Art. 172. Falsification by private individuals and use of falsified documents.– The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P5,000 shall be imposed upon:
- Any private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding article in any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial document; x x x
Article 171. x x x
- Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric;
- Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate; x x x
- Altering true dates; x x x
In the case at bar, there is no question that all the elements of falsification are present. The issue is whether there is probable cause to engender the belief that petitioner is one of the authors of the falsification.
Petitioner questions the findings of the CA that: (a) he knew that the three deeds of absolute sale in question were falsified but still signed the same as an instrumental witness; and (b) despite such knowledge, he personally and directly caused the registration of the same with the Register of Deeds of Tacloban, the cancellation of the TCTs in the name of Aurora and the issuance of the new TCTs in the names of the respective vendees. He contends that the decision of the CA finding probable cause to file three (3) informations for Falsification of Public Document under Article 172(1) in relation to Article 171(1), (2) and (5) of the Revised Penal Code against him is merely based on the allegations of respondent, unsubstantiated by any evidence on record.
In a preliminary investigation, probable cause for the filing of an information by the prosecutor has been defined as “the existence of such facts and circumstances as would excite the belief, in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted.” It is well-settled that “a finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not a crime has been committed and was committed by the suspects. Probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and definitely not on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt.”
From the records, there is no question that petitioner signed as an instrumental witness to the subject deeds of absolute sale. As such, he attested that the Granda spouses, as vendors, signed the said deeds in his presence on December 7, 1985. By petitioner’s own admission, however, the negotiations for the sales only started in 1998, thus, the deeds were admittedly antedated. The investigating prosecutor, the DOJ and the CA also unanimously found probable cause to believe that the signatures of the Granda spouses were falsified as evidenced by: (a) the PNP Crime Laboratory report which concluded that the specimen signatures of the spouses did not match the signatures affixed in the subject deeds; and (b) the undisputed fact that vendor-spouse Rafael died in June 1989. The disputable presumption is that a person intends the ordinary consequences of his voluntary act and takes ordinary care of his concerns. This presumption assumes greater significance to the case of petitioner who, as “the one tasked [by his siblings] to ensure that the signatures on the subject deeds were all authentic and genuine,” is naturally expected to not have voluntarily affixed his signature in the subject deeds unless he understood the clear significance of his act.
Moreover, there is sufficient evidence to prove that petitioner “was personally and directly responsible for registering the falsified deeds with the Register of Deeds of Tacloban City” and that “he caused the cancellation of the Transfer Certificates of Title in the name of Aurora” and “effected the issuance of the new Transfer Certificates of Title.” The following pieces of evidence support such findings: (a) a copy of Control No. 183 dated February 28, 2000 and the certification of the Register of Deeds state that petitioner “presented for registration” the three deeds in question to the Register of Deeds; and (b) a copy of the entries in the Receiving and Releasing Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Tacloban City and the Certification dated July 4, 2001 of the Register of Deeds show that the deeds in question were released to petitioner on March 3, 2000. Petitioner’s defense that it was actually Aurora who effected the transfer cannot overcome the presumption in favor of the Register of Deeds that in issuing the certifications, official duty has been regularly performed. Notably, other than his bare assertion, petitioner did not present any other evidence to corroborate his claim, i.e., the testimony of the alleged representative of Aurora who made him sign the questioned application form. In the absence of satisfactory explanation, one found in possession of and who used a forged document is the forger of said document. If a person had in his possession a falsified document and he made use of it, taking advantage of it and profiting thereby, the clear presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification.
The presumptions elicited by the evidence on record are not of little significance. The effect of a presumption upon the burden of proof is to create the need of presenting evidence to overcome the prima facie case created, thereby which, if no contrary proof is offered, will prevail.
Petitioner lays stress on the ruling of the DOJ that “in the absence of criminal intent, there is no falsification and the absence of damage negates criminal intent.” The following circumstances allegedly show lack of criminal intent on his part, viz: (a) Respondent did not question the effectiveness and consummation of the sale transactions in question or assail the authority of Aurora to do so. In fact, complainant himself confirmed the validity of the sale made by Aurora of her properties by executing the Deed of Assignment dated April 20, 2000; (b) Petitioner and his siblings paid the sum of P18,800,000, hence, could not have intentionally and maliciously participated in the falsification of the subject documents as it would be adverse to their interests; (c) The other heirs of Aurora did not join respondent in filing the instant complaint, thus, giving credence to the claim of petitioner that the sale transactions were regular, done in good faith and for valuable consideration; (d) Respondent had no right which was violated by the execution of the subject deeds as Aurora had the free disposition of her properties during her lifetime; and (e) It is rather “odd” for complainant to have initiated the instant action only after the death of his grandmother Aurora. Finally, petitioner also invokes the defense of good faith. He contends that assuming he knew or had a hand in the falsification of the three (3) deeds of absolute sale and used the same to process the issuance of the new TCTs, said act is not a punishable act of falsification as the same was authorized by the heirs of Aurora, including respondent.
