October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law:

Revised Penal Code

Estafa; complex crime. One of the essential elements of the complex crime of estafa with falsification of public document is that the untruthful statement, which the offender has made in a document, be a perversion of truth with the wrongful intent of injuring a third person. This key element of the falsification aspect of the crime is not here present because, as stated above, all the signatories to the settlement documents simply assumed, when they signed such documents, that these reflected what was right.

Although the Court has not found sufficient evidence to hold petitioners criminally liable for estafa through falsification of a public document, it finds them civilly liable for having unduly received more than their fair and legal share of Lorenzo’s estate at Brigida’s expense. Unfortunately, however, the trial court simply ordered petitioners, jointly and severally, to pay Brigida P3,922,004.76 by way of actual damages without stating its basis for arriving at this amount. The Court of Appeals itself adopted this figure also without explanation.  Dionisio Ignacio, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 182259, October 12, 2009.

Estafa; complex crime. Whenever a person carries out on a public, official, or commercial document any of the acts enumerated in Art. 171 of the RPC as a necessary means to perpetrate another crime, such as estafa or malversation, a complex crime is formed by the two crimes.

Under Art. 48 of the RPC, a complex crime refers to: (1) the commission of at least two grave or less grave felonies that must both (or all) be the result of a single act; or (2) one offense must be a necessary means for committing the other (or others).

The falsification of a public, official, or commercial document may be a means of committing estafa, because before the falsified document is actually utilized to defraud another, the crime of falsification has already been consummated, damage or intent to cause damage not being an element of the crime of falsification of public, official, or commercial document. In other words, the crime of falsification has already existed. Actually utilizing that falsified public, official, or commercial document to defraud another is estafa. But the damage is caused by the commission of estafa, not by the falsification of the document. Therefore, the falsification of the public, official, or commercial document is only a necessary means to commit estafa.

In general, the elements of estafa are: (1) that the accused defrauded another (a) by abuse of confidence or (b) by means of deceit; and (2) that damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third person. Deceit is the false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed; and which deceives or is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it, to his legal injury.

In the case before us, all the elements of estafa are present. Once petitioner acquired the possession of the amounts she encashed by means of deceit, she misappropriated, misapplied, and converted the same to her own personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the private complainant and BPI.

Without a doubt, the falsification of the encashment slips was a necessary means to commit estafa. At that time, the offense of falsification is already considered consummated even before the falsified document is used to defraud another.   Gina A. Domingo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 186101, October 12, 2009.

Estafa;  denial.  It is a hornbook doctrine that the defense of denial, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative and self-serving, and merits no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testified on affirmative matters.

In the instant case, petitioner’s defense of denial crumbles in the face of the positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses during trial. As enunciated by this Court, “[p]ositive identification where categorical and consistent and not attended by any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses on the matter prevails over alibi and denial.” The defense has miserably failed to show any evidence of ill motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses as to falsely testify against her.  Gina A. Domingo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 186101, October 12, 2009.

Estafa; illegal recruitment. A person who is convicted of illegal recruitment may also be convicted of estafa under Article 315(2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code provided the elements of estafa are present. Estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code is committed by any person who defrauds another by using a fictitious name, or falsely pretends to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by means of similar deceits executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud. The offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means of the accused and as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.

Such is the case before us. Palo parted with her money upon the prodding and enticement of appellant and her co-accused on the false pretense that they had the capacity to deploy her for employment in Australia. Unfortunately, however, Palo was not able to work abroad nor get her Australian visa. Worse, she did not get her money back.  People of the Philippines vs. Nida Adeser y Rico, G.R. No. 179931, October 26, 2009.

Falsification; elements. The elements of the crime of Falsification of Commercial Document under Art. 172 are: (1) that the offender is a private individual; (2) that the offender committed any of the acts of falsification; and (3) that the act of falsification is committed in a commercial document.

As borne by the records, all the elements of the crime are present in the instant case. Petitioner is a private individual who presented to the tellers of BPI 17 forged encashment slips on different dates and of various amounts. The questioned encashment slips were falsified by petitioner by filling out the same and signing the name of the private complainant, thereby making it appear that Remedios signed the encashment slips and that they are genuine in all respects, when in fact petitioner knew very well that Remedios never signed the subject encashment slips. Gina A. Domingo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 186101, October 12, 2009.

Murder;  abuse of superior strength. Abuse of superior strength is present whenever there is inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor, assuming a situation of superiority of strengthnotoriously advantageous for the aggressor and selected or taken advantage of by him in the commission of the crime. To take advantage of superior strength means to use purposely excessive force that is out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked.  People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder;  civil liability. When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages. People of the Philippines vs. Pablo Lusabio, Jr. y vergara, Tomasito De Los Santos and John Doe (Accused), G.R. No. 186119, October 27, 2009.

Murder; civil liability. The grant of civil indemnity for the crime of murder requires no proof other than the fact of death as a result of the crime and proof of the appellant’s responsibility therefor. While the RTC and the CA commonly awarded P50,000.00 as death indemnity to the murder victim’s heirs, prevailing jurisprudence dictates an award of P75,000.00. Hence, we modify the award of civil indemnity to this extent to be paid by the appellant to the victim’s heirs.

The RTC awarded the amount of P42,300.00 to the victim’s heirs as actual damages. It appears that out of the said amount, only P29,320.00 were duly supported by receipts. To be entitled to actual damages, it is necessary to prove the actual amount of loss with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence obtainable to the injured party.

The heirs of the victim are likewise entitled to exemplary damages, since the qualifying circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength were firmly established. When a crime is committed with an aggravating circumstance, either qualifying or generic, an award of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is justified.

