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G.R. No. 194390, August 13, 2014 - VENANCIO M. SEVILLA, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

G.R. No. 194390, August 13, 2014 - VENANCIO M. SEVILLA, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 194390, August 13, 2014

VENANCIO M. SEVILLA, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

REYES, J.:

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to annul and set aside the Decision2 dated February 26, 2009 and the Resolution3 dated October 22, 2010 of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 27925, finding Venancio M. Sevilla (Sevilla) guilty of falsification of public documents through reckless imprudence punished under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

Antecedent Facts

Sevilla, a former councilor of Malabon City, was charged with the felony of falsification of public document, penalized under Article 171(4) of the RPC, in an Information,4 which reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

That on or about 02 July 2001, or for sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in the City of Malabon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, Venancio M. Sevilla, a public officer, being then a member of the [S]angguniang [P]anlunsod of Malabon City, having been elected a [c]ouncilor thereof, taking advantage of his official position and committing the offense in relation to duty, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously make a false statement in a narration of facts, the truth of which he is legally bound to disclose, by stating in his C.S. Form 212, dated 02 July 2001 or Personal Data Sheet, an official document, which he submitted to the Office of the Secretariat, Malabon City Council and, in answer to Question No. 25 therein, he stated that no criminal case is pending against him, when in fact, as the accused fully well knew, he is an accused in Criminal Case No. 6718-97, entitled “People of the Philippines versus Venancio Sevilla and Artemio Sevilla”, for Assault Upon An Agent Of A Person In Authority, pending before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Malabon City, Branch 55, thereby perverting the truth.

CONTRARY TO LAW.5chanrobleslaw

Upon arraignment, Sevilla entered a plea of not guilty.  Trial on the merits ensued thereafter.

The prosecution alleged that on July 2, 2001, the first day of his term as councilor of the City of Malabon, Sevilla made a false narration in his Personal Data Sheet (PDS).6  That in answer to the question of whether there is a pending criminal case against him, Sevilla marked the box corresponding to the “no” answer despite the pendency of a criminal case against him for assault upon an agent of a person in authority before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Malabon City, Branch 55.

Based on the same set of facts, an administrative complaint, docketed as OMB-ADM-0-01-1520, was likewise filed against Sevilla.  In its Decision dated March 26, 2002, the Office of the Ombudsman found Sevilla administratively liable for dishonesty and falsification of official document and dismissed him from the service.  In Sevilla v. Gervacio,7 the Court, in the Resolution dated June 23, 2003, affirmed the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman as regards Sevilla’s administrative liability.

On the other hand, Sevilla admitted that he indeed marked the box corresponding to the “no” answer vis-à-vis the question on whether he has any pending criminal case.  However, he averred that he did not intend to falsify his PDS.  He claimed that it was Editha Mendoza (Mendoza), a member of his staff, who actually prepared his PDS.

According to Sevilla, on July 2, 2001, since he did not have an office yet, he just stayed in his house.  At around two o’clock in the afternoon, he was informed by Mendoza that he needs to accomplish his PDS and submit the same to the personnel office of the City of Malabon before five o’clock that afternoon.  He then instructed Mendoza to copy the entries in the previous copy of his PDS which he filed with the personnel office.  After the PDS was filled up and delivered to him by Mendoza, Sevilla claims that he just signed the same without checking the veracity of the entries therein. That he failed to notice that, in answer to the question of whether he has any pending criminal case, Mendoza checked the box corresponding to the “no” answer.

The defense likewise presented the testimony of Edilberto G. Torres (Torres), a former City Councilor.  Torres testified that Sevilla was not yet given an office space in the Malabon City Hall on July 2, 2001; that when the members of Sevilla’s staff would then need to use the typewriter, they would just use the typewriter inside Torres’ office.  Torres further claimed that he saw Mendoza preparing the PDS of Sevilla, the latter having used the typewriter in his office.

Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

On February 26, 2009, the Sandiganbayan rendered a Decision,8 the decretal portion of which reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

WHEREFORE, accused VENANCIO M. SEVILLA is found GUILTY of Falsification of Public Documents Through Reckless Imprudence and pursuant to Art. 365 of the Revised Penal Code hereby imposes upon him in the absence of any modifying circumstances the penalty of four (4) months of arresto mayor as minimum to two (2) years ten (10) months and twenty one (21) days of prision correccional as maximum, and to pay the costs.

There is no pronouncement as to civil liability as the facts from which it could arise do[es] not appear to be indubitable.