The arguments are unmeritorious.
The mentioned circumstances in the ruling of the DOJ which allegedly negate the existence of criminal intent on the part of petitioner are unavailing. First, the contention that the validity of the sale transactions was not disputed is contrary to the allegations of respondent and the evidence on record. In his complaint-affidavit, respondent alleged that “the purported sale of the subject properties on 07 December 1985 is false and fraudulent.” Moreover, the new TCTs issued in the names of the vendees through the deeds in question have an annotation of respondent’s adverse claim that “the deed[s] of sale are simulated.” Second, petitioner’s reliance on the deeds of assignment signed by respondent and his co-heirs to prove the validity of the sale transactions is shaky. By said deeds, the heirs of Aurora merely acknowledged that they received certain sums of money from the Uys and that they “assign[ed], transfer[red] and convey[ed] unto and in favor of” Aurora “all [the] rights, interests, and participation that [they] have or may have in any and all parcels of land, wherever located, together with all the improvements thereon, two parcels of land” of which were particularly described as the ones covered by TCT No. T-816. No reference was made to the alleged contracts of sale between Aurora and the Uys. Likewise, said deeds contain a marked contradiction: if indeed, the properties were the “exclusive and paraphernal properties” of Aurora, why was there a need for her heirs (which included respondent) to assign their rights to her? Finally, the attribution of ill-motive to respondent by the fact that the complaint was only filed after Aurora died and that respondent was not joined in by his co-heirs in filing the complaint are speculative and are not sufficient to overcome the legal presumptions establishing a prima facie case for falsification against petitioner.
In any case, even assuming that the payment of the sum of P18,800,000 shows lack of damage on the part of respondent and his co-heirs, petitioner’s conclusion that there can be no criminal intent in the absence of damage is hasty, to say the least. Criminal intent is a mental state, the existence of which is shown by the overt acts of a person. We have clarified that the absence of damage does not necessarily imply that there can be no falsification as it is merely an element to be considered to determine whether or not there is criminal intent to commit falsification. It is a settled rule that in the falsification of public or official documents, it is not necessary that there be present the idea of gain or the intent to injure a third person for the reason that in the falsification of a public document, the principal thing punished is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of the truth as therein solemnly proclaimed. In this case, petitioner’s voluntary acts of: (a) signing as witness to the three antedated notarized deeds of absolute sale, attesting that the Granda spouses, as vendors, signed the same in his presence, when there is probable cause to believe that such signatures were falsified; and (b) knowingly causing the registration of the three falsified deeds with the Register of Deeds to effect the cancellation of the old TCTs and the issuance of the new TCTs in his name and the names of his siblings, evidence malice and willful transgression of the law.
We likewise reject petitioner’s defense of good faith. As pointed out by respondent, the contention that even assuming petitioner had a hand in the falsification and use of the falsified instruments, he is not liable because he was authorized by Aurora and her heirs, was belatedly raised on appeal. Also, as logically pointed out by respondent, he is an heir of Aurora and definitely, he did not authorize petitioner to falsify the subject deeds and use the same to effect the transfer of the TCTs from the name of Aurora to his name and that of his siblings. Furthermore, the finding that there is probable cause to believe that the signatures of both Aurora and Rafael were falsified and the dates of the instruments were antedated lay serious doubt on the claim that the conveyance was indeed authorized by Aurora herself. To further sow doubt on the claim of authority, respondent’s claim that in 1999, his grandmother Aurora was already “too sickly and frail to execute said documents,” finds support in the evidence on record. A certain Rebecca Araza, a househelp in the residence of Aurora, attested that in 1999, she was one of those who took care of Aurora who was then “very sickly,” “could hardly recognize faces,ï¿½ remember names and events and very rarely talked” and whose “condition worsened starting January 1999.” Also bolstering respondent’s claim is the noticeable fact that Aurora signed the GPOA dated February 14, 1999 in favor of Silvina by affixing her thumbmark instead of her customary signature.
While it is this Courtï¿½s general policy not to interfere in the conduct of preliminary investigations, leaving the investigating officers sufficient discretion to determine probable cause, we have nonetheless made some exceptions to the general rule, such as when the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority. Although there is no general formula or fixed rule for the determination of probable cause since the same must be decided in the light of the conditions obtaining in given situations and its existence depends to a large degree upon the finding or opinion of the judge conducting the examination, such a finding should not disregard the facts before the judge nor run counter to the clear dictates of reason. From the records of the case at bar, it is clear that a prima facie case for falsification exists against petitioner.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is DENIED. The July 18, 2003 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 26273 is hereby AFFIRMED.
SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 160257, January 31, 2006 ]ROBERT LASTRILLA, PETITIONER, VS. RAFAEL A. GRANDA, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries