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CARMEN RITUALO y RAMOS, G. R. No.

178337
Petitioner,
Present:

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
- versus - VELASCO, JR.,
PERALTA, and
BERSAMIN,* JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Promulgated:


Respondent.
June 25, 2009
x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

For review is the Decision1[1] of the Court of Appeals promulgated on 23 April 2007
in CA-G.R. CR. No. 29393 entitled, People of the Philippines v. Carmen Ritualo y

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Ramos, affirming with modification, the Decision2[2] dated 1 December 2004 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 199, Las Pias City, in Criminal Cases No. 01-0076
and No. 01-0077.

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court,
petitioner Carmen Ritualo y Ramos (petitioner Ritualo) prays for the reversal of the
appellate courts decision affirming with modification the decision of the trial court
finding her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of [committing] the crimes of x x x
Simple Illegal Recruitment [defined and punished] under Section 7 of Republic Act
No. 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, 3[3] and Estafa.4[4]
This case originated from two Informations, both dated 2 January 2001, which
charged Ritualo with the crimes of Illegal Recruitment defined and penalized by
Republic Act No. 8042; and Estafa under Art. 315, par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal
Code, respectively. The accusatory portion of the first Information reads as follows:

That on or about the 1st day of May, 2000, in the City of Las Pias, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused, falsely
representing herself to have the capacity and power to contract, enlist and recruit
workers for employment abroad, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and
feloniously collect for a fee, recruit and promise employment/job placement abroad
to Felix Biacora without first securing the required license or authority from the
Department of Labor and Employment.5[5]

The one for Estafa states, viz:

That during the periods (sic) from May 1, 2000 to June 1, 2000, in the City of Las
Pias, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above
named accused, with intent of gain, by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts
executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud the Complainant Felix Biacora
amounting to P80,000.00 committed in the following manner to wit: that the

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Accused represented to the Complainant that she was authorized or licensed by the
Department of Labor and Employment to recruit workers for overseas employment
and that she could send Complainant to work abroad (Australia) as farm worker as
soon as possible, knowing very well that such representation is false and was
intended only to get money from the Complainant and the Complainant after
relying from the said representations made by the accused, handed to the accused
the said amount and the accused, once in possession of the money,
misappropriated, misapplied and converted the same for her personal use and
benefit, and not withstanding repeated demands failed and refused to pay the said
amount of P80,000.00 to the damage and prejudice of the Complainant in the
aforementioned amount of P80,000.00. 6[6]

The foregoing were docketed as Criminal Cases No. 01-0076 and No. 0077 and
raffled to Branch 275 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las Pias City.

Upon arraignment on 24 May 2001, petitioner Ritualo, duly assisted by counsel de


oficio, pleaded Not Guilty to the crimes charged.7[7]
On 26 May 2003, during the joint trial of the cases, petitioner Ritualo orally
manifested in open court that earnest efforts were being undertaken to settle the
civil aspect thereof. Thus, with the conformity of the accused, herein petitioner
Ritualo, coupled with the latters express waiver apropos the attachment of double
jeopardy, the RTC ordered8[8] the provisional dismissal of the two cases.

On 13 October 2003, however, the RTC ordered 9[9] the revival of the cases upon the
motion of the prosecution, on the ground that Ritualo reneged on her undertaking
as embodied in a handwritten note entitled, Kasunduan viz:

May 26, 2003

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Kasunduan

Ako si Carmen Ritualo, ay sa araw na ito May 26, 2003, nagbabayad kay Felix
Biacora ng halagang Sampunglibong Piso (P10,000.00) at ang natirang Twenty One
Thousand Pesos ay babayaran ko sa loob ng Tatlong Buwan magmula ngayon.

(Sgd.)
Carmen Ritualo
Akusado

Sumang-ayon:

(Sgd.)
Felix Biacora
Complainant10[10]

In the ensuing trial, the prosecution presented two witnesses, namely, Felix Biacora,
the victim;11[11] and Belen Blones, employee of the Licensing Branch of the
Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA). Taken altogether, the evidence of
the prosecution established the following facts:

In 1993, Felix Biacora went to Saudi Arabia for overseas employment that was
facilitated by one Cynthia Libutan (Libutan) who worked for a recruitment agency. 12
[12] Several years after his return to the country, Biacora accidentally met Libutan
in Baclaran Church sometime in 2000. After they exchanged pleasantries, the
former signified to the latter his desire to seek another overseas employment.
Libutan then gave Biacora the name, address and contact number of her friend, one
Carmen Ritualo, the petitioner herein, who was able to help Libutans sister find work
in Australia. Biacora thereafter called petitioner Ritualo to set up a meeting.

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On 1 May 2000, accompanied by his wife, Biacora went to the house of petitioner
Ritualo and inquired from her whether she could help him secure overseas
employment in Australia. Petitioner Ritualo answered in the affirmative, and to be
convincing, brought out travel documents of several people she was able to help,
who were then supposedly scheduled to leave for abroad pretty soon. 13[13] Biacora
was then assured that:

[He could] leave for Australia [in a months time] if [he] will give [petitioner Ritualo]
a total amount of P160,000.00, and [his] salary would be US$700.00 per month as a
farm worker.14[14]

On the above-quoted representation on the same date, Biacora paid petitioner


Ritualo the amount of P40,000.00 as downpayment, with the balance to be
completed before he left for Australia. Upon receipt of the money, petitioner Ritualo
issued Biacora a Cash Voucher15[15] as evidence of said payment. To complete their
transaction, Biacora left her a copy of his Bio-data. 16[16]

On 4 May 2000, Biacora again gave petitioner Ritualo P20,000.00 as additional


payment, making the total amount received by the latter P60,000.00. Again,
petitioner Ritualo issued a Cash Voucher.17[17]

Subsequently, Biacora was informed by petitioner Ritualo that all he needed in


securing an employment in Australia was his Passport and an endorsement from the
Representative of his district. Accompanied by petitioner Ritualo and one Anita
Seraspe, the assistant18[18] of the former, Biacora went to the Batasan Pambansa to

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secure the necessary endorsement. Thereafter, all three went to the Australian
Embassy to apply for Biacoras working visa.

On 1 June 2000, Biacora went to see petitioner Ritualo to follow up the date of his
departure. Petitioner Ritualo asked from Biacora another P20,000.00 and told the
latter to be patient. As with the other amounts given, proof of payment 19[19] was
similarly issued to acknowledge receipt thereof.

Several dates were set for Biacoras departure, but none pushed through. To top it
all, his Australian Visa application was denied by the Australian Embassy.
Consequently, on 9 September 2000, Biacora demanded from petitioner Ritualo the
return of the P80,000.00. The latter promised to pay back the money on the 13 th of
September 2000. None came.

