Saturday, February 22, 2014

Case Digest: Matrido v. People


G.R. No. 179061, July 13, 2009.


Petitioner Sheala Matrido is a credit and collection assistant of Empire East Land Holdings, Inc. (private complainant), petitioner was tasked to collect payments from buyers of its real estate properties

Petitioner received payment from Amante dela Torre in the amount of P22,470.66 as evidenced by the owner’s copy of Official Receipt No. 36547, but petitioner remitted only P4,470.66 to private complainant as reflected in the treasury department’s copy of Official Receipt No. 36547 submitted to private complainant, both copies of which bear the signature of petitioner and reflect a difference of P18,000.

Private complainant then filed an estafa complaint against Petitioner before the Makati Prosecutor's Office. The Makati PO dismissed the case for estafa for insufficiency of evidence but found probable cause to indict petitioner for qualified theft under an Information which reads:

That on or about the 10th day of June 1999, in the City of Makati, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then a Credit and Collection Assistant employed by complainant, EMPIRE EAST LAND HOLDINGS, INC., herein represented by Leilani N. Cabuloy, and as such had access to the payments made by complainant’s clients, with grave abuse of confidence, intent of gain and without the knowledge and consent of the said complainant company, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away the amount of P18,000.00 received from Amante Dela Torre, a buyer of a house and lot being marketed by complainant company, to the damage and prejudice of the said complainant in the aforementioned amount of P18,000.00.

The Makati RTC subsequently found the petiitoner guilty for qualified theft.

Issue: W/N the conviction for qualified theft is valid despite the fact that the prosecution tried to prove during the trial the crime of estafa thus denying the petitioner the right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against petitioner.

Ruling: Yes

It is the allegations in the Information that determine the nature of the offense, not the technical name given by the public prosecutor in the preamble of the Information.

As alleged in the Information, petitioner took, intending to gain therefrom and without the use of force upon things or violence against or intimidation of persons, a personal property consisting of money in the amount P18,000 belonging to private complainant, without its knowledge and consent, thereby gravely abusing the confidence reposed on her as credit and collection assistant who had access to payments from private complainant’s clients.

Theft is committed by any person who, with intent to gain, but without violence against, or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take the personal property of another without the latter’s consent.  If committed with grave abuse of confidence, the crime of theft becomes qualified.

The elements of qualified theft are as follows:
  1. There was a taking of personal property.
  2. The said property belongs to another.
  3. The taking was done without the consent of the owner.
  4. The taking was done with intent to gain.
  5. The taking was accomplished without violence or intimidation against person, or force upon things.
  6. The taking was done under any of the circumstances enumerated in Article 310 of the RPC, i.e., with grave abuse of confidence.
In the present case, there is testimonial admission by petitioner of unlawfully taking the fund belonging to private complainant and of paying a certain sum to exculpate herself from liability.  That the money, taken by petitioner without authority and consent, belongs to private complainant, and that the taking was accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons, nor force upon things, there is no issue. 

Intent to gain or animus lucrandi is an internal act that is presumed from the unlawful taking by the offender of the thing subject of asportation.  Actual gain is irrelevant as the important consideration is the intent to gain.

The taking was also clearly done with grave abuse of confidence.  As a credit and collection assistant of private complainant, petitioner made use of her position to obtain the amount due to private complainant.  Her position entailed a high degree of confidence reposed by private complainant as she had been granted access to funds collectible from clients, which trust was abused when she failed to remit the entrusted amount.

The Court finds no rhyme or reason in petitioner’s contention that what the prosecution tried to prove during trial was  estafa through misappropriation under Article 315(1)(b) of the RPC.

The principal distinction between the two crimes is that in theft the thing is taken while in estafa the accused receives the property and converts it to his own use or benefit.  If he was entrusted only with the material or physical (natural) or de facto possession of the thing, his misappropriation of the same constitutes theft, but if he has the juridical possession of the thing, his conversion of the same constitutes embezzlement or estafa.

Conversion of personal property in the case of an employee having material possession of the said property constitutes theft, whereas in the case of an agent to whom both material and juridical possession have been transferred, misappropriation of the same property constitutes estafa.

That petitioner did not have juridical possession over the amount or, in other words, she did not have a right over the thing which she may set up even against private complainant is clear.

Petitioner’s view that there could be no element of taking since private complainant had no actual possession of the money fails.  The argument proceeds from the flawed premise that there could be no theft if the accused has possession of the property.

A sum of money received by an employee in behalf of an employer is considered to be only in the material possession of the employee. The material possession of an employee is adjunct, by reason of his employment, to a recognition of the juridical possession of the employer.  So long as the juridical possession of the thing appropriated did not pass to the employee-perpetrator, the offense committed remains to be theft.

