Criminal Law

People of the Philippines v Antonio P Belicena and 5 Others, and 5 Other Appeals

Citation: Crim Case Nos. SB-13-CRM-0096 to 0101; Date of Judgment: 25 March 2019; Name of Court: Sandiganbayan; Source: Sandiganbayan

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

Sandiganbayan, Quezon City

SEVENTH DIVISION

Crim. Case No. SB-13-CRM-0096

For: Violation of Sec. 3(e), R.A. No. 3019

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES … Plaintiff

versus

ANTONIO P. BELICENA, ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN, JR., RAUL CLAUREN DE VERA, BRANDY LOPEZ MARZAN, HONORATO LACSINA, and JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE … Accused

Crim. Case No. SB-13-CRM-0097

For: Violation of Sec. 3(e), R.A. No. 3019

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES … Plaintiff

versus

ANTONIO P. BELICENA, ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN, JR., RAUL CLAUREN DE VERA, ROSANNA P. DIALA, HONORATO LACSINA, and JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE … Accused

Crim. Case No. SB-13-CRM-0098

For: Violation of Sec. 3(e), R.A. No. 3019

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES … Plaintiff

versus

ANTONIO P. BELICENA ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN, JR. RAUL CLAUREN DE VERA, ROSANNA P. DIALA, HONORATO LACSINA, and JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE … Accused

Crim. Case No. SB-13-CRM-0099

For: Estafa thru Falsification of Official/Public Documents

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES ... Plaintiff

versus

ANTONIO P. BELICENA, ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN, JR., RAUL CLAUREN DE VERA, ROSANNA P. DIALA, HONORATO LACSINA, and JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE … Accused

Crim. Case No. SB-13-CRM-0100

For: Estafa thru Falsification of Official/Public Documents

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES … Plaintiff

versus

ANTONIO P. BELICENA, ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN, JR., RAUL CLAUREN DE VERA, ROSANNA P. DIALA, HONORATO LACSINA, and JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE … Accused

Crim. Case No. SB-13-CRM-0101

For: Estafa thru Falsification of Official/Public Documents

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES … Plaintiff

versus

ANTONIO P. BELICENA, ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN, JR., RAUL CLAUREN DE VERA, BRANDY LOPEZ MARZAN, HONORATO LACSINA, and JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE … Accused

PRESENT: GOMEZ-ESTOESTA, J, CHAIRPERSON; TRESPESES, J AND HIDALGO, J

Promulgated: March 25, 2019

RESOLUTION

HIDALGO, J:

Submitted for resolution are the following:

(1) Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Raul C. De Vera (accused De Vera) and Rosanna P. Diala (accused Diala) dated December 3, 20181; and,

(2) Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Brandy L. Marzan (accused Marzan) dated January 7,2019.2

Arguments offered by accused De Vera, Diala and Marzan (collectively referred to herein as “accused”) in support of their Demurrer to Evidence

In sum, all accused raised the following arguments:

1. The prosecution failed to present any iota of proof in support of its allegations since it failed to file its Formal Offer of Evidence. Thus, there being no Formal Offer of Evidence, the prosecution’s evidence are purely hearsay and should be rejected by the Court.

2. The prosecution failed to rebut the constitutionally enshrined presumption of innocense

3. The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses alone cannot be given full faith and credence.

Specific arguments in support of the Demurrer to Evidence

All three accused insisted that the filing of the Formal Offer of Evidence is not a trivial matter because of the legal sanction enunciated in the case of Constantino vs. Court of Appeals3 where the Supreme Court ruled that the formal offer of evidence is deemed waived after failing to submit it within the considerable period of time.

They added that, since the prosecution failed to file its formal offer of evidence after having been ordered to do so, the said failure shall now be considered as a waiver of its right to file the same. Further, they argued that the pieces of evidence adduced by the prosecution are nothing but hearsay evidence and therefore, no probative value can be given to them.

They likewise maintained that even if the prosecution’s documentary evidence were previously identified and marked, those pieces of evidence must still be excluded since they were not formally offered as evidence.

