G.R. Nos. 179282-83 : December 1, 2010
MICHAEL SYIACO, Petitioner, v. EUGENE ONG, Respondent.
This is a
petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
filed by petitioner Michael Syiaco against respondent Eugene Ong, seeking to
reverse and set aside the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision1
dated May 22, 2007 and Resolution2
dated August 14, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 86680 and 87253.
The factual and procedural antecedents
are as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Respondent was the President, while
petitioner was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Trans-Asia Securities,
Inc. (Trans-Asia), a brokerage firm. Petitioner engaged the services of respondent,
together with Trans-Asia's Chief Accountant Christina Dam (Dam), to purchase on
his behalf 300,000,000 shares of stock of Palawan Oil and Gas Exploration
(Palawan Oil), now iVantage, Equities, Inc. (iVantage), for
P3,000,000.00 and 25,000
shares of stock of Equitable Banking Corporation (EBC) for P2,832,500.00. In payment of
the purchase price, petitioner purportedly issued several checks made payable to
the account of Trans-Asia, and drawn against Rizal Commercial Banking
full payment, respondent allegedly refused to deliver to petitioner the
certificates of stock covering the same.4cra
In view of respondent's continued
refusal to deliver the subject certificates despite demand, petitioner filed a
criminal complaint against respondent and Dam for estafa through misappropriation or conversion under Article 315(1)(b)
of the Revised Penal Code on March 9, 1998.5
The case was docketed as I.S. No. 98C-10653.
In his defense, respondent claimed
that he delivered the certificates of stock of Palawan Oil to petitioner's
sister, Haling Chua (Chua), in her office at the Philippine Stock Exchange, as
requested by petitioner. As to the EBC shares, respondent maintained that there
were still matters about said shares that needed to be cleared. Dam, for her
part, denied any participation in the commission of the alleged estafa. She claimed that she was a mere
accountant of Trans-Asia and, as such, her duties did not involve the recording
of stock transactions or the custody and delivery of its stock certificates.6cra
On July 15, 1998, the City Prosecutor
of Manila dismissed the complaint against respondent and Dam. This was affirmed
by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a resolution dated October 26, 1998, and
subsequently affirmed by the CA in a Decision7
dated October 31, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 55522. The CA held that the element of
conversion or misappropriation was not duly proven by petitioner. The appellate
court noted that the checks were issued for the account of Trans-Asia, and that
there was no showing how the money was converted by respondent and Dam to their
personal use. The CA Decision became final and executory.8cra
Notwithstanding the finality of the CA
Decision, petitioner refiled the case by instituting two criminal complaints
against respondent and Dam for estafa through
misappropriation or conversion. The first complaint, filed on August 27, 2001
and docketed as I.S. No. 01H-34490, pertained to the transactions involving the
Palawan Oil shares, while the second complaint, filed on January 7, 2003 and
docketed as I.S. No. 03A-00194, involved the EBC shares.9
The refiling of the complaints was purportedly based on the following newly
1) The letters issued by the Corporate Secretary
and Stock and Transfer Agent of iVantage Equities, Inc. (formerly Palawan Oil)
stating that complainant [petitioner herein] and his brother are not in the
list of stockholders of iVantage Equities, Inc.
2) The Affidavit of Margarita dela Cruz, Trans-Asia's
former Assistant Vice-President, stating that she does not remember having
signed any check/s against Trans-Asia's account issued to and made payable to
Palawan Oil or iVantage Securities or to Equitable Banking Corporation as
payment for the shares of stocks bought for the private respondent.
3) The Minutes of Stockholders and Directors'
Meeting of Trans-Asia, held on April 30, 1998, authorizing petitioner to sign
all stock certificates and documents for any and all transactions consistent
with the purpose of Trans-Asia Securities, Inc., so that according to private
respondent, even if his money is still in the coffers of Trans-Asia, still, it
is only petitioner who has access thereto considering that he has been
designated as the sole signatory to all transactions of Trans-Asia.
4) The Affidavit of Haling Chua, denying receipt
from [respondent] of any stock certificates of Palawan Oil Shares or any
document representing the 300,000,000 Palawan Oil Shares bought by [petitioner].10cra
In a resolution11
dated September 2, 2002, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (OCSP), in
I.S. No. 01H-34490, involving the Palawan Oil shares, dismissed the complaint
with respect to Dam, but found probable cause to indict respondent for estafa through misappropriation or
conversion. On motion for reconsideration, the OCSP reversed and set aside its
resolution on January 10, 2003. On appeal, however, the Secretary of Justice recommended
that respondent be indicted for the crime of estafa involving the Palawan Oil shares.12cra
Meanwhile, in I.S. No. 03A-00194
involving the EBC shares, the OCSP dismissed the complaint in a Resolution
dated January 15, 2004. The Prosecutor found that the pieces of evidence which petitioner
presented were not newly discovered to warrant the reopening of the case. The
resolution, however, was reversed by the DOJ, which recommended that respondent
be likewise indicted for the crime of estafa
involving the EBC shares.13cra
In view of the DOJ resolutions,
respondent was constrained to institute petitions for certiorari before the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 86680 and
CA-G.R. SP No. 87253, which were later consolidated as they involved the same
parties and issues.
