G.R. No. 157943, September 04, 2013
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GILBERT REYES WAGAS, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
That on or about the 30th day of April, 1997, and for sometime prior and subsequent thereto, in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with deliberate intent, with intent to gain and by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud, to wit: knowing that he did not have sufficient funds deposited with the Bank of Philippine Islands, and without informing Alberto Ligaray of that circumstance, with intent to defraud the latter, did then and there issue Bank of the Philippine Islands Check No. 0011003, dated May 08, 1997 in the amount of P200,000.00, which check was issued in payment of an obligation, but which check when presented for encashment with the bank, was dishonored for the reason “drawn against insufficient funds” and inspite of notice and several demands made upon said accused to make good said check or replace the same with cash, he had failed and refused and up to the present time still fails and refuses to do so, to the damage and prejudice of Alberto Ligaray in the amount aforestated.After Wagas entered a plea of not guilty,2 the pre-trial was held, during which the Defense admitted that the check alleged in the information had been dishonored due to insufficient funds.3 On its part, the Prosecution made no admission.4cralaw virtualaw library
CONTRARY TO LAW.1
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated June 23, 1997 which is self-explanatory. It is worthy also to discuss with you the environmental facts of the case for your consideration, to wit:Wagas admitted the letter, but insisted that it was Cañada who had transacted with Ligaray, and that he had signed the letter only because his sister and her husband (Cañada) had begged him to assume the responsibility.11 On redirect examination, Wagas declared that Cañada, a seafarer, was then out of the country; that he signed the letter only to accommodate the pleas of his sister and Cañada, and to avoid jeopardizing Cañada’s application for overseas employment.12 The Prosecution subsequently offered and the RTC admitted the letter as rebuttal evidence.13cralaw virtualaw library
In view of the foregoing, it is my sincere request and promise to settle said obligation on or before August 15, 1997.
- It is true that I obtained goods from your client worth P200,000.00 and I promised to settle the same last May 10, 1997, but to no avail. On this point, let me inform you that I sold my real property to a buyer in Manila, and promised to pay the consideration on the same date as I promised with your client. Unfortunately, said buyer likewise failed to make good with such obligation. Hence, I failed to fulfill my promise resultant thereof. (sic)
- Again, I made another promise to settle said obligation on or before June 15, 1997, but still to no avail attributable to the same reason as aforementioned. (sic)
- To arrest this problem, we decided to source some funds using the subject property as collateral. This other means is resorted to for the purpose of settling the herein obligation. And as to its status, said funds will be rele[a]sed within thirty (30) days from today.
Lastly, I would like to manifest that it is not my intention to shy away from any financial obligation.
x x x x
GILBERT R. WAGAS10
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as charged and he is hereby sentenced as follows:The RTC held that the Prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt all the elements constituting the crime of estafa, namely: (a) that Wagas issued the postdated check as payment for an obligation contracted at the time the check was issued; (b) that he failed to deposit an amount sufficient to cover the check despite having been informed that the check had been dishonored; and (c) that Ligaray released the goods upon receipt of the postdated check and upon Wagas’ assurance that the check would be funded on its date.
- To suffer an indeterminate penalty of from twelve (12) years of pris[i]on mayor, as minimum, to thirty (30) years of reclusion perpetua as maximum;
- To indemnify the complainant, Albert[o] Ligaray in the sum of P200,000.00;
- To pay said complainant the sum of P30,000.00 by way of attorney’s fees; and
- the costs of suit.
Article 315. Swindling (estafa). — Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:In order to constitute estafa under this statutory provision, the act of postdating or issuing a check in payment of an obligation must be the efficient cause of the defraudation. This means that the offender must be able to obtain money or property from the offended party by reason of the issuance of the check, whether dated or postdated. In other words, the Prosecution must show that the person to whom the check was delivered would not have parted with his money or property were it not for the issuance of the check by the offender.25cralaw virtualaw library
x x x x
2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:
x x x x
(d) 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.
Even after the dishonor of the check, Ligaray did not personally see and meet whoever he had dealt with and to whom he had made the demand for payment, and that he had talked with him only over the telephone, to wit:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
Q: On April 30, 1997, do you remember having a transaction with the accused in this case? A: Yes, sir. He purchased two hundred bags of rice from me. Q: How did this purchase of rice transaction started? (sic) A: He talked with me over the phone and told me that he would like to purchase two hundred bags of rice and he will just issue a check.29
Secondly, the check delivered to Ligaray was made payable to cash. Under the Negotiable Instruments Law, this type of check was payable to the bearer and could be negotiated by mere delivery without the need of an indorsement.31 This rendered it highly probable that Wagas had issued the check not to Ligaray, but to somebody else like Cañada, his brother-in-law, who then negotiated it to Ligaray. Relevantly, Ligaray confirmed that he did not himself see or meet Wagas at the time of the transaction and thereafter, and expressly stated that the person who signed for and received the stocks of rice was Cañada.
