Cases on Disqualification (Sec 40) | Probation | Crimes

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  G.R. No. 121592 July 5, 1996ROLANDO P. DELA TORRE vs. COMELEC and MARCIAL VILLANUEVA Petitioner Rolando P. Dela Torre via the instant petition for  certiorari seeks the nullification of two resolutionsissued by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) allegedly with grave abuse of discretion amounting tolack of jurisdiction in SPA No. 95-047, a case for disqualification filed against petitioner before theCOMELEC.The first assailed resolution dated May 6, 1995 declared the petitioner disqualified from running for the positionof Mayor of Cavinti, Laguna in the last May 8, 1995 elections, citing as the ground therefor, Section 40(a) of Republic Act No. 7160 (the Local Government Code of 1991) 2 which provides as follows:Sec. 40.  Disqualifications . The following persons are disqualified from running for any elective local position:(a) Those sentenced by final judgment for an offense involving moral turpitude or for an offense punishable byone (1) year or more of imprisonment within two (2) years after serving sentence;In disqualifying the petitioner, the COMELEC held that:Documentary evidence . . . established that herein respondent (petitioner in this case) was found guilty by theMunicipal Trial Court, . . . in Criminal Case No. 14723 for violation of P.D. 1612, (otherwise known as theAnti-fencing Law) in a Decision dated June 1, 1990. Respondent appealed the said conviction with the RegionalTrial Court . . . , which however, affirmed respondent's conviction in a Decision dated November 14, 1990.Respondent's conviction became final on January 18, 1991.. . . , there exists legal grounds to disqualify respondent as candidate for Mayor of Cavinti, Laguna this comingelections. Although there is dearth of jurisprudence involving violation of the Anti-Fencing Law of 1979 or P.D. 1612 . . . , the nature of the offense under P.D. 1612 with which respondent was convicted certainlyinvolves moral turpitude . . . . 3 The second assailed resolution, dated August 28, 1995, denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration. In saidmotion, petitioner claimed that Section 40 (a) of the Local Government Code does not apply to his caseinasmuch as the probation granted him by the MTC on December 21, 1994 which suspended the execution of the judgment of conviction and all other legal consequences flowing therefrom, rendered inapplicable Section40 (a) as well. 4 The two (2) issues to be resolved are:1. Whether or not the crime of fencing involves moral turpitude.2. Whether or not a grant of probation affects Section 40 (a)'s applicability.Particularly involved in the first issue is the first of two instances contemplated in Section 40 (a) when prior conviction of a crime becomes a ground for disqualification —  i . e ., when the conviction by final judgment is for an offense involving moral turpitude . And in this connection, the Court has consistently adopted thedefinition in Black's Law Dictionary of moral turpitude as:  . . . an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow men, or tosociety in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. 5  Not every criminal act, however, involves moral turpitude. It is for this reason that as to what crime involvesmoral turpitude, is for the Supreme Court to determine . 6 In resolving the foregoing question, the Court isguided by one of the general rules that crimes mala in se involve moral turpitude, while crimes mala prohibita  do not 7 , the rationale of which was set forth in Zari v. Flores, 8 to wit:It (moral turpitude) implies something immoral in itself, regardless of the fact that it is punishable by law or not.It must not be merely mala prohibita , but the act itself must be inherently immoral. The doing of the act itself,and not its prohibition by statute fixes the moral turpitude. Moral turpitude does not, however, include such actsas are not of themselves immoral but whose illegality lies in their being positively prohibited. 9 This guidelines nonetheless proved short of providing a clear-cut solution, for in International Rice ResearchInstitute v. NLRC, 10 the Court admitted that it cannot always be ascertained whether moral turpitude does or does not exist by merely classifying a crime as malum in se or as malum prohibitum . There are crimes which are mala in se and yet but rarely involve moral turpitude and there are crimes which involve moral turpitude and are mala prohibita only. In the final analysis, whether or not a crime involves moral turpitude is ultimately aquestion of fact and frequently depends on all the circumstances surrounding the violation of the statue. 11 The Court in this case shall nonetheless dispense with a review of the facts and circumstances surrounding thecommission of the crime, inasmuch as petitioner after all does not assail his conviction. Petitioner has in effectadmitted all the elements of the crime of fencing. At any rate, the determination of whether or not fencinginvolves moral turpitude can likewise be achieved by analyzing the elements alone.Fencing is defined in Section 2 of P.D. 1612 (Anti-Fencing Law) as:. . . . the act of any person who, with intent to gain for himself or for another, shall buy, receive, possess, keep,acquire, conceal, sell or dispose of, or shall buy and sell, or in any manner deal in any article, item, object or anything of value which he knows, or should be known to him, to have been derived from the proceeds of thecrime of robbery or theft. 12 From the foregoing definition may be gleaned the elements of the crime of fencing which are:1. A crime of robbery or theft has been committed;2. The accused who is not a principal or accomplice in the crime of robbery or theft, buys, receives, possesses,keeps, acquires, conceals, sells or disposes, or buys and sells, or in any manner deals in any article, item, objector anything of value, which have been derived from the proceeds of the said crime;3. The accused knows or should have known that the said article, item, object or anything of value has beenderived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft; and [Emphasis supplied.]4. There is, on the part of the accused, intent to gain for himself or for another. 