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 The treasurer has always given the exact amount to her, but she does not know the amount actually withdrawn by the former.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: Gonzaludo vs. People

G.R. No. 150910 February 6, 2006
BIENVENIDO GONZALUDO, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Facts:
Before his death in 1992, one Ulysses Villaflor married Anita Manlangit. Eventually, the two had to live separately due to the nature of their jobs. Ulysses was re-assigned to Bacolod City. And in December 1978, he was able to buy a small house located in Bacolod City.
Then, in 1985, Ulysses took one Rosemarie Gelogo as his mistress and brought her into the house. In time, improvements were made on the house. What used to be a small house, which Ulysses bought for only P1,500.00, was thus transformed into a 2-storey structure partially made of concrete hollow blocks and with galvanized iron roofing which thereby enhanced its value to P200,000.00.
After Ulysses’s demise, his mistress Rosemarie Gelogo offered to sell the 2-storey house forP80,000.00 to herein petitioner Bienvenido Gonzaludo. He did not buy the house, but he convinced the spouses Gregg Canlas and Melba Canlas, to whom he is related by affinity, to buy the same.
Rosemarie Gelogo and Gregg Canlas executed a Deed of Sale, witnessed by petitioner. In that deed, Rosemarie Gelogo signed as Rosemarie G. Villaflor and represented herself to be the lawful owner of the 2-storey house.
Later, Ulysses’s widow Anita Manlangit filed an information charging Rosemarie Gelogo, alias Rosemarie Villaflor, the spouses Gregg Canlas and Melba Canlas and petitioner with the crime of Estafa thru Falsification of Public Document. While Gelogo remained at large and spouses Canlas were acquitted, petitioner Gonzaludo was convicted of such crime.
Petitioner alleged that he should not be convicted of the crime of Estafa thru Falsification of Public Document because not all elements of the crime are present.

Issue:
Whether petitioner Gonzaludo committed the crime of Estafa thru Falsification of Public Document.

Held:
Gonzaldo did not commit the crime of estafa, but he did commit the crime of falsification of public document.
To secure conviction for estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code, the following requisites must concur: (1) that the accused made false pretenses or fraudulent representations as to his power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions; (2) that such false pretenses or fraudulent representations were made prior to or simultaneous with the commission of the fraud; (3) that such false pretenses or fraudulent representations constitute the very cause which induced the offended party to part with his money or property; and (4) that as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.
There is no question that the first, second and fourth elements are present. It is petitioner’s thesis, however, that there is here an absence of the third element, i.e., “that such false pretenses or fraudulent representations constitute the very cause which induced the offended party to part with his money or property,” contending that private complainant Anita Manlangit, who was the offended party in this case, was never induced to part with any money or property by means of fraud, committed simultaneously with the false pretense or fraudulent representation by Rosemarie.
While it may be said that there was fraud or deceit committed by Rosemarie in this case, when she used the surname “Villaflor” to give her semblance of authority to sell the subject 2-storey house, such fraud or deceit was employed upon the Canlas spouses who were the ones who parted with their money when they bought the house. However, the Information charging Rosemarie of estafa in the present case, alleged damage or injury not upon the Canlas spouses, but upon private complainant, Anita Manlangit. Since the deceit or fraud was not the efficient cause and did not induce Anita Manlangit to part with her property in this case, Rosemarie cannot be held liable for estafa. With all the more reason must this be for herein petitioner Gonzaludo.
The lack of criminal liability for estafa, however, will not necessarily absolve petitioner from criminal liability arising from the charge of falsification of public document
As correctly found by the trial court, petitioner conspired with Rosemarie to falsify, by declaring Rosemarie to be the owner of the house subject of such sale and signing as “Rosemarie Villaflor” instead of her real name, Rosemarie Gelogo, in order to sell the same to the Canlas spouses. It is established by evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Rosemarie committed the crime of falsification of public document. Likewise, proof beyond reasonable doubt has been duly adduced to establish conspiracy between Rosemarie and petitioner Gonzalugo.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals are hereby MODIFIED. Petitioner is hereby ACQUITTED of the complex crime of Estafa through Falsification of Public Document, but found GUILTY of the crime of Falsification of Public Document.

