Case Brief: Tetangco vs. Ombudsman

G.R. No. 156427             January 20, 2006

AMANDO TETANGCO, Petitioner
vs.
THE HON. OMBUDSMAN and MAYOR JOSE L. ATIENZA, JR., Respondents.

 

FACTS:

Sometime on March 8, 2002, Amadeo Tetangco filed his Complaint before the Ombudsman alleging that on January 26, 2001, private respondent Mayor Atienza gave P3,000 cash financial assistance to the chairman and P1,000 to each tanod of Barangay 105, Zone 8, District I. Allegedly, on March 5, 2001, Mayor Atienza refunded P20,000 or the total amount of the financial assistance from the City of Manila when such disbursement was not justified as a lawful expense. In his Counter-Affidavit, Mayor Atienza denied the allegations and sought the dismissal of the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction and for forum-shopping. He asserted that it was the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), not the Ombudsman that has jurisdiction over the case and the same case had previously been filed before the COMELEC. Furthermore, the Complaint had no verification and certificate of non-forum shopping. The mayor maintained that the expenses were legal and justified, the same being supported by disbursement vouchers, and these had passed prior audit and accounting. The Investigating Officer recommended the dismissal of the Complaint for lack of evidence and merit. The Ombudsman adopted his recommendation. The Office of the Ombudsman, through its Over-all Deputy Ombudsman, likewise denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. Hence, a petition before the Supreme Court.

 

ISSUE: 

Whether or not the Ombudsman commits grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the Complaint?

 

HELD: 

The Ombudsman found no evidence to prove probable cause. Probable cause signifies a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man’s belief that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged.

The Complaint charges Mayor Atienza with illegal use of public funds. On this matter, Art. 220 of the Revised Penal Code provides: “Art. 220. Illegal use of public funds or property. – Any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property were appropriated by law or ordinance shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one-half to the total of the sum misapplied, if by reason of such misapplication, any damages or embarrassment shall have resulted to the public service. In either case, the offender shall also suffer the penalty of temporary special disqualification.

“The elements of the offense, also known as technical malversation, are: (1) the offender is an accountable public officer; (2) he applies public funds or property under his administration to some public use; and (3) the public use for which the public funds or property were applied is different from the purpose for which they were originally appropriated by law or ordinance.” It is clear that for technical malversation to exist, it is necessary that public funds or properties had been diverted to any public use other than that provided for by law or ordinance. To constitute the crime, there must be a diversion of the funds from the purpose for which they had been originally appropriated by law or ordinance. Patently, the third element is not present in this case.

In this case, the action taken by the Ombudsman cannot be characterized as arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic.  Here, the Complaint merely alleged that the disbursement for financial assistance was neither authorized by law nor justified as a lawful expense. Complainant did not cite any law or ordinance that provided for an original appropriation of the amount used for the financial assistance cited and that it was diverted from the appropriation it was intended for.

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Case Brief: Agullo vs. Sandiganbayan

G.R. No. 132926       July 20, 2001

ELVIRA AGULLO, petitioner,
vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

 

FACTS:

On September 30,1988 Elvira was Charge of malversation germinated from an audit conducted on 14 July 1986 by Ignacio Gerez, Auditing Examiner III, as a result of which a P26,404.26 cash shortage was discovered on petitioner’s accountability. In the course of the pre-trial, petitioner Agullo conceded the fact of audit and admitted the findings in the Report of Cash Examination and the facts set forth in the Letter of Demand. In effect, she admitted the fact of shortage in the amount stated in the Information. Notwithstanding, petitioner  Agullo, at all stages of the criminal indictment, persistently professed her innocence of the charge and categorically denied having malversed or converted the public funds in question for her own personal use or benefit. With petitioner’s admission of the fact of cash shortage, the prosecution then rested its case For its part, the defense, in its bid to overturn the presumption of malversation and shatter the prima facie evidenceof conversion, offered the testimony of the following witnesses: petitioner Elvira Agullo; Rene Briones Austero, Cashier III of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Region VIII; and Engracia Camposano-Camaoy, Barangay Captain of Hinabuyan, Dagame, Leyte. Striking down the defense as “incredible and without basis,” the Sandiganbayan rendered its assailed decision, convicting petitioner  Agullo of the crime of malversation of public funds, ratiocinating principally that “no evidence has been presented linking the loss of the government funds with the alleged sudden heart attack of the accused (herein petitioner).”

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Sandiganbayan disregarded or overlooked certain evidence of substance for the crime of malversation.

