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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 12058. February 2, 1917. ]

THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. TOMAS F. BARRETO, Defendant-Appellant.

Antonio V. Herrero for Appellant.

Attorney-General Avanceña for Appellee.

SYLLABUS


1. FALSIFICATION OF A PRIVATE DOCUMENT; TIME AND PLACE OF CRIME. — The crime of falsification of a private document is consummated at the time when and the place where the document is falsified to the prejudice of or with intent to prejudice a third person, and this whether the falsified document is or is not thereafter put to the improper or illegal use for which it was intended.

2. COMPLAINT OR INFORMATION; AUTHORITY OF PRIVATE CITIZEN. — The ruling of this court in the case of United States v. Municipal Council of Santa Cruz de Malabon (1 Phil. Rep., 731) goes not farther than to deny the right of a private citizen to institute a criminal prosecution for a public crime in any case wherein it does not appear that he has been or may be injured by the commission of the alleged offense.

3. ID.; AUTHORITY OF PROSECUTING OFFICERS. — Public prosecuting officers may institute and maintain a criminal action without regard to the intervention of the private persons who may have been directly injured by the commission of the alleged offense, save only in cases of prosecutions for the offenses formerly designated private offenses, which by express provision of law can only be instituted at the instance of the offended party.


D E C I S I O N


CARSON, J.:


The information filed in this case charges the defendant and appellant with the crime of falsification of a private document committed as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"That in or about the month of December, 1913, in the city of Manila, Philippine Islands, the said Tomas F. Barreto did, willfully, unlawfully, criminally and fraudulently falsify a private document, to wit, a pawn ticket, No. 11,830, issued by the ’Monte de Piedad y Caja de Ahorros de Manila,’ an institution duly organized and doing business in the city of Manila, Philippine Islands, and did make in the said pawn ticket the following alterations or changes:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"He erased the name ’Tomas Barreto,’ which had been written in the upper part of the pawn ticket, and substituted therefor the name of ’Valentin Aguirre.’ He changed the words ’eight pesos’ (the amount for which, according to the said document, certain jewels had been pawned) for the words ’one thousand, two hundred pesos;’ the figures ’P10’ (which, in the said document, indicated the amount of the valuation of the pawned jewels) for those of ’P1,600;’ and the words ’an American five dollar gold piece’ (which, in the said document, were originally inserted as a description of the pawned coin), for the following words: ’An 18 carat gold finger-ring, set with a brilliant of ordinary size, and a pair of 18 carat gold ear-rings, set with two brilliants of ordinary size and 16 small brilliants;’ whereby it was made to appear in the said document that an 18 carat gold finger-ring, set with a brilliant of ordinary size, and a pair of 18 carat gold ear-rings, with two brilliants of ordinary size and 16 small brilliants articles appraised at P1,600, Philippine currency, had been pawned in the said establishment for the sum of P1,600, Philippine currency, by a person named Valentin Aguirre, when as a matter of fact and as the said accused very well knew, the article pawned was only an American five dollar gold piece, valued at P10, and that it was pawned for P8, not by Valentin Aguirre, but by the accused himself, Tomas F. Barreto — acts committed with intent to injure a man whose name is unknown and to whom the said Tomas F. Barreto delivered the said pawn ticket as security for a loan, and to prejudice the said ’Monte de Piedad y Caja de Ahorros de Manila.’ In violation of law."cralaw virtua1aw library

The accused having pleaded "guilty" was forthwith convicted and sentenced, and thereupon appealed to this court, and now makes the following assignments of error in support of his contention that the judgment of conviction should be reversed:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"First error. — The court erred in holding that the crime of falsification of a private document was committed, notwithstanding that the place where the crime was perpetrated was not alleged in the complaint nor proven at the trial.