Case Brief: Recuerdo vs. People

G.R. No. 168217 June 27, 2006
JOY LEE RECUERDO, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Facts:
Petitioner Recuerdo, a dentist, was charged with the crime of Estafa under Art. 315 of Revised Penal Code for, with intent to gain and by means of deceit, false pretenses and fraudulent manifestations, and pretending to have sufficient funds with the Unitrust Makati Commercial Center Branch, PCI Bank Makati-De La Rosa Branch, and Prudential Bank Legaspi Village Branch, did willfully, unlawfully and feloniously prepare, draw, make and issue checks amounting to P132,000, P78,000, and P600,000, to complaining witness Yolanda G. Floro, who is engaged in the business of buying and selling of jewelry, as payment for jewelry she obtained from the said complainant, knowing fully well at the time the checks were issued that her representations were false for she had no sufficient funds in the said bank, so much that upon presentment of the said checks with the said bank for encashment, the same were dishonored and refused payment for having been drawn against an “Account Closed”, and in spite of repeated demands to deposit with the said bank, the said accused failed and refused to do so.
Recuerdo argued that her act of issuing the dishonored checks does not constitute the offense of Estafa considering that the subject checks were not issued and delivered to Floro simultaneous to the purchase of the pieces of jewelry, but only several days thereafter, when she had already thoroughly examined the jewelry and is fully satisfied of its fine quality; that out of the 17 subject checks, nine were honored by the drawee banks; that she made partial payments of the amounts of the subject checks while the case was pending in the CA, contrary to the findings of the courts that she acted with deceit when she drew and delivered the checks.

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

Held:
Yes, Recuerdo committed the crime of estafa.
Estafa through false pretense or fraudulent act under Paragraph 2(d) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 4885, is committed as follows:
By postdating a check, or issuing a check in payment of an obligation when the offender had no funds in the bank, or his funds deposited therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check. The failure of the drawer of the check to deposit the amount necessary to cover his check within three (3) days from receipt of notice from the bank and/or the payee or holder that said check has been dishonored for lack or insufficiency of funds shall be prima facie evidence of deceit constituting false pretense or fraudulent act.
The essential elements of the felony are: (1) a check is postdated or issued in payment of an obligation contracted at the time it is issued; (2) lack or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; and (3) damage to the payee thereof. It is criminal fraud or deceit in the issuance of a check which is made punishable under the Revised Penal Code, and not the non-payment of a debt. 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 which deceives or is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury. Concealment which the law denotes as fraudulent implies a purpose or design to hide facts which the other party ought to have. The postdating or issuing of a check in payment of an obligation when the offender had no funds in the bank or his funds deposited therein are not sufficient to cover the amount of the check is a false pretense or a fraudulent act.
Petitioner’s defense of good faith is even belied by the evidence of the prosecution and her own evidence. When the postdated checks issued by petitioner were dishonored by the drawee banks and the private complainant made demands for her to pay the amounts of the checks, she intransigently refused to pay; she insisted that she issued and delivered the postdated checks to the private complainant after the subject pieces of jewelry had been delivered to her. Petitioner never offered to pay the amounts of the checks after she was informed by the private complainant that they had been dishonored by the drawee banks. It was after the CA promulgated its decision affirming the decision of the trial court, that petitioner made several payments to the private complainant; however, there is no showing as to which checks they were made in payment for. In fine, it was the spectre of a long prison term which jolted petitioner into making remittances to the private complainant, after the CA affirmed the decision of the trial court and increased the penalty meted on her, and not because she had acted in good faith in her transactions with the private complainant. To reiterate, petitioner rejected the demands of the private complainant to pay the amounts of the dishonored checks.
While it is true that nine of the 17 postdated checks petitioner issued and delivered to the private complainant were honored by the drawee banks, such a circumstance is not a justification for her acquittal of the charges relative to the dishonored checks. The reimbursement or restitution to the offended party of the sums swindled by the petitioner does not extinguish the criminal liability of the latter. Estafa is a public offense which must be prosecuted and punished by the State on its own motion even though complete reparation had been made for the loss or damage suffered by the offended party. The consent of the private complainant to petitioner’s payment of her civil liability pendente lite does not entitle the latter to an acquittal. Subsequent payments does not obliterate the criminal liability already incurred. Criminal liability for estafa is not affected by a compromise between petitioner and the private complainant on the former’s civil liability.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. No costs.