Thereafter, Biacora filed the subject criminal complaints against petitioner Ritualo.

In two Certifications dated 23 October 200020[20] and 5 November 2003,21[21]


respectively, both identified by Belen Blones of the Licensing Division of the POEA, it
was confirmed that per available records of [its] Office, CARMEN RITUALO, in her
personal capacity is not licensed by this Administration to recruit workers for
overseas employment22[22]; and that [a]ny recruitment activity undertaken by [her]
is deemed illegal.23[23]

To rebut the foregoing evidence presented by the prosecution, the defense


presented a diametrically opposed version of the facts of the present case through
the sole testimony of Ritualo.

In her testimony, Ritualo narrated that it was Libutan and Biacora who asked her to
introduce them to a certain Anita Seraspe, the person responsible for sending

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petitioner Ritualos own sister to Australia; 24[24] that she had no agreement with
Biacora respecting the latters employment in Australia; that any talk of money was
made among Libutan, Biacora and Seraspe only; that she received a total of
P80,000.00 from Biacora, but that the same was merely entrusted to her because
Libutan and Biacora had just met Seraspe, 25[25] and that she turned over all the
payments to Seraspe who acknowledged receipt of the same by writing on pieces of
paper said acceptance; that she accompanied Biacora to Batasan Pambansa at his
request; that she did not earn any money out of her referral and introduction of
Libutan and Biacora to Seraspe; that even if she did not earn any money out of the
subject transaction, she returned P10,000.00 and P31,000.00, or a total of
P41,000.00, to Biacora out of fear that the latter would file charges against her; that
she tried to find Seraspe, but the latter could not be found at her last known
address; and that she gave Biacora an additional P6,000.000 to obviate any more
scandal befalling her family.26[26]

On 1 December 2004, after trial, the RTC found the evidence presented by the
prosecution to be more credible and logical than that presented by the defense and
thus, convicted Ritualo for the crimes of Simple Illegal Recruitment and Estafa,
defined and penalized under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995
and the Revised Penal Code, respectively. The dispositive portion of the trial courts
judgment stated:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds accused CARMEN RITUALO y
RAMOS, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of:

1.Simple Illegal Recruitment (Criminal Case Number 01-0076) under Section 7 of


Republic Act No. 8042 otherwise known as the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, and
sentences her to suffer an Indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of Six (6) years
and ONE (1) day, as minimum, to EIGHT (8) years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of
P200,000.00.

2. In Criminal Case Number 01-0077 for Estafa, herein accused is hereby


sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of prison term of six (6) months and
One (1) day of Prission (sic) Correctional (sic), as minimum, to seven (7) years,
eleven (11) months and eleven (11) days of Prision Mayor, as maximum and is
ORDERED to indemnify Felix Biacora actual damages in the amount of P66,000.00
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which is minus the amount of P14,000.00 which the private complainant admitted
to have been refunded to him.

Cost de oficio.27[27]

Ritualos Motion for Reconsideration of the trial courts decision was subsequently
denied in an Order28[28] dated 21 January 2005.

In an Order29[29] dated 1 March 2005, the RTC granted and approved the Notice of
Appeal30[30] filed by Ritualo.

The Court of Appeals, in its Decision promulgated on 23 April 2007, affirmed the
judgment of the RTC insofar as the conviction of Ritualo was concerned. As
reasoned by the Court of Appeals, [a]s against the positive and categorical
testimony of the [Biacora], [Ritualos] denials cannot prevail. 31[31] Particularly, the
appellate court held that Ritualos acts of promising and assuring employment
overseas to [Biacora] [fell] squarely within the ambit of recruitment and placement
as defined by [The Migrant Workers Act or Republic Act No. 8042]. 32[32] With
respect to the charge of Estafa under the Revised Penal Code, the appellate court
likewise found that all the elements of said crime existed in the case at bar, i.e.,
[Ritualo] misrepresented herself to the [Biacora] as the person who could send him
to Australia for employment, and by reason of misrepresentations, false assurances
and deceit, [Biacora] was induced to part with his money in payment of placement
fees, thereby causing him damage and prejudice. 33[33]

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The penalties imposed on Ritualo by the trial court, however, were modified by the
Court of Appeals on the ground that the latter erred in imposing in the Illegal
Recruitment case, an indeterminate sentence ranging from six (6) years and one (1)
day, as minimum, to eight (8) years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of
P200,000.00,34[34] in view of the penalty prescribed under Sec. 7 of Republic Act
No. 8042; and, in the Estafa case, another indeterminate sentence ranging from six
(6) months and one (1) day of prision correcional, as minimum, to seven (7) years,
eleven (11) months and eleven (11) days of prision mayor, as maximum, contrary to
the wordings of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code.

The fallo of the Court of Appeals decision is restated:

UPON THE VIEW WE TAKE OF THESE CASES, THUS, the appealed decision finding the
accused-appellant Carmen Ritualo y Ramos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
Simple Illegal Recruitment and Estafa is AFFIRMED, with the following
MODIFICATIONS
1.In Criminal Case No. 01-0076 (Simple Illegal Recruitment), the accused-appellant
is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years and to pay a
fine of P500,000.00.

2. In Criminal Case No. 01-0077 (Estafa), the accused-appellant is sentenced to


an indeterminate prison term of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correctional (sic), as minimum, to twelve (12) years of prision mayor, as maximum,
and to indemnify the private complainant Felix Biacora the sum of P66,000.00 with
the interest thereon at the legal rate from September 21, 2000 until the same is
fully paid.

Costs shall also be taxed against the accused-appellant. 35[35]

Hence, Ritualo filed the instant petition for review.

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In this petition, Ritualo prayed for the reversal of the decision of the RTC, as
affirmed with modification by the Court of Appeals, on the basis of the following
assignment of errors:

I.

WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING WITH


MODIFICATION THE DECISION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT DESPITE THE FACT
THAT THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD COULD NOT SUPPORT A CONVICTION; and

II.

ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE PETITIONER IS CULPABLE, THE HONORABLE


COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN MODIFYING THE DECISION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT AS REGARDS THE TERM OF SENTENCE IN THE ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT
CASE.36[36]

Essentially, she argues that there was no proof beyond reasonable doubt that x x x
[she] gave Biacora a distinct impression that she had the power or ability to send
him abroad for work such that the latter was convinced to part with his money. 37[37]
Petitioner Ritualo maintains that Biacora transacted with Seraspe and not with her.
Assuming for the sake of argument that she and Biacora had any agreement with
each other, petitioner Ritualo insisted that it was merely to facilitate the latters
application for an Australian Visa. Particularly, she pointed out that the prosecution
failed to present other witnesses who could have corroborated the claim of Biacora
that she (Ritualo) promised him employment abroad. Anent the penalty imposed by
the courts, petitioner disputed the appellate courts reasoning and claimed that the
same was improper in view of the ruling of this Court in People v. Gallardo,38[38] in
which therein respondent was also convicted of Simple Illegal Recruitment.

