G.R. No. 235100. Mar 14, 2018


Acting on petitioner's Motion for Extension of Time to file Petition for Review on Certiorari praying for additional thirty (30) days from the expiration of the reglementary period or until December 24, 2017 within which to file the petition, the Court resolved to GRANT the same. The Second Motion for Extension of fifteen (15) days from December 24, 2017 within which to file the intended petition is NOTED without action considering that when the petition was filed on December 27, 2017, the same was well within the extended period prayed in the first motion.[1]

After a judicious review of the allegations, issues and arguments raised by petitioner, the Court resolved to DENY the Petition for Review on Certiorari for failure to show that the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 38157 committed any reversible error in affirming with modification the assailed August 14, 2015 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Marikina City, Branch 263 in Criminal Case No. 2013-15013-MK. The Court is of the considered view that no constitutional right of the petitioner was violated by the CA in rendering its decision against him.

Indeed, the Constitution presumes a person innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond reasonable doubt. When guilt is not proven with moral certainty, the presumption of innocence must be favored and exoneration granted as a matter of right. In the case at bench, the prosecution was able to meet the quantum of proof required to convict petitioner. The testimony of the private complainant as contained in her Judicial Affidavit and the documentary exhibits presented amounted to no less than proof beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.

Petitioner was not being compelled by the CA to be a witness against himself in violation of his constitutional right. Petitioner was merely afforded the opportunity to disprove the evidence against him. However, he failed to do so.

The CA justified its action in denying petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration with an explanation that his arguments were mere rehash of his arguments raised in his appeal which were thoroughly threshed out in its assailed March 27, 2017 Decision.

Petitioner's further arguments relate to factual matters. As a rule, only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Questions of fact are not proper subjects in such mode of appeal. This Court does not have the duty or functions of weighing and sifting through the evidence presented below. None of the exceptions laid down by jurisprudence is present in this case.

The elements of Estafa by means of deceit as defined under Article 315(2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) are, as follows:

(1) there must be false pretense, fraudulent act 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, that is, he must have been induced to part with his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; and

(4) as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.[2]All these elements were duly established by the prosecution. These are the identical factual findings of both the trial and appellate courts. There is no reason to disturb them as they are sufficiently supported by evidence.

However, a modification of the penalty imposed by the CA is warranted in view of the passage of an amendatory law, Republic Act (RA) No. 10951, which is favourable to petitioner.[3]

Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA No. 10951, now provides that the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed if the amount defrauded is over P40,000.00 but did not exceed PI,200,000.00. The amount defrauded in this case was P500,000.00. There being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the maximum penalty should be one (1) year and one (1) day of prision correccional. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum term of the indeterminate sentence is arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods the range of which is one (1) month and one (1) day to four (4) months. Thus, the indeterminate penalty should be modified to a prison term of two (2) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and one (1) day of prision correccional, as maximum.

Finally, the Court takes note of the RTC's finding that petitioner is no longer liable for any civil liability in view of the execution of a duly approved Compromise Agreement.

 this Court resolves to DENY the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari and AFFIRM the assailed March 27, 2017 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CRNo. 38157 with MODIFICATION in that the indeterminate penalty of two (2) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and one (1) day of prision correccional, as maximum, is imposed on petitioner.

SO ORDERED. (Sereno, C.J., on leave; De Castro, 1, designated as Acting Chairperson of the First Division per Special Order No. 2540 dated February 28, 2018).

[1] December 24, 2017 was a Sunday; December 25, 2017 being Christmas day while December 26, 2017 was declared a special non-working holiday.

[2] Galvez v. Court of Appeals, 686 Phil. 924 (2012).

[3] An Act Adjusting the Amount or the Value of Property and Damage on which a Penalty is Based and the Fines Imposed under the Revised Penal Code, amending for the Purpose Act No. 3815, Otherwise Known as "The Revised Penal Code" as amended; Approved on August 29, 2017.