806 Phil. 483
That on or about January 2, 2002, in the City of San Pablo, Republic of the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused above-named, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there, defraud one JOAN FRUCTOZA E. FINEZA, in the following manner, to wit: That Norma C. Gamaro, pretending that she is knowledgeable in the business of buy and sell of jewelry, other merchandise and financing, assuring complainant of a sure market and big profit lure and entice complainant Joan Fructoza E. Fineza to enter into the business and the latter purchased and delivered to her the jewelry amounting to P2,292,519.00 with the obligation to manage the business for private complainant and remit the proceeds of the sale to her, but accused, far from complying, with her obligation, managed the business as her own, failing to remit the proceeds of the sale and pledging jewelries to Lluillier Pawnshop where accused Josephine Umali work while the checks issued by respondent Rowena Gamaro to guarantee their payment were all dishonoured for having been drawn against insufficient funds, to the damage and prejudice of the offended party in the aforementioned amount.When arraigned on August 4, 2005, petitioners pleaded not guilty to the crime charged, while accused Rowena C. Gamaro remained at-large. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this court hereby renders judgment, as follows:Aggrieved, petitioners filed an appeal before the CA. In a Decision dated November 25, 2013, the CA affirmed the Decision of the RTC. The fallo of the Decision states:
Let a warrant issue for the arrest of Rowena Gamaro. The Bureau of Immigration is likewise directed to issue a HOLD DEPARTURE ORDER against ROWENA GAMARO, her personal circumstances are as follows:
- FINDING accused Norma Gamaro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of estafa as defined and penalized under Section 1 (b), Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, and hereby sentences her to suffer the indeterminate prison term of Four (4) Years and Two (2) Months of Prision Correccional, as Minimum, to Twenty (20) Years of Reclusion Temporal, as Maximum;
- EXONERATING accused Josephine G. Umali of any criminal liability;
- DIRECTING both accused Norma Gamaro and Josephine Umali to pay the private complainant jointly and solidarity the following amounts:
- P1,259,841.46, plus legal interest from date of demand on February 16, 2004, until fully paid;
- P50,000.00 for and by way of moral damages;
- P25,000.00, for and by way of exemplary damages;
- P50,000.00, for and by way of attorney's fees; and
- To pay the costs.
Name: ROWENA C. GAMARO
Former Residence: Lot 20, Block 16, National Housing Authority (NHA), Brgy. San Jose, San Pablo City
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated July 25, 2011 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, San Pablo City, in Criminal Case No. 15407 is hereby AFFIRMED.A motion for reconsideration was filed by the petitioners, but the same was denied by the CA on February 21, 2014.
A) THE CA COMMITTED AN ERROR OF LAW AND GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN AFFIRMING THE RTC DECISION FINDING NORMA GAMARO GUILTY OF THE CRIME OF ESTAFA UNDER SECTION 1(b), ARTICLE 315 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE DESPITE THE INFORMATION ACCUSING HER OF THE CRIME OF ESTAFA UNDER PARAGRAPH 2(A) ARTICLE 315 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE IN GRAVE VIOLATION OF THE PETITIONER'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE INFORMED OF THE CHARGE AGAINST HER;The first issue for resolution is whether a conviction for the crime of Estafa under a different paragraph from the one charged is legally permissible.
B) THE CA COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT SUSTAINED THE FINDINGS OF THE RTC DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT (RTC) RELIED ON THE FINDINGS ON THE PROCEEDINGS IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE CASE WITH SSS AGAINST NORMA GAMARO;
C) THE CA COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT SUSTAINED THE FINDINGS OF THE RTC DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT (RTC) CONSIDERED THE TESTIMONY OF PROSECUTION WITNESS ATTY. BALDEO DESPITE CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN THAT SHE (ATTY. BALDEO) GAVE NORMA GAMARO ADVISE REGARDING HER CASE; and
D) THE CA COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT UPHELD THE FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE RTC THAT NORMA GAMARO RECEIVED THE SUBJECT JEWELRIES DESPITE THE INCOMPETENT AND CONTRADICTORY EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION ITSELF.
Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.The constitutional provision requiring the accused to be "informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him" is for him to adequately and responsively prepare his defense. The prosecutor is not required, however, to be absolutely accurate in designating the offense by its formal name in the law. It is hornbook doctrine that what determines the real nature and cause of the accusation against an accused is the actual recital of facts stated in the information or complaint and not the caption or preamble of the information or complaint nor the specification of the provision of law alleged to have been violated, they being conclusions of law.
