479 Phil. 371
WHEREFORE, the joint decision of the trial court finding appellant MARIO ALZONA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal recruitment in large scale and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P100,000.00 (Criminal Case No. 92-113702) and estafa (Criminal Case Nos. 92-113706 to 92-113709) is AFFIRMED with modification in the sense that the penalty which should be imposed upon herein appellant in Criminal Case No. 92-113709 is the indeterminate penalty of 4 years and 2 months of prision correccional, as minimum, to 9 years of prision mayor, as maximum.On December 4, 1996, an Information for Large Scale Illegal Recruitment against appellant Mario Alzona, docketed as Criminal Case No. 92-113702 and seven Informations for Estafa against appellant and his wife, Miranda Alzona, docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 92-113703 to 92-113709, were filed before Branch 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (RTC for brevity). All eight cases were consolidated and jointly tried by the RTC. However, due to the failure of private complainants to testify and present their evidence, Criminal Cases Nos. 92-113703 to 92-113705 were dismissed but only as against appellant Mario Alzona.
Pursuant to Section 13(2), Rule 124 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, let this case be certified and the entire records thereof be elevated to the Supreme Court for review.
Costs against the appellant.
That in (sic) or about and during the period comprised between August 2, 1991 and March 30, 1992, inclusive, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, representing himself to have the capacity to contract, enlist and transport Filipino workers for employment abroad, did then and there willfully, and unlawfully, for a fee, recruit and promise employment/job placement abroad to the following persons, namely: LYDIA C. RAMOS, MELINDA P. GONZALES, MARCELA R. MERCADO, FERNANDO P. DELA CRUZ, LEONARDO C. MERCURIO, MARIO REGINO P. DECENA and JAMES M. MAZON, without first having secured the required license or authority from the Department of Labor.In Criminal Cases Nos. 92-113706 to 92-113709, the Informations allege that appellant, conspiring and confederating with his wife, Miranda Alzona, defrauded private complainants Fernando Dela Cruz, James Mazon, Leonardo Mercurio and Mario Regino Decena, by means of false manifestations and fraudulent representation that they had the power and capacity to recruit and employ the private complainants and could facilitate the processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary amount to meet the requirements thereof, and by means of other similar deceits, induced and succeeded in inducing said private complainants to give and deliver, as in fact private complainants delivered sums of money to appellant and his wife, the latter well knowing that their representations were false and fraudulent and were made solely to obtain sums of money from private complainants, which money, once in their possession, they misappropriated, misapplied and converted to their own personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the private complainants.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
WHEREFORE, this court finds the accused Mario Alzona GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Illegal Recruitment in large scale in Criminal Case No. 92-113702 and of four (4) separate crimes of estafa in Criminal Cases Nos. 92-113706, 92-113707, 92-113708 and 92-113709 and, as a consequence thereof, sentences him as follows:Appellant appealed the criminal cases to the Court of Appeals with the following Assignment of Errors:
Further, the accused shall indemnify the private complainants Fernando dela Cruz, James Mazon, Leonardo Mercurio and Mario Regino P. Decena the respective sums of
- In Criminal Case No. 92-113702, to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of
- In Criminal Cases Nos. 92-113706, 92-113707, 92-113708 and 92-113709, to suffer in each case the indeterminate penalty of one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional minimum as minimum to five (5) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional maximum as maximum.
P21,000.00, P15,000.00, P21,000.00, and P34,000.00, with interest thereon at the legal rate from judicial demand until fully paid.
Costs against the accused in all the above-mentioned cases.
Anent Criminal Cases No. 92-113703, 92-113704 and 92-113705, the same are hereby ordered dismissed as against accused Mario Alzona for lack of evidence.
Appellant points out that the testimonies of Mercurio, Dela Cruz and Mazon showed that it was actually only Miranda who transacted with private complainants. Therefore, argues appellant, there was no sufficient evidence to prove that appellant was acting in confederation with his wife. Furthermore, appellant claims that private complainants merely implicated him because they could no longer find Miranda who was the one who recruited private complainants for overseas employment.I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT ILLEGALLY RECRUITED THE COMPLAINANTS.II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF 4 COUNTS OF ESTAFA DESPITE PROSECUTION’S FAILURE TO PROVE THAT HE CONSPIRED WITH HIS WIFE IN DEFRAUDING THE COMPLAINANTS.
