G.R. No. 191087, June 29, 2016
DELIA L. BELITA, SALVADOR ILARDE, JR., GENEVIEVE BELITA, MA. CHERYL DAVA, BRAULIO LEDESMA, JR., FLORENCE B. OLSEN, KATHY GERMENTIL, ROSITA ESTUART, ARDELIZA LIM, ELSA RAFANAN, ERLINDA V. GAERLAN, PERLA FERNANDEZ, DELBEN "NOY" BELITA AND JOSEPH AVACILLA, Petitioners, v. ANTONIO S. SY, ROBERTO CARONAN, WILFREDO CIRIACO, NORMA S. WONG, SONIA C. BENERO, MARIA L. PINEDA AND CRISTINA V. CARAMOL, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioners Delia L. Belita (Delia), Salvador Ilarde, Jr. (Salvador), Genevieve Belita (Genevieve), Ma. Cheryl Dava (Cheryl), Braulio Ledesma, Jr. (Braulio), Florence B. Olsen (Florence), Kathy Germentil (Kathy), Rosita Estuart (Rosita), Ardeliza Lim (Ardeliza), Elsa Rafanan (Elsa), Erlina V. Gaerlan (Erlina), Perla Fernandez (Perla), Delben "Noy" Belita (Delben) and Joseph Avacilla (Joseph) seeking to nullify the Decision1 dated 30 June 2009 and Resolution2 dated 25 January 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 107234 which reinstated the Resolution of the Secretary of Justice directing the filing of Informations for the crime of Syndicated Estafa against petitioners.
Petitioners Delia, Salvador, Genevieve, Cheryl and Braulio are the incorporators and directors of IBL Realty Development Corporation (IBL), a domestic family corporation engaged in the buying and selling of real properties. Respondent Antonio S. Sy (Sy), Roberto Caronan (Caronan), Wilfredo Ciriaco (Ciriaco), Norma S. Wong (Wong), Sonia C. Benero (Benero), Maria L. Pineda (Pineda) and Cristina V. Caramol (Caramol) filed their respective complaints against petitioners before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The complaints were filed by the NBI with the Department of Justice (DOJ) where they were consolidated and docketed as I.S. No. 2007-030.
In Sy's first Complaint-Affidavit, he narrated that he purchased four (4) parcels of land for P3,271,500.00 sometime in 1992 upon the representation of Delia that a certain Felicitas Javier owned the properties and authorized Delia to sell the same. Delia allegedly presented a Deed of Conditional Sale purportedly signed by Felicitas Javier as vendor. Sy paid an aggregate sum of P2,150,000.00 from October 1992 to August 2000 to Delia or to her representatives, Rosita and Cheryl. Sy presented the corresponding cash vouchers as proof of payment. In 2000, Sy had paid in full but the titles over the properties were not delivered to him. Upon verification, Sy discovered that the subject properties are not owned by Felicitas Javier but by four (4) other individuals. Sy made repeated demands against Delia for the return of the amount that he paid but Delia refused to do so.3chanrobleslaw
In his second Complaint-Affidavit, Sy recounted that he and his two friends, Caronan and Ciriaco bought rights to occupy and use market stalls in Commonwealth Public Market through Delia, who claimed authorization by the market administration. Sy, Caronan and Ciriaco paid a total sum of P1,353,000.00. The installment payments were received by Kathy, Florence and Cheryl. Upon full payment, Delia failed to deliver the stalls. Upon verification, Sy discovered that Delia was not authorized to sell the market stalls. Furthermore, these stalls were already sold to and occupied by other buyers. Caronan and Ciriaco also filed their separate complaints.4chanrobleslaw
In the Complaint of Wong, she alleged that she bought a parcel of land in North Fairview, Quezon City worth P540,000.00 from Delia. Delia claimed that she is authorized by the owner, Teresita Echavaria to sell the property. Delia then presented a Contract to Sell signed by Teresita Echavaria as vendor and eventually, a new copy of a dated and notarized Contract to Sell. This prompted Wong to deliver the remaining balance and fully pay the purchase price. When Delia refused to deliver the title to said property, Wong inquired with the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City and found that said property had already been sold on foreclosure.5chanrobleslaw
Benero, Pineda and Caramol were market vendors in Subic, Zambales. In their Complaint, they alleged that Ardeliza approached them individually and offered to sell parcels of land and/or house and lot belonging to Delia in a subdivision in Subic. Ardeliza apparently worked for Delia. Benero paid an aggregate sum of P1,565,000.00. Delia likewise bought P100,891.00 worth of meat products from Benero's store, which amount would have been credited to the purchase price of the land. Pineda paid P450,000.00 while Caramol parted with a total of P269,924.00. Thereafter, they were notified of a Notice of Levy annotated on their tax declarations that the properties were subject a writ of preliminary attachment. Ardeliza admitted to them that the lands were already sold to Sy.6chanrobleslaw
The seven complaints contain similar asseverations: that Delia sold real properties to respondents; that respondents relied on Delia's representation that she was authorized to sell the same; that petitioners paid Delia or her representatives the purchase price; that the title was not delivered; and the properties turned out to be owned by persons different from those claimed by Delia.