(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.
The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that an information shall be deemed sufficient if it states, among others, the designation of the offense given by the statute and the acts of omissions complained of as constituting the offense. However, the Court has clarified in several cases that the designation of the offense, by making reference to the section or subsection of the statute punishing, it [sic] is not controlling; what actually determines the nature and character of the crime charged are the facts alleged in the information. The Court's ruling in U.S. v. Lim San is instructive:In the instant case, the crime of estafa charged against petitioners is defined and penalized by Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the Revised Code, viz.:x x x Notwithstanding the apparent contradiction between caption and body, we believe that we ought to say and hold that the characterization of the crime by the fiscal in the caption of the information is immaterial and purposeless, and that the facts stated in the body of the pleading must determine the crime of which the defendant stands charged and for which he must be tried. The establishment of this doctrine is permitted by the Code of Criminal Procedure, and is thoroughly in accord with common sense and with the requirements of plain justice x x x.
Article 315. Swindling (estafa). Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned herein below shall be punished by:The elements of the said crime are as follows: (1) there must be a false pretense, fraudulent acts or fraudulent means; (2) such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (3) the offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means and was thus induced to part with his money or property; and (4) as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.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 pesos 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 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed under the provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be.
2nd. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the amount of the fraud is over 6,000 pesos but does not exceed 12,000 pesos;
3rd. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if such amount is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000 pesos; and
4th. By arresto mayor in its maximum period, if such amount does not exceed 200 pesos, provided that in the four cases mentioned, the fraud be committed by any of the following means:
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:
(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.
Article 315. Swindling (estafa).The elements of estafa under Article 315, paragraph 1(b) are as follows: (1) that money, goods, or other personal properties are received by the offender in trust, or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of, or to return, the same; (2) that there is a misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender or a denial of the receipt thereof; (3) that the misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and (4) that there is a demand made by the offended party on the offender.
x x x x the fraud be committed by any of the following means:
1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely:x x x x(b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another, money, goods, or any other personal property received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same, even though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having received such money, goods, or other property.x x x
From a legal point of view, and in a very real sense, it is of no concern to the accused what is the technical name of the crime of which he stands charged. It in no way aids him in a defense on the merits. Whatever its purpose may be, its result is to enable the accused to vex the court and embarrass the administration of justice by setting up the technical defense that the crime set forth in the body of the information and proved in the trial is not the crime characterized by the fiscal in the caption of the information. That to which his attention should be directed, and in which he, above all things else, should be most interested, are the facts alleged. The real question is not did he commit a crime given in the law some technical and specific name, but did he perform the acts alleged in the body of the information in the manner therein set forth. If he did, it is of no consequence to him, either as a matter of procedure or of substantive right, how the law denominates the crime which those acts constitute. The designation of the crime by name in the caption of the information from the facts alleged in the body of that pleading is a conclusion of law made by the fiscal. In the designation of the crime the accused never has a real interest until the trial has ended. For his full and complete defense he need not know the name of the crime at all. It is of no consequence whatever for the protection of his substantial rights... If he performed the acts alleged, in the manner, stated, the law determines what the name of the crime is and fixes the penalty therefore. It is the province of the court alone to say what the crime is or what it is named x x x.Also, the prosecution was able to prove the crime of estafa under paragraph 1(b). As held by the CA, Fineza positively and categorically testified on the transaction that transpired between her and petitioners and accused Rowena Gamaro. The failure to account upon demand, for funds or property held in trust, is circumstantial evidence of misappropriation. As mentioned, petitioner Norma Gamaro failed to account for, upon demand, the jewelry which was received by her in trust. This already constitutes circumstantial evidence of misappropriation or conversion to petitioner's own personal use. The failure to return upon demand the properties which one has the duty to return is tantamount to appropriating the same for his own personal use. As in fact, in this case, Fineza, herself redeemed the pieces of jewelry using her own money.