Case Digest: Roehr v. Rodriguez

WOLFGANG O. ROEHR, petitioner, vs. MARIA CARMEN D. RODRIGUEZ, HON. JUDGE JOSEFINA GUEVARA-SALONGA, Presiding Judge of Makati RTC, Branch 149, respondents.
G.R. No. 142820, June 20, 2003


Petitioner Wolfgang O. Roehr, a German citizen, married private respondent Carmen Rodriguez, a Filipina, on December 11, 1980 in Germany. Their marriage was subsequently ratified on February 14, 1981 in Tayasan, Negros Oriental. Out of their union were born Carolynne and Alexandra Kristine.

Carmen filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage before the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC). Wolfgang filed a motion to dismiss, but it was denied.

Meanwhile, Wolfgang obtained a decree of divorce from the Court of First Instance of Hamburg-Blankenese. Said decree also provides that the parental custody of the children should be vested to Wolfgang.

Wolfgang filed another motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction as a divorce decree had already been promulgated, and said motion was granted by Public Respondent RTC Judge Salonga.

Carmen filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration, with a prayer that the case proceed for the purpose of determining the issues of custody of children and the distribution of the properties between her and Wolfgang. Judge Salonga  partially set aside her previous order for the purpose of tackling the issues of support and custody of their children.

1st Issue: W/N Judge Salonga was correct in granting a partial motion for reconsideration.

Ruling: Yes.

A judge can order a partial reconsideration of a case that has not yet attained finality, as in the case at bar.

The Supreme Court goes further to say that the court can modify or alter a judgment even after the same has become executory whenever circumstances transpire rendering its decision unjust and inequitable, as where certain facts and circumstances justifying or requiring such modification or alteration transpired after the judgment has become final and executory and when it becomes imperative in the higher interest of justice or when supervening events warrant it.

2nd issue: W/N Judge Salonga's act was valid when she assumed and retained jurisdiction as regards child custody and support.

Ruling: Yes.

As a general rule, divorce decrees obtained by foreigners in other countries are recognizable in our jurisdiction. But the legal effects thereof, e.g. on custody, care and support of the children, must still be determined by our courts.

Before our courts can give the effect of res judicata to a foreign judgment, such as the award of custody to Wolfgang by the German court, it must be shown that the parties opposed to the judgment had been given ample opportunity to do so on grounds allowed under Rule 39, Section 50 of the Rules of Court (now Rule 39, Section 48, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure).

In the present case, it cannot be said that private respondent was given the opportunity to challenge the judgment of the German court so that there is basis for declaring that judgment as res judicata with regard to the rights of Wolfgang to have parental custody of their two children. The proceedings in the German court were summary. As to what was the extent of Carmen’s participation in the proceedings in the German court, the records remain unclear.

Absent any finding that private respondent is unfit to obtain custody of the children, the trial court was correct in setting the issue for hearing to determine the issue of parental custody, care, support and education mindful of the best interests of the children.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Case Digest: Peña v. CA


G.R. No. 91478 February 7, 1991

Antecedents facts:

PAMPANGA BUS CO., INC. (PAMBUSCO) is the owner of the three lots in dispute. PAMBUSCO mortgaged the lots to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), which were later on foreclosed.

Rosita Peña was awarded the lots in a foreclosure sale for being the highest bidder. The certificate of sale was later issued to her and registered in her name.

Subsequently, the Board of Directors of PAMBUSCO, through three out of its five directors, issued a resolution to assign its right of redemption over the lots in favor of any interested party. The right of redemption was later on assigned to Marcelino Enriquez, who redeemed the property.

Enriquez then sold the lots to spouses Rising T. Yap and Catalina Lugue-Yap.

Meanwhile, a case involving the validity of the sale to the spouses Yap was pending, and despite the protestations of Peña as to validity of the PAMBUSCO's assignment of the right of redemption, the lots were somehow registered in the name of spouses Yap. Despite the registration of the lots to spouses Yap, Peña retained possession of the property.

Main Case:

Spouses Yap sought to recover the possession of the lots from Peña. The latter countered that she is now the legitimate owner of the subject lands for having purchased the same in a foreclosure proceeding instituted by the DBP against PAMBUSCO and no valid redemption having been effected within the period provided by law.

The defense was that since the deed of assignment executed by PAMBUSCO in favor of Enriquez was void ab initio for being an ultra vires act of its board of directors and for being without any valuable consideration, it could not have had any legal effect.

