G.R. No. 194390 August 13, 2014
VENANCIO M. SEVILLA, Petitioner,
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
Sevilla, a former councilor of Malabon City, was charged with the felony of falsification of public document, penalized under Article 171(4) of the RPC, after he stated in his C.S. Form 212 or Personal Data Sheet, both official documents which were submitted to the Office of the Secretariat, Malabon City Council, that he “had no criminal case pending against him”, when in fact, he knew fully well that he is an accused in a pending criminal case entitled People vs Sevilla for the crime of assault upon an agent of a person in authority.
On the other hand, Sevilla admitted that he indeed marked the box corresponding to the “no” answer vis-à-vis the question on whether he has any pending criminal case. However, he averred that he did not intend to falsify his PDS. He claimed that it was a member of his staff, who actually prepared his PDS. He instructed Mendoza to copy the entries in the previous copy of his PDS which he filed with the personnel office. After the PDS was filled up and delivered to him by Mendoza, Sevilla claims that he just signed the same without checking the veracity of the entries therein. That he failed to notice that, in answer to the question of whether he has any pending criminal case, Mendoza checked the box corresponding to the “no” answer.
Sandiganbayan opined that Sevilla cannot be convicted of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC since he did not act with malicious intent to falsify the aforementioned entry in his PDS. However, considering that Sevilla’s PDS was haphazardly and recklessly done, which resulted in the false entry therein, the Sandiganbayan convicted Sevilla of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence under Article 365 of the RPC.
Whether or not Sevilla can be convicted of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence, notwithstanding that the charge against him in the Information was for the intentional felony of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC.
Held: NO. The proper designation of the felony should be reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents, and not falsification of public documents through reckless imprudence.
The designation of “falsification of public document through reckless imprudence” implies that reckless imprudence is not a crime in itself but simply a modality of committing it. This is incorrect. Quasi-offenses under Art. 365 are distinct and separate crimes and not a mere modality in the commission of the crime. In explaining why this is so, SC explained:
The proposition (inferred from Art. 3 of the Revised Penal Code) that “reckless imprudence” is not a crime in itself but simply a way of committing it and merely determines a lower degree of criminal liability is too broad to deserve unqualified assent. There are crimes that by their structure cannot be committed through imprudence: murder, treason, robbery, malicious mischief, etc. In truth, criminal negligence in our Revised Penal Code is treated as a mere quasi offense, and dealt with separately from willful offenses. It is not a mere question of classification or terminology. In intentional crimes, the act itself is punished; in negligence or imprudence, what is principally penalized is the mental attitude or condition behind the act, the dangerous recklessness, lack of care or foresight, the imprudencia punible.x x x
Were criminal negligence is but a modality in the commission of felonies, operating only to reduce the penalty therefor, then it would be absorbed in the mitigating circumstances of Art. 13, specially the lack of intent to commit so grave a wrong as the one actually committed. Furthermore, the theory would require that the corresponding penalty should be fixed in proportion to the penalty prescribed for each crime when committed willfully. For each penalty for the willful offense, there would then be a corresponding penalty for the negligent variety. But instead, our Revised Penal Code (Art. 365) fixes the penalty for reckless imprudence at arresto mayor maximum, to prision correccional, if the willful act would constitute a grave felony, notwithstanding that the penalty for the latter could range all the way from prision mayor to death, according to the case. It can be seen that the actual penalty for criminal negligence bears no relation to the individual willful crime, but is set in relation to a whole class, or series, of crimes.
Anent the imposable penalty, under Article 365 of the RPC, reckless imprudence resulting in falsification of public document is punishable by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period. In this case, taking into account the pertinent provisions of Indeterminate Sentence Law, the Sandiganbayan correctly imposed upon Sevilla the penalty of four ( 4) months of arresto mayor as minimum to two (2) years ten ( 10) months and twenty one (21) days of prision correccional as maximum.
Whether or not Sevilla’s claim that his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated when the Sandiganbayan convicted him of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents, when the Information only charged the intentional felony of falsification of public documents, has merit.
Held #2: NO.
The rules on variance between allegation and proof are laid down under Sections 4 and 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court.
To stress, reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents is an offense that is necessarily included in the willful act of falsification of public documents, the latter being the greater offense. As such, he can be convicted of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents notwithstanding that the Information only charged the willful act of falsification of public documents.