We affirm the award of P1,020,000.00 as indemnity for loss of earning capacity to the victim’s heirs. As a rule, documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate a claim for loss of earning capacity. By way of exception, damages may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence provided that there is testimony that the victim was either (1) self-employed earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, and judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the victim’s line of work, no documentary evidence is available; or (2) employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.

The records show that the victim’s annual gross income was P60,000.00 per annum computed from his monthly rate of P5,000.00. His reasonable and necessary living expenses are estimated at 50% of this gross income, leaving a balance of P30,000.00. His life expectancy, on the other hand, is assumed to be 2/3 of the age 80 less 29, his age at the time of death. Applying the formula yields the net earning capacity of P1,020,000.00.

We likewise affirm the award of P50,000.00 as moral damages pursuant to current jurisprudence.  People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder;  evidence. Time and again, we have ruled that the credibility of witnesses is a matter best left to the determination of the trial court which observed the witnesses firsthand and which noted their demeanor, conduct, and attitude. The trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses is binding upon this Court, except when the lower court overlooked facts and circumstances of weight and influence that can alter the result. People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder;  evidence.  Since this Court’s appreciation of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses is hampered by the fact that its members took no part at the trial, it must of necessity lend weight to the trial court’s factual findings especially since there is no showing that its findings are palpably unsound or have nothing to support them in the record. The trial judge had the benefit of observing the witnesses first hand, their emotions or lack of it, their spontaneity or reluctance, their bodily reactions to interrogations, or the slight changes in the expressions on their faces. These send strong signs of falsehood or truth in testimonies. For this reason, the factual findings and conclusions of the trial court from such testimonies are usually entitled to much weight. People of the Philippines vs. Christopher Talita, G.R. No. 184702, October 2, 2009.

Murder; evidence. As a matter of settled jurisprudence, the Court generally defers to the trial court’s evaluation of the credibility of witness and their testimonies, for it is in a better position to decide questions of credibility having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their attitude and deportment during trial. Accordingly, a finding on the credibility of witnesses, as here, with respect to the testimony of Anthony and Zenaida, deserves a high degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal absent a clear showing that the trial court had overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could reverse a judgment of conviction. None of the exceptions exists in this case. People of the Philippines vs. Alfredo Dela Cruz y Miranda, alias “DINDONG”, G.R. No. 184792, October 12, 2009

Murder; evidence. We enumerated the factors for determining the credibility of a witness’ identification: (1) the witness’ opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness’ degree of attention at that time; (3) the accuracy of any prior description given by the witness; (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; (5) the length of time between the crime and the identification; and (6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure. People of the Philippines vs. Allan Del Prado y Cahusay, G.R. No. 187074, October 13, 2009.

Murder; evidence. Although there may be inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses on minor details, they do not impair their credibility where there is consistency in relating the principal occurrence and positive identification of the assailants.  People of the Philippines vs. Darwin Bernabe y Garcia,  G.R. No. 185726, October 16, 2009.

Murder; evident premeditation. For evident premeditation to be appreciated, the following elements must be established: (1) the time when the accused determined to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his determination; and (3) sufficient lapse of time between decision and execution to allow the accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act. Significantly, the prosecution did not even attempt to prove the presence of these elements.  People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder; evident premeditation. Evident premeditation, like other qualifying circumstances, must be established by clear and positive evidence showing that planning and preparation took place prior to the killing. For evident premeditation to be appreciated, the prosecution must show the following: (1) the time the accused determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the accused clung to this determination; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the resolve to kill and its execution that would have allowed the killer to reflect on the consequences of his act. Significantly, the prosecution did not even attempt to prove the presence of these elements. In People v. Sison, we held that evident premeditation should not be appreciated where there is neither evidence of planning or preparation to kill nor of the time when the plot was conceived.  People of the Philippines vs. Samson Villasan y BanatiG.R. No. 176527, October 9, 2009.

Murder; penalty. The crime of murder qualified by treachery is penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (as amended by Republic Act No. 7659) with reclusion perpetua to death. The other qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength is deemed absorbed in treachery.

While evident premeditation and nocturnity were alleged in the Information, these circumstances were not adequately proven. Hence, in the absence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the commission of the felony, the court a quo correctly sentenced the appellant to reclusion perpetua, conformably with Article 63(2) of the Revised Penal Code.  People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder; penalty. The crime of murder qualified by treachery is penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (as amended by Republic Act No. 7659) with reclusion perpetua to death.

While evident premeditation was alleged in the Information, this circumstance was not adequately proven. Hence, in the absence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the commission of the felony, the courts a quo correctly sentenced the appellant to reclusion perpetua, conformably with Article 63(2) of the Revised Penal Code.  People of the Philippines vs. Samson Villasan y Banati, G.R. No. 176527, October 9, 2009.

Murder; penalty. The penalty for murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code is reclusion perpetua to death. With the aggravating circumstance of cruelty and no mitigating circumstance, the penalty imposed should be in its maximum, which is death. However, in view of Republic Act No. 9346, which was signed into law on June 24, 2006, the penalty imposed must be reduced from death to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.  People of the Philippines vs. Darwin Bernabe y Garcia,  G.R. No. 185726, October 16, 2009.

Murder; self defense. One who admits killing another in the name of self-defense bears the onus of proving the justifiability of the killing. The accused, therefore, must convincingly prove the following elements of the justifying circumstance of self-defense: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person claiming self-defense. While all three elements must concur to support a claim of complete self-defenese, self-defense relies first and foremost on a showing of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. Absent clear proof of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, self-defense may not be successfully pleaded. People of the Philippines vs. Romeo Satonero @ Ruben, G.R. No. 186233, October 2, 2009.