(It should be noted that the by-laws of PAMBUSCO provide that four out of five directors must be present in a special meeting of the board to constitute a quorum, and that the corporation has already ceased to operate.)

CFI ruled in favor of Petitioner Peña, but the same was overturned by the CA.

Issue: W/N there Peña is entitled to the lots.

Ruling: Yes.

The by-laws of a corporation are its own private laws which substantially have the same effect as the laws of the corporation. They are in effect, written, into the charter. In this sense they become part of the fundamental law of the corporation with which the corporation and its directors and officers must comply.

Apparently, only three (3) out of five (5) members of the board of directors of respondent PAMBUSCO convened by virtue of a prior notice of a special meeting. There was no quorum to validly transact business since it is required under its by-laws that at least four (4) members must be present to constitute a quorum in a special meeting of the board of directors.

Under Section 25 of the Corporation Code of the Philippines, the articles of incorporation or by-laws of the corporation may fix a greater number than the majority of the number of board members to constitute the quorum necessary for the valid transaction of business. Any number less than the number provided in the articles or by-laws therein cannot constitute a quorum and any act therein would not bind the corporation; all that the attending directors could do is to adjourn.

Moreover, the records show that respondent PAMBUSCO ceased to operate for about 25 years prior to the board meeting. Being a dormant corporation for several years, it was highly irregular, for a group of three (3) individuals representing themselves to be the directors of respondent PAMBUSCO to pass a resolution disposing of the only remaining asset of the corporation in favor of a former corporate officer.

As a matter of fact, the three (3) alleged directors who attended the special meeting on November 19, 1974 were not listed as directors of respondent PAMBUSCO in the latest general information sheet. Similarly, the latest list of stockholders of respondent PAMBUSCO on file with the SEC does not show that the said alleged directors were among the stockholders of respondent PAMBUSCO, in contravention of the rule requiring a director to own one (1) share in their to qualify as director of a corporation.

Further, under the Corporation Law, the sale or disposition of any and/or substantially all properties of the corporation requires, in addition to a proper board resolution, the affirmative votes of the stockholders holding at least two-thirds (2/3) of the voting power in the corporation in a meeting duly called for that purpose. This was not complied with in the case at bar.

At the time of the passage of the questioned resolution, respondent PAMBUSCO was insolvent and its only remaining asset was its right of redemption over the subject properties. Since the disposition of said redemption right of respondent PAMBUSCO by virtue of the questioned resolution was not approved by the required number of stockholders, the said resolution, as well as the subsequent assignment and sale, were null and void.

Lastly, for lack of consideration, the assignment should be construed as a donation. Under Article 725 of the Civil Code, in order to be valid, such a donation must be made in a public document and the acceptance must be made in the same or in a separate instrument. In the latter case, the donor shall be notified of the acceptance in an authentic form and such step must be noted in both instruments. Since assignment to Enriquez shows that there was no acceptance of the donation in the same and in a separate document, the said deed of assignment is thus void ab initio.

Case Digest: Matugas v. COMELEC


G.R. No. 151944.  January 20, 2004


On 28 February 28 2001, Private Respondent Robert Lyndon Barbers filed his certificate of candidacy as governor of Surigao del Norte for 2001 elections. Petitioner Ernesto T. Matugas, who is also a candidate for governor, filed with COMELEC a Petition to Disqualify Barbers as candidate.

His main contention is that Barbers is not a Filipino citizen. To support his claim, Matugas presented the following documents:
  1. Photocopy of a letter-request of a certain Jesus Agana, a “confidential agent” of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), addressed to one George Clarke, purportedly of the United States Embassy regarding the US citizenship of Barbers;
  2. A notation on the letter request allegedly made by George Clarke, stating that Barbers was naturalized on 11 October 1991;
  3. Photocopy of a Certification from the BID containing Barbers' travel records and indicating in some documents that he is American;
  4. Certification from the Office of the Solicitor General's Special Committee on Naturalization stating that there is no pending petition by, or grant of repatriation to, Barbers.
Meanwhile, Barbers won the gubernatorial race on 17 May 2001. Matugas then filed a Motion for Suspension/Annulment of Proclamation of Barbers. However, Barbers was proclaimed the duly elected governor of Surigao del Norte on 28 May 2001.

COMELEC then dismissed the Petition to Disqualify. It found “little or no probative value” in the notation of George Clarke to Agana’s letter-request.While noting that the BID certification involving the travel records of Barbers stated that he was an American, it held that there is no other independent evidence to justify Matugas's claim that Barbers has renounced his allegiance to the Philippines.

