Go v. Chua (G.R. No. 150850. 8 August 2007)

CASE DIGEST: VICENTE GO, petitioner versus VICENTE CHUA, respondent. G.R. No. 150850. 8 August 2007.

The RTC had acquitted Go of the crime of estafa but had ordered him to pay respondent Vicente Chua P210,000 with 12% interest per annum until full payment.

The facts are as follows:

In an information dated April 13, 1992, petitioner Vicente Go was charged with estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a) in relation to paragraph 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code.

Go was arraigned on June 17, 1992. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The RTC acquitted Go of estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 since there was no proof of deceit when the four checks were issued and the checks were dishonored not because they were not funded but because of the absence of the required two signatures. The RTC however directed Go to reimburse Chua P210,000.

Go appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the RTC erred in ruling that he is civilly liable. His appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeals.

Go filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied.

Go argues he cannot be held civilly liable for P210,000. He points out that the RTC held him civilly liable for the reason that the four checks were allegedly part of checks which he issued to Chua in exchange for two cashier's checks which Chua gave him in the total amount of P1,500,000 and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court based on a different finding of fact: that petitioner, in his joint counter-affidavit, allegedly admitted that the four checks were issued in payment of an existing debt.

Chua, on the other hand, contends that the issues which petitioner has brought forth are the same issues that the Court of Appeals had painstakingly reviewed and discussed in its decision and to ask this Court to review the factual antecedents anew and go over the voluminous records once again would unduly burden the Court and delay disposition of other equally important cases.

ISSUE: The main issue before us is whether or not the appellate court committed reversible error in its finding that the checks of Go were payments for an existing debt and not part of the 15 checks in exchange for two cashier's checks totaling P1 ,500,000 as found by the trial court.

HELD: WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated May 15, 2001 and Resolution dated October 18, 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 42620 are AFFIRMED.

The general rule is that in the exercise of the Court's power of review, binding on the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are conclusive and the Court. The exceptions to this rule are:

[1] when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures;
[2] when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;
[3] when there is grave abuse of discretion;
[4] when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;
[5] when the findings of fact are conflicting;
[6] when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee;
[7] when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;
[8] when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;
[9] when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent;
[10] when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and
[11] when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.A plain reading of the decisions of the RTC and Court of Appeals would show that the abovementioned findings of fact of the RTC and the Court of Appeals are not contradictory. In fact, they even support each other such that we may infer that the four checks, which formed part of 15 checks Go issued, answer for his existing debt to Chua. The RTC decision stated that the cashier's checks dated March 17, 1989 and November 21, 1988 in the amounts of P500,000 and P1,000,000, respectively, were given by Chua to Go and the latter in turn gave Chua a total of 15 checks. The four checks issued by Go were all dated in 1990.[14] Based on the dates alone, it can be inferred that the four checks were issued as payment by Go for the cashier's checks given by Chua. The Court of Appeals corroborated this deduction when it emphasized Go's admission in the joint counter-affidavit that the four checks were issued to answer for an existing debt. Certainly then, these two findings of fact of the RTC and Court of Appeals are not contradictory but are complementary based on the admissions by Go of his civil liability.

As to Go's civil liability, jurisprudence tells us that an accused who is acquitted of estafa may nevertheless be held civilly liable where the facts established by the evidence so warrant.

Thus, Go may be held civilly liable even if he was acquitted of the crime of estafa provided the facts established by the evidence so warrant.

The RTC found that Go did not employ deceit in obtaining money from Chua, although it concluded that Go's liability is totally civil in character. The Court of Appeals not only affirmed Go's civil liability but presented further proof thereof, pointing out Go's admission in his joint counter-affidavit that he issued the checks to answer for an existing debt to Chua. Finding no reason to deviate from these findings, the Supreme Court affirmed Go's civil liability.

[4] ART. 315. Swindling (estafa). — Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow:

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.

x x x x

(d) By postdating a check, or issuing a check in payment of an obligation when the offender had no funds in the bank, or his funds deposited therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check. The failure of the drawer of the check to deposit the amount necessary to cover his check within three (3) days from receipt of notice from the bank and/or the payee or holder that said check has been dishonored for lack or insufficiency of funds shall be prima facie evidence of deceit constituting false pretense or fraudulent act. (As amended by Rep. Act No. 4885, approved June 17, 1967.)

[12] C & S Fishfarm Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 122720, December 16, 2002, 394 SCRA 82, 88.

[15] Eusebio-Calderon v. People, G.R. No. 158495, October 21, 2004, 441 SCRA 137, 147.

[16] G. R. No. 128927, September 14, 1999, 314 SCRA 370.

[17] Article 29. When the accused in a criminal prosecution is acquitted on the ground that his guilt has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, a civil action for damages for the same act or omission may be instituted. Such action requires only a preponderance of evidence. Upon motion of the defendant, the court may require the plaintiff to file a bond to answer for damages in case the complaint should be found to be malicious.

If in a criminal case the judgment of acquittal is based upon reasonable doubt, the court shall so declare. In the absence of any declaration to that effect, it may be inferred from the text of the decision whether or not the acquittal is due to that ground.

[18] Sapiera v. Court of Appeals, supra at 378-379.