Murder;  self defense.  As a rule, the prosecution bears the burden of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. However, when the accused admits the killing and by way of justification pleads self-defense, the burden of evidence shifts; the accused must then show by clear and convincing evidence that he indeed acted in self-defense. For that purpose, he must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence.

There is unlawful aggression when the peril to one’s life, limb or right is either actual or imminent. There must be actual physical force or actual use of a weapon. It is a statutory and doctrinal requirement that, for the justifying circumstance of self-defense, unlawful aggression as a condition sine qua non must be present. There can be no self-defense, complete or incomplete, unless the victim commits an unlawful aggression against the person defending himself.

Self-defense, like alibi, is an inherently weak defense for it is easy to fabricate. Self-defense must be proven by sufficient, satisfactory and convincing evidence that excludes any vestige of criminal aggression on the part of the person invoking it. This type and nature of evidence simply do not obtain in this particular case.  People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder; self defense. Where an accused charged with the killing of a person admits having caused that death but invokes self-defense to escape criminal liability, it becomes incumbent upon him to prove by clear and convincing evidence the positiveness of that justifying circumstance; otherwise, having admitted the killing, conviction is inescapable. When appellant invoked self-defense he, in effect, assumed the onus probandi to substantiate the same. It became his inescapable burden to prove clearly and convincingly the elements of self-defense.

The requirements for the plea of self-defense to prosper are: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel the aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the accused.

Although all three elements must concur, self-defense must rest on proof of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. The requisite of unlawful aggression is indispensable. There can be no self-defense unless it is proven that there had been unlawful aggression on the part of the person injured or killed by the assailant. If no unlawful aggression has been proved, no self-defense may be successfully pleaded, whether complete or incomplete. People of the Philippines vs. Nemesio Aburque, G.R. No. 181085, October 23, 2009.

Murder;  treachery.  The suddenness of the attack would not, by itself, suffice to support a finding of treachery. Where, however, proof obtains that the victim was completely deprived of a real chance to defend himself against the attack, as in the instant case, thereby ensuring its commission without risk to the aggressor, and without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim, the qualifying circumstance of treachery ought to and should be appreciated. Verily, what is decisive is that the attack was executed in a manner that the victim was rendered defenseless and unable to retaliate.  People of the Philippines vs. Romeo Satonero @ Ruben, G.R. No. 186233, October 2, 2009.

Murder; treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, method or forms which tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender, arising from the defense that the offended party might make. This definition sets out what must be shown by evidence to conclude that treachery existed, namely: (1) the employment of such means of execution as would give the person attacked no opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and (2) the deliberate and conscious adoption of the means of execution. The essence of this qualifying circumstance is the suddenness, surprise and the lack of expectation that the attack would take place, thus depriving the victim of any real opportunity for self-defense while ensuring the commission of the crime without risk to the aggressor.  People of the Philippines vs. Renato Bracia, G.R. No. 174477, October 2, 2009.

Murder;  treachery. In convicting the appellant of murder, the courts a quo appreciated treachery. This circumstance exists when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, method or forms which tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender, arising from the defense that the offended party might make. This definition sets out what must be shown by evidence to conclude that treachery existed, namely: (1) the employment of means of execution that gives the person attacked no opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and (2) the deliberate and conscious adoption of this means of execution. The essence of this qualifying circumstance is in the elements of suddenness and surprise, and the lack of expectation that the attack would take place, thus depriving the victim of any real opportunity for self-defense while ensuring the commission of the crime without risk to the offender. People of the Philippines vs. Samson Villasan y Banati, G.R. No. 176527, October 9, 2009.

Murder; treachery. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack by the aggressors on unsuspecting victims, depriving the latter of any real chance to defend themselves, thereby ensuring its commission without risk to the aggressors, and without the slightest provocation on the victim’s part. We find that circumstances do exist to justify the finding of treachery in this case. The prosecution alleged and sufficiently proved that Ahlladin was too drunk to fight off any aggression from his four assailants, at least two of them armed. His killers took advantage of his condition and attacked him without considerable difficulty, as plainly seen in the post mortem report on Ahlladin’s body. People of the Philippines vs. Alfredo Dela Cruz y Miranda, alias “DINDONG”, G.R. No. 184792, October 12, 2009.

Murder;  treachery. The lower court was correct in appreciating treachery in the commission of the crime. There is treachery when the following essential elements are present, viz: (a) at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself; and (b) the accused consciously and deliberately adopted the particular means, methods or forms of attack employed by him. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack by the aggressor on an unsuspecting victim, depriving the latter of any real chance to defend himself, thereby ensuring its commission without risk to the aggressor, and without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim. It was clearly established that Edwin Labini, while talking to Pablo Lusabio, Jr. face to face, was suddenly stabbed by the latter with a ten-inch bladed weapon for no reason at all. The suddenness of the stabbing and the fact that Edwin Labini was unarmed gave him no opportunity to defend himself. It is likewise apparent that accused-appellant consciously and deliberately adopted his mode of attack, making sure that the victim would have no chance to defend himself by reason of the surprise attack. People of the Philippines vs. Pablo Lusabio, Jr. y vergara, Tomasito De Los Santos and John Doe (Accused), G.R. No. 186119, October 27, 2009.

Murder; treachery. Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code defines and penalizes the offense of murder as qualified by treachery. There is treachery when in killing the victim, the malefactors deliberately and consciously adopted means, methods, or manner of execution to ensure their safety from any defensive or retaliatory action on the part of the victim.

The factual finding of the Court of Appeals shows that appellants Domingo, Pedro and Alden barged into Gomez’s house and restrained his arms before Domingo shot him at the back. As the victim was falling over, Pedro fired a bullet through his right temple. People of the Philippines vs. Domingo Alpapara, Pedro Alpapara, Alden Paya, Mario Bicuna, G.R. No. 180421, October 30, 2009.