Matugas filed a Motion for reconsideration, which was denied. He then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Supreme Court, and presented the following additional documents:
  1. Photocopy of a document purportedly coming from the US Dirstrict Court of California showing the Naturalization of Barbers signed by its Deputy Clerk;
  2. Photocopy of a purported Authentication attached to the previous document coming from the Philippine Consul in Los Angeles, California stating the following: "The annexed document is an Information of Naturalization Re: Robert Lyndon Barbers executed by United States District Court, Central District of California."
Subsequently, petitioner filed a Manifestation with Motion for Leave to Admit Original Documents, appending the originals of the above documents.

Issue: W/N Barbers should have been disqualified.

Ruling: No.

One who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it. Matugas did not overcome his burden of presenting substantial evidence with the documents he presented.

For the purpose of their presentation in evidence, documents are either public or private. Public documents include the written official acts or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country. The record of such public documents may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record.

If the record is not kept in the Philippines, the attested copy should be accompanied by a certificate that such officer has custody thereof. Said certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and authenticated by the seal of his office.

The grant of United States citizenship by naturalization is an official act of the United States. The document containing the record of this act is a public document, so this document can only be evidenced by its official publication or a copy duly attested by the officer having legal custody thereof.

The George Clarke's notation in the letter-request of Jesus Agana is neither an official publication of the document that contains the record of private respondent’s naturalization, nor a copy attested by the officer who has legal custody of the record. Matugas also did not show if Clarke is the officer charged with the custody of such record.

Furthermore, Matugas only presented photocopies of the letter-request and notation, as well as the BID certification, in contravention of the above-cited rule.

In any case, the BID certification contains inconsistent entries regarding the “nationality” of Barbers. While some entries indicate that he is “American,” other entries state that he is “Filipino.”

The new documents presented in the Petition for Certiorari cannot also be admitted in evidence.  In this case, the Authentication executed the Philippine Consul in Los Angeles does not state that the Deputy Clerk who signed the document has the custody of the document being authenticated.

Lastly, the Petitioner's calls to consider alleged new evidence not presented before the COMELEC is clearly beyond the the Supreme Courts’ certiorari powers. Doing so would be tantamount to holding a new investigation.

The Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, and it cannot be asked to substitute its own judgment and discretion for that of the COMELEC.

The rule in appellate procedure is that a factual question may not be raised for the first time on appeal,and documents forming no part of the proofs before the appellate court will not be considered in disposing of the issues of an action. Piecemeal presentation of evidence is simply not in accord with orderly justice.

The same rules apply with greater force in certiorari proceedings. It would be absurd to hold COMELEC guilty of grave abuse of discretion for not considering evidence not presented before it. The patent unfairness of Matugas’s plea militates against the admission and consideration of the subject documents.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Case Digest: Grace Christian High School v. CA


G.R. No. 108905 October 23, 1997


Petitioner Grace Christian High School is an educational institution located at the Grace Village in Quezon City, while Private respondent Grace Village Association, Inc. ["Association'] is an organization of lot and/or building owners, lessees and residents at Grace Village.

The original 1968 by-laws provide that the Board of Directors, composed of eleven (11) members, shall serve for one (1) year until their successors are duly elected and have qualified.

On 20 December 1975, a committee of the board of directors prepared a draft of an amendment to the
by-laws which provides that "GRACE CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL representative is a permanent
Director of the ASSOCIATION."

However, this draft was never presented to the general membership for approval. Nevertheless, from 1975 to 1990, petitioner was given a permanent seat in the board of directors of the association.

On 13 February 1990, the association's committee on election sought to change the by-laws and informed the Petitioner's school principal "the proposal to make the Grace Christian High School representative as a permanent director of the association, although previously tolerated in the past elections should be reexamined."

Following this advice, notices were sent to the members of the association that the provision on election of directors of the 1968 by-laws of the association would be observed.  Petitioner requested the chairman of the election committee to change the notice to honor the 1975 by-laws provision, but was denied.

The school then brought suit for mandamus in the Home Insurance and Guaranty Corporation (HIGC) to compel the board of directors to recognize its right to a permanent seat in the board.

Meanwhile, the opinion of the SEC was sought by the association, and SEC rendered an opinion to the effect that the practice of allowing unelected members in the board was contrary to the existing by-laws of the association and to §92 of the Corporation Code (B.P. Blg. 68). This was adopted by the association in its Answer in the mandamus filed with the HIGC.

The HIGC hearing officer ruled in favor of the association, which decision was affirmed by the HIGC Appeals Board and the Court of Appeals.

Issue: W/N the 1975 provision giving the petitioner a permanent board seat was valid.