(1) There exists an attorney-client relationship, or a prospective attorney-client relationship, and it is by reason of this relationship that the client made the communication;The mere relation of attorney and client does not raise a presumption of confidentiality. The client must intend the communication to be confidential. A confidential communication refers to information transmitted by voluntary act of disclosure between attorney and client in confidence and by means which, so far as the client is aware, discloses the information to no third person other than one reasonably necessary for the transmission of the information or the accomplishment of the purpose for which it was given. The communication made by a client to his attorney must not be intended for mere information, but for the purpose of seeking legal advice from his attorney as to his rights or obligations. The communication must have been transmitted by a client to his attorney for the purpose of seeking legal advice.
(2) The client made the communication in confidence;
(3) The legal advice must be sought from the attorney in his professional capacity.
Thus, based on the testimony of Atty. Baldeo in this case and in the aforementioned administrative case, accused Norma Gamaro's defense of denial of her participation in the business transaction involving the sale of jewelry supplied by private complainant, fall flat on its face.Lastly, the argument of petitioner Norma Gamaro that the RTC erred in finding that she was the one who received the pieces of jewelry is a finding of fact. It is a well-entrenched doctrine that factual findings of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, are accorded the highest degree of respect and are considered conclusive between the parties. Though jurisprudence recognizes highly meritorious exceptions, none of them obtain herein which would warrant a reversal of the challenged Decision.
x x x x. The attempt of the defense to exculpate Norma and Josephine through the testimony of Frederick San Diego is understandable. The argument, however, that it was Frederick San Diego, upon instructions of Rowena Gamaro who pledged the jewelry, without the knowledge of Norma or Josephine is unavailing. The records show that Frederick San Diego is not only a mere nephew of Norma, and cousin to Rowena and Josephine, but also the messenger and collector of Rowena, who had knowledge of the fact that Rowena's partner was the private complainant, Frederick San Diego also knew that the private complainant went to the house of Norma asking the missing jewelry.It must be stressed that the prosecution offered in evidence the eighteen (18) index cards given by accused Rowena Gamaro to Fineza stating the pieces of jewelries that were given to them by Fineza, with the corresponding appraised values. The due dates of the checks issued in favor of Fineza (Exhibits "F" to "F-7" and "F-11" "F-27") were also indicated on the index cards. The pieces of jewelry were pawned to various pawnshops and individuals, instead of offering them for sale. Hence, petitioner Norma Gamaro failed to return the jewelry to the damage and prejudice of Fineza. She even offered her house and lot to Fineza as payment for the jewelry.
As earlier stressed, some of the jewelry were delivered by the private complainant to Norma Gamaro, not Rowena Gamaro. Yet the defense admits that Frederick San Diego pledged the same pieces of jewelry to M. Lhuillier Pawnshop, Cebuana Lhuillier, and the owner of Collette's upon instructions of Rowena Gamaro. Clearly then, Norma turned over the said jewelry to Rowena with knowledge that they will be pledged to the pawnshops and to the owner of Collette's. To hold otherwise would run counter to human nature and experience.
On the other hand, We likewise find appellant Umali civilly liable to private complainant Fineza. As may be recalled, appellant Umali was exonerated from the crime of estafa. Notwithstanding, she is not entirely free from any liability towards private complainant Fineza. It has been held that an acquittal based on reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime charged does not necessarily exempt her from civil liability where a mere preponderance of evidence is required. There is no question that the evidence adduced by the prosecution is preponderant enough to sustain appellant Umali's civil liability. Accordingly, We agree with the court a quo's ratiocination in this wise:There is no reason for this Court to review the findings when both the appellate and the trial courts agree on the facts. We, therefore, adopt the factual findings of the lower courts in totality, bearing in mind the credence lent to their appreciation of the evidence."What militates against the posture of Josephine is the admission by Frederick that it was Rowena Gamaro who instructed him to pledge the jewelry to M. Lhuiller Pawnshop. If this were true, then, with more reason Josephine had knowledge as to who owns the jewelry. It may well be pointed out, as earlier stated, that Josephine is part of the business transaction between Norma and Rowena with the private complainant, as she too signed the Joint Solidary Account Agreement with Banco Filipino purposely to enable them to open a checking account, and it was against this account that Norma and Rowena drew the checks that they issued to guarantee the share of Joan from the proceeds of the sale of the jewelry. It follows then that Josephine also knows beforehand who owns the jewelry pledged with her (sic) M. Lhuillier Pawnshop Branch. x x x"With the foregoing premises considered, We sustain the court a quo's ruling that herein appellants be held jointly and solidarily liable to herein private complainant Fineza. Thus, there is no cogent reason to depart from the ruling of the court a quo.