G.R. No. 235627. Apr 4, 2018

FIRST DIVISION [ G.R. No. 235627, April 04, 2018 ] EMMANUEL VILLEGAS VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES.

This Court resolves to GRANT the Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Emmanuel Villegas seeking for an additional period of thirty (30) days from the expiration of the reglementary period on December 7, 2017 within which to file said Petition for Review on Certiorari.

This Court has carefully reviewed the allegations, issues, and arguments adduced in the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari and accordingly resolves to DENY the same for: (a) submitting a defective verification considering that the same was based on "personal knowledge and belief and based on authentic and verifiable public documents;" (b) submitting a defective affidavit of service which was notarized on January 3, 2018 or prior to the actual date of posting of copies of the Petition on January 4, 2018 on the Court of Appeals and the adverse party; (c) lack of explanation as to why service of the Petition for Review on Certiorari to the Court of Appeals and to the adverse party was not done through the preferred mode of personal service; and (d) failure of petitioner to show that the Court of Appeals (CA) committed any reversible error in issuing its Decision and Resolution dated May 31, 2017 and October 24, 2017, respectively, in CA-G.R. CR No. 36477 to warrant the exercise of this Court's discretionary appellate jurisdiction. The CA's Decision and Resolution are in accord with the facts and applicable laws and jurisprudence.

The records show that the prosecution sufficiently established the following elements of estafa under Article 315, paragraph (2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code: (1) the offender makes a false pretense or fraudulent representation as to his power, influence, credit, qualifications, property, agency, business, or imaginary transactions; (2) the false pretense or fraudulent representation was made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (3) the offended party relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means and was induced to part with his money or property; and (4) as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage. False pretenses were employed by petitioner to deceive complainants Rowena Nueca, Sabina Duran and Yolanda Legaspi into purchasing residential lots in Villa Adoracion in Taytay, Rizal. Petitioner and his co-accused presented themselves as officers of M-5 Construction and Development, Inc. (M-5), which is the authorized agent of Eastway Industries Corp. (EIC) with respect to the development of Villa Adoracion, although they knew fully well that they did not possess the authority to represent EIC. They then convinced complainants to purchase said lots with a promise that the value thereof would increase radically once the construction started. These false pretenses were employed prior to and simultaneously with, the fraudulent sale of the lots. Complainants relied on these false pretenses and were thereby induced to part with their money as payment for the purchase of said lots. As a result of these false pretenses or fraudulent acts of petitioner and his co-accused, complainants suffered damages equivalent to their payments.

Petitioner's contention that he was not guilty of estafa since the prosecution failed to prove that an agency agreement existed between M-5 and EIC fails to impress. The claim of petitioner and his co-accused that there was a contract of agency between these two companies on the development and sale of the lots in Villa Adoracion is one of the fraudulent representations that induced complainants to part with their money and purchase residential lots therein. It was an obvious ploy to convince complainants further that petitioner and his co-accused possessed legal authority to transact business.

Complainants Rowena Nueca, Sabina Duran and Yolanda Legaspi gave the amounts of P21,927.30, P20,323.35, and P31,014.00, respectively, as payments for their residential lots. While the Information in the case of complainant Yolanda Legaspi states the fraud committed by petitioner and his co-accused was in the amount of P62,748.70, the amount proven during trial was only P31,014.00. Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 10951,[1] provides that the imposable penalty is arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods, which is from 2 months and 1 day to 6 months when the amount of the fraud does not exceed P40,000.00. There being no mitigating and aggravating circumstance, the proper penalty should be within the range of 3 months and 11 days to 4 months and 20 days. The Indeterminate Sentence Law shall not be applied in this case since the maximum term of imprisonment does not exceed one year.[2] Thus, the penalty should be modified to a prison term of 4 months and 20 days of arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods. The reduction of the imposable penalty in this appeal taken by petitioner shall affect his co-accused, Adoracion Losloso, since it is favorable and applicable to her.[3]Petitioner should also be ordered to pay complainants Rowena Nueca, Sabina Duran and Yolanda Legaspi the amounts that were swindled from them plus interest. In the absence of an express stipulation as to the rate of interest that would govern the parties, the rate of legal interest for loans or forbearance of any money, goods or credits and the rate allowed in judgments shall be 12% per annum until June 30, 2013.[4] Thereafter, the rate of interest shall be 6% per annum until full payment.[5] Thus, the damages in Criminal Case Nos. 92-7818, 92-7809, 92-7820 in the amounts of P21,927.30, P20,323.35, and P31,014.00, respectively, should earn interest of 6% per annum from the filing of the Information until full satisfaction.6 Petitioner shall be solely liable for the payment of the swindled amounts with interest.[7]

WHEREFORE, this Court resolves to AFFIRM the Decision dated May 31, 2017 and Resolution dated October 24, 2017 of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CR No. 36477 subject to the MODIFICATION of the penalty to 4 months and 20 days of arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods, in Criminal Case Nos. 92-7818, 92-7809, 92-7820 in the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, Branch 73. The reduction of the imposable penalty in this appeal by certiorari taken by petitioner Emmanuel Villegas shall affect his co-accused Adoracion Losloso.

Petitioner is also ordered to pay the damages suffered by complainants Rowena Nueca, Sabina Duran and Yolanda Legaspi in the amounts of P21,927.30, P20,323.35, and P31,014.00, respectively, with interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the filing of the Information until its full satisfaction.

SO ORDERED. Sereno, C.J., on leave; De Castro, J., designated as Acting Chairperson of the First Division per Special Order No. 2540 dated February 28, 2018; Martires, J., designated additional member to replace Jardeleza, J., per Raffle dated March 26, 2018.

[1] An Act Adjusting the Amount or the Value of Property and Damage of 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.

[2] See Section 2 of Act No. 4103, as amended (or the Indeterminate Sentence Law).

[3] Rule 122, Section 11 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 11. Effect of appeal by any of several accused. —

An appeal taken by one or more of several accused shall not affect those who did not appeal, except insofar as the judgment is favourable and applicable to the latter.

[4] Nacarvs. Gallary Frames, 716 Phil. 267, 281 (2013).

[5] Id.

[6] People vs. Villanueva, 755 Phil. 28, 40 (2015).

[7] See footnote 3.

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