G.R. No. 179448, June 26, 2013
CARLOS L. TANENGGEE, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
That on or about July 24, 1997, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, being then a private individual, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud, thru falsification of commercial document, the METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST CO. (METROBANK), represented by its Legal officer, Atty. Ferdinand R. Aguirre, in the following manner: herein accused, being then the Manager of the COMMERCIO BRANCH OF METROBANK located at the New Divisoria Market Bldg., Divisoria, Manila, and taking advantage of his position as such, prepared and filled up or caused to be prepared and filled up METROBANK Promissory Note Form No. 366857 with letters and figures reading “BD#083/97” after the letters reading “PN”, with figures reading “07.24.97” after the word “DATE”, with the amount of P16,000,000.00 in words and in figures, and with other words and figures now appearing thereon, typing or causing to be typed at the right bottom thereof the name reading “ROMEO TAN”, feigning and forging or causing to be feigned and forged on top of said name the signature of Romeo Tan, affixing his own signature at the left bottom thereof purportedly to show that he witnessed the alleged signing of the said note by Romeo Tan, thereafter preparing and filling up or causing to be prepared and filled up METROBANK CASHIER’S CHECK NO. CC 0000001531, a commercial document, with date reading “July 24, 1997”, with the name reading “Romeo Tan” as payee, and with the sum of P15,362,666.67 in words and in figures, which purports to be the proceeds of the loan being obtained, thereafter affixing his own signature thereon, and [directing] the unsuspecting bank cashier to also affix his signature on the said check, as authorized signatories, and finally affixing, feigning and forging or causing to be affixed, feigned and forged four (4) times at the back thereof the signature of said Romeo Tan, thereby making it appear, as it did appear that Romeo Tan had participated in the [preparation], execution and signing of the said Promissory Note and the signing and endorsement of the said METROBANK CASHIER’S CHECK and that he obtained a loan of P16,000,000.00 from METROBANK, when in truth and in fact, as the said accused well knew, such was not the case in that said Romeo Tan did not obtain such loan from METROBANK, neither did he participate in the preparation, execution and signing of the said promissory note and signing and endorsement of said METROBANK CASHIER’S CHECK, much less authorize herein accused to prepare, execute and affix his signature in the said documents; that once the said documents were forged and falsified in the manner above set forth, the said accused released, obtained and received from the METROBANK the sum of P15,363,666.67 purportedly representing the proceeds of the said loan, which amount, once in his possession, with intent to defraud, he misappropriated, misapplied and converted to his own personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the said METROBANK in the same sum of P15,363,666.67, Philippine currency.
CONTRARY TO LAW.8
During the pre-trial, except for the identity of the accused, the jurisdiction of the court, and that accused was the branch manager of Metrobank Commercio Branch from July 1997 to December 1997, no other stipulations were entered into. Prosecution marked its exhibits “A” to “L” and sub-markings.
x x x x
The prosecution alleged that on different occasions, appellant caused to be prepared promissory notes and cashier’s checks in the name of Romeo Tan, a valued client of the bank since he has substantial deposits in his account, in connection with the purported loans obtained by the latter from the bank. Appellant approved and signed the cashier’s check as branch manager of Metrobank Commercio Branch. Appellant affixed, forged or caused to be signed the signature of Tan as endorser and payee of the proceeds of the checks at the back of the same to show that the latter had indeed endorsed the same for payment. He handed the checks to the Loans clerk, Maria Dolores Miranda, for encashment. Once said documents were forged and falsified, appellant released and obtained from Metrobank the proceeds of the alleged loan and misappropriated the same to his use and benefit. After the discovery of the irregular loans, an internal audit was conducted and an administrative investigation was held in the Head Office of Metrobank, during which appellant signed a written statement (marked as Exhibit “N”) in the form of questions and answers.