The Office of the Solicitor General, for the People of the Philippines, on the other
hand, asserted that the findings of the Court of Appeals were supported by the

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records of the case, i.e., Biacora was consistent in his testimony that it was
petitioner who illegally recruited him for work as a farmhand in Australia. Thus, [a]s
against the positive and categorical testimony of the private complainant (Biacora),
petitioners denial cannot prevail.

We find no merit in the petition.

Having weighed the evidence for the contending parties, there is no cogent reason
to reverse the findings and conclusion of the RTC as affirmed by the Court of
Appeals.

The crime of Simple Illegal Recruitment is defined and penalized under Sec. 6 of
Republic Act. No. 8042, which reads:
SEC. 6. Definition. - For purposes of this Act, illegal recruitment shall mean any act
of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring
workers and includes referring, contract services, promising or advertising for
employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-licensee
or non-holder of authority contemplated under Article 13(f) of Presidential Decree
No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines:
Provided, That any such non-licensee or non-holder who, in any manner, offers or
promises for a fee employment abroad to two or more persons shall be deemed so
engaged. It shall likewise include the following acts, whether committed by any
person, whether a non-licensee, non-holder, licensee or holder of authority:

(a) To charge or accept directly or indirectly any amount greater than that specified
in the schedule of allowable fees prescribed by the Secretary of Labor and
Employment, or to make a worker pay any amount greater than that actually
received by him as a loan or advance;

(b) To furnish or publish any false notice or information or document in relation to


recruitment or employment;

(c) To give any false notice, testimony, information or document or commit any act
of misrepresentation for the purpose of securing a license or authority under the
Labor Code;

(d) To induce or attempt to induce a worker already employed to quit his


employment in order to offer him another unless the transfer is designed to liberate
a worker from oppressive terms and conditions of employment;

(e) To influence or attempt to influence any person or entity not to employ


any worker who has not applied for employment through his agency;

(f) To engage in the recruitment or placement of workers in jobs harmful to


public health or morality or to the dignity of the Republic of the Philippines;

(g) To obstruct or attempt to obstruct inspection by the Secretary of Labor


and Employment or by his duly authorized representative;

(h) To fail to submit reports on the status of employment, placement


vacancies, remittance of foreign exchange earnings, separation from jobs,
departures and such other matters or information as may be required by the
Secretary of Labor and Employment;

(i) To substitute or alter to the prejudice of the worker, employment contracts


approved and verified by the Department of Labor and Employment from the time
of actual signing thereof by the parties up to and including the period of the
expiration of the same without the approval of the Department of Labor and
Employment;

(j) For an officer or agent of a recruitment or placement agency to become an


officer or member of the Board of any corporation engaged in travel agency or to be
engaged directly or indirectly in the management of a travel agency;

(k) To withhold or deny travel documents from applicant workers before


departure for monetary or financial considerations other than those authorized
under the Labor Code and its implementing rules and regulations;

(l) Failure to actually deploy without valid reason as determined by the


Department of Labor and Employment ; and

(m) Failure to reimburse expenses incurred by the worker in connection with


his documentation and processing for purposes of deployment, in cases where the
deployment does not actually take place without the worker's fault. Illegal
recruitment when committed by a syndicate or in large scale shall be considered an
offense involving economic sabotage.
Illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of
three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another. It is
deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more persons
individually or as a group.

The persons criminally liable for the above offenses are the principals, accomplices
and accessories. In case of juridical persons, the officers having control,
management or direction of their business shall be liable.

Art. 315, par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code, on the other hand, enumerates
one of the modes of committing estafa, thus:

xxxx

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.

Illegal recruitment is committed when two essential elements concur:

(1) that the offender has no valid license or authority required by law to enable
him to lawfully engage in the recruitment and placement of workers, and

(2) that the offender undertakes any activity within the meaning of recruitment
and placement defined under Article 13(b), or any prohibited practices enumerated
under Article 34 of the Labor Code.39[39]

Article 13(b) of the Labor Code defines recruitment and placement as:

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Any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or
procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services, promising or
advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or not: Provided,
that any person or entity which, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee
employment to two or more persons shall be deemed engaged in recruitment and
placement. (Emphasis supplied.)

In this case, the first element is, indeed, present. The prosecution established,
through Belen Blones of the Licensing Branch of the POEA, who identified and
confirmed the two Certifications issued by the POEA Licensing Branch, that per
available records of [its] Office, CARMEN RITUALO, in her personal capacity is not
licensed by this Administration to recruit workers for overseas employment. 40[40]

As to the second element, it must be shown that the accused gave the private
complainant the distinct impression that he/she had the power or ability to send the
private complainant abroad for work, such that the latter was convinced to part with
his/her money in order to be employed.41[41] Thus, to be engaged in illegal
recruitment, it is plain that there must at least be a promise or an offer of
employment from the person posing as a recruiter whether locally or abroad. 42[42]
In the case at bar, the second element is similarly present. As testified to by
Biacora, petitioner Ritualo professed to have the ability to send him overseas to be
employed as a farm worker in Australia with a monthly salary of US$700.00. 43[43] To
further wet Biacoras appetite, petitioner Ritualo even showed him purported travel
documents of other people about to depart, whose overseas employment she
supposedly facilitated. That petitioner Ritualo personally assisted Biacora in the
completion of the alleged requirements, i.e., securing a Letter of Request and
Guarantee from the Representative of his Congressional District in Batangas to
ensure the approval of Biacoras application for an Australian Visa, even
accompanying Biacora to the Australian Embassy, all clearly point to her efforts to
convince Biacora that she (petitioner Ritualo) had, indeed, the ability and influence
to make Biacoras dream of overseas employment come true.

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The claim of petitioner Ritualo that it was Anita Seraspe who was really the recruiter
and the one who profited from the subject illegal transaction holds no water.
Petitioner Ritualos act of receiving payment from Biacora and issuing personal
receipts therefor; of personally assisting Biacora to complete the necessary
documents; of failing to present evidence to corroborate her testimony despite
several opportunities given her by the trial court; of petitioner Ritualo having been
positively identified as the person who transacted with Biacora and promised the
latter an overseas employment and who personally received money from Biacora,
all unhesitatingly point to petitioner Ritualo as the culprit.