Case Brief: Torres vs. CA

G.R. No. 134559   December 9, 1999

ANTONIA TORRES, assisted by her husband, ANGELO TORRES; and EMETERIA BARING, petitioners,

vs.

COURT OF APPEALS and MANUEL TORRES, respondents.

Facts:

Petitioners Torres and Baring entered into a “joint venture agreement” with Respondent Torres for the development of a parcel of land into a subdivision. They executed a Deed of Sale covering the said parcel of land in favor of respondent Manual Torres, who then had it registered in his name. By mortgaging the property, respondent Manuel Torres obtained from Equitable Bank a loan of P40,000, which was supposed to be used for the development of subdivision as per the JVA. However, the project did not push through and the land was subsequently foreclosed by the bank.

Petitioners Antonia Torres alleged that it was due to respondent’s lack of funds/skills that caused the project to fail, and that respondent use the loan in the furtherance of his own company. On the otherhand, respondent Manuel Torres alleged that he used the loan to implement the JVA – surveying and subdivision of lots, approval of the project, advertisement, and construction of roads and the likes, and that he did all of these for a total of P85,000.

Petitioners filed a case for estafa against respondent but failed. They then instituted a civil case. CA held that the two parties formed a partnership for the development of subdivision and as such, they must bear the loss suffered by the partnership in the same proportion as their share in profits. Hence, the petition.

Issue #1:

Whether or not the transaction between petitioner and respondent was that of joint venture/partnership.

Held:

Yes. There formed a partnership between the two on the basis of joint-venture agreement and deed of sale. A reading of the terms of agreement shows the existence of partnership pursuant to Art 1767 of Civil Code, which states “By the contract of partnership two or more persons bind themselves to contribute money, property, or industry to a common fund, with the intention of dividing the profits among themselves.” In the agreement, petitioners would contribute property to the partnership in the form of land which was to be developed into a subdivision; while respondent would give, in addition to his industry, the amount needed for general expenses and other costs. Furthermore, the income from the said project would be divided according to the stipulated percentage. Clearly, the contract manifested the intention of the parties to form a partnership.

Issue #2:

Whether or not the deed of sale between the two was valid.

Held:

No. Petitioners were wrong in contending that the JVA is void under Article 1422[14] of the Civil Code, because it is the direct result of an earlier illegal contract, which was for the sale of the land without valid consideration.

The Joint Venture Agreement clearly states that the consideration for the sale was the expectation of profits from the subdivision project. Its first stipulation states that petitioners did not actually receive payment for the parcel of land sold to respondent. Consideration, more properly denominated as cause, can take different forms, such as the prestation or promise of a thing or service by another.

In this case, the cause of the contract of sale consisted not in the stated peso value of the land, but in the expectation of profits from the subdivision project, for which the land was intended to be used. As explained by the trial court, the land was in effect given to the partnership as petitioners participation therein. There was therefore a consideration for the sale, the petitioners acting in the expectation that, should the venture come into fruition, they would get sixty percent of the net profits.

Estafa By Means of Deceit vis-a-vis Bouncing Checks Law

ESTAFA

Elements in General:

  1. The accused defrauded another by abuse of confidence of by means of deceit; and
  2. That damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third persons

 

ESTAFA BY MEANS OF DECEIT (Article 315, No. 2 RPC)
Elements:

  1. There must be false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means;
  2. Such false pretense, 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, that is, he was induced to part with his money or property because of the false pretense; and
  4. That as result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.