With respect to the testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution, they also averred that the same cannot also be given credit following the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Go vs. Court of Appeals4 saying that, documentary evidence pevails over testimonial evidence.

They further relied on the Resolution of this Court dated November 20, 2018, where this Court ruled that “while it is true that the prosecution was able to present testimonial evidence, the lack of documentary evidence to support the prosecution’s case is reason enough to grant leave to file Demurrer to Evidence.”

Taken altogether, all accused believe that consequently, the allegations hurled against them have no basis and therefore, the Court has no basis likewise in resolving the issues presented against them. In effect, accused asserted that, they are entitled to an acquittal.

This being the case, accused now invoke the provision of Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and reason out that, after the prosecution rests its case, the Court may dismiss the action on the ground of insufficiency of evidence, either on its own initiative after giving the prosecution the opprotunity to be heard or upon demurrer filed by the accused.

THE CASE

In six (6) Informations,5 accused were charged with three (3) counts of Violation of Sec. 3(e), R.A. No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, docketed as Crim. Case Nos. SB-13-CRM-0096, SB-13-CRM-0097, and SB-13-CRM-0098; and three (3) counts of Estafa through Falsification of Official/ Public Documents under Art. 315 in relation to Art. 171 of the Revised Penal Code, docketed as Crim. Case Nos. SB-13-CRM-0099, SB-13-CRM-0100, and SB-13-CRM-0101.

Record shows that accused Marzan was arraigned on March 7, 2013, accused de Vera on January 16, 2014, accused Diala on February 4, 2014, and accused Andutan, Jr. on September 22, 2014.6 They all pleaded “not guilty” to the crimes charged. Proceedings for accused Belicena was, however, suspended on September 22, 2018 based on the medical report submitted by the National Center for Mental Health, finding him to be suffering from dementia and incompetent to stand court trial.7 Pre-trial Conference took place on June 18, 2013, July 2, 2013, February 27, 2014, April 23 and 24, 2014, June 13, 2014 and August 4, 2014.8 Thereafter, trial ensued.

EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PROSECUTION

The prosecution presented both testimonial and documentary evidence to substantiate its claim.

The following witnesses were presented:

COMMISSIONER ALAN VENTURA, 56 years old, married, Commissioner of the National Labor Relations Commission, PPSTA Building, Banawe Avenue, Quezon City, residing at 41 Reed Street, Filinvest East Homes, Antipolo City, Rizal.

He testified that prior to his appointment to his current position as Commissioner of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), he was the Executive Director of the Special Presidential Task Force 156 from the second quarter of 2001 until November 2004. That among his responsibilities are to investigate anomalies in the grant of tax credits and issuance of Tax Credit Certificates at the One Stop Shop Interagency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center at the Department of Finance committed from 1994 to 1998. His task also includes the [duty] to file corresponding cases with the Office of the Ombudsman, if warranted by evidence and to execute affidavit complaints.9

He continued to testify that based on their investigation, they found out that [accused] gave unwarranted benefits, advantage and/or preference to Liberty Transport (Liberty) in the issuance of Tax Credit Certificates and in the grant of tax credits to Liberty through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or at very least, gross inexcusable negligence.10

On the witness stand, he explained that accused Rosanna Diala (accused Diala), then a Senior Tax Specialist, evaluated the application for Tax Credit Certificate Nos. 9335 and 9932 of Liberty Transport, as complete and in order despite the apparent irregularities on the face of the supporting documents submitted.11

With respect to accused Brandy Marzan (accused Marzan), he testified that as then Senior Tax Specialist of the One Stop Shop Center and who was also tasked to verify the application for Tax Credit Certificate No. 9334 of Liberty whether or not the same is complete and in order, accused Marzan evaluated as complete and in order the application of Liberty Transport together with its supporting documents despite the apparent irregularities on its face.12