The prosecution presented the following witnesses:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
Valentino Elevado, a member of the Internal Affairs [D]epartment of Metrobank[,] testified that he conducted and interviewed the appellant in January 1998; that in said interview, appellant admitted having committed the allegations in the Informations, specifically forging the promissory notes; that the proceeds of the loan were secured or personally received by the appellant although it should be the client of the bank who should receive the same; and that all the answers of the appellant were contained in a typewritten document voluntarily executed, thumbmarked, and signed by him (Exhibit “N”).
Rosemarie Tan Apostol, assistant branch manager, testified that the signatures appearing on the promissory notes were not the signatures of Romeo Tan; that the promissory notes did not bear her signature although it is required, due to the fact that Romeo Tan is a valued client and her manager accommodated valued clients; that she signed the corresponding checks upon instruction of appellant; and that after signing the checks, appellant took the same [which] remained in his custody.
Eliodoro M. Constantino, NBI Supervisor and a handwriting expert, testified that the signatures appearing on the promissory notes and specimen signatures on the signature card of Romeo Tan were not written by one and the same person.
Maria Dolores Miranda, a Loans Clerk at Metrobank Commercio Branch, testified that several cashier’s checks were issued in favor of Romeo Tan; that appellant instructed her to encash the same; and that it was appellant who received the proceeds of the loan.
For his defense, appellant Carlos Lo Tanenggee testified that he is a holder of a Masters degree from the Asian Institute of Management, and was the Branch Manager of Metrobank Commercio Branch from 1994 until he was charged in 1998 [with] the above-named offense. He was with Metrobank for nine (9) years starting as assistant manager of Metrobank Dasmariñas Branch, Binondo, Manila. As manager, he oversaw the day to day operations of the [branch], solicited accounts and processed loans, among others.
Appellant claimed that he was able to solicit Romeo Tan as a client-depositor when he was the branch manager of Metrobank Commercio. As a valued client, Romeo Tan was granted a credit line for forty million pesos ([P]40,000,000.00) by Metrobank. Tan was also allowed to open a fictitious account for his personal use and was assisted personally by appellant in his dealings with the bank. In the middle of 1997, Tan allegedly opened a fictitious account and used the name Jose Tan. Such practice for valued clients was allowed by and known to the bank to hide their finances due to rampant kidnappings or from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) or from their spouses.
According to appellant, Tan availed of his standing credit line (through promissory notes) for five (5) times on the following dates: 1) 24 July 1997 for sixteen million pesos ([P]16,000,000.00), 2) 27 October 1997 for six million pesos ([P]6,000,000.00), 3) 12 November 1997 for three million pesos ([P]3,000,000.00), 4) 21 November 1997 for sixteen million pesos ([P]16,000,000,00), 5) 22 December 1997 for two million pesos ([P]2,000,000.00). On all these occasions except the loan on 24 July 1997 when Tan personally went to the bank, Tan allegedly gave his instructions regarding the loan through the telephone. Upon receiving the instructions, appellant would order the Loans clerk to prepare the promissory note and send the same through the bank’s messenger to Tan’s office, which was located across the [street]. The latter would then return to the bank, through his own messenger, the promissory notes already signed by him. Upon receipt of the promissory note, appellant would order the preparation of the corresponding cashier’s check representing the proceeds of the particular loan, send the same through the bank’s messenger to the office of Tan, and the latter would return the same through his own messenger already endorsed together with a deposit slip under Current Account No. 258-250133-7 of Jose Tan. Only Cashier’s Check dated 21 November 1997 for sixteen million pesos ([P]16,000,000.00) was not endorsed and deposited for, allegedly, it was used to pay the loan obtained on 24 July 1997. Appellant claimed that all the signatures of Tan appearing on the promissory notes and the cashier’s checks were the genuine signatures of Tan although he never saw the latter affix them thereon.