 

HELD:

The Supreme Court ruled that the Sandiganbayan undoubtedly disregarded or overlooked certain evidence of substance which, to a large extent, bear considerable weight in the adjudication of petitioner’s guilt or the affirmation of her constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Upon thorough scrutiny of the evidence adduced by both prosecution and defense, we hold that petitioner Agullo has satisfactorily overcome and rebutted by competent proof, the prima facie evidence of conversion so as to exonerate her from the charge of malversation. To this end, petitioner presented evidence that satisfactorily prove that not a single centavo of the missing funds was used for her own personal benefit or gain. Notably, the Sandiganbayan, in convicting petitioner, obviously relied more on the flaws and deficiencies in the evidence presented by the defense, not on the strength and merit of the prosecution’s evidence This course of action is impermissible for the evidence of the prosecution clearly cannot sustain a conviction “in an unprejudiced mind. “The constitutional presumption of innocence is not an empty platitude meant only to embellish the Bill of Rights. Its purpose is to balance the scales in what would otherwise be an uneven contest between the lone individual pitted against the People of the Philippines and all the resources at their command. Its inexorable mandate is that, for all the authority and influence of the prosecution, the accused must be acquitted and set free if his guilt cannot be proved beyond the whisper of doubt.”

Case Brief: Cañal vs. People

G.R. No. 163181     October 19, 2005

BONIFACIO L. CAÑAL, SR., Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

FACTS:

Emelinda, Daylinda’s witness, declared that while she was outside the courthouse she saw Bonifacio and clearly overheard him say in Filipino: “Why should you be afraid of Daylinda’s witnesses, they are all  nincompoops. Daylinda is a thief!  She has been long eking out a living as a thief.” A number of persons outside the courthouse also heard the utterances of Bonifacio.

The MCTC found the accused guilty of the crime grave oral defamation.

On appeal, the RTC rendered judgment affirming the decision of the MCTC.

The case was elevated to the CA via petition for review, and the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC’s decision. Hence, this petition to the SC.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the CA gravely erred in sustaining his conviction of the crime of grave oral defamation.

 

HELD:

The petition is denied for lack of merit. However, the Court finds that the penalty imposed on the petitioner is erroneous.  The penalty imposed by Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, for grave oral defamation is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period which has a duration of from four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months.

It must be remembered that every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.  And malice may be inferred from the style and tone of publication subject to certain exceptions which are not present. Indeed, calling Daylinda a thief is defamation against her character and reputation sufficient to cause her embarrassment and social humiliation. Daylinda testified to the feelings of shame and humiliation she suffered as a result of the incident complained of.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the CA is AFFIRMED WITH the MODIFICATION on his SENTENCE terms.

Case Brief: Drilon vs. Gaurana

G.R. No. L-35482 April 30, 1987

MANUEL DRILON, petitioner,

vs.

LUIS GAURANA and Honorable VALERIO ROVIRA, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Iloilo, Branch IV, respondents.

 

Facts:

A parcel of agricultural land in Iloilo is covered by Free Patent No. 455943 in the name of Manuel Drilon, who was then issued Original Certificate of Title by the Register of Deeds.

In 1970, respondent Gaurana filed a case for annulment of free patent involving the same land, alleging that he purchased the land from Evangeline Gaurana, wife of the respondent. Gaurana filed another case for “Forcible Entry” in the same land, alleging that Drilon “by means of stealth, force, and strategy,” took possession of the south-east portion of the same land.

Drilon’s motion focused on two grounds: lack of jurisdiction, since the cause of action of respondent Luis Gaumna was one for recovery of ownership and possession of real property and not merely one of “forcible entry;” and (b) pendency of another action for the same cause. Both motions were dismissed, as “plaintiff did not split his cause of action and the alleged act of dispossession occurred subsequent to the filing of the complaint, and therefore, the only issue before him was the question of de facto possession.” Drilon was then declared in default by the court, and was ejected from the property.

Drilon then filed a motion, praying that the court had no jurisdiction to try the case of forcible entry), which was denied as well. Hence, the appeal.

 

Issues:

Whether or not the lower court erred in holding that there was no splitting of a single cause of action.

Whether or not the lower court was correct in dismissing the motions due to the pendency of another action between the same parties.

 

Held:

It is true that a party may not institute more than one suit for a single cause of action (Rule 2, Sec. 3, Revised Rules of Court) and if two or more complaints are brought for different parts of a single cause of action, the firing of the first may be pleaded in abatement of the other (Rule 2, Sec. 4. Revised Rules of Court). However, a forcible entry or unlawful detainer action has an entirely different subject from that of an action for reconveyance of title. What is involved in a forcible entry case is merely the issue of material possession or possession de facto; whereas in an action for reconveyance, ownership is the issue. So much so that the pendency of an action for reconveyance of title over the same property does not divest the city or municipal court of its jurisdiction to try the forcible entry or unlawful detainer case, nor preclude or bar execution of judgment in the ejectment case where the only issue involved is material possession or possession de facto.

