[G.R. NO. 145420 : September 19, 2006]
A. RAFAEL C. DINGLASAN, JR. Petitioner, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before this Court is a Petition for New Trial and, in the alternative, for the Reopening of the Case1 on the ground of newly discovered evidence filed by A. Rafael C. Dinglasan, Jr. (Dinglasan) who was found guilty2 of violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, otherwise known as The Bouncing Checks Law, by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati, Branch 62, in Criminal Case No. 21238.
On 17 August 1985, Elmyra Trading Corporation (Elmyra), represented by its President, Dinglasan, and Antrom, Inc. (Antrom), also represented by its President, Antonio Garcia Jr., entered into a Memorandum of Agreement whereby the parties agreed that Antrom will extend credit accommodation in favor of Elmyra to finance its prawn business. The latter, in turn, will issue checks to guarantee the payment of its obligations.
A few months after a number of financing transactions were made, Elmyra's indebtedness to Antrom reached the amount of
P1,476,000.58. As initial payment, Dinglasan issued a Commercial Bank (drawee bank) Check No. HO270451 with Antrom as payee, but postdated on 3 October 1985 in the amount of P515,000.00. Upon presentment for payment with the drawee bank, however, the said check was dishonored for insufficiency of funds.
Consequently, on 16 December 1985, an Information3 charging Dinglasan with Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 was filed before the RTC of Makati, Branch 62, docketed as Criminal Case No. 21238, People of the Philippines v. A. Rafael C. Dinglasan, Jr. The Information reads:
That on or about the 3rd day of October, 1985, in the Municipality of Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, well knowing that he has no sufficient funds in or credit with the bank, did there and then willfully, unlawfully and feloniously make out and issue Commercial Bank of Manila Check No. H0207451 dated October 3, 1985 in the amount of
P515,000.00 in payment of his obligation to Antrom Inc., represented by Rosanna E. Velasco, but when said check was presented to the bank for payment, the same was dishonored and/or refused payment for reason "Drawn Against Insufficient Funds" and accused, despite repeated demands and lapse of five (5) banking days from notice thereof, failed and refused to make good the said check and/or to deposit with the drawee bank the necessary amount to cover the aforesaid check, to the damage and prejudice of the herein complainant in the aforementioned amount of P515,000.00
On 16 December 1991, the trial court convicted Dinglasan for having committed the crime charged. In a Decision4 promulgated on the same date, the court a quo found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. The dispositive portion reads this wise:
WHEREFORE, finding accused A. Rafael C. Dinglasan, Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating B.P. Blg. 22, he is hereby sentenced to suffer an imprisonment of one year and to pay a fine of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (
P200,000.00); and, to indemnify ANTROM, INC., the sum of Five Hundred Fifteen (sic) ( P515,000.00) Pesos, at [the] legal rate of interest from October 3, 1985, until the full amount of P515,000.0 is fully paid.
On 25 September 1992, Dinglasan appealed to the Court of Appeals the adverse RTC Decision dated 16 December 1991, finding him guilty of violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 and the RTC Order dated 4 September 1992, denying his Motion for Reconsideration.7
On 26 October 1998, the appellate court in CA-G.R. CR No. 14138, People of the Philippines v. A. Rafael. C. Dinglasan, handed down a Decision,8 dismissing the appeal, thereby, affirming in toto the Decision of the RTC finding Dinglasan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error therefrom, the Decision now on appeal is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against accused-appellant.
Aggrieved, the accused filed before this Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari9 questioning the 26 October 1998 Decision of the Court of Appeals. The petition was docketed as G.R. No. 137800, A. Rafael C. Dinglasan v. Court of Appeals, and was raffled to the Third Division of this Court. In a Resolution10 dated 28 June 1999, this Court resolved to deny the petition for failure to show that a reversible error had been committed by the appellate court.
A Motion for Reconsideration11 was then filed by Dinglasan on 26 August 1999, but the same was again denied by this Court in a Resolution dated 13 September 1999 for failure to raise substantial arguments that would warrant reconsideration of the Resolution dated 28 June 1999 with an ad cautelam that such denial is final.12
Undaunted, Dinglasan filed a Second Motion for Reconsideration but the same was merely noted without action by this Court in view of the En Banc Resolution dated 7 April 1987 that no motion for leave to file a second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or a final resolution by the same party shall be entertained. In a Resolution dated 16 December 1999, this Court directed that no further pleadings shall be entertained in this case.