Rape; civil liability. The award of civil indemnity to the rape victim is mandatory upon the finding that rape took place. Moral damages, on the other hand, are awarded to rape victims without need of proof other than the fact of rape under the assumption that the victim suffered moral injuries from the experience she underwent. Thus, this Court affirms the awards of P50,000.00 each as civil indemnity and moral damages, based on prevailing jurisprudence.

In addition, we also award exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00. The award of exemplary damages is justified under Article 2229 of the Civil Code to set a public example and serve as deterrent against elders who abuse and corrupt the youth.  People of the Philippines vs. Cristino Cañada, G.R. No. 175317, October 2, 2009.

Rape; civil liability. In the matter of damages, the Court hereby reduces the PhP 50,000 award as exemplary damages to PhP 30,000. The reduction is in line with prevailing jurisprudence assessing exemplary damages at that level as proper deterrent to repugnant sexual behavior. Moreover, the award of PhP 9,000 and 500,000 Korean Won as medical expenses is unsubstantiated. There is nothing in the records to prove that private complainant incurred expenses in the amount aforestated for her medical examination or recovery. Unlike moral damages which may be imposed against the accused in rape cases even without allegation or proof of the emotional suffering or anguish of the victim, the award of actual damages is a different matter altogether. The trial court failed to justify the grant of medical expenses in its decision, this award appearing as it did only in the dispositive portion of its decision. Nowhere in the prosecution’s offer of evidence or pleadings such amounts were claimed as medical expenses. Hence, said award should be deleted.   People of the Philippines vs. Yoon Chang Wook, G.R. No. 178199, October 5, 2009.

Rape; civil liability. We find no reason to disturb the findings of the RTC as affirmed by the CA. The records are replete with evidence establishing accused-appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. However, to conform with existing jurisprudence, P50,000 civil indemnity ex delicto, P50,000 moral damages and P30,000 exemplary damages for each count of rape must be awarded to the offended party.  People of the Philippines vs. Felix Casas Perez, G.R. No. 189303, October 13, 2009.

Rape; civil liability. Anent the award of damages, we find that the award of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and another P50,000.00 as moral damages is proper and in line with prevailing jurisprudence. Civil indemnity is mandatory upon a finding of the fact of rape. As to moral damages, the same is automatically granted without need of further proof, it being assumed that a rape victim has actually suffered moral damages entitling her to such award. However, the award of exemplary damages must be deleted. Article 2230 of the Civil Code provides that “in criminal offenses, exemplary damages as a part of civil liability may be imposed when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.” There being no aggravating circumstance in the instant case, the award of exemplary damages therefore has no basis. In People v. Marcos, we held that the award of exemplary damages is in order when the crime was committed with an aggravating circumstance pursuant to Article 2230 of the Civil Code.  People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Lopez,  G.R. No. 179714, October 2, 2009. see also  People of the Philippines vs. Jofer Tablang, G.R. No. 174859, October 30, 2009.

Rape; elements. Under the law and prevailing jurisprudence, the gravamen of the offense of statutory rape as provided under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code is the carnal knowledge of a woman below twelve years old. The only elements of statutory rape are: (1) that the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that such woman is under twelve (12) years of age. It is not necessary to prove that the victim was intimidated or that force was used against her, because in statutory rape the law presumes that the victim, on account of her tender age, does not and cannot have a will of her own.  People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Lopez,  G.R. No. 179714, October 2, 2009.

Rape; elements. For the charge of rape to prosper, the prosecution must prove that (1) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman, and (2) he accomplished the act through force, threat or intimidation, or when she was deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or when she was under 12 years of age or was demented.  People of the Philippines vs. Cristino Cañada, G.R. No. 175317, October 2, 2009.

Rape; elements. As provided in Article 266-A (1)(d) of the Revised Penal Code, sexual intercourse with a girl below 12 years old is statutory rape. Its two elements are: (1) that the accused has carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that the woman is below 12 years of age. Sexual congress with a girl under 12 years old is always rape.  Robert Remiendo y Siblawan vs. The People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 184874, October 9, 2009.

Rape;  elements. Well-established is the rule that for the crime of rape to exist, it is not necessary that the force employed be so great or be of such character that it could not be resisted; it is only necessary that the force employed by the guilty party be sufficient to consummate the purpose for which it was inflicted. In other words, force as an element of rape need not be irresistible; as long as it brings about the desired result, all considerations of whether it was more or less irresistible are beside the point.

Intimidation must be viewed in the light of the perception of the victim at the time of the commission of the crime, not by any hard and fast rule; it is therefore enough that it produced fear — fear that if she did not yield to the bestial demands of her ravisher, some evil would happen to her at that moment or even thereafter.  People of the Philippines vs. Alberto Buban,   G.R. No. 172710, October 9, 2009.

Rape;  elements. Appellant was correctly found guilty of the crime of simple rape; i.e., by having carnal knowledge of a woman committed through the use of force, threats or intimidation.  Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty therefor is reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines vs. Anton Madeo, G.R. No. 176070, October 2, 2009.

Rape;  elements. For the charge of rape to prosper, the prosecution must prove that (1) the offender had carnal knowledge of a woman, (2) through force or intimidation, or when she was deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or when she was under 12 years of age or was demented. Carnal knowledge of a woman who is a mental retardate is rape; as she is in the same class as a woman deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious. Proof of force or intimidation is not necessary when the victim is a mental retardate, as she is not capable of giving consent to a sexual act. What needs to be proven are the facts of sexual congress between the accused and the victim, and the latter’s mental retardation.

