Wednesday, February 29, 2012
MANILA, Philippines, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A judge who says he is a homosexual shouldn't be presumed to be dishonest, the Philippine Supreme Court determined.
The Supreme Court dismissed administrative cases of immorality and dishonesty filed against Eliseo Campos, a retired municipal court judge in Bayugan City by his estranged wife and son, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
The court ruled, however, that Campos was guilty of misconduct for registering his then-minor son as the owner of a piece of property that was part of couple's separation and annulment cases.
The cases arise from an annulment petition filed by Campos in July 2008, a year before he retired. He said he was homosexual. He said his wife had affairs with other men that he neither stopped nor questioned, the Inquirer said.
His wife denied the accusations and said the judge wanted the marriage annulled to pursue marriage with another woman. She opposed the annulment and filed for a legal separation instead.
The high tribunal affirmed an investigating judge's findings that there was no proof that Campos had a relationship with another woman or was immoral because he was a homosexual.
"With respect to respondent's alleged homosexuality, such issue is for the determination of the trial court wherein the [annulment case] is pending. Thus, we also agree in absolving [him] from the charge of dishonesty," the opinion said. "The fact that [he] got married and had children is not proof against his claim of homosexuality. As pointed out, it is possible that [he] was only suppressing or hiding his true sexuality."
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/02/27/Ruling-Judges-homosexuality-not-immoral/UPI-30971330351134/#ixzz1njhi5ITb
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
On April 8, 2010[,] Republic Act No. 10071[,] otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening and Rationalizing the National Prosecution Service[,]” was signed into law. It took effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in the Philippine Star on May 13, 2010. Under Section 16 thereof, it provides the qualifications, ranks and appointments of prosecutors and other prosecution offices, as follows:
“Sec. 16. Qualifications, Ranks and Appointments of Prosecutors and other Prosecution Officers. – x x x
Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor IV shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, prerogatives, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions, and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Regional Trial Court.
Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor III shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, privileges, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court.
Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor II shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, privileges, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in cities.
Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor I shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, privileges, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in municipalities.”
In relation to the above, Section 24 of the aforesaid Law reads:
“Sec. 24. Retroactivity – The benefits mentioned in Section[s] 14 and 16 hereof shall be granted to those who retired prior to the effectivity of this Act.”(underscoring supplied)
Prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 10071, Assistant Provincial Fiscals do not enjoy the same qualifications for appointment, rank and privileges as those of a Judge. While the law provided for a retroactive application specifically for the benefits under Sections 14 and 16 as mentioned above, the same are granted only to those who retired prior to the effectivity of R.A. [No.] 10071, which does not apply to the case of Justice [Guevara]-Salonga.
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The petitioner raises the sole issue of whether the CA committed a reversible error in affirming the judgment of the RTC finding her guilty of estafa beyond reasonable doubt.
The petitioner prays for her acquittal for the prosecution’s failure to prove the element of deceit. She argues that her actions prior to, during and after the filing of theestafa case against her negated deceit, ill-motive and/or bad faith to abscond with her obligation to the private complainant. She cites the cases of People v. Singson andPeople v. Ojeda where the Court acquitted the accused for the failure of the prosecution to prove the element of deceit.
The Court’s Ruling
Except for the penalty imposed, we find no reversible error in the CA’s decision.
First, the offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of confidence or (b) means of deceit. The acts constituting estafa committed with abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which is a usual element in the other estafas. In this case, the charge against the petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafacommitted by abuse of confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with.
Second, the cases cited by the petitioner are inapplicable. Our pronouncements inSingson and Ojeda apply to estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) where the element of deceit was necessary to be proven.
Nevertheless, we find the modification of the penalty imposed to be in order to conform to the prevailing jurisprudence. The second paragraph of Article 315 provides the appropriate penalty if the value of the thing, or the amount defrauded, exceeds
1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years.
The minimum term of imprisonment imposed by the CA and the RTC does not conform with the Court’s ruling in People v. Temporada, where we held that the minimum indeterminate penalty in the above provision shall be one degree lower from theprescribed penalty for estafa which is anywhere within the range of prision correccional,in its minimum and medium periods, or six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2) months. In this case, the minimum term imposed by the CA and the RTC ofsix (6) years and six (6) months of prision mayor is modified to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, consistent with the prevailing jurisprudence.
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Only government, thru OSG, upon recommendation of Director of Lands, may bring action for REVERSION of free patent fraudulently issued.
A fraudulently acquired free patent may only be assailed by the government in an action for reversion.
Nonetheless, a free patent that was fraudulently acquired, and the certificate of title issued pursuant to the same, may only be assailed by the government in an action for reversion pursuant to Section 101 of the Public Land Act. In Sherwill Development Corporation v. Sitio Sto. Niño Residents Association, Inc., this Court pointed out that:
It is also to the public interest that one who succeeds in fraudulently acquiring title to a public land should not be allowed to benefit therefrom, and the State should, therefore, have an even existing authority, thru its duly-authorized officers, to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the issuance of any such title, to the end that the Republic, thru the Solicitor General or any other officer who may be authorized by law, may file the corresponding action for the reversion of the land involved to the public domain, subject thereafter to disposal to other qualified persons in accordance with law. In other words, the indefeasibility of a title over land previously public is not a bar to an investigation by the Director of Lands as to how such title has been acquired, if the purpose of such investigation is to determine whether or not fraud had been committed in securing such title in order that the appropriate action for reversion may be filed by the Government.
In Kayaban, et al. v. Republic, et al., this Court explained the reason for the rule that only the government, through the OSG, upon the recommendation of the Director of Lands, may bring an action assailing a certificate of title issued pursuant to a fraudulently acquired free patent:
Since it was the Director of Lands who processed and approved the applications of the appellants and who ordered the issuance of the corresponding free patents in their favor in his capacity as administrator of the disposable lands of the public domain, the action for annulment should have been initiated by him, or at least with his prior authority and consent.
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A Free Patent may be issued where the applicant is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines; is not the owner of more than twelve (12) hectares of land; has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public land subject to disposition, for at least 30 years prior to the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6940; and has paid the real taxes thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person.
Once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title is issued, the land covered thereby ceases to be part of public domain and becomes private property, and the Torrens Title issued pursuant to the patent becomes indefeasible upon the expiration of one year from the date of such issuance. However, a title emanating from a free patent which was secured through fraud does not become indefeasible, precisely because the patent from whence the title sprung is itself void and of no effect whatsoever.
On this point, our ruling in Republic v. Heirs of Felipe Alejaga, Sr. is instructive:
True, once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title [is] issued, the land covered by them ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private property. Further, the Torrens Title issued pursuant to the patent becomes indefeasible a year after the issuance of the latter. However, this indefeasibility of a title does not attach to titles secured by fraud and misrepresentation. Well-settled is the doctrine that the registration of a patent under the Torrens System does not by itself vest title; it merely confirms the registrant’s already existing one. Verily, registration under the Torrens System is not a mode of acquiring ownership. (citations omitted)
x x x."
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