The Resolution of this Court dated 28 June 1999 denying Dinglasan's Petition for Review became final and executory on 14 October 1999 as evidenced by the Entry of Judgment.13
By virtue of the final and executory judgment rendered by this Court in G.R. No. 137800, the prosecution, on 19 September 2000, filed a motion14 with the RTC for the issuance of the warrant of arrest and writ of execution in order to satisfy the judgment. The prosecution likewise prayed that a hold-departure order be issued in order to prevent Dinglasan from leaving the country until he has fully served his sentence.
In an Order15 issued on 21 September 2000, the trial court, acting on the said motion, issued a warrant for the arrest of Dinglasan and a writ of execution for the enforcement of his civil liability and, at the same time, enjoining him from leaving the country.
Alarmed, Dinglasan on 30 October 2000, filed the instant Petition for New Trial and, in the alternative, for the Reopening of the Case16 based on newly discovered evidence, which was docketed as G.R. No. 145420, entitled, "A. Rafael C. Dinglasan Jr. v. Court of Appeals." He urges this Court to uphold substantial justice, emphasizing that the newly discovered evidence he seeks to introduce in this case is so material and of such weight that, if, admitted would probably change the judgment, hence, suspension of procedural rules is warranted.
The alleged newly discovered evidence claimed by Dinglasan are the affidavits of Ma. Elena Dinglasan, in her capacity as Executive Vice-President and Treasurer of Elmyra, and Ma. Encarnacion Vda. De Dinglasan, the wife of Mariano Dinglasan, who, during his lifetime, was the Cashier and Liaison Officer of the same company. These affidavits, together with the transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985 attached to Solidbank Manager's Check No. 002969 dated 3 October 1985 sent by Ma. Elena Dinglasan to Antrom, tends to prove that Dinglasan made good of the check within five banking days from notice of dishonor. He could not, therefore, be validly convicted of violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 for one of the essential elements of the offense, that is, the drawer failed and refused to make good the said check within five banking days from the notice of dishonor, is absent.
In her affidavit,17 Ma. Elena Dinglasan attested that she was the Executive Vice-President and Treasurer of Elmyra for the period of 1985-1986. As such, she was in-charge of disbursing and sourcing of corporation funds including the preparation of checks and approval of vouchers supporting the disbursements. In the course of its business, the affiant caused the issuance of Commercial Bank Check No. 270451 on 27 September 1985 in the amount of
P515,000.00, but postdated on 3 October 1985, which was dishonored by the bank for insufficiency of funds and which eventually caused Dinglasan's conviction for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. Upon receiving the notice of dishonor, she caused the preparation of Solidbank Manager's Check No. 002969 dated 3 October 1985 in the amount of P150,000.00 intended to cover a part of the amount of the bounced check. The Solidbank check, together with its transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985, stating the purpose of the said check, was sent to Antrom and was received by its representative as evidenced by the signature appearing on the receiving copy thereof.
Explaining why the said transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985 was belatedly offered as evidence on this case, Ma. Elena Dinglasan reasoned that that she was not aware that the said letter has any significance on Dinglasan's liability. She explained further that in 1993 she was diagnosed of breast cancer and had to undergo surgical operation and chemotherapy.