In the present case, the prosecution established the elements of rape under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended. First, AAA positively identified the appellant as her rapist; she was certain and never wavered in her identification. People of the Philippines vs. Jofer Tablang, G.R. No. 174859, October 30, 2009

Rape;  evidence. It is basic, almost elementary, that the trial court’s factual determinations, especially its assessments of the witnesses’ testimony and their credibility, are entitled to great respect, barring arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and substance. For having seen and heard the witnesses themselves and observed their demeanor while in the witness box, the trial court is in a better position to address questions of credibility. People of the Philippines vs. Yoon Chang Wook, G.R. No. 178199, October 5, 2009.

Rape; evidence. Far from being a completed puzzle, the circumstantial evidence adduced in this case only serves to inculpate doubt in an unprejudiced mind as to the real identities of the perpetrators of the crime.

Central to the present case’s uncertainty are the glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies and oddities in the reactions of the prosecution witnesses that cannot be conveniently overlooked nor easily dismissed as products of faulty memory for they bear on credibility of testimony, which is all the more material in the determination of the existence of circumstantial evidence. People of the Philippines vs. Feblonelybirth T. Rubio and Joan T. Amaro, G.R. No. 179748, October 2, 2009.

Rape;  evidence. As to the credibility of AAA as a witness, jurisprudence instructs us that the trial court’s assessment deserves great weight, and is even conclusive and binding, if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and influence. The reason is obvious. Having the full opportunity to observe directly the witnesses’ deportment and manner of testifying, the trial court is in a better position than the appellate court to evaluate testimonial evidence properly.

Testimonies of rape victims who are young and immature deserve full credence, inasmuch as no young woman, especially of tender age, would concoct a story of defloration, allow an examination of her private parts, and thereafter pervert herself by being the subject of a public trial, if she was not motivated solely by the desire to obtain justice for the wrong committed against her. Youth and immaturity are generally badges of truth. It is highly improbable that a girl of tender years, one not yet exposed to the ways of the world, would impute to any man a crime so serious as rape if what she claims is not true.  Robert Remiendo y Siblawan vs. The People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 184874, October 9, 2009.

Rape; evidence. To be sure, AAA’s testimony is not without discrepancies and inconsistencies, given of course her mental state. It cannot be over-emphasized, however, that the inconsistencies pointed out by accused-appellant strike this Court as trivial. Rape is a harrowing experience, the exact details of which are usually not remembered. Inconsistencies, even if they do exist, tend to bolster, rather than weaken, the credibility of the witness, for they show that the testimony was not contrived or rehearsed. Trivial inconsistencies, like the matter of whether or not accused-appellant called out on AAA before he forcibly grabbed her hands, do not, to borrow from People v. Cristobal, rock the pedestal upon which the credibility of the witness rests, but enhances credibility as they manifest spontaneity and lack of scheming.

Minor inconsistencies in testimonies should be disregarded. This rule becomes all the more applicable when the witness is mentally ill.

AAA’s mental condition, to stress, does not prevent her from being a competent and credible witness. As has been held, a mental retardate is not disqualified from being a witness; the retardate’s mental condition does not, on that ground alone, vitiate his or her credibility. If the mental retardate’s testimony is coherent, it is admissible in court. Evidently, the trial court had ascertained the veracity and credibility of AAA’s testimony sufficient to support a finding of conviction.   People of the Philippines vs. Paul Alipio,  G.R. No. 185285, October 5, 2009.

Rape;  evidence. As a mental retardate, the victim’s testimony could not be expected to be flawless and precise as her quoted testimony shows. What is important, however, is that she was able to make known her perception and communicate her ordeal, albeit with some difficulty, and positively identify her rapist. We see no basic contradiction in what the victim can and cannot do as a mental retardate. Dr. Labay categorically testified that AAA was capable of identifying her rapist, although she had difficulty elaborating the details of the rape.

Even a mental retardate or feeble-minded person qualifies as a competent witness if she can perceive and, perceiving, can make known her perception to others.   People of the Philippines vs. Jofer Tablang, G.R. No. 174859, October 30, 2009

Rape;  evidence.    In view of the intrinsic nature of rape where only two persons are usually involved, extreme vigilance must be exercised in examining the testimony of the complainant, for a conviction for rape may lie based solely on her testimony if it is credible, natural, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things.  The People of the Philippines vs. Roy Bacus, G.R. No. 181744, October 2, 2009.

Rape;  evidence. In the case at bar, the prosecution has successfully established the following circumstances and facts that, when taken together, very well constitute evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, to wit: (1) appellant having met AAA on the latter’s way to school and hitting her on the face; (2) the positive identification of appellant as the person she met while she was on her way to school; (3) appellant then hugging AAA from behind, sitting her on his lap and striking her breast with a piece of stone; (4) AAA shouting for help and appellant covering her mouth; (5) appellant hitting AAA until she lost consciousness and then dragging her body to the side of the road; (6) AAA waking up two hours later to discover that her ears had been sliced, her blouse opened, and her underwear stained with her own blood; (7) AAA feeling pain in her private part after the incident; and (8) AAA sustaining hymenal laceration. Given the foregoing circumstances, there is no other conclusion that we can make with moral certainty other than that appellant raped the victim. People of the Philippines vs. Carlito Pabol, G.R. No. 187084, October 12, 2009.

Rape;  evidence. Three principles guide the courts in resolving rape cases: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.

In a determination of guilt for the crime of rape, primordial is the credibility of complainant’s testimony, because, in rape cases, the accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. This eloquent testimony of the victim, coupled with the medical findings attesting to her non-virgin state, should be enough to confirm the truth of her charges.