SO ORDERED.9chanrobleslaw

The Sandiganbayan found that Sevilla made an untruthful statement in his PDS, which is a public document, and that, in so doing, he took advantage of his official position since he would not have accomplished the PDS if not for his position as a City Councilor.  That being the signatory of the PDS, Sevilla had the responsibility to prepare, accomplish and submit the same.  Further, the Sandiganbayan pointed out that there was a legal obligation on the part of Sevilla to disclose in his PDS that there was a pending case against him.  Accordingly, the Sandiganbayan ruled that the prosecution was able to establish all the elements of the felony of falsification of public documents.

Nevertheless, the Sandiganbayan opined that Sevilla cannot be convicted of falsification of public document under Article 171(4)10 of the RPC since he did not act with malicious intent to falsify the aforementioned entry in his PDS.  However, considering that Sevilla’s PDS was haphazardly and recklessly done, which resulted in the false entry therein, the Sandiganbayan convicted Sevilla of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence under Article 36511 of the RPC.  Thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Moreover, the marking of the “no” box to the question on whether there was a pending criminal case against him was not the only defect in his PDS.  As found by the Office of the Honorable Ombudsman in its Resolution, in answer to question 29 in the PDS, accused answered that he had not been a candidate in any local election (except barangay election), when in fact he ran and served as councilor of Malabon from 1992 to 1998.  Notwithstanding the negative answer in question 29, in the same PDS, in answer to question 21, he revealed that he was a councilor from 1992 to 1998.  Not to give premium to a negligent act, this nonetheless shows that the preparation of the PDS was haphazardly and recklessly done.

Taking together these circumstances, this Court is persuaded that accused did not act with malicious intent to falsify the document in question but merely failed to ascertain for himself the veracity of narrations in his PDS before affixing his signature thereon.  The reckless signing of the PDS without verifying the data therein makes him criminally liable for his act.  Accused is a government officer, who prior to his election as councilor in 2001, had already served as a councilor of the same city.  Thus, he should have been more mindful of the importance of the PDS and should have treated the said public document with due respect.

Consequently, accused is convicted of Falsification of Public Document through Reckless Imprudence, as defined and penalized in Article 171, paragraph 4, in relation to Article 365, paragraph 1, of the Revised Penal Code. x x x.12

Sevilla’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the Sandiganbayan in its Resolution13 dated October 22, 2010.

Hence, this appeal.

In the instant petition, Sevilla asserts that the Sandiganbayan erred in finding him guilty of the felony of falsification of public documents through reckless imprudence.  He claims that the Information that was filed against him specifically charged him with the commission of an intentional felony, i.e. falsification of public documents under Article 171(4) of the RPC.  Thus, he could not be convicted of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence under Article 365 of the RPC, which is a culpable felony, lest his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him be violated.

Issue

Essentially, the issue for the Court’s resolution is whether Sevilla can be convicted of the felony of falsification of public document through reckless imprudence notwithstanding that the charge against him in the Information was for the intentional felony of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC.

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is dismissed for lack of merit.

At the outset, it bears stressing that the Sandiganbayan’s designation of the felony supposedly committed by Sevilla is inaccurate.  The Sandiganbayan convicted Sevilla of reckless imprudence, punished under Article 365 of the RPC, which resulted into the falsification of a public document.  However, the Sandiganbayan designated the felony committed as “falsification of public document through reckless imprudence.”  The foregoing designation implies that reckless imprudence is not a crime in itself but simply a modality of committing it.  Quasi-offenses under Article 365 of the RPC are distinct and separate crimes and not a mere modality in the commission of a crime.

In Ivler v. Modesto-San Pedro,14 the Court explained that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Indeed, the notion that quasi-offenses, whether reckless or simple, are distinct species of crime, separately defined and penalized under the framework of our penal laws, is nothing new.  As early as the middle of the last century, we already sought to bring clarity to this field by rejecting in Quizon v. Justice of the Peace of Pampanga the proposition that “reckless imprudence is not a crime in itself but simply a way of committing it x x x” on three points of analysis: (1) the object of punishment in quasi-crimes (as opposed to intentional crimes); (2) the legislative intent to treat quasi crimes as distinct offenses (as opposed to subsuming them under the mitigating circumstance of minimal intent) and; (3) the different penalty structures for quasi-crimes and intentional crimes:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The proposition (inferred from Art. 3 of the Revised Penal Code) that “reckless imprudence” is not a crime in itself but simply a way of committing it and merely determines a lower degree of criminal liability is too broad to deserve unqualified assent.  There are crimes that by their structure cannot be committed through imprudence: murder, treason, robbery, malicious mischief, etc.  In truth, criminal negligence in our Revised Penal Code is treated as a mere quasi offense, and dealt with separately from willful offenses.  It is not a mere question of classification or terminology.  In intentional crimes, the act itself is punished; in negligence or imprudence, what is principally penalized is the mental attitude or condition behind the act, the dangerous recklessness, lack of care or foresight, the imprudencia punible. x x x