The following oral and documentary evidence are worth reproducing:

COURT:

Q:How many times did you receive money from private complainant?

WITNESS:

Three (3) times, Your Honor.

Q: The first time?

A: My first time is Php40,000.00, Your Honor.

Q: The second time?

A: Php20,000.00, Your Honor.

Q: Third time?

A: Php20,000.00, Your Honor.


Q: When you received these amounts of money, who issued the private
complainant a receipt?

A: I was the one, Your Honor. 44[44]

The first Cash Voucher issued by petitioner Ritualo declares:

CASH VOUCHER

5-1-2000

Payment for document Australia fourty (sic) thousand (sic) pesos (sic) only
(P40,000.00)

RECEIVED from Felix Evangelista Biacora the amount of PESOS fourty thousand
pesos (P40,000.00) in full payment of amount described above.

By: (Sgd.) Carmen Ritualo45[45]

The second, on 4 May 2000, states:

CASH VOUCHER

5-4-2000

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Payment for document Australia twenty (sic) thousand (sic) pesos (sic) only
(P20,000.00)

RECEIVED from Felix Biacora the amount of PESOS twenty thousand (P20,000.00) in
full payment of amount described above.

By: (Sgd.) Carmen Ritualo46[46]

And the third receipt reads:

RECEIPT

No. _____________ Date: 6-1-2000

RECEIVED from Felix Biacora the sum of Pesos Twenty thousand (P20,000.00) as
payment for for Visa.

Partial _______ Cash __________


Balance ______ Check No. _______
(Sgd.) Carmen Ritualo
Authorized Signature47[47]

Petitioner Ritualo next tried to impress upon this Court that she received nary a
centavo from the subject illegal transaction; therefore, she should not be held liable.

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We reject this outright. In the first place, it has been abundantly shown that she
really received the monies from Biacora. Secondly, even without consideration for
her services, she still engaged in recruitment activities, since it was satisfactorily
shown that she promised overseas employment to Biacora. And, more importantly,
Sec. 6 of Republic Act No. 8042 does not require that the illegal recruitment be done
for profit.

Petitioner Ritualo boldly but vainly tried to inject reasonable doubt by complaining
that the RTC and the Court of Appeals affirmed her conviction despite failure of the
prosecution to present other vital witness, i.e., Biacoras wife, who accompanied her
husband to the house of petitioner Ritualo and, hence, witnessed what happened on
the first meeting between the latter and Biacora. Non-presentation of said witness,
according to petitioner Ritualo, raises the presumption that her testimony, if
presented, would be adverse to the prosecution.

The prosecution is entitled to conduct its own case and to decide what witnesses to
call to support its charges.48[48] The defense posture that the non-presentation of
the wife of Biacora constitutes suppression of evidence favorable to petitioner
Ritualo is fallacious. In fact, the same line of reasoning can be used against
petitioner Ritualo. If the defense felt that the testimony of Biacoras wife would
support her defense, what she could and should have done was to call her (Biacoras
wife) to the stand as her own witness. One of the constitutional rights of the
accused is "to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and
the production of evidence in his behalf." And, in the same vein, since petitioner
Ritualo is setting the cloak of liability on Seraspes shoulder, she (petitioner Ritualo)
could and should have had the former subpoenaed as well.

As held by this Court, the adverse presumption of suppression of evidence does not,
moreover, apply where the evidence suppressed is merely corroborative or
cumulative in nature.49[49] If presented, Biacoras wife would merely corroborate
Biacoras account which, by itself, already detailed what occurred on the day of the
parties first meeting at the house of petitioner Ritualo. Hence, the prosecution
committed no fatal error in dispensing with the testimony of Biacoras wife.
Finally, Biacora, the private complainant in this case, did not harbor any ill motive to
testify falsely against petitioner Ritualo. The latter failed to show any animosity or ill
feeling on the part of Biacora that could have motivated him to falsely accuse her of
the crimes charged. It would be against human nature and experience for strangers

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to conspire and accuse another stranger of a most serious crime just to mollify their
hurt feelings.50[50]

The totality of the evidence in the case at bar, when scrutinized and taken together,
leads to no other conclusion than that petitioner Ritualo engaged in recruiting and
promising overseas employment to Felix Biacora under the above-quoted Sec. 6 of
Republic Act No. 8042 vis--vis Article 13(b) of the Labor Code. Hence, she cannot
now feign ignorance of the consequences of her unlawful acts.

As to the sentence imposed upon petitioner Ritualo for the crime of simple illegal
recruitment, this Court clarifies that the penalty imposed by the Court of Appeals a
sentence of 12 years imprisonment and a fine of P500,000.00 - is partly incorrect,
as petitioner Ritualo is a non-licensee. 51[51] Under Sec. 7(a) of Republic Act No.
8042, simple illegal recruitment is punishable by imprisonment of not less than six
(6) years and one (1) day but not more than twelve (12) years and a fine of not less
than Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) nor more than Five Hundred
Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00). Applying the provisions of Section 1 of the
Indeterminate Sentence law, however, the correct penalty that should have been
imposed upon petitioner Ritualo is imprisonment for the period of eight (8) years
and one (1) day, as minimum, to twelve (12) years, as maximum. 52[52] The
imposition of a fine of P500,000.00 is also in order.

With respect to the criminal charge of estafa, this Court likewise affirms the
conviction of petitioner Ritualo for said crime. The same evidence proving petitioner
Ritualos criminal liability for illegal recruitment also established her liability for
estafa. It is settled that a person may be charged and convicted separately of illegal
recruitment under Republic Act No. 8042 in relation to the Labor Code, and estafa
under Art. 315, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code. As this Court held in
People v. Yabut53[53]:

In this jurisdiction, it is settled that a person who commits illegal recruitment may
be charged and convicted separately of illegal recruitment under the Labor Code
and estafa under par. 2(a) of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code. The offense of

50

51

52

53
illegal recruitment is malum prohibitum where the criminal intent of the accused is
not necessary for conviction, while estafa is malum in se where the criminal intent
of the accused is crucial for conviction. Conviction for offenses under the Labor
Code does not bar conviction for offenses punishable by other laws. Conversely,
conviction for estafa under par. 2(a) of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code does not
bar a conviction for illegal recruitment under the Labor Code. It follows that ones
acquittal of the crime of estafa will not necessarily result in his acquittal of the
crime of illegal recruitment in large scale, and vice versa.

The prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner Ritualo was
similarly guilty of estafa under Art. 315 (2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code committed
--

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.