"Second error. — The court erred in holding that the crime of falsification of a private document was committed, notwithstanding that the true name of the certain person against whom the attempt was made to cause the alleged injury, was omitted from the complaint and was not proven at the trial."cralaw virtua1aw library

As to the first error assigned it should be sufficient to say that the information expressly charges the defendant with the falsification of a private document in the city of Manila, Philippine Islands — that is to say, within the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila in which the accused was tried; and that, having pleaded "guilty" of the commission of the crime as charged in the information, that plea was an express admission of the truth of this allegation. The contention of counsel would seem to be that the information was defective, in that it fails to set forth expressly the place where improper and illegal use was made of the falsified document, an allegation which counsel for appellant insists was absolutely essential for the proper determination of the court clothed with jurisdiction over the alleged offense. But under the definition of the crime of falsification of a private document as set forth in article 304 of the Penal Code, the offense is consummated at the time when and at the place where the document is falsified to the prejudice of or with the intent to prejudice a third person, and this whether the falsified document is or is not put to the improper or illegal use for which it was intended. It is evident, therefore, that the place where the crime is committed is the place where the document is actually falsified, and that the improper or illegal use of the document thereafter is in no wise a material or essential element of the crime of falsification of a private document; and even if it were otherwise, the charge that the crime was committed in a specific place would seem to be a sufficient allegation that all of the acts necessary to its consummation were in fact done at the place indicated.

As to the second alleged error it should be sufficient to indicate that the information charges that the offense was committed with intent to prejudice not only an unknown person, but also the institution known as the Monte de Piedad y Caja de Ahorros de Manila. But even if no reference were made to the Monte de Piedad, it would be a sufficient compliance with the terms of the statute to allege that the crime was committed with intent to prejudice a third person, name unknown. Article 304 of the Penal Code is as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Any person who, to the damage of another, or with the intent to cause such damage, shall in any private document commit any of the acts of falsification enumerated in article three hundred shall suffer the penalty of presidio correccional in its minimum and medium degrees and be fined in a sum not less than six hundred and twenty-five and not more than six thousand two hundred and fifty pesetas."cralaw virtua1aw library

Under this definition a conviction of the crime of falsification of a private document may be sustained upon proof that the falsification had been made with intent to injure a third person, even though the name of that person be unknown. Counsel for appellant seems to rest this assignment of error upon the erroneous theory that no criminal prosecution can be instituted or maintained in these Islands in the absence of a private complainant; and counsel contends that if the injured party is unknown, it must be presumed that such unknown person did not file a sworn complaint.

In support of his contention counsel relies upon our rulings in the case of United States v. Municipal Council of Santa Cruz de Malabon (1 Phil. Rep., 731) wherein we held that a criminal complaint was properly dismissed in the course of a preliminary investigation, it not appearing that the complainant had been or might be injured by the commission of the act denounced as a crime. An examination of that opinion discloses, however, that it goes no farther than to deny the right of a private citizen to institute a criminal prosecution for a public crime in any case wherein it does not appear that he has been or may be injured by the commission of the alleged offense. In the language of the syllabus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Under the criminal procedure established by General Orders, No. 58, the right to commence criminal prosecutions is confined to the representatives of the Government and to the persons injured by the crime complained of."cralaw virtua1aw library

The proceedings in the case at bar rest upon an information filed by the public prosecuting officer, and there can be no question as to the authority of such officers to institute and maintain a criminal action without regard to the intervention of the private persons who may have been directly injured by the commission of the alleged offense, excepting prosecutions for the offenses formerly designated private offenses which by express provision of law can only be instituted at the instance of the offended party.

Subsection 5 of section 6 of General Orders No. 58 expressly provides that a complaint or information is sufficient if its shows — "The names of the persons against whom, or against whose property, the offense was committed, if known." From this express provision of the statute it may fairly be inferred that where the name of such person is unknown, an information should not be deemed insufficient because of a failure to set forth his name therein.

We find no error in the proceedings prejudicial to the rights of the appellant, and the judgment convicting and sentencing him should, therefore, be affirmed, with the costs of this instance against him. So ordered.

Torres, Trent and Araullo, JJ., concur.

Moreland, J., concurs in the result.

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