Usurpation
of Official Functions penalized under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The Facts

Ruzol was the mayor of General Nakar, Quezon from 2001 to 2004. Earlier in his term, he organized a Multi-Sectoral Consultative
Assembly composed of civil society groups, public officials and concerned stakeholders with the end in view of regulating and
monitoring the transportation of salvaged forest products within the vicinity of General Nakar. Among those present in the
organizational meeting were Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Rogelio Delgado Sr. and Bishop Julio
Xavier Labayen, the OCD-DD of the Prelature of Infanta Emeritus of the Catholic Church and Chairperson of TIPAN, an
environmental non-government organization that operates in the municipalities of General Nakar, Infanta and Real in Quezon
province. During the said assembly, the participants agreed that to regulate the salvaged forests products, the Office of the Mayor,
through Ruzol, shall issue a permit to transport after payment of the corresponding fees to the municipal treasurer.2

Consequently, from 2001 to 2004, two hundred twenty-one (221) permits to transport salvaged forest products were issued to
various recipients, of which forty-three (43) bore the signature of Ruzol while the remaining one hundred seventy-eight (178) were
signed by his co-accused Guillermo T. Sabiduria (Sabiduria), then municipal administrator of General Nakar.3

On June 2006, on the basis of the issued Permits to Transport, 221 Informations for violation of Art. 177 of the RPC or for
Usurpation of Authority or Official Functions were filed against Ruzol and Sabiduria, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. SB-08-CRIM-
0039 to 0259.

Except for the date of commission, the description of forest product, person given the permit, and official receipt number, the said
Informations uniformly read:

That, on (date of commission) or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in General Nakar, Quezon, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused Leovegildo R. Ruzol and Guillermo M. Sabiduria, both public officers, being then the
Municipal Mayor and Municipal Administrator, respectively, of General Nakar, Quezon, taking advantage of their official position and
committing the offense in relation to their office, conspiring and confederating with each other did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and criminally, issue permit to transport (description of forest product) to (person given the permit) under O.R. No. (official receipt
number) under the pretense of official position and without being lawfully entitled to do so, such authority properly belonging to the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to the damage and prejudice of the of the government.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

The details for each Information are as follows:5

Criminal Date of Description of Forest Person Given the Official


Case No. Commission Product Permit Receipt No.

0039 20 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft malaruhat/ David Villareal Jr. 1623446
marang

0040 16 Jan. 2004 600 board ft lawaan Pepito Aumentado 1623463

0041 15 Jan. 2004 100 pcs. malaruhat Francisco Mendoza 1708352


(assorted sizes)

0042 15 Jan. 2004 300 cubic m or 3,000 board Edmundo dela Vega 1708353
ft good lumber
0043 15 Jan. 2004 600 board ft good lumber David Villareal, Jr. 1708321

0044 15 Jan. 2004 1,050 board ft good lumber Romeo Sabiduria 1708322

0045 12 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft malaruhat Nestor Astejada 1625521

0046 09 Jan. 2004 4,000 board ft good lumber Naty Orozco 1623421
(assorted sizes)

0047 08 Jan. 2004 700 board ft lauan Winnie Aceboque 1623415

0048 05 Jan. 2004 500 board ft lauan Edmundo dela Vega 1623041

0049 07 Jan. 2004 4 x 5 haligi Mercy Vargas 1623314

0050 06 Jan. 2004 good lumber Mario Pujeda 1623310

0051 21 Oct. 2002 1,000 board ft sliced Conchita Odi 0830825


lumber

0052 21 Oct. 2002 400 board ft sliced lumber Lita Crisostomo 0830826

0053 28 Oct. 2002 450 board ft marang Agosto Astoveza 0830829


lumber

0054 08 Jan. 2003 300 board ft sliced lumber Edna E. Moises 0943941
(assorted sizes)

0055 13 Jan. 2003 1,500 board ft sliced Dante Z. Medina 0943964


lumber (assorted sizes)

0056 16 Jan. 2003 400 board ft sliced lumber Johnny A. Astoveza 0943975
(assorted sizes)

0057 27 Jan. 2003 7 pcs sliced lumber & 1 Sonny Leynes 1181827
piece 18 roda

0058 14 Feb. 2003 2,000 pcs trophy (wood Flordeliza Espiritu 1182033
carvings)

0059 17 Feb. 2003 700 board ft sliced lumber Nestor Astejada 1181917
(assorted sizes)

0060 18 Feb. 2003 1,632 board ft hard wood, Arthur/ Lanie 1182207
kisame & sanipa Occea

0061 20 Feb. 2004 126 pcs lumber Lamberto 1708810


Aumentado

0062 3 March 2003 450 board ft hard wood Nestor Astoveza 1182413
(assorted sizes)

0063 6 March 2003 160 pcs sliced lumber Remedios Orozco 1182366
(assorted sizes)

0064 10 March 2003 1,500 board ft malaruhat Nestor Astejada 1181996


(assorted sizes)

0065 11 March 2003 900 board ft sliced lumber Fernando Calzado 1182233
(assorted sizes)

0066 13 March 2003 1,408 board ft hard wood Nestor Astejada 1182553
(assorted sizes)

0067 20 March 2003 90 pcs. sliced lumber Remy Orozco 1182157


(assorted sizes)

0068 21 March 2003 90 pcs. sliced lumber Rene Francia 1182168


(assorted sizes)

0069 25 March 2003 500 board ft lumber Thelma Ramia 1182179


(assorted sizes)

0070 26 March 2003 1 pc. 60 x 75 bed (narra) Roy Justo 1182246


finished product

0071 14 April 2004 95 pcs. kalap (9 ft.); 6 pcs. Anita Solloza 3651059
post (10 ft.) & 500 pcs.
Anahaw

0072 08 April 2004 460 board ft lumber Remy Orozco 3651101


(assorted sizes)

0073 14 April 2004 69 pcs. sliced lumber Dindo America 3651101


(assorted sizes)

0074 23 April 2003 870 board ft hard lumber Amado Pradillada 3651268
(assorted sizes)

0075 24 April 2003 400 board ft lumber Romy Buendicho 3651237


(assorted sizes)

0076 24 April 2003 400 board ft rattan Emmanuel 3651324


Buendicho

0077 30 April 2004 1,000 board ft good lumber Mylene Moises 3651335-C
(assorted sizes)

0078 30 April 2004 500 board ft sliced lumber Carlito Vargas 3651336
(assorted sizes)

0079 08 May 2003 72 x 78 bed (narra); 3 pcs. Fely Justo 3651519


60 x 75 bed (ling manok)
& 1 pc. 48 x 75 ed (kuling
manok) finished product

0080 12 May 2003 294 board ft lumber Virgilio Cuerdo 3650927

0081 13 May 2003 43 pcs. sliced lumber Amando Lareza 3651783


(assorted sizes)

0082 14 May 2003 750 board ft good lumber Wilma Cuerdo 3651529

0083 15 May 2003 440 board ft lumber Marte Cuballes 3651532

0084 15 May 2003 214 pcs. 2x6x7 or 1,500 Anneliza Vargas 3651531
board ft finished product

0085 26 May 2003 57 pcs. sliced lumber Danny Sanchez 3651585


(assorted sizes)

0086 27 May 2003 400 board ft cut woods Emy Francia 3651394

0087 30 May 2003 300 board ft lumber Daisy Cuerdo 3650943

0088 30 May 2003 1,000 board ft lumber Lea Astoveza 3651161


(assorted sizes)

0089 05 June 2003 130 pcs. or 1,500 board ft Jose Noly Moises 3651809
lumber cut woods

0090 06 June 2003 300 board ft lumber Mercy Escaraga 3651169

0091 18 June 2003 800 board ft good lumber Dante Medena 3651749

0092 24 June 2003 28 pcs. good lumber Virgilio Cuerdo 1247102


(assorted sizes)

0093 25 June 2003 190 pcs. good lumber Dante Medina 1247205
(assorted sizes)

0094 02 July 2003 800 board ft. good lumber Dante Medina 1247221

0095 02 July 2003 105 pcs. fresh cut lumber Emmanuel Lusang 1247167
(assorted sizes)

0096 04 July 2003 Assorted sizes of good Alberto dela Cruz 1247172
Lumber
0097 07 July 2003 Bulukan woods Conchita Ligaya 1247175

0098 07 July 2003 6 pcs. Haligi Jane Bulagay 1247173

0099 11 July 2003 700 board ft. cut woods Dominador Aveno 1247452

0100 14 July 200 800 board ft. cut wood/ Dante Medina 1247180
lumber

0101 16 July 2003 600 board ft. cut lumber Rachelle Solana 1247182

0102 23 July 2003 1,200 board ft. hard lumber Necito Crisostomo 1247188

0103 23 July 2003 700 board ft. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1247129

0104 28 July 2003 959 board ft. cut lumber Necito Crisostomo 1247428

0105 29 July 2003 600 board ft. lumber Marilou Astejada 1247191

0106 01 Aug. 2003 1,000 board Malaruhat Ruel Ruzol 1247198

0107 05 Aug. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Virgilio Aumentado 1322853

0108 08 Aug. 2003 4.8 cubic ft. Amlang Rosa Turgo 1322862
woods

0109 12 Aug. 2003 788 Board ft. cut woods Maria Teresa 1322865
Adornado

0110 25 Aug. 2003 500 board ft. assorted Romy Buendicho 1322929
lumber

0111 28 Aug. 2003 2 sala sets Roy Justo 1322879

0112 29 Aug. 2003 456 pieces good lumber Marilou Astejada 1323056
(assorted sizes)

0113 03 Sept. 2003 5 cubic ft softwoods Rosa Turgo 1322834


(assorted sizes)

0114 05 Sept. 2003 1,000 board ft. good Agustin Vargas 1323064
lumber (assorted sizes)

0115 08 Sept. 2003 80 pcs. wood post Peter Banton 1323124

0116 09 Sept. 2003 1 forward load (soft wood) Efifania V. Astrega 1323023

0117 11 Sept. 2003 1 forward load (assorted Noling Multi 1323072


species) Purpose Corp.

0118 11 Sept. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Agustin Vargas 1323071

0119 12 Sept. 2003 900 board ft. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1323073
(assorted sizes)

0120 15 Sept. 2003 950 board ft. Malaruhat Edna Moises 1323128

0121 16 Sept. 2003 14 pcs. Panel door Roy Justo 1323041

0122 17 Sept. 2003 546 board ft. soft woods Mr. Marquez 1322951

0123 19 Sept. 2003 1,600 board ft. good Decembrano 1323085


lumber (assorted sizes) Sabiduria

0124 22 Sept. 2003 900 board ft. good lumber Jeffrey dela Vega 1323095

0125 22 Sept. 2003 1 Jeep load hard wood Federico Marquez 1323100

0126 25 Sept. 2003 750 board ft. Malaruhat/ Virgilio Villareal 1323252
Marang

0127 03 Oct. 2003 750 board ft. Malaruhat/ Virgilio Villareal 1323252
Marang

0128 02 Oct. 2003 60 pcs. good lumber Nestor Astorza 1482662


(assorted sizes)

0129 03 Oct. 2003 1,600 board ft. good Virgilio Villareal 1482666
lumber (assorted sizes)

0130 03 Oct. 2003 400 board ft. Malaruhat Amado Pradillada 1482815
(assorted sizes)

0131 03 Oct. 2003 1 full load (soft wood) Flordeliza Espiritu 1482867

0132 03 Oct. 2003 6,342 board ft sticks Joel Pacaiqui 1482716

0133 03 Oct. 2003 6,090 board ft sticks Joel Pacaiqui 1482717

0134 07 Oct. 2003 900 board ft. good lumber Mylene Moises 1482670
(assorted sizes)

0135 13 Oct. 2003 600 board ft. Lawaan Winnie Acebaque 1482734
(assorted sizes)

0136 13 Oct. 2003 1,700 board ft. Malaruhat Nestor Bautista 1482740
(assorted sizes)

0137 13 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. Lawaan Trinidad Guerero 1482774
(assorted sizes)

0138 16 Oct. 2003 700 board ft. Lawaan Federico Marquez 1482782

0139 17 Oct. 2003 4,602 board ft. good Nenita Juntreal 1482787
lumber (assorted sizes)

0140 20 Oct. 2003 1,700 board ft. Malaruhat Belen Ordinado 1482793
(assorted sizes)

0141 23 Oct. 2003 66 pcs. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1482847


(assorted sizes)

0142 25 Oct. 2003 1,700 board ft. good Dante Medina 1323277
lumber

0143 27 Oct. 2003 1,800 board ft. good Dante Medina 1482951
lumber (assorted sizes)

0144 28 Oct. 2003 1,254 board ft. good Jonathan Supremo 1323281
lumber (assorted sizes)

0145 28 Oct. 2003 2,500 board ft. lumber Ramir Sanchez 1483001
(assorted sizes)

0146 28 Oct. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Rolando Franela 1323280
(assorted sizes)

0147 03 Nov. 2003 850 finished products Naty Orozco 1483020


(cabinet component,
balusters, door jambs)

0148 03 Nov. 2003 400 board ft. good lumber Elizabeth Junio 1483022
(assorted sizes) & 6
bundles of sticks

0149 10 Nov. 2003 1,770 board ft. good Dante Medina 1483032
lumber (assorted sizes)

0150 10 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. lumber Nestor Astejada 1483033

0151 12 Nov. 2003 900 board ft. lumber Federico Marquez 1483041
(assorted sizes)

0152 12 Nov. 2003 Mini dump truck good Rizalito Francia 1483042
lumber (assorted sizes)

0153 14 Nov. 2003 500 components, 100 pcs Annie Gonzales 1483070
balusters (assorted sizes of
stringers, tassels)
0154 14 Nov. 2003 700 board ft. good lumber Winnie Aceboque 1323287

0155 17 Nov. 2003 1,600 board ft. Malaruhat Federico Marquez 1483072
lumber (assorted sizes)

0156 05 Nov. 2003 400 board ft. Tapil & 7 Belen Ordinado 1483023
pcs. 1x10x14

0157 05 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. lumber Leonardo Aveno 1623003
(assorted sizes)

0158 05 Nov. 2003 150 board ft. good lumber Francisco Mendoza 1483027

0159 07 Nov. 2003 433 bundles of semi-finished products Naty Orozco 1483031

0160 08 Nov. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Armando Pradillada 1483134
(assorted sizes)

0161 25 Nov. 2003 30 pcs. sliced lumber Ariel Molina 1632059

0162 19 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. good Dante Medina 1623053
lumber (assorted sizes)

0163 20 Nov. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Maria Teresa 1323288
(assorted sizes) Adornado

0164 20 Nov. 2003 1,500 board ft. good Romeo Sabiduria 1483080
lumber (assorted sizes)

0165 21 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. Malaruhat Dante Medina 1623057
lumber (assorted sizes)

0166 25 Oct. 2003 2,000 board ft. lumber Federico Marquez 1322982
(assorted sizes)

0167 25 Nov. 2003 500 board ft. Malaruhat Federico Marquez 1483090

0168 25 Nov. 2003 70 bundles of Rattan Manuel Buendicho 1483095


(assorted sizes)

0169 28 Nov. 2003 6,542 board ft. finished Nenita Juntareal 1623019
products (cabinet and
components)

0170 01 Dec. 2003 400 board ft. Malaruhat Federico Marquez 1623061

0171 01 Dec. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1483123

0172 01 Dec. 2003 1,500 board ft. lumber Belen Ordinado 1623063
(assorted sizes)

0173 03 Dec. 2003 500 board ft. Laniti Rosa Turgo 1483125

0174 04 Dec. 2003 1,000 board ft. lumber Dante Medina 1483127

0175 04 Dec. 2003 26 pcs. lumber (assorted Nenita Juntareal 1483128


sizes) & 2 bundles of sticks

0176 05 Dec. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Nestor Astejada 1483131

0177 08 Dec. 2003 678 board ft. good lumber Elenor Rutaquio 1623082
(assorted sizes)

0178 08 Dec. 2003 200 board ft. lumber William Rutaquio 1623010
(assorted sizes)

0179 09 Dec. 2003 1,800 board ft. lumber Nestor Astejada 1623090

0180 12 Dec. 2003 One jeep load of good Angelo Avellano 1623099
lumber (assorted sizes)

0181 12 Dec. 2003 One jeep load of good Angelo Avellano 1623099
lumber (assorted sizes)
0182 12 Dec. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1483147

0183 16 Dec. 2003 600 board ft. Malaruhat Jonathan Marcial 1623033

0184 16 Dec. 2003 650 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1482987

0185 16 Dec. 2003 1,000 board ft. Malaruhat Dante Medina 1482986

0186 18 Dec. 2003 100 board ft. lumber Aladin Aveno 1322992

0187 19 Dec. 2003 780 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1323000

0188 19 Dec. 2003 1,500 board ft. coco Felecita Marquez 1322998
lumber

0189 22 Dec. 2003 600 board ft. lumber Belen C. Ordinado 1623209

0190 29 Dec. 2003 600 board ft. Lawaan Winnie Aciboque 1623211

0191 29 Dec. 2003 300 board ft. lumber Yolanda Crisostomo 1623210

0192 30 Dec. 2003 800 board ft. Lawaan Pepito Aumentado 1623215

0193 20 Nov. 2003 150 board ft. good lumber Francisco Mendoza 1483086
(assorted sizes)

0194 30 June 2003 450 board ft. fresh cut Mylene Moises 1247126
lumber

0195 13 July 2001 1 L-300 load of finished Evangeline Moises 9894843-Q


and semi-finished products

0196 02 July 2001 96 pcs. good lumber Rollie L. Velasco 9894996-Q


(assorted sizes)

0197 07 May 2004 1,500 board ft. babayahin Nemia Molina 200647
lumber

0198 19 April 2004 107 pcs. sliced lumber Carlo Gudmalin 1868050
(assorted sizes)

0199 5 March 2004 10 pcs. Deadwood Elizabeth Junio 1708899


(Bulakan)

0200 2 March 2004 600 board ft. Amalang Roda Turgo 1867608
wood

0201 1 March 2004 149 sliced lumber (assorted Necito Crisostomo 1708891
sizes)

0202 1 March 2004 80 bundles of rattan Manuel Buendicho 1708890

0203 23 Feb. 2004 30 pcs. sliced lumber Leonardo Aveno 1708863


(assorted sizes)

0204 13 Feb. 2004 50 pcs. sliced sliced lumber Federico Marquez 1708698
(assorted sizes)

0205 12 Feb. 2004 69 pcs. sliced sliced lumber Florencio Borreo 1708694
(assorted sizes)

0206 17 Feb. 2004 50 pcs. sliced sliced lumber Ronnie Astejada 1708774
(assorted sizes)

0207 04 Feb. 2004 600 board ft. sliced lumber Pepito Aumentado 1708486
(assorted sizes)

0208 1 March 2004 21 pcs. Lawaan (assorted Atan Marquez 1708878


sizes)

0209 4 Feb. 2004 563 board ft. sliced lumber Decembrano 1708487
(assorted sizes) Sabiduria

0210 06 Feb. 2004 80 pcs. Buukan (Ugat) Maila S. Orozco 1708547


0211 30 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft. good Pepito Aumentado 1708534
lumber (assorted sizes)

0212 29 Jan. 2004 950 board ft. good lumber Leonardo Moises 1708528
(assorted sizes)

0213 28 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft. good Pepito Aumentado 1708518
lumber (assorted sizes)

0214 28 Jan. 2004 5, 000 board ft. good Carmelita Lorenzo 1708521
lumber (assorted sizes)

0215 28 Jan. 2004 350 board ft. good lumber Amando Pradillada 1708368
(assorted sizes)

0216 23 Jan. 2004 800 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1708517
(assorted sizes)

0217 21 Jan. 2004 1,050 board ft. good Romeo Sabiduria 1708508
lumber (assorted sizes)

0218 06 April 2004 800 board ft. sliced lumber Mylene Moises 1868025
(assorted sizes)

0219 11 March 2004 300 pieces or 1, 200 board Ernesto Aumentado 1708975
ft. sliced lumber (assorted
sizes)

0220 02 Feb. 2004 7,000 board ft. good Carmelita Lorenzo 1708376
lumber

0221 08 Jan. 2004 600 board ft. Malaruhat Nestor Astejada 1623451

0222 10 Dec. 2003 300 pieces good lumber Francisco Mendoza 1623096

0223 18 Nov. 2003 6,432 board ft. assorted Naty Orozco 1483048
species

0224 30 Oct. 2003 8,000 board ft. Malauban Ma. Teresa 1483019
Adornado

0225 21 Oct. 2003 1,770 board ft. good Dante Medina 1482796
lumber (assorted sizes)

0226 21 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. Malaruhat Leonardo S. Aveno 1323271
(assorted sizes)

0227 21 Oct. 2003 10,875 board ft. lumber Annie Gonzales 1323273
(assorted sizes)

0228 20 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. sliced lumber Bernardo Gonzalvo 1482835

0229 17 Oct. 2003 6,090 board ft. lumber Naty Orozco 1482834

0230 17 Oct. 2003 16 pcs. panel door Roy Justo 1482743


(finished product)

0231 01 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. good lumber Analiza Vargas 1482710
(assorted sizes)

0232 01 Oct. 2003 700 board ft. Malaruhat Engr. Mercado 1482760
(assorted sizes)

0233 30 Sept. 2003 500 board ft. sliced lumber Mylene Moises 1482810
(assorted sizes)

0234 29 Sept. 2003 800 board ft. good lumber Wennie Acebuque 1482703
(assorted sizes)

0235 15 Sept. 2003 1,500 board ft. malaruhat Decembrano 1323076


lumber (assorted sizes) Sabiduria

0236 10 Sept. 2003 200 board ft. good lumber Junier Franquia 1323027
(assorted sizes)
0237 29 Aug. 2003 600 board ft. good lumber Annaliza Vargas 1322830

0238 07 Aug. 2003 2,000 board ft. lumber Abilardo dela Cruz 1247200
(assorted sizes)

0239 06 Aug. 2003 1,000 board ft. hardwood Jennifer Nudalo 1322802

0240 25 June 2003 600 board ft. good lumber Roy Justo 1247024

0241 26 May 2003 800 board ft. lumber Adelino Lareza 3651096

0242 26 May 2003 Assorted sizes good lumber Rollie Velasco 3651587

0243 23 May 2003 342 sliced lumber (assorted Dolores S. Gloria 3651499
sizes)

0244 20 May 2003 500 board ft. lumber Marylyn de Loreto/ 3651574
Melita Masilang

0245 02 May 2003 123 pieces sliced lumber Armando Lariza 3651656
(assorted sizes)

0246 17 Feb. 2003 70 pieces sliced lumber Efren Tena/ Romeo 1182204
(assorted sizes) Serafines

0247 07 Feb. 2003 1 piece narra bed; 1 piece Roy D. Justo 1182060
narra panel door; 6 pcs.
Refrigerator stand & 1 pc.
Narra cabinet (finished
product)

0248 05 Dec. 2002 140 pcs. round poles Lamberto R. Ruzol 0943647

0249 20 Nov. 2002 500 board ft. lumber Luz Astoveza 0943618
(assorted sizes)

0250 30 Oct. 2002 1,200 board ft. sliced Arceli Fortunado 0830698
lumber (assorted sizes)

0251 04 Oct. 2002 500 board ft. Huling Roy Justo 0830646
Manok

0252 27 Sept. 2002 300 board ft. sliced lumber Roy Justo 0830625
(assorted sizes)

0253 24 Sept. 2002 1,000 board ft. sliced Inna L. Customerado 0830771
lumber (assorted sizes)

0254 23 Sept. 2002 1,000 board ft. sliced Normelita L. 0830610


lumber (assorted sizes) Curioso

0255 03 Sept. 2002 2,000 pcs. trophy (wood Floredeliza D. 686642


carvings) Espiritu

0256 7 March 2002 2,000 sets trophy (wood Floredeliza D. 090549


carvings) Espiritu

0257 03 Dec. 2001 10,000 sets trophy (wood Floredeliza D. 090769


carvings) Espiritu

0258 12 Sept. 2001 1,075 board ft of sticks & Lea A. Rivera 7786333
1,450 board ft. Bollilo
(assorted sizes)

0259 07 Oct. 2003 Assorted lumber Roy D. Justo 1482765

Considering that the facts are undisputed, the parties during Pre-Trial agreed to dispense with the presentation of testimonial
evidence and submit the case for decision based on the documentary evidence and joint stipulation of facts contained in the Pre-
Trial Order. Thereafter, the accused and the prosecution submitted their respective memoranda.6

Ruzol's Defense
As summarized by the Sandiganbayan, Ruzol professes his innocence based on following arguments:

(1) As Chief Executive of the municipality of General Nakar, Quezon, he is authorized to issue permits to transport forest
products pursuant to RA 7160 which give the LGU not only express powers but also those powers that are necessarily
implied from the powers expressly granted as well as those that are necessary, appropriate or incidental to the LGUs
efficient and effective governance. The LGU is likewise given powers that are essential to the promotion of the general
welfare of the inhabitants. The general welfare clause provided in Section 16, Chapter 2, Title One, Book I of R.A. 7160 is
a massive grant of authority that enables LGUs to perform or exercise just about any power that will benefit their local
constituencies.

(2) In addition to the foregoing, R.A. 7160 has devolved certain functions and responsibilities of the DENR to the LGU.
And the permits to transport were issued pursuant to the devolved function to manage and control communal forests with
an area not exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers.

(3) The Permits to Transport were issued as an incident to the payment of Transport Fees levied by the municipality for
the use of local public roads for the transport of salvaged forest products. Under (a) Section 5, Article X of the
Constitution, (b) Section 129, Chapter I, Title One Book II of R.A. 7160, and (c) Section 186, Article Five, Chapter 5, Tile
One, Book II of R.A. 7160, the municipality is granted the power to create its own sources of revenue and to levy fees in
accordance therewith.

(4) The only kind of document the DENR issues relating to log, timber or lumber is denominated "Certificate of Timber
Origin" or CTO for logs and "Certificate of Lumber Origin" or CLO for lumber; hence, even if accused issued the Transport
Permits on his side, a person wanting to transport the said forest products would have to apply and obtain a CTO or CLO
from the DENR. The Transport Permits issued by the accused were never taken as a substitute for the CTO or CLO, and
this is the reason why said permits contain the annotation "Subject to DENR rules, laws and regulations."