Both elements of the crime were established in this case, namely, (a) petitioner
Ritualo defrauded complainant by abuse of confidence or by means of deceit; and
(b) complainant Biacora suffered damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary
estimation as a result.54[54] Biacora parted with his money upon the prodding and
enticement of petitioner Ritualo on the false pretense that she had the capacity to
deploy him for employment in Australia. In the end, Biacora was neither able to
leave for work overseas nor did he get his money back, thus causing him damage
and prejudice. Hence, the conviction of petitioner Ritualo of the crime of estafa
should be upheld.

While this Court affirms the conviction of the petitioner Ritualo for estafa, we find,
however, that both the trial court and the appellate court erroneously computed the
penalty of the crime. The amount of which the private complainant, Biacora, was
defrauded was Eighty Thousand Pesos (P80,000.00) and not merely Sixty Six
Thousand Pesos (P66,000.00).

54
Under the Revised Penal Code, an accused found guilty of estafa shall be sentenced
to:

Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). Any person who shall defraud another by any of the
means mentioned herein below shall be punished by:

1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its
minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not
exceed 22,000 pesos, and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty
provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year
for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall
not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory
penalties which may be imposed under the provisions of this Code, the penalty shall
be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be.

2nd. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the
amount of the fraud is over 6,000 pesos but does not exceed 12,000 pesos;

3rd. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in
its minimum period if such amount is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000
pesos; and

4th. By arresto mayor in its maximum period, if such amount does not exceed 200
pesos, x x x.

Computing the penalty for the crime of Estafa based on the above-quoted provision,
the proper penalty to be imposed upon petitioner Ritualo is the maximum term of
prision correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum as mandated by Article
315 of the Revised Penal Code. But considering that the amount defrauded
exceeded Twenty-Two Thousand Pesos (P22,000.00), per the same provision, the
prescribed penalty is not only imposed in its maximum period, but there is imposed
an incremental penalty of one (1) year imprisonment for every Ten Thousand Pesos
(P10,000.00) in excess of the cap of Twenty-Two Thousand Pesos (P22,000.00). 55[55]

55
As this Court held in People v. Gabres,56[56] [t]he fact that the amounts involved in
the instant case exceed P22,000.00 should not be considered in the initial
determination of the indeterminate penalty; instead, the matter should be so taken
as analogous to modifying circumstances in the imposition of the maximum term of
the full indeterminate sentence.57[57] And with respect to the computation of the
minimum term of the indeterminate sentence, in this case, given that the penalty
prescribed by law for the estafa charge against petitioner Ritualo is prision
correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum, the penalty next lower would
then be prision correccional minimum to medium per Art. 64 in relation to Art. 65,
both of the Revised Penal Code.

Preceding from the above discussion, thus, the prison term to be imposed upon
petitioner Ritualo vis--vis the crime of Estafa is as follows: the minimum term should
be anywhere within six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2)
months of prision correccional; while the maximum term of the indeterminate
sentence should be within the range of six (6) years, eight (8) months and twenty-
one (21) days to eight (8) years of prision mayor considering that the amount
involved exceeds P22,000.00, plus an added five (5) years, as there are five (5)
increments of P10,000.00 over the cap of P22,000.00. 58[58]

Lastly, regarding the award of indemnity due from petitioner Ritualo, both the RTC
and Court of Appeals ordered her to pay Biacora the amount of Sixty-Six Thousand
Pesos (P66,000.00), instead of the original amount defrauded, which is Eighty
Thousand Pesos (P80,000.00), in view of petitioner Ritualos payment of Fourteen
Thousand Pesos (P14,000.00). A thorough scrutiny of the record of the case,
however, yields the finding that as of the date of revival of the case before the RTC,
or on 13 October 2003, only the amount of Twenty-One Thousand Pesos
(P21,000.00) remains unpaid. The Motion to Revive Case dated 2 October 2003 filed
by the prosecution attached the letter-request of private complainant Biacora,
elucidating thus:

I, MR. FELIX BIACORA, complainant against MRS. CARMEN RITUALO with Case No.
01-0076-77. This case is temporary (sic) dismissed on May 26, 2003 in Branch 1999
(sic).

56

57

58
On May 26, 2003 MRS. CARMEN RITUALO made written promise that she will pay
the balance amounting P21,000.00 Twenty Thousand Pesos after 3 months but she
failed.

Due that (sic) her promise did not materialized (sic), I personally request the Hon.
Court to REVIVE this case.

Respectfully yours,

(Sgd.) MR. FELIX BIACORA

With the foregoing submission of Biacora, out of the amount of Eighty Thousand
Pesos (P80,000.00), only Twenty-One Thousand Pesos (P21,000.00) remains unpaid.
Accordingly, the civil liability of petitioner Ritualo is now merely Twenty-One
Thousand Pesos (P21,000.00).

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR No. 29393 promulgated on 23 April 2007 is AFFIRMED with the following
MODIFICATIONS:

(1) In Criminal Case No. 01-0076, petitioner Carmen Ritualo is found GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Simple Illegal Recruitment, and is
sentenced to suffer an indeterminate prison term of eight (8) years and one (1) day
as minimum, to twelve (12) years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of P500,000.00;
and

(2) In Criminal Case No. 01-0077, petitioner Carmen Ritualo is also found GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa and sentenced to suffer an
indeterminate prison term of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional, as minimum, to eleven (11) years and eight (8) months and twenty-
one (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum.

Petitioner Carmen R. Ritualo is similarly ORDERED to indemnify Felix E. Biacora the