 

Article 315, No. 2 RPC
(d) By post-dating a check, or issuing a check in payment of an obligation when the offender therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check. The failure of the drawer of the check to deposit the amount necessary to cover his check within three (3) days from receipt of notice from the bank and/or the payee or holder that said check has been dishonored for lack of insufficiency of funds shall be prima facie evidence of deceit constituting false pretense or fraudulent act. (As amended by R.A. 4885, approved June 17, 1967.)

ELEMENTS:

  1. That the offender postdated a check, OR issued a check in payment of an obligation; and
  2. That such postdating or issuing a check was done when the offender had no funds in the bank, or his funds deposited therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check

The issuance by the offender of the check (whether postdated or not), prior to or simultaneous with the transaction, must be for the purpose of contracting the obligation, otherwise if the check is issued in payment of a preexisting obligation, no estafa is committed, only a civil liability.

If the check was issued by the debtor only for security of the creditor, as in the nature of promissory notes but not to be encashed, no estafa will be involved.

Good faith is a defense in a charge of estafa by postdating or issuing a check (People vs Villapando, 56 Phil 31)

Estafa by issuing a bad check is a continuing offense

There is prima facie evidence of deceit when the drawer fails to pay or make arrangement for payment three (3) days after receiving notice of dishonor.

The payee or person receiving the check must be damaged or prejudiced

 

BOUNCING CHECKS LAW (B.P. Blg. 22)

Offenses Punished under BP22:

1. Making or Drawing and issuing a check knowing at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds

Elements:

  1. That a person makes or draws and issues any check to apply on account or for value;
  2. That the person knows that at the time of issue he does not have sufficient funds or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check upon its presentment; and
  3. That the check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit, or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment

Requisites for Criminal Liability under BP 22

  1. A person makes, draws or issues a check as payment for account or for value;
  2. That the check was dishonored by the bank due to a lack of funds, insufficiency of funds or account already closed;
  3. The payee or holder of such check gives written notice of dishonor and demand for payment; and
  4. That the maker, drawer or issuer, after receiving such notice and demand, refuses or fails to pay the value of the check within FIVE BANKING DAYS
  • It is not the making, drawing, or issuance nor the dishonor of the check which gives rise to a violation of BP 22, but rather the failure to make good the check within FIVE BANKING DAYS from receipt of the Notice of Dishonor and Demand for Payment
  • While the written notice of dishonor and demand is not an element in the violation of BP 22, the failure to give such notice to the maker, drawer or issuer of the bouncing check is FATAL to an action to hold the latter criminally liable.
  • The full payment of the amount appearing in the check within five banking days from notice of dishonor is a complete defense against BP 22. The absence of a notice of dishonor necessarily deprives an accused an opportunity to preclude criminal prosecution. Accordingly, procedural due process clearly enjoins that a notice of dishonor be actually served on the maker, drawer or issuer of the check. He has a right to demand that the notice of dishonor be actually sent to and received by him to afford him the opportunity to avert prosecution under BP 22. (Lina Lim Lao vs People GR No. 117178 June 20, 1997)

 

2. Failing to keep sufficient funds to cover the full amount of the check

Elements:

  1. That a person has sufficient funds with the drawee bank when he makes or draws and issues a check;
  2. That he fails to keep sufficient funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount if presented within a period of 90 days from the date of appearing thereon; and
  3. That the check is dishonored by the drawee bank.
  • The 90- day period stated is NOT an element of the violation of BP 22 by failing to keep sufficient funds. As such, the maker, drawer or issuer of the check is not discharged from his duty to maintain a sufficient balance on his account for a reasonable time even BEYOND the 90-day period. A “reasonable time” according to current banking practice is 6 months or 180 days, after which the check becomes stale.
  • Thus, where a check is presented beyond the 90-day period but within 180 days from the date of failure to maintain a sufficient balance, the maker, drawer or issuer shall still be liable for violation of BP 22 (Wong vs C.A. GR No. 117857, February 2, 2001)
  • Gravamen of BP 22 is the issuance of a worthless or bum check

 

Evidence of Knowledge of Insufficient Funds

         – Refusal of drawee bank to pay the check due to insufficiency of funds when presented within 90 days from the date of the check shall be prima facie knowledge of insufficiency of funds, unless the drawer or maker pays the holder the amount due thereon or makes arrangements for the payment thereof by the drawee within five (5) banking days after receipt of notice that the check was dishonored.