In the middle of January 1998, two (2) Metrobank auditors conducted an audit of the Commercio Branch for more than a week. Thereafter or on 26 January 1998, appellant was asked by Elvira Ong-Chan, senior vice president of Metrobank, to report to the Head Office on the following day. When appellant arrived at the said office, he was surprised that there were seven (7) other people present: two (2) senior branch officers, two (2) bank lawyers, two (2) policemen (one in uniform and the other in plain clothes), and a representative of the Internal Affairs unit of the bank, Valentino Elevado.
Appellant claimed that Elevado asked him to sign a paper (Exhibit “N”) in connection with the audit investigation; that he inquired what he was made to sign but was not offered any explanation; that he was intimidated to sign and was threatened by the police that he will be brought to the precinct if he will not sign; that he was not able to consult a lawyer since he was not apprised of the purpose of the meeting; [and] that “just to get it over with” he signed the paper which turned out to be a confession. After the said meeting, appellant went to see Tan at his office but was unable to find the latter. He also tried to phone him but to no avail.10
WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused, Carlos Lo Tanenggee, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of estafa thru falsification of commercial document[s] charged in each of the five (5) Informations filed and hereby sentences him to suffer the following penalties:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
1. In Criminal Case No. 98-163806[,] to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum including the accessory penalties provided by law.
2. In Criminal Case No. 98-163807[,] to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum including the accessory penalties provided by law, and to indemnify Metrobank the sum of P16 Million with interest [at] 18% per annum counted from 27 November 1997 until fully paid.
3. In Criminal Case No. 98-163808[,] to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum including the accessory penalties provided by law, and to indemnify Metrobank the sum of P6 Million with interest [at] 18% per annum counted from 27 October 1997 until fully paid.
4. In Criminal Case No. 98-163809[,] to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum including the accessory penalties provided by law, and to indemnify Metrobank the sum of P2 Million with interest [at] 18% per annum counted from 22 December 1997 until fully paid.
5. In Criminal Case No. 98-163810[,] to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum including the accessory penalties provided by law, and to indemnify Metrobank the sum of P3 Million with interest [at] 18% per annum [counted] from 12 November 1997 until fully paid.
Accused shall serve the said penalties imposed successively.
As mandated in Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, the maximum duration of the sentence imposed shall not be more than threefold the length of time corresponding to the most severe of the penalties imposed upon him and such maximum period shall in no case exceed forty (40) years.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED for lack of merit and the Decision dated 25 June 1999 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 30 convicting the accused-appellant Carlos Lo [Tanenggee] on five counts of estafa through falsification of commercial documents is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that in Criminal Case No. 98-163806, he is further ordered to indemnify Metrobank the sum of [P]16 Million with interest [at] 18% per annum counted from 24 July 1997 until fully paid.
However, it must be remembered that the right to counsel under Section 12 of the Bill of Rights is meant to protect a suspect during custodial investigation. Thus, the exclusionary rule under paragraph (2), Section 12 of the Bill of Rights applies only to admissions made in a criminal investigation but not to those made in an administrative investigation.22
As the trial court noted, the written statement (Exhibit N) of appellant is replete with details which could only be supplied by appellant. The statement reflects spontaneity and coherence which cannot be associated with a mind to which intimidation has been applied. Appellant’s answers to questions 14 and 24 were even initialed by him to indicate his conformity to the corrections made therein. The response to every question was fully informative, even beyond the required answers, which only indicates the mind to be free from extraneous restraints.24
The falsification of a public, official, or commercial document may be a means of committing estafa, because before the falsified document is actually utilized to defraud another, the crime of falsification has already been consummated, damage or intent to cause damage not being an element of the crime of falsification of public, official or commercial document. In other words, the crime of falsification has already existed. Actually utilizing that falsified public, official or commercial document to defraud another is estafa. But the damage is caused by the commission of estafa, not by the falsification of the document. Therefore, the falsification of the public, official or commercial document is only a necessary means to commit estafa.