Accused Raul de Vera (accused de Vera), according to him, was the superior of accused Diala and the Head of the Division called the Net Local Content/ Net Value Earned and Domestic Capital Equipment. As such, his principal task was to review the Evaluation Report submitted by the Senior Tax Specialist, namely accsued Marzan and Diala. That after having reviewed the said Evaluation Reports, and despite the apparent irregularities of the supporting documents, he still forwarded the same for the final review and recommendation for approval by the Deputy Executive Director.13

He likewise described the liability of accused Uldarico P. Andutan, Jr., (accused Andutan, Jr.) as the Deputy Executive Director of the One Stop Shop. As such, accused de Vera submitted to him the Evaluation Reports. Thereafter, accused Andutan, Jr. recommended the approval of the Tax Credits in favor of Liberty Transport to Assistant Secretary Antonio P. Belicena, Jr. (accused Belicena).14

He explained that accused Belicena who was then the Acting Executive Director of the One Stop Shop, and in such capacity, approved and signed the Tax Credit Certificates of Liberty Transport and ordered the release of these Tax Credits Certificates.15

With respect to the participation of private individuals, namely Honorato Lacsina and Joseph Catobaje (accused Cabotaje), he stated that Honorato Lacsina (accused Lacsina) was the President of Liberty Transport while accused Cabotaje was the agent of Liberty Transport. The latter was the one who made representations with the One Stop Shop in so far as the Tax Credit Certificates are concerned. He emphasized that these individuals altered or caused the alteration of the supporting documents of Liberty Transport in its application for Tax Credits. He also said that these individuals connived and confederated with all accused in the eventual approval of the tax credit application.16

He also explained the process of investigation with respect to the questioned Tax Credit Certificates. His office requested the pertinent documents from the One Stop Shop Center that has custody of all the applications and supporting documents. Then he assigned the said case to his legal consultants who were tasked to investigate, evaluate, verify whether or not there existed an anomaly in the issuance of the questioned Tax Credit Certificates. After one (1) or two (2) months, an Investigation was submitted to him which was made the basis for the filing of this case.17

That after the Investigation Report was submitted to him, he validated it and made verifications and came out with a conclusion that indeed, Liberty Transport was not entitled to tax credits.

During the continuation of his direct examination and with respect to Tax Credit Certificate No. 9334, he stated that the One Stop Shop did not follow the prescribed procedure in applying for a tax credit certificate because when the Tax Credit Scam was discovered, a Special Presidential Task Force was created which investigated all the applications and it appeared that Liberty Transport represented that it purchased the buses from Phil Daewoo. That upon verification with Phil Daewoo, it was known that the latter sent a letter to the Task Force, informing it that the Sales Invoices and Delivery Receipts used by Liberty Transport were fabricated since although the eight (8) buses were purchased by Liberty Transport, they were covered by different Sales Invoices and Delivery Receipts.18 He further testified that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) wrote to the Task Force and said that the dates of the Official Receipts as well as the dates on the Certificate of Registration are different from the dates of the Official Receipts and Certificates of Registration submitted by Liberty Transport.19 In particular, the Certificate of Registration in possession of the LTO is dated August 9, 1996 while the document submitted by Liberty Transport is dated August 8, 1997.

Relative to Tax Credit Certificate No. 9335 (Exhibit “UUU”), he said that the One Stop Shop did not also follow the procedure on how Tax Credit Application is processed because it was approved despite the irregularities of the documents submitted by Liberty Transport particularly the Sales Invoices and Delivery Receipts of the eleven (11) buses.20 He also said that the person involved in the processing of this Tax Credit Certificate (Tax Credit Certificate No. 9335) was accused Lacsina who filed the Claimant’s Information Sheet and the same was processed and evaluated by accused Diala. The latter’s evaluation was reviewed by accused de Vera which was subsequently approved and recommended by accused Andutan, Jr. The approval caused the issuance of Tax Credit Certificate No. 9335 by accused Belicena.21 He explained that the Sales Invoices and Delivery Receipts attached to the application for Tax Credit Certificate No. 9335 contain irregularities. It was found out that, during the investigation made by the Task Force, the latter wrote a letter to Pilipinas Hino, the predecessor of Isuzu Philippines and found out that the eleven (11) buses allegedly purchased from Pilipinas Hino were no longer available because after a year or two from the time of purchase, said eleven (11) buses were repossessed by Pilipinas Hino on the ground that Liberty Transport was not able to pay in full the purchase price of said buses. He further explained that, nine (9) of the eleven (11) buses were sold by Pilipinas Hino to other customers as second hand and only two (2) buses remained in their possession. In sum, he testified that at the time Liberty Transport applied for Tax Credit Certificate No. 9335 in 1997, they were no longer the owner of said eleven (11) buses.22