In the instant case, the victim testified that she was raped and identified the appellant as the one who maligned her. Her narration was further supported by medical findings, coupled by the testimony of the examining physician, with regard to her non-virgin state. Of note moreover is that the trial court, which had the undisputed vantage in the evaluation and appreciation of testimonial evidence, found the victim’s narration of her painful ordeal as clear, categorical, straightforward, sincere, and truthful. Well-entrenched in our jurisprudence is the rule that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to the highest respect and are not to be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case.

Appellant’s defenses of denial and alibi cannot also demolish the victim’s clear and convincing narration and positive identification of her assailant. Denial and alibi are disfavored on account of the facility with which they can be concocted to suit the defense of an accused. In this case, appellant has not even shown that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the crime scene. People of the Philippines vs. Elmer Peralta y Hidalgo, G.R. No. 187531, October 16, 2009.

Rape; insanity. In a bid to escape from criminal liability, accused-appellant invokes insanity. He contends that the psychiatrist who examined him consistently testified that there was a high possibility that he was suffering from schizoaffective disorder when the alleged rape incident happened.

We are not convinced.

The moral and legal presumption is always in favor of soundness of mind; that freedom and intelligence constitute the normal condition of a person. It is improper to assume the contrary. This presumption, however, may be overcome by evidence of insanity, which, under Art. 12(1) of the RPC, exempts a person from criminal liability.

In People v. Formigones, the Court has established a more stringent standard for insanity to be an exempting circumstance. There, it was held that, for insanity to be appreciated in favor of the accused, there must be a complete deprivation of intelligence in committing the act, that is, the accused is deprived of reason or there is a complete absence of the power to discern or a total deprivation of the will. Mere abnormality of the mental faculties will not exclude imputability.

The evidence offered by the defense in this case miserably failed to establish clearly and convincingly the presence of the stringent criterion for insanity.   People of the Philippines vs. Paul Alipio,  G.R. No. 185285, October 5, 2009

Rape; penalty. The Information specifically alleged the use of a deadly weapon – a scythe – in the commission of the rape. The prosecution duly proved this allegation. Under Article 266-B quoted above, the use of a deadly weapon qualifies the rape so that the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua to death. Since reclusion perpetua and death are two indivisible penalties, Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code applies; when there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed, as in this case, the lesser penalty shall be applied. The courts a quo were therefore correct in imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua on the appellant.

It bears noting that under Article 266-B, paragraph 1, the death penalty shall be imposed if the crime of rape is committed when the victim is under 18 years oldand the offender is a “parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third degree, or the common law spouse of the parent of the victim.” Minority and relationship constitute special qualifying circumstances which, when alleged in the Information and proved during trial, warrant the imposition of the death penalty on the malefactor.  People of the Philippines vs. Cristino Cañada, G.R. No. 175317, October 2, 2009.

Rape; retraction.  A retraction is looked upon with considerable disfavor by the courts. It is exceedingly unreliable for there is always the probability that such recantation may later on be repudiated. It can easily be obtained from witnesses through intimidation or monetary consideration. Like any other testimony, it is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances and, especially, on the demeanor of the witness on the stand. People of the Philippines vs. Salvino Sumingwa, G.R. No. 183619, October 13, 2009.

Robbery;  modification of penalty. In our decision, we affirmed the maximum term of eight (8) years imposed by the Court of Appeals, which is in the medium period (6 years, 1 month and 11 days to 8 years and 20 days) of the maximum term, considering that we did not find any modifying circumstance.

In the case before us, accused-appellant was arrested by the police without resistance. Even before accused-appellant was arrested, he suggested to private complainant that they go to the police station. In addition, when private complainant and her friend left accused-appellant to seek the assistance of the police, accused-appellant, despite having the opportunity to flee, did not leave. The confluence of these circumstances justifies the appreciation of a mitigating circumstance of similar nature and analogous to that of number 7 of Article 13 (voluntary surrender) in favor of accused-appellant. If accused-appellant really wanted to abscond, he could have readily done so. This, he did not do. We therefore pronounce that accused-appellant is entitled to a mitigating circumstance under number 10 of Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code.

With the attendance of one mitigating circumstance, the maximum term of the indeterminate sentence must be imposed in its minimum period (4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 6 years, 1 month and 10 days).

We, therefore, modify the penalty imposed on accused-appellant to four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to six (6) years of prision correccional, as maximum.  Eliseo Eduarte Coscolla vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 176566, October 2, 2009.

Special Laws

Anti-Graft Law; repeal. Nowhere in RA 7080 can we find any provision that would indicate a repeal, expressly or impliedly, of RA 1379. RA 7080 is a penal statute which, at its most basic,aims to penalize the act of any public officer who by himself or in connivance with members of his family amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of at least PhP 50 million. On the other hand, RA 1379 is not penal in nature, in that it does not make a crime the act of a public official acquiring during his incumbency an amount of property manifestly out of proportion of his salary and other legitimate income. RA 1379 aims to enforce the right of the State to recover the properties which were not lawfully acquired by the officer.

It has often been said that all doubts must be resolved against any implied repeal and all efforts should be exerted to harmonize and give effect to all laws and provisions on the same subject. To be sure, both RA 1379 and RA 7080 can very well be harmonized. The Court perceives no irreconcilable conflict between them. One can be enforced without nullifying the other. Clarita Depakakibo Garcia vs. Sandiganbayan and Republic of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 170122 & 171381, October 12, 2009.