It must be stated that the purpose of an action of forcible entry and detainer is that, regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be turned out by strong hand, violence or terror. In affording this remedy of restitution the object of the statute is to prevent breaches of the peace and criminal disorder which would ensue from the withdrawal of the remedy, and the reasonable hope such withdrawal would create that some advantage must accrue to those persons who, believing themselves entitled to the possession of property, resort to force to gain possession rather than to some appropriate action in the courts to assert their claims. This is the philosophy at the foundation of all these actions of forcible entry and detainer which are designed to compel the party out of possession to respect and resort to the law alone to obtain what he claims is his.

With respect to the second assignment of error, while there may be Identity of parties and subject matter in the forcible entry case and Civil Case No. 8323, for annulment of free patent and/or reconveyance, the rights asserted and the relief prayed for in the said cases are not the same. In the former case, the legal right claimed is possession, while in the latter case, the legal right asserted is ownership. SC cannot assent to the proposition that the motion to dismiss the forcible entry case in view of the pendency of an action for quieting of title and recovery of possession of the same parcel of land since the causes of action in the two cases are distinct from each other.

Case Brief: Distilleria Washington vs. La Tondeña Distillers

G.R. No. 120961. October 2, 1997

DISTILLERIA WASHINGTON, INC. or WASHINGTON DISTILLERY, INC., petitioner

vs

LA TONDEÑA DISTILLERS, INC. and THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

 

Facts:

La Tondeña Distillers, Inc. filed before the Regional Trial Court for the recovery, under its claim of ownership, of possession or replevin against Distilleria Washington, Inc. or Washington Distillery, Inc. of 18,157 empty “350 c.c. white flint bottles” bearing the blown-in marks of “La Tondeña Inc.” and “Ginebra San Miguel,” averring that Distilleria Washington was using the bottles for its own “Gin Seven” products without the consent of Distilleria Washington in violation of Republic Act 623.

In the original decision, the court acknowledged that there was a valid transfer of the bottles to Distilleria Washington, except that its possession of the bottles without the written consent of La Tondeña gives rise to a prima facie presumption of illegal use under R.A. 623.

In seeking reconsideration of the decision, petitioner raises the issue that if petitioner became the owner over the bottles seized from it by replevin, then it has the right to their possession and use as attributes of ownership.

The instant case is one for replevin (manual delivery) where the claimant must be able to show convincingly that he is either the owner or clearly entitled to the possession of the object sought to be recovered. Replevin is a possessory action. The gist of which focuses on the right of possession that in turn, is dependent on a legal basis that, not infrequently, looks to the ownership of the object sought to be replevied.

 

Issue:

Since replevin as a possessory action is dependent upon ownership, it is relevant to ask: Whether or not there was a transfer ownership of La Tondeña Distillers’ marked bottles or containers when it sold its products in the market? Were the marked bottles or containers part of the products sold to the public?

 

Held:

 The manufacturer sells the product in marked containers, through dealers, to the public in supermarkets, grocery shops, retail stores and other sales outlets. The buyer takes the item; he is neither required to return the bottle nor required to make a deposit to assure its return to the seller. He could return the bottle and get a refund. A number of bottles at times find their way to commercial users. It cannot be gainsaid that ownership of the containers does pass on the consumer albeit subject to the statutory limitations on the use of the registered containers and to the trademark rights of the registrant.

In plain terms, therefore, La Tondeña not only sold its gin products but also the marked bottles or containers, as well. And when these products were transferred by way of sale, then ownership over the bottles and all its attributes (jus utendi, jus abutendi, just fruendi, jus disponendi) passed to the buyer. It necessarily follows that the transferee has the right to possession of the bottles unless he uses them in violation of the original owner’s registered or incorporeal rights.

Furthermore, Sec. 5 of R.A. 623 states that when the bottles have been “transferred by way of sale,” there should not be any need of institution of any action included in the same act (where there is a need of the written consent of the manufacturer, bottler, or seller). Since the Court has found that the bottles have been transferred by way of sale then, La Tondeña has relinquished all its proprietary rights over the bottles in favor of Distilleria Washington who has obtained them in due course. Now as owner, it can exercise all attributes of ownership over the bottles.

The general rule on ownership, therefore, must apply and petitioner be allowed to enjoy all the rights of an owner in regard the bottles in question, to wit: the jus utendi or the right to receive from the thing what it produces; the jus abutendi or the right to consume the thing by its use; the jus disponendi or the power of the owner to alienate, encumber, transform and even destroy the thing owned; and the jus vindicandi or the right to exclude from the possession of the thing owned any other person to whom the owner has not transmitted such thing. What is proscribed is the use of the bottles in infringement of another’s trademark or incorporeal rights.