BP 22

ESTAFA (RPC)

The maker or drawer and issuer knows at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient fund in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full Not necessary that the drawer should know at the time that he issued the check that the funds deposited in the bank were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check
Mere issuance of a check that is dishonored gives rise to the presumption of knowledge of insufficiency of funds No presumption of knowledge arises

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Case Brief: Macapagal v People

717 SCRA 425

MACAPAGAL

VS.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Facts:

On November 25, 2008, the RTC rendered a decision finding petitioner guilty of the crime of Estafa for misappropriating, for her own benefit, the total amount of P800,000.00, which is the value of the unreturned and unsold pieces of jewelry. Petitioner received the decision on

January 13, 2009 then she timely moved for reconsideration, but was likewise denied in an Order dated May 20, 2009 which the petitioner allegedly received on July 31, 2009. She supposedly filed a Notice of Appeal. On August 3, 2009, but the same was denied on June 29, 2010 for having been filed out of time.

Issue:

Whether or not the regional trial court of manila, Branch 9 gravely erred in denying the notice of appeal filed by the herein petitioner.

Held:

The Court notes that the instant case suffers from various procedural infirmities which this Court cannot ignore and are fatal to petitioner’s cause. It appears that petitioner assails not only the denial by the RTC of her notice of appeal but likewise seeks the reversal of her conviction for estafa. For reasons that will be discussed below, the petition is bound to fail, because of petitioner’s complete disregard of the procedural rules and the orders of the Court.

First, petitioner availed of the wrong mode of assailing the trial court’s denial of her notice of appeal. Sections 2 and 3, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure lay down the rules on where, how and when appeal is taken.

Second, even if we treat this petition as one for certiorari under Rule 65, it is still dismissible for violation of the hierarchy of courts. Although the Supreme Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the RTC and the CA to issue writs of certiorari, this should not be taken as granting parties the absolute and unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which an application will be directed. Direct resort to this Court is allowed only if there are special, important and compelling reasons clearly and specifically spelled out in the petition, which are not present in this case.

Third, even if we ignore the above non-compliance and consider the petition as an appeal of the trial court’s decision convicting her of estafa, again, we cannot do so for yet another fatal procedural shortcoming committed by petitioner. As stated earlier, petitioner elevated to this Court not only the Order denying her notice of appeal but also the Decision convicting her of estafa and the Order denying her motion for reconsideration. In utter disregard of the rules of procedure, petitioner attached to the petition only the June 29, 2010 RTC Order denying her notice of appeal but she failed to attach a clearly legible duplicate original or a certified true copy of the assailed decision convicting her of estafa and the order denying her motion for reconsideration. A petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court must contain a certified true copy or duplicate original of the assailed decision, final order or judgment. Failure to comply with such requirement shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition.

Case Brief: Guasch v Dela Cruz

  G.R. No. 176015

MERCEDITA T. GUASCH

vs.

ARNALDO DELA CRUZ

FACTS:

Respondent Arnaldo dela Cruz (respondent) filed a Complaint-Affidavit against petitioner Mercedita T. Guasch (petitioner) with the City Prosecutor of Manila.  On several occasions, petitioner transacted business with him by exchanging cash for checks of small amount without interest.

On July 26, 1999, petitioner went to his residence requesting him to exchange her check with cash of P3,300,000.00. Initially, he refused.  However, petitioner returned the next day and was able to convince him to give her P3,300,000.00 in cash in exchange for her Insular Savings Bank Check No. 0032082 dated January 31, 2000 upon her assurance that she will have the funds and bank deposit to cover the said check by January 2000.  On the date of maturity and upon presentment, however, the check was dishonored for the reason that the account against which it was drawn was already closed.