Q: After the check was (sic) bounced, what did you do next? A: I made a demand on them. Q: How did you make a demand? A: I called him over the phone. Q: Who is that “him” that you are referring to? A: Gilbert Wagas.30
Communications by telephone are admissible in evidence where they are relevant to the fact or facts in issue, and admissibility is governed by the same rules of evidence concerning face-to-face conversations except the party against whom the conversations are sought to be used must ordinarily be identified. It is not necessary that the witness be able, at the time of the conversation, to identify the person with whom the conversation was had, provided subsequent identification is proved by direct or circumstantial evidence somewhere in the development of the case. The mere statement of his identity by the party calling is not in itself sufficient proof of such identity, in the absence of corroborating circumstances so as to render the conversation admissible. However, circumstances preceding or following the conversation may serve to sufficiently identify the caller. The completeness of the identification goes to the weight of the evidence rather than its admissibility, and the responsibility lies in the first instance with the district court to determine within its sound discretion whether the threshold of admissibility has been met.35 (Bold emphasis supplied)Yet, the Prosecution did not tender any plausible explanation or offer any proof to definitely establish that it had been Wagas whom Ligaray had conversed with on the telephone. The Prosecution did not show through Ligaray during the trial as to how he had determined that his caller was Wagas. All that the Prosecution sought to elicit from him was whether he had known and why he had known Wagas, and he answered as follows:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
During cross-examination, Ligaray was allowed another opportunity to show how he had determined that his caller was Wagas, but he still failed to provide a satisfactory showing, to wit:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
Q: Do you know the accused in this case? A: Yes, sir. Q: If he is present inside the courtroom […] A: No, sir. He is not around. Q: Why do you know him? A: I know him as a resident of Compostela because he is an ex-mayor of Compostela.36
Ligaray’s statement that he could tell that it was Wagas who had ordered the rice because he “know[s]” him was still vague and unreliable for not assuring the certainty of the identification, and should not support a finding of Ligaray’s familiarity with Wagas as the caller by his voice. It was evident from Ligaray’s answers that Wagas was not even an acquaintance of Ligaray’s prior to the transaction. Thus, the RTC’s conclusion that Ligaray had transacted with Wagas had no factual basis. Without that factual basis, the RTC was speculating on a matter as decisive as the identification of the buyer to be Wagas.
Q: Mr. Witness, you mentioned that you and the accused entered into [a] transaction of rice selling, particularly with these 200 sacks of rice subject of this case, through telephone conversation? A: Yes, sir. Q: But you cannot really ascertain that it was the accused whom you are talking with? A: I know it was him because I know him. Q: Am I right to say [that] that was the first time that you had a transaction with the accused through telephone conversation, and as a consequence of that alleged conversation with the accused through telephone he issued a check in your favor? A: No. Before that call I had a talk[ ] with the accused. Q: But still through the telephone? A: Yes, sir. Q: There was no instant (sic) that the accused went to see you personally regarding the 200 bags rice transaction? A: No. It was through telephone only. Q: In fact[,] you did not cause the delivery of these 200 bags of rice through the accused himself? A: Yes. It was through Robert. Q: So, after that phone call[,] you deliver[ed] th[ose] 200 sacks of rice through somebody other than the accused? A: Yes, sir.37
* Vice Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, who is on official trip for the Court to attend the Southeast Asia Regional Judicial Colloquium on Gender Equality Jurisprudence and the Role of the Judiciary in Promoting Women’s Access to Justice, in Bangkok, Thailand, per Special Order No. 1529 dated August 29, 2013.cralawnad
1 Records, pp. 1-2.cralawnad
2 Id. at 32.cralawnad
3 Id. at 41-42.cralawnad
4 Id. at 42-43.cralawnad
5 TSN, May 4, 2000.cralawnad
6 TSN, May 25, 2000.cralawnad
8 Records, pp. 59-60.cralawnad
9 TSN, October 5, 2000.cralawnad
10 Records, p. 92.cralawnad
11 TSN, August 20, 2001, pp. 2-5.cralawnad
12 Id. at 5-7.cralawnad
13 Records, p. 113.cralawnad
14Rollo, p. 26.cralawnad
15 Records, pp. 149-163.cralawnad
16 Id. at 243-244.cralawnad
17 Id. at 246.cralawnad
18 Id. at 269-270.cralawnad
19 Id. at 272.cralawnad
20Rollo, p. 36.cralawnad
21 Id. at 149.cralawnad
22 Id. at 157.cralawnad
23 Id. at 163-170.cralawnad
24 Id. at 171.cralawnad
25Timbal v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 136487, December 14, 2001, 372 SCRA 358, 362-363.cralawnad
26Dy v. People, G.R. No. 158312, November 14, 2008, 571 SCRA 59, 70.cralawnad
27Recuerdo v. People, G.R. No. 168217, June 27, 2006, 493 SCRA 517, 532.cralawnad
28People v. Caliso, G.R. No. 183830, October 19, 2011, 659 SCRA 666, 675; People v. Pineda, G.R. No. 141644, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 478; Tuason v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 113779-80, February 23, 1995, 241 SCRA 695.cralawnad
29 TSN, May 4, 2000, lines 54-57.cralawnad
30 TSN, May 25, 2000, p. 4.cralawnad
31 Section 9 and Section 30 of the Negotiable Instruments Law provide as follows:
Section 9. When payable to bearer. - The instrument is payable to bearer:
(a) When it is expressed to be so payable; or
(b) When it is payable to a person named therein or bearer; or
(c) When it is payable to the order of a fictitious or non-existing person, and such fact was known to the person making it so payable; or
(d) When the name of the payee does not purport to be the name of any person; or
(e) When the only or last indorsement is an indorsement in blank.