amount of P21,000.00. Costs de oficio.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 152642 November 13, 2012
HON. PATRICIA A. STO.TOMAS, ROSALINDA BALDOZ and LUCITA
LAZO, Petitioners,
vs.
REY SALAC, WILLIE D. ESPIRITU, MARIO MONTENEGRO, DODGIE BELONIO,
LOLIT SALINEL and BUDDY BONNEVIE, Respondents.
G.R. No. 152710 November 13, 2012
HON. PATRICIA A. STO. TOMAS, in her capacity as Secretary of Department
of Labor and Employment (DOLE), HON. ROSALINDA D. BALDOZ, in her
capacity as Administrator, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
(POEA), and the PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT ADMINISTRATION
GOVERNING BOARD, Petitioners,
vs.
HON. JOSE G. PANEDA, in his capacity as the Presiding Judge of Branch
220, Quezon City, ASIAN RECRUITMENT COUNCIL PHILIPPINE CHAPTER,
INC. (ARCOPHIL), for itself and in behalf of its members: WORLDCARE
PHILIPPINES SERVIZO INTERNATIONALE, INC., STEADFAST INTERNATIONAL
RECRUITMENT CORP., VERDANT MANPOWER MOBILIZATION CORP., BRENT
OVERSEAS PERSONNEL, INC., ARL MANPOWER SERVICES, INC., DAHLZEN
INTERNATIONAL SERVICES, INC., INTERWORLD PLACEMENT CENTER, INC.,
LAKAS TAO CONTRACT SERVICES LTD. CO., SSC MULTI-SERVICES, DMJ
INTERNATIONAL, and MIP INTERNATIONAL MANPOWER SERVICES,
represented by its proprietress, MARCELINA I. PAGSIBIGAN, Respondents.
G.R. No. 167590 November 13, 2012
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the HONORABLE
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, the HONORABLE SECRETARY OF LABOR AND
EMPLOYMENT (DOLE), the PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT
ADMINISTRATION (POEA), the OVERSEAS WORKERS WELFARE
ADMINISTRATION (OWWA), the LABOR ARBITERS OF THE NATIONAL LABOR
RELATIONS COMMISSION (NLRC), the HONORABLE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE,
the HONORABLE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS and the COMMISSION
ON AUDIT (COA), Petitioners,
vs.
PHILIPPINE ASSOCIATION OF SERVICE EXPORTERS, INC.
(PASEI), Respondent.
G.R. Nos. 182978-79 November 13, 2012
BECMEN SERVICE EXPORTER AND PROMOTION, INC., Petitioner,
vs.
SPOUSES SIMPLICIO AND MILA CUARESMA (for and in behalf of daughter,
Jasmin G. Cuaresma), WHITE FALCON SERVICES, INC., and JAIME ORTIZ
(President of White Falcon Services, Inc.), Respondents.
G.R. Nos. 184298-99 November 13, 2012
SPOUSES SIMPLICIO AND MILA CUARESMA (for and in behalf of deceased
daughter, Jasmin G. Cuaresma), Petitioners,
vs.
WHITE FALCON SERVICES, INC. and BECMEN SERVICES EXPORTER AND
PROMOTION, INC., Respondents.

