Wake Up, Philippines!

Undermining public faith

Posted in Jurisprudence, Laws, Supreme Court Decisions by Erineus on February 25, 2009

This case defines “public document” in the crime of Falsification of Public Document under Article 171 (2) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) committed by a Public Officer or employee or notary. It also answers the question of whether gain or benefit on the part of the offender or prejudice to public or a third person is an essential element of the crime.

The case was about a Barangay Resolution supposedly passed on September 24, 1995, allocating the amount of P18,000 as disbursement for the expenses in a seminar to be attended by Larry, the Barangay Chairman and Nandy, the Barangay Kalihim of a barangay in Laguna. The case arose because on said date only Larry, and Kagawads Manny, Mando and Cardo went to the barangay health center to attend a pre-scheduled session. So for lack of quorum, no actual session of the Sanggunian Pambarangay took place on said date.

But Manny, Mando and Cardo later found out that Barangay Resolution No. T-95 supposedly copied from the minutes of the session held on September 24, 1995 was passed by all the kagawads who supposedly attended it. The title of Res.T-95 clearly states that the Sanggunian had already approved the allocation of P18,000 for Larry and Nandy and that it was kagawad Rene who made the motion duly seconded by kagawad Ric for the passing of the resolution when they did not even attend the supposed session. Nandy as Barangay Kalihim even certified said resolution as true and correct and Larry as Punong Barangay attested to its truthfulness. This discovery prompted the Sanggunian to hold a special session of October 15, 1995 during which seven Kagawads passed a resolution stating that no session was actually held on September 24, 1995.

Thereafter, Manny, Cardo and Mando filed a complaint of Falsification of Public Document before the Ombudsman for Luzon who later charged Larry and Nandy before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) with the said crime punishable under Article 172 (2) of the RPC. After trial the RTC convicted them of the said crime and sentence them to imprisonment of 4 years and 2 months minimum to 8 years and two months maximum.

Larry and Nandy questioned the RTC decision. They contended that the said resolution was nothing more than a mere proposal or draft which Nandy, the Kalihim, as was the practice, prepared and signed a week before the scheduled session. They also said that they did not benefit from or that the public was not prejudiced by the resolution in question. Were Larry and Nandy correct?

No. Resolution Number T-95 is a public document. Public documents are written official acts or records of official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals and public officials whether of the Philippines or of a foreign country (Sec. 19 (a) Rule 132, Rules of Court). Verily the resolutions or ordinances of Sanggunians are public documents as they are written official acts in the exercise of their legislative authority. Thus the public money-disbursing and seemingly genuine Res. T-95 in the preparation of which Larry and Nandy, in their official capacity had a hand, is a public document within the context of Article 171 (2) of the RPC.

The contents and appearance of Res. T-95 argue against the very idea of its being a mere proposal or draft barangay enactment. A draft resolution would not be numbered, would not be carrying certificatory and attestation signatures and would not be sealed. It would not include particulars as the attendance of all members and the identity of the moving and seconding Kagawads relative to its passage for such details are not certain unless rehearsed or planned. And the notion that it was rehearsed or planned is negated by the Resolution of October 15, 1995 signed by 7 kagawads virtually thrashing Res. T-95.

All the elements of falsification under Article 171(2) are therefore present: the offenders are public officers; they take advantage of their official position; they falsified a public document by causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate.

Falsification of a public document is consummated upon the execution of the false document. Erring public officers’ failure to attain their objectives is not determinative of their guilt or innocence. The element of gain or benefit on the part of the offender or prejudice to a third person as a result of the falsification or the tarnishing of the document’s integrity is not essential to maintain a charge of falsification. What is punished is principally the undermining of the public faith and the destruction of truth as solemnly proclaimed therein (Goma and Umale vs. Court of Appeals et. al. G.R. 168437 January 8, 2009).

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

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E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net
View previous articles of this column.

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison

Updated February 25, 2009 12:00 AM


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