The prodigal son-in-law
Shintaro Nakamura, a Japanese national, married Nena Calzado, a Filipina born to a landed family.
Manuela, the matriarch of the Calzado, was drawn to Shintaro’s warm and gentle personality. After 20 years of blissful togetherness, Nena died under a cherry blossom tree.
Upon his return to Manila, Shintaro made the legally blind Manuela sign certain documents. Manuela affixed her thumb mark when Shintaro told her that he needed the documents in order to pay the accumulated arrears for her Tagaytay property.
Unknown to her, one of the papers she signed was a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) authorizing Jolly Nakamura, the 17-year old son of Nena and Shintaro, to sell the property.
Shintaro, through the use of the duly notarized SPA, found a buyer for the Tagaytay property. He made his unsuspecting minor son sign the pertinent deed of absolute sale.
Soon, Shintaro’s fraudulent ways were exposed. Zeny, the daughter of the now deceased Manuela and the duly appointed administratrix of the intestate estate of the matriarch, sued Shintaro for estafa through falsification of public document.
Shintaro boisterously claimed that he is beyond the reach of the iron bars. He is a son-in-law and is thus exempt from criminal liability arising from the commission of the crime of estafa through falsification of public documents.
Q: Can a son-in-law be criminally exempt from the crime of swindling?
A: Yes. Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
ART. 332. Persons exempt from criminal liability. No criminal, but only civil liability shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling, or malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by the following persons:
Spouses, ascendants and descendants, or relatives by affinity in the same line;
The widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased spouse before the same shall have passed into the possession of another; and
Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if living together.
The exemption established by this article shall not be applicable to strangers participating in the commission of the crime. (emphasis supplied)
Thus, Article 332 provides for an absolutory cause in the crimes of theft, estafa (or swindling) and malicious mischief. It limits the responsibility of the offender to civil liability and frees him from criminal liability by virtue of his relationship to the offended party
Q: Who else are covered by the criminal absolutory cause?
A: Included in the exemptions are parents-in-law, stepparents and adopted children.
By virtue thereof, no criminal liability is incurred by the stepfather who commits malicious mischief against his stepson; by the stepmother who commits theft against her stepson; by the stepfather who steals something from his stepson; by the grandson who steals from his grandfather by the accused who swindles his sister-in-law living with him; and by the son who steals a ring from his mother. (Intestate Estate of Gonzales vda. de Carungcong vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181409, February 11, 2010)
Q: What is the effect of death on the relationship by affinity created between a surviving spouse and the blood relatives of the deceased spouse?
A: Death does not change anything.
The relationship by affinity between the surviving spouse and the kindred of the deceased spouse continues even after the death of the deceased spouse, regardless of whether the marriage produced children or not.
The relationship by affinity endures even after the dissolution of the marriage that produced it as a result of the death of one of the parties to the said marriage. This view considers that, where statutes have indicated an intent to benefit step-relatives or in-laws, the “tie of affinity” between these people and their relatives-by-marriage is not to be regarded as terminated upon the death of one of the married parties.
Thus, for purposes of Article 332(1) of the Revised Penal Code, we hold that the relationship by affinity created between the surviving spouse and the blood relatives of the deceased spouse survives the death of either party to the marriage which created the affinity. (Intestate Estate of Gonzales vda. de Carungcong vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181409, February 11, 2010)
Q: Does that mean that Shintaro Nakamura cannot be held liable for the fraudulent misrepresentations he committed when he caused the sale of his mother-in-law’s property?
A: The absolutory cause under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code only applies to the felonies of theft, swindling and malicious mischief.
It does not apply where any of the crimes mentioned under Article 332 is complexed with another crime, such as theft through falsification or estafa through falsification.
Shintaro is being held liable not with simple estafa but with the complex crime of estafa through falsification of public documents.
Consider the following:
Shintaro presented a document to Manuela (who was already blind at that time) and induced her to sign and thumbmark the same; He made Manuela believe that the said document was in connection with her taxes when it was in fact a special power of attorney (SPA) authorizing his minor son Jolly to sell, assign, transfer or otherwise dispose of Manuela’s properties in Tagaytay City; Relying on Shintaro’s inducement and representation, his mother-in-law signed and thumbmarked the SPA in favor of Jolly Nakamura; Using the document, he sold the properties to third parties but he neither delivered the proceeds to Manuela nor accounted for the same and despite repeated demands, he failed and refused to deliver the proceeds, to the damage and prejudice of the estate of his mother in law. (Intestate Estate of Gonzales vda. de Carungcong vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181409, February 11, 2010)
Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is currently the Dean. Lyceum of the Philippines University; president of Philippine Association of Law Schools; and Senior Partner at Gatchalian Castro & Mawis Law Office