Central Bank Act;  illegal borrowing. Under Section 83, RA 337, the following elements must be present to constitute a violation of its first paragraph:

1. the offender is a director or officer of any banking institution;

2. the offender, either directly or indirectly, for himself or as representative or agent of another, performs any of the following acts:

a. he borrows any of the deposits or funds of such bank; or

b. he becomes a guarantor, indorser, or surety for loans from such bank to others, or

c. he becomes in any manner an obligor for money borrowed from bank or loaned by it;

3. the offender has performed any of such acts without the written approval of the majority of the directors of the bank, excluding the offender, as the director concerned.

A simple reading of the above elements easily rejects Go’s contention that the law penalizes a bank director or officer only either for borrowing the bank’s deposits or funds or for guarantying loans by the bank, but not for acting in both capacities. The essence of the crime is becoming an obligor of the bank without securing the necessary written approval of the majority of the bank’s directors.

The second element merely lists down the various modes of committing the offense. The third mode, by declaring that “[no director or officer of any banking institution shall xxx] in any manner be an obligor for money borrowed from the bank or loaned by it,” in fact serves a catch-all phrase that covers any situation when a director or officer of the bank becomes its obligor. The prohibition is directed against a bank director or officer who becomes in any manner an obligor for money borrowed from or loaned by the bank without the written approval of the majority of the bank’s board of directors. To make a distinction between the act of borrowing and guarantying is therefore unnecessary because in either situation, the director or officer concerned becomes an obligor of the bank against whom the obligation is juridically demandable.  Jose C. Go vs. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, G.R. No. 178429, October 23, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  chain of custody requirement.  Jurisprudence tells us that the failure to immediately mark seized drugs will not automatically impair the integrity of chain of custody.

The failure to strictly comply with Sec. 21(1), Art. II of RA 9165 does not necessarily render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as these would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.  People of the Philippines vs. Manuel Resurreccion, G.R. No. 186380, October 12, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody requirement. Although ideally the prosecution should offer a perfect chain of custody in the handling of evidence, “substantial compliance with the legal requirements on the handling of the seized item” is sufficient. Behind this is an acknowledgment that the chain of custody rule is difficult to comply with. Hence, exceptions must be recognized, as indeed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 9165 does. On its own, a non-compliance with Sec. 21 of RA 9165 will not invalidate an accused’s arrest or a seizure made in drug cases. What should be of importance is “the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.”  People of the Philippines vs. Leonardo Rusiana y Broquel, G.R. No. 186139, October 5, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody requirement. Non-compliance with the stipulated procedure, under justifiable grounds, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items, for as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officers.  People of the Philippines vs. Grace Ventura y Natividad,   G.R. No. 184957, October 27, 2009.

Dangerous Drus Act;  evidence. On the issue of credibility, that we give the highest respect to the trial court’s evaluation of the testimonies of witnesses; the trial court is in a better position than this Court to assess the credibility of witnesses since it has direct access to and observes the demeanor of these witnesses and their manner of testifying. Thus, the appellate courts will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court unless the latter has plainly overlooked facts of substance and value that, if considered, would affect the results of the case. We find no compelling reason to deviate from this general rule in passing upon the prosecution’s version of events. In fact, and as we indicated above, our own reading of the evidence on record shows that it amply supports the RTC and CA factual findings. People of the Philippines vs. Leonard L. Bernardino alias Onat, G.R. No. 171088, October 2, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  evidence.  While a lone witness’ testimony is sufficient to convict an accused, it must be credible and believable, qualities we cannot ascribe to this case. Major lapses were not explained, raising doubts as to the preservation of the integrity of the evidence. The varying reasons the prosecution proffered as to why there was a departure from the procedure found in RA 9165 do not, to our mind, justify the buy-bust team’s non-compliance. We are not ready to affirm a conviction in the face of such flimsy and contradictory excuses for why the evidence was improperly handled. As this Court recently observed in People v. Robles, the failure of the police to comply with the procedure in the custody of seized drugs raises doubt as to their origins, and negates the operation of the presumption of regularity accorded to police officers.

To emphasize the importance of the corpus delicti in drug charges, we have held that it is essential that the prohibited drug confiscated or recovered from the suspect is the very same substance offered in court as exhibit; and that the identity of said drug be established with the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to make a finding of guilt. This requirement is found wanting in this case. With the buy-bust team’s unwarranted non-compliance with the chain of custody procedure, we are unable to say with certainty that the identity of the seized drugs is intact and its evidentiary value undiminished. For this reason, we find that the prosecution has not been able to prove the guilt of accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. The weakness of accused-appellant’s defense is no longer material as the prosecution was not able to overcome the presumption of innocence accused-appellant enjoys.  People of the Philippines vs. Rosemarie R. Salonga, G.R. No. 186390, October 2, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; evidence. Jurisprudence dictates that conviction can be had in a prosecution for illegal sale of regulated or prohibited drugs if the following elements are present: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for it. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti of the crime. We hold that these elements have been satisfied by the prosecution’s evidence.

Trial courts are our eyes. They have the distinct advantage of observing the demeanor and conduct of witnesses during trial. Absent any showing that certain facts of relevance and substance bearing on the elements of the crime have been overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied by a trial court, we must defer to its findings. As found by the trial court and affirmed by the CA, the police officers who testified gave a straightforward narration of the buy-bust operation. We see no circumstance contradicting this finding. People of the Philippines vs. Leonardo Rusiana y Broquel, G.R. No. 186139, October 5, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; evidence. Inconsistencies referring to who the informant talked to at the NBI office, how many informants there were, and how many vehicles were used, are not material. These matters were not necessary to establish the elements of the crimes committed. The inconsistencies do not detract from the elements of the offense of illegal sale of drugs, which the prosecution adequately established. People of the Philippines vs. Manuel Resurreccion, G.R. No. 186380, October 12, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  evidence. The positive and credible testimonies of the prosecution witnesses prevail over the defenses of denial and frame-up of appellant.