To corroborate the statements of Ma. Elena Dinglasan, Encarnacion Vda. De Dinglasan on her part, narrated under oath that her late husband used to bring some of Elmyra's documents home to work on at night and after her husband's death in 1994, such documents were kept inside a box and left somewhere in one corner of their house. It was only when a minor renovation was made therein several years after her husband passed away that she was able to chance upon the said documents again. The said documents were turned over to Dinglasan on 21 October 2000. It was later discovered that the said documents include the transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985 sent by Ma. Elena Dinglasan to Antrom.18
In contrast, private respondent Antrom contends that the Petition for New Trial and/or Reopening of the Case based on newly discovered evidence should be dismissed on the ground that the same is procedurally and substantially defective.19
Elaborating, Antrom claims that under the Revised Rules of Court, the Motion for New Trial should be filed at any time after the appeal from the lower court has been perfected and before the judgment of the appellate court convicting the accused becomes final. The judgment of this Court in G.R. No. 137800 dated 28 June 1999 became final and executory on 14 October 1999 as evidenced by the Entry of Judgment. The present petition, on the other hand, was filed only on 30 October 2000 or a year after the finality of the decision in G.R. No. 137800. The filing of the instant action, therefore, has already prescribed.20
Moreover, Antrom continues, considering for the sake of argument that the instant action was filed within the reglementary period, still, the petition must fail for the requisites for newly discovered evidence as ground for new trial were not satisfactorily complied with. Let it be noted that the transmittal letter dated 8 October 1995 was previously attached as evidence in a Petition for Review filed by Dinglasan before the Ministry of Justice (now the Department of Justice) on 15 December 1986, assailing the Resolution of the Fiscal dated 11 December 1986 recommending the filing of Information against him. The same letter was also introduced as evidence before the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 14138 when Dinglasan assailed the RTC decision dated 16 December 1991. Hence, the claim that the alleged evidence was not available during the trial in the courts below, and is thus, newly discovered is erroneous, if not misleading.21
Finally, Antrom stresses that, granting for the sake of argument, that the petition at bar was filed on time and the alleged evidence is newly discovered within the purview of the law, such evidence introduced and admitted, nevertheless, would not exculpate Dinglasan from liability. The gravamen of the offense is the act of the drawer in making or issuing a check with the full knowledge that he does not have sufficient funds to cover the amount. Such awareness was admitted by Dinglasan when he expressly requested Antrom not to deposit the check without his explicit conformity in anticipation that such check will be dishonored if presented for payment. The mere act of issuing a worthless check and not the nonpayment of the obligation is punished by law because of its deleterious effect on public interest.
The Solicitor General, representing the People of the Philippines, on their part, submitted that the instant petition should be dismissed because it was filed out of time and Dinglasan's evidence sought to be admitted is neither material nor newly discovered so as to warrant new trial or reopening of the case. The alleged evidence if introduced and admitted, would not in any way alter the judgment. Upon perusal of the transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985, it was nowhere stated therein that Solidbank Manager's Check No. 002969 dated 3 October 1985 was intended as partial payment of Commercial Bank Check No. 270451 dated 3 October 1985 that bounced. The said letter was a mere proposal wherein a payment in kind or dacion en pago was offered by Elmyra. The Solicitor General likewise noted that the letter dated 8 October 1986 was already introduced as evidence in the Petition for Review with the Ministry of Justice filed by Dinglasan.22
For the resolution of this Court are the following issues:
WHETHER OR NOT THE INSTANT PETITION WAS FILED ON TIME.
WHETHER OR NOT A NEW TRIAL OR REOPENING OF THE CASE BASED ON NEWLY DISCOVERED EVIDENCE SHOULD BE ALLOWED.
The pertinent provision of the Revised Rules of Court reads:
Rule 124 - Procedure in the Court of Appeals.
Section 14. Motion for New Trial. - At any time after the appeal from the lower court has been perfected and before the judgment of the Court of Appeals convicting the accused becomes final, the latter may move for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence material to his defense. The motion shall conform to the provisions of section 4 Rule 121. (Emphasis supplied.)
Explicit from the above stated rule that a Motion for New Trial should be filed before the judgment of the appellate court convicting the accused becomes final.
While Dinglasan agrees with the above stated rules that the instant petition should be filed before the finality of the judgment convicting the appellant, he, however argues that judgment attains finality only upon the receipt of the order or resolution denying his second motion for reconsideration.
Dinglasan's argument is without merit.
Let it be recalled that Dinglasan's Motion for Leave to File Second Motion for Reconsideration was denied by this Court as the subject matter thereof is a prohibited pleading and that the Motion for Reconsideration was merely noted without action. This order is issued pursuant to En Banc Resolution dated 7 April 1999 which prohibits any motion for leave to file a second motion for reconsideration and was further emphasized by the provision of the Revised Rules of Court which provides that:
Rule 52. - Motion for Reconsideration.