(5) There is no proof of conspiracy between the accused. The Transport Permits were issued by accused Sabiduria in his
capacity as Municipal Administrator and his mere issuance is not enough to impute upon the accused Ruzol any
transgression or wrongdoing that may have been committed in the issuance thereof following the ruling in Arias v.
Sandiganbayan (180 SCRA 309).

(6) The DENR directly sanctioned and expressly authorized the issuance of the 221 Transport permits through the
Provincial Environment and natural Resources officer Rogelio Delgado Sr., in a Multi-Sectoral Consultative Assembly.

(7) The accused cannot be convicted of Usurpation of Authority since they did not act "under the pretense of official
position," accused Ruzol having issued the permits in his capacity as Mayor and there was no pretense or
misrepresentation on his part that he was an officer of DENR.7

Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

After due consideration, the Sandiganbayan rendered on December 19, 2008 a Decision, acquitting Sabiduria but finding Ruzol
guilty as charged, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves these cases as follows:

1. Against the accused LEOVEGILDO R. RUZOL, judgment is hereby rendered finding him GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt of Two Hundred Twenty One (221) counts of the offense of Usurpation of Official Functions as defined and
penalized under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences him to suffer for each case a straight
penalty of SIX (6) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY.

However, in the service of his sentences, accused Ruzol shall be entitled to the benefit of the three-fold rule as provided in
Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

2. On the ground of reasonable doubt, accused GUILLERMO M. SABIDURIA is ACQUITTED of all 221 charges. The cash
bond posted by him for his provisional liberty may now be withdrawn by said accused upon presentation of the original
receipt evidencing payment thereof subject to the usual accounting and auditing procedures. The hold departure
procedure issued by this Court dated 16 April 2008 is set aside and the Order issued by the Bureau of Immigration dated
29 April 2008 including the name of Sabiduria in the Hold Departure List is ordered recalled and cancelled.

SO ORDERED.8
The Sandiganbayan predicated its ruling on the postulate that the authority to issue transport permits with respect to salvaged forest
products lies with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and that such authority had not been devolved to
the local government of General Nakar.9 To the graft court, Ruzols issuance of the subject permits constitutes usurpation of the
official functions of the DENR.

The Issue

The critical issue having a determinative bearing on the guilt or innocence of Ruzol for usurpation revolves around the validity of the
subject permits to transport, which in turn resolves itself into the question of whether the authority to monitor and regulate the
transportation of salvaged forest product is solely with the DENR, and no one else.

The Ruling of this Court

The petition is partly meritorious.

Subsidiary Issue:

Whether the Permits to Transport Issued by Ruzol Are Valid

In ruling that the DENR, and not the local government units (LGUs), has the authority to issue transportation permits of salvaged
forest products, the Sandiganbayan invoked Presidential Decree No. 705 (PD 705), otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code
of the Philippines and in relation to Executive Order No. 192, Series of 1987 (EO 192), or the Reorganization Act of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources.

Section 5 of PD 705 provides:

Section 5. Jurisdiction of Bureau. The Bureau of Forest Management shall have jurisdiction and authority over all forest land,
grazing lands, and all forest reservations including watershed reservations presently administered by other government agencies or
instrumentalities.

It shall be responsible for the protection, development, management, regeneration, and reforestation of forest lands; the regulation
and supervision of the operation of licensees, lessees and permittees for the taking or use of forest products therefrom or the
occupancy or use thereof; the implementation of multiple use and sustained yield management in forest lands; the protection,
development and preservation of national parks, marine parks, game refuges and wildlife; the implementation of measures and
programs to prevent kaingin and managed occupancy of forest and grazing lands; in collaboration with other bureaus, the effective,
efficient and economic classification of lands of the public domain; and the enforcement of forestry, reforestation, parks, game and
wildlife laws, rules, and regulations.

The Bureau shall regulate the establishment and operation of sawmills, veneer and plywood mills and other wood processing plants
and conduct studies of domestic and world markets of forest products. (Emphasis Ours.)

On the other hand, the pertinent provisions of EO 192 state:

SECTION 4. Mandate. The Department shall be the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management,
development, and proper use of the countrys environment and natural resources, specifically forest and grazing lands of the public
domain, as well as the licensing and regulation of all natural resources as maybe provided for by law in order to ensure equitable
sharing of the benefits derived therefrom for the welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos.

xxxx

SECTION 5. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate, the Department shall have the following functions:

xxxx

(d) Exercise supervision and control over forest lands, alienable and disposal lands, and mineral resources and in the
process of exercising such control the Department shall impose appropriate payments, fees, charges, rentals and any
such revenues for the exploration, development, utilization or gathering of such resources.

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(j) Regulate the development, disposition, extraction, exploration and use of the countrys forest, land and mineral
resources;

(k) Assume responsibility for the assessment, development, protection, conservation, licensing and regulation as provided
for by law, where applicable, of all natural resources; the regulation and monitoring of service contractors, licensees,
lessees, and permittees for the extraction, exploration, development and utilization of natural resources products; the
implementation of programs and measures with the end in view of promoting close collaboration between the government
and the private sector; the effective and efficient classification and sub-classification of lands of the public domain; and the
enforcement of natural resources laws, rules and regulations;

(l) Promulgate rules, regulations and guidelines on the issuance of co-production, joint venture or production sharing
agreements, licenses, permits, concessions, leases and such other privileges and arrangement concerning the
development, exploration and utilization of the countrys natural resources and shall continue to oversee, supervise and
police our natural resources; to cancel or cause to cancel such privileges and arrangement upon failure, non-compliance
or violations of any regulations, orders, and for all other causes which are furtherance of the conservation of natural
resources and supportive of the national interests;

xxxx

(n) Implement measures for the regulation and supervision of the processing of forest products, grading and inspection of
lumber and other forest products and monitoring of the movement of timber and other forest products. (Emphasis Ours.)

Invoked too is DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-78 (DAO 2000-78) which mandates that the permittee should secure the
necessary transport and other related documents before the retrieved wood materials are sold to the buyers/users and/or wood
processing plants.10 DAO 2000-78 obliges the entity or person concerned to secure a Wood Recovery Permita "permit issued by
the DENR to gather/retrieve and dispose abandoned logs, drifted logs, sunken logs, uprooted, and fire and typhoon damaged tress,
tree stumps, tops and branches."11 It prescribes that the permittee shall only be allowed to gather or recover logs or timber which
had already been marked and inventoried by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer.12 To the Sandiganbayan,
this mandatory requirement for Wood Recovery Permit illustrates that DENR is the sole agency vested with the authority to regulate
the transportation of salvaged forest products.1wphi1

The Sandiganbayan further reasoned that the "monitoring and regulating salvaged forest products" is not one of the DENRs
functions which had been devolved upon LGUs. It cited Sec. 17 of Republic Act No. 7160 (RA 7160) or the Local Government Code
(LGC) of 1991 which provides:

Section 17. Basic Services and Facilities. -

(a) Local government units shall endeavor to be self-reliant and shall continue exercising the powers and discharging the duties and
functions currently vested upon them. They shall also discharge the functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices
devolved to them pursuant to this Code. Local government units shall likewise exercise such other powers and discharge such other
functions and responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate, or incidental to efficient and effective provisions of the basic services
and facilities enumerated herein.

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(2) For a Municipality:

xxxx

(ii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR, implementation of community-based
forestry projects which include integrated social forestry programs and similar projects; management and control of communal
forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers; establishment of tree parks, greenbelts, and similar forest
development projects. (Emphasis Ours.)

According to the Sandiganbayan, Sec. 17 of the LGC has limited the devolved functions of the DENR to the LGUs to the following:
(1) the implementation of community-based forestry products; (2) management and control of communal forests with an area not
exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers; and (3) establishment of tree parks, greenbelts and similar forest development projects. 13 It
also referred to DENR Administrative Order No. 30, Series of 1992 (DAO 1992-30), which enumerates the forest management
functions, programs and projects of the DENR which had been devolved to the LGUs, as follows: 14

Section 3.1 Forest Management


a. Implementation of the following community-based forestry projects:

i. Integrated Social Forestry Projects, currently funded out of regular appropriations, except at least one project
per province that shall serve as research and training laboratory, as identified by the DENR, and those areas
located in protected areas and critical watersheds;

ii. Establishment of new regular reforestation projects, except those areas located in protected areas and critical
watersheds;

iii. Completed family and community-based contract reforestation projects, subject to policies and procedures
prescribed by the DENR;

iv. Forest Land Management Agreements in accordance with DENR Administrative Order No. 71, Series of
1990 and other guidelines that the DENR may adopt; and

v. Community Forestry Projects, subject to concurrence of financing institution(s), if foreign assisted.

b. Management and control of communal forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers or five thousand
(5,000) hectares, as defined in Section 2, above. Provided, that the concerned LGUs shall endeavor to convert said areas
into community forestry projects;

c. Management, protection, rehabilitation and maintenance of small watershed areas which are sources of local water
supply as identified or to be identified by the DENR; and

d. Enforcement of forest laws in community-based forestry project areas, small watershed areas and communal forests,
as defined in Section 2 above, such as but not limited to:

i. Prevention of forest fire, illegal cutting and kaingin;

ii. Apprehension of violators of forest laws, rules and regulations;

iii. Confiscation of illegally extracted forest products on site;

iv. Imposition of appropriate penalties for illegal logging, smuggling of natural resources products and of
endangered species of flora and fauna, slash and burn farming and other unlawful activities; and

v. Confiscation, forfeiture and disposition of conveyances, equipment and other implements used in the
commission of offenses penalized under P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277, series of 1987 and other forestry
laws, rules and regulations.

Provided, that the implementation of the foregoing activities outside the devolved areas above mentioned, shall remain with the
DENR.

The Sandiganbayan ruled that since the authority relative to salvaged forest products was not included in the above enumeration of
devolved functions, the correlative authority to issue transport permits remains with the DENR 15 and, thus, cannot be exercised by
the LGUs.

We disagree and refuse to subscribe to this postulate suggesting exclusivity. As shall be discussed shortly, the LGU also has, under
the LGC of 1991, ample authority to promulgate rules, regulations and ordinances to monitor and regulate salvaged forest products,
provided that the parameters set forth by law for their enactment have been faithfully complied with.

While the DENR is, indeed, the primary government instrumentality charged with the mandate of promulgating rules and regulations
for the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, it is not the only government instrumentality clothed with
such authority. While the law has designated DENR as the primary agency tasked to protect the environment, it was not the
intention of the law to arrogate unto the DENR the exclusive prerogative of exercising this function. Whether in ordinary or in legal
parlance, the word "primary" can never be taken to be synonymous with "sole" or "exclusive." In fact, neither the pertinent provisions
of PD 705 nor EO 192 suggest that the DENR, or any of its bureaus, shall exercise such authority to the exclusion of all other
government instrumentalities, i.e., LGUs.

On the contrary, the claim of DENRs supposedly exclusive mandate is easily negated by the principle of local autonomy enshrined
in the 1987 Constitution16 in relation to the general welfare clause under Sec. 16 of the LGC of 1991, which provides:
Section 16. General Welfare. - Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied
therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are
essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure
and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the
people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological
capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents,
maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants. (Emphasis Ours.)

Pursuant to the aforequoted provision, municipal governments are clothed with authority to enact such ordinances and issue such
regulations as may be necessary to carry out and discharge the responsibilities conferred upon them by law, and such as shall be
necessary and proper to provide for the health, safety, comfort and convenience, maintain peace and order, improve public morals,
promote the prosperity and general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants, and ensure the protection of property in the
municipality.17

As held in Oposa v. Factoran, Jr.,18 the right of the people "to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to
refrain from impairing the environment." In ensuring that this duty is upheld and maintained, a local government unit may, if it deems
necessary, promulgate ordinances aimed at enhancing the right of the people to a balanced ecology and, accordingly, provide
adequate measures in the proper utility and conservation of natural resources within its territorial jurisdiction. As can be deduced
from Ruzols memoranda, as affirmed by the parties in their Joint Stipulation of Facts, it was in the pursuit of this objective that the
subject permits to transport were issued by Ruzolto regulate the salvaged forest products found within the municipality of General
Nakar and, hence, prevent abuse and occurrence of any untoward illegal logging in the area.19

In the same vein, there is a clear merit to the view that the monitoring and regulation of salvaged forest products through the
issuance of appropriate permits is a shared responsibility which may be done either by DENR or by the LGUs or by both. DAO
1992-30, in fact, says as much, thus: the "LGUs shall share with the national government, particularly the DENR, the responsibility
in the sustainable management and development of the environment and natural resources within their territorial jurisdiction." 20 The
significant role of the LGUs in environment protection is further echoed in Joint Memorandum Circular No. 98-01(JMC 1998-01) or
the Manual of Procedures for DENR-DILG-LGU Partnership on Devolved and other Forest Management Functions, which was
promulgated jointly by the DILG and the DENR in 1998, and provides as follows:

Section 1. Basic Policies

Subject to the general policies on devolution as contained in RA 7160 and DENR Administrative Order No. 30, Series of 1992, the
following basic policies shall govern the implementation of DENR-DILG-LGU partnership on devolved and other forest management
functions:

1.1. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shall be the primary government agency responsible
for the conservation, management, protection, proper use and sustainable development of the countrys environment and
natural resources.

1.2. The LGUs shall share with DENR the responsibility in the sustainable management and development of the forest
resources within their territorial jurisdiction. Toward this end, the DENR and the LGUs shall endeavor to strengthen their
collaboration and partnership in forest management.

1.3. Comprehensive land use and forest land use plans are important tools in the holistic and efficient management of
forest resources. Toward this end, the DENR and the LGUs together with other government agencies shall undertake
forest land use planning as an integral activity of comprehensive land use planning to determine the optimum and
balanced use of natural resources to support local, regional and national growth and development.

1.4. To fully prepare the LGUs to undertake their shared responsibilities in the sustainable management of forest land
resources, the DENR, in coordination with DILG, shall enhance the capacities of the LGUs in the various aspects of forest
management. Initially, the DENR shall coordinate, guide and train the LGUs in the management of the devolved functions.
As the LGUs capacity in forest management is enhanced, the primary tasks in the management of devolved functions
shall be performed by the LGUs and the role of the DENR becomes assistive and coordinative.

1.5. To further the ends of local autonomy, the DENR in consultation with the LGUs shall devolved [sic] additional
functions and responsibilities to the local government units, or enter into agreements with them for enlarged forest
management and other ENR-related functions.

1.6. To seek advocacy, popular support and ultimately help achieve community empowerment, DENR and DILG shall
forge the partnership and cooperation of the LGUs and other concerned sectors in seeking and strengthening the
participation of local communities for forest management including enforcement of forestry laws, rules and regulations.
(Emphasis Ours.)
To our mind, the requirement of permits to transport salvaged forest products is not a manifestation of usurpation of DENRs
authority but rather an additional measure which was meant to complement DENRs duty to regulate and monitor forest resources
within the LGUs territorial jurisdiction.

This is consistent with the "canon of legal hermeneutics that instead of pitting one statute against another in an inevitably destructive
confrontation, courts must exert every effort to reconcile them, remembering that both laws deserve respect as the handiwork of
coordinate branches of the government."21 Hence, if there appears to be an apparent conflict between promulgated statutes, rules or
regulations issued by different government instrumentalities, the proper action is not to immediately uphold one and annul the other,
but rather give effect to both by harmonizing them if possible.22 Accordingly, although the DENR requires a Wood Recovery Permit,
an LGU is not necessarily precluded from promulgating, pursuant to its power under the general welfare clause, complementary
orders, rules or ordinances to monitor and regulate the transportation of salvaged forest products.

Notwithstanding, We still find that the Permits to Transport issued by Ruzol are invalid for his failure to comply with the procedural
requirements set forth by law for its enforcement.

Then and now, Ruzol insists that the Permit to Transport partakes the nature of transport fees levied by the municipality for the use
of public roads.23 In this regard, he argues that he has been conferred by law the right to issue subject permits as an incident to the
LGUs power to create its own sources of revenue pursuant to the following provisions of the LGC:

Section 153. Service Fees and Charges. Local government units may impose and collect such reasonable fees and charges for
services rendered.

xxxx

Section 186. Power to Levy Other Taxes, Fees or Charges. Local government units may exercise the power to levy taxes, fees or
charges on any base or subject not otherwise specifically enumerated herein or taxed under the provisions of the National Internal
Revenue Code, as amended, or other applicable laws: Provided, That the taxes, fees, or charges shall not be unjust, excessive,
oppressive, confiscatory or contrary to declared national policy: Provided, further, That the ordinance levying such taxes, fees or
charges shall not be enacted without any prior public hearing conducted for the purpose. (Emphasis Ours.)

Ruzol further argued that the permits to transport were issued under his power and authority as Municipal Mayor under Sec. 444 of
the same law:

(iv) Issue licenses and permits and suspend or revoke the same for any violation of the conditions upon which said licenses or
permits had been issued, pursuant to law or ordinance;

xxxx

vii) Adopt adequate measures to safeguard and conserve land, mineral, marine, forest, and other resources of the municipality;
provide efficient and effective property and supply management in the municipality; and protect the funds, credits, rights and other
properties of the municipality. (Emphasis Ours.)

Ruzol is correct to a point. Nevertheless, We find that an enabling ordinance is necessary to confer the subject permits with validity.
As correctly held by the Sandiganbayan, the power to levy fees or charges under the LGC is exercised by the Sangguniang Bayan
through the enactment of an appropriate ordinance wherein the terms, conditions and rates of the fees are prescribed.24 Needless to
say, one of the fundamental principles of local fiscal administration is that "local revenue is generated only from sources expressly
authorized by law or ordinance."25

It is likewise expressly stated in Sec. 444(b)(3)(iv) of the LGC that the authority of the municipal mayor to issue licenses and permits
should be "pursuant to a law or ordinance." It is the Sangguniang Bayan, as the legislative body of the municipality, which is
mandated by law to enact ordinances against acts which endanger the environment, i.e., illegal logging, and smuggling of logs and
other natural resources.26

In this case, an examination of the pertinent provisions of General Nakars Revised Municipal Revenue Code 27and Municipal
Environment Code28 reveals that there is no provision unto which the issuance of the permits to transport may be grounded. Thus, in
the absence of an ordinance for the regulation and transportation of salvaged products, the permits to transport issued by Ruzol are
infirm.

Ruzols insistence that his actions are pursuant to the LGUs devolved function to "manage and control communal forests" under
Sec. 17 of the LGC and DAO 1992-3029 is specious. Although We recognize the LGUs authority in the management and control of
communal forests within its territorial jurisdiction, We reiterate that this authority should be exercised and enforced in accordance
with the procedural parameters established by law for its effective and efficient execution. As can be gleaned from the same Sec. 17
of the LGC, the LGUs authority to manage and control communal forests should be "pursuant to national policies and is subject to
supervision, control and review of DENR."

As correctly held by the Sandiganbayan, the term "communal forest"30 has a well-defined and technical meaning.31 Consequently, as
an entity endowed with specialized competence and knowledge on forest resources, the DENR cannot be discounted in the
establishment of communal forest. The DILG, on behalf of the LGUs, and the DENR promulgated JMC 1998-01 which outlined the
following procedure:

Section 8.4 Communal Forest

8.4.1 Existing Communal Forest

The devolution to and management of the communal forest by the city and municipal governments shall be governed by the
following general procedures:

(a) DENR, through its CENRO, and the concerned LGU shall undertake the actual identification and assessment of
existing communal forests. The assessment shall determine the suitability of the existing communal forests. If these are
no longer suitable, then these communal forests may be disestablished. The Approval for disestablishment shall be by the
RED upon recommendation of the DENR-LGU assessment Team through the PENRO and the RTD for Forestry;

(b) Existing communal forest which are found and recommended by the DENR-LGU Assessment Team as still suitable to
achieve their purpose shall be maintained as such. Thereafter, the Sangguniang Panglungsod or Sangguniang Bayan
where the communal forest is located shall pass resolution requesting the DENR Secretary for the turnover of said
communal forest to the city or municipality. Upon receipt of said resolution, the DENR Secretary shall issue an
Administrative Order officially transferring said communal forest to the concerned LGU. The DENR RED shall effect the
official transfer to the concerned LGU within fifteen (15) days from the issuance of the administrative order;

(c) Within twelve months from the issuance of the Administrative Order and turnover of said communal forest to the city or
municipality, the LGU to which the communal forest was transferred shall formulate and submit to the Provincial ENR
Council for approval a management plan governing the sustainable development of the communal forest.

For the purpose of formulating the communal forest management plan, DENR shall, in coordination with the concerned LGU,
undertake a forest resource inventory and determine the sustainable level of forest resource utilization and provide the LGU
technical assistance in all facets of forest management planning to ensure sustainable development. The management plan should
include provision for replanting by the communities and the LGUs of the communal forests to ensure sustainability.

8.4.2 Establishment of New Communal Forest

The establishment of new communal forests shall be governed by the following guidelines:

(a) DENR, through its CENRO, together with the concerned city/municipal LGU shall jointly identify potential communal
forest areas within the geographic jurisdiction of the concerned city/municipality.

(b) Communal forests to be established shall be identified through a forest land use planning to be undertaken jointly
between the DENR and the concerned LGU. The ensuing forest land use plan shall indicate, among others, the site and
location of the communal forests within the production forest categorized as such in the forest land use plan;

(c) Once the forest land use plan has been affirmed, the local chief executive shall initiate the passage by the LGUs
sanggunian of a resolution requesting the DENR Secretary to issue an Administrative Order declaring the identified area
as a communal forest. The required administrative order shall be issued within sixty (60) days after receipt of the
resolution;

(d) Upon acceptance of the responsibility for the communal forest, the city/municipal LGU shall formulate the
management plan and submit the same to its ENR Council. The management plan shall include provision for replanting
by the communities and the LGUs of the communal forests to ensure sustainability.

The communal forests of each municipality shall in no case exceed a total of 5,000 hectares. (Emphasis Ours.)

It is clear, therefore, that before an area may be considered a communal forest, the following requirements must be accomplished:
(1) an identification of potential communal forest areas within the geographic jurisdiction of the concerned city/municipality; (2) a
forest land use plan which shall indicate, among other things, the site and location of the communal forests; (3) a request to the
DENR Secretary through a resolution passed by the Sangguniang Bayan concerned; and (4) an administrative order issued by
DENR Secretary declaring the identified area as a communal forest.

In the present case, the records are bereft of any showing that these requirements were complied with. Thus, in the absence of an
established communal forest within the Municipality of General Nakar, there was no way that the subject permits to transport were
issued as an incident to the management and control of a communal forest.

This is not to say, however, that compliance with abovementioned statutory requirements for the issuance of permits to transport
foregoes the necessity of obtaining the Wood Recovery Permit from the DENR. As earlier discussed, the permits to transport may
be issued to complement, and not substitute, the Wood Recovery Permit, and may be used only as an additional measure in the
regulation of salvaged forest products. To elucidate, a person seeking to transport salvaged forest products still has to acquire a
Wood Recovery Permit from the DENR as a prerequisite before obtaining the corresponding permit to transport issued by the LGU.

Main Issue:

Whether Ruzol Is Guilty of Usurpation of Official Functions

The foregoing notwithstanding, Ruzol cannot be held guilty of Usurpation of Official Functions as defined and penalized under Art.
177 of the RPC, to wit:

Art. 177. Usurpation of authority or official functions. Any person who shall knowingly and falsely represent himself to be an
officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government or of any foreign government, or who,
under pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine
Government or any foreign government, or any agency thereof, without being lawfully entitled to do so, shall suffer the penalty of
prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods. (Emphasis Ours.)

As the aforementioned provision is formulated, there are two ways of committing this crime: first, by knowingly and falsely
representing himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government or of any
foreign government; or second, under pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or
public officer of the Philippine Government or any foreign government, or any agency thereof, without being lawfully entitled to do
so.32 The former constitutes the crime of usurpation of authority, while the latter act constitutes the crime of usurpation of official
functions.33

In the present case, Ruzol stands accused of usurpation of official functions for issuing 221 permits to transport salvaged forest
products under the alleged "pretense of official position and without being lawfully entitled to do so, such authority properly
belonging to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources."34 The Sandiganbayan ruled that all the elements of the crime
were attendant in the present case because the authority to issue the subject permits belongs solely to the DENR. 35

We rule otherwise.

First, it is settled that an accused in a criminal case is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved and that to overcome the
presumption, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt must be established by the prosecution. 36 As held by this Court in People
v. Sitco:37

The imperative of proof beyond reasonable doubt has a vital role in our criminal justice system, the accused, during a criminal
prosecution, having a stake interest of immense importance, both because of the possibility that he may lose his freedom if
convicted and because of the certainty that his conviction will leave a permanent stain on his reputation and name. (Emphasis
supplied.)

Citing Rabanal v. People,38 the Court further explained:

Law and jurisprudence demand proof beyond reasonable doubt before any person may be deprived of his life, liberty, or even
property. Enshrined in the Bill of Rights is the right of the petitioner to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and to
overcome the presumption, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt must be established by the prosecution. The constitutional
presumption of innocence requires courts to take "a more than casual consideration" of every circumstance of doubt proving the
innocence of petitioner. (Emphasis added.)

Verily, an accused is entitled to an acquittal unless his or her guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt and it is the primordial duty of
the prosecution to present its side with clarity and persuasion, so that conviction becomes the only logical and inevitable conclusion,
with moral certainty.39 As explained by this Court in People v. Berroya:40
The necessity for proof beyond reasonable doubt lies in the fact that "(i)n a criminal prosecution, the State is arrayed against the
subject; it enters the contest with a prior inculpatory finding in its hands; with unlimited means of command; with counsel usually of
authority and capacity, who are regarded as public officers, and therefore as speaking semi-judicially, and with an attitude of tranquil
majesty often in striking contrast to that of defendant engaged in a perturbed and distracting struggle for liberty if not for life. These
inequalities of position, the law strives to meet by the rule that there is to be no conviction when there is a reasonable doubt of guilt."

Indeed, proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute
certainty; moral certainly only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. 41 However,
contrary to the ruling of the Sandiganbayan, We find that a careful scrutiny of the events surrounding this case failed to prove that
Ruzol is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing the crime of usurpation of official functions of the DENR.

We note that this case of usurpation against Ruzol rests principally on the prosecutions theory that the DENR is the only
government instrumentality that can issue the permits to transport salvaged forest products. The prosecution asserted that Ruzol
usurped the official functions that properly belong to the DENR.