Section 30. What constitutes negotiation. - An instrument is negotiated when it is transferred from one person to another in such manner as to constitute the transferee the holder thereof. If payable to bearer, it is negotiated by delivery; if payable to order, it is negotiated by the indorsement of the holder and completed by delivery.cralawnad
32Sandoval II v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 149380, July 3, 2002, 383 SCRA 770, 784.cralawnad
33 29A Am Jur 2d Evidence § 1403.cralawnad
34United States v. Orozco-Santillan, 903 F.2d 1262 (9th Cir. Cal. 1990).cralawnad
35State v. Williamson, 210 Kan. 501 (Kan 1972).cralawnad
36 TSN, May 4, 2000, lines 41-47 (emphasis supplied).cralawnad
37 TSN, May 25, 2000, pp. 7-8.cralawnad
38Ragudo v. Fabella Estate Tenants Association, Inc., G.R. No. 146823, August 9, 2005, 466 SCRA 136, 148; People v. Lapay, G.R. No. 123072, October 14, 1998, 298 SCRA 62, 79.cralawnad
39Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation v. Titan-Ikeda Construction and Development Corporation, G.R. No. 126619, December 20, 2006, 511 SCRA 335, 357.cralawnad
40People v. Subingsubing, G.R. Nos. 104942-43, November 25, 1993, 228 SCRA 168, 174 .cralawnad
41People v. Arapok, G.R. No. 134974, December 8, 2000, 347 SCRA 479, 498.cralawnad
42People v. Esmale, G.R. Nos. 102981-82, April 21, 1995, 243 SCRA 578, 592.cralawnad
43Natividad v. Court of Appeals, No. L-40233, June 25, 1980, 98 SCRA 335, 346, citing People v. Beltran, No. L-31860, November 29, 1974, 61 SCRA 246, 250; People v. Manambit, G.R. Nos. 72744-45, April 18, 1997, 271 SCRA 344, 377, citing People v. Maongco, G.R. Nos. 108963-65, March 1, 1994, 230 SCRA 562, 575.cralawnad
44Natividad v. Court of Appeals, No. L-40233, June 25, 1980, 98 SCRA 335, 346.cralawnad
45Pecho v. People, G.R. No. 111399, September 27, 1996, 262 SCRA 518, 533; United States v. Gutierrez, 4 Phil. 493 (1905); People v. Sadie, No. L-66907, April 14, 1987, 149 SCRA 240, 244; Perez v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 76203-04, December 6, 1989, 180 SCRA 9, 13.cralawnad
46People v. Reyes, G.R. No. 154159, March 31, 2005, 454 SCRA 635, 651; Eusebio-Calderon v. People, G.R. No. 158495, October 21, 2004, 441 SCRA 137, 147; Serona v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 130423, November 18, 2002, 392 SCRA 35, 45; Sapiera v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128927, September 14, 1999, 314 SCRA 370, 378.cralawnad
47 Section 61 of the Negotiable Instruments Law provides:
Section 61. Liability of Drawer.—The drawer by drawing the instrument admits the existence of the payee and his then capacity to indorse; and engages that, on due presentment, the instrument will be accepted or paid, or both, according to its tenor, and that if it be dishonoured and the necessary proceedings on dishonour be duly taken, he will pay the amount thereof to the holder or to any subsequent indorser who may be compelled to pay it. But the drawer may insert in the instrument an express stipulation negativing or limiting his own liability to the holder.