Ruling: No.

Section 23 of the Corporation Code (and its predecessor Section 28 and 29 of the Corporation Law) leaves no room for doubt that the Board of Directors of a Corporation must be elected from among the stockholders or members.

There may be corporations in which there are unelected members in the board but it is clear that in these instances, the unelected members sit as ex officio members, i.e., by virtue of and for as long as they hold a particular office (e.g. whoever is the Archbishop of Manila is considered a member of the board of Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital, Inc.)

But in the case of petitioner, there is no reason at all for its representative to be given a seat in the board. Nor does petitioner claim a right to such seat by virtue of an office held. In fact it was not given such seat in the beginning. It was only in 1975 that a proposed amendment to the by-laws sought to give it one.

Since the provision in question is contrary to law, the fact that it has gone unchallenged for fifteen years cannot forestall a later challenge to its validity. Neither can it attain validity through acquiescence because, if it is contrary to law, it is beyond the power of the members of the association to waive its invalidity.

It is more accurate to say that the members merely tolerated petitioner's representative and tolerance cannot be considered ratification.

Nor can petitioner claim a vested right to sit in the board on the basis of "practice." Practice, no matter how long continued, cannot give rise to any vested right if it is contrary to law.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Case Digest: Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners (South) Association v. CA


G.R. No. 117188 August 7, 1997


Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners Association, Inc. (LGVHAI) was organized on 8 February 1983 as the homeoenwers' association for Loyola Grand Villas. It was also registered as the sole homeowners' association in the said village with the Home Financing Corporation (which eventually became Home Insurance Guarantee Corporation ["HIGC"]). However, the association was not able file its corporate by-laws.

The LGVHAI officers then tried to registered its By-Laws in 1988, but they failed to do so. They then discovered that there were two other homeowners' organizations within the subdivision - the Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners (North) Association, Inc. [North Association] and herein Petitioner Loyola Grand Villas Homeowners (South) Association, Inc.["South Association].

Upon inquiry by the LGVHAI to HIGC, it was discovered that LGVHAI was dissolved for its failure to submit its by-laws within the period required by the Corporation Code and for its non-user of corporate charter because HIGC had not received any report on the association's activities. These paved the way for the formation of the North and South Associations.

LGVHAI then lodged a complaint with HIGC Hearing Officer Danilo Javier, and questioned the revocation of its registration.  Hearing Officer Javier ruled in favor of LGVHAI, revoking the registration of the North and South Associations.

Petitioner South Association appealed the ruling, contending that LGVHAI's failure to file its by-laws within the period prescribed by Section 46 of the Corporation Code effectively automatically dissolved the corporation. The Appeals Board of the HIGC and the Court of Appeals both rejected the contention of the Petitioner affirmed the decision of Hearing Officer Javier.

Issue: W/N LGVHAI's failure to file its by-laws within the period prescribed by Section 46 of the Corporation Code had the effect of automatically dissolving the said corporation.

Ruling: No.

The pertinent provision of the Corporation Code that is the focal point of controversy in this case states:
Sec. 46. Adoption of by-laws. - Every corporation formed under this Code, must within one (1) month after receipt of official notice of the issuance of its certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, adopt a code of by-laws for its government not inconsistent with this Code.
Ordinarily, the word "must" connotes an imposition of duty which must be enforced. However, the word "must" in a statute, like "shall," is not always imperative. It may be consistent with an ecercise of discretion. If the language of a statute, considered as a whole with due regard to its nature and object, reveals that the legislature intended to use the words "shall" and "must" to be directory, they should be given that meaning.

The legislative deliberations of the Corporation Code reveals that it was not the intention of Congress to automatically dissolve a corporation for failure to file the By-Laws on time.

Moreover, By-Laws may be necessary to govern the corporation, but By-Laws are still subordinate to the Articles of Incorporation and the Corporation Code. In fact, there are cases where By-Laws are unnecessary to the corporate existence and to the valid exercise of corporate powers.

The Corporation Code does not expressly provide for the effects of non-filing of By-Laws. However, these have been rectified by Section 6 of PD 902-A which provides that SEC shall possess the power to suspend or revoke, after proper notice and hearing, the franchise or certificate of registration of corporations upon failure to file By-Laws within the required period.

This shows that there must be notice and hearing before a corporation is dissolved for failure to file its By-Laws. Even assuming that the existence of a ground, the penalty is not necessarily revocation, but may only be suspension.

By-Laws are indispensable to corporations, since they are required by law for an orderly management of corporations. However, failure to file them within the period prescribed does not equate to the automatic dissolution of a corporation.
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