People of the Philippines v. Owen Marcelo Cagalingan and Beatriz B. Cagalingan
GR No. 198664
November 23, 2016
Spouses Cagalingan were charged with the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale and three (3) counts of estafa. It was alleged that the accused spouses represented themselves to have the capacity to hire and transport Filipino workers for employment in Macau, China which prompted the private complainants to shell out money as payment for placement fee. On different occasions, private complainants were recruited by the accused spouses to work abroad for a fee.
Accused denied the charges against them. They argued that they neither recruited nor promised the private complainants any work in Macau stating that it was very difficult to find work therein. They likewise denied having received any money.
After the trial, the RTC convicted the accused of the crimes charged. The CA affirmed the convictions of the accused spouses. Hence, this instant petition.
Whether or not the CA gravely erred in affirming the decision of the RTC finding the accused spouses guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged.
No. All the elements for illegal recruitment and estafa were properly established during trial. The defense of the accused was merely alibi and denial. The courts, trial as well as appellate, have generally viewed denial in criminal cases with considerable caution, if not outright rejection. The dismissive judicial attitude comes from the recognition that denial is inherently weak and unreliable by virtue of its being an excuse too easy and too convenient for the guilty to make. Denial, to be worthy of consideration at all, should be substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.
Illegal Recruitment. Any recruitment activities, including the prohibited practices enumerated under Article 34 of the Labor Code, to be undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority, shall be deemed illegal and punishable under Article 39 of the Labor Code.
Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale. To constitute illegal recruitment in large scale, three elements must concur: (a) the offender has no valid license or authority required by law to enable him to lawfully engage in recruitment and placement of workers; (b) the offender undertakes any of the activities within the meaning of “recruitment and placement” under Article 13(b) of the Labor Code, or any of the prohibited practices enumerated under Article 34 of the same Code (now Section 6 of Republic Act No. 8042); and (c) the offender committed the same against three (3) or more persons, individually or as a group.
The number of offenders is not material in illegal recruitment in large scale. It may be committed by only one (1) person.
Alibi and denial, as a defense. Denial, like alibi, is inherently a weak defense and it is not at all persuasive. The courts – trial as well as appellate – have generally viewed denial in criminal cases with considerable caution, if not outright rejection. The dismissive judicial attitude comes from the recognition that denial is inherently weak and unreliable by virtue of its being an excuse too easy and too convenient for the guilty to make. Denial, to be worthy of consideration at all, should be substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.
Estafa. There are three ways of committing estafa under Article 315 (a) of the Revised Penal Code: (1) by using a fictitious name; (2) by falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions; and (3) by means of other similar deceits. Under this class of estafa, the element of deceit is indispensable. Likewise, it is essential that the false statement or fraudulent representation constitutes the very cause or the only motive which induces the complainant to part with the thing of value.
Findings of the RTC and CA are accorded respect. The findings of the CA, which affirmed those of the RTC as the trial court, are binding on the Court. This is because the RTC has the unique advantage to observe the witnesses’ demeanor while testifying, and the personal opportunity to test the accuracy and reliability of their recollections of past events, both of which are very decisive in a litigation. The Court may revise such findings in its rare and extraordinary role of a trier of facts only when the appellants convincingly demonstrate that such findings are either erroneous, or biased, or unfounded, or incomplete, or unreliable, or conflicted with the findings of fact of the CA.
Mere impression is sufficient to constitute illegal recruitment. To convict a person for illegal recruitment, it suffices to show that he gave the victim the distinct impression that he had the power or ability to send him abroad for work such that the latter was convinced to part with his money in order to be employed.
Mere promise of employment abroad amounts to recruitment. To be engaged in the practice of recruitment and placement, it is plain that there must, at least, be a promise or an offer of employment from the person posing as a recruiter whether locally or abroad.
Illegal Recruitment, no bar to filing of estafa. In cases where swindling or estafa is committed in the process of illegal recruitment, conviction under the Labor Code, a special law, does not preclude punishment therefor under the Revised Penal Code, a general law. The reason is not hard to discern: illegal recruitment is malum prohibitum, while estafa is malum in se.
Vogue Vernal Orcullo is a Certified Public Accountant by profession and a 5th year law student of MSU Law – Iligan Campus. He used to teach Accounting subjects at Saint Michael’s College before finally settling into a full-time law student on his graduating year. He enjoys the study of law the same way that he goes crazy about Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic. He was an interim EIC of The Nexus before taking post as an Associate Editor while serving as the Supreme Law Student Council (SLSC) President. Currently, he gives webinars on labor laws so that employees would know about their rights. Surely, this man doesn’t know when to stop even when his plate is already full.