Delia claimed that Sy had been her long-time client. She brokered Sy's lending business, as well as his Subic properties. Delia argued that the sales transaction over properties in Quezon City was between Sy and Felicitas Javier; and that it took Sy 14 years before he filed a complaint. Thus, his action is barred by prescription and laches. Delia preferred that Sy filed the instant complaints to avoid paying her broker's commission. Delia likewise contend that the other sales transaction was between one Teresita Echevaria and Wong and that it took her 14 years from the time of sale to file a complaint. Said cause of action had similarly prescribed. With respect to Benero, Pineda and Caramol, Delia admitted that these three (3) complainants are buyers of her house and lot but Sy was also claiming ownership of the properties based on a criminal and civil complaint involving a sum of money against Delia. Delia assured the three that she would honor her agreement with them. Delia also claimed that Benero, Pineda and Caramol defaulted in their subsequent payments. Finally, in regard to the complaints of Caronan and Ciriaco, Delia asserted that their payments were coursed to Sy and not to her, hence, they do not have any cause of action against her.7chanrobleslaw
Salvador, Genevieve, Cheryl and Braulio maintained that their participation in the land transactions of the corporation is limited to receipt of payments and accounting the same.8 Perla denied that she is an incorporator of IBL or that she is associated with IBL or Delia. She claimed that Sy's complaint is suspicious and ill-motivated because it was filed 14 years after the sales transaction.9 Delben alleged that he, being the son of Delia, sometimes ran errands for his mother, including acknowledging receipts of certain land transaction payments.10 Joseph admitted that he is Cheryl's partner and that he sometimes received payments for the land transactions.11 The rest of the accused did not appear or submit any affidavit before the DOJ.
On 7 August 2007, State Prosecutor II Juan Pedro C. Navera issued a Resolution12 finding the existence of a probable cause for Syndicated Estafa against respondents. The dispositive portion of the Resolution reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that informations be filed against respondents Delia Ledesma Belita, Salvador Ilarde, Jr., Genevieve Belita, Maria Cheryl Dava, Braulio Ledesma, Jr., Florence Belita Olsen, Kathy Germentil, Rosita Estuart, Ardeliza Lim, Elsa Rafanan, Erlinda V. Gearlan, Perla Fernandez, Delben "Noy" Belita, and Joseph Avacilla for syndicated estafa under Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to P.D. No. 1689.13chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryAccordingly, six (6) Informations14 were filed on the same day against respondents before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.
After a careful evaluation of the [petitioners'] affidavits, none of them deny the existence, authenticity and due execution of the vouchers and receipts evidencing receipt by the [petitioners] of the monies allegedly paid by [respondents]. The existence, authenticity and due execution of these vouchers and receipts, therefore, should be deemed as having been impliedly admitted by [petitioners]. As a consequence, such admission is also an admission that [petitioners], whose signatures appear in said receipts and vouchers, indeed received the monies mentioned therein.With respect to the third and last element of syndicated estafa, petitioners claim that P.D. 1689 only applies if the defrauded parties are rural banks, cooperatives, samahang nayons, or farmers' associations. We agree with the Justice Secretary's holding in his 19 June 2008 Resolution wherein he ruled that PD 1689 applies to corporations operating on funds solicited from the public.
Moreover , the IBL receipts attached to the complaint of Wong, uncontroverted by [petitioners], show that IBL has been transacting business as a corporation since July 1992 prior to its incorporation on February 22, 1994. It is also noteworthy that such receipts do not contain a TIN number.
We find probable cause to indict the respective [petitioners] in all the complaints.