But erstwhile discussed at length, the DENR is not the sole government agency vested with the authority to issue permits relevant to
the transportation of salvaged forest products, considering that, pursuant to the general welfare clause, LGUs may also exercise
such authority. Also, as can be gleaned from the records, the permits to transport were meant to complement and not to replace the
Wood Recovery Permit issued by the DENR. In effect, Ruzol required the issuance of the subject permits under his authority as
municipal mayor and independently of the official functions granted to the DENR. The records are likewise bereft of any showing
that Ruzol made representations or false pretenses that said permits could be used in lieu of, or at the least as an excuse not to
obtain, the Wood Recovery Permit from the DENR.

Second, contrary to the findings of the Sandiganbayan, Ruzol acted in good faith.

It bears stressing at this point that in People v. Hilvano,42 this Court enunciated that good faith is a defense in criminal prosecutions
for usurpation of official functions.43 The term "good faith" is ordinarily used to describe that state of mind denoting "honesty of
intention, and freedom from knowledge of circumstances which ought to put the holder upon inquiry; an honest intention to abstain
from taking any unconscientious advantage of another, even though technicalities of law, together with absence of all information,
notice, or benefit or belief of facts which render transaction unconscientious." 44 Good faith is actually a question of intention and
although something internal, it can be ascertained by relying not on ones self-serving protestations of good faith but on evidence of
his conduct and outward acts.45

In dismissing Ruzols claim of good faith, the Sandiganbayan reasoned as follows:

If it is really true that Ruzol believed himself to be authorized under R.A. 7160 to issue the subject permits, why did he have to
secure the approval of the various NGOs, Peoples Organizations and religious organizations before issuing the said permits? He
could very well have issued subject permits even without the approval of these various organizations if he truly believed that he was
legally empowered to do so considering that the endorsement of these organizations is not required by law. That Ruzol had to arm
himself with their endorsement could only mean that he actually knew that he had no legal basis for issuing the said permits; thus he
had to look elsewhere for support and back-up.46 (Emphasis Ours.)

We, however, cannot subscribe to this posture as there is neither legal basis nor established doctrine to draw a conclusion that good
faith is negated when an accused sought another persons approval. Neither is there any doctrine in law which provides that bad
faith is present when one seeks the opinion or affirmation of others.

Contrary to the conclusions made by the Sandiganbayan, We find that the conduct of the public consultation was not a badge of bad
faith, but a sign supporting Ruzols good intentions to regulate and monitor the movement of salvaged forest products to prevent
abuse and occurrence of untoward illegal logging. In fact, the records will bear that the requirement of permits to transport was not
Ruzols decision alone; it was, as earlier narrated, a result of the collective decision of the participants during the Multi-Sectoral
Consultative Assembly. As attested to by Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, it was the participants who agreed that the subject permits
be issued by the Office of the Mayor of General Nakar, through Ruzol, in the exercise of the latters authority as local chief
executive.47

The Sandiganbayan also posits the view that Ruzols good faith is negated by the fact that if he truly believed he was authorized to
issue the subject permits, Ruzol did not have to request the presence and obtain the permission of PENRO Rogelio Delgado Sr.
during the Multi-Sectoral Assembly.48

The graft courts above posture, however, does not commend itself for concurrence. If, indeed, Ruzol willfully and deliberately
intended to usurp the official functions of the DENR as averred by the prosecution, he would not have asked the presence of a
DENR official who has the authority and credibility to publicly object against Ruzols allegedly intended usurpation. Thus, the
presence of PENRO Delgado during the Multi-Sectoral Assembly does not negate, but strengthens Ruzols claim of good faith.
As a final note, We emphasize that the burden of protecting the environment is placed not on the shoulders of DENR aloneeach
and every one of us, whether in an official or private capacity, has his or her significant role to play. Indeed, protecting the
environment is not only a responsibility but also a right for which a citizen could and should freely exercise. Considering the rampant
forest denudation, environmental degradation and plaguing scarcity of natural resources, each of us is now obligated to contribute
and share in the responsibility of protecting and conserving our treasured natural resources.

Ruzol chose to exercise this right and to share in this responsibility by exercising his authority as municipal mayoran act which
was executed with the concurrence and cooperation of non-governmental organizations, industry stakeholders, and the concerned
citizens of General Nakar. Admittedly, We consider his acts as invalid but it does necessarily mean that such mistakes automatically
demand Us to rule a conviction. This is in consonance with the settled principle that "all reasonable doubt intended to demonstrate
error and not crime should be indulged in for the benefit of the accused."49

Under our criminal judicial system, "evil intent must unite with the unlawful act for a crime to exist," as "there can be no crime when
the criminal mind is wanting."50 Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea.

In the present case, the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ruzol possessed that "criminal mind" when
he issued the subject permits. What is clear from the records is that Ruzol, as municipal mayor, intended to regulate and monitor
salvaged forest products within General Nakar in order to avert the occurrence of illegal logging in the area. We find that to hold him
criminally liable for these seemingly noble intentions would be a step backward and would run contrary to the standing advocacy of
encouraging people to take a pro-active stance in the protection of the environment and conservation of our natural resources.

Incidentally, considering the peculiar circumstances of the present case and considering further that this case demands only the
determination of Ruzol's guilt or innocence for usurpation of official functions under the RPC, for which the issue on the validity of
the subject Permits to Transport is only subsidiary, We hereby resolve this case only for this purpose and only in this instance, pro
hac vice, and, in the interest of justice, rule in favor of Ruzol' s acquittal.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the December 19, 2008 Decision of the Sandiganbayan First Division in Criminal Case Nos. SB-
08-CRIM-0039 to 0259, finding Leovegildo R. Ruzol guilty of violating Art. 177 of the Revised Penal Code, is hereby REVERSED
and SET ASIDE.

Accused Leovegildo R. Ruzol is, thus, ACQUITTED on the basis of reasonable doubt of the crimes as charged.

SO ORDERED.

UNION BANK OF THE, G.R. No. 192565


PHILIPPINES and DESI
TOMAS, Present:

Petitioners,
CORONA, C.J.,
CARPIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BRION,
PERALTA,
BERSAMIN,
DEL CASTILLO,*
- versus - ABAD,
VILLARAMA, JR.,
PEREZ,
MENDOZA,
SERENO,**
REYES, and
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent. Promulgated:

February 28, 2012


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

DECISION
BRION, J.:

We review in this Rule 45 petition, the decision [1] of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 65, Makati City (RTC-Makati City) in Civil

Case No. 09-1038. The petition seeks to reverse and set aside the RTC-Makati City decision dismissing the petition for certiorari of petitioners

Union Bank of the Philippines (Union Bank) and Desi Tomas (collectively, the petitioners). The RTC found that the Metropolitan Trial Court,

Branch 63, Makati City (MeTC-Makati City) did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in denying the motion to quash the information for

perjury filed by Tomas.

The Antecedents

Tomas was charged in court for perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for making a false narration in a

Certificate against Forum Shopping. The Information against her reads:

That on or about the 13th day of March 2000 in the City of Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously make untruthful
statements under oath upon a material matter before a competent person authorized to administer oath which the law
requires to wit: said accused stated in the Verification/Certification/Affidavit of merit of a complaint for sum of money
with prayer for a writ of replevin docketed as [Civil] Case No. 342-00 of the Metropolitan Trial Court[,] Pasay City, that
the Union Bank of the Philippines has not commenced any other action or proceeding involving the same issues in another
tribunal or agency, accused knowing well that said material statement was false thereby making a willful and deliberate
assertion of falsehood.[2]

The accusation stemmed from petitioner Union Banks two (2) complaints for sum of money with prayer for a writ of replevin against

the spouses Eddie and Eliza Tamondong and a John Doe. The first complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 98-0717, was filed before the RTC,

Branch 109, Pasay City on April 13, 1998. The second complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 342-000, was filed on March 15, 2000 and raffled

to the MeTC, Branch 47, Pasay City. Both complaints showed that Tomas executed and signed the Certification against Forum Shopping.

Accordingly, she was charged of deliberately violating Article 183 of the RPC by falsely declaring under oath in the Certificate against Forum

Shopping in the second complaint that she did not commence any other action or proceeding involving the same issue in another tribunal or

agency.
Tomas filed a Motion to Quash,[3] citing two grounds. First, she argued that the venue was improperly laid since it is

the Pasay City court (where the Certificate against Forum Shopping was submitted and used) and not the MeTC-Makati City (where the

Certificate against Forum Shopping was subscribed) that has jurisdiction over the perjury case. Second, she argued that the facts charged do not

constitute an offense because: (a) the third element of perjury the willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood was not alleged with particularity

without specifying what the other action or proceeding commenced involving the same issues in another tribunal or agency; (b) there was no

other action or proceeding pending in another court when the second complaint was filed; and (c) she was charged with perjury by giving false

testimony while the allegations in the Information make out perjury by making a false affidavit.

The MeTC-Makati City denied the Motion to Quash, ruling that it has jurisdiction over the case since the Certificate against Forum

Shopping was notarized in Makati City.[4] The MeTC-Makati City also ruled that the allegations in the Information sufficiently charged Tomas

with perjury.[5] The MeTC-Makati City subsequently denied Tomas motion for reconsideration. [6]

The petitioners filed a petition for certiorari before the RTC-Makati City to annul and set aside the MeTC-MakatiCity orders on the

ground of grave abuse of discretion. The petitioners anchored their petition on the rulings in United States v. Canet[7] and Ilusorio v.

Bildner[8] which ruled that venue and jurisdiction should be in the place where the false document was presented.

The Assailed RTC Decision

In dismissing the petition for certiorari, the RTC-Makati City held:

[I]nsofar as the petitioners stance is concerned[,] the more recent case of [Sy Tiong Shiou v. Sy] (GR Nos. 174168 &
179438, March 30, 2009) however, reaffirms what has been the long standing view on the venue with respect to perjury
cases. In this particular case[,] the high court reiterated the rule that the criminal action shall be instituted and tried in the
court of the municipality or territory where the offense was committed, or where any of its essential ingredients occurred. It
went on to declare that since the subject document[,] the execution of which was the subject of the charge[,] was subscribed
and sworn to in Manila[,] then the court of the said territorial jurisdiction was the proper venue of the criminal action[.]

xxxx

x x x Given the present state of jurisprudence on the matter, it is not amiss to state that the city court of Makati City has
jurisdiction to try and decide the case for perjury inasmuch as the gist of the complaint itself which constitute[s] the charge
against the petitioner dwells solely on the act of subscribing to a false certification. On the other hand, the charge against
the accused in the case of Ilusorio v. Bildner, et al., based on the complaint-affidavits therein[,] was not simply the execution
of the questioned documents but rather the introduction of the false evidence through the subject documents before the court
of Makati City.[9] (emphasis ours)

The RTC-Makati City ruled that the MeTC-Makati City did not commit grave abuse of discretion since the order denying the Motion

to Quash was based on jurisprudence later than Ilusorio. The RTC-Makati City also observed that the facts in Ilusorio are different from the facts

of the present case. Lastly, the RTC-Makati City ruled that the Rule 65 petition was improper since the petitioners can later appeal the decision in

the principal case. The RTC-Makati Citysubsequently denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration.[10]
The Petition

The petitioners pray that we reverse the RTC-Makati City decision and quash the Information for perjury against Tomas. The petitioners contend

that the Ilusorio ruling is more applicable to the present facts than our ruling in Sy Tiong Shiou v. Sy Chim.[11] They argued that the facts

in Ilusorio showed that the filing of the petitions in court containing the false statements was the essential ingredient that consummated the

perjury. In Sy Tiong, the perjurious statements were made in a General Information Sheet (GIS) that was submitted to the Securities and Exchange

Commission (SEC).

Interestingly, Solicitor General Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz shared the petitioners view. In his Manifestation and Motion in lieu of Comment (which we

hereby treat as the Comment to the petition), the Solicitor General also relied on Ilusorio and opined that the lis mota in the crime of perjury is

the deliberate or intentional giving of false evidence in the court where the evidence is material. The Solicitor General observed that the criminal

intent to assert a falsehood under oath only became manifest before the MeTC-Pasay City.

The Issue

The case presents to us the issue of what the proper venue of perjury under Article 183 of the RPC should be MakatiCity, where the Certificate

against Forum Shopping was notarized, or Pasay City, where the Certification was presented to the trial court.

The Courts Ruling

We deny the petition and hold that the MeTC-Makati City is the proper venue and the proper court to take cognizance of the perjury

case against the petitioners.

Venue of Action and Criminal Jurisdiction

Venue is an essential element of jurisdiction in criminal cases. It determines not only the place where the criminal action is to be

instituted, but also the court that has the jurisdiction to try and hear the case. The reason for this rule is two-fold. First, the jurisdiction of trial

courts is limited to well-defined territories such that a trial court can only hear and try cases involving crimes committed within its territorial
jurisdiction.[12] Second, laying the venue in the locus criminisis grounded on the necessity and justice of having an accused on trial in the

municipality of province where witnesses and other facilities for his defense are available.[13]

Unlike in civil cases, a finding of improper venue in criminal cases carries jurisdictional consequences. Indetermining the venue

where the criminal action is to be instituted and the court which has jurisdiction over it, Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of

Criminal Procedure provides:

(a) Subject to existing laws, the criminal action shall be instituted and tried in the court or municipality or territory where
the offense was committed or where any of its essential ingredients occurred. [emphasis ours]

The above provision should be read in light of Section 10, Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which states:

Place of commission of the offense. The complaint or information is sufficient if it can be understood from its allegations
that the offense was committed or some of its essential ingredients occurred at some place within the jurisdiction of the
court, unless the particular place where it was committed constitutes an essential element of the offense charged or is
necessary for its identification.

Both provisions categorically place the venue and jurisdiction over criminal cases not only in the court where the offense was

committed, but also where any of its essential ingredients took place. In other words, the venue of action andof jurisdiction are deemed

sufficiently alleged where the Information states that the offense was committed or some of its essential ingredients occurred at a place within the

territorial jurisdiction of the court.

Information Charging Perjury

Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, contains the requirement for a Certificate against Forum

Shopping. The Certificate against Forum Shopping can be made either by a statement under oath in the complaint or initiatory pleading asserting

a claim or relief; it may also be in a sworn certification annexed to the complaint or initiatory pleading. In both instances, the affiant is required to

execute a statement under oath before a duly commissioned notary public or any competent person authorized to administer oath that: (a) he or

she has not theretofore commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to

the best of his or her knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete

statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he or she should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is

pending, he or she shall report that fact within five days therefrom to the court wherein his or her aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has

been filed. In relation to the crime of perjury, the material matter in a Certificate against Forum Shopping is the truth of the required declarations

which is designed to guard against litigants pursuing simultaneous remedies in different fora.[14]
In this case, Tomas is charged with the crime of perjury under Article 183 of the RPC for making a false Certificate against Forum

Shopping. The elements of perjury under Article 183 are:

(a) That the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter.

(b) That the statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer, authorized to receive and administer oath.

(c) That in the statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.

(d) That the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.
[15]
(emphasis ours)

Where the jurisdiction of the court is being assailed in a criminal case on the ground of improper venue, the allegations in the

complaint and information must be examined together with Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. On this

basis, we find that the allegations in the Information sufficiently support a finding that the crime of perjury was committed by Tomas within the

territorial jurisdiction of the MeTC-Makati City.

The first element of the crime of perjury, the execution of the subject Certificate against Forum Shopping was alleged in the

Information to have been committed in Makati City. Likewise, the second and fourth elements, requiring the Certificate against Forum

Shopping to be under oath before a notary public, were also sufficiently alleged in the Information to have been made in Makati City:

That on or about the 13th day of March 2000 in the City of Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
make untruthful statements under oath upon a material matter before a competent person authorized to administer oath
which the law requires to wit: said accused stated in the Verification/Certification/Affidavit x x x.[16]

We also find that the third element of willful and deliberate falsehood was also sufficiently alleged to have been committed

in Makati City, not Pasay City, as indicated in the last portion of the Information:

[S]aid accused stated in the Verification/Certification/Affidavit of merit of a complaint for sum of money with prayer for
a writ of replevin docketed as [Civil] Case No. 342-00 of the Metropolitan Trial Court[,] Pasay City, that the Union Bank
of the Philippines has not commenced any other action or proceeding involving the same issues in another tribunal or
agency, accused knowing well that said material statement was false thereby making a willful and deliberate assertion of
falsehood.[17] (underscoring ours)

Tomas deliberate and intentional assertion of falsehood was allegedly shown when she made the false declarations in the Certificate

against Forum Shopping before a notary public in Makati City, despite her knowledge that the material statements she subscribed and swore to

were not true. Thus, Makati City is the proper venue and MeTC-Makati City is the proper court to try the perjury case against Tomas, pursuant to

Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure as all the essential elements constituting the crime of perjury were

committed within the territorial jurisdiction of Makati City, not Pasay City.
Referral to the En Banc

The present case was referred to the En Banc primarily to address the seeming conflict between the division rulings of the Court in

the Ilusorio case that is cited as basis of this petition, and the Sy Tiong case that was the basis of the assailed RTC-Makati City ruling.

The Cited Ilusorio and Sy Tiong Cases

The subject matter of the perjury charge in Ilusorio involved false statements contained in verified petitions filed with the court for

the issuance of a new owners duplicate copies of certificates of title. The verified petitions containing the false statements were subscribed and

sworn to in Pasig City, but were filed in Makati City and Tagaytay City. The question posed was: which court

(Pasig City, Makati City and/or Tagaytay City) had jurisdiction to try and hear the perjury cases?

We ruled that the venues of the action were in Makati City and Tagaytay City, the places where the verified petitions were filed. The

Court reasoned out that it was only upon filing that the intent to assert an alleged falsehood became manifest and where the alleged untruthful

statement found relevance or materiality. We cited as jurisprudential authority the case of United States. v. Caet[18] which ruled:

It is immaterial where the affidavit was subscribed and sworn, so long as it appears from the information that the
defendant, by means of such affidavit, "swore to" and knowingly submitted false evidence, material to a point at issue in a
judicial proceeding pending in the Court of First Instance of Iloilo Province. The gist of the offense charged is not the
making of the affidavit in Manila, but the intentional giving of false evidence in the Court of First Instance of Iloilo
Province by means of such affidavit. [emphasis and underscoring deleted]

In Sy Tiong, the perjured statements were made in a GIS which was subscribed and sworn to in Manila. We ruled that the proper

venue for the perjury charges was in Manila where the GIS was subscribed and sworn to. We held that the perjury was consummated

in Manila where the false statement was made. As supporting jurisprudence, we cited the case of Villanueva v. Secretary of Justice[19] that, in turn,

cited an American case entitled U.S. v. Norris.[20] We ruled in Villanueva that

Perjury is an obstruction of justice; its perpetration well may affect the dearest concerns of the parties before a
tribunal. Deliberate material falsification under oath constitutes the crime of perjury, and the crime is complete when a
witness' statement has once been made.

The Crime of Perjury: A Background


To have a better appreciation of the issue facing the Court, a look at the historical background of how the crime of perjury

(specifically, Article 183 of the RPC) evolved in our jurisdiction.

The RPC penalizes three forms of false testimonies. The first is false testimony for and against the defendant in a criminal case (Articles 180 and

181, RPC); the second is false testimony in a civil case (Article 182, RPC); and the thirdis false testimony in other cases (Article 183,

RPC). Based on the Information filed, the present case involves the making of an untruthful statement in an affidavit on a material

matter.

These RPC provisions, however, are not really the bases of the rulings cited by the parties in their respective arguments. The

cited Ilusorio ruling, although issued by this Court in 2008, harked back to the case of Caet which was decided in 1915, i.e., before the present

RPC took effect.[21] Sy Tiong, on the other hand, is a 2009 ruling that cited Villanueva, a 2005 case that in turn cited United States v. Norris, a 1937

American case. Significantly, unlike Canet, Sy Tiong is entirely based on rulings rendered after the present RPC took effect.[22]

The perjurious act in Caet consisted of an information charging perjury through the presentation in court of a motion accompanied

by a false sworn affidavit. At the time the Caet ruling was rendered, the prevailing law on perjury and the rules on prosecution of criminal

offenses were found in Section 3, Act No. 1697 of the Philippine Commission, and in Subsection 4, Section 6 of General Order No. 58 [23] for the

procedural aspect.

Section 3 of Act No. 1697 reads:

Sec. 3. Any person who, having taken oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which
a law of the Philippine Islands authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or
that any written testimony, declaration, disposition, or certificate by him subscribed is true, willfully and contrary to such
oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true, is guilty of perjury, and shall be punished
by a fine of not more than two thousand pesos and by imprisonment for not more than five years; and shall moreover,
thereafter be incapable of holding any public office or of giving testimony in any court of the Philippine Islands until such
time as the judgment against him is reversed.

This law was copied, with the necessary changes, from Sections 5392 [24] and 5393[25] of the Revised Statutes of the United States.

[26]
Act No. 1697 was intended to make the mere execution of a false affidavit punishable in our jurisdiction. [27]

In turn, Subsection 4, Section 6 of General Order No. 58 provided that the venue shall be the court of the place where the crime was

committed.

As applied and interpreted by the Court in Caet, perjury was committed by the act of representing a false document in a judicial

proceeding.[28] The venue of action was held by the Court to be at the place where the false document was presented since the presentation was

the act that consummated the crime.


The annotation of Justices Aquino and Grio-Aquino in their textbook on the RPC [29] interestingly explains the history of the perjury

provisions of the present RPC and traces as well the linkage between Act No. 1697 and the present Code. To quote these authors:[30]

Art. 180 was taken from art. 318 of the Old Penal Code and art. 154 of Del Pans Proposed Correctional Code,
while art. 181 was taken from art. 319 of the old Penal Code and Art. 157 of Del Pans Proposed Correctional Code. Said
arts. 318 and 319, together with art. 321 of the old Penal Code, were impliedly repealed by Act 1697, the Perjury Law,
passed on August 23, 1907, which in turn was expressly repealed by the Administrative Code of 1916, Act 2657. In view of
the express repeal of Act 1697, arts. 318 and 321 of the old Penal Code were deemed revived. However, Act 2718
expressly revived secs. 3 and 4 of the Perjury Law. Art. 367 of the Revised Penal Code repealed Act Nos. 1697 and 2718.

It should be noted that perjury under Acts 1697 and 2718 includes false testimony, whereas, under the Revised
Penal Code, false testimony includes perjury. Our law on false testimony is of Spanish origin, but our law on perjury (art.
183 taken from sec. 3 of Act 1697) is derived from American statutes. The provisions of the old Penal Code on false
testimony embrace perjury committed in court or in some contentious proceeding, while perjury as defined in Act 1697
includes the making of a false affidavit. The provisions of the Revised Penal Code on false testimony are more severe and
strict than those of Act 1697 on perjury. [italics ours]

With this background, it can be appreciated that Article 183 of the RPC which provides:

The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon
any person, who knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the next preceding
articles, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to
administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires. [emphasis supplied; emphases ours]

in fact refers to either of two punishable acts (1) falsely testifying under oath in a proceeding other than a criminal or civil case; and (2) making

a false affidavit before a person authorized to administer an oath on any material matter where the law requires an oath.

As above discussed, Sy Tiong decided under Article 183 of the RPC essentially involved perjured statements made in a GIS that was

subscribed and sworn to in Manila and submitted to the SEC in Mandaluyong City. Thus, the case involved the making of an affidavit, not an

actual testimony in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil. From this perspective, the situs of the oath, i.e., the place where the oath was

taken, is the place where the offense was committed.By implication, the proper venue would have been the City of Mandaluyong the site of the

SEC had the charge involved an actual testimony made before the SEC.

In contrast, Caet involved the presentation in court of a motion supported and accompanied by an affidavit that contained a falsity.

With Section 3 of Act No. 1697 as basis, the issue related to the submission of the affidavit in a judicial proceeding. This came at a time when Act

No. 1697 was the perjury law, and made no distinction between judicial and other proceedings, and at the same time separately penalized the

making of false statements under oath(unlike the present RPC which separately deals with false testimony in criminal, civil and other

proceedings, while at the same time also penalizing the making of false affidavits). Understandably, the venue should be the place where the

submission was made to the court or the situs of the court; it could not have been the place where the affidavit was sworn to simply because this

was not the offense charged in the Information.


The case of Ilusorio cited the Caet case as its authority, in a situation where the sworn petitions filed in court for the issuance of

duplicate certificates of title (that were allegedly lost) were the cited sworn statements to support the charge of perjury for the falsities stated in

the sworn petitions. The Court ruled that the proper venue should be the Cities of Makati and Tagaytay because it was in the courts of these cities

where the intent to assert an alleged falsehood became manifest and where the alleged untruthful statement finds relevance or materiality in

deciding the issue of whether new owners duplicate copies of the [Certificate of Condominium Title] and [Transfer Certificates of Title] may

issue.[31] To the Court, whether the perjurious statements contained in the four petitions were subscribed and sworn in Pasig is immaterial, the gist

of the offense of perjury being the intentional giving of false statement,[32] citing Caet as authority for its statement.

The statement in Ilusorio may have partly led to the present confusion on venue because of its very categorical tenor in pointing to the

considerations to be made in the determination of venue; it leaves the impression that the place where the oath was taken is not at all a material

consideration, forgetting that Article 183 of the RPC clearly speaks of two situations while Article 182 of the RPC likewise applies to false

testimony in civil cases.

The Ilusorio statement would have made perfect sense had the basis for the charge been Article 182 of the RPC, on the assumption

that the petition itself constitutes a false testimony in a civil case. The Caet ruling would then have been completely applicable as the sworn

statement is used in a civil case, although no such distinction was made under Caet because the applicable law at the time (Act No. 1697) did not

make any distinction.

If Article 183 of the RPC were to be used, as what in fact appears in the Ilusorio ruling, then only that portion of the article, referring

to the making of an affidavit, would have been applicable as the other portion refers to false testimony in other proceedings which a judicial

petition for the issuance of a new owners duplicate copy of a Certificate of Condominium Title is not because it is a civil proceeding in court. As

a perjury based on the making of a false affidavit, what assumes materiality is the site where the oath was taken as this is the place where the

oath was made, in this case, Pasig City.

Procedurally, the rule on venue of criminal cases has been subject to various changes from the time General Order No. 58 was

replaced by Rules 106 to 122 of the Rules of Court on July 1, 1940. Section 14, Rule 106 of the Rules of Court provided for the rule on venue of

criminal actions and it expressly included, as proper venue, the place where any one of the essential ingredients of the crime took place. This

change was followed by the passage of the 1964 Rules of Criminal Procedure, [33] the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure,[34] and the 2000 Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure which all adopted the 1940 Rules of Criminal Procedures expanded venue of criminal actions. Thus, the venue of

criminal cases is not only in the place where the offense was committed, but also where any of its essential ingredients took place.