In testifying that the LTO Registration submitted by Liberty Transport contains irregularities, he said that the significant data tampered by Liberty Transport is the Certificate of Initial Registration that was purchased from Pilipinas Hino. He explained that the Certificate of Registration stated that the eleven (11) buses were all purchased on December 2, 1997, when in fact, as per Certification by Pilipinas Hino, said buses were already repossessed wayback in January 1996.23

As to the allegation of tampered documensts submitted by Liberty Transport, he explained that, in a Letter-Reply (Exhibit U7), the LTO said that, some data on the documents submitted by Liberty Transport were tampered when compared to the documents that were found in their files and the same were put in a table24 (Exhibit B19). However, the said table was objected to by Atty. Marzan, because it was not offered and considering that it was prepared only after the witness testified about the Tax Credit Certificate No. 9334 25

During the hearing on August 18, 2016, this Court through then Chairperson Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo informed the prosecution that witness Alan Ventura died.26

FE SALVADOR OPINA, Filipino, 62 years old, widow, OIC of Land Transportation Office, Domestic Road, Pasay City, residing at Lot 1 Block 5, Second Street, BF Homes International, Las Pinas City.

She testified that she has been acting as OIC of the LTO in Pasay City since 1999 to present.27 In her capacity as such, her duties include the supervision of the registration of vehicles particularly the franchise from LTFRB which are for hire. That she also supervises the deposit of the registration fees, signs deposit slips, signs registration certificates and official receipts and lastly, answers queries from other agencies of the [government].28

In the course of her testimony, she identified a Certification dated March 2, 2000 addressed to one Alberto R. Salanga (Exhibit “VV”), a document showing that this is in reply to the inquiry made by Alberto Salanga, the Executive Committee Member of the Presidential Task Force 156, Office of the President.


1
Record, Vol. 4, pp. 305 to 311

2 Record, Vol. 4, pp. 319 to 325

3 G.R. No. 116018, November 13, 1996

4 G.R. No. 112550, February 5, 2001

5 Record, Vol. 4, pp. 1-24.

6 Record, Vol. 1, pp. 176-177, 340, 366-367; Vol. 2, pp. 334-335, respectively.

7 Record, Vol. 3, pp. 71-72.

8 Record, Vol. 2, p. 265.

9 TSN dated April 30, 2015, p. 8

10 TSN dated April 30, 2015, pp.7 to 8

11 TSN dated April 30, 2015, p. 12

12 TSN dated April 30, 2015, pp. 12 to 13

13 TSN dated April 30, 2015, pp. 13 to 14

14 id

15 id

16 TSN dated April 30, 2015, p. 15

17 TSN dated April 30, 2015, p. 16

18 TSN dated August 13, 2015, p. 13

19 TSN dated August 13, 2015, p. 25

20 TSN dated March 10, 2016, pp. 8 to 9

21 TSN dated March 10, 2016, p. 10

22 TSN dated March 10, 2016, p. 24

23 TSB dated March 10, 2016, p. 30

24 TSN dated March 10, 2016, pp. 30 to 31

25 TSN dated March 10, 2016, pp. 43 to 44

26 TSN dated August 18, 2016, pp. 5 to 6

27 TSN dated August 18, 2016, p. 15

28 id

Notice: The Publishers of Asean LIP acknowledge the permission granted by the relevant official/ original source for the reproduction of the above/ attached materials. You shall not reproduce the above/ attached materials in whole or in part without the prior written consent of the Publishers and/or the original/ official source. Neither the Publishers nor the official/ original source will be liable for any loss, injury, claim, liability, or damage caused directly, indirectly or incidentally to errors in or omissions from the above/ attached materials. The Publishers and the official/ original source also disclaim and exclude all liabilities in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in reliance upon the whole or any part of the above/attached materials. The access to, and the use of, Asean LIP and contents herein are subject to the Terms of Use.

