April 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are select April 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; falsification. Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a lawyer may be removed or suspended on the following grounds: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice; (3) gross misconduct in office; (4) grossly immoral conduct; (5) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (6) violation of the lawyer’s oath; (7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (8) corruptly or willfully appearing as a lawyer for a party to a case without authority so to do.

The crime of falsification of public document is contrary to justice, honesty, and good morals and, therefore, involves moral turpitude. Moral turpitude includes everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.  It involves an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.

Disbarment is the appropriate penalty for conviction by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude. Re: SC Decision date May 20, 2008 in G.R. No. 161455 under Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court vs. Atty. Rodolfo D. Pactolin. A.C. No. 7940, April 24, 2012.

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy. The inconsistencies pointed out are inconsequential given the presence of conspiracy between the appellant and Olaso in killing the victim. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. The presence of conspiracy may be inferred from the circumstances where all the accused acted in concert at the time of the commission of the offense. Conspiracy is sufficiently established when the concerted acts show the same purpose or common design and are united in its execution.  Moreover, when there is conspiracy, it is not important who delivered the fatal blow since the act of one is considered the act of all. The overt acts of the appellant and Olaso showing their conspiracy to kill the victim are: (1) the appellant and Olaso flagged down the tricycle being driven by the victim; (2) the appellant seated himself at the back of the driver’s seat while Olaso went inside the tricycle; (3) the appellant and Olaso simultaneously assaulted the victim – the appellant embracing the victim while Olaso stabbed him; and (4) both men immediately fled the scene after the stabbing.  The above circumstances plainly show the common design and the unity of purpose between the appellant and Olaso in executing their plan to kill the victim.  People of the Philippines v. Rolly Angelio, G.R. No. 197540, February 27, 2012.

Estafa; elements. The offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of confidence or (b) means of deceit. The acts constituting estafa committed with abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which is a usual element in the other estafa. In this case, the charge against the petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafa committed by abuse of confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with. Carmina G. Brokmann v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 199150, February 6, 2012.

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February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected February 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Administrative proceedings; compromise agreements. The compromise agreement between complainant and respondent, or the fact that complainant already forgave respondent, does not necessarily warrant the dismissal of the administrative case. Three reasons justify the continuation of the administrative matter despite the compromise agreement or the forgiveness. One, the Court’s disciplinary authority is not dependent on or cannot be frustrated by the private arrangements entered into by the parties; otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, will be undermined. Two, public interest is at stake in the conduct and actuations of the officials and employees of the Judiciary. Accordingly, the efforts of the Court in improving the delivery of justice to the people should not be frustrated and put to naught by any private arrangements between the parties. And, three, the Court’s interest in the affairs of the Judiciary is a paramount concern that bows to no limits. Benigno B. Reas v. Carlos M. Relacion, A.M. No. P-05-2095. February 9, 2011.

Administrative Proceedings; substantial evidence. Bayani was charged with dishonesty for failure to disclose in her Personal Data Sheet that she was previously admonished in an administrative case. Bayani invoked good faith as her defense. The Court ruled that while her defense of good faith may be difficult to prove as clearly it is a question of intention, a state of mind, erroneous judgment on the part of Bayani does not, however, necessarily connote the existence of bad faith, malice, or an intention to defraud. In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions.  Substantial evidence is defined as relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Thus, after much consideration of the facts and circumstances, while the Court has not shied away in imposing the strictest penalty to erring employees, neither can it think and rule unreasonably in determining whether an employee deserves disciplinary sanction. Bayani was admonished and warned that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a mere severe penalty. Re: Anonymous Complaint against Ms. Hermogena F. Bayani for Dishonesty, A.M. No. 2007-22-SC. February 1, 2011.

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February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected February 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

CRIMINAL LAW

Revised Penal Code

Estafa; elements. The elements of the crime of estafa under Article 315, par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code are: (1) there must be a false pretense, fraudulent acts or fraudulent means; (2) such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (3) the offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means and was thus induced to part with his money or property; and (4) as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage. Lyzah Sy Franco v. People of the Philippines/ Steve Besario v. People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 171328 and 171335, February 16, 2011.

Estafa; elements. All the elements of the crime of estafa under Article 315, par. 2(a) are present in this case. Petitioners presented themselves to Lourdes as persons possessing the authority and capacity to engage in the financing of used vehicles on behalf of Final Access Marketing.  This was a clear misrepresentation considering their previous knowledge not only of Erlinda’s complaint but also of several others as regards the failure of Final Access Marketing to deliver the motor vehicles bought.  Lourdes relied on their misrepresentations and parted with her money.  Almost a week passed by, but petitioners and Rule did not deliver the said motor vehicle.  They also did not fulfill their subsequent promise to provide a replacement or to refund her payment.  When Lourdes visited the office of Final Access Marketing to demand the return of her money, it was already closed.  She could not locate any of them except for Franco who denied any wrongdoing.  Consequently, she suffered damage. Lyzah Sy Franco v. People of the Philippines/ Steve Besario v. People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 171328 and 171335, February 16, 2011.

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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.

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July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Legal/Judicial Ethics

Here are selected July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law and legal/judicial ethics.

Criminal Law

Accomplice. To hold a person liable as an accomplice, two elements must concur: (1) community of design, which means that the accomplice knows of, and concurs with, the criminal design of the principal by direct participation; and (2) the performance by the accomplice of previous or simultaneous acts that are not indispensable to the commission of the crime. In this case, Maliao facilitated the commission of the crime by providing his own house as the venue thereof. His presence throughout the commission of the heinous offense, without him doing anything to prevent the malefactors or help the victim, indubitably show community of design and cooperation, although he had no direct participation in the execution thereof. People of the Philippines vs. Jessie Maliao y Masakit, Norberto Chiong y Discotido and Luciano Bohol y Gamana, Jessie Maliao y Masakit(Accused-Appellant), G.R. No. 178058,  July 31, 2009.

Alibi.   The defense of alibi must fail, especially in light of the fact that two of the prosecution witnesses, BBB and DDD, positively identified accused-appellant as one of the malefactors of the crime. Positive identification, where categorical and consistent and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses testifying on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial. These defenses, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.  People of the Philippines vs. Teodulo Villanueva, Jr., G.R. No. 187152.  July 22, 2009

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