A careful reading of the [respondents'] affidavits reveals that among the kinds of estafa charged of [petitioners], one is the defraudation of [respondents] through [respondents'] false pretenses of possession power, qualifications, agency and through other similar deceits. (RPC, Art. 315, 4th par., [a]). The elements of this crime are as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrarya. That there must be false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent meansAs to Antonio Sy's complaint involving the Javier property, he has established that IBL,which was not even incorporated then, through Delia Belita, falsely pretended to possess power, influence, qualification, agency, business or imaginary transactions in representing to be authorized by Felicitas Javier to sell the latter's properties. This misrepresentation, made before or simultaneously with the defraudation, and relied upon by Sy when he parted with his money, turned out to be false as shown by TCT's marked as Annexes "H," "I," "J," and "K," whose authenticity [petitioners] do not deny, showing that the subject properties were not owned by Felicitas Javier but by other persons.
(1) by using fictitious name;
(2) falsely pretending to possess (a) power, (b) influence, c) qualifications, (d) property, (e) credit, (f) agency, (g) business or imaginary transactions; or
(3) means of other similar deceits.
b. That such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the
c. That the offended party must be relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means, that is, he was induced to part with
his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means.
d. That as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage." (L.B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Book II. 14th ed. . 763-764.)
The cash vouchers marked as Annexes "C," "D" and "E," showing receipt by Delia Belita and Rosita Estuart of the amount of P2,150,000.00, which were not denied by [petitioners], clearly show that Sy sustained pecuniary damages in such amount.
The same is true with respect to the complaints of Antonio Sy (representing Spencer), Roberto Caronan and Wilfredo Ciriaco involving market stalls in the Commonwealth Public Market in Quezon City. These complaints establish that IBL, which was not even incorporated then, through Delia Belita, falsely pretended to possess power, influence, qualification, agency, business or imaginary transaction in representing to be authorized by the administrator of Commonwealth Public Market to sell the latte"'s market stalls. This misrepresentation, made before and simultaneously with the defraudation, and relied upon by [respondents] when they parted with their monies, turned out to be false as [petitioners] failed to deliver said stalls to [respondents] up to this moment despite repeated demands, and as [petitioners] do not deny that said stalls have been assigned by the administrator thereof to other persons.
The corresponding vouchers (Annexes "C," "D," "E," "F," "G," "H," and "I" to Sy's complaint; "A," "B," "C" and "D" to Caronan's complaint; "A," "B," "C" and "D" to Ciriaco's complaint), which were not denied by [petitioners], clearly show that Spencer, Caronan and Ciriaco sustained pecuniary damages amounting to P1,353,000.00.
As to Norma S. Wong's complaint, she has established that IBL, which was not even incorporated then, through Delia Belita, falsely pretended to possess power, influence, qualification, agency, business or imaginary transactions in representing to be authorized by one Teresita R. Echavaria to sell the latter's property. This misrepresentation, made before or simultaneously with the defraudation, and relied upon by Wong when she parted with her money, turned out to be false as shown by TCT marked as Annexes "I," which [petitioners] do not deny, showing that the subject property was not owned by Teresita Echevaria but by one Jose M. Natividad.
The IBL official receipts (Annexes "C," "D," "E," and "F") and pay vouchers ("G" and "H"), the authenticity of which were not denied by [petitioners], clearly show that Wong sustained pecuniary damages amounting to P5,000,000.00.
[Respondents] Sonia C. Benero, Maria L. Pineda, and Cristina V. Caramol uniformly established that sometime in 2002, Liza Lim and Delia L. Belita convinced them to buy certain parcels of land and/or house and lots in a subdivision in Mangan-vaca, Subic, Zambales, known as "La Ingga Ville." The representation included that said lands were owned by Delia Belita. Such representation, according to [respondents Benero, Pineda and Caramol] were too convincing, consisting as it did, of presentation of tax declarations, vicinity maps, and an invitation to an Open House conducted on October 20, 2002.24chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
PRESIDENTIAL DECREE No. 1689 April 6, 1980The law is explicit that it covers defraudations or misappropriation of funds solicited by corporations from the general public. IBL is such corporation. The operative phrase is "funds of corporations should come from the general public." IBL is apparently engaged in the real estate business. Its funds come from buyers of the properties it sells.
