Is "preventing the truth" an element of criminal falsification?

Criminal intent or mens rea must be shown in felonies committed by means of dolo, such as falsification. Such intent is a mental state, the existence of which is shown by the overt acts of a person. Thus, for example, the acts of a falsifier must have displayed, with moral certainty, his intention to pervert the truth before he can be adjudged criminally liable. In cases of falsification, the Supreme Court has interpreted that the criminal intent to pervert the truth is lacking in cases showing that (1) the accused did not benefit from the falsification; and (2) no damage was caused either to the government or to a third person.

In Amora, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, the accused construction contractor was absolved even if he had admittedly falsified time books and payrolls. The Court appreciated the fact that he did not benefit from the transaction and was merely forced to adjust the supporting papers in order to collect the piece of work he had actually constructed. On that occasion, the Supreme Court explained at length the nuanced appreciation of criminal intent in falsification of documents,viz.:
Although the project was truly a contract for a piece of work, nevertheless he used the daily wage method and not the contract vouchers. This was not his idea but by the municipal mayor and treasurer to prepare a payroll and list of laborers and their period of work and to pay them the minimum wage so that the total payment would equal the total contract price. This is the so-called bayanihan system practiced by former Mayor Bertumen and Engineer Bertumen of the 2nd engineering district. In the payrolls only some 20 names of the 200 laborers were listed as not all of them could be accommodated. Those not listed received their wages from those listed. As all of the utilized laborers were duly paid, not one complained. Neither did the municipality complain. xxx
From the foregoing coupled with the fact that the town of Guindulman suffered no damage and even gained on the project (the cost of the boulders actually delivered was P18,285.00 but Murillo was paid only P13,455.00) plus the additional fact that the alleged complaining witness mentioned in the informations suffered no damage whatsoever and were in fact awarded no indemnity, it is obvious that the falsifications made by the petitioners were done in good faith; there was no criminal intent. x x x. In other words, although the accused altered a public document or made a misstatement or erroneous assertion therein, he would not be guilty of falsification as long as he acted in good faith and no one was prejudiced by the alteration or error.
In Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board v. Court of Appeals, the heirs of the deceased falsified the signature of the latter in a Notice of Appeal. The Court rejected the imputation of falsification because the forgery produced no effect:
In the instant case, given the heirs' admissions contained in several pleadings that Avelino and Pedro are already deceased and their submission to the jurisdiction of the Regional Adjudicator as the successors-in-interest of the decedents, the effect would be the same if the heirs did not sign the decedents' names but their own names on the appeal.
The High Court is well aware that falsification of documents under paragraph 1 of Article 172, like Article 171, does not require the idea of gain or the intent to injure a third person as an element of conviction. But, as early as People v. Pacana, it was said:
Considering that even though in the falsification of public or official documents, whether by public officials or by private persons, it is unnecessary that there be present the idea of gain or the intent to injure a third person, for the reason that, in contradistinction to private documents, the principal thing punished is the violation of the solemnly proclaimed, it must, nevertheless, be borne in mind that the change in the public document must be such as to affect the integrity of the same or to change the effects which it would otherwise produce; for unless that happens, there could not exist the essential element of the intention to commit the crime which is required by article 1 [now Article 3] of the Penal Code.
In Malabanan v. Sandiganbayan (G.R. No. 186329, August 02, 2017), it was found that, similar to Amora, Jr. and Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, there was no moral certainty that Alid benefited from the transaction, with the government or any third person sustaining damage from his alteration of the document.

The peculiar situation of the Malabanan case reveals that Alid falsified the PAL Ticket just to be consistent with the deferred date of the turnover ceremony for the outgoing and the incoming Secretaries of the DA Central Office in Quezon City. Notably, he had no control as to the rescheduling of the event he had to attend. Neither did the prosecution show that he had incurred any additional benefit when he altered the document. Moreover, after he submitted the PAL Ticket that he had used to support his liquidation for a cash advance of P10,496, the public funds kept by the DA remained intact: no apparent illegal disbursement was made; or any additional expense incurred.

Considering, therefore, the obvious intent of Alid in altering the PAL Ticket - to remedy his liquidation of cash advance with the correct date of his rescheduled travel - no malice can be found on his part when he falsified the document. For this reason, and seeing the overall circumstances in the case at bar, the Court cannot justly convict Alid of falsification of a commercial document under paragraph 1 of Article 172.

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