Were criminal negligence but a modality in the commission of felonies, operating only to reduce the penalty therefor, then it would be absorbed in the mitigating circumstances of Art. 13, specially the lack of intent to commit so grave a wrong as the one actually committed.  Furthermore, the theory would require that the corresponding penalty should be fixed in proportion to the penalty prescribed for each crime when committed willfully.  For each penalty for the willful offense, there would then be a corresponding penalty for the negligent variety.  But instead, our Revised Penal Code (Art. 365) fixes the penalty for reckless imprudence at arresto mayor maximum, to prision correccional [medium], if the willful act would constitute a grave felony, notwithstanding that the penalty for the latter could range all the way from prision mayor to death, according to the case. It can be seen that the actual penalty for criminal negligence bears no relation to the individual willful crime, but is set in relation to a whole class, or series, of crimes. (Emphasis supplied)chanrobleslaw

This explains why the technically correct way to allege quasi-crimes is to state that their commission results in damage, either to person or property.15 (Citations omitted and emphasis ours)

Further, in Rafael Reyes Trucking Corporation v. People,16 the Court clarified that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, criminal negligence “is treated as a mere quasi offense, and dealt with separately from willful offenses. It is not a question of classification or terminology.  In intentional crimes, the act itself is punished; in negligence or imprudence, what is principally penalized is the mental attitude or condition behind the act, the dangerous recklessness, lack of care or foresight, the imprudencia punible.  Much of the confusion has arisen from the common use of such descriptive phrase as ‘homicide through reckless imprudence’, and the like; when the strict technical sense is, more accurately, ‘reckless imprudence resulting in homicide’; or ‘simple imprudence causing damages to property’.”

There is need, therefore, to rectify the designation of the offense without disturbing the imposed penalty for the guidance of bench and bar in strict adherence to precedent.17 (Emphasis ours)

Thus, the proper designation of the felony should be reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents and not falsification of public documents through reckless imprudence.

Having threshed out the proper designation of the felony committed by Sevilla, the Court now weighs the merit of the instant appeal.  Sevilla’s appeal is anchored mainly on the variance between the offense charged in the Information that was filed against him and that proved by the prosecution.  The rules on variance between allegation and proof are laid down under Sections 4 and 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Sec. 4.  Judgment in case of variance between allegation and proof. – When there is variance between the offense charged in the complaint or information and that proved, and the offense as charged is included in or necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved which is included in the offense charged, or of the offense charged which is included in the offense proved.

Sec. 5.  When an offense includes or is included in another. – An offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information, constitute the latter.  And an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense proved, when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.

Accordingly, in case of variance between the allegation and proof, a defendant may be convicted of the offense proved when the offense charged is included in or necessarily includes the offense proved.

There is no dispute that a variance exists between the offense alleged against Sevilla and that proved by the prosecution – the Information charged him with the intentional felony of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC while the prosecution was able to prove reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents.  Parenthetically, the question that has to be resolved then is whether reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public document is necessarily included in the intentional felony of falsification of public document under Article 171(4) of the RPC.

The Court, in Samson v. Court of Appeals,18 has answered the foregoing question in the affirmative. Thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

It is however contended that appellant Samson cannot be convicted of the crime of estafa through falsification by imprudence for the reason that the information filed against him charges only a willful act of falsification and contains no reference to any act of imprudence on his part.  Nor can it be said, counsel argues, that the alleged imprudent act includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the information because a deliberate intent to do an unlawful act is inconsistent with the idea of negligence.