In the present case, the Certification against Forum Shopping was made integral parts of two complaints for sum of money with prayer

for a writ of replevin against the respondent spouses Eddie Tamondong and Eliza B. Tamondong, who, in turn, filed a complaint-affidavit against

Tomas for violation of Article 183 of the RPC. As alleged in the Information that followed, the criminal act charged was for the execution by

Tomas of an affidavit that contained a falsity.

Under the circumstances, Article 183 of the RPC is indeed the applicable provision; thus, jurisdiction and venue should be determined

on the basis of this article which penalizes one who make[s] an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to

administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires. The constitutive act of the offense is the making of an affidavit; thus, the criminal act is

consummated when the statement containing a falsity is subscribed and sworn before a duly authorized person.

Based on these considerations, we hold that our ruling in Sy Tiong is more in accord with Article 183 of the RPC and Section 15(a),

Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. To reiterate for the guidance of the Bar and the Bench, the crime of perjury

committed through the making of a false affidavit under Article 183 of the RPC is committed at the time the affiant subscribes and swears to his

or her affidavit since it is at that time that all the elements of the crime of perjury are executed. When the crime is committed through false

testimony under oath in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil, venue is at the place where the testimony under oath is given. If in lieu of

or as supplement to the actual testimony made in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil, a written sworn statement is submitted, venue

may either be at the place where the sworn statement is submitted or where the oath was taken as the taking of the oath and the submission are

both material ingredients of the crime committed. In all cases, determination of venue shall be based on the acts alleged in the Information to be

constitutive of the crime committed.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby DENY the petition for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
UNION BANK OF THEPHILIPPINES and DESITOMAS,Petitioners,- versus -PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,Respondent.G.R. No.
192565February 28, 2012 Facts:Tomas was charged in court for perjury under Article 183 of the RevisedPenal Code (RPC) for making a false
narration in a Certificate against Forum Shopping.Tomas filed a Motion to Quash, citing that the venue was improperly laid since it is the
Pasay City court (where the Certificate against Forum Shoppingwas submitted and used) and not the MeTC-Makati City (where the Certificate
against Forum Shopping was subscribed) that has jurisdiction over the perjury case.Issue:Whether or not the MeTC-Makati is the proper venue
of perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code?Held:The court denied the petition and held that the MeTC-Makati City is theproper
venue and the proper court to take cognizance of the perjury case against the petitioners.Unlike in civil cases, a finding of improper venue
in criminal cases carries jurisdictional consequences. In determining the venue where the criminal action is to be instituted and the court which
has jurisdiction over it, Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:(a)Subject to existing laws, the
criminal action shall be instituted and tried in the court or municipality or territory where the offense was committed or where any of its essential
ingredients occurred.The above provision should be read in light of Section 10, Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which
states:Place of commission of the offense.

The complaint or information is sufficient if it can be understood from its allegations that the offense was committed or some of its essential
ingredients occurred at some place within the jurisdiction of the court, unless the particular place where it was committed constitutes an essential
element of the offense charged or is necessary for its identification. Quintin B. Saludagaand SPO2 Fiel E. Genio,Petitioners,- versus -The
Honorable Sandiganbayan, 4th Division and the People of the Philippines,Respondents.G.R. NO. 184537April 23, 2010

JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN, G.R. Nos. 163972-77


Petitioner,
Present:

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.,
- versus - Acting Chairperson,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
REYES, JJ.
THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN
(Fourth Division), Promulgated:
Respondent. March 28, 2008
x------------------------------------------------ ---------x

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Joselito Raniero J. Daan (petitioner), one of the accused in Criminal Cases Nos. 24167-24170, 24195-24196, [1] questions the denial by the Sandiganbayan of his plea

bargaining proposal.

The antecedents facts are laid down by Sandiganbayan in its Resolution dated March 25, 2004, as follows:

Said accused,[2] together with accused Benedicto E. Kuizon, were charged before this Court for three counts of malversation of public funds
involving the sums of P3,293.00, P1,869.00, and P13,528.00, respectively, which they purportedly tried to conceal by falsifying the time book
and payrolls for given period making it appear that some laborers worked on the construction of the new municipal hall building
of Bato, Leyte and collected their respective salaries thereon when, in truth and in fact, they did not. Thus, in addition to the charge
for malversation, the accused were also indicted before this Court for three counts of falsification of public document by a public officer or
employee.

In the falsification cases, the accused offered to withdraw their plea of not guilty and substitute the same with a plea of guilty, provided, the
mitigating circumstances of confession or plea of guilt and voluntary surrender will be appreciated in their favor. In the alternative, if such
proposal is not acceptable, said accused proposed instead to substitute their plea of not guilty to the crime of falsification of public document by a
public officer or employee with a plea of guilty, but to the lesser crime of falsification of a public document by a private individual. On the other
hand, in the malversation cases, the accused offered to substitute their plea of not guilty thereto with a plea of guilty, but to the lesser crime of
failure of an accountable officer to render accounts.

Insofar as the falsification cases are concerned, the prosecution found as acceptable the proposal of the accused to plead guilty to the lesser crime
of falsification of public document by a private individual. The prosecution explained:

With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act of the accused in pleading
guilty for a lesser offense of falsification by a private individual defined and penalized under Article 172 of the Revised
Penal code will strengthen our cases against the principal accused, Municipal Mayor Benedicto Kuizon, who appears
to be the master mind of these criminal acts.

Insofar as the malversation cases are concerned, the prosecution was likewise amenable to the offer of said accused to plead guilty to the lesser
crime of failure of an accountable officer to render accounts because:

x x x JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has already restituted the total amount of P18,860.00 as per official receipt
issued by the provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In short, the damage caused to the
government has already been restituted x x x.[3]
The Sandiganbayan, in the herein assailed Resolution, [4] dated March 25, 2004, denied petitioners Motion to Plea Bargain, despite favorable recommendation by the

prosecution, on the main ground that no cogent reason was presented to justify its approval. [5]

The Sandiganbayan likewise denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration in a Resolution dated May 31, 2004.

This compelled petitioner to file the present case for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/ or writ of preliminary

injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

Petitioner argues that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in denying his plea bargaining offer on the following grounds: first, petitioner is not an

accountable officer and he merely affixed his signature on the payrolls on a routinary basis, negating any criminal intent; and that the amount involved is only P18,860.00,

which he already restituted.[6]

The petition is meritorious.

Plea bargaining in criminal cases is a process whereby the accused and the prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval. It

usually involves the defendant's pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that

for the graver charge.[7]

Plea bargaining is authorized under Section 2, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, to wit:

SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. At arraignment, the accused, with the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor, may be allowed
by the trial court to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the
accused may still be allowed to plead guilty to said lesser offense after withdrawing his plea of not guilty. No amendment of the complaint or
information is necessary. (sec. 4, cir. 38-98)

Ordinarily, plea bargaining is made during the pre-trial stage of the proceedings. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 118 of the Rules of Court, require plea bargaining to be

considered by the trial court at the pre-trial conference,[8] viz:

SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. In all criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial
Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the court shall, after arraignment and within thirty
(30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused, unless a shorter period is provided for in special laws or
circulars of the Supreme Court, order a pre-trial conference to consider the following:

(a) plea bargaining;

(b) stipulation of facts;

(c) marking for identification of evidence of the parties;

(d) waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;

(e) modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense; and

(f) such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil aspects of the case.
SEC. 2. Pre-trial agreement. All agreements or admissions made or entered during the pre-trial conference shall be reduced in
writing and signed by the accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot be used against the accused. The agreements covering the matters
referred to in section 1 of this Rule shall be approved by the court. (Emphasis supplied)

But it may also be made during the trial proper and even after the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence and rested its case. Thus, the Court has held that it is

immaterial that plea bargaining was not made during the pre-trial stage or that it was made only after the prosecution already presented several witnesses. [9]

Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court presents the basic requisites upon which plea bargaining may be made, i.e., that it should be with the consent of the offended party

and the prosecutor,[10] and that the plea of guilt should be to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. The rules however use word may in the

second sentence of Section 2, denoting an exercise of discretion upon the trial court on whether to allow the accused to make such plea.[11] Trial courts are exhorted to keep

in mind that a plea of guilty for a lighter offense than that actually charged is not supposed to be allowed as a matter of bargaining or compromise for the convenience of the

accused.[12]

In People of the Philippines v. Villarama,[13] the Court ruled that the acceptance of an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense is not demandable by the accused as a matter of

right but is a matter that is addressed entirely to the sound discretion of the trial court, [14]viz:

x x x In such situation, jurisprudence has provided the trial court and the Office of the Prosecutor with a yardstick within which their discretion
may be properly exercised. Thus, in People v. Kayanan (L-39355, May 31, 1978, 83 SCRA 437, 450), We held that the rules allow such a plea
only when the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of the crime charged. In his concurring opinion in People
v. Parohinog (G.R. No. L-47462, February 28, 1980, 96 SCRA 373, 377), then Justice Antonio Barredo explained clearly and tersely the
rationale or the law:

x x x (A)fter the prosecution had already rested, the only basis on which the fiscal and the court could rightfully act in allowing the
appellant to change his former plea of not guilty to murder to guilty to the lesser crime of homicide could be nothing more nothing less than the
evidence already in the record. The reason for this being that Section 4 of Rule 118 (now Section 2, Rule 116) under which a plea for a lesser
offense is allowed was not and could not have been intended as a procedure for compromise, much less bargaining. [15] (Emphasis supplied)

However, Villarama involved plea bargaining after the prosecution had already rested its case.

As regards plea bargaining during the pre-trial stage, as in the present case, the trial court's exercise of its discretion should neither be arbitrary nor should it amount to a

capricious and whimsical exercise of discretion. Grave abuse of discretion implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of

jurisdiction or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; and it must be so patent or gross as

to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law.[16]

In the present case, the Sandiganbayan rejected petitioner's plea offer on the ground that petitioner and the prosecution failed to demonstrate that the proposal would

redound to the benefit of the public. The Sandiganbayan believes that approving the proposal would only serve to trivialize the seriousness of the charges against them and

send the wrong signal to potential grafters in public office that the penalties they are likely to face would be lighter than what their criminal acts would have merited or that
the economic benefits they are likely to derive from their criminal activities far outweigh the risks they face in committing them; thus, setting to naught the deterrent value of

the laws intended to curb graft and corruption in government. [17]

Apparently, the Sandiganbayan has proffered valid reasons in rejecting petitioner's plea offer. However, subsequent events and higher interests of justice and fair play

dictate that petitioner's plea offer should be accepted. The present case calls for the judicious exercise of this Court's equity jurisdiction -

Equity as the complement of legal jurisdiction seeks to reach and do complete justice where courts of law, through the inflexibility of

their rules and want of power to adapt their judgments to the special circumstances of cases, are incompetent so to do. Equity regards the spirit of

and not the letter, the intent and not the form, the substance rather than the circumstance, as it is variously expressed by different courts. [18]

and of its power of control and supervision over the proceedings of lower courts, [19] in order to afford equal justice to petitioner.

In People of the Philippines v. Estrada,[20] the Sandiganbayan, in its Resolution dated March 14, 2007, approved the Plea Bargaining Agreement entered into by the

prosecution and one of the accused, Charlie Atong Ang. The agreement provided that the accused undertakes to assist in the prosecution of the case and promises to return

the amount of P25,000,000.00. In approving the Plea Bargaining Agreement, the Sandiganbayan took into consideration the timeliness of the plea bargaining and whether

the agreement complied with the requirements of Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court. The Sandigabayan noted that the accused had already withdrawn his earlier

plea of not guilty; and that the prosecution consented to the plea of guilt to a lesser offense; and the lesser offense, which is Corruption of Public Officials in relation to

Indirect Bribery, is necessarily included in the offense charged, which is Plunder.[21]

The Court sees no reason why the standards applied by the Sandiganbayan to Estrada should not be applied to the present case.Records show that there was a favorable

recommendation by the Office of the Special Prosecutor to approve petitioner's motion to plea bargain. Thus, in its Memorandum dated August 16, 2002, the Office of the

Special Prosecutor rationalized:

In the cases at bar, there is no dispute that JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has already restituted the total amount of P18,860.00 as per official

receipt issued by the provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In short, the damage caused to the government has already been

restituted by the accused.

There is also no dispute that accused DAAN voluntarily surrendered in the instant cases. Moreover, the accused is also willing to plead guilty to a

lesser offense which to our mind, merits consideration.


With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act of the accused in pleading guilty for a lesser offense of falsification

by private individual defined and penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code will strengthen our cases against the principal accused,

the Municipal Mayor Benedicto Kuizon, who appears to be the master mind of these criminal acts. After all, the movantsherein JOSELITO

RANIERO J. DAAN was merely designated as draftsman detailed as foreman/timekeeper of the Municipality of Bato, Leyte.[22]

Moreover, the lesser offenses of Falsification by Private Individuals and Failure to Render Account by an Accountable Officer are necessarily included in the

crimes of Falsification of Public Documents and Malversation of Public Funds, respectively, with which petitioner was originally charged.

Under Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, for the crime of Falsification of Public Documents through an untruthful narration of facts to be established, the

following elements must concur: (a) the offender makes in a document untruthful statements in a narration of facts; (b) the offender has a legal obligation to disclose the

truth of the facts narrated; (c) the facts narrated by the offender are absolutely false; and (d) the perversion of truth in the narration of facts was made with the wrongful intent

of injuring a third person.[23]

On the other hand, Falsification by Private Individuals penalized under Article 172, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code has the following elements: (a) the offender is a

private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his official position ; (b) the offender committed any of the acts of falsification

enumerated under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code; and (c) the falsification was committed in a public or official or commercial document. [24]

As regards the crime of Malversation of Public Funds defined and penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, with which petitioner was also charged, the

elements are as follows: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) he has custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office; (c) the funds or property

involved are public funds or property for which he is accountable; and (d) he has appropriated, taken or misappropriated, or has consented to, or through abandonment or

negligence permitted, the taking by another person of such funds or property.[25] Article 217 also provides that the failure of the public officer to have duly forthcoming

such public funds or property, upon demand by a duly authorized officer, shall be prima facie evidence that he has put such missing funds or property to personal use. In

this regard, it has been ruled that once such presumption is rebutted, then it is completely destroyed; in fact, the presumption is never deemed to have existed at all.[26]

Meanwhile, under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code, Failure to Render Account by an Accountable Officer, the lesser offense which petitioner seeks to plead guilty of,

the following elements must concur: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) the offendermust be an accountable officer for public funds or property; (c) the offender is

required by law or regulation to render accounts to the COA or to a provincial auditor; and (d) the offender fails to render an account for a period of two months after such

accounts should be rendered.[27]

Section 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court states when an offense includes or is included in the other, to wit:

SEC. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. An offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the
essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information, constitute the latter. And an offense charged is
necessarily included in the offense proved, when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.
An offense may be said to necessarily include another when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former as alleged in the complaint or information

constitute the latter. And vice versa, an offense may be said to be necessarily included in another when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of

those constituting the latter.[28]

In this case, the allegations in the Informations filed against petitioner are sufficient to hold petitioner liable for the lesser offenses. Thus, in the charge for Falsification of

Public Documents, petitioner may plead guilty to the lesser offense of Falsification by Private Individuals inasmuch as it does not appear that petitioner took advantage of

his official position in allegedly falsifying the timebook and payroll of the Municipality of Bato, Leyte. In the same vein, with regard to the crime of Malversation of

Public Funds, while theInformations contain allegations which make out a case for Malversation against petitioner, nevertheless, absent the element of conversion,

theoretically, petitioner may still be held liable for Failure to Render Account by an Accountable Officer if it is shown that the failure to render account was in violation of a

law or regulation that requires him to render such an accounting within the prescribed period.

Given, therefore, that some of the essential elements of offenses charged in this case likewise constitute the lesser offenses, then petitioner may plead guilty to such lesser

offenses.

Finally, as propounded by petitioner, indeed, he is not an accountable officer in that the nature of his duty as foreman/timekeeper does not permit or require possession or

custody of local government funds,[29] not to mention that petitioner has already restituted the amount of P18,860.00 involved in this case. Unlike Estrada which involves

a crime punishable by reclusion perpetua to death,[30] and a whopping P25,000,000.00 taken from the public coffers, this case tremendously pales in comparison.

Under the peculiar circumstances of the present case, where gross inequity will result in a discriminatory dispensation of justice, the Court will not hesitate to intervene in

order to equalize the imbalance.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated March 25, 2004 and May 31, 2004 are SET ASIDE. The Sandiganbayan is

hereby ORDERED to grant petitioner's Motion to Plea Bargain. Let records of this case be REMANDED to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings in accordance

with this Decision.

SO ORDERED.

TEODORO C. BORLONGAN, JR.,CORAZON M. BEJASA, G.R. No. 143591


ARTURO E.
MANUEL, JR., ERIC L. LEE, P.
SIERVO H. DIZON, BENJAMIN DE Present:
LEON, DELFIN C. GONZALES, JR.,
and BEN YU LIM, JR., Petitioners,
BRION, J.,
Acting Chairperson,
DEL CASTILLO,
VILLARAMA, JR.,*
PEREZ, and
- versus - MENDOZA, JJ.**

MAGDALENO M. PEA and HON.


MANUEL Q. LIMSIACO, JR., as Judge Designate of the Municipal
Trial Court in Cities, Bago City,
Respondents. Promulgated:

May 5, 2010

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

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

The pivotal issue in this case is whether or not the Court of Appeals, in its Decision[1] dated 20 June 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 49666,

is correct when it dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by petitioners Teodoro C. Borlongan, Jr., Corazon M. Bejasa, Arturo E. Manuel, Jr.,

Benjamin de Leon, P. Siervo H. Dizon, Delfin C. Gonzales, Jr., Eric L. Lee and Ben Yu Lim, Jr., and ruled that the Municipal Trial Court in Cities

(MTCC), Bago City, did not gravely abuse its discretion in denying the motion for reinvestigation and recall of the warrants of arrest in Criminal

Case Nos. 6683, 6684, 6685, and 6686.

The factual antecedents of the case are as follows:

Respondent Atty. Magdaleno M. Pea (Atty. Pea) instituted a civil case for recovery of agents compensation and expenses, damages, and attorneys

fees[2] against Urban Bank and herein petitioners, before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros Occidental, Bago City. The case was raffled to

Branch 62 and was docketed as Civil Case No. 754. Atty. Pea anchored his claim for compensation on the Contract of Agency [3] allegedly entered

into with the petitioners, wherein the former undertook to perform such acts necessary to prevent any intruder and squatter from unlawfully

occupying Urban Banks property located along Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. Petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss [4] arguing that they never

appointed the respondent as agent or counsel. Attached to the motion were the following documents: 1) a Letter [5] dated 19 December 1994 signed

by Herman Ponce and Julie Abad on behalf of Isabela Sugar Company, Inc. (ISCI), the original owner of the subject property; 2) an unsigned

Letter[6] dated 7 December 1994 addressed to Corazon Bejasa from Marilyn G. Ong; 3) a Letter [7] dated 9 December 1994 addressed to Teodoro

Borlongan, Jr. and signed by Marilyn G. Ong; and 4) a Memorandum [8] dated 20 November 1994 from Enrique Montilla III. Said documents were

presented in an attempt to show that the respondent was appointed as agent by ISCI and not by Urban Bank or by the petitioners.

In view of the introduction of the above-mentioned documents, Atty. Pea filed his Complaint-Affidavit[9] with the Office of the City

Prosecutor, Bago City.[10] He claimed that said documents were falsified because the alleged signatories did not actually affix their signatures, and
the signatories were neither stockholders nor officers and employees of ISCI. [11]Worse, petitioners introduced said documents as evidence before

the RTC knowing that they were falsified.

In a Resolution[12] dated 24 September 1998, the City Prosecutor found probable cause for the indictment of petitioners for four (4) counts of the

crime of Introducing Falsified Documents, penalized by the second paragraph of Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code. The City Prosecutor

concluded that the documents were falsified because the alleged signatories untruthfully stated that ISCI was the principal of the respondent; that

petitioners knew that the documents were falsified considering that the signatories were mere dummies; and that the documents formed part of

the record of Civil Case No. 754 where they were used by petitioners as evidence in support of their motion to dismiss, and then adopted in their

answer and in their Pre-Trial Brief. [13] Subsequently, the corresponding Informations[14] were filed with the MTCC, Bago City. The cases were

docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 6683, 6684, 6685, and 6686. Thereafter, Judge Primitivo Blanca issued the warrants [15] for the arrest of the

petitioners.

On 1 October 1998, petitioners filed an Omnibus Motion to Quash, Recall Warrants of Arrest and/or For Reinvestigation. [16] Petitioners insisted

that they were denied due process because of the non-observance of the proper procedure on preliminary investigation prescribed in the Rules of

Court. Specifically, they claimed that they were not afforded the right to submit their counter-affidavit. Then they argued that since no such

counter-affidavit and supporting documents were submitted by the petitioners, the trial judge merely relied on the complaint-affidavit and

attachments of the respondent in issuing the warrants of arrest, also in contravention with the Rules of Court. Petitioners further prayed that the

information be quashed for lack of probable cause. Moreover, one of the accused, i.e., Ben Lim, Jr., is not even a director of Urban Bank, contrary

to what complainant stated. Lastly, petitioners posited that the criminal cases should have been suspended on the ground that the issue being

threshed out in the civil case is a prejudicial question.

In an Order[17] dated 13 November 1998, the MTCC denied the omnibus motion primarily on the ground that preliminary investigation

was not available in the instant case which fell within the jurisdiction of the first-level court. The court, likewise, upheld the validity of the

warrant of arrest, saying that it was issued in accordance with the Rules of Court. Besides, the court added, petitioners could no longer question

the validity of the warrant since they already posted bail. The court also believed that the issue involved in the civil case was not a prejudicial

question, and, thus, denied the prayer for suspension of the criminal proceedings. Lastly, the court was convinced that the Informations contained

all the facts necessary to constitute an offense.

Petitioners immediately instituted a special civil action for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction and

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) before the Court of Appeals, ascribing grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction

on the part of the MTCC in issuing and not recalling the warrants of arrest, reiterating the arguments in their omnibus motion. [18] They, likewise,

questioned the courts conclusion that by posting bail, petitioners already waived their right to assail the validity of the warrants of arrest.

On 20 June 2000, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition.[19] Thus, petitioners filed the instant petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45

of the Rules of Court, raising the following issues:

A.
Where the offense charged in a criminal complaint is not cognizable by the Regional Trial Court and not covered by the
Rule on Summary Procedure, is the finding of probable cause required for the filing of an Information in court?

If the allegations in the complaint-affidavit do not establish probable cause, should not the investigating
prosecutor dismiss the complaint, or at the very least, require the respondent to submit his counter-affidavit?
B.
Can a complaint-affidavit containing matters which are not within the personal knowledge of the complainant
be sufficient basis for the finding of probable cause?

C.
Where there is offense charged in a criminal complaint is not cognizable by the Regional Trial Court and not
covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure, and the record of the preliminary investigation does not show the existence of
probable cause, should not the judge refuse to issue a warrant of arrest and dismiss the criminal case, or at the very least,
require the accused to submit his counter-affidavit in order to aid the judge in determining the existence of probable cause?

D.
Can a criminal prosecution be restrained?

E.
Can this Honorable Court itself determine the existence of probable cause? [20]

On the other hand, respondent contends that the issues raised by the petitioners had already become moot and academic when the

latter posted bail and were already arraigned.

On 2 August 2000, this Court issued a TRO [21] enjoining the judge of the MTCC from proceeding in any manner with Criminal Case

Nos. 6683 to 6686, effective during the entire period that the case is pending before, or until further orders of, this Court.

We will first discuss the issue of mootness.

The issues raised by the petitioners have not been mooted by the fact that they had posted bail and were already arraigned.

It appears from the records that upon the issuance of the warrant of arrest, petitioners immediately posted bail as they wanted to avoid

embarrassment, being then the officers of Urban Bank. On the scheduled date for the arraignment, despite the petitioners refusal to enter a plea,

the court a quo entered a plea of Not Guilty for them.

The erstwhile ruling of this Court was that posting of bail constitutes a waiver of any irregularity in the issuance of a warrant of arrest,

that has already been superseded by Section 26, Rule 114 of the Revised Rule of Criminal Procedure. The principle that the accused is precluded

from questioning the legality of the arrest after arraignment is true only if he voluntarily enters his plea and participates during trial, without

previously invoking his objections thereto.[22]

As held in Okabe v. Hon. Gutierrez:[23]

It bears stressing that Section 26, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure is a new one, intended
to modify previous rulings of this Court that an application for bail or the admission to bail by the accused shall be
considered as a waiver of his right to assail the warrant issued for his arrest on the legalities or irregularities thereon. The
new rule has reverted to the ruling of this Court in People v. Red. The new rule is curative in nature because precisely, it
was designed to supply defects and curb evils in procedural rules. Hence, the rules governing curative statutes are
applicable. Curative statutes are by their essence retroactive in application. Besides, procedural rules as a general rule
operate retroactively, even without express provisions to that effect, to cases pending at the time of their effectivity, in other
words to actions yet undetermined at the time of their effectivity. Before the appellate court rendered its decision on
January 31, 2001, the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure was already in effect. It behoved the appellate court to have
applied the same in resolving the petitioners petition for certiorari and her motion for partial reconsideration.
Moreover, considering the conduct of the petitioner after posting her personal bail bond, it cannot be argued that
she waived her right to question the finding of probable cause and to assail the warrant of arrest issued against her by the
respondent judge. There must be clear and convincing proof that the petitioner had an actual intention to relinquish her
right to question the existence of probable cause. When the only proof of intention rests on what a party does, his act
should be so manifestly consistent with, and indicative of, an intent to voluntarily and unequivocally relinquish the
particular right that no other explanation of his conduct is possible. x x x.