Get ASEAN LAW ALERT

Legal updates by e-mail. It's Free.

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Delegation of Lawmakers visit Netherlands

Hanoi, May 15 (VNA) - A delegation of the National Assembly’s Committee on Laws led by the committee’s vice chairman Pham Tri Thuc has just paid a working visit to the Netherlands.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Adib Inquest: Lawyer grills Forensics Expert on 'Probability Report'

SHAH ALAM, May 16 (Bernama) - A lawyer questioned the ‘probability report’ of a specialist medical witness in the inquest into the death of Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, that injuries to the right chest of the firefighter were caused by a curb or road shoulder.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Telecom Regulator proposes Online Sim Card Registration

The Lao Telecommunication Regulatory Authority is developing an application for use as a possible option to speed up sim card registration.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Government agrees to appoint a Youth to represent them in the Senate

BANGI, May 15 (Bernama) - Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government has agreed to appoint a member of the Senate from among the youths with wide expertise and knowledge in the field and issues on the development of youths.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

MoF sets up Debt Management Office

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 (Bernama) - The Ministry of Finance has set up the Debt Management Office (DMO) to review and manage the government’s debt and liabilities.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Additional Appellate Court would be a timely upgrade

In order to curb the increased caseload on the Court of Appeal, a new appellate court may be introduced by the Government to support it, a move that may end up in restructuring of Supreme Court.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

RoK helps Vietnam accelerate Judicial Reform

Hanoi, Apr 26 (VNA) - The Supreme People’s Court and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) launched a project on improving trial transparency and quality at Vietnamese courts during a ceremony in Hanoi on April 26.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

DOLE announces 29 Job Fir Venues Nationwide on Labor Day

MANILA, Apr 29 (PNA) - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is inviting job seekers to a nationwide job fair on May 1.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Universities, Industry Players to join forces for IR 4.0

GEORGE TOWN, Apr 29 (Bernama) - The joint forces of the brains in the universities and the capacity and capabilities of key industries will make a change for a better world through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), said Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) vice-chancellor Prof Dr Asma Ismail.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

BNM appoints Two External Members to Monetary Policy Committee

KUALA LUMPUR, Apr 29 (Bernama) - Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has reappointed Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng and appointed Datuk Dr Gan Wee Beng as external members of its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) effective April 1, 2019.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Doing nothing about Disruptive Tech would be biggest Mistake: CJ

The speed at which law firms incorporating AI into their work processes poses threat to lawyers getting out of jobs, and urged the lawyers to seize the moment and be at the frontline of technological change, warning that the "biggest mistake" would be to do nothing.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Government Agencies urged not to use Unlicensed Software

MANILA, Apr 26 (PNA) - The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) on Friday urged government agencies to use licensed software to prevent copyright infringement in the country.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Kula Segaran to chair ASEAN Labour Minister Special Session in Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR, Apr 28 (Bernama) - Human Resource Minister M. Kula Segaran will lead the Malaysian delegation to the Special Session of the ASEAN Labour Ministers and Singapore Conference on Future of Work which will be held in Singapore tomorrow (April 29).

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

Those given Trust, Power should Build a better Nation Based on Rule of Law - Sultan Nazrin

KUALA LUMPUR, Apr 25 (Bernama) - The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah said those given the trust, power and position, now have the opportunity to build a better Malaysia based on the rule of law.

Read More

INDUSTRY UPDATES

King decides High Court Registry Location on Advice of PM - Sabah Law Society

KOTA KINABALU, Apr 25 (Bernama) - The principal registry of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak can be relocated to any place in Sabah or Sarawak as determined by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong acting on the advice of the prime minister, the Sabah Law Society (SLS) said today.

Read More