DECISION
ABAD, J.:
These consolidated cases pertain to the constitutionality of certain provisions of
Republic Act 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos
Act of 1995.
The Facts and the Case
On June 7, 1995 Congress enacted Republic Act (R.A.) 8042 or the Migrant Workers
and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 that, for among other purposes, sets the
Governments policies on overseas employment and establishes a higher standard
of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families, and
overseas Filipinos in distress.
G.R. 152642 and G.R. 152710
(Constitutionality of Sections 29 and 30, R.A. 8042)
Sections 29 and 30 of the Act1 commanded the Department of Labor and
Employment (DOLE) to begin deregulating within one year of its passage the
business of handling the recruitment and migration of overseas Filipino workers and
phase out within five years the regulatory functions of the Philippine Overseas
Employment Administration (POEA).
On January 8, 2002 respondents Rey Salac, Willie D. Espiritu, Mario Montenegro,
Dodgie Belonio, Lolit Salinel, and Buddy Bonnevie (Salac, et al.) filed a petition for
certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with application for temporary restraining
order (TRO) and preliminary injunction against petitioners, the DOLE Secretary, the
POEA Administrator, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
(TESDA) Secretary-General before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City,
Branch 96.2
Salac, et al. sought to: 1) nullify DOLE Department Order 10 (DOLE DO 10) and
POEA Memorandum Circular 15 (POEA MC 15); 2) prohibit the DOLE, POEA, and
TESDA from implementing the same and from further issuing rules and regulations
that would regulate the recruitment and placement of overseas Filipino workers
(OFWs); and 3) also enjoin them to comply with the policy of deregulation
mandated under Sections 29 and 30 of Republic Act 8042.
On March 20, 2002 the Quezon City RTC granted Salac, et al.s petition and ordered
the government agencies mentioned to deregulate the recruitment and placement
of OFWs.3 The RTC also annulled DOLE DO 10, POEA MC 15, and all other orders,
circulars and issuances that are inconsistent with the policy of deregulation under
R.A. 8042.
Prompted by the RTCs above actions, the government officials concerned filed the
present petition in G.R. 152642 seeking to annul the RTCs decision and have the
same enjoined pending action on the petition.
On April 17, 2002 the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. intervened in
the case before the Court, claiming that the RTC March 20, 2002 Decision gravely
affected them since it paralyzed the deployment abroad of OFWs and performing
artists. The Confederated Association of Licensed Entertainment Agencies,
Incorporated (CALEA) intervened for the same purpose. 4
On May 23, 2002 the Court5 issued a TRO in the case, enjoining the Quezon City
RTC, Branch 96, from enforcing its decision.
In a parallel case, on February 12, 2002 respondents Asian Recruitment Council
Philippine Chapter, Inc. and others (Arcophil, et al.) filed a petition for certiorari and
prohibition with application for TRO and preliminary injunction against the DOLE
Secretary, the POEA Administrator, and the TESDA Director-General, 6 before the RTC
of Quezon City, Branch 220, to enjoin the latter from implementing the 2002 Rules
and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Overseas Workers
and to cease and desist from issuing other orders, circulars, and policies that tend
to regulate the recruitment and placement of OFWs in violation of the policy of
deregulation provided in Sections 29 and 30 of R.A. 8042.
On March 12, 2002 the Quezon City RTC rendered an Order, granting the petition
and enjoining the government agencies involved from exercising regulatory
functions over the recruitment and placement of OFWs. This prompted the DOLE
Secretary, the POEA Administrator, and the TESDA Director-General to file the
present action in G.R. 152710. As in G.R. 152642, the Court issued on May 23, 2002
a TRO enjoining the Quezon City RTC, Branch 220 from enforcing its decision.
On December 4, 2008, however, the Republic informed 7 the Court that on April 10,
2007 former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law R.A. 9422 8 which
expressly repealed Sections 29 and 30 of R.A. 8042 and adopted the policy of close
government regulation of the recruitment and deployment of OFWs. R.A. 9422
pertinently provides:
xxxx
SEC. 1. Section 23, paragraph (b.1) of Republic Act No. 8042, otherwise known as
the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 is hereby amended to
read as follows:
(b.1) Philippine Overseas Employment Administration The Administration shall
regulate private sector participation in the recruitment and overseas placement of
workers by setting up a licensing and registration system. It shall also formulate and
implement, in coordination with appropriate entities concerned, when necessary, a
system for promoting and monitoring the overseas employment of Filipino workers
taking into consideration their welfare and the domestic manpower requirements.
In addition to its powers and functions, the administration shall inform migrant
workers not only of their rights as workers but also of their rights as human beings,
instruct and guide the workers how to assert their rights and provide the available
mechanism to redress violation of their rights.
In the recruitment and placement of workers to service the requirements for trained
and competent Filipino workers of foreign governments and their instrumentalities,
and such other employers as public interests may require, the administration shall
deploy only to countries where the Philippines has concluded bilateral labor
agreements or arrangements: Provided, That such countries shall guarantee to
protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers; and: Provided, further, That such
countries shall observe and/or comply with the international laws and standards for
migrant workers.
SEC. 2. Section 29 of the same law is hereby repealed.
SEC. 3. Section 30 of the same law is also hereby repealed.
xxxx
On August 20, 2009 respondents Salac, et al. told the Court in G.R. 152642 that
they agree9 with the Republics view that the repeal of Sections 29 and 30 of R.A.
8042 renders the issues they raised by their action moot and academic. The Court
has no reason to disagree. Consequently, the two cases, G.R. 152642 and 152710,
should be dismissed for being moot and academic.
G.R. 167590
(Constitutionality of Sections 6, 7, and 9 of R.A. 8042)
On August 21, 1995 respondent Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc.
(PASEI) filed a petition for declaratory relief and prohibition with prayer for issuance
of TRO and writ of preliminary injunction before the RTC of Manila, seeking to annul
Sections 6, 7, and 9 of R.A. 8042 for being unconstitutional. (PASEI also sought to
annul a portion of Section 10 but the Court will take up this point later together with
a related case.)
Section 6 defines the crime of illegal recruitment and enumerates the acts
constituting the same. Section 7 provides the penalties for prohibited acts. Thus:
SEC. 6. Definition. For purposes of this Act, illegal recruitment shall mean any act
of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, procuring
workers and includes referring, contract services, promising or advertising for
employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-license or
non-holder of authority contemplated under Article 13(f) of Presidential Decree No.
442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines: Provided,
That such non-license or non-holder, who, in any manner, offers or promises for a
fee employment abroad to two or more persons shall be deemed so engaged. It
shall likewise include the following acts, whether committed by any person, whether
a non-licensee, non-holder, licensee or holder of authority:
xxxx
SEC. 7. Penalties.
(a) Any person found guilty of illegal recruitment shall suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day but not more than
twelve (12) years and a fine not less than two hundred thousand pesos
(P200,000.00) nor more than five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00).
(b) The penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than five hundred
thousand pesos (P500,000.00) nor more than one million pesos (P1,000,000.00)
shall be imposed if illegal recruitment constitutes economic sabotage as defined
herein.
Provided, however, That the maximum penalty shall be imposed if the person
illegally recruited is less than eighteen (18) years of age or committed by a non-
licensee or non-holder of authority.10
Finally, Section 9 of R.A. 8042 allowed the filing of criminal actions arising
fromillegal recruitment before the RTC of the province or city where the offense
was committed or where the offended party actually resides at the time of the
commission of the offense.
The RTC of Manila declared Section 6 unconstitutional after hearing on the ground
that its definition of illegal recruitment is vague as it fails to distinguish between
licensed and non-licensed recruiters 11 and for that reason gives undue advantage to
the non-licensed recruiters in violation of the right to equal protection of those that
operate with government licenses or authorities.
But illegal recruitment as defined in Section 6 is clear and unambiguous and,
contrary to the RTCs finding, actually makes a distinction between licensed and
non-licensed recruiters. By its terms, persons who engage in canvassing, enlisting,
contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers without the
appropriate government license or authority are guilty of illegal recruitment
whether or not they commit the wrongful acts enumerated in that section. On the
other hand, recruiters who engage in the canvassing, enlisting, etc. of OFWs,
although with the appropriate government license or authority, are guilty of illegal
recruitment only if they commit any of the wrongful acts enumerated in Section 6.
The Manila RTC also declared Section 7 unconstitutional on the ground that its
sweeping application of the penalties failed to make any distinction as to the
seriousness of the act committed for the application of the penalty imposed on such
violation. As an example, said the trial court, the mere failure to render a report
under Section 6(h) or obstructing the inspection by the Labor Department under
Section 6(g) are penalized by imprisonment for six years and one day and a