Article 13. Definitions. -Pursuant to the foregoing, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale, to wit:
. . .
(b) ‘Recruitment and placement’ refers to any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or not: Provided, that any person or entity which, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment to two or more persons shall be deemed engaged in recruitment and placement.
. . .
Article 38. Illegal Recruitment. - (a) Any recruitment activities, including the prohibited practices enumerated under Article 34 of this Code, to be undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority shall be deemed illegal and punishable under Article 39 of this Code. The Department of Labor or any law enforcement officer may initiate complaints under this Article.
(b) Illegal Recruitment when committed by a syndicate or in large scale shall be considered an offense involving economic sabotage and shall be penalized in accordance with Article 39 hereof
Illegal Recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring and/or confederating with one another in carrying out any unlawful or illegal transaction, enterprise or scheme defined under the first paragraph hereof. Illegal Recruitment is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more persons individually or as a group, . . .
Article 39. Penalties. – (a) The penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) shall be imposed if illegal recruitment constitutes economic sabotage as defined herein; . . .
The testimonies of prosecution witnesses, namely: private complainants Decena, Mercurio, Dela Cruz, and Mazon and Licensure Officer III Balverde, of the POEA, prove that appellant and his wife Miranda promised overseas employment to private complainants upon payment of placement fees, without the necessary license therefor. Appellant maintains that he could not have transacted with private complainants as he was out of their house as a jeepney driver from 6 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock in the evening, seven days a week. With these conflicting versions of the parties, it is quite clear that the resolution of this case revolves around the credibility of witnesses.
- the person undertakes any recruitment activity defined under Article 13, paragraph (b), or any prohibited practice enumerated under Article 34 of the Labor Code; (2) said person does not have a license or authority to engage in the recruitment and placement of workers; and (3) the act is committed against three or more persons, individually or as a group.
. . . where the issue is on credibility, the findings of the trial court will generally not be disturbed. The trial court has the advantage of hearing the witnesses and observing their conduct during the trial, circumstances that carry great weight in appreciating credibility. The trial court is thus in a better position to settle such an issue.We have carefully reviewed the records of the case and find no cogent reason to overturn the factual findings of the trial court, especially its evaluation of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, thus: “the testimonies of private complainants . . . given in clear, logical and straightforward manner, mentioning details of the incidents that could not have been merely concocted, reflecting spontaneity and sincerity in the narration of events, are indicative of the truth of what actually happened.”
ART. 315. Swindling (estafa). – Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:Verily, the very same evidence proving appellant’s commission of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale also established that appellant and Miranda acted with unity of purpose in defrauding private complainants by misrepresenting that they (appellant and Miranda) had the power, influence, agency and business to obtain overseas employment for private complainants upon payment of a placement fee, which complainants did pay and deliver to appellant. Thus, private complainants suffered damages to the extent of the various sums of money they delivered to appellant, i.e.,
1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 but does not exceed 22,000 pesos, and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000.00; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such case, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of the other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be.. . . . . . . . .
2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:
(a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by means of other similar deceits.
. . .
We note, however, that the trial court imposed the wrong penalty in Criminal Case No 92-113709 . . . involving the amount ofAn appeal in a criminal case opens the entire case for review. The typographical error in the dispositive portion of the decision rendered by the RTC regarding the penalty to be imposed on appellant in Criminal Cases Nos. 92-113706 to 92-113708 should be corrected from “one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional minimum as minimum to five (5) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional maximum as maximum” to “one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional as minimum to five (5) years and eleven (11) days of prision correccional as maximum.”
P34,000.00. Pursuant to Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, if the amount defrauded exceeds P22,000.00, the penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in the minimum period shall be imposed in its maximum period (6 years, 8 months and 21 days to 8 years) adding one year for each additional P10,000.00; but the total penalty shall not exceed 20 years.
The amount defrauded, as stated above, is
P34,000.00. Hence, the penalty should be imposed in the maximum period (6 years, 8 months and 21 days to 8 years) plus one year, there being only one P10,000.00 in excess of P22,000.00. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum penalty should be taken from the aforementioned maximum period, while the minimum term shall be within the range of the penalty next lower in degree, i.e., prision correccional in its minimum and medium period which has a duration of 6 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months. Accordingly, the correct penalty should be 4 years and 2 months of prision correccional, as minimum, to 9 years of prision mayor as maximum.