Friday, March 9, 2012

Perjury; history of; proper venue to file Information - G.R. No. 192565

G.R. No. 192565

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The Crime of Perjury: A Background

To have a better appreciation of the issue facing the Court, a look at the historical background of how the crime of perjury (specifically, Article 183 of the RPC) evolved in our jurisdiction.

          The RPC penalizes three forms of false testimonies.  The first is false testimony for and against the defendant in a criminal case (Articles 180 and 181, RPC); the second is false testimony in a civil case (Article 182, RPC); and the third is false testimony in other cases (Article 183, RPC).  Based on the Information filed, the present case involves the making of an untruthful statement in an affidavit on a material matter

These RPC provisions, however, are not really the bases of the rulings cited by the parties in their respective arguments.  The cited Ilusorio ruling, although issued by this Court in 2008, harked back to the case of Cañet which was decided in 1915, i.e., before the present RPC took effect.[21]  Sy Tiong, on the other hand, is a 2009 ruling that cited Villanueva, a 2005 case that in turn cited United States v. Norris, a 1937 American case.  Significantly, unlike Canet, Sy Tiong is entirely based on rulings rendered after the present RPC took effect.[22]

The perjurious act in Cañet consisted of an information chargingperjury through the presentation in court of a motion accompanied by a false sworn affidavit. At the time the Cañet ruling was rendered, the prevailing law on perjury and the rules on prosecution of criminal offenses were found in Section 3, Act No. 1697 of the Philippine Commission, and in Subsection 4, Section 6 of General Order No. 58[23] for the procedural aspect.  

Section 3 of Act No. 1697 reads:

Sec. 3. Any person who, having taken oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the Philippine Islands authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, disposition, or certificate by him subscribed is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true, is guilty of perjury, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than two thousand pesos and by imprisonment for not more than five years; and shall moreover, thereafter be incapable of holding any public office or of giving testimony in any court of the Philippine Islands until such time as    the judgment against him is reversed.
This law was copied, with the necessary changes, from Sections 5392[24] and 5393[25] of the Revised Statutes of the United States.[26]  Act No. 1697 was intended to make the mere execution of a false affidavit punishable in our jurisdiction.[27]

In turn, Subsection 4, Section 6 of General Order No. 58 provided that the venue shall be the court of the place where the crime was committed. 

As applied and interpreted by the Court in Cañet, perjury was committed by the act of representing a false document in a judicial proceeding.[28] The venue of action was held by the Court to be at the place where the false document was presented since the presentation was the act that consummated the crime. 

The annotation of Justices Aquino and Griño-Aquino in their textbook on the RPC[29] interestingly explains the history of the perjury provisions of the present RPC and traces as well the linkage between Act No. 1697 and the present Code.  To quote these authors:[30]

Art. 180 was taken from art. 318 of the Old Penal Code and art. 154 of Del Pan’s Proposed Correctional Code, while art. 181 was taken from art. 319 of the old Penal Code and Art. 157 of Del Pan’s Proposed Correctional Code.  Said arts. 318 and 319, together with art. 321 of the old Penal Code, were impliedly repealed by Act 1697, the Perjury Law, passed on August 23, 1907, which in turn was expressly repealed by the Administrative Code of 1916, Act 2657.  In view of the express repeal of Act 1697, arts. 318 and 321 of the old Penal Code were deemed revived. However, Act 2718 expressly revived secs. 3 and 4 of the Perjury Law. Art. 367 of the Revised Penal Code repealed Act Nos. 1697 and 2718.

It should be noted that perjury under Acts 1697 and 2718 includes false testimony, whereas, under the Revised Penal Code, false testimony includes perjury.  Our law on false testimony is of Spanish origin, but our law on perjury (art. 183 taken from sec. 3 of Act 1697) is derived from American statutes.  The provisions of the old Penal Code on false testimony embrace perjury committed in court or in some contentious proceeding, while perjury as defined in Act 1697 includes the making of a false affidavit.  The provisions of the Revised Penal Code on false testimony “are more severe and strict than those of Act 1697” on perjury. [italics ours]  

With this background, it can be appreciated that Article 183 of the RPC which provides:

The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person, who knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the next preceding articles, shall testify under oath, ormake an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires. [emphasis supplied; emphases ours]

in fact refers to either of two punishable acts – (1) falsely testifying under oath in a proceeding other than a criminal or civil case; and (2) making afalse affidavit before a person authorized to administer an oath on any material matter where the law requires an oath. 

As above discussed, Sy Tiong – decided under Article 183 of the RPC – essentially involved perjured statements made in a GIS that was subscribed and sworn to in Manila and submitted to the SEC in Mandaluyong City. Thus, the case involved the making of an affidavit, not an actual testimony in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil. From this perspective, the situs of the oath, i.e., the place where the oath was taken, is the place where the offense was committed.  By implication, the proper venue would have been the City of Mandaluyong – the site of the SEC – had the charge involved an actual testimony made before the SEC.