Appellant tried to cast doubt on the credibility of the prosecution witnesses based on the following reasons: (1) there was inconsistency in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses as to what language was used in apprising appellant of his constitutional rights; (2) the informant was not presented as witness during the trial; and (3) there was no buy-bust operation because appellant was merely instigated by the informant to sell shabu to SPOI Indunan.

For a discrepancy or inconsistency in the testimony of a witness to serve as basis for acquittal, it must refer to the significant facts vital to the guilt or innocence of the accused for the crime charged. An inconsistency which has nothing to do with the elements of the crime cannot be a ground for the acquittal of the accused.

The inconsistency cited by appellant refers to trivial matter and is clearly beyond the elements of illegal sale of shabu because it does not pertain to the actual buy-bust itself – that crucial moment when appellant was caught selling shabu. Such inconsistency is also irrelevant to the elements of illegal possession of shabu. Besides, the inconsistency even bolsters the credibility of the prosecution witnesses as it erased any suspicion of a rehearsed testimony.

Anent the failure of the prosecution to present the testimony of the informant, it is well-settled that the testimony of an informant in drug-pushing cases is not essential for conviction and may be dispensed if the poseur-buyer testified on the same.

As to the claim of instigation, where the police or its agent lures the accused into committing the offense in order to prosecute him and which is deemed contrary to public policy and considered an absolutory cause, there is nothing in the records which clearly and convincingly shows that appellant was instigated by the informant to sell shabu to SPO1 Indunan.  People of the Philippines vs. Alfredo, Jr. a.k.a. Jun Lazaro y Aquino,  G.R. No. 186418, October 16, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; frame-up. The defenses of denial and frame-up are weak defenses that are viewed by the Court with disfavor because “they can easily be feigned and fabricated.”  People of the Philippines vs. Leonard L. Bernardino alias Onat, G.R. No. 171088, October 2, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal possession. In a prosecution for illegal possession of shabu, the following elements must be satisfactorily established: (a) the accused is found in possession of a regulated drug; (b) the person is not authorized by law or by duly constituted authorities; and (c) the accused has knowledge that the said drug is a regulated drug.   People of the Philippines vs. Leonard L. Bernardino alias Onat, G.R. No. 171088, October 2, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  illegal possession.  Parenthetically, in illegal possession of dangerous drugs, such as shabu, the elements are: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. All these elements have been established. SPO1 Indunan testified that after appellant sold to him shabu, he (SPO1 Indunan) and the members of the buy-bust team arrested appellant. He then frisked appellant and recovered from the latter a green box which contained plastic sachet with white granules. The chemistry report of Forensic Analyst Albon confirms that such plastic sachet found inside the green box contains 0.04 gram of shabu. People of the Philippines vs. Alfredo, Jr. a.k.a. Jun Lazaro y Aquino,  G.R. No. 186418, October 16, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs; illegal sale. In prosecutions involving the illegal sale of drugs, what is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or regulated drug as evidence. For conviction of the crime of illegal sale of prohibited or regulated drugs, the following elements must concur: (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for it. The testimonial and documentary pieces of evidence adduced by the prosecution in support of its case against accused-appellant establish the presence of these elements. People of the Philippines vs. Grace Ventura y Natividad, G.R. No. 184957, October 27, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs; illegal sale. In a successful prosecution for illegal sale of shabu, the concurrence of the following elements must be present: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti or the very drugs the accused sold.  People of the Philippines vs. Leonard L. Bernardino alias Onat, G.R. No. 171088, October 2, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; penalty. The penalty prescribed under Sec. 15, Article III of RA 6425, as amended by RA 7659, for unauthorized sale of 200 grams or more of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride, is reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from PhP 500,000 to PhP 10 million.

Accused-appellant was found guilty of selling 992.9835 grams of shabu. We, thus, affirm the RTC and CA’s imposition of reclusion perpetua and a fine of PhP 1,000,000.  People of the Philippines vs. Manuel Resurreccion, G.R. No. 186380, October 12, 2009.

Illegal recruitment;  elements. Illegal recruitment is committed when these two elements concur: (1) the offenders have no valid license or authority required by law to enable them to lawfully engage in the recruitment and placement of workers, and (2) the offenders undertake any activity within the meaning of recruitment and placement defined in Article 13(b) or any prohibited practices enumerated in Article 34 of the Labor Code. Under Article 13(b), recruitment and placement refers to “any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers and includes referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or not.” In the simplest terms, illegal recruitment is committed by persons who, without authority from the government, give the impression that they have the power to send workers abroad for employment purposes The law imposes a higher penalty when the crime is committed by a syndicate as it is considered as an offense involving economic sabotage. Illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring and/or confederating with one another in carrying out any unlawful or illegal transaction, enterprise or scheme defined under the first paragraph of Article 38 of the Labor Code.

Undoubtedly, what transpired in the instant case is illegal recruitment by a syndicate. As categorically testified by Palo and Caraig, appellant, together with her co-accused, made representations to Palo that they could send her to Australia to work as an apple picker. There is no denying that they gave Palo the distinct impression that they had the power or ability to send her abroad for work such that the latter was convinced to part with a huge amount of money as placement fee in order to be employed. And this act was committed by appellant and her co-accused even if they did not have the required license to do so. Appellant herself admitted that Naples, the travel agency which she owned and managed, only offered visa assistance, ticketing, documentation, airport transfer and courier services. Clearly, neither she nor her agents had a license to recruit Palo to work abroad. It is the lack of the necessary license or authority that renders the recruitment unlawful or criminal. People of the Philippines vs. Nida Adeser y Rico, G.R. No. 179931, October 26, 2009.

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