On May 22, 2007, the CA rendered a Decision
in favor of respondent, the dispositive portion of which reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the Petitions for Certiorari in CA-G.R. SP No. 86680 and
CA-G.R. SP No. 87253are GRANTED. The assailed Resolutions
dated May 5, 2004, July 5, 2004, July 28, 2004 and August 27, 2004, issued by
public respondent Department of Justice in I.S. No. 01H-34490 and I.S. No.
03A-00194, respectively, are declared NULL
AND VOID. The criminal complaints filed against petitioner subject of the
said Resolutions, are ordered DISMISSED.
CA focused on the determination of whether the pieces of evidence might be
regarded as newly discovered, and found that they were not. It explained that
the alleged newly discovered pieces of evidence were already existing and could
have been easily produced by petitioner. It added that petitioner failed to
show that he exercised reasonable diligence in procuring the subject pieces of
evidence. Therefore, they could not qualify as newly discovered and, thus, will
not justify the filing of new criminal cases against respondent. In that light,
the CA concluded that the DOJ gravely abused its discretion in allowing the
refiling of the estafa cases against
respondent on the basis of the subject newly discovered pieces of evidence.15 The
CA later denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
petitioner comes before the Court in this Petition for Review on Certiorari, raising the following
First. The Court of Appeals [Former Twelfth Division] gravely erred when it
applied the rule on "newly discovered evidence" as enunciated in the case of Amarillo v. Sandiganbayan [396 SCRA 434]  which rules would apply only
for the purpose of reopening a case and granting new trial.
Second. The Court of Appeals [Former Twelfth Division] gravely erred in
finding that Petitioner Syiaco did not exercise reasonable diligence in
procuring the subject pieces of evidence before or during the trial of the
first Estafa case.
Third. The Court of Appeals [Former Twelfth Division] gravely erred in
finding that the Department of Justice acted with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of or excess of jurisdiction when it allowed the re-filing of
the Estafa cases against Respondent Ong on the basis of the subject evidence.16cra
Petitioner faults the CA for applying
the requisites of "newly discovered evidence" laid down in Amarillo v. Sandiganbayan,17cralaw
as the doctrine allegedly applies only to
the reopening of a case and to the granting of a prayer for a new trial.18
He adds that, in nullifying the DOJ resolutions, the CA usurped the
investigatory and prosecutory powers granted to the executive branch of the
petitioner states that, contrary to the findings of the CA, he exercised
reasonable diligence in procuring the subject pieces of evidence before and
during the pendency of the first estafa
We find no merit in the
The petition focuses on
the issue of whether the pieces of evidence presented by petitioner to support
the filing of the new estafa cases
are newly discovered. The question of whether the pieces of evidence are newly
discovered has two aspects: a temporal one, i.e.,
when the evidence was discovered, and a predictive one, i.e., when should or could it have been discovered.21cra
Under the Rules of Court,
the requisites for "newly discovered evidence" are: 1) the evidence was
discovered after trial (in this case, after investigation); 2) such evidence could
not have been discovered and produced during the trial even with the exercise
of reasonable diligence; and 3) it is material, not merely cumulative,
corroborative, or impeaching, and is of such weight that, if admitted, will probably
change the judgment.22cra
In the case at bar, the foregoing
requisites are not present. Although the letter of iVantage and the affidavits
of Chua and Margarita dela Cruz (Dela Cruz) were dated after the investigation
in the first estafa case, still, they
do not qualify as newly discovered. In order that a particular piece of
evidence may be properly appreciated as newly discovered, what is essential is
not so much the time when the evidence first came into existence or the time
when it first came to the knowledge of the party now submitting it. What is
essential is that the offering party had exercised reasonable diligence in trying
to locate such evidence before or during trial (or investigation), but had
nonetheless failed to secure it.23
The Rules does not contain an exact definition of due diligence. It is often
equated with "reasonable promptness to avoid prejudice to the defendant." It
has both a time component and a good faith component. It contemplates a
situation where the party acts reasonably and in good faith to obtain evidence,
in light of the totality of the circumstances and the facts known to him.24
Applying the foregoing tests, we find that petitioner's purported pieces of
evidence do not qualify as newly discovered.
