Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

SECOND DIVISION

 

MARK SOLEDAD y CRISTOBAL,

Petitioner,

 

 

 

 

- versus -

 

 

 

 

 

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Respondent.

G.R. No. 184274

 

Present:

 

CARPIO, J.,

Chairperson,

VELASCO, JR.,*

NACHURA,

ABAD, and

MENDOZA, JJ.

 

Promulgated:

 

February 23, 2011

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

 

DECISION

 

NACHURA, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to reverse and set aside the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[1] dated June 18, 2008 and Resolution[2] dated August 22, 2008 in CA-G.R. CR. No. 30603. The assailed Decision affirmed with modification the September 27, 2006 decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 202, Las Pias City, finding petitioner Mark C. Soledad guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 9(e), Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8484, or the Access Devices Regulations Act of 1998; while the assailed Resolution denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.

 

The facts of the case, as narrated by the CA, are as follows:

 

Sometime in June 2004, private complainant Henry C. Yu received a call on his mobile phone from a certain Tess or Juliet Villar (later identified as Rochelle Bagaporo), a credit card agent, who offered a Citifinancing loan assistance at a low interest rate. Enticed by the offer, private complainant invited Rochelle Bagaporo to go to his office in Quezon City. While in his office, Rochelle Bagaporo indorsed private complainant to her immediate boss, a certain Arthur [later identified as petitioner]. In their telephone conversation, [petitioner] told private complainant to submit documents to a certain Carlo (later identified as Ronald Gobenchiong). Private complainant submitted various documents, such as his Globe handyphone original platinum gold card, identification cards and statements of accounts. Subsequently, private complainant followed up his loan status but he failed to get in touch with either [petitioner] or Ronald Gobenchiong.

 

During the first week of August 2004, private complainant received his Globe handyphone statement of account wherein he was charged for two (2) mobile phone numbers which were not his. Upon verification with the phone company, private complainant learned that he had additional five (5) mobile numbers in his name, and the application for said cellular phone lines bore the picture of [petitioner] and his forged signature. Private complainant also checked with credit card companies and learned that his Citibank Credit Card database information was altered and he had a credit card application with Metrobank Card Corporation (Metrobank).

 

Thereafter, private complainant and Metrobanks junior assistant manager Jefferson Devilleres lodged a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which conducted an entrapment operation.

 

During the entrapment operation, NBIs Special Investigator (SI) Salvador Arteche [Arteche], together with some other NBI operatives, arrived in Las Pias around 5:00 P.M. [Arteche] posed as the delivery boy of the Metrobank credit card. Upon reaching the address written on the delivery receipt, [Arteche] asked for Henry Yu. [Petitioner] responded that he was Henry Yu and presented to [Arteche] two (2) identification cards which bore the name and signature of private complainant, while the picture showed the face of [petitioner]. [Petitioner] signed the delivery receipt. Thereupon, [Arteche] introduced himself as an NBI operative and apprehended [petitioner]. [Arteche] recovered from [petitioner] the two (2) identification cards he presented to [Arteche] earlier.[4]

 

 

Petitioner was thus charged with Violation of Section 9(e), R.A. No. 8484 for possessing a counterfeit access device or access device fraudulently applied for. The accusatory portion of the Information reads:

 

That on or about the 13th day of August 2004, or prior thereto, in the City of Las Pias, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating with certain Rochelle Bagaporo a.k.a. Juliet Villar/Tess and a certain Ronald Gobenciong a.k.a. Carlo and all of them mutually helping and aiding each other, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud complainant HENRY YU by applying a credit card, an access device defined under R.A. 8484, from METROBANK CARD CORPORATION, using the name of complainant Henry C. Yu and his personal documents fraudulently obtained from him, and which credit card in the name of Henry Yu was successfully issued and delivered to said accused using a fictitious identity and addresses of Henry Yu, to the damage and prejudice of the real Henry Yu.