In contrast, Cañet involved the presentation in court of a motion supported and accompanied by an affidavit that contained a falsity. With Section 3 of Act No. 1697 as basis, the issue related to the submission of the affidavit in a judicial proceeding.  This came at a time when Act No. 1697 was the perjury law, and made no distinction between judicial and other proceedings, and at the same time separately penalized the making of false statements under oath (unlike the present RPC which separately deals with false testimony in criminal, civil and other proceedings, while at the same time also penalizing the making of false affidavits).  Understandably, the venue should be the place where the submission was made to the court or the situs of the court; it could not have been the place where the affidavit was sworn to simply because this was not the offense charged in the Information.  

The case of Ilusorio cited the Cañet case as its authority, in a situation where the sworn petitions filed in court for the issuance of duplicate certificates of title (that were allegedly lost) were the cited sworn statements to support the charge of perjury for the falsities stated in the sworn petitions. The Court ruled that the proper venue should be the Cities of Makati and Tagaytay because it was in the courts of these cities “where the intent to assert an alleged falsehood became manifest and where the alleged untruthful statement finds relevance or materiality in deciding the issue of whether new owner’s duplicate copies of the [Certificate of Condominium Title] and [Transfer Certificates of Title] may issue.”[31] To the Court, “whether the perjurious statements contained in the four petitions were subscribed and sworn in Pasig is immaterial, the gist of the offense of perjury being the intentional giving of false statement,”[32] citing Cañet as authority for its statement.

The statement in Ilusorio may have partly led to the present confusion on venue because of its very categorical tenor in pointing to the considerations to be made in the determination of venue; it leaves the impression that the place where the oath was taken is not at all a material consideration, forgetting that Article 183 of the RPC clearly speaks of two situations while Article 182 of the RPC likewise applies to false testimony in civil cases. 

The Ilusorio statement would have made perfect sense had the basis for the charge been Article 182 of the RPC, on the assumption that the petition itself constitutes a false testimony in a civil case.  The Cañet ruling would then have been completely applicable as the sworn statement is used in a civil case, although no such distinction was made under Cañet because the applicable law at the time (Act No. 1697) did not make any distinction. 

If Article 183 of the RPC were to be used, as what in fact appears in the Ilusorio ruling, then only that portion of the article, referring to the making of an affidavit, would have been applicable as the other portion refers to false testimony in other proceedings which a judicial petition for the issuance of a new owner’s duplicate copy of a Certificate of Condominium Title is not because it is a civil proceeding in court.  As a perjury based on the making of a false affidavit, what assumes materiality is the site where the oath was taken as this is the place where the oath was made, in this case, Pasig City.     

Procedurally, the rule on venue of criminal cases has been subject to various changes from the time General Order No. 58 was replaced by Rules 106 to 122 of the Rules of Court on July 1, 1940. Section 14, Rule 106 of the Rules of Court provided for the rule on venue of criminal actions and it expressly included, as proper venue, the place where any one of the essential ingredients of the crime took place.  This change was followed by the passage of the 1964 Rules of Criminal Procedure,[33] the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure,[34] and the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which all adopted the 1940 Rules of Criminal Procedure’s expanded venue of criminal actions.  Thus, the venue of criminal cases is not only in the place where the offense was committed, but also where any of its essential ingredients took place. 

In the present case, the Certification against Forum Shopping was made integral parts of two complaints for sum of money with prayer for a writ of replevin against the respondent spouses Eddie Tamondong and Eliza B. Tamondong, who, in turn, filed a complaint-affidavit against Tomas for violation of Article 183 of the RPC.  As alleged in the Information that followed, the criminal act charged was for the execution by Tomas of an affidavit that contained a falsity

Under the circumstances, Article 183 of the RPC is indeed the applicable provision; thus, jurisdiction and venue should be determined on the basis of this article which penalizes one who “make[s] an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.” The constitutive act of the offense is the making of an affidavit; thus, the criminal act is consummated when the statement containing a falsity is subscribed and sworn before a duly authorized person.  

  Based on these considerations, we hold that our ruling in Sy Tiong is more in accord with Article 183 of the RPC and Section 15(a), Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. To reiterate for the guidance of the Bar and the Bench, the crime of perjury committed through the making of a false affidavit under Article 183 of the RPC is committed at the time the affiant subscribes and swears to his or her affidavit since it is at that time that all the elements of the crime of perjury are executed.  When the crime is committed through false testimony under oath in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil, venue is at the place where the testimony under oath is given.  If in lieu of or as supplement to the actual testimony made in a proceeding that is neither criminal nor civil, a written sworn statement is submitted, venue may either be at the place where the sworn statement is submitted or where the oath was taken as the taking of the oath and the submission are both material ingredients of the crime committed. In all cases, determination of venue shall be based on the acts alleged in the Information to be constitutive of the crime committed. 

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