An information for estafa was filed against the petitioner.

After petitioner entered her plea of not guilty and after the prosecution rested its case, petitioner filed a Motion with Leave to Admit Demurrer to Evidence with attached Demurrer to Evidence.  The trial court issued an Order dated June 16, 2005 granting the demurrer to evidence and dismissing the case.

The trial court found that respondent’s assertion of misrepresentation by petitioner that her check will be fully funded on the maturity date was not supported by the evidence on record. Accordingly, her guilt not having been proven beyond reasonable doubt, petitioner was acquitted.

On June 28, 2005, respondent received a copy of the said order. On July 14, 2005, respondent filed a Manifestation with attached Motion to Amend Order dated June 16, 2005 (Motion to Amend) to include a finding of civil liability of petitioner. Respondents counsel justified his failure to file the motion within the reglementary period of 15 days because all postal offices in Metro Manila were allegedly ordered closed in the afternoon due to the rally staged on Ayala Avenue.

Meantime, on August 30, 2005, respondent filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals praying that the trial courts Order dated June 16, 2005 granting the demurrer to evidence be set aside.  The trial court denied respondents Motion to Amend in its Order dated September 20, 2005 finding that counsel for respondent was inexcusably negligent; Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration but the same was denied by the trial court.

On December 7, 2005, respondent filed a Notice of Appeal informing the trial court that he was appealing the Order but it was likewise denied.

Consequently, on February 13, 2006, respondent filed a Supplemental Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals to set aside the Orders.

The Court of Appeals rendered the assailed Decision. On the issue of whether the issuance of the Order dated June 16, 2005 granting the demurrer to evidence was made with grave abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeals ruled in the negative as it found that the trial court did not anchor the acquittal of petitioner on evidence other than that presented by the prosecution as contended by petitioner. On the issue of whether the denial of respondents Motion to Amend was tainted with grave abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeals ruled in the affirmative. Motion to Amend Order dated 16 June 2005 is hereby SET ASIDE.

ISSUE:

Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied respondents Motion to Amend.

HELD:

As a general rule, the statutory requirement that when no motion for reconsideration is filed within the reglementary period, the decision attains finality and becomes executory in due course must be strictly enforced as they are considered indispensable interdictions against needless delays and for orderly discharge of judicial business. The purposes for such statutory requirement are twofold: first, to avoid delay in the administration of justice and thus, procedurally, to make orderly the discharge of judicial business, and, second, to put an end to judicial controversies, at the risk of occasional errors, which are precisely why courts exist. Controversies cannot drag on indefinitely. The rights and obligations of every litigant must not hang in suspense for an indefinite period of time.

However, in exceptional cases, substantial justice and equity considerations warrant the giving of due course to an appeal by suspending the enforcement of statutory and mandatory rules of procedure. Certain elements are considered for the appeal to be given due course, such as: (1) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (2) the merits of the case, (3) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (4) lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (5) the other party will not be unduly prejudiced thereby.

Several of these elements obtain in the case at bar.

First, there is ostensible merit to respondents cause. The records show that petitioner admits her civil obligation to respondent. Respondent did not waive, reserve, nor institute a civil action for the recovery of civil liability. Hence, since the civil action is deemed instituted with the criminal action, the trial court was duty-bound to determine the civil liability.

Second, it cannot be said that petitioner will be unduly prejudiced if respondents Motion to Amend for the sole purpose of including the civil liability of petitioner in the order of acquittal shall be allowed. Respondent concededly has an available remedy even if his Motion to Amend was denied, which is to institute a separate civil action to recover petitioners civil liability. However, to require him to pursue this remedy at this stage will only prolong the litigation between the parties which negates the avowed purpose of the strict enforcement of reglementary periods to appeal, that is, to put an end to judicial controversies.

It is a cherished rule of procedure that a court should always strive to settle the entire controversy in a single proceeding leaving no root or branch to bear the seeds of future litigation. Given the circumstances in this case, we find that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied respondents Motion to Amend.