Herein petitioners filed the Omnibus Motion to Quash, Recall Warrants of Arrest and/or For Reinvestigation on the same day that they

posted bail. Their bail bonds likewise expressly contained a stipulation that they were not waiving their right to question the validity of their

arrest.[24] On the date of their arraignment, petitioners refused to enter their plea due to the fact that the issue on the legality of their arrest is still

pending with the Court. Thus, when the court a quoentered a plea of not guilty for them, there was no valid waiver of their right to preclude them

from raising the same with the Court of Appeals or this Court. The posting of bail bond was a matter of imperative necessity to avert their

incarceration; it should not be deemed as a waiver of their right to assail their arrest. The ruling to which we have returned in People v.

Red[25] stated:

x x x The present defendants were arrested towards the end of January, 1929, on the Island and Province of Marinduque by order of
the judge of the Court of First Instance of Lucena, Tayabas, at a time when there were no court sessions being held in Marinduque. In
view of these circumstances and the number of the accused, it may properly be held that the furnishing of the bond was prompted by
the sheer necessity of not remaining in detention, and in no way implied their waiver of any right, such as the summary examination of
the case before their detention. That they had no intention of waiving this right is clear from their motion of January 23, 1929, the
same day on which they furnished a bond, and the fact that they renewed this petition on February 23, 1929, praying for the stay of
their arrest for lack of the summary examination; the first motion being denied by the court on January 24, 1929 (G.R. No. 33708,
page 8), and the second remaining undecided, but with an order to have it presented in Boac, Marinduque.

Therefore, the defendants herein cannot be said to have waived the right granted to them by section 13, General Order No.
58, as amended by Act No. 3042.

The rest of the issues raised by the petitioners may be grouped into two, which are: (1) the procedural aspect, i.e.,whether the prosecution and the

court a quo properly observed the required procedure in the instant case, and, (2) the substantive aspect, which is whether there was probable

cause to pursue the criminal cases to trial.

THE PROCEDURAL ASPECT:

Petitioners contend that they were denied due process as they were unable to submit their counter-affidavits and were not accorded the right to a

preliminary investigation. Considering that the complaint of Atty. Pea was filed in September 1998, the rule then applicable was the 1985 Rules

of Criminal Procedure.

The provisions of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure relevant to the issue are Sections 1, 3(a) and 9(a) of Rule 112, to wit:

Section 1. Definition. Preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding for the purpose of determining
whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well founded belief that a crime cognizable by the Regional Trial Court
has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial.

Sec. 3. Procedure. Except as provided for in Section 7 hereof, no complaint or information for an offense
cognizable by the Regional Trial Court shall be filed without a preliminary investigation having been first conducted in the
following manner:

(a) The complaint shall state the known address of the respondent and be accompanied by affidavits of the complainant and
his witnesses as well as other supporting documents, in such number of copies as there are respondents, plus two (2) copies
for the official file. The said affidavits shall be sworn to before any fiscal, state prosecutor or government official
authorized to administer oath, or, in their absence or unavailability, a notary public, who must certify that he personally
examined the affiants and that he is satisfied that they voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.
Sec. 9. Cases not falling under the original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts nor covered by the Rule on
Summary Procedure.

(a) Where filed with the fiscal. If the complaint is filed directly with the fiscal or state prosecutor, the procedure outlined in
Section 3(a) of this Rule shall be observed. The fiscal shall take appropriate action based on the affidavits and other
supporting documents submitted by the complainant. (underscoring supplied)

The crime to which petitioners were charged was defined and penalized under second paragraph of Article 172 in relation to Article

171 of the Revised Penal Code.

Art. 172. Falsification by private individual and use of falsified documents. The penalty of prision correccional in its
medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P5,000 pesos shall be imposed upon:

1. Any private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding article in any public
or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial document; and

2. Any person who, to the damage of a third party, or with the intent to cause such damage, shall in any private document
commit any of the acts of falsification enumerated in the next preceding article.

Any person who shall knowingly introduce in evidence in any judicial proceeding or to the damage of another or who, with
the intent to cause such damage, shall use any of the false documents embraced in the next preceding article or in any of
the foregoing subdivisions of this article, shall be punished by the penalty next lower in degree.

Prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods translates to imprisonment of 2 years, 4 months and 1 day.[26] The next

lower in degree to prision correccional is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccionalin its minimum period which translates to

4 months and 1 day to 2 years and 4 months [27] of imprisonment. Since the crime committed is not covered by the Rules of Summary Procedure,
[28]
the case falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the first level courts but applying the ordinary rules. In such instance, preliminary

investigation as defined in Section 1, Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure is not applicable since such section covers only crimes

cognizable by the RTC. That which is stated in Section 9(a) is the applicable rule.

Under this Rule, while probable cause should first be determined before an information may be filed in court, the prosecutor is not mandated to

require the respondent to submit his counter-affidavits to oppose the complaint. In the determination of probable cause, the prosecutor may solely

rely on the complaint, affidavits and other supporting documents submitted by the complainant. If he does not find probable cause, the prosecutor

may dismiss outright the complaint or if he finds probable cause or sufficient reason to proceed with the case, he shall issue a resolution and file

the corresponding information.

The complaint of respondent, verbatim, is as follows:

COMPLAINT AFFIDAVIT

I, MAGDALENO M. PEA, Filipino, of legal age, with address at Brgy. Ubay, Pulupandan, Negros Occidental, after having
been sworn in accordance with law hereby depose and state:

1. I am the Plaintiff in Civil Case No. 754 pending with the Regional Trial Court of Bago City
entitled Atty. Magdaleno M. Pea v. Urban Bank, et al Impleaded therein as defendants of the board of the bank, namely,
Teodoro Borlongan, Delfin Gonzales, Jr., Benjamin De Leon, P. Siervo Dizon, Eric Lee, Ben Lim Jr., Corazon Bejasa and
Arturo Manuel.(underlining ours)

2. I filed the said case to collect my fees as agent of Urban Bank, Inc.(hereinafter referred to as the
bank) in ridding a certain parcel of land in Pasay City of squatters and intruders. A certified true copy of the Complaint in
the said case is hereto attached as Annex A.
3. In the Motion to Dismiss dated 12 March 1996 (a certified true copy of which is attached as Annex
B), Answer dated 28 October 1996 (Annex C), and Pre-Trial Brief dated 28 January 1997 (Annex D) filed by the bank and
the respondent members of the board, the said respondents used as evidence the following documents:

a. Letter dated 19 December 1994 supposedly signed by a certain Herman Ponce and Julie Abad for Isabela Sugar
Company (ISC) (a copy of which is attached as Annex E), which states:

December 19, 1994

Urban Bank
Urban Avenue, Makati
Metro Manila

Gentlemen:

This has reference to your property located among Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City which you purchased from Isabela Sugar
Company under a Deed of Absolute Sale executed on December 1, 1994.

In line with our warranties as the Seller of the said property and our undertaking to deliver to you the full and actual
possession and control of said property, free from tenants, occupants or squatters and from any obstruction or impediment
to the free use and occupancy of the property and to prevent the former tenants or occupants from entering or returning to
the premises. In view of the transfer of ownership of the property to Urban Bank, it may be necessary for Urban Bank to
appoint Atty. Pea likewise as its authorized representative for purposes of holding/maintaining continued possession of the
said property and to represent Urban Bank in any court action that may be instituted for the abovementioned purposes.

It is understood that any attorneys fees, cost of litigation and any other charges or expenses that may be incurred relative to
the exercise by Atty. Pea of his abovementioned duties shall be for the account of Isabela Sugar Company and any loss or
damage that may be incurred to third parties shall be answerable by Isabela Sugar Company.

Very truly yours,

Isabela Sugar Company

By:

HERMAN PONCE

JULIE ABAD

b. Memorandum dated 7 December 1994 supposedly executed by a certain Marilyn Ong on behalf of ISC, a copy of which
is hereto attached as annex F, which states:

December 7, 1994

To: ATTY. CORA BEJASA


From: MARILYN G. ONG

RE: ISABELA SUGAR CO., INC.

Atty. Magdaleno M. Pea, who has been assigned by Isabela Sugar Company inc. to take charge of inspecting the tenants
would like to request an authority similar to this from the Bank to new owners. Can you please issue something like this
today as he (unreadable) this.

b. Letter dated 9 December 1994 supposedly executed by the same Marilyn Ong, a copy of which is hereto
attached as Annex G, which states:

December 9, 1994

Atty. Ted Borlongan


URBAN BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES
MAKATI, METRO MANILA

Attention: Mr. Ted Borlongan


Dear Mr. Borlongan
I would like to request for an authority from Urban Bank per attached immediately as the tenants are questioning authority
of the people who are helping us to take possession of the property.

Marilyn Ong

c. Memorandum dated 20 November 1994, copy of which is attached as annex H, which states:

MEMORANDUM
To: Atty. Magadaleno M. Pea
Director

From: Enrique C. Montilla III


President

Date: 20 November 1994

You are hereby directed to recover and take possession of the property of the corporation situated at Roxas
Boulevard covered by TCT No. 5382 of the Registry of Deeds for Pasay City, immediately upon the expiration of the
contract of lease over the said property on 29 November 1994. For this purpose, you are authorized to engage the services
of security guards to protect the property against intruders. You may also engage the services of a lawyer in case there is a
need to go to court to protect the said property of the corporation. In addition, you may take whatever steps or measures are
necessary to ensure our continued possession of the property.

ENRIQUE C. MONTILLA III


President

4. The respondent member of the board of the bank used and introduced the aforestated documents as evidence in the
civil case knowing that the same are falsified. They used thae said documents to justify their refusal to pay my agents
fees, to my damage and prejudice.

5. The 19 December 1994 letter (Annex E) is a falsified document, in that the person who supposedly executed the letter
on behalf of ISC, a certain Herman Ponce and Julie Abad did not actually affix their signatures on the document. The
execution of the letter was merely simulated by making it appear that Ponce and Abad executed the letter on behalf of
ISC when they did not in fact do so.

6. No persons by the name of Herman Ponce and Julie Abad were ever stockholders, officers, employees or
representatives of ISC. In the letter, Herman Ponce was represented to be the President of ISC and Julie Abad, the
Corporate Secretary. However, as of 19 December 1994, the real President of plaintiff was Enrique Montilla, III and
Cristina Montilla was the Corporate Secretary. A copy of the Minutes of the Regular Meeting of ISC for the year
1994, during which Montilla, et al. Were elected is hereto attached as Annex I. On the otherhand, a list of the
stockholders of ISC on or about the time of the transaction is attached as Annex J.

7. The same holds true with respect to the Memorandum dated 7 December 1994 and athe letter dated 9 December 1994
allegedly written by a ceratin Marilyn Ong. Nobody by the said name was ever a stockholder of ISC.

8. Lastly, with respect to the supposed Memorandum issued by Enrique Montilla, III his signature thereon was merely
forged by respondents. Enrique Montilla III, did not affix his signature on any such document.

9. I am executing this affidavit for the purpose of charging Teodoro C. Borlongan, Corazon M. Bejasa and Arturo E.
Manuel, Delfin C. Gonzales Jr., Benjamin L. De Leon, P. Siervo H. Dizon and Eric Lee, with the crime of use of
falsified documents under Artilce 172, paragraph 2, of the Revised Penal Code.(underlining ours)

10. I am likewise executing this affidavit for whatever legal purpose it may serve.

FURTHER AFFIANT SAYETH NAUGHT.

Sgd. MAGDALENO M. PEA

It is evident that in the affidavit-complaint, specifically in paragraph 1, respondent merely introduced and identified the board of the bank,

namely, Teodoro Borlongan, Jr., Delfin Gonzales, Jr., Benjamin De Leon, P. Siervo Dizon, Eric Lee, Ben Lim, Jr., Corazon Bejasa and Arturo

Manuel, Sr. However, in the accusatory portion of the complaint which is paragraph number 9, Mr. Ben Lim, Jr. was not included among those
charged with the crime of use of falsified documents under Article 172, paragraph 2, of the Revised Penal Code. The omission indicates that

respondent did not intend to criminally implicate Mr. Ben Lim, Jr., even as he was acknowledged to be a member of the board. And there was no

explanation in the Resolution and Information by the City Prosecutor why Mr. Ben Lim, Jr. was included. Moreover, as can be gleaned from the

body of the complaint and the specific averments therein, Mr. Ben Lim, Jr. was never mentioned.

The City Prosecutor should have cautiously reviewed the complaint to determine whether there were inconsistencies which ought to

have been brought to the attention of the respondent or, on his own, considered for due evaluation. It is a big mistake to bring a man to trial for a

crime he did not commit.

Prosecutors are endowed with ample powers in order that they may properly fulfill their assigned role in the administration of

justice. It should be realized, however, that when a man is hailed to court on a criminal charge, it brings in its wake problems not only for the

accused but for his family as well. Therefore, it behooves a prosecutor to weigh the evidence carefully and to deliberate thereon to determine the

existence of a prima facie case before filing the information in court. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.[29]

Atty. Pea, in his Second Manifestation[30] dated 16 June 1999, averred that petitioners, including Mr. Ben Lim, Jr., were

already estopped from raising the fact that Mr. Ben Lim, Jr. was not a member of the board of directors of Urban Bank, as the latter participated

and appeared through counsel in Civil Case No. 754 without raising any opposition. However, this does not detract from the fact that the City

Prosecutor, as previously discussed, did not carefully scrutinize the complaint of Atty. Pea, which did not charge Mr. Ben Lim, Jr. of any crime.

What tainted the procedure further was that the Judge issued a warrant for the arrest of the petitioners, including, Mr. Ben Lim, Jr.

despite the filing of the Omnibus Motion to Quash, Recall Warrants of Arrest and/or For Reinvestigation raising among others the issue that Mr.

Ben Lim, Jr., was not even a member of the board of directors. With the filing of the motion, the judge is put on alert that an innocent person may

have been included in the complaint. In the Order[31] dated 13 November 1998, in denying the motion to quash, Judge Primitivo Blanca ruled that:

Courts in resolving a motion to quash cannot consider facts contrary to those alleged in the information or which do not
appear on the face of the information because said motion is hypothethical admission of the facts alleged in the information
x x x. (citations omitted.)

We cannot accept as mere oversight the mistake of respondent judge since it was at the expense of liberty. This cannot be condoned.

In the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the mandate of the Constitution is for the judge to personally determine the existence of probable cause:

Section 2, Article III of the Constitution provides:

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches
and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall
issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of
the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or
things to be seized.

Corollary thereto, Section 9(b) of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

Sec. 9. Cases not falling under the original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts nor covered by the Rule on Summary
Procedure.
(a) x x x.

(b) Where filed directly with the Municipal Trial Court. If the complaint or information is filed directly with the Municipal
Trial Court, the procedure provided for in Section 3(a) of this Rule shall likewise be observed. If the judge finds no
sufficient ground to hold the respondent for trial, he shall dismiss the complaint or information. Otherwise, he shall issue a
warrant of arrest after personally examining in writing and under oath the complainant and his witnesses in the form of
searching questions and answers.

Enshrined in our Constitution is the rule that [n]o x x x warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined

personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly

describing x x x the persons x x x to be seized. [32] Interpreting the words personal determination, we said in Soliven v. Makasiar[33] that it does not

thereby mean that judges are obliged to conduct the personal examination of the complainant and his witnesses themselves. To require thus would

be to unduly laden them with preliminary examinations and investigations of criminal complaints instead of concentrating on hearing and

deciding cases filed before them. Rather, what is emphasized merely is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy

himself as to the existence of probable cause. To this end, he may: (a) personally evaluate the report and the supporting documents submitted by

the prosecutor regarding the existence of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or (b) if on the basis thereof he finds

no probable cause, disregard the prosecutor's report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in determining its

existence. What he is never allowed to do is to follow blindly the prosecutor's bare certification as to the existence of probable cause . Much

more is required by the constitutional provision. Judges have to go over the report, the affidavits, the transcript of stenographic notes if any,

and other documents supporting the prosecutor's certification. Although the extent of the judge's personal examination depends on the

circumstances of each case, to be sure, he cannot just rely on the bare certification alone but must go beyond it. This is because the warrant

of arrest issues not on the strength of the certification standing alone but because of the records which sustain it. [34] He should even call for the

complainant and the witnesses to answer the court's probing questions when the circumstances warrant. [35]

An arrest without a probable cause is an unreasonable seizure of a person, and violates the privacy of persons which ought not to be

intruded by the State.[36]

Measured against the constitutional mandate and established rulings, there was here a clear abdication of the judicial function and a clear

indication that the judge blindly followed the certification of a city prosecutor as to the existence of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant

of arrest with respect to all of the petitioners. The careless inclusion of Mr. Ben Lim, Jr., in the warrant of arrest gives flesh to the bone of

contention of petitioners that the instant case is a matter of persecution rather than prosecution. [37] On this ground, this Court may enjoin the

criminal cases against petitioners. As a general rule, criminal prosecutions cannot be enjoined. However, there are recognized exceptions which,

as summarized in Brocka v. Enrile,[38] are:

a. To afford adequate protection to the constitutional rights of the accused;[39]

b. When necessary for the orderly administration of justice or to avoid oppression or multiplicity of actions; [40]

c. When there is a prejudicial question which is sub judice;[41]

d. When the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority; [42]

e. Where the prosecution is under an invalid law, ordinance or regulation;[43]

f. When double jeopardy is clearly apparent;[44]

g. Where the court had no jurisdiction over the offense;[45]


h. Where it is a case of persecution rather than prosecution; [46]

i. Where the charges are manifestly false and motivated by the lust for vengeance; [47] and

j. When there is clearly no prima facie case against the accused and a motion to quash on that ground has been denied.[48]

THE SUBSTANTIVE ASPECT:

Petitioners were charged with violation of par. 2, Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code or Introduction of Falsified Document in a judicial

proceeding. The elements of the offense are as follows:


1. That the offender knew that a document was falsified by another person.
2. That the false document is embraced in Article 171 or in any subdivisions Nos. 1 or 2 of Article 172.
3. That he introduced said document in evidence in any judicial proceeding. [49]

The falsity of the document and the defendants knowledge of its falsity are essential elements of the offense. The Office of the City

Prosecutor filed the Informations against the petitioners on the basis of the Complaint-Affidavit of respondent Atty. Pea, attached to which were

the documents contained in the Motion to Dismiss filed by the petitioners in Civil Case No. 754. Also included as attachments to the complaint

were the Answers, Pre-Trial Brief, the alleged falsified documents, copy of the regular meetings of ISCI during the election of the Board of

Directors and the list of ISCI Stockholders. [50] Based on these documents and the complaint-affidavit of Atty. Pea, the City Prosecutor concluded

that probable cause for the prosecution of the charges existed. On the strength of the same documents, the trial court issued the warrants of arrest.

This Court, however, cannot find these documents sufficient to support the existence of probable cause.

Probable cause is such set of facts and circumstances as would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that the offense charged in

the Information or any offense included therein has been committed by the person sought to be arrested. In determining probable cause, the

average man weighs the facts and circumstances without restoring to the calibrations of the rules of evidence of which he has no technical

knowledge. He relies on common sense. A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime

has been committed and that it was committed by the accused. Probable cause demands more than suspicion; it requires less than evidence that

would justify conviction.[51]

As enunciated in Baltazar v. People,[52] the task of the presiding judge when the Information is filed with the court is first and foremost

to determine the existence or non-existence of probable cause for the arrest of the accused.

The purpose of the mandate of the judge to first determine probable cause for the arrest of the accused is to insulate from the very start

those falsely charged with crimes from the tribulations, expenses and anxiety of a public trial. [53]

We do not see how it can be concluded that the documents mentioned by respondent in his complaint-affidavit were falsified. In his

complaint, Atty. Pea stated that Herman Ponce, Julie Abad and Marilyn Ong, the alleged signatories of the questioned letters, did not actually

affix their signatures therein; and that they were not actually officers or stockholders of ISCI. [54] He further claimed that Enrique Montillas

signature appearing in another memorandum addressed to respondent was forged. [55] These averments are mere assertions which are insufficient

to warrant the filing of the complaint or worse the issuance of warrants of arrest. These averments cannot be considered as proceeding from the

personal knowledge of herein respondent who failed to, basically, allege that he was present at the time of the execution of the

documents. Neither was there any mention in the complaint-affidavit that herein respondent was familiar with the signatures of the mentioned
signatories to be able to conclude that they were forged. What Atty. Pea actually stated were but sweeping assertions that the signatories are mere

dummies of ISCI and that they are not in fact officers, stockholders or representatives of the corporation. Again, there is no indication that the

assertion was based on the personal knowledge of the affiant.

The reason for the requirement that affidavits must be based on personal knowledge is to guard against hearsay evidence. A witness,

therefore, may not testify as what he merely learned from others either because he was told or read or heard the same. Such testimony is

considered hearsay and may not be received as proof of the truth of what he has learned. [56] Hearsay is not limited to oral testimony or statements;

the general rule that excludes hearsay as evidence applies to written, as well as oral statements. [57]

The requirement of personal knowledge should have been strictly applied considering that herein petitioners were not given the

opportunity to rebut the complainants allegation through counter-affidavits.

Quite noticeable is the fact that in the letter dated 19 December 1994 of Herman Ponce and Julie Abad, neither of the two made the representation

that they were the president or secretary of ISCI. It was only Atty. Pea who asserted that the two made such representation. He alleged that

Marilyn Ong was never a stockholder of ISCI but he did not present the stock and transfer book of ISCI. And, there was neither allegation nor

proof that Marilyn Ong was not connected to ISCI in any other way. Moreover, even if Marilyn Ong was not a stockholder of ISCI, such would

not prove that the documents she signed were falsified.

The Court may not be compelled to pass upon the correctness of the exercise of the public prosecutors function without any showing

of grave abuse of discretion or manifest error in his findings. [58] Considering, however, that the prosecution and the court a quo committed

manifest errors in their findings of probable cause, this Court therefore annuls their findings.

Our pronouncement in Jimenez v. Jimenez[59] as reiterated in Baltazar v. People is apropos:

It is x x x imperative upon the fiscal or the judge as the case may be, to relieve the accused from the pain of going through
a trial once it is ascertained that the evidence is insufficient to sustain a prima facie case or that no probable cause exists to
form a sufficient belief as to the guilt of the accused. Although there is no general formula or fixed rule for the
determination of probable cause since the same must be decided in the light of the conditions obtaining in given situations
and its existence depends to a large degree upon the finding or opinion of the judge conducting the examination, such a
finding should not disregard the facts before the judge nor run counter to the clear dictates of reasons. The judge or fiscal,
therefore, should not go on with the prosecution in the hope that some credible evidence might later turn up during trial for
this would be a flagrant violation of a basic right which the courts are created to uphold. It bears repeating that the judiciary
lives up to its mission by visualizing and not denigrating constitutional rights. So it has been before. It should continue to
be so.

On the foregoing discussion, we find that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the findings of the prosecutor as well as the court a quo as to the

existence of probable cause. The criminal complaint against the petitioners should be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 20 June 2000, in CA-G.R. SP No.

49666, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Temporary Restraining Order dated 2 August 2000 is hereby made permanent. Accordingly, the

Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Negros Occidental, Bago City, is hereby DIRECTED to DISMISS Criminal Case Nos. 6683, 6684, 6685 and

6686.

SO ORDERED.
Borlongan vs Pena
G.R. No. 143591 May 5, 2010TEODORO C. BORLONGAN, JR., CORAZON M. BEJASA, ARTURO E. MANUEL, JR., ERIC L.
LEE, P. SIERVO H. DIZON,BENJAMIN DE LEON, DELFIN C. GONZALES, JR., and BEN YU LIM, JR., Petitioners, vs.
MAGDALENO M. PEA andHON. MANUEL Q. LIMSIACO, JR., as Judge Designate of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities,
Bago City, Respondents
FACTS
:
Respondent Pena instituted a civil case for recovery of agents compensation and expenses, damages andattorneys fees
against
Urban Bank and petitioners before the RTC. Petitioners filed a Motion to dismiss, includingseveral documents as evidence.
Atty Pena claims that the documents were falsified. He subsequently filed hisComplaint-Affidavit with the City
Prosecutor.The prosecutor found probable cause and the Informations were filed before MTCC. Warrants of arrest
wereissued for the petitioners / accused.
Upon the issuance of the warrant of arrest, petitioners immediately postedbail
as they wanted to avoid embarrassment, being then officers of Urban Ban. On the scheduled date for the
arraignment, despite the petitioners refusal to enter a plea, the court a quo entered a plea of Not Guilty for
them.
The accused questioned the validity of the warrant of arrest
. However, the trial court ruled that
posting ofbail constitutes a waiver of any irregularity
in the issuance of a warrant of arrest.
ISSUE
: Can the petitioners still question the validity of the warrant of arrest despite posting bail?
YES

HELD
:The erstwhile ruling of this Court was that posting of bail constitutes a waiver of any irregularity in the issuance ofa
warrant of arrest, that has
already been superseded by Section 26, Rule 114
of the Revised Rule of CriminalProcedure. The principle that the accused is precluded from questioning the legality of the
arrest after arraignmentis true only if he voluntarily enters his plea and participates during trial, without previously invoking
his objectionsthereto.Moreover, considering the conduct of the petitioner after posting her personal bail bond, it cannot be
argued thatshe waived her right to question the finding of probable cause and to assail the warrant of arrest issued against
herby the respondent judge.
There must be clear and convincing proof that the petitioner had an actual intention torelinquish her right
to question the existence of probable cause. When the only proof of intention rests on what aparty does, his act should be
so manifestly consistent with, and indicative of, an intent to voluntarily andunequivocally relinquish the particular right that
no other explanation of his conduct is possible. x x x.Herein petitioners filed the Omnibus Motion to Quash, Recall Warrants
of Arrest and/or For Reinvestigation on thesame day that they posted bail. Their bail bonds likewise expressly contained a
stipulation that they were notwaiving their right to question the validity of their arrest. On the date of their arraignment,
petitioners refused toenter their plea
due to the fact that the issue on the legality of their arrest is still pending with the Court. Thus,when the court a quo
entered a plea of not guilty for them, there was no valid waiver of their right to precludethem from raising the same with
the Court of Appeals or this Court. The posting of bail bond was a matter ofimperative necessity to avert their
incarceration; it
should not be deemed as a waiver of their right
to assail theirarrest.

[G.R. No. 142011. March 14, 2003]

ALFONSO C. CHOA, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and LENI CHOA, respondents.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
Alfonso Chan Choa, petitioner, is a Chinese national. On April 25, 1989, he filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
41, Bacolod City, a verified petition for naturalization,[1] docketed as Special Proceeding No. 5395.