Section 2. Second Motion for Reconsideration. '' No second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or a final resolution by the same party shall be entertained.
This prohibition is justified by public policy which demands that at the risk of occasional errors, judgments of courts must become final at some definitive date fixed by law.23
To rule that finality of judgment shall be reckoned from the receipt of the resolution or order denying the second motion for reconsideration would result to an absurd situation whereby courts will be obliged to issue orders or resolutions denying what is a prohibited motion in the first place, in order that the period for the finality of judgments shall run, thereby, prolonging the disposition of cases. Moreover, such a ruling would allow a party to forestall the running of the period of finality of judgments by virtue of filing a prohibited pleading; such a situation is not only illogical but also unjust to the winning party.
It bears stressing further that on 14 October 1999, the Resolution of this Court in G.R. No. 137800 dated 28 June 1999 became final and executory as evidenced by the Entry of Judgment according to the pertinent provision of the Revised Rules of Court, which reads:
Rule 51. - Judgment.
"Sec. 10. Entry of judgments and final resolutions. - If no appeal or motion for new trial or reconsideration is filed within the time provided in these Rules, the judgment or final resolution shall forthwith be entered by the clerk in the book of entries of judgments. The date when the judgment or final resolution becomes executory shall be deemed as the date of its entry. The record shall contain the dispositive part of the judgment or final resolution and shall be signed by the clerk, with a certificate that such judgment or final resolution has become final and executory.
After the judgment or final resolution is entered in the entries of judgment, the case shall be laid to rest. A decision that acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable and it may no longer be modified in any respect even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law and whether it will be made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court of the land.24
Very clearly, the filing of the instant Petition for New Trial and/or Reopening of the Case on 30 October 2000 was made way beyond the prescriptive period for doing so. The claim of Dinglasan that he honestly believed that this Court will appreciate his defense of payment as reiterated in his Second Motion for Reconsideration which was why he deemed it pre-mature to file the instant petition before receiving the Court's ruling on the said motion, could not be given credence.
The finality of decision is a jurisdictional event which cannot be made to depend on the convenience of the party. To rule otherwise would completely negate the purpose of the rule on completeness of service, which is to place the date of receipt of pleadings, judgment and processes beyond the power of the party being served to determine at his pleasure.25
Dinglasan further asseverates that this petition was belatedly made because the evidence sought to be admitted were not available at the time the instant petition should have been filed. Accordingly, he claims that this evidence falls within the purview of newly discovered evidence as contemplated by law.
The pertinent provision of the Revised Rules of Court reads:
Rule 121 - New Trial or Reconsideration.
Sec. 2. Grounds for a new trial. - The court shall grant a new trial on any of the following grounds:
(a) That errors of law or irregularities prejudicial to the substantial rights of the accused have been committed during the trial;
(b) That new and material evidence has been discovered which the accused could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced at the trial and which if introduced and admitted would probably change the judgment.
The requisites for newly discovered evidence under Section 2, Rule 121 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure are: (a) the evidence was discovered after the trial; (b) such evidence could not have been discovered and produced at the trial with reasonable diligence; and (c) that it is material, not merely cumulative, corroborative or impeaching, and is of such weight that, if admitted, will probably change the judgment.26
These standards, also known as the "Berry Rule," trace their origin to the 1851 case of Berry v. State of Georgia27 where the Supreme Court of Georgia held:
Applications for new trial on account of newly discovered evidence, are not favored by the Courts. x x x Upon the following points there seems to be a pretty general concurrence of authority, viz; that it is incumbent on a party who asks for a new trial, on the ground of newly discovered evidence, to satisfy the Court, 1st. That the evidence has come to his knowledge since the trial. 2d. That it was not owing to the want of due diligence that it did not come sooner. 3d. That it is so material that it would produce a different verdict, if the new trial were granted. 4th. That it is not cumulative only - viz; speaking to facts, in relation to which there was evidence on the trial. 5th. That the affidavit of the witness himself should be produced, or its absence accounted for. And 6th, a new trial will not be granted, if the only object of the testimony is to impeach the character or credit of a witness.
These guidelines have since been followed by our courts in determining the propriety of motions for new trial based on newly discovered evidence.