minimum fine of P200,000.00 but which could unreasonably go even as high as life
imprisonment if committed by at least three persons.
Apparently, the Manila RTC did not agree that the law can impose such grave
penalties upon what it believed were specific acts that were not as condemnable as
the others in the lists. But, in fixing uniform penalties for each of the enumerated
acts under Section 6, Congress was within its prerogative to determine what
individual acts are equally reprehensible, consistent with the State policy of
according full protection to labor, and deserving of the same penalties. It is not
within the power of the Court to question the wisdom of this kind of choice. Notably,
this legislative policy has been further stressed in July 2010 with the enactment of
R.A. 1002212 which increased even more the duration of the penalties of
imprisonment and the amounts of fine for the commission of the acts listed under
Section 7.
Obviously, in fixing such tough penalties, the law considered the unsettling fact that
OFWs must work outside the countrys borders and beyond its immediate
protection. The law must, therefore, make an effort to somehow protect them from
conscienceless individuals within its jurisdiction who, fueled by greed, are willing to
ship them out without clear assurance that their contracted principals would treat
such OFWs fairly and humanely.
As the Court held in People v. Ventura,13 the State under its police power may
prescribe such regulations as in its judgment will secure or tend to secure the
general welfare of the people, to protect them against the consequence of
ignorance and incapacity as well as of deception and fraud. Police power is that
inherent and plenary power of the State which enables it to prohibit all things
hurtful to the comfort, safety, and welfare of society. 14
The Manila RTC also invalidated Section 9 of R.A. 8042 on the ground that allowing
the offended parties to file the criminal case in their place of residence would
negate the general rule on venue of criminal cases which is the place where the
crime or any of its essential elements were committed. Venue, said the RTC, is
jurisdictional in penal laws and, allowing the filing of criminal actions at the place of
residence of the offended parties violates their right to due process. Section 9
provides:
SEC. 9. Venue. A criminal action arising from illegal recruitment as defined herein
shall be filed with the Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the offense
was committed or where the offended party actually resides at the time of the
commission of the offense: Provided, That the court where the criminal action is first
filed shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts: Provided, however,
That the aforestated provisions shall also apply to those criminal actions that have
already been filed in court at the time of the effectivity of this Act.
But there is nothing arbitrary or unconstitutional in Congress fixing an alternative
venue for violations of Section 6 of R.A. 8042 that differs from the venue established
by the Rules on Criminal Procedure. Indeed, Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the latter
Rules allows exceptions provided by laws. Thus:
SEC. 15. Place where action is to be instituted. (a) Subject to existing laws, the
criminal action shall be instituted and tried in the court of the municipality or
territory where the offense was committed or where any of its essential ingredients
occurred. (Emphasis supplied)
xxxx
Section 9 of R.A. 8042, as an exception to the rule on venue of criminal actions is,
consistent with that laws declared policy15 of providing a criminal justice system
that protects and serves the best interests of the victims of illegal recruitment.
G.R. 167590, G.R. 182978-79,16 and G.R. 184298-9917
(Constitutionality of Section 10, last sentence of 2nd paragraph)
G.R. 182978-79 and G.R. 184298-99 are consolidated cases. Respondent spouses
Simplicio and Mila Cuaresma (the Cuaresmas) filed a claim for death and insurance
benefits and damages against petitioners Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion,
Inc. (Becmen) and White Falcon Services, Inc. (White Falcon) for the death of their
daughter Jasmin Cuaresma while working as staff nurse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Labor Arbiter (LA) dismissed the claim on the ground that the Cuaresmas had
already received insurance benefits arising from their daughters death from the
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). The LA also gave due credence
to the findings of the Saudi Arabian authorities that Jasmin committed suicide.
On appeal, however, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) found
Becmen and White Falcon jointly and severally liable for Jasmins death and ordered
them to pay the Cuaresmas the amount of US$113,000.00 as actual damages. The
NLRC relied on the Cabanatuan City Health Offices autopsy finding that Jasmin died
of criminal violence and rape.
Becmen and White Falcon appealed the NLRC Decision to the Court of Appeals
(CA).18 On June 28, 2006 the CA held Becmen and White Falcon jointly and severally
liable with their Saudi Arabian employer for actual damages, with Becmen having a
right of reimbursement from White Falcon. Becmen and White Falcon appealed the
CA Decision to this Court.
On April 7, 2009 the Court found Jasmins death not work-related or work-connected
since her rape and death did not occur while she was on duty at the hospital or
doing acts incidental to her employment. The Court deleted the award of actual
damages but ruled that Becmens corporate directors and officers are solidarily
liable with their company for its failure to investigate the true nature of her death.
Becmen and White Falcon abandoned their legal, moral, and social duty to assist
the Cuaresmas in obtaining justice for their daughter. Consequently, the Court held
the foreign employer Rajab and Silsilah, White Falcon, Becmen, and the latters
corporate directors and officers jointly and severally liable to the Cuaresmas for: 1)
P2,500,000.00 as moral damages; 2) P2,500,000.00 as exemplary damages; 3)
attorneys fees of 10% of the total monetary award; and 4) cost of suit.
On July 16, 2009 the corporate directors and officers of Becmen, namely, Eufrocina
Gumabay, Elvira Taguiam, Lourdes Bonifacio and Eddie De Guzman (Gumabay, et
al.) filed a motion for leave to intervene. They questioned the constitutionality of
the last sentence of the second paragraph of Section 10, R.A. 8042 which holds the
corporate directors, officers and partners jointly and solidarily liable with their
company for money claims filed by OFWs against their employers and the
recruitment firms. On September 9, 2009 the Court allowed the intervention and
admitted Gumabay, et al.s motion for reconsideration.
The key issue that Gumabay, et al. present is whether or not the 2nd paragraph of
Section 10, R.A. 8042, which holds the corporate directors, officers, and partners of
recruitment and placement agencies jointly and solidarily liable for money claims
and damages that may be adjudged against the latter agencies, is unconstitutional.
In G.R. 167590 (the PASEI case), the Quezon City RTC held as unconstitutional the
last sentence of the 2nd paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. 8042. It pointed out that,
absent sufficient proof that the corporate officers and directors of the erring
company had knowledge of and allowed the illegal recruitment, making them
automatically liable would violate their right to due process of law.
The pertinent portion of Section 10 provides:
SEC. 10. Money Claims. x x x
The liability of the principal/employer and the recruitment/placement agency for
any and all claims under this section shall be joint and several. This provision shall
be incorporated in the contract for overseas employment and shall be a condition
precedent for its approval. The performance bond to be filed by the
recruitment/placement agency, as provided by law, shall be answerable for all
money claims or damages that may be awarded to the workers. If the
recruitment/placement agency is a juridical being, the corporate officers
and directors and partners as the case may be, shall themselves be jointly
and solidarily liable with the corporation or partnership for the aforesaid
claims and damages. (Emphasis supplied)
But the Court has already held, pending adjudication of this case, that the liability of
corporate directors and officers is not automatic. To make them jointly and solidarily
liable with their company, there must be a finding that they were remiss in directing
the affairs of that company, such as sponsoring or tolerating the conduct of illegal
activities.19 In the case of Becmen and White Falcon,20 while there is evidence that
these companies were at fault in not investigating the cause of Jasmins death,
there is no mention of any evidence in the case against them that intervenors
Gumabay, et al., Becmens corporate officers and directors, were personally
involved in their companys particular actions or omissions in Jasmins case.
As a final note, R.A. 8042 is a police power measure intended to regulate the
recruitment and deployment of OFWs. It aims to curb, if not eliminate, the injustices
and abuses suffered by numerous OFWs seeking to work abroad. The rule is settled
that every statute has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality. The Court
cannot inquire into the wisdom or expediency of the laws enacted by the Legislative
Department. Hence, in the absence of a clear and unmistakable case that the
statute is unconstitutional, the Court must uphold its validity.
WHEREFORE, in G.R. 152642 and 152710, the Court DISMISSES the petitions for
having become moot and academic.
In G.R. 167590, the Court SETS ASIDE the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Manila dated December 8, 2004 and DECLARES Sections 6, 7, and 9 of Republic Act
8042 valid and constitutional.
In G.R. 182978-79 and G.R. 184298-99 as well as in G.R. 167590, the Court HOLDS
the last sentence of the second paragraph of Section 10 of Republic Act 8042 valid
and constitutional. The Court, however, RECONSIDERS and SETS ASIDE the
portion of its Decision in G.R. 182978-79 and G.R. 184298-99 that held intervenors
Eufrocina Gumabay, Elvira Taguiam, Lourdes Bonifacio, and Eddie De Guzman jointly
and solidarily liable with respondent Becmen Services Exporter and Promotion, Inc.
to spouses Simplicia and Mila Cuaresma for lack of a finding in those cases that
such intervenors had a part in the act or omission imputed to their corporation.
SO ORDERED.
All Justices concur.