1Rollo, pp. 18-103.cralawlibrary
2 CA rollo, pp. 206-230; penned by Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa and concurred in by Associate Justices Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and Lucas P. Bersamin (now members of this Court).cralawlibrary
3 Records of Criminal Case No. 98-163806, pp. 396-405; penned by Judge Senecio O. Ortile.cralawlibrary
4 CA rollo, pp. 277-279.cralawlibrary
5 Id. at 231-243.cralawlibrary
6 Id. at 247-257.cralawlibrary
7 Records of Criminal Case No. 98-163806, pp. 2-3; records of Criminal Case No. 98-163807, pp. 1-2; records of Criminal Case No. 98-163808, pp. 1-2; records of Criminal Case No. 98-163809, pp. 1-2; records of Criminal Case No. 98-163810, pp. 1-2.cralawlibrary
8 Records of Criminal Case No. 98-163806, pp. 2-3.cralawlibrary
9 Id. at 73.cralawlibrary
10 CA rollo, pp. 210-215.cralawlibrary
11 Records of Criminal Case No. 98-163806, pp. 396-405.cralawlibrary
12 Id. at 404-405.cralawlibrary
13 CA rollo, pp. 206-230.cralawlibrary
14 Id. at 229-230.cralawlibrary
15 Id. at 231.cralawlibrary
16 Id. at 277-279.cralawlibrary
17Rollo, p. 671.cralawlibrary
18 Exhibit “N,” records of Criminal Case No. 98-163806, pp. 189-194.cralawlibrary
19People v. Bandula, G.R. No. 89223, May 27, 1994, 232 SCRA 566, 574.cralawlibrary
20 414 Phil. 590, 599 (2001).cralawlibrary
21 G.R. No. 187689, September 7, 2010, 630 SCRA 202.cralawlibrary
22 Id. at 207.cralawlibrary
23People v. Rapeza, 549 Phil. 378, 404 (2007).cralawlibrary
24 CA rollo, p. 220.cralawlibrary
25 G.R. No. 181043, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 251, 268.cralawlibrary
26People v. Del Rosario, 411 Phil. 676, 690-691 (2001), citing People v. Santalani, 181 Phil. 481, 490 (1979), People v. Balane, 208 Phil. 537, 556 (1983) and People v. Villanueva, 213 Phil. 440, 453-454 (1984).cralawlibrary
27Ocampo v. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164968, July 3, 2009, 591 SCRA 562, 570.cralawlibrary
28 Rules of Court, Rule 132, Section 22.cralawlibrary
29People v. Daco, G.R. No. 168166, October 10, 2008, 568 SCRA 348, 361.cralawlibrary
30People v. Mazo, 419 Phil. 750, 768 (2001), citing People v. Padiernos, 161 Phil. 623, 632-633 (1976).cralawlibrary
31 Section 14. (1) x x x
(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.cralawlibrary
32People v. Sison, G.R. No. 172752, June 18, 2008, 555 SCRA 156, 170.cralawlibrary
33 ART. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee; or notary or ecclesiastical minister. – The penalty of prision mayor and a fine not to exceed 5,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any public officer, employee, or notary who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by committing any of the following acts:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
x x x x
- Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature, or rubric;
- Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate;
- Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them;
- Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;
- Altering true dates;
- Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;
- Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or
- Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.
34Monteverde v. People, 435 Phil. 906, 921 (2002).cralawlibrary
35 Domingo v. People, G.R. No. 186101, October 12, 2009, 603 SCRA 488, 505-506.cralawlibrary
36 Id. at 506-507.cralawlibrary
37Eugenio v. People, G.R. No. 168163, March 26, 2008, 549 SCRA 433, 447.cralawlibrary
38Joson v. People, G.R. No. 178836, July 23, 2008, 559 SCRA 649, 656 citing People v. Menil, Jr. 394 Phil. 433, 452 (2000).cralawlibrary
39 Minimum: 4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 5 years, 5 months and 10 days
Medium: 5 years, 5 months and 11 days to 6 years, 8 months and 20 days
Maximum: 6 years, 8 months and 21 days to 8 years.