 

CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]

 

Upon arraignment, petitioner pleaded not guilty. Trial on the merits ensued. After the presentation of the evidence for the prosecution, petitioner filed a Demurrer to Evidence, alleging that he was not in physical and legal possession of the credit card presented and marked in evidence by the prosecution. In an Order dated May 2, 2006, the RTC denied the Demurrer to Evidence as it preferred to rule on the merits of the case.[6]

 

On September 27, 2006, the RTC rendered a decision finding petitioner guilty as charged, the dispositive portion of which reads:

 

In the light of the foregoing, the Court finds accused Mark Soledad y Cristobal a.k.a. Henry Yu, Arthur GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 9(e), Republic Act 8484 (Access Device Regulation Act of 1998). Accordingly, pursuant to Section 10 of Republic Act 8484 and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer an imprisonment penalty of six (6) years of prision correccional, as minimum, to not more than ten (10) years of prision mayor, as maximum. Further, accused is also ordered to pay a fine of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) for the offense committed.

 

SO ORDERED.[7]

 

 

On appeal, the CA affirmed petitioners conviction, but modified the penalty imposed by the RTC by deleting the terms prision correccional and prision mayor.

 

Hence, this petition raising the following issues:

 

(1)       Whether or not the Information is valid;

 

(2)       Whether or not the Information charges an offense, or the offense petitioner was found guilty of;

 

(3)       Whether or not petitioner was sufficiently informed of the nature of the accusations against him;

 

(4)       Whether or not petitioner was legally in possession of the credit card subject of the case.[8]

The petition is without merit.

 

Petitioner was charged with Violation of R.A. No. 8484, specifically Section 9(e), which reads as follows:

Section 9. Prohibited Acts. The following acts shall constitute access device fraud and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

 

x x x x

 

 

(e) possessing one or more counterfeit access devices or access devices fraudulently applied for.

Petitioner assails the validity of the Information and claims that he was not informed of the accusation against him. He explains that though he was charged with possession of an access device fraudulently applied for, the act of possession, which is the gravamen of the offense, was not alleged in the Information.

 

We do not agree.

 

Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure lays down the guidelines in determining the sufficiency of a complaint or information. It states:

 

SEC. 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information. A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was committed.

 

 

In the Information filed before the RTC, it was clearly stated that the accused is petitioner Mark Soledad y Cristobal a.k.a. Henry Yu/Arthur. It was also specified in the preamble of the Information that he was being charged with Violation of R.A. No. 8484, Section 9(e) for possessing a counterfeit access device or access device fraudulently applied for. In the accusatory portion thereof, the acts constituting the offense were clearly narrated in that [petitioner], together with other persons[,] willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defrauded private complainant by applying [for] a credit card, an access device defined under R.A. [No.] 8484, from Metrobank Card Corporation, using the name of complainant Henry C. Yu and his personal documents fraudulently obtained from him, and which credit card in the name of Henry Yu was successfully issued, and delivered to said accused using a fictitious identity and addresses of Henry Yu, to the damage and prejudice of the real Henry Yu. Moreover, it was identified that the offended party was private complainant Henry Yu and the crime was committed on or about the 13th day of August 2004 in the City of Las Pias. Undoubtedly, the Information contained all the necessary details of the offense committed, sufficient to apprise petitioner of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. As aptly argued by respondent People of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, although the word possession was not used in the accusatory portion of the Information, the word possessing appeared in its preamble or the first paragraph thereof. Thus, contrary to petitioners contention, he was apprised that he was being charged with violation of R.A. No. 8484, specifically section 9(e) thereof, for possession of the credit card fraudulently applied for.

 

The Courts discussion in People v. Villanueva[9] on the relationship between the preamble and the accusatory portion of the Information is noteworthy, and we quote:

 

The preamble or opening paragraph should not be treated as a mere aggroupment of descriptive words and phrases. It is as much an essential part [of] the Information as the accusatory paragraph itself. The preamble in fact complements the accusatory paragraph which draws its strength from the preamble. It lays down the predicate for the charge in general terms; while the accusatory portion only provides the necessary details. The preamble and the accusatory paragraph, together, form a complete whole that gives sense and meaning to the indictment. x x x.

 

x x x x

 

Moreover, the opening paragraph bears the operative word accuses, which sets in motion the constitutional process of notification, and formally makes the person being charged with the commission of the offense an accused. Verily, without the opening paragraph, the accusatory portion would be nothing but a useless and miserably incomplete narration of facts, and the entire Information would be a functionally sterile charge sheet; thus making it impossible for the state to prove its case.