As to the letter of
iVantage saying that petitioner was not included in the list of its
stockholders, petitioner failed to explain why no such verification was done at
the first opportunity. Considering that the subject certificates of stock could
not be located, it would have been prudent to immediately verify from the
company where the stocks were purportedly acquired. Clearly, petitioner was
remiss in exercising reasonable diligence to secure the document.
petitioner failed to sufficiently explain why Chua and Dela Cruz belatedly executed
their affidavits. Chua is petitioner's sister, while Dela Cruz is one of the
officers of Trans-Asia. We cannot fathom why it took petitioner such a long
time before he could make them execute their sworn statements. There was no
showing of Chua's and Dela Cruz's unavailability at the time of the
investigation of the first estafa
case. As aptly held by the CA, petitioner did not exercise reasonable diligence
in discovering and producing the above documents. Hence, the documents are not
"newly discovered pieces of evidence."
Assuming that the
documents could not have been reasonably produced during the investigation,
still, they will not qualify as newly discovered pieces of evidence because
they were not material to the issue. It was admitted by petitioner that the
checks (allegedly intended for the payment of the purchased stocks) were issued
for the account of Trans-Asia and not for the account of respondent. It is
likewise undisputed that any two signatures of either petitioner, respondent,
or Dela Cruz were needed for any of Trans-Asia's transactions. Dela Cruz's
affidavit even strengthened respondent's claim that it was impossible for the
latter to misappropriate the funds, as his signature was not sufficient to
withdraw the amount from Trans-Asia's account.
Not even the Minutes of
the Stockholders' meeting of Trans-Asia, designating respondent as the sole
signatory, altered the court's conclusion in the first estafa case that there was no misappropriation or conversion. The
fact remains that the checks were issued by petitioner for the account of Trans-Asia,
and no withdrawal could be made by respondent alone because two signatures were
required to effect any withdrawal. The Minutes actually shows that the
stockholders' action was made long after the alleged acts of misappropriation
or conversion. Petitioner would insinuate that, even if the claimed amounts are
still in Trans-Asia's account, it is possible for respondent to convert them to
his personal use because he was designated as the sole signatory to the
company's transactions. This expresses merely a possibility and does not show any
act of conversion or misappropriation that would constitute the crime of estafa. At most, it only shows a
speculation or conjecture, which carries no weight in the determination of the
existence of probable cause.
Based on the foregoing, the
CA did not err in nullifying the DOJ resolutions allowing the refiling of the
two estafa cases. While it is true
that in reviewing the findings of the DOJ, the settled rule is that the
determination of probable cause is an executive function, one that properly
pertains at the first instance to the public prosecutor and, ultimately, to the
Secretary of Justice.25
For this reason, the Court leaves the DOJ ample latitude of discretion in the
determination of what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish probable
cause for the prosecution of supposed offenders.26
Courts are not empowered to substitute their judgment for that of the executive
branch; they may, however, look into the question of whether such exercise has
been made in grave abuse of discretion.27
In looking into the records of the case, the CA found and concluded that the
DOJ gravely abused its discretion in allowing the refiling of the case. We find
no reason to depart from such conclusion.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated May 22, 2007 and
Resolution dated August 14, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 86680 and 87253 are AFFIRMED.
ANTONIO EDUARDO B.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
ROBERTO A. ABAD
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the
case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution
and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in
the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
by Associate Justice
Santiago-Lagman, with Associate Justices
Bienvenido L. Reyes and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., concurring; rollo, pp. 547-557.
by Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez (now a retired member of this
Court), with Associate Justices Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos and Elvi John S.
Asuncion, concurring; id. at 192-202.
Dinglasan, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, G.R.
No. 145420, September 19, 2006, 502 SCRA 253, 268; Brig. Gen. Custodio v. Sandiganbayan, 493 Phil. 194, 206 (2005).
Quintin B. Saludaga and SPO2 Fiel E. Genio
v. The Honorable Sandiganbayan, 4th Division, and the People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 184537, April 23, 2010; Amarillo
v. Sandiganbayan, supra note 17, at 497.
Custodio v. Sandiganbayan, supra note
21, at 206.
United Coconut Planters Bank v. Looyuko,
G.R. No. 156337, September 28, 2007, 534 SCRA 322, 330.
First Women's Credit Corporation v. Perez,
G.R. No. 169026, June 15, 2006, 490 SCRA 774, 777.
United Coconut Planters Bank v. Looyuko,
supra note 25, at 331.
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