G.R. No. 148326 - November 15, 2001
PABLO C. VILLABER, petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and REP. DOUGLAS R. CAGAS, respondents.
In this petition for certiorari, Pablo C. Villaber, seeks the nullification of two Resolutions of the Commission on Election (COMELEC) in SPA-01-058. The first one was issued by its Second Division on April 30, 2001, disqualifying him as a candidate for the position of Congressman in the First District of the Province of Davao del Sur in the last May 14, 2001 elections, and cancelling his certificate of candidacy; and the second is the en banc Resolution dated May 10, 2001 denying his motion for reconsideration.
Both petitioner Villaber and respondent Douglas R. Cagas were rival candidates for a congressional seat in the First District of Davao del Sur during the May 14, 2001 elections. Villaber filed his certificate of candidacy for Congressman on February 19, 2001,1 while Cagas filed his on February 28, 2001.2
On March 4, 2001, Cagas filed with the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor, Commission On Elections (COMELEC), Davao del Sur, a consolidated petition3 to disqualify Villaber and to cancel the latter's certificate of candidacy. Cagas alleged in the said consolidated petition that on March 2, 1990, Villaber was convicted by the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 15, in Criminal Case No. 86-46197 for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 and was sentenced to suffer one (1) year imprisonment. The check that bounced was in the sum of P100,000.00.4 Cagas further alleged that this crime involves moral turpitude; hence, under Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, he is disqualified to run for any public office. On appeal, the Court of Appeals (Tenth Division), in its Decision dated April23, 1992 in CA-G.R. CR No. 09017,5 affirmed the RTC Decision. Undaunted, Villaber filed with this Court a petition for review on certiorari assailing the Court of Appeals Decision, docketed as G. R. No. 106709. However, in its Resolution6 of October 26, 1992, this Court (Third Division) dismissed the petition. On February 2, 1993, our Resolution became final and executory.7 Cagas also asserted that Villaber made a false material representation in his certificate of candidacy that he is "Eligible for the office I seek to be elected " - which false statement is a ground to deny due course or cancel the said certificate pursuant to Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code.
In his answers8 to the disqualification suit, Villaber countered mainly that his conviction has not become final and executory because the affirmed Decision was not remanded to the trial court for promulgation in his presence.9 Furthermore, even if the judgment of conviction was already final and executory, it cannot be the basis for his disqualification since violation of B.P. Blg. 22 does not involve moral turpitude.
After the opposing parties submitted their respective position papers, the case was forwarded to the COMELEC, Manila, for resolution.
On April 30, 2001, the COMELEC (Second Division), finding merit in Cagas' petition, issued the challenged Resolution10 in SPA A 01-058 declaring Villaber disqualified as "a candidate for and from holding any elective public office" and canceling his certificate of candidacy. The COMELEC ruled that a conviction for violation of B.P. BIg. 22 involves moral turpitude following the ruling of this Court en banc in the administrative case of People vs. Atty. Fe Tuanda.11
Villaber fIled a motion for reconsideration but was denied by the COMELEC en banc in a Resolution12 dated May 10, 2001.
Hence, this petition.
The sole issue for our Resolution is whether or not violation of B.P. Blg. 22 involves moral turpitude.
The COMELEC believes it is. In disqualifying petitioner Villaber from being a candidate for Congressman, the COMELEC applied Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code which provides:
As to the meaning of "moral turpitude," we have consistently adopted the definition in Black's Law Dictionary as "an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals."13
In In re Vinzon,14 the term "moral turpitude" is considered as encompassing "everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty , or good morals."
We, however, clarified in Dela Torre vs. Commission on Elections15 that "not every criminal act involves moral turpitude," and that ''as to what crime involves moral turpitude is for the Supreme Court to determine."16 We further pronounced therein that:
We reiterate here our ruling in Dela Torre17 that the determination of whether a crime involves moral turpitude is a question of fact and frequently depends on all the circumstances surrounding the violation of the statute.
In the case at bar, petitioner does not assail the facts and circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime. In effect, he admits all the elements of the crime for which he was convicted. At any rate, the question of whether or not the crime involves moral turpitude can be resolved by analyzing its elements alone, as we did in Dela Torre which involves the crime of fencing punishable by a special law.18
Petitioner was charged for violating B.P. Blg. 22 under the following Information:
He was convicted for violating Section 1 of B.P. Blg. 22 provides :
The elements of the offense under the above provision are:
The presence of the second element manifests moral turpitude. In People vs. Atty. Fe Tuanda20 we held that a conviction for violation of B.P. BIg. 22 "imports deceit" and "certainly relates to and affects the good moral character of a person.."21 The effects of the issuance of a worthless check, as we held in the landmark case of Lozano vs. Martinez,22 through Justice Pedro L. Yap, "transcends the private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public" since the circulation of valueless commercial papers "can very well pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest."23 Thus, paraphrasing Black's definition, a drawer who issues an unfunded check deliberately reneges on his private duties he owes his fellow men or society in a manner contrary to accepted and customary rule of right and duty, justice, honesty or good morals.
Petitioner contends that this Court's pronouncement in People v. Atty. Fe Tuanda,24 insofar as it states that conviction under B.P. BIg. 22 involves moral turpitude, does not apply to him since he is not a lawyer.
This argument is erroneous.
In that case, the Court of Appeals affirmed Atty. Fe Tuanda's conviction for violation of B.P. BIg. 22 and, in addition, suspended her from the practice of law pursuant to Sections 27 and 28 of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court. Her motion seeking the lifting of her suspension was denied by this Court on the ground that the said offense involves moral turpitude. There we said in part:
Clearly, in Tuanda, this Court did not make a distinction whether the offender is a lawyer or a non-lawyer. Nor did it declare that such offense constitutes moral turpitude when committed by a member of the Bar but is not so when committed by a non-member.
We cannot go along with petitioner's contention that this Court's ruling in Tuanda has been abandoned or modified in the recent case of Rosa Lim vs. People of the Philippines,26 which reiterated the ruling in Vaca vs. Court of Appeals.27 In these two latter cases, the penalty of imprisonment imposed on the accused for violation of B.P. BIg. 22 was deleted by this Court. Only a fine was imposed. Petitioner insists that with the deletion of the prison sentence, the offense no longer involves moral turpitude. We made no such pronouncement. This is what we said in Rosa Lim:
In fine, we find no grave abuse of discretion committed by respondent COMELEC in issuing the assailed Resolutions.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. Costs against petitioner.
Davide, Jr. C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Carpio, no part.
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