It should be emphasized that the applicant for new trial has the burden of showing that the new evidence he seeks to present has complied with the requisites to justify the holding of a new trial.28
The threshold question in resolving a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence is whether the proferred evidence is in fact a "newly discovered evidence which could not have been discovered by due diligence." The question of whether evidence is newly discovered has two aspects: a temporal one, i.e., when was the evidence discovered, and a predictive one, i.e., when should or could it have been discovered.29
Applying the foregoing test, Dinglasan insists, and the affidavits of Ma. Elena Dinglasan and Encarnacion Vda. De Dinglasan attest, that the transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985 was discovered recently or just before the time the affidavits were executed on 23 October 2000. The records, however, show otherwise.
In CA-G.R. CR No. 14138, it appears that the appellate court already considered that transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985 in rendering its Decision dated 26 October 1998. The pertinent portion of the Decision reads:
It appears, however, that in accused-appellant's letter dated October 10, 1986, (Exhibit "B") no mention was made of the two (2) manager's checks, considering that at least one of the two (2), both dated October 8, 1988 (pp. 2-3, Records) was allegedly given to private complainant on the said date (pp. 69-70, Ibid.). Instead a proposal wherein payment in kind or dacion en pago was offered by accused-appellant. Also, the trial court correctly noted that, "x x x accused is a lawyer and a businessman. He will not part of more than one million pesos, in the form of manager's checks, as replacement of a check that bounced, without any supporting document." (p. 8, Decision, Criminal Case No. 21238).
We are in accord with the findings of the lower court that there is no evidence establishing that accused-appellant asked for the return of the Combank Check in the same way that the PTB Check had been returned, other than stating in his letter of October 8, 1985 that said check had been considered cancelled (p. 69, Records), and after the Combank Check had already bounced. (p. 10, Brief for Accused-Appellant). Its quite absurd that accused-appellant would replace the Combank Check with an amount more than the
P515,000.00, if the whole indebtedness was still subject to final liquidation. As evidenced by the voucher (Exhibit "5") accused-appellant issued Combank Check in exchange for PTB Check. Hence, it is quite quizzical why accused-appellant did not ask for the return of the Combank check after having issued two (2) manager's check.30 (Emphasis supplied.)
Verily, the claim of Dinglasan that the alleged evidence sought to be presented in this case was recently discovered is a falsity. It is a desperate attempt to mislead this Court to give due course to a cause that has long been lost. Dinglasan appeals for the compassion of this Court but never did so in good faith. It is contrary to human experience to have overlooked an evidence which was decisively claimed to have such significance that might probably change the judgment.
The records are very clear. The transmittal letter dated 8 October 1985 was already offered as evidence in CA-G.R. CR No. 14138 and was even annexed to the Petition for Review filed before the Court of Appeals as Annex "B." Irrefragably, the letter dated 8 October 1985 is not newly discovered. It is an attempt to raise again a defense which was already weighed by the appellate court. A contrary ruling may open the floodgates to an endless review of decisions, where losing litigants, in delaying the disposition of cases, invoke evidence already presented, whether through a motion for reconsideration or for a new trial, in guise of newly discovered evidence.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is DISMISSED. Costs against the petitioner.
Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 4-50.
2 Id. at 163.
3 Records, Vol. I, p. 1.
4 Id., Vol. II, pp. 376-381.
5 Id. at 384-392.
6 Id. at 413-415.
7 Id. at 416.
8 Penned by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. (now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court), with Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago (now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court) and B.A. Adefuin dela Cruz, concurring; rollo, pp. 171-183.
9 Rollo of G.R. No. 137800.
10 Id. at 51.
11 Id. at 52-58.
12 Id. at 60.
13 Id. at 85.
14 Records, Vol. II, pp. 135-447.
15 Id. at 469-470.
16 Rollo, pp. 4-36.
17 Id. at 39-47.
18 Id. at 48-50.
19 Id. at 476-510.
22 Id. at 515-526.
23 Government Service Insurance System v. Court of Appeals, 334 Phil. 163, 173 (1997).
28 Custodio v. Sandiganbayan, Id.
30 Rollo, pp. 180-181.