x x x x

While a criminal negligent act is not a simple modality of a wilful crime, as we held in Quizon v. Justice of the Peace of Bacolor, x x x, but a distinct crime in itself, designated as a quasi offense, in our Penal Code, it may however be said that a conviction for the former can be had under an information exclusively charging the commission of a wilful offense, upon the theory that the greater includes the lesser offense. This is the situation that obtains in the present case.  Appellant was charged with willful falsification but from the evidence submitted by the parties, the Court of Appeals found that in effecting the falsification which made possible the cashing of checks in question, appellant did not act with criminal intent but merely failed to take proper and adequate means to assure himself of the identity of the real claimants as an ordinary prudent man would do.  In other words, the information alleges acts which charge willful falsification but which turned out to be not willful but negligent.  This is a case covered by the rule when there is a variance between the allegation and proof, and is similar to some of the cases decided by this Tribunal.19 (Emphasis ours)chanrobleslaw

Thus, Sevilla’s claim that his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated when the Sandiganbayan convicted him of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents, when the Information only charged the intentional felony of falsification of public documents, is untenable.  To stress, reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents is an offense that is necessarily included in the willful act of falsification of public documents, the latter being the greater offense.  As such, he can be convicted of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public documents notwithstanding that the Information only charged the willful act of falsification of public documents.

In this regard, the Court’s disposition in Sarep v. Sandiganbayan20 is instructive.  In Sarep, the petitioner therein falsified his appointment paper which he filed with the CSC.  An Information was then filed against him for falsification of public document.  Nevertheless, the Court convicted the accused of reckless imprudence resulting to falsification of public document upon a finding that the accused therein did not maliciously pervert the truth with the wrongful intent of injuring some person.  The Court, quoting the Sandiganbayan’s disposition, held that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

We are inclined, however, to credit the accused herein with the benefit of the circumstance that he did not maliciously pervert the truth with the wrongful intent of injuring some person (People vs. Reyes, 1 Phil. 341).  Since he sincerely believed that his CSC eligibility based on his having passed the Regional Cultural Community Officer (Unassembled) Examination and educational attainment were sufficient to qualify him for a permanent position, then he should only be held liable for falsification through reckless imprudence (People vs. Leopando, 36 O.G. 2937; People vs. Maleza, 14 Phil. 468; People vs. Pacheco, 18 Phil. 399).

Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes criminal negligence or quasi-offenses, furnishes the middle way between a wrongful act committed with wrongful intent, which gives rise to a felony, and a wrongful act committed without any intent which may entirely exempt the doer from criminal liability.  It is the duty of everyone to execute his own acts with due care and diligence in order that no prejudicial or injurious results may be suffered by others from acts that are otherwise offensive (Aquino, R.P.C. Vol. III, 1976, Ed., p. 1884).  What is penalized is the mental attitude or condition behind the acts of dangerous recklessness and lack of care or foresight although such mental attitude might have produced several effects or consequences (People vs. Cano, L 19660, May 24, 1966).21chanrobleslaw

Anent the imposable penalty, under Article 365 of the RPC, reckless imprudence resulting in falsification of public document is punishable by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period.  In this case, taking into account the pertinent provisions of Indeterminate Sentence Law, the Sandiganbayan correctly imposed upon Sevilla the penalty of four (4) months of arresto mayor as minimum to two (2) years ten (10) months and twenty one (21) days of prision correccional as maximum.

WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the appeal is DISMISSED.  The Decision dated February 26, 2009 and the Resolution dated October 22, 2010 of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 27925 are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Bersamin,* Villarama, Jr., and Mendoza,** JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


* Acting Working Chairperson per Special Order No. 1741 dated July 31, 2014 vice Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro.

** Acting Member per Special Order No. 1738 dated July 31, 2014 vice Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro.

1 Rollo, pp. 24-35.

2 Penned by Associate Justice Edilberto G. Sandoval, with Associate Justices Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Samuel R. Martires, concurring; id. at 7-17.

3 Id. at 19-21.

4 Id. at 52-53.

5 Id.

6 Id. at 56-57.

7 G.R. No. 157207.

8Rollo, pp. 37-47.

9 Id. at 46.

10 Art. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee or notary or ecclesiastic 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:cralawlawlibrary

x x x x

4.  Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

x x x x

11 Art. 365. Imprudence and negligence. – Any person who, by reckless imprudence, shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of  arresto mayor in its maximum period to  prision correccional  in its medium periods shall be imposed; x x x.

12Rollo, p. 45.

13 Id. at 49-51.

14 G.R. No. 172716, November 17, 2010, 635 SCRA 191.

15 Id. at 203-205.

16 386 Phil. 41 (2000).

17 Id. at 61-62.

18 103 Phil. 277 (1958).

19 Id. at 284-285.

20 258 Phil. 229 (1989).

21 Id. at 238-239.
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