During the initial hearing of the case on August 27, 1990, petitioner testified on direct examination but he was not able to finish
the same. On August 29, 1990, he filed a motion to withdraw his petition for naturalization. [2] The trial court granted the motion in its
Resolution dated September 28, 1990,[3] which partly reads:

The petitioner, Alfonso Chan Choa, has not yet finished testifying on direct-examination. Although the petitioner has not stated in his said Motion
To Withdraw Petition the reason why he is withdrawing his petition at this stage of the proceedings, the petitioner can not be compelled to
continue with his petition for naturalization.

In view thereof, the petitioner, Alfonso Chan Choa, is allowed to withdraw his petition for naturalization.

SO ORDERED.

Meanwhile, on August 5, 1992, State Prosecutor Pedro D. Delfin on detail at Bacolod City, acting upon the complaint of
petitioners wife, Leni, filed an Information[4] with the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Branch 3, Bacolod City, charging
petitioner with perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, docketed as Criminal Case No. 50322. The Information reads:

That on or about 30th day of March, 1989, in the City of Bacolod, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the herein
accused did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly made untruthful statements or falsehoods upon material matters
required by the Revised Naturalization Law (C.A. No. 473) in his verified Petition for Naturalization dated April 13, 1989 (sic),[5] subscribed and
sworn to before Notary Public Felomino B. Tan, Jr., who is authorized to administer oath, which petition bears Doc. No. 140, Page No. 29, Book
No. XXIII, series of 1989, in the Notarial Register of said Notary Public, by stating therein the following, to wit:

5.) I am married to a Filipino. My wifes name is Leni Ong Choa and now resides at 46 Malaspina Street, Bacolod City. I have two (2) children
whose names, dates and places of birth, and residence are as follows:

Name Date of Birth Place of Birth Residence

ALBRYAN July 19, 1981 Bacolod City 46 Malaspina St.,

ONG CHOA Bacolod City

CHERYL May 5, 1983 Bacolod City 46 Malaspina St.,

LYNNE ONG Bacolod City

CHOA

xxxxxxxxx

10) I am of good moral character, I believe in the principles underlying the Philippine Constitution. I have conducted myself in a proper and
irreproachable manner during the entire period of my residence in the Philippines in my relations with the constituted government as well as with
the community in which I am living.

xxxxxxxxx

when in truth and in fact, said accused knew that his wife Leni Ong Choa and their two (2) children were not then residing at said address at # 46
Malaspina Street, Villamonte, Bacolod City, having left the aforesaid residence in 1984, or about five (5) years earlier and were then residing at
Hervias Subdivision, Bacolod City; that contrary to his aforesaid allegation in his verified Petition for Naturalization, accused, while residing at
211 106 Street, Greenplains Subdivision, Bacolod City, has been carrying on an immoral and illicit relationship with one Stella Flores Saludar, a
woman not his wife since 1984, and begetting two (2) children with her as a consequence, as he and his wife, the private offended party herein,
have long been separated from bed and board since 1984; which falsehoods and/or immoral and improper conduct are grounds for
disqualification to become a citizen of the Philippines.
Act contrary to law.

Upon arraignment, petitioner entered a plea of not guilty. Trial ensued thereafter.

After trial, the MTCC rendered a Decision[6] dated February 21, 1995 finding petitioner guilty of perjury, as charged, thus:

FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, this Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense which he is presently charged, and
there being no aggravating or mitigating circumstances that may be considered, the accused is sentenced to suffer the penalty of six (6) months
and one (1) day of prision correccional and to pay the costs.

Petitioner filed a motion for a reconsideration, [7] contending, among others, that there is no basis to convict him of perjury
because almost two years prior to the filing of the Information, his motion to withdraw the petition for naturalization containing the
alleged false statements was granted by the MTCC, hence, the alleged false statements were no longer existing or
had become functus officio.

The MTCC, in its Order[8] dated March 31, 1995, denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.

On appeal, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 54, Bacolod City, in a Decision dated September 12, 1996, affirmed the
MTCC judgment.[9]

Petitioner then filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review, docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 19968. In his comment, the
Solicitor General recommended the acquittal of petitioner, contending that the withdrawal of his petition for naturalization rendered
the same functus officio, thus making the questioned false statements inexistent.

The Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated June 8, 1999,[10] affirmed the RTC Decision with modification, thus:

WHEREFORE, finding the appealed decision of the Regional Trial Court to be in accordance with law and evidence, we AFFIRM the same with
the modification that petitioner-accused-appellant Alfonso Choa is sentenced to suffer imprisonment, after applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law without any aggravating or mitigating circumstance, for a period of three (3) months of arresto mayor, to one (1) year and eight (8) months
of prision correccional.

SO ORDERED.

In convicting petitioner, the Appellate Court adopted as its own the RTCs findings as follows:

Evidence presented clearly proved that all the above-enumerated elements (of perjury) have been duly executed by the accused. His allegations in
his petition regarding his, his wifes and childrens residences and his positive averment of the fact that he is of good moral character and had
conducted himself in an irreproachable manner during his stay in the Philippines are material matters in connection with his petition for
naturalization as they are essential facts required by Sec. 7 of C.A. No. 473 for one to fulfill for the acquisition of Philippine citizenship. They
are the very facts which would be the subject of inquiry by the court hearing the petition and the same would be the basis of the courts
ruling whether one is qualified and granted Philippine citizenship.

Paragraph 2 of Art. 183 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the statement or affidavit is to be made before a competent officer, authorized to
receive and administer oath. The information shows that the statement was duly subscribed and sworn to before Notary Public Felomino B. Tan,
Jr., a person competent and authorized by law to receive and administer oath and the same was entered in his notary register as Doc. No. 140,
Page No. 29, Book No. XXIII, Series of 1989.

That the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood could be gleaned from the discrepancies in his given addresses. In his
petition for naturalization he gave No. 46 Malaspina Street, Villamonte, Bacolod City as his and his wifes residence, while in the birth certificates
and the affidavit of admission of paternity of both Fonsella Kae Saludar and Steve Albert Saludar, he gave No. 211, 106 Street, Greenplains
Subdivision, Bacolod City as his address besides from the fact that while may have been residing in the above-stated addresses, his wife and
children have been staying at Hervias Subdivision, Bacolod City since the latter part of 1984. Furthermore, cohabiting openly with another
woman not his wife and siring (2) children with the same, in open defiance with the norm of morality of the community where monogamy is the
accepted practice, is very inconsistent with his allegations of a moral life, proper and irreproachable, considering that the accused, by his own
admission is a graduate of the University of St. La Salle, a school known for its high academic and moral standards.These assertions are not only
willful and deliberate but a perversion of truth which the law is mandated to punish.
Section 7 of C.A. 473 provides:

Any person desiring to acquire Philippine citizenship shall file with the competent Court, a petition in triplicate, accompanied by two (2)
photographs of the petitioner, setting forth his name and surname; his present and former residence, his occupation; the place and date of his
birth, whether single or married, the name, age, birthplace and residence of the wife and each of the childrenx x x. (underscoring supplied)

The above-cited provisions are the pertinent law which specifically requires any person desiring to acquire Philippine citizenship to accomplish,
thus complying with the fourth element of the crime of perjury. (pp. 119-120, Original Records, Vol. II) [11]

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated February 22,
2000.[12]

Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari.[13]

Both the petitioner and the Solicitor General in their respective pleadings contend that the challenged Decision of the Court of
Appeals should be reversed because: (a) not all the elements of the crime of perjury are present; and (b) the withdrawal of the
petition for naturalization which contains the alleged untruthful statements bars the prosecution of petitioner for perjury.

Thus, the issue here is whether petitioner may be convicted of perjury based on the alleged false statements he stated in his
petition for naturalization withdrawn almost two years prior to the filing of the Information for perjury.

The petition is unmeritorious.

Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code under which petitioner has been charged and convicted, provides:

Art. 183. False testimony in other cases and perjury in solemn affirmation. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision
correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person who, knowingly making untruthful statements and not being included in
the provisions of the next preceding articles, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person
authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.

Any person who, in case of a solemn affirmation made in lieu of an oath, shall commit any of the falsehoods mentioned in this and the three
preceding articles of this section, shall suffer the respective penalties provided therein.

The elements of perjury are:

1. The accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter;

2. The statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer authorized to receive and administer oath;

3. In that statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood; and

4. The sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.[14]

All these elements are present in the instant case. Petitioner willfully and deliberately alleged false statements concerning his
"residence" and "moral character" in his petition for naturalization. This was sufficiently proven by the prosecution, as succinctly
noted by the Court of Appeals in its assailed Decision.

The petition for naturalization was duly subscribed and sworn to by petitioner before Notary Public Filomino B. Tan, Jr., a
person competent and authorized by law to receive and administer oath. Also, petitioner started testifying under oath on his false
allegations before the trial court.

The allegations in the petition regarding "residence" and "moral character" are material matters because they are among the
very facts in issue or the main facts which are the subject of inquiry [15] and are the bases for the determination of petitioner's
qualifications and fitness as a naturalized Filipino citizen. Thus, C.A. No. 473 provides:
SEC. 2. Qualifications. Subject to section four of this Act, any person having the following qualifications may become a citizen of the
Philippines by naturalization:

xxxxxxxxx

"Third. He must be of good moral character and believes in the principles underlying the Philippine Constitution, and must have conducted
himself in a proper and irreproachable manner during the entire period of his residence in the Philippines in his relation with the
constituted government as well as with the community in which he is living;

xxxxxxxxx

SEC. 7. Petition for citizenship. Any person desiring to acquire Philippine citizenship shall file with the competent court, a petition in triplicate,
accompanied by two photographs of the petitioner, setting forth his name and surname; his present and former places of residence; his
occupation; the place and date of his birth; whether single or married and if the father of children, the name, age, birthplace and residence of the
wife and of the children; x x x; a declaration that he has the qualifications required by this Act, specifying the same, and that he is not
disqualified for naturalization under the provisions of this Act; x x x. (Emphasis supplied)

The necessity of declaring a truthful and specific information on the "residence" and "moral character" in the petition for
naturalization has been underscored by this Court in Chua Kian Lai vs. Republic,[16] thus:

One qualification for Philippine citizenship is that the petitioner must be of good moral character. That circumstance should be specifically
alleged in the petition.

xxxxxxxxx

The law explicitly requires that the applicant should indicate in his petition his present and former places of residence (Sec. 7, Com. Act No.
473). That requirement is designed to facilitate the verification of petitioners activities which have a bearing on his petition for
naturalization, especially so as to his qualifications and moral character, either by private individuals or by investigative agencies of the
government, by pointing to them the localities or places wherein appropriate inquiries may be made (Keng Giok vs. Republic, 112 Phil.
896).Moreover, the suppression of that information might constitute falsehood which signifies that the applicant lacks good moral
character and is not, therefore, qualified to be admitted as a citizen of the Philippines. (Emphasis supplied)

Fully cognizant of the truth surrounding his moral character and residence, petitioner instead declared falsely in his verified
petition for naturalization that "he has all the qualifications and none of the disqualification under C.A. No. 473." [17] Clearly, he willfully
asserted falsehood under oath on material matters required by law.

We cannot go along with the submission of the petitioner and the Solicitor General that petitioner could no longer be
prosecuted for perjury in view of the withdrawal of the petition for naturalization containing his false material statements. In this
jurisdiction, it is not necessary that the proceeding in which the perjury is alleged to have been committed be first terminated before
a prosecution for the said crime is commenced.[18] At the time he filed his petition for naturalization, he had committed perjury. As
discussed earlier, all the elements of the crime were already present then. He knew all along that he wilfully stated material falsities
in his verified petition. Surprisingly, he withdrew his petition without even stating any reason therefor. [19] But such withdrawal only
terminated the proceedings for naturalization. It did not extinguish his culpability for perjury he already committed. Indeed,
the fact of withdrawal alone cannot bar the State from prosecuting petitioner, an alien, who made a mockery not only of the
Philippine naturalization law but the judicial proceedings as well. And the petition for naturalization tainted with material falsities can
be used as evidence of his unlawful act.

Petitioner then claims that since the petition for naturalization is a pleading, the allegations therein are absolutely privileged
and cannot be used for any criminal prosecution against him, citing Sison vs. David,[20] People vs. Aquino[21] and Flordelis vs.
Himalaloan.[22]

The argument is unavailing. Sison and Aquino both involve libel cases. In Sison, this Court categorically stressed that the
term "absolute privilege" (or "qualified privilege") has an "established technical meaning, in connection with civil actions for libel
and slander." The purpose of the privilege is to ensure that "members of the legislature, judges of courts, jurors, lawyers, and
witnesses may speak their minds freely and exercise their respective functions without incurring the risk of a criminal prosecution or
an action for the recovery of damages. It is granted in aid and for the advantage of the administration of justice." [23] Certainly,
in the present case, petitioner cannot seek refuge under the absolutely privileged communication rule since the false statements he
made in his petition for naturalization has instead made a mockery of the administration of justice.

The Flordelis case is likewise not in point. There, Flordelis was charged with perjury for having alleged false statements in his
verified answer. This Court held that no perjury could be committed by Flordelis because "an answer to a complaint in an ordinary
civil action need not be under oath," thus, "it is at once apparent that one element of the crime of perjury is absentx x x,
namely, that the sworn statement complained of must be required by law."[24]

Anent the alleged violation of petitioner's constitutional right to equal protection, suffice it to state that such right cannot be
invoked to protect his criminal act.

In People vs. Cainglet,[25] this Court emphatically stressed that "every interest of public policy demands that perjury be not
shielded by artificial refinements and narrow technicalities. For perjury strikes at the administration of the laws. It is the
policy of the law that judicial proceedings and judgments be fair and free from fraud, and that litigants and parties be
encouraged to tell the truth, and that they be punished if they do not."

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is hereby DENIED. The appealed Decision of the Court of Appeals
is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), Panganiban, Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,


G.R. Nos. 164368-69
Petitioner,

Present:

PUNO, C.J.,

QUISUMBING,
- versus -
YNARES-SANTIAGO,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,
JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA

and THE HONORABLE SPECIAL DIVISION OF THE


SANDIGANBAYAN, NACHURA,

Respondents. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION, and

PERALTA, JJ.

Promulgated:

April 2, 2009

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

DECISION

BRION, J.:

The People of the Philippines (the People) filed this Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] to seek the reversal

of the Sandiganbayans Joint Resolution dated July 12, 2004, granting respondent Joseph Ejercito Estradas (Estrada)

demurrer to evidence in Crim. Case No. 26565.[2]

THE FACTS
On April 4, 2001, an Information for plunder (docketed as Crim. Case No. 26558) was filed with the
Sandiganbayan against respondent Estrada, among other accused. A separate Information for illegal use of
alias, docketed as Crim. Case No. 26565, was likewise filed against Estrada. The Amended Information in Crim.
Case No. 26565 reads:

That on or about 04 February 2000, or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in the City
of Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, being then President of the Republic of the Philippines, without having been duly
authorized, judicially or administratively, taking advantage of his position and committing the
offense in relation to office, i.e., in order to CONCEAL THE ill-gotten wealth HE ACQUIRED during
his tenure and his true identity as THE President of the Republic of the Philippines, did then and
there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally REPRESENT HIMSELF AS JOSE VELARDE IN SEVERAL
TRANSACTIONS AND use and employ the SAID alias Jose Velarde which IS neither his registered
name at birth nor his baptismal name, in signing documents with Equitable PCI Bank and/or other
corporate entities.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Crim. Case Nos. 26565 and 26558 were subsequently consolidated for joint trial. Still another Information,
this time for perjury and docketed as Crim. Case No. 26905, was filed with the Sandiganbayan against
Estrada. This was later consolidated, too, with Crim. Cases No. 26558 and 26565.

Estrada was subsequently arrested on the basis of a warrant of arrest that the Sandiganbayan issued.

On January 11, 2005, we ordered the creation of a Special Division in the Sandiganbayan to try, hear, and
decide the charges of plunder and related cases (illegal use of alias and perjury) against respondent Estrada. [3]

At the trial, the People presented testimonial and documentary evidence to prove the allegations of the
Informations for plunder, illegal use of alias, and perjury. The Peoples evidence for the illegal alias charge, as
summarized by the Sandiganbayan, consisted of:

A. The testimonies of Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank (PCIB) officers Clarissa G. Ocampo (Ocampo)
and Atty. Manuel Curato (Curato) who commonly declared that on February 4, 2000, Estrada opened a
numbered trust account (Trust Account C-163) with PCIB and signed as Jose Velarde in the account opening
documents; both Ocampo and Curato also testified that Aprodicio Lacquian and Fernando Chua were
present on that occasion;

B. (1) The testimony of PCIB-Greenhills Branch Manager Teresa Barcelan, who declared that a certain Baby
Ortaliza (Ortaliza) transacted several times with her; that Ortaliza deposited several checks in PCIB
Savings Account No. 0160-62502-5 under the account name Jose Velarde on the following dates (as
evidenced by deposit receipts duly marked in evidence):

a. 20 October 1999 (Exh. MMMMM)

b. 8 November 1999 (Exh. LLLLL)

c. 22 November 1999 (Exh. NNNNN)

d. 24 November 1999 (Exh. OOOOO)

e. 25 November 1999 (Exh. PPPPP)

f. 20 December 1999 (Exh. QQQQQ)

g. 21 December 1999 (Exh. RRRRR)

h. 29 December 1999 (Exh. SSSSS)

i. 4 January 2000 (Exh. TTTTT)

j. 10 May 2000 (Exh. UUUUU)

k. 6 June 2000 (Exh. VVVVV)

l. 25 July 2000 (Exh. WWWWW)

(2) Documents duly identified by witnesses showing that Lucena Ortaliza was employed in the Office of the
Vice President and, later on, in the Office of the President when Estrada occupied these positions and when
deposits were made to the Jose Velarde Savings Account No. 0160-62502-5.

The People filed its Formal Offer of Exhibits in the consolidated cases, which the Sandiganbayan admitted
into evidence in a Resolution dated October 13, 2003.[4] The accused separately moved to reconsider the
Sandiganbayan Resolution;[5] the People, on the other hand, filed its Consolidated Comment/Opposition to the
motions.[6] The Sandiganbayan denied the motions in its Resolution dated November 17, 2003.[7]
After the People rested in all three cases, the defense moved to be allowed to file a demurrer to evidence
in these cases.[8] In its Joint Resolution dated March 10, 2004, [9] the Sandiganbayan only granted the defense leave
to file demurrers in Crim. Case Nos. 26565 (illegal use of alias) and 26905 (perjury).

Estrada filed separate Demurrers to Evidence for Crim. Case Nos. 26565 and 26905. [10] His demurrer to
evidence for Crim. Case No. 26565 (illegal use of alias) was anchored on the following grounds [11]:

1. Of the thirty-five (35) witnesses presented by the prosecution, only two (2) witnesses, Ms.
Clarissa Ocampo and Atty. Manuel Curato, testified that on one occasion (4 February 2000),
they saw movant use the name Jose Velarde;

2. The use of numbered accounts and the like was legal and was prohibited only in late 2001
as can be gleaned from Bangko Sentral Circular No. 302, series of 2001, dated 11 October
2001;

3. There is no proof of public and habitual use of alias as the documents offered by the
prosecution are banking documents which, by their nature, are confidential and cannot be
revealed without following proper procedures; and

4. The use of alias is absorbed in plunder.

The People opposed the demurrers through a Consolidated Opposition that presented the following
arguments:[12]

1. That the use of fictitious names in bank transaction was not expressly prohibited until BSP
No. 302 is of no moment considering that as early as Commonwealth Act No. 142, the use of
alias was already prohibited. Movant is being prosecuted for violation of C.A. No. 142 and not
BSP Circular No. 302;

2. Movants reliance on Ursua vs. Court of Appeals (256 SCRA 147 [1996]) is misplaced;

3. Assuming arguendo that C.A. No. 142, as amended, requires publication of the alias and
the habitual use thereof, the prosecution has presented more than sufficient evidence in this
regard to convict movant for illegal use of alias; and
4. Contrary to the submission of movant, the instant case of illegal use of alias is not
absorbed in plunder.

Estrada replied to the Consolidated Opposition through a Consolidated Reply Opposition.

THE ASSAILED SANDIGANBAYANS RULING

The Sandiganbayan issued on July 12, 2004 the Resolution now assailed in this petition. The salient points
of the assailed resolution are:

First the coverage of Estradas indictment. The Sandiganbayan found that the only relevant evidence for
the indictment are those relating to what is described in the Information i.e., the testimonies and documents on the
opening of Trust Account C-163 on February 4, 2000. The Sandiganbayan reasoned out that the use of the
disjunctive or between on or about 04 February 2000 and sometime prior or subsequent thereto means
that the act/s allegedly committed on February 4, 2000 could have actually taken place prior to or subsequent
thereto; the use of the conjunctive was simply the prosecutions procedural tool to guard against any variance
between the date stated in the Information and that proved during the trial in a situation in which time was not a
material ingredient of the offense; it does not mean and cannot be read as a roving commission that includes acts
and/or events separate and distinct from those that took place on the single date on or about 04 February 2000
or sometime prior or subsequent thereto. The Sandiganbayan ruled that the use of the disjunctive or prevented it
from interpreting the Information any other way.

Second the Peoples failure to present evidence that proved Estradas commission of the offense . The
Sandiganbayan found that the People failed to present evidence that Estrada committed the crime punished under
Commonwealth Act No. 142, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6085 (CA 142), as interpreted by the Supreme
Court in Ursua v. Court of Appeals.[13] It ruled that there is an illegal use of alias within the context of CA 142 only if
the use of the alias is public and habitual. In Estradas case, the Sandiganbayan noted, the application of the
principles was not as simple because of the complications resulting from the nature of the transaction involved the
alias was used in connection with the opening of a numbered trust account made during the effectivity of R.A. No.
1405, as amended,[14]and prior to the enactment of Republic R.A. No. 9160.[15]

Estrada did not publicly use the alias Jose Velarde:

a. Estradas use of the alias Jose Velarde in his dealings with Dichavez and Ortaliza after February
4, 2000 is not relevant in light of the conclusion that the acts imputed to Estrada under the Information were the
act/s committed on February 4, 2000 only. Additionally, the phrase, Estrada did represent himself as Jose Velarde in
several transactions, standing alone, violates Estradas right to be informed of the nature and the cause of the
accusation, because it is very general and vague. This phrase is qualified and explained by the succeeding phrase
and use and employ the said alias Jose Velarde which is neither his registered name at birth nor his baptismal
name, in signing documents with Equitable PCI Bank and/or other corporate entities. Thus, Estradas representations
before persons other than those mentioned in the Information are immaterial; Ortaliza and Dichavez do not fall
within the Equitable PCI Bank and/or other corporate entities specified in the Information. Estradas representations
with Ortaliza and Dichavez are not therefore covered by the indictment.

b. The Sandiganbayan rejected the application of the principle in the law of libel that mere
communication to a third person is publicity; it reasoned out that that the definition of publicity is not limited to the
way it is defined under the law on libel; additionally, the application of the libel law definition is onerous to the
accused and is precluded by the ruling in Ursua that CA No. 142, as a penal statute, should be construed strictly
against the State and favorably for the accused. It ruled that the definition under the law on libel, even if it applies,
considers a communication to a third person covered by the privileged communication rule to be non-
actionable. Estradas use of the alias in front of Ocampo and Curato is one such privileged communication under
R.A. No. 1405, as amended. The Sandiganbayan said:

Movants act of signing Jose Velarde in bank documents being absolutely confidential, the
witnessing thereof by bank officers who were likewise sworn to secrecy by the same law cannot
be considered as public as to fall within the ambit of CA 142 as amended. On account of the
absolute confidentiality of the transaction, it cannot be said that movant intended to
be known by this name in addition to his real name. Confidentiality and secrecy negate
publicity. Ursua instructs:

Hence, the use of a fictitious name or a different name belonging to


another person in a single instance without any sign or indication that the
user intends to be known by this name in addition to his real name from that
day forth does not fall within the prohibition in C.A. No. 142 as amended.

c. The Sandiganbayan further found that the intention not to be publicly known by the name
Jose Velarde is shown by the nature of a numbered account a perfectly valid banking transaction at the time Trust
Account C-163 was opened. The opening, too, of a numbered trust account, the Sandiganbayan further ruled, did
not impose on Estrada the obligation to disclose his real identity the obligation R.A. No. 6713 imposes is to file
under oath a statement of assets and liabilities. [16] Reading CA No. 142, R.A. No. 1405 and R.A. No. 6713 together,
Estrada had the absolute obligation to disclose his assets including the amount of his bank deposits, but he was
under no obligation at all to disclose the other particulars of the bank account (such as the name he used to open
it).

Third the effect of the enactment of R.A. No. 9160.[17] The Sandiganbayan said that the absolute
prohibition in R.A. No. 9160 against the use of anonymous accounts, accounts under fictitious names, and all other
similar accounts, is a legislative acknowledgment that a gaping hole previously existed in our laws that allowed
depositors to hide their true identities. The Sandiganbayan noted that the prohibition was lifted from Bangko Sentral
ng Pilipinas (BSP) Circular No. 251 dated July 7, 2000 another confirmation that the opening of a numbered trust
account was perfectly legal when it was opened on February 4, 2000.

The Sandiganbayan ruled that the provisions of CA No. 142, as interpreted in Ursua, must necessarily be
harmonized with the provisions of R.A. No.1405 and R.A. No. 9160 under the principle that every statute should be
construed in a way that will harmonize it with existing laws. A reasonable scrutiny, the Sandiganbayan said, of all
these laws in relation to the present case, led it to conclude that the use of an alias within the context of a bank
transaction (specifically, the opening of a numbered account made before bank officers) is protected by the secrecy
provisions of R.A. No. 1405, and is thus outside the coverage of CA No. 142 until the passage into law of R.A. No.
9160.

THE PETITION

The People filed this petition raising the following issues:

1. Whether the court a quo gravely erred and abused its discretion in dismissing Crim. Case No.
26565 and in holding that the use by respondent Joseph Estrada of his alias Jose Velarde was
not public despite the presence of Messrs. Aprodicio Laquian and Fernando Chua on 4
February 2000;

2. Whether the court a quo gravely erred and abused its discretion in dismissing Crim. Case No.
26565 and in holding that the use by respondent Joseph Estrada of his alias Jose Velarde was
allowable under banking rules, despite the clear prohibition under Commonwealth Act No.
142;

3. Whether the court a quo gravely erred and abused its discretion in dismissing Crim. Case No.
26565 and in applying R.A. No. 1405 as an exception to the illegal use of alias punishable
under Commonwealth Act No. 142;

4. Whether the alleged harmonization and application made by the court a quo of R.A. No.1405
and Commonwealth Act No. 142 were proper;

5. Whether the court a quo gravely erred and abused its discretion in limiting the coverage of
the amended Information in Crim. Case No. 26565 to the use of the alias Jose Velarde by
respondent Joseph Estrada on February 4, 2000;
6. Whether the court a quo gravely erred and abused its discretion in departing from its earlier
final finding on the non-applicability of Ursua v. Court of Appeals and forcing its application to
the instant case.

