Criminal Law,  Legally Yours

Rimando v. People

Criminal Law. Non-extinguishment of civil liability from acquittal.
Leonora B. Rimando v. Spouses Winston and Elenita Adaba and People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 203583, October 13, 2014
Perlas-Bernabe, J.:

FACTS:
The petitioner Rimando is charged with the crime of estafa through the use of false manifestations and fraudulent representations. Petitioner was also charged with violation of BP 22 which she was acquitted in the ground of reasonable doubt. The RTC likewise acquitted Rimando of the crime of estafa but found her civilly liable to Spouses Aldaba.

Facts reveal that Rimando enticed Sps. Aldaba to invest in her business under the assurance that it is stable and that their money would earn 8% monthly interest. Convinced by Rimando’s proposal and taking into consideration their long friendship, Sps. Aldaba gave Rimando a check in the amount of ­500,000.00 as an investment in her business.

In turn, Rimando gave Sps. Aldaba three (3) postdated checks, one for ­500,000.00 and the other two (2) for ­40,000.00 each, and made them sign an investment contract with Multitel International Holding Corporation. Upon maturity of the checks, Sps. Aldaba attempted to encash the same but were dishonored for being drawn against insufficient funds.

In her defense, Rimando denied friendship with the spouses and that she enticed them to invest in her own business, as she had none. She contends that her acquittal and exoneration from the civil liability in the BP 22 cases should have barred spouses Aldaba from claiming civil liability from her in the estafa case.

ISSUE:
Is the civil liability of Rimando in the estafa case extinguished by virtue of her acquittal and exoneration from civil liability in the BP 22 cases?

HELD:
NO, Rimando’s exoneration of the civil liability in the BP 22 case does not extinguish her criminal liability in the estafa case.  The acquittal of the accused does not automatically preclude a judgment against him on the civil aspect of the case. The extinction of the penal action does not carry with it the extinction of the civil liability where: (a) the acquittal is based on reasonable doubt as only preponderance of evidence is required; (b) the court declares that the liability of the accused is only civil; and (c) the civil liability of the accused does not arise from or is not based upon the crime of which the accused is acquitted. However, the civil action based on delict may be deemed extinguished if there is a finding on the final judgment in the criminal action that the act or omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist or where the accused did not commit the acts or omission imputed to him.

In this case, Rimando’s civil liability did not arise from any purported act constituting the crime of estafa as the RTC clearly found that Rimando never employed any deceit on Sps. Aldaba to induce them to invest money in Multitel. Rather, her civil liability was correctly traced from being an accommodation party to one of the checks she issued to Sps. Aldaba on behalf of Multitel. In lending her name to Multitel, she, in effect, acted as a surety to the latter, and as such, she may be held directly liable for the value of the issued check.

Rimando’s acquittal and subsequent exoneration in the BP 22 cases had no effect in the estafa case, even if both cases were founded on the same factual circumstances. Essentially, while a BP 22 case and an estafa case may be rooted from an identical set of facts, they nevertheless present different causes of action, which, under the law, are considered “separate, distinct, and independent” from each other. Therefore, both cases can proceed to their final adjudication – both as to their criminal and civil aspects – subject to the prohibition on double recovery. Perforce, a ruling in a BP 22 case concerning the criminal and civil liabilities of the accused cannot be given any bearing whatsoever in the criminal and civil aspects of a related estafa case, as in this instance.

Hence, Rimando is still civilly liable in the estafa case despite her exoneration of her civil liability in the BP 22 case.

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