Case Brief: Dela Cruz vs. People

G.R. No. 150439,     July 29, 2005
AMELITA DELA CRUZ, petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

Facts:
An information was filed against petitioner Dela Cruz for defrauding the Great Mandarin Villa Seafoods Village Inc and Hock Wan Restaurant Corporation. The corporations alleged that Dela Cruz was working as a payroll clerk of said corporation. She received from the said corporation a total sum of P471,166.11 representing the excess amount paid to the employees of said corporations as salaries, and failed to turn over the said excess; that, after possessing such amount, she went into hiding, and refused to return the same. It was the duty of the accused to compute the payroll based on the time card, request the treasurer for the issuance and encashment of the corresponding checks, placed the money on the pay slip and afterwards distribute the same to the employees.
Petitioner, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty of the crime charged. She contested that the amount she has always received was the exact amount for the salary of the employees every 15th and 30th of the month, which she computed beforehand and submitted to the treasurer thereafter. The treasurer has always given the exact amount to her, but she does not know the amount actually withdrawn by the former. She also alleged that there was no excess money in the first place, and that there were no complaints of short payments or reports of overpayment; and that the reason why she failed to report to work afterwards was because her brother-in-law died and she became ill.
The lower courts held that, applying the provisions of Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, particularly, that with the trust given to her, she really defrauded her employer by over-computing the payroll and converting or misappropriating the excess (amount) to her own personal use to the prejudice and damage of the private complainants; that she alone was entrusted with the money for the payroll and had complete access to it; that she had to erase the data in the computer to destroy the evidence against her; that she conveniently disappeared from the scene at the time of the discovery of the anomaly, and; she maintained a lifestyle beyond her financial means.
Petitioner claimed that the lower courts erred in their decisions on the grounds that the evidence presented is not sufficient to convict her beyond reasonable doubt.

Issue:
Whether or not petitioner Dela Cruz committed the crime of estafa.

Held:
No, petitioner Dela Cruz did not commit the crime.
Accused-petitioner was charged with the crime of estafa through misappropriation or conversion as defined in and penalized under Article 315, paragraph 1(b), of the Revised Penal Code. The elements of the said crime 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; and 4) that there is a demand made by the offended party on the offender.
The lower courts relied heavily on circumstantial evidence to convict the accused-petitioner. Under the Rules of Court, the requirements for circumstantial facts to be able to withstand the tribulation of a conviction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, are: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
After thoroughly reviewing the records of this case and weighing the testimonial evidence on the scale of creditworthiness and materiality, however, SC found that circumstantial evidence present in the case at bar are grossly insufficient to sustain a conviction. Petitioner had no hand in the actual issuance of the checks, and, more importantly, with the withdrawal of the money from the bank. Her only participation revolved around the computation of the payroll and the actual distribution of the salaries to the employees of the restaurants. While it was the accused-petitioner who computed the payroll of the employees, nevertheless, she was not the only person who had access to the money; that she was not the only computer-literate in their office as her general manager usually verifies the diskettes containing the payroll information; that if indeed she was culpable, she should have left long rather than reporting back to work for two more payroll periods after the alleged fraud,
In totality, only the checks and acknowledged payroll slips were presented to show the culpability of the accused-petitioner, and, sadly, said documentary evidence were the only basis for the theory that there was an over-computation of the payrolls.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals is RECONSIDERED and SET ASIDE. The questioned decision is hereby REVERSED. Accused-petitioner Amelita dela Cruz is ACQUITTED of the crime of estafa defined under Article 315, paragraph 1(b), of the Revised Penal Code on the ground of reasonable doubt.

Case Brief: Antiquera vs People

G.R. No. 180661 December 11, 2013
GEORGE ANTIQUERA y CODES, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Facts:
Police officers were conducting a police visibility patrol in Pasay City when they saw two unidentified men rush out of a house and boarded a jeep. Believing that there was a crime, the police officers approached the house. When they peeked through the partially opened door, they saw Antiquera and Cruz engaged in a pot session. The police officers entered the house, introduced themselves and arrested Antiquera and Cruz. While inspecting the vicinity, PO1 Cabutihan saw a jewellery box which contained shabu and unused paraphernalia. The RTC found them guilty of illegal possession of paraphernalia for dangerous drugs. The court affirmed the decision of RTC.

Issue:
Whether or not the arrest was invalid.

Held:
Yes, there was unlawful arrest because the circumstances here do not make out a case of arrest made in flagrante delicto. Admittedly, the police officers did not notice anything amiss going on in the house from the street where they stood. Indeed, even as they peeked through its partially opened door, they saw no activity that warranted their entering it. Clearly, no crime was plainly exposed to the view of the arresting officers that authorized the arrest of accused Antiquera without warrant under the above-mentioned rule. Considering that his arrest was illegal, the search and seizure that resulted from it was likewise illegal.