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Freed by time

Ley, Mari and Jim are siblings, all of whom are officers of PMC Inc. Their father, Daddy Quintin established PMCI.

On September 1996, Daddy Quintin died.

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One of PMCI’s stockholders, Lucy, filed a criminal complaint alleging that the siblings falsified the Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000, which in turn contained PMCI’s Board Resolution 2000-001. This Board Resolution authorized Jim to dispose the parcel of land covered by TCT No. 1298 registered in PMCI’s name. Through this Secretary’s Certificate, Jim was able to enter into a Deed of Absolute Sale conveying the subject property to the Spouses Lee. According to Lucy, the said Secretary’s Certificate was falsified, because it was made to
appear that Quintin signed it, despite having already died on Sept. 16, 1996 or, more than three (3) years from the time of its execution.

On May 15, 2012, a criminal information dated Aug. 31, 2011 was filed with the trial court, charging Ley, Mari and Jim and the Spouses Lee with the crime of falsification of a public document.

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Aside from Lucy, Charlie, a son of Quintin, testified against the siblings and the spouses. The Records Officer of the Registry of Deeds also testified for the prosecution, stating that TCT No. 129824 was cancelled by virtue of: (a) the Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000 showing Board Resolution 2000-001; and (b) the Deed of Absolute Sale between PMCI and the spouses.

Q: Were the siblings and spouses properly charged with the crime falsification of a public document?

A: Yes. It is apparent that the subject matter of the falsification is the Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000—a notarized document certifying that PMCI’s Board of Directors passed Board Resolution 2000-001 in the meeting held on Feb. 25, 2000. Thus, Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000 was offered in evidence by the prosecution for two purposes: first, to prove its existence and the fact that the siblings falsified this public document by making an untruthful statement in a narration of facts; and second, to prove the existence of Board Resolution 2000-001, and that the Ley, Mari and Jim made it appear that Quintin participated in its preparation by forging his signature.

While a board resolution is indeed not a public document within the contemplation of the rules on evidence, the Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000 squarely falls under this category. And, since the said Secretary’s Certificate specifically contained not only the supposed resolution passed by PMCI’s Board of Directors, but also the signatures of all the board members who approved such resolution, then it can be concluded that Ley, Mari and Jim participated in the execution of the falsified Secretary’s Certificate. Verily, Ley, Mari and Jim were correctly charged and convicted with the falsification of a public document,
punishable under Article 172(1) of the RPC.

Q: Did the siblings commit the crime as charge?

A: Yes. Quintin was indisputably dead by the time Board Resolution 2000-001 was passed with his participation on Feb. 25, 2000. For this reason, PMCI’s Corporate Secretary, in conspiracy with Ley, Mari and Jim, falsified a public document by certifying under oath that Quintin was present during this board meeting and making it
appear that he signed the resolution contained in the Secretary’s Certificate, when in truth and in fact, he could not, as he was
already dead at the time of its execution. This is the main act of falsification committed by the siblings, especially Ley, who was the Corporate Secretary at that time. The fact that Quintin’s
signature appeared on the
Secretary’s Certificate corroborates this charge.

Q: Despite the fact that the siblings committed the crime as charge, can the siblings still be freed of criminal culpability?

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A: Yes, by invoking Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that the prescription of crime has the effect of totally extinguishing the criminal liability.

Q: Has the crime of falsification of a public document charged against the siblings already prescribed?

A: Yes, the crime of falsification of a public document charged against the siblings already prescribed.

The registration of the falsified Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000, which proves the authority granted in favor of Jim, is indispensable for the validity of the sale of PMCI’s property and for this sale to take effect as against third persons. Without this document being presented for registration, the Register of Deeds of Pasay City cannot effectively transfer the title of PMCI to the Spouses Lee, absent any basis that the Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 21, 2000 was executed under the authority of PMCI’s Board of Directors.

Likewise, as one of the documents submitted to the Register of Deeds of Pasay City for registration, the falsified Secretary’s Certificate forms part of the public record. As such, Lucy and all other third persons were charged with knowledge of not only the sale or the conveyance of the subject property but also of the fact that Jim acted on behalf of PMCI by virtue of the Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000, which certified Board Resolution 2000-001.

Since the registration of all the documentary requirements for transfer of title, including the falsified Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000, was made on March 29, 2000, this is the proper reckoning point from which the prescription of the crime of falsification of a public document began to run. From this date of registration, there was constructive notice of the falsification to the entire world, including the complainant Lucy. She and all other persons were charged with the knowledge of the falsified Secretary’s Certificate dated Feb. 29, 2000, beginning on March 29, 2000.

It is well-settled that the filing of the complaint in the fiscal’s office interrupts the prescriptive period. Unfortunately, the records of this case do not show the date when Lucy’s Affidavit of Complaint was filed. The Supreme Court noted, however, that the Affidavit of Complaint was executed on Sept. 21, 2010, or more than ten (10) years from the time that prescription commenced to run on March 29, 2000. Considering that Lucy’s complaint could not have been filed earlier than its date of execution, prescription already set in by March 29, 2010, or approximately five (5) months before the execution of the complaint on Sept. 21, 2010.

As a result, by the time the criminal Information charging the siblings and the spouses with falsification of a public document was filed on May 15, 2012, their criminal liability was already extinguished. On this ground alone, the case against the siblings should have been dismissed. The State already lost its right to prosecute and punish the petitioners for the crime subject of the criminal case then filed with the MeTC.
(Source: Lim vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 226590, April 23, 2018)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis Dean, College of Law, Lyceum of the Philippines University Chairman, Philippines Association of Law Schools Mawis Law Office

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