INCREASING THE PENALTY FOR CERTAIN FORMS OF SWINDLING OR ESTAFA
WHEREAS, there is an upsurge in the commission of swindling and other forms of frauds in rural banks, cooperatives, "samahang nayon (s)", and farmers' associations or corporations/associations operating on funds solicited from the general public;
WHEREAS, such dcfraudation or misappropriation of funds contributed by stockholders or members of such rural banks, cooperatives, "samahang nayon(s)", or farmers' associations, or of funds solicited by corporations/associations from the general public, erodes the confidence of the public in the banking and cooperative system, contravenes the public interest, and constitutes economic sabotage that threatens the stability of the nation;
WHEREAS, it is imperative that the resurgence of said crimes be checked, or at least minimized, by imposing capital punishment on certain forms of swindling and other frauds involving rural banks, cooperatives, "samahang nayon(s)", farmers' associations or corporations/associations operating on funds solicited from the general public;
NOW, THEREFORE. I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution, do hereby decree and order as follows:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarySection 1. Any person or persons who shall commit estafa or other forms of swindling as defined in Article 315 and 316 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall be punished by life imprisonment to death if the swindling (estafa) is committed by a syndicate consisting of five or more persons formed with the intention of carrying out the unlawful or illegal act, transaction, enterprise or scheme, and the defraudation results in the misappropriation of money contributed by stockholders, or members of rural banks, cooperative, "samahang nayon(s)", or farmers association, or of funds solicited by corporations/associations from the general public.
When not committed by a syndicate as above defined, the penalty imposable shall be reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua if the amount of the fraud exceeds 100,000 pesos.
Section 2. This decree shall take effect immediately.
DONE in the City of Manila, this 6th day of April, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and eighty.
We are of the view that Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez acted with grave abuse of discretion in promulgating the resolution dated January 15, 2009. For one, his act of flip-flopping or turning around at least twice in his ruling on the applicability of Presidential Decree No. 1689 to the case filed by the [respondents] against the [petitioners] indeed appears to be arbitrary and whimsical. Why did he keep on flip-flopping? In a way, he was blowing cold and then hot and then cold. There's no adequate showing of justification for doing so. For another, his second twist of his ruling as embodied in the resolution promulgated on January 15, 2009 that the private [petitioners] cannot be charged with the crime of syndicated estafa, contravenes the prevailing law and jurisprudence. Once again, it bears repeating at this point that the Supreme Court of the Philippines had explicitly held in People v. Balasa, supra, that the first "whereas clause" of the preamble of Presidential Decree No. 1689 is not exactly an essential part of such decree, and that, even assuming arguendo that the said clause is part of the decree, still the fact that the entity involved is not a rural bank, cooperative, samahang nayon or farmers' association does not take the case out of the coverage of Presidential Decree No. 1689 because the third "whereas clause" of the preamble of such decree states that it also applies to other "corporations/associations operating on funds solicited from the public." There is no gainsaying the fact that IBL Realty Development Corporation has been a corporation operating on funds or investments solicited from the public.29chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryFinding no reversible error, we affirm the Court of Appeals' Decision dated 30 June 2009.
* Additional Member per Raffle dated 13 June 2016.
1Rollo, pp. 48-67; Penned by Associate Justice Isaias Dicdican and concurred in by Associate Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes (Now Supreme Court Associate Justice) and Marlene Gonzales-Sison.
2 Id. at 68-69.
3 Id. at 49-50.
4 Id. at 50-51.
5 Id. at 51.
6 Id. at 79-87.
7 Id. at 100-101.
9 Id. 103.
11 Id. at 103-104.
12 Id. at 90-113.
13 Id. at 113.
14 Id. at 116-133.
15 Id. at 144-153.
16 Id. at 154-162.
17 Id. at 163-169.
18 Id. at 48-67.
19 356 Phil. 362 (1998).
20Rollo, p. 22.
21Fenequito v. Vergara, 691 Phil. 335, 345-346 (2012) citing Reyes v. Pearlbank Securities, Inc., 582 Phil. 505, 518-519 (2008).
22 Section 1. Any person or persons who shall commit estafa or other forms of swindling as defined in Article 315 and 316 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall be punished by life imprisonment to death if the swindling (estafa) is committed by a syndicate consisting of five or more persons formed with the intention of carrying out the unlawful or illegal act, transaction, enterprise or scheme, and the defraudation results in the misappropriation of money contributed by stockholders, or members of rural banks, cooperative, "samahang nayon(s)", or farmers association, or of funds solicited by corporations/associations from the general public.
23Han v. People, G.R. No. 183345, 17 September 2014, 735 SCRA 312, 327.
24Rollo, pp. 104-107.
25cralawred 686 Phil. 924, 942 (2012).
26 Supra note 19.
27 Id. at 396-397.
28Villanueva v. Caparas, G.R. No. 190969, 30 January 2013, 689 SCRA 679, 685-686.
29Rollo, p. 65.