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PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,

vs.
FELICIA CABACANG Y MAZAMBIQUE, accused-appellant.

PUNO, J.:

An Illegal Recruitment case was filed against appellant FELICIA MAZAMBIQUE


CABACANG for allegedly committing the following act:

That in or about and during the period comprised from March 22, 1990 to
April 27, 1990, both dates inclusive, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the
said accused, representing herself to have the capacity to contract, enlist
and transport Filipino workers for employment abroad, did then and there
willfully and unlawfully, for a fee, recruit and promise employment/job
placement abroad to the following persons: Romeo Eguia, Ronnie Reyes,
Armando Castro and Dante Eguia, without first having secured the
required license or authority from the Department of Labor and
Employment.1

The case was raffled off to Branch 5 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, 2 and
docketed as Criminal Case No. 91-93606. A not guilty plea was entered upon her
arraignment on July 17, 1991.

The records reveal that the four private complainants are related. DANTE3 and ROMEO
EGUIA are brothers, and RONNIE REYES4 and ARMANDO CASTRO are their
brothers-in-law. RAMON EGUIA and prosecution witness WILMA GREGORIO5 are
Dante's and Romeo's siblings.

The prosecution evidence show that appellant who is not a recruiter licensed by the
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA),6 handled the processing of
the papers of cousins Ramon Eguia and Edgardo Santos. In June, 1988, the two were
deployed to Abu Dhabi for employment as janitors.7 Private complainants were
encouraged by their employment, and decided to apply for overseas janitorial work as
well.8

According to private complainant Ronnie Reyes, he was approached in Lipa by


appellant who represented herself as the Assistant Manager of the Lakas Agency
Management Corporation located near Robinson's Department Store in Ermita, Manila.
Appellant informed him that there would be a second batch of overseas workers to be
deployed to Abu Dhabi. Ronnie relayed the information to Wilma, who made further
inquiries and verifications from appellant about the job opportunity.9 Wilma then directly
worked out with appellant, the overseas job applications of private complainants.

Private complainants filed their applications and appellant assured them that they would
be able to leave for Abu Dhabi after the processing of their paper.10 She instructed them
to pay their processing fees11 directly to her. During the period from March 3, 1990 to
April 27, 1990, inclusive, private complainants through Wilma paid appellant a total of
THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (P32,500.00).12

Appellant assured private complainants they could leave for Abu Dhabi on May 10,
1990, at 8:00 p.m.13 The date of departure came without private complainants leaving
Philippine soil. Thereafter, appellant told them to stay put and wait for the arrival in the
Philippines of their prospective Middle Eastern employer. However, no employer
arrived, and the four complainants failed to be deployed by appellant overseas.14

Private complainants and Wilma returned to the Lakas Agency to look for appellant.
They did not find her. It was then that they found out from the agency's Manager, MR.
NARCISO DELA FUENTE, that appellant was merely renting a table in the office and
was not, employed with Lakas.15 The revelation moved private complainants to file a
complaint against appellant with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). 16

The NBI was able to work out a settlement between the parties. Appellant agreed in
writing to pay back the processing fees of private complainants.17 Nonetheless,
appellant did not fully fulfill her obligation under the agreement. She only refunded a
total of SIX THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED PESOS (P6,700.00) to private
complainants.18

For her part, appellant admits that she received from private complainants, through
Wilma Gregorio, the sum of THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS
(P32,500.00).19 She, however, denied that she was merely renting a table at the office
of the Lakas Agency Management Corporation. She insisted that she was an employee
of that recruitment office owned and managed by Mr. Narciso dela Fuente, 20 and that
she acted as its liaison officer and messenger. As liaison officer, she assisted applicants
in the processing of their documents in the POEA. She also signed documents and
receipts in behalf of the recruitment agency.21

According to appellant, it is the Lakas Agency's policy that each applicant be charged
FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00) as processing fee, and that the airline fare of
FIFTEEN THOUSAND PESOS (P15,000.00) in cases of deployment to Abu Dhabi be
shouldered by the applicant.22 The agency adopted the policy as a result of its alleged
unfortunate experience with Ramon Eguia and Edgardo Santos. The two, she claimed,
refused to pay back the cost of their tickets (THIRTY THOUSAND PESOS
[P30,000.00]) which was advanced by the agency.23

Appellant blamed private complainants for their failure to leave for Abu Dhabi as they
were unable to produce the money for their air fare.24 Allegedly, Wilma insisted that the
SIXTY THOUSAND PESOS (60,000.00) for private complainants' tickets be advanced
by Lakas Agency and be repaid by the four once they start working in Abu Dhabi. Her
proposal did not sit well with the recruitment agency, resulting in the shelving of private
complainants' deployment abroad.25
Appellant further testified that private complainant Ronnie Reyes later withdrew his
application and demanded the refund of his processing fees, plus SEVEN HUNDRED
PESOS (P700.00) to cover miscellaneous expenses.26 Since private complainants'
papers had already been processed in the POEA, Ronnie was informed that the agency
was not obliged to make the refund to him. He was, however, insistent, so appellant
took it upon herself to pay him back.27 As guarantee for her promise to make the refund,
Ronnie allegedly took her Sony stereo worth FOUR THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED
PESOS (P4,700.00), which he never returned to her even after she had given him SIX
THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED PESOS (P6,700.00).28

Appellant also alleged that no similar refunds were made to the three other private
complainants. Their processing fees were merely off-set against the existing obligation
of Romeo Eguia and Edgardo Santos with the Lakas Agency.29

At trial's end, appellant was found guilty of illegal recruitment and sentenced as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding


the accused Felicia Cabacang y Mosambique (sic) guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of illegal recruitment and hereby sentences her to suffer
the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and a fine of One Hundred
Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos.30

Appellant now assails the trial court's Decision with the following arguments:

1. The court a quo erred by failing to


appreciate the facts (1) that (appellant) never
represented herself as licensed by the
Department of Labor and Employment —
Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration as labor recruiter, (2) that what
she represented to the applicants is that her
employer LAKAS MANAGEMENT AGENCY is
a duly licensed recruitment agency with
principals-employers abroad, and (3) that the
accused told applicants that she can help them
get employed with the same employer of their
relatives who are now working there through
her help.

2. The court a quo erred in finding (appellant)


at fault and liable for the failure or negligence
of her employer LAKAS MANAGEMENT
AGENCY to register her name as its employee
at the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration.
3. The court a quo erred in finding (appellant)
at fault or liable for the decision/policy of her
employer, LAKAS MANAGEMENT AGENCY,
or requiring the four (4) complaining witnesses