THE COURTS RULING

The petition has no merit.

The Law on Illegal Use of Alias and the Ursua Ruling

Sections 1 and 2 of CA No. 142, as amended, read:


Section 1. Except as a pseudonym solely for literary, cinema, television, radio or other

entertainment purposes and in athletic events where the use of pseudonym is a normally

accepted practice, no person shall use any name different from the one with which he was

registered at birth in the office of the local civil registry or with which he was baptized for the first

time, or in case of an alien, with which he was registered in the bureau of immigration upon entry;

or such substitute name as may have been authorized by a competent court: Provided, That

persons whose births have not been registered in any local civil registry and who have not been

baptized, have one year from the approval of this act within which to register their names in the

civil registry of their residence. The name shall comprise the patronymic name and one or two

surnames.

Section 2. Any person desiring to use an alias shall apply for authority therefor in

proceedings like those legally provided to obtain judicial authority for a change of name and no

person shall be allowed to secure such judicial authority for more than one alias. The petition for

an alias shall set forth the person's baptismal and family name and the name recorded in the civil

registry, if different, his immigrant's name, if an alien, and his pseudonym, if he has such names

other than his original or real name, specifying the reason or reasons for the desired alias. The

judicial authority for the use of alias, the Christian name and the alien immigrant's name shall be

recorded in the proper local civil registry, and no person shall use any name or names other than

his original or real name unless the same is or are duly recorded in the proper local civil registry.
How this law is violated has been answered by the Ursua definition of an alias a name or names used
by a person or intended to be used by him publicly and habitually usually in business transactions in addition
to his real name by which he is registered at birth or baptized the first time or substitute name authorized by a
competent authority. There must be, in the words of Ursua, a sign or indication that the user intends to be
known by this name (the alias) in addition to his real name from that day forth [for the use of alias to] fall
within the prohibition contained in C.A. No. 142 as amended.[18]

Ursua further relates the historical background and rationale that led to the enactment of CA No. 142,
as follows:

The enactment of C.A. No. 142 was made primarily to curb the common practice among

the Chinese of adopting scores of different names and aliases which created tremendous

confusion in the field of trade. Such a practice almost bordered on the crime of using fictitious

names which for obvious reasons could not be successfully maintained against the Chinese who,

rightly or wrongly, claimed they possessed a thousand and one names. C.A. No. 142 thus

penalized the act of using an alias name, unless such alias was duly authorized by proper judicial

proceedings and recorded in the civil register. [19]

Following the doctrine of stare decisis,[20] we are guided by the Ursua ruling on how the crime
punished under CA No. 142 may be committed. Close adherence to this ruling, in other words, is unavoidable in
the application of and the determination of criminal liability under CA No. 142.

Among the many grounds the People invokes to avoid the application of the Ursua ruling proceeds
from Estradas position in the government; at the time of the commission of the offense, he was the President of
the Republic who is required by law to disclose his true name. We do not find this argument sufficient to justify
a distinction between a man on the street, on one hand, and the President of the Republic, on the other, for
purposes of applying CA No. 142. In the first place, the law does not make any distinction, expressly or
impliedly, that would justify a differential treatment. CA No. 142 as applied to Estrada, in fact allows him to use
his cinema or screen name of Joseph Estrada, which name he has used even when he was already the
President of the Philippines. Even the petitioner has acquiesced to the use of the screen name of the accused,
as shown by the title of the present petition. Additionally, any distinction we make based on the Peoples claim
unduly prejudices Estrada; this is proscribed by the Ursua dictum that CA No. 142, as a penal statute, should be
construed strictly against the State and in favor of the accused. [21] The mode of violating CA No. 142 is
therefore the same whoever the accused may be.

The People also calls our attention to an earlier Sandiganbayan ruling (Resolution dated February 6,
2002) denying Estradas motion to quash the Information. This earlier Resolution effectively rejected the
application of Ursua under the following tenor:
The use of the term alias in the Amended Information in itself serves to bring this case

outside the ambit of the ruling in the case of Ursua v. Court of Appeals (256 SCRA 147 [1996]), on

which the accused heavily relies in his motion to quash.The term alias means otherwise known as

(Webster Third New International Dictionary, 1993 ed., p. 53). The charge of using an alias

logically implies that another name has been used publicly and habitually. Otherwise, he will not

be known by such name. In any case, the amended information adverts to several transactions

and signing of documents with the Equitable PCI Bank and/or other corporate entities where the

above-mentioned alias was allegedly employed by the accused.

The facts alleged in the information are distinctly different from facts established in the

Ursua case where another name was used by the accused in a single instance without any sign or

indication that that [sic] he intended to be known from that day by this name in addition to his

real name.[22]

The People argues that the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in applying Ursua notwithstanding this
earlier final ruling on its non-applicability a ruling that binds the parties in the present case. The People thus
claims that the Sandiganbayan erred to the point of gravely abusing its discretion when it resurrected the
application of Ursua, resulting in the reversal of its earlier final ruling.

We find no merit in this argument for two reasons. First, the cited Sandiganbayan resolution is a mere
interlocutory order a ruling denying a motion to quash [23] that cannot be given the attributes of finality and
immutability that are generally accorded to judgments or orders that finally dispose of the whole, of or
particular matters in, a case.[24] The Sandiganbayan resolution is a mere interlocutory order because its effects
would only be provisional in character, and would still require the issuing court to undertake substantial
proceedings in order to put the controversy to rest.[25] It is basic remedial law that an interlocutory order is
always under the control of the court and may be modified or rescinded upon sufficient grounds shown at any
time before final judgment.[26] Perez v. Court of Appeals,[27] albeit a civil case, instructively teaches that an
interlocutory order carries no res adjudicata effects. Says Perez:

The Decision in CA-G.R. No. 10415 having resolved only an interlocutory matter, the
principle of res judicata cannot be applied in this case. There can be no res judicata where
the previous order in question was not an order or judgment determinative of an issue
of fact pending before the court but was only an interlocutory order because it
required the parties to perform certain acts for final adjudication. In this case, the lifting
of the restraining order paved the way for the possession of the fishpond on the part of petitioners
and/or their representatives pending the resolution of the main action for injunction. In other
words, the main issue of whether or not private respondent may be considered a sublessee or a
transferee of the lease entitled to possess the fishpond under the circumstances of the case had
yet to be resolved when the restraining order was lifted.[28]
Second, in the earlier motion to quash, the Sandiganbayan solely looked at the allegations of the Information to
determine the sufficiency of these allegations and did not consider any evidence aliunde. This is far different
from the present demurrer to evidence where the Sandiganbayan had a fuller view of the prosecutions case,
and was faced with the issue of whether the prosecutions evidence was sufficient to prove the allegations of
the Information. Under these differing views, the Sandiganbayan may arrive at a different conclusion on the
application of Ursua, the leading case in the application of CA 142, and the change in ruling is not per
se indicative of grave abuse of discretion. That there is no error of law is strengthened by our consideration of
the Sandiganbayan ruling on the application of Ursua.

In an exercise of caution given Ursuas jurisprudential binding effect, the People also argues in its
petition that Estradas case is different from Ursuas for the following reasons: (1) respondent Estrada used and
intended to continually use the alias Jose Velarde in addition to the name Joseph Estrada; (2) Estradas use of
the alias was not isolated or limited to a single transaction; and (3) the use of the alias Jose Velarde was
designed to cause and did cause confusion and fraud in business transactions which the anti-alias law and its
related statutes seek to prevent. The People also argues that the evidence it presented more than satisfied the
requirements of CA No. 142, as amended, and Ursua, as it was also shown or established that Estradas use of
the alias was public.

In light of our above conclusions and based on the parties expressed positions, we shall now examine within
the Ursua framework the assailed Sandiganbayan Resolution granting the demurrer to evidence. The
prosecution has the burden of proof to show that the evidence it presented with the Sandiganbayan satisfied
the Ursua requirements, particularly on the matter of publicity and habituality in the use of an alias.

What is the coverage of the indictment?

The People argues that the Sandiganbayan gravely erred and abused its discretion in limiting the
coverage of the amended Information in Crim. Case No. 26565 to Estradas use of the alias Jose Velarde on
February 4, 2000. It posits that there was a main transaction one that took place on February 4, 2000 but there
were other transactions covered by the phrase prior to or subsequent thereto; the Information specifically
referred to several transactions with Equitable PCI Bank and/or other corporate entities. To the People, the
restrictive finding that the phrase prior to or subsequent thereto is absorbed by the phrase on or about 04
February 2000 drastically amends the succeeding main allegations on the constitutive criminal acts by
removing the plurality of both the transactions involved and the documents signed with various entities; there
is the undeniable essential relationship between the allegations of the multiplicity of transactions, on one hand,
and the additional antecedent of prior to or subsequent thereto, on the other. It argues that the Sandiganbayan
reduced the phrase prior to or subsequent thereto into a useless appendage, providing Estrada with a
convenient and totally unwarranted escape route.

The People further argues that the allegation of time is the least exacting in satisfying the
constitutional requirement that the accused has to be informed of the accusation against him. Section 6 of Rule
110 of the Revised Rules of Court provides that an allegation of the approximate date of the commission of the
offense will suffice, while Section 11 of the same Rule provides that it is not necessary to state in the complaint
or information the precise date the offense was committed except when it is a material ingredient of the
crime. This liberality allegedly shaped the time-tested rule that when the time given in the complaint is not of
the essence of the offense, the time of the commission of the offense does not need to be proven as alleged,
and that the complaint will be sustained if the proof shows that the offense was committed at any time within
the period of the statute of limitations and before the commencement of the action (citing People v.
Bugayong [299 SCRA 528, 537] that in turn cited US v. Smith [3 Phil. 20, 22]). Since allegations of date of the
commission of an offense are liberally interpreted, the People posits that the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its
discretion in disregarding the additional clause prior to or subsequent thereto; under the liberality principle, the
allegations of the acts constitutive of the offense finally determine the sufficiency of the allegations of
time. The People thus claims that no surprise could have taken place that would prevent Estrada from properly
defending himself; the information fully notified him that he was being accused of using the alias Jose Velarde
in more than just one instance.

We see no merit in these arguments.

At its core, the issue is constitutional in nature the right of Estrada to be informed of the nature and
cause of the accusation against him. Under the provisions of the Rules of Court implementing this constitutional
right, a complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the offense
given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense in the name of the
offended party; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was
committed.[29] As to the cause of accusation, the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense
and the qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not
necessarily in the language used in the statute, but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common
understanding to know the offense charged and the qualifying and aggravating circumstances,
and for the court to pronounce judgment.[30] The date of the commission of the offense need not be
precisely stated in the complaint or information except when the precise date is a material ingredient of the
offense. The offense may be alleged to have been committed on a date as near as possible to the actual date
of its commission.[31]

The information must at all times embody the essential elements of the crime charged by setting forth
the facts and circumstances that bear on the culpability and liability of the accused so that he can properly
prepare for and undertake his defense.[32] In short, the allegations in the complaint or information, as written,
must fully inform or acquaint the accused the primary reader of and the party directly affected by the
complaint or information of the charge/s laid.

The heretofore cited Information states that on or about 04 February 2000, or sometime prior or
subsequent thereto, in the City of Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused [did] willfully, unlawfully and criminally REPRESENT HIMSELF AS
JOSE VELARDE IN SEVERAL TRANSACTIONS AND use and employ the SAID alias Jose Velarde which
IS neither his registered name at birth nor his baptismal name, in signing documents with
Equitable PCI Bank and/or other corporate entities.
We fully agree with the disputed Sandiganbayans reading of the Information, as this was how the
accused might have similarly read and understood the allegations in the Information and, on this basis,
prepared his defense. Broken down into its component parts, the allegation of time in the Information plainly
states that (1) ON February 4, 2000; (2)OR before February 4, 2000; (3) OR sometime prior or subsequent to
February 4, 2000, in the City of Manila, Estrada represented himself as Jose Velarde in several transactions in
signing documents with Equitable PCI Bank and/or other corporate entities.

Under this analysis, the several transactions involving the signing of documents with Equitable PCI
Bank and/or other corporate entities all had their reference to February 4, 2000; they were all made on or
about or prior or subsequent to that date, thus plainly implying that all these transactions took place only on
February 4, 2000 or on another single date sometime before or after February 4, 2000. To be sure, the
Information could have simply said on or about February 4, 2000 to capture all the alternative approximate
dates, so that the phrase sometime prior or subsequent thereto would effectively be a surplusage that has no
meaning separately from the on or about already expressed. This consequent uselessness of the prior or
subsequent thereto phrase cannot be denied, but it is a direct and necessary consequence of the use of the OR
between the two phrases and the THERETO that referred back to February 4, 2000 in the second phrase. Of
course, the reading would have been very different (and would have been clearly in accord with the Peoples
present interpretation) had the Information simply used AND instead of OR to separate the phrases; the intent
to refer to various transactions occurring on various dates and occasions all proximate to February 4,
2000 could not be disputed.Unfortunately for the People, the imprecision in the use of OR is the reality the
case has to live with. To act contrary to this reality would violate Estradas right to be informed of the nature
and cause of accusation against him; the multiple transactions on several separate days that the People claims
would result in surprise and denial of an opportunity to prepare for Estrada, who has a right to rely on the
single day mentioned in the Information.

Separately from the constitutional dimension of the allegation of time in the Information, another issue
that the allegation of time and our above conclusion raise relates to what act or acts, constituting a violation of
the offense charged, were actually alleged in the Information.

The conclusion we arrived at necessarily impacts on the Peoples case, as it deals a fatal blow on the
Peoples claim that Estrada habitually used the Jose Velarde alias. For, to our mind, the repeated use of an alias
within a single day cannot be deemed habitual, as it does not amount to a customary practice or use. This
reason alone dictates the dismissal of the petition under CA No. 142 and the terms of Ursua.
The issues of publicity, numbered accounts, and

the application of CA No. 142, R.A. No. 1405,

and R.A. No. 9160.

We shall jointly discuss these interrelated issues.


The People claims that even on the assumption that Ocampo and Curato are bank officers sworn to
secrecy under the law, the presence of two other persons who are not bank officers Aprodicio Laquian and
Fernando Chua when Estradas signed the bank documents as Jose Velarde amounted to a public use of an alias
that violates CA No. 142.

On the issue of numbered accounts, the People argues that to premise the validity of Estradas
prosecution for violation of CA No. 142 on a mere banking practice is gravely erroneous, improper, and
constitutes grave abuse of discretion; no banking law provision allowing the use of aliases in the opening of
bank accounts existed; at most, it was allowed by mere convention or industry practice, but not by a statute
enacted by the legislature. Additionally, that Estradas prosecution was supposedly based on BSP Circular No.
302 dated October 11, 2001 is wrong and misleading, as Estrada stands charged with violation of CA No. 142,
penalized since 1936, and not with a violation of a mere BSP Circular. That the use of alias in bank transactions
prior to BSP Circular No. 302 is allowed is inconsequential because as early as CA No. 142, the use of an alias
(except for certain purposes which do not include banking) was already prohibited. Nothing in CA No. 142
exempted the use of aliases in banking transactions, since the law did not distinguish or limit its application; it
was therefore grave error for the Sandiganbayan to have done so. Lastly on this point, bank regulations being
mere issuances cannot amend, modify or prevail over the effective, subsisting and enforceable provision of CA
No. 142.
On the issue of the applicability of R.A. No. 1405 and its relationship with CA No. 142, that since
nothing in CA No. 142 excuses the use of an alias, the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion when it
ruled that R.A. No. 1405 is an exception to CA No. 142s coverage. Harmonization of laws, the People posits, is
allowed only if the laws intended to be harmonized refer to the same subject matter, or are at least related with
one another. The three laws which the Sandiganbayan tried to harmonize are not remotely related to one
another; they each deal with a different subject matter, prohibits a different act, governs a different conduct,
and covers a different class of persons, [33] and there was no need to force their application to one
another. Harmonization of laws, the People adds, presupposes the existence of conflict or incongruence
between or among the provisions of various laws, a situation not obtaining in the present case.

The People posits, too, that R.A. No. 1405 does not apply to trust transactions, such as Trust Account
No. C-163, as it applies only to traditional deposits (simple loans). A trust account, according to the People, may
not be considered a deposit because it does not create the juridical relation of creditor and debtor; trust and
deposit operations are treated separately and are different in legal contemplation; trust operation is separate
and distinct from banking and requires a grant of separate authority, and trust funds are not covered by
deposit insurance under the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation law (R.A. No. 3591, as amended).

The People further argues that the Sandiganbayans conclusion that the transaction or communication
was privileged in nature was erroneous a congruent interpretation of CA No. 142 and R.A. No. 1405 shows that
a person who signs in a public or private transaction a name or alias, other than his original name or the alias
he is authorized to use, shall be held liable for violation of CA No. 142, while the bank employees are bound by
the confidentiality of bank transactions except in the circumstances enumerated in R.A. No. 1405. At most, the
People argues, the prohibition in R.A. No. 1405 covers bank employees and officers only, and not Estrada; the
law does not prohibit Estrada from disclosing and making public his use of an alias to other people, including
Ocampo and Curato, as he did when he made a public exhibit and use of the alias before Messrs. Lacquian and
Chua.

Finally, the People argues that the Sandiganbayan ruling that the use of an alias before bank officers
does not violate CA No. 142 effectively encourages the commission of wrongdoing and the concealment of ill-
gotten wealth under pseudonyms; it sustains an anomalous and prejudicial policy that uses the law to silence
bank officials and employees from reporting the commission of crimes. The People contends that the law R.A.
No. 1405 was not intended by the Legislature to be used as a subterfuge or camouflage for the commission of
crimes and cannot be so interpreted; the law can only be interpreted, understood and applied so that right and
justice would prevail.

We see no merit in these arguments.

We agree, albeit for a different reason, with the Sandiganbayan position that the rule in the law of
libel that mere communication to a third person is publicity does not apply to violations of CA No. 142. Our
close reading of Ursua particularly, the requirement that there be intention by the user to be culpable and the
historical reasons we cited abovetells us that the required publicity in the use of alias is more than mere
communication to a third person; the use of the alias, to be considered public, must be made openly, or in an
open manner or place, or to cause it to become generally known. In order to be held liable for a violation of CA
No. 142, the user of the alias must have held himself out as a person who shall publicly be known under that
other name. In other words, the intent to publicly use the alias must be manifest.

To our mind, the presence of Lacquian and Chua when Estrada signed as Jose Velarde and opened
Trust Account No. C-163 does not necessarily indicate his intention to be publicly known henceforth as Jose
Velarde. In relation to Estrada, Lacquian and Chua were not part of the public who had no access to Estradas
privacy and to the confidential matters that transpired in Malacaan where he sat as President; Lacquian was
the Chief of Staff with whom he shared matters of the highest and strictest confidence, while Chua was a
lawyer-friend bound by his oath of office and ties of friendship to keep and maintain the privacy and secrecy of
his affairs. Thus, Estrada could not be said to have intended his signing as Jose Velarde to be for public
consumption by the fact alone that Lacquian and Chua were also inside the room at that time. The same holds
true for Estradas alleged representations with Ortaliza and Dichavez, assuming the evidence for these
representations to be admissible. All of Estradas representations to these people were made in privacy and in
secrecy, with no iota of intention of publicity.

The nature, too, of the transaction on which the indictment rests, affords Estrada a reasonable
expectation of privacy, as the alleged criminal act related to the opening of a trust account a transaction that
R.A. No. 1405 considers absolutely confidential in nature. [34] We previously rejected, in Ejercito v.
Sandiganbayan,[35] the Peoples nitpicking argument on the alleged dichotomy between bank deposits and trust
transactions, when we said:

The contention that trust accounts are not covered by the term deposits, as used in

R.A. 1405, by the mere fact that they do not entail a creditor-debtor relationship between the
trustor and the bank, does not lie. An examination of the law shows that the term deposits used

therein is to be understood broadly and not limited only to accounts which give rise to a creditor-

debtor relationship between the depositor and the bank.

The policy behind the law is laid down in Section 1:

SECTION 1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Government to give


encouragement to the people to deposit their money in banking institutions and to
discourage private hoarding so that the same may be properly utilized by banks in
authorized loans to assist in the economic development of the country. (Underscoring
supplied)

If the money deposited under an account may be used by bank for authorized loans to
third persons, then such account, regardless of whether it creates a creditor-debtor relationship
between the depositor and the bank, falls under the category of accounts which the law precisely
seeks to protect for the purpose of boosting the economic development of the country.

Trust Account No. 858 is, without doubt, one such account. The Trust Agreement between
petitioner and Urban Bankprovides that the trust account covers deposit, placement or
investment of funds by Urban Bank for and in behalf of petitioner.The money deposited under
Trust Account No. 858, was, therefore, intended not merely to remain with the bank but to be
invested by it elsewhere. To hold that this type of account is not protected by R.A. 1405 would
encourage private hoarding of funds that could otherwise be invested by bank in other ventures,
contrary to the policy behind the law.

Section 2 of the same law in fact even more clearly shows that the term deposits was
intended to be understood broadly:

SECTION 2. All deposits of whatever nature with bank or banking institutions in the
Philippines including investments in bonds issued by the Government of the Philippines, its
political subdivisions and its instrumentalities, are hereby considered as of an absolutely
confidential nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person,
government official, bureau or office, except upon written permission of the depositor, or in
cases of impeachment, or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or
dereliction of duty of public officials, or in cases where the money deposited or
invested is the subject matter of the litigation. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The phrase of whatever nature proscribes any restrictive interpretation


of deposits. Moreover, it is clear from the immediately quoted provision that, generally, the law
applies not only to money which is deposited but also to those which are invested. This further
shows that the law was not intended to apply only to deposits in the strict sense of the
word. Otherwise, there would have been no need to add the phrase or invested.
Clearly, therefore, R.A. 1405 is broad enough to cover Trust Account No. 858.[36]

We have consistently ruled that bank deposits under R.A. No. 1405 (the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law)
are statutorily protected or recognized zones of privacy. [37] Given the private nature of Estradas act of signing
the documents as Jose Velarde related to the opening of the trust account, the People cannot claim that there
was already a public use of alias when Ocampo and Curato witnessed the signing. We need not even consider
here the impact of the obligations imposed by R.A. No.1405 on the bank officers; what is essentially significant
is the privacy situation that is necessarily implied in these kinds of transactions. This statutorily guaranteed
privacy and secrecy effectively negate a conclusion that the transaction was done publicly or with the intent to
use the alias publicly.

The enactment of R.A. No.9160, on the other hand, is a significant development only because it clearly
manifests that prior to its enactment, numbered accounts or anonymous accounts were permitted banking
transactions, whether they be allowed by law or by a mere banking regulation. To be sure, an indictment
against Estrada using this relatively recent law cannot be maintained without violating the constitutional
prohibition on the enactment and use of ex post facto laws.[38]

We hasten to add that this holistic application and interpretation of these various laws is not an
attempt to harmonize these laws. A finding of commission of the offense punished under CA No. 142 must
necessarily rest on the evidence of the requisites for culpability, as amplified in Ursua. The application of R.A.
No. 1405 is significant only because Estradas use of the alias was pursuant to a transaction that the law
considers private or, at the very least, where the law guarantees a reasonable expectation of privacy to the
parties to the transactions; it is at this point that R.A. No. 1405 tangentially interfaces with an indictment under
CA 142. In this light, there is no actual frontal clash between CA No. 142 and R.A. No. 1405 that requires
harmonization. Each operates within its own sphere, but must necessarily be read together when these spheres
interface with one another. Finally, R.A. No. 9160, as a law of recent vintage in relation to the indictment
against Estrada, cannot be a source or an influencing factor in his indictment.

In finding the absence of the requisite publicity, we simply looked at the totality of the circumstances
obtaining in Estradas use of the alias Jose Velarde vis--vis the Ursua requisites. We do not decide here whether
Estradas use of an alias when he occupied the highest executive position in the land was valid and legal; we
simply determined, as the Sandiganbayan did, whether he may be made liable for the offense charged based
on the evidence the People presented. As with any other accused, his guilt must be based on the evidence and
proof beyond reasonable doubt that a finding of criminal liability requires. If the People fails to discharge this
burden, as they did fail in this case, the rule of law requires that we so declare. We do so now in this review and
accordingly find no reversible error of law in the assailed Sandiganbayan ruling.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the petition for lack of merit.


SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONILA BATULANON, G.R. No. 139857

Petitioner,

Present:

Panganiban, C.J. (Chairperson),

- versus - Ynares-Santiago,

Austria-Martinez,

Callejo, Sr., and

Chico-Nazario, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Respondent. Promulgated:

September 15, 2006

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

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition assails the October 30, 1998 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 15221,

affirming with modification the April 15, 1993 Decision [2] of the Regional Trial Court of General Santos City, Branch

22 in Criminal Case Nos. 3453, 3625, 3626 and 3627, convicting Leonila Batulanon of estafa through falsification of

commercial documents, and the July 29, 1999 Resolution [3] denying the motion for reconsideration.

Complainant Polomolok Credit Cooperative Incorporated (PCCI) employed Batulanon as its

Cashier/Manager from May 1980 up to December 22, 1982. She was in charge of receiving deposits from and

releasing loans to the member of the cooperative.

