[G.R. NO. 136388 : March 14, 2006]
ANICIA RAMOS-ANDAN, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
For our resolution is the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking to reverse the Decision1 and the Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 18379, entitled "People of the Philippines, plaintiff-appellee, v. Anicia Ramos-Andan and Potenciana Nieto, accused, Anicia Ramos Andan, accused-appellant."
On February 4, 1991, Anicia Ramos-Andan, herein petitioner, and Potenciana Nieto approached Elizabeth E. Calderon and offered to buy the latter's 18-carat heart-shaped diamond ring. Elizabeth agreed to sell her ring. In turn, Potenciana tendered her three (3) postdated checks. To evidence the transaction, the parties prepared and signed a receipt which reads as follows:
February 4, 1991
Received from Mrs. Elizabeth Eusebio Calderon the heart-shaped diamond ring which in return Mrs. Potenciana Nieto and Mrs. Annie Andan had given the checks dated June 30, 1991 worth
P23,000.00, August 30, 1991 worth P25,000.00, and Sept. 30, 1991 worth P25.000.00 as full payment of the said jewelry.
(Sgd.) DIGNA G. SEVILLA (Sgd.) ANICIA ANDAN
Inasmuch as the three checks (PDB Check Nos. 14173188, 14173189, and 14173190) were all payable to cash, Elizabeth required petitioner to endorse them. The latter complied.
When Elizabeth deposited the checks upon maturity with the drawee bank, they bounced for the reason "Account Closed." She then sent Potenciana a demand letter to pay, but she refused.
On July 10, 1997, Elizabeth filed with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Bulacan a Complaint for Estafa against petitioner and Potenciana. Finding a probable cause for Estafa against them, the Provincial Prosecutor filed the corresponding Information for Estafa with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 8, Malolos, Bulacan. Subsequently, petitioner was arrested but Potenciana has remained at large. When arraigned, petitioner entered a plea of not guilty to the charge.
During the hearing, petitioner denied buying a diamond ring from Elizabeth, maintaining that she signed the receipt and the checks merely as a witness to the transaction between Elizabeth and Potenciana. Thus, she could not be held liable for the bounced checks she did not issue.
After hearing, the trial court rendered its Decision finding petitioner guilty as charged and imposing upon her an indeterminate prison term of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum, and to indemnify Elizabeth E. Calderon in the amount of
P73,000.00 representing the purchase price of the diamond ring.
The trial court held that while it was Potenciana who issued the checks, nonetheless, it was petitioner who induced Elizabeth to accept them and who endorsed the same. Accordingly, petitioner cannot escape liability.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dated July 16, 1998 affirming with modification the RTC Decision. The maximum penalty imposed was increased to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal and the indemnity was reduced to
P23,000.00 considering the RTC's finding that:
Complainant, however, was able to present in Court only Planters Development Bank (Check) No. 14173188, dated June 30, 1991, in the amount of
P23,000.00 and the fact of its being dishonored. The other two checks were neither presented nor the fact of being dishonored proven. Likewise, the two checks were not mentioned in the demand letter marked as Exhibit 'C.' Although, therefore, it is clear from the records, in fact admitted by the accused, that the total amount of P23,000.00 as purchase price of the diamond ring has not been paid, the accused should only be held liable for the dishonor of the check above-stated as the dishonor of the two other checks was not proven in Court.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but this was denied by the Appellate Court.
Hence, the instant petition raising the following basic issues:
(1) Whether the prosecution has proved petitioner's guilt beyond reasonable doubt; and (2) whether she is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of lack of intention to commit so grave a wrong.
On the first issue, petitioner contends that not being the drawer of the checks, she cannot be held criminally liable.
The Solicitor General counters that this issue is not novel, having long been resolved by this Court in Zagado v. Court of Appeals,3 thus:
The contention of the petitioner that he did not commit estafa because he did not issue or indorse the postdated checks is devoid of merit. While it is true that he did not issue or indorse the postdated checks, his and Montuerto's concerted acts with common design and purpose in encashing the questioned checks indicate the presence of conspiracy as charged in the information filed against them.
But as correctly ruled by the Court of Appeals, even without discussing the existence of conspiracy, appellant cannot escape liability by the fact alone that he did not ascertain whether or not Montuerto had sufficient funds to cover the check (Decision, CA-G.R. No. 02173, p. 4, citing People v. Isleta, 61 Phil. 332 ).
It must be noted that when the petitioner was in need of money, he asked the financial assistance of his friend Montuerto, and the latter issued the two postdated checks. Since the petitioner could not encash the postdated checks at the banks, he and Montuerto went to another friend, Apolinario Mercado. Mercado brought and introduced the petitioner and Montuerto to complainant Josephine Serrano at the latter's office. Petitioner and Montuerto requested the complainant and her husband to exchange with cash the two postdated checks which they had in their possession. At first, the Serranos hesitated but with the assurance of Mercado and the petitioner to the complainant that the checks will be funded when encashed, the latter exchanged the two postdated checks with cash which she handed to the petitioner.
This issue has already been laid to rest by this Court in People v. Isleta and Nuevo (61 Phil. 334 ) where appellant without having issued or indorsed the checks in question was held liable because of his guilty knowledge that his co-accused had no funds in the bank when he negotiated the checks.
In the present case, while Potenciana, who remains at large, was the drawer of the checks, however, it was petitioner who directly and personally negotiated the same. It was she who signed the receipt evidencing the sale. It was she who handed the checks to Elizabeth and endorsed them as payment for the ring. It is thus clear that petitioner and Potenciana acted in concert for the purpose of inducing and defrauding Elizabeth to part with her jewelry.
The elements of the offense as defined and penalized by Article 315, paragraph 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, are:
(1) postdating or issuance of a check in payment of an obligation contracted at the time the check was issued;
(2) lack of or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; andcralawlibrary
(3) the payee was not informed by the offender and the payee did not know that the offender had no funds or insufficient funds.
All these elements are present in this case. The prosecution proved that the checks were issued in payment of a simultaneous obligation, i.e., the checks were issued in payment for the ring. The checks bounced when Elizabeth deposited them for the reason "Account Closed." There is no showing whatsoever that before petitioner handed and endorsed the checks to Elizabeth, she took steps to ascertain that Potenciana has sufficient funds in her account. Upon being informed that the checks bounced, she failed to give an adequate explanation why Potenciana's account was closed. In Echaus v. Court of Appeals,4 we ruled that "the fact that the postdated checks'were not covered by sufficient funds, when they fell due, in the absence of any explanation or justification by petitioner, satisfied the element of deceit in the crime of estafa, as defined in paragraph 2 of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code."5
On the second issue, petitioner claims that she is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of lack of intention to commit so grave a wrong.
Petitioner employed fraud, the reason why Elizabeth parted with her ring worth
P73,000.00. Obviously, such mitigating circumstance has no place here.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. We AFFIRM the assailed Decision and the Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 18379. Costs against petitioner.