What is punished in falsification of public documents? What are its elements?

The Information alleged that Guillergan committed falsification by making it appear in several public documents that P1,519,000.00 in AFP funds intended for the CIAs’ payroll were paid for that purpose when in truth these were just given to Rio, resulting in damage and prejudice to the government. Although the charge was estafa in relation to Article 171 of the RPC, the facts alleged in the information sufficiently made out a case for violation of Article 172 of which Guillergan was convicted.  What is important is that the Information described the latter offense intelligibly and with reasonable certainty, enabling Guillergan to understand the charge against him and suitably prepare his defense.[15]

          What is punished in falsification of a public document is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of the truth as solemnly proclaimed in it.[16] Generally, the elements of Article 171 are: 1) the offender is a public officer, employee, or notary public; 2) he takes advantage of his official position; and 3) that he falsifies a document by committing any of the ways it is done.[17]

          On the other hand, the elements of falsification of documents under paragraph 1, Article 172 are: 1) the offender is a private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his official position; 2) the offender committed any of the acts of falsification enumerated in Article 171; [18] and 3) the falsification was committed in a public or official or commercial document.[19] All of the foregoing elements of Article 172 are present in this case.

          First. Guillergan was a public officer when he committed the offense charged. He was the comptroller to the PC/INP Command in Region 6. While the Information said that he took advantage of his position in committing the crime, the Sandiganbayan found that his work as comptroller did not include the preparation of the appointments and payrolls of CIAs.  Nor did he have official custody of the pertinent documents.[20]   His official function was limited to keeping the records of the resources that the command received from Camp Crame.[21] Still, he took the liberty of intervening in the preparation of the time record, book, and payrolls in question.

          Second. The Information alleged that Guillergan committed the offense charged by “causing it to appear that persons participated in an act or a proceeding when they did not in fact so participate.”[22] In People v. Yanson-Dumancas,[23] the Court held that a person may induce another to commit a crime in two ways: 1) by giving a price or offering a reward or promise; and 2) by using words of command. In this case, the Sandiganbayan found that Guillergan ordered Butcon to sign the “receive” portion of the payrolls as payee to make it appear that persons whose names appeared on the same had signed the document when they in fact did not.[24]

          Third. There is no dispute that the falsification was committed on the time record, book, and payrolls which were public documents.

          What is more, given that some of the essential elements of Article 171 constitute the lesser offense of falsification of public documents under Article 172, then the allegations in the Information were sufficient to hold Guillergan liable under Article 172.

          As a rule, the Court regards as conclusive on it the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan unless these fall under certain established exceptions.[25] Since none of those exceptions can be identified in this case, the Court must accord respect and weight to the Sandiganbayan’s findings.  It had the better opportunity to examine and evaluate the evidence presented before it.[26] As aptly pointed out by the Sandiganbayan, to wit:

            There are tell-tales signs that the agents listed on the payrolls did not receive their salaries. First, x x x Guillergan declared that he personally turned over the entire amount of [P1,519,000.00] to Gen. Rio. Second, Butcon’s narration that he was instructed by Guillergan, to [affix his] initial at the receive portion of the payrolls. Lastly, according to the records of the case, the office of Guillergan had no business in processing the payroll of these personnel. x x x

            Additionally, the appointment papers from which these payrolls were based do not reveal any information about the acceptance of the appointments by the agents. In a letter dated April 14, 1989 of the Anti-Graft Board of the Armed forces of the Philippines x x x [to Ombudsman Vasquez], it was stated that the appointment papers of the agents “must” be accompanied by the acceptance of the agents. These papers “should ordinarily” be attached to the payrolls for proper clearing purposes. Since there were no acceptance papers presented, it only suggests that the lists on the payrolls are names of ghost agents. Even more, the board made a comment that x x x Guillergan denies knowledge of the persons appointed even if he certified to the correctness of the payrolls.

         The only conclusion x x x is the deliberate falsification of the payrolls; causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate.[27]

          The Court finds no error in the decision of the Sandiganbayan that found Guillergan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Falsification of Public Documents under Article 172 of the RPC.


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About Erineus

Ernesto O. Bendita. Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Criminal Law, Falsification of Public Document, Question and Answers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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