During an audit conducted in December 1982, certain irregularities concerning the release of loans were

discovered.[4]

Thereafter, four informations for estafa thru falsification of commercial documents were filed against

Batulanon, to wit:

Criminal Case No. 3625

That on or about the 2nd day of June, 1982 at Poblacion Municipality of Polomolok,
Province of South Cotabato, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court said
accused being then the manager-cashier of Polomolok Credit Cooperative, Inc., (PCCI), entrusted
with the duty of managing the aff[a]irs of the cooperative, receiving payments to, and collections
of, the same, and paying out loans to members, taking advantage of her position and with intent
to prejudice and defraud the cooperative, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
falsify a commercial document, namely: Cash/Check Voucher No. 30-A of PCCI in the name of
Erlinda Omadlao by then and there making an entry therein that the said Erlinda Omadlao was
granted a loan of P4,160, Philippine Currency, and by signing on the appropriate line thereon the
signature of Erlinda Omadlao showing that she received the loan, thus making it appear that the
said Erlinda Omadlao was granted a loan and received the amount of P4,160 when in truth and in
fact the said person was never granted a loan, never received the same, and never signed the
cash/check voucher issued in her name, and in furtherance of her criminal intent and fraudulent
design to defraud PCCI said accused did then and there release to herself the same and received
the loan of P4,160 and thereafter misappropriate and convert to her own use and benefit the said
amount, and despite demands, refused and still refuses to restitute the same, to the damage and
prejudice of PCCI, in the aforementioned amount of P4,160, Philippine Currency. [5]

Criminal Case No. 3626


That on or about the 24th day of September, 1982 at Poblacion, Municipality of
Polomolok, Province of South Cotabato, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable
Court, said accused being then the manager-cashier of Polomolok Credit Cooperative, Inc. (PCCI),
entrusted with the duty of managing the affairs of the cooperative, receiving payments to, and
collections of, the same, and paying out loans to members taking advantage of her position and
with intent to prejudice and defraud the cooperative, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously falsify a commercial document, namely: Cash/Check Voucher No. 237 A of PCCI in the
name of Gonafreda Oracion by then and there making an entry therein that the said Gonafreda
Oracion was granted a loan of P4,000.00 and by signals on the appropriate line thereon the
signature of Gonafreda Oracion showing that she received the loan, thus making it appear that
the said Gonafreda Oracion was granted a loan, received the loan of P4,000.00 when in truth and
in fact said person was never granted a loan, never received the same, and never signed the
Cash/Check voucher issued in her name, and in furtherance of her criminal intent and fraudulent
design to defraud PCCI said accused did then and there release to herself the same and received
the amount of P4,000.00 and thereafter misappropriate and convert to her own use and benefit
the said amount, and despite demands, refused and still refuses to restitute the same, to the
damage and prejudice of PCCI, in the aforementioned amount of P4,000, Philippine Currency.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[6]

Criminal Case No. 3453

That on or about the 10th day of October 1982 at Poblacion, Municipality of Polomolok,
Province of South Cotabato, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the
said accused being then the manager-cashier of Polomolok Credit Cooperative, Inc., (PCCI),
entrusted with the duty of managing the affairs of the cooperative, receiving payments to, and
collection of the same and paying out loans to members, taking advantage of her position and
with intent to prejudice and defraud the cooperative, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously falsify a commercial document, namely: an Individual Deposits and Loan Ledger of one
Ferlyn Arroyo with the PCCI by then and there entering on the appropriate column of the ledger
the entry that the said Ferlyn Arroyo had a fixed deposit of P1,000.00 with the PCCI and was
granted a loan in the amount of P3,500.00, thus making it appear that the said person made a
fixed deposit on the aforesaid date with, and was granted a loan by the PCCI when in truth and in
fact Ferlyn Arroyo never made such a deposit and was never granted loan and after the document
was so falsified in the manner set forth, said accused did then and there again falsify the
Cash/Check Voucher of the PCCI in the name of Ferlyn Arroyo by signing therein the signature of
Ferlyn Arroyo, thus making it appear that the said Ferlyn Arroyo received the loan of P3,500,
Philippine Currency, when in truth and in fact said Ferlyn Arroyo never received the loan, and in
furtherance of her criminal intent and fraudulent design to defraud PCCI said accused did then
and there release to herself the same, and received the amount of P3,500, and thereafter, did
then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously misappropriate and convert to her own
personal use and benefit the said amount, and despite demands, refused and still refuses to
restitute the same, to the damage and prejudice of the PCCI in the aforementioned amount of
P3,500, Philippine Currency.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[7]
Criminal Case No. 3627

That on or about the 7th day of December, 1982 at Poblacion, Municipality of Polomolok,
Province of South Cotabato, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the
said accused being then the manager-cashier of Polomolok Credit Cooperative, Inc., (PCCI)
entrusted with the duty of managing the affairs of the cooperative, receiving payments to, and
collection of, the same and paying out loans to members, taking advantage of her position and
with intent to prejudice and defraud the cooperative, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously falsify a commercial document, namely: an Individual Deposits and Loan Ledger of one
Dennis Batulanon with the PCCI by then and there entering on the appropriate column of the
ledger the entry that the said Dennis Batulanon had a fixed deposit of P2,000.00 with the PCCI
and was granted a loan in the amount of P5,000.00 thus making it appear that the said person
made fixed deposit on the aforesaid date with, and was granted a loan by the PCCI when in truth
and in fact Dennis Batulanon never made such a deposit and was never granted loan and offer
the document was so falsified in the manner set forth, said accused did then and there again
falsify the Cash/Check Voucher No. 374 A of PCCI in the name of Dennis Batulanon by signing
therein the signature of Dennis Batulanon, thus making it appear that the said Dennis Batulanon
received the loan of P5,000.00 when in truth and in fact said Dennis Batulanon never received the
loan and in furtherance of her criminal intent and fraudulent design to defraud PCCI said accused
did then and there release to herself the same and receive the loan of P5,000, and thereafter, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously misappropriate and convert to her own
personal use and benefit the said amount, and [despite] demands, refused and still refuses to
restitute the same to the damage and prejudice of the PCCI in the aforementioned amount of
P5,000, Philippine Currency.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[8]

The cases were raffled to Branch 22 of the Regional Trial Court of General Santos City and docketed as

Criminal Case Nos. 3453, 3625, 3626 and 3627.

Batulanon pleaded not guilty to the charges, afterwhich a joint trial on the merits ensued.

The prosecution presented Maria Theresa Medallo, Benedicto Gopio, Jr., and Bonifacio Jayoma as witnesses.

Medallo, the posting clerk whose job was to assist Batulanon in the preparation of cash vouchers [9] testified

that on certain dates in 1982, Batulanon released four Cash Vouchers representing varying amounts to four
different individuals as follows: On June 2, 1982, Cash Voucher No. 30A [10] for P4,160.00 was released to Erlinda

Omadlao; on September 24, 1982, Cash Voucher No. 237A [11] for P4,000.00 was released to Gonafreda [12] Oracion;

P3, 500.00 thru Cash Voucher No. 276A [13] was released to Ferlyn Arroyo on October 16, 1982 and on December 7,

1982, P5,000.00 was released to Dennis Batulanon thru Cash Voucher No. 374A. [14]

Medallo testified that Omadlao, Oracion, and Dennis Batulanon were not eligible to apply for loan because

they were not bona fide members of the cooperative. [15] Ferlyn Arroyo on the other hand, was a member of the

cooperative but there was no proof that she applied for a loan with PCCI in 1982. She subsequently withdrew her

membership in 1983.[16] Medallo stated that pursuant to the cooperatives by-laws, only bona fide members who

must have a fixed deposit are eligible for loans. [17]

Medallo categorically stated that she saw Batulanon sign the names of Oracion and Arroyo in their

respective cash vouchers and made it appear in the records that they were payees and recipients of the amount

stated therein.[18] As to the signature of Omadlao in Cash Voucher No. 30A, she declared that the same was actually

the handwriting of appellant.[19]

Gopio, Jr. was a member of PCCI since 1975 and a member of its board of directors since 1979. He

corroborated Medallos testimony that Omadlao, Arroyo, Oracion and Dennis Batulanon are not members of PCCI. He

stated that Oracion is Batulanons sister-in-law while Dennis Batulanon is her son who was only 3 years old in

1982. He averred that membership in the cooperative is not open to minors. [20]

Jayoma was the Vice-Chairman of the PCCI Board of Directors in 1980 before becoming its Chairman in

1982 until 1983. He testified that the loans made to Oracion, Omadlao, Arroyo and Dennis Batulanon did not pass

through the cooperatives Credit Committee and PCCIs Board of Directors for screening purposes. He claimed that

Oracions signature on Cash Voucher No. 237A is Batulanons handwriting. [21] Jayoma also testified that among the

four loans taken, only that in Arroyos name was settled.[22]

The defense presented two witnesses, namely, Maria Theresa Medallo who was presented as a hostile

witness and Batulanon.


Medallo was subpoenaed by the trial court on behalf of the defense and was asked to bring with her the

PCCI General Journal for the year 1982. After certifying that the said document reflected all the financial

transactions of the cooperative for that year, she was asked to identify the entries in the Journal with respect to the

vouchers in question. Medallo was able to identify only Cash Voucher No. 237A in the name of Gonafreda

Oracion. She failed to identify the other vouchers because the Journal had missing pages and she was not the one

who prepared the entries.[23]

Batulanon denied all the charges against her. She claimed that she did not sign the vouchers in the names

of Omadlao, Oracion and Arroyo; that the same were signed by the loan applicants in her presence at the PCCI

office after she personally released the money to them; [24] that the three were members of the cooperative as

shown by their individual deposits and the ledger; that the board of directors passed a resolution in August 1982

authorizing her to certify to the correctness of the entries in the vouchers; that it has become an accepted practice

in the cooperative for her to release loans and dispense with the approval of Gopio Jr., in case of his absence; [25] that

she signed the loan application and voucher of her son Dennis Batulanon because he was a minor but she clarified

that she asked Gopio, Jr., to add his signature on the documents to avoid suspicion of irregularity; [26] that contrary to

the testimony of Gopio, Jr., minors are eligible for membership in the cooperative provided they are children of

regular members.

Batulanon admitted that she took out a loan in her sons name because she is no longer qualified for

another loan as she still has to pay off an existing loan; that she had started paying off her sons loan but the

cooperative refused to accept her payments after the cases were filed in court. [27] She also declared that one

automatically becomes a member when he deposits money with the cooperative. [28] When she was Cashier/Manager

of PCCI from 1980 to 1982, the cooperative did not have by-laws yet. [29]

On rebuttal, Jayoma belied that PCCI had no by-laws from 1980-1982, because the cooperative had been

registered since 1967.[30]

On April 15, 1993, the trial court rendered a Decision convicting Batulanon as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, finding the accused Leonila Batulanon guilty beyond
reasonable doubt in all the above-entitled case, she is sentenced in each of the four cases to 4
months of ARRESTO MAYOR to 1 year and 2 months of PRISION CORRECTIONAL, to indemnify the
PCCI in the total sum of P16,660.00 with legal interest from the institution of the complaints until
fully paid, plus costs.

SO ORDERED.[31]

The Court of Appeals affirmed with modification the decision of the trial court, thus:

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is MODIFIED. Appellant LEONILA BATULANON is


found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Falsification of Private Documents under Par. 2, Article
172 of the Revised Penal Code; and is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six
(6) months of arresto mayor maximum, AS MINIMUM, to four (4) years and two (2) months
of prision correccional medium, AS MAXIMUM; to pay a fine of five thousand (P5,000.00) pesos;
and to indemnify the Polomolok Cooperative Credit , Inc. the sum of thirteen thousand one
hundred sixty (P13,160.00), plus legal interests from the filing of the complaints until fully paid,
plus costs.

SO ORDERED.[32]

The motion for reconsideration was denied, hence this petition.

Batulanon argues that in any falsification case, the best witness is the person whose signature was allegedly forged,

thus the prosecution should have presented Erlinda Omadlao, Gonafreda Oracion and Ferlyn Arroyo instead of

relying on the testimony of an unreliable and biased witness such as Medallo. [33] She avers that the crime of

falsification of private document requires as an element prejudice to a third person. She insists that PCCI has not

been prejudiced by these loan transactions because these loans are accounts receivable by the cooperative. [34]

The petition lacks merit.

Although the offense charged in the information is estafa through falsification of commercial document,

appellant could be convicted of falsification of private document under the well-settled rule that it is the allegations
in the information that determines the nature of the offense and not the technical name given in the preamble of

the information. In Andaya v. People,[35] we held:

From a legal point of view, and in a very real sense, it is of no concern to the accused
what is the technical name of the crime of which he stands charged. It in no way aids him in a
defense on the merits. x x x That to which his attention should be directed, and in which he,
above all things else, should be most interested, are the facts alleged. The real question is not did
he commit a crime given in the law some technical and specific name, but did he perform the acts
alleged in the body of the information in the manner therein set forth. x x x The real and
important question to him is, Did you perform the acts alleged in the manner alleged? not, Did
you commit a crime named murder? If he performed the acts alleged, in the manner stated, the
law determines what the name of the crime is and fixes the penalty therefor. x x x If the accused
performed the acts alleged in the manner alleged, then he ought to be punished and punished
adequately, whatever may be the name of the crime which those acts constitute.

The elements of falsification of private document under Article 172, paragraph 2 [36] of the Revised Penal

Code are: (1) that the offender committed any of the acts of falsification, except those in paragraph 7, Article 171;

(2) that the falsification was committed in any private document; and (3) that the falsification caused damage to a

third party or at least the falsification was committed with intent to cause such damage.[37]

In Criminal Case Nos. 3625, 3626, and 3453, Batulanons act [38] of falsification falls under paragraph 2 of Article

171, i.e., causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so

participate.This is because by signing the name of Omadlao, Oracion, and Arroyo in Cash Voucher Nos. 30A, 237A,

and 267A, respectively, as payee of the amounts appearing in the corresponding cash vouchers, Batulanon made it

appear that they obtained a loan and received its proceeds when they did not in fact secure said loan nor receive

the amounts reflected in the cash vouchers.

The prosecution established that Batulanon caused the preparation of the Cash Vouchers in the name of

Omadlao and Oracion knowing that they are not PCCI members and not qualified for a loan from the cooperative. In

the case of Arroyo, Batulanon was aware that while the former is a member, she did not apply for a loan with the

cooperative.

Medallo categorically declared that she saw Batulanon forge the signatures of Oracion and Arroyo in the

vouchers and made it appear that the amounts stated therein were actually received by these persons. As to the
signature of Arroyo, Medallos credible testimony and her familiarity with the handwriting of Batulanon proved that it

was indeed the latter who signed the name of Arroyo. Contrary to Batulanons contention, the prosecution is not

duty-bound to present the persons whose signatures were forged as Medallos eyewitness account of the incident

was sufficient. Moreover, under Section 22, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, the handwriting of a person may be

proved by any witness who believes it to be the handwriting of such person because he has seen the person write,

or has seen writing purporting to be his upon which the witness has acted or been charged, and has thus acquired

knowledge of the handwriting of such person.

Her insistence that Medallo is a biased witness is without basis. There is no evidence showing that Medallo

was prompted by any ill motive.

The claim that Batulanons letter to the cooperative asking for a compromise was not an admission of guilt

is untenable. Section 27, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that in criminal cases, except those involving

quasi-offenses or criminal negligence or those allowed by law to be compromised, an offer of compromise by the

accused may be received in evidence as an implied admission of guilt.

There is no merit in Batulanons assertion that PCCI has not been prejudiced because the loan transactions

are reflected in its books as accounts receivable. It has been established that PCCI only grants loans to its bona fide

members with no subsisting loan. These alleged borrowers are not members of PCCI and neither are they eligible

for a loan. Of the four accounts, only that in Ferlyn Arroyos name was settled because her mother, Erlinda, agreed

to settle the loan to avoid legal prosecution with the understanding however, that she will be reimbursed once the

money is collected from Batulanon.[39]

The Court of Appeals[40] correctly ruled that the subject vouchers are private documents and not

commercial documents because they are not documents used by merchants or businessmen to promote or

facilitate trade or credit transactions[41] nor are they defined and regulated by the Code of Commerce or other

commercial law.[42] Rather, they are private documents, which have been defined as deeds or instruments executed

by a private person without the intervention of a public notary or of other person legally authorized, by which some
[43]
disposition or agreement is proved, evidenced or set forth.
In all criminal prosecutions, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused

beyond reasonable doubt. It has the duty to prove each and every element of the crime charged in the

information to warrant a finding of guilt for the said crime or for any other crime necessarily included therein. [44] The

prosecution in this case was able to discharge its burden completely.

As there is no complex crime of estafa through falsification of private document, [45] it is important to

ascertain whether the offender is to be charged with falsification of a private document or with estafa. If the

falsification of a private document is committed as a means to commit estafa, the proper crime to be charged is

falsification. If the estafa can be committed without the necessity of falsifying a document, the proper crime to be

charged is estafa. Thus, in People v. Reyes,[46] the accused made it appear in the time book of the Calamba Sugar

Estate that a laborer, Ciriaco Sario, worked 21 days during the month of July, 1929, when in reality he had worked

only 11 days, and then charged the offended party, the Calamba Sugar Estate, the wages of the laborer for 21

days. The accused misappropriated the wages during which the laborer did not work for which he was convicted of

falsification of private document.

In U.S. v. Infante,[47] the accused changed the description of the pawned article on the face of the pawn

ticket and made it appear that the article is of greatly superior value, and thereafter pawned the falsified ticket in

another pawnshop for an amount largely in excess of the true value of the article pawned. He was found guilty of

falsification of a private document. In U.S. v. Chan Tiao,[48] the accused presented a document of guaranty

purportedly signed by Ortigas Hermanos for the payment of P2,055.00 as the value of 150 sacks of sugar, and by

means of said falsified documents, succeeded in obtaining the sacks of sugar, was held guilty of falsification of a

private document.

In view of the foregoing, we find that the Court of Appeals correctly held Batulanon guilty beyond

reasonable doubt of Falsification of Private Documents in Criminal Case Nos. 3625, 3626 and 3453.

Article 172 punishes the crime of Falsification of a Private Document with the penalty of prision

correccional in its medium and maximum periods with a duration of two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day

to six (6) years. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the penalty should be imposed in its

medium period, which is three (3) years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days to four (4) years, nine (9) months

and ten (10) days. Taking into consideration the Indeterminate Sentence Law, Batulanon is entitled to an
indeterminate penalty the minimum of which must be within the range of arresto mayor in its maximum period

to prision correccional in its minimum period, or four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4)

months.[49] Thus, in Criminal Case Nos. 3625, 3626 and 3453, the Court of Appeals correctly imposed the penalty of

six (6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as

maximum, which is within the range of the allowed imposable penalty.

Since Batulanons conviction was for 3 counts of falsification of private documents, she shall suffer the

aforementioned penalties for each count of the offense charged. She is also ordered to indemnify PCCI the amount

of P11,660.00 representing the aggregate amount of the 3 loans without deducting the amount of P3,500.00 paid

by Ferlyn Arroyos mother as the same was settled with the understanding that PCCI will reimburse the former once

the money is recovered. The amount shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the filing of the

complaints on November 28, 1994 until the finality of this judgment. From the time the decision becomes final and

executory, the interest rate shall be 12% per annum until its satisfaction.

However, in Criminal Case No. 3627, the crime committed by Batulanon is estafa and not falsification. Under Article

171 of the Revised Penal Code, the acts that may constitute falsification are the following:

1. Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature, or rubric;

2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so
participate;

3. Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made
by them;

4. Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;

5. Altering true dates;

6. Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;
7. Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such
original exists, or including in such copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or;

8. Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.

In Criminal Case No. 3627, the trial court convicted petitioner Batulanon for falsifying Dennis Batulanons signature

in the cash voucher based on the Information charging her of signing the name of her 3 year old son, Dennis. The

records, however, reveal that in Cash Voucher No. 374A, petitioner Batulanon did not falsify the signature of

Dennis. What she did was to sign: by: lbatulanon to indicate that she received the proceeds of the loan in behalf of

Dennis. Said act does not fall under any of the modes of falsification under Article 171 because there in nothing

untruthful about the fact that she used the name of Dennis and that as representative of the latter, obtained the

proceeds of the loan from PCCI. The essence of falsification is the act of making untruthful or false statements,

which is not attendant in this case. As to whether, such representation involves fraud which caused damage to PCCI

is a different matter which will make her liable for estafa, but not for falsification. Hence, it was an error for the

courts below to hold that petitioner Batulanon is also guilty of falsification of private document with respect to

Criminal Case No. 3627 involving the cash voucher of Dennis. [50]

The elements of estafa through conversion or misappropriation under Art. 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal

Code are:

(1) that money, goods 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;

(4) that there is a demand made by the offended party on the offender. (Note: The 4th element is not necessary
when there is evidence of misappropriation of the goods by the defendant) [51]
Thus in the case of U.S. v. Sevilla,[52] the Court convicted the appellant of estafa by misappropriation. The latter, a

treasurer of the Manila Rail Road Company, took the sum of P8,330.00 out of the funds of the company and used it

for personal purposes. He replaced said cash with his personal check of the same amount drawn on the Philippine

National Bank (PNB), with instruction to his cashier not to deposit the same in the current account of the Manila Rail

Road Company until the end of the month. When an audit was conducted, the check of appellant was discovered to

have been carried in the accounts as part of the cash on hand. An inquiry with the PNB disclosed that he had only

P125.66 in his account, although in the afternoon of the same day, he deposited in his account with the PNB

sufficient sum to cover the check. In handing down a judgment of conviction, the Court explained that:

Fraudulent intent in committing the conversion or diversion is very evidently not a


necessary element of the form of estafa here discussed; the breach of confidence involved in the
conversion or diversion of trust funds takes the place of fraudulent intent and is in itself sufficient.
The reason for this is obvious: Grave as the offense is, comparatively few men misappropriate
trust funds with the intention of defrauding the owner; in most cases the offender hopes to be
able to restore the funds before the defalcation is discovered. x x x

Applying the legal principles here stated to the facts of the case, we find all of the
necessary elements of estafa x x x. That the money for which the appellant's checks were
substituted was received by him for safe-keeping or administration, or both, can hardly be
disputed. He was the responsible financial officer of the corporation and as such had immediate
control of the current funds for the purposes of safe-keeping and was charged with the custody of
the same. That he, in the exercise of such control and custody, was aided by subordinates cannot
alter the case nor can the fact that one of the subordinates, the cashier, was a bonded employee
who, if he had acted on his own responsibility, might also have misappropriated the same funds
and thus have become guilty of estafa.

Neither can there be any doubt that, in taking money for his personal use, from the funds
entrusted to him for safekeeping and substituting his personal checks therefor with instructions
that the checks were to be retained by the cashier for a certain period, the appellant
misappropriated and diverted the funds for that period. The checks did not constitute cash and as
long as they were retained by the appellant or remained under his personal control they were of
no value to the corporation; he might as well have kept them in his pocket as to deliver them to
his subordinate with instructions to retain them.

xxxx

But it is argued in the present case that it was not the intention of the accused to
permanently misappropriate the funds to himself. As we have already stated, such intention rarely
exists in cases of this nature and, as we have seen, it is not a necessary element of the crime.
Though authorities have been cited who, at first sight, appear to hold that misappropriation of
trust funds for short periods does not always amount to estafa, we are not disposed to extend this
interpretation of the law to cases where officers of corporations convert corporate funds to their
own use, especially where, as in this case, the corporation is of a quasi-public character. The
statute is clear and makes no distinction between permanent misappropriations and temporary
ones. We can see no reason in the present case why it should not be applied in its literal sense.

The third element of the crime with which the appellant is charged is injury to another.
The appellant's counsel argues that the only injury in this case is the loss of interest suffered by
the Railroad Company during the period the funds were withheld by the appellant. It is, however,
well settled by former adjudications of this court that the disturbance in property rights caused by
the misappropriation, though only temporary, is in itself sufficient to constitute injury within the
meaning of paragraph 5, supra. (U.S. vs. Goyenechea, 8 Phil., 117 U.S. vs. Malong, 36 Phil., 821.)
[53]

In the instant case, there is no doubt that as Cashier/Manager, Batulanon holds the money for administration and in

trust for PCCI. Knowing that she is no longer qualified to obtain a loan, she fraudulently used the name of her son

who is likewise disqualified to secure a loan from PCCI. Her misappropriation of the amount she obtained from the

loan is also not disputed as she even admitted receiving the same for personal use. Although the amount received

by Batulanon is reflected in the records as part of the receivables of PCCI, damage was still caused to the latter

because the sum misappropriated by her could have been loaned by PCCI to qualified members, or used in other

productive undertakings.At any rate, the disturbance in property rights caused by Batulaonos misappropriation is in

itself sufficient to constitute injury within the meaning of Article 315.

Considering that the amount misappropriated by Batulanon was P5,000.00, the applicable provision is paragraph

(3) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, which imposes the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period

to prision correccional in its minimum period, where the amount defrauded is over P200.00 but does not exceed

P6,000.00. There being no modifying circumstances, the penalty shall be imposed in its medium period. With the

application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, Batulaon is entitled to an indeterminate penalty of three (3) months

of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional, as maximum.

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:

(1) In Criminal Case Nos. 3625, 3626 and 3453, Leonila Batulanon is found GUILTY of three counts of

falsification of private documents and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of six (6) months of arresto mayor, as

minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum, for each count, and to
indemnify complainant Polomolok Credit Cooperative Incorporated the amount of P11,660.00 with interest at the

rate of 6% per annum from November 28, 1994 until finality of this judgment. The interest rate of 12% per annum

shall be imposed from finality of this judgment until its satisfaction; and

(2) In Criminal Case No. 3627, Leonila Batulanon is found GUILTY of estafa and is sentenced to suffer the

penalty of three (3) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision

correccional, as maximum. She is likewise ordered to indemnify Polomolok Credit Cooperative Incorporated the sum

of P5,000.00 with interest at the rate of 6% per annum from November 28, 1994 until finality of this judgment. The

interest rate of 12% per annum shall be imposed from finality of this judgment until its satisfaction.

SO ORDERED.

Batulanon vs people of the Philippines502 scra 35 september 15,2006Crime: falsification of private document (estafa)Facts:This
petition assails the October 30,1998 decision of the ca in ca-gr no.1524,affirming with modification the april 15, 1993 decision of the
rtc of generalsantos city, convicting leonila batulanon of estafa through falsification of commercial documents. The complainant
Polomok Credit cooperative incorporated(PCCI) employed batulanon as its cashier/manager from may 1980 up to December11,
1982. she was incharge of receiving deposits from and releasing loans to themember of the cooperative. During an audit conducted
in December 1982, certainirregularities concerning the release of loans were discovered. Thereafter, fourinformations of estafa thru
falsifications was filed.Issue:Does the crime of falsification of private documents require as an elementprejudice to a third
personRuling:There is no merit in batulanons assertion that pcci has not been prejudiced because the loan transaction are reflected
in its books as accounts receivabletherefore, there exists prejudice in the amount which pcci would have received but was unable to
because of batulanons actions.