 

The Information sheet must be considered, not by sections or parts, but as one whole document serving one purpose, i.e., to inform the accused why the full panoply of state authority is being marshaled against him. Our task is not to determine whether allegations in an indictment could have been more artfully and exactly written, but solely to ensure that the constitutional requirement of notice has been fulfilled x x x.[10]

Besides, even if the word possession was not repeated in the accusatory portion of the Information, the acts constituting it were clearly described in the statement [that the] credit card in the name of Henry Yu was successfully issued, and delivered to said accused using a fictitious identity and addresses of Henry Yu, to the damage and prejudice of the real Henry Yu. Without a doubt, petitioner was given the necessary data as to why he was being prosecuted.

 

Now on the sufficiency of evidence leading to his conviction.

 

Petitioner avers that he was never in possession of the subject credit card because he was arrested immediately after signing the acknowledgement receipt. Thus, he did not yet know the contents of the envelope delivered and had no control over the subject credit card.[11]

 

Again, we find no value in petitioners argument.

 

The trial court convicted petitioner of possession of the credit card fraudulently applied for, penalized by R.A. No. 8484. The law, however, does not define the word possession. Thus, we use the term as defined in Article 523 of the Civil Code, that is, possession is the holding of a thing or the enjoyment of a right. The acquisition of possession involves two elements: the corpus or the material holding of the thing, and the animus possidendi or the intent to possess it.[12] Animus possidendi is a state of mind, the presence or determination of which is largely dependent on attendant events in each case. It may be inferred from the prior or contemporaneous acts of the accused, as well as the surrounding circumstances.[13]

 

In this case, prior to the commission of the crime, petitioner fraudulently obtained from private complainant various documents showing the latters identity. He, thereafter, obtained cellular phones using private complainants identity. Undaunted, he fraudulently applied for a credit card under the name and personal circumstances of private complainant. Upon the delivery of the credit card applied for, the messenger (an NBI agent) required two valid identification cards. Petitioner thus showed two identification cards with his picture on them, but bearing the name and forged signature of private complainant. As evidence of the receipt of the envelope delivered, petitioner signed the acknowledgment receipt shown by the messenger, indicating therein that the content of the envelope was the Metrobank credit card.

 

Petitioner materially held the envelope containing the credit card with the intent to possess. Contrary to petitioners contention that the credit card never came into his possession because it was only delivered to him, the above narration shows that he, in fact, did an active part in acquiring possession by presenting the identification cards purportedly showing his identity as Henry Yu. Certainly, he had the intention to possess the same. Had he not actively participated, the envelope would not have been given to him. Moreover, his signature on the acknowledgment receipt indicates that there was delivery and that possession was transferred to him as the recipient. Undoubtedly, petitioner knew that the envelope contained the Metrobank credit card, as clearly indicated in the acknowledgment receipt, coupled with the fact that he applied for it using the identity of private complainant.

 

Lastly, we find no reason to alter the penalty imposed by the RTC as modified by the CA. Section 10 of R.A. No. 8484 prescribes the penalty of imprisonment for not less than six (6) years and not more than ten (10) years, and a fine of P10,000.00 or twice the value of the access device obtained, whichever is greater. Thus, the CA aptly affirmed the imposition of the indeterminate penalty of six years to not more than ten years imprisonment, and a fine of P10,000.00.

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Court of Appeals Decision dated June 18, 2008 and Resolution dated August 22, 2008 in CA-G.R. CR. No. 30603 are AFFIRMED.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

 

 

 

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

A T T E S T A T I O N

 

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Chairperson, Second Division

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

 

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 



* Additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro per Special Order No. 949 dated February 11, 2011.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, with Associate Justices Edgardo P. Cruz and Ricardo R. Rosario, concurring; rollo, pp. 52-68.

[2] Id. at 71.

[3] Penned by Judge Elizabeth Yu Guray; id. at 33-47.

[4] Id. at 53-54.

[5] Id. at 33.

[6] Id. at 40.

[7] Id. at 47.

[8] Id. at 16.

[9] 459 Phil. 856 (2003).

[10] Id. at 870-871.

[11] Rollo, pp. 17-26.

[12] Arturo M. Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, Vol. Two, p. 229.

[13] People v. Esparas, 354 Phil. 342, 354-355 (1998); People v. Lian, 325 Phil 881, 889 (1996).