13 Moral turpitude is deducible from the third element. Actual knowledge by the fence of the fact that propertyreceived is stolen displays the same degree of malicious deprivation of one's rightful property as that whichanimated the robbery or theft which, by their very nature, are crimes of moral turpitude. And although the participation of each felon in the unlawful taking differs in point in time and in degree, both the fence and the  actual perpetrator/s of the robbery or theft invaded one's peaceful dominion for gain — thus deliberatelyreneging in the process private duties   they owe their  fellowmen   or  society   in a manner contrary to . . . accepted and customary rule of right and duty . . . , justice , honesty . . . or good morals . The duty not toappropriate, or to return, anything acquired either by mistake or with malice is so basic it finds expression insome key provisions of the Civil Code on  Human Relations and Solutio Indebiti , to wit:Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice,give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnifythe latter for the same.Art. 21. Any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, goodcustoms or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.Art. 22. Everyone person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or comesinto possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return the same tohim.Art. 2154. If something is received when there is no right to demand it, and it was unduly delivered throughmistake, the obligation to return it arises.The same underlying reason holds even if the fence did not have actual knowledge, but merely  should haveknown the srcin of the property received. In this regard, the Court held:When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of the offense, such knowledge isestablished if a person is aware of the high probability of its existence unless he actually believes that it does notexist. On the other hand, the words should know denote the fact that a person of reasonable prudence and intelligence would ascertain the fact in the performance of his duty to another or would govern his conduct upon assumption that such fact exists . 14 [Emphasis supplied.]Verily, circumstances normally exist to forewarn, for instance, a reasonably vigilant buyer that the object of thesale may have been derived from the proceeds of robbery or theft. Such circumstances include the time and place of the sale, both of which may not be in accord with the usual practices of commerce. The nature andcondition of the goods sold, and the fact that the seller is not regularly engaged in the business of selling goodsmay likewise suggest the illegality of their source, and therefor should caution the buyer. This justifies the presumption found in Section 5 of P.D. No. 1612 that mere possession of any goods , . . . , object or anything of value which has been the subject of robbery or thievery shall be prima facie evidence of fencing  — a presumption that is, according to the Court, reasonable for no other natural or logical inference can arise from the established fact of  . . .  possession of the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft  . 15 All told, theCOMELEC did not err in disqualifying the petitioner on the ground that the offense of fencing of which he had been previously convicted by final judgment was one involving moral turpitude.Anent the second issue where petitioner contends that his probation had the effect of suspending theapplicability of Section 40 (a) of the Local Government Code, suffice it to say that the legal effect of probationis only to suspend the execution of the sentence. 16 Petitioner's conviction of fencing which we have heretoforedeclared as a crime of moral turpitude and thus falling squarely under the disqualification found in Section 40(a), subsists and remains totally unaffected notwithstanding the grant of probation. In fact, a judgment of conviction in a criminal case ipso facto attains finality when the accused applies for probation, although it is notexecutory pending resolution of the application for probation. 1 7 Clearly then, petitioner's theory has no merit.  ACCORDINGLY, the instant petition for  certiorari is hereby DISMISSED and the assailed resolutions of theCOMELEC dated May 6, 1995 and August 28, 1995 are AFFIRMED in toto .Salalima et al vs Guingona (GR 11589-92) – We agree with the petitioners that Governor Salalima could nolonger be held administratively liable in O.P. Case No. 5450 in connection with the negotiated contract enteredinto on 6 March 1992 with RYU Construction for additional rehabilitation work at the Tabaco PublicMarket. Nor could the petitioners be held administratively liable in O.P. Case No. 5469 for the execution in November 1989 of the retainer contract with Atty. Jesus Cornago and the Cortes and Reyna Law Firm. This isso because public officials cannot be subject to disciplinary action for administrative misconductcommitted during a prior term. The underlying theory is that each term is separate from other terms, and thatthe reelection to office operates as a condonation of the officer’s previous misconduct to the extent of cuttingoff the right to remove him therefor. Such a rule is not only founded on the theory that an official’s reelectionexpresses the sovereign will of the electorate to forgive or condone any act or omission constituting a groundfor administrative discipline which was committed during his previous term. We may add that sound public policy dictates it. To rule otherwise would open the floodgates to exacerbating endless partisan contests between the reelected official and his political enemies, who may not stop to hound the former during his newterm with administrative cases for acts, alleged to have been committed during his previous term. His secondterm may thus be devoted to defending himself in the said cases to the detriment of public service. This doctrine of forgiveness or condonation cannot, however, apply to criminal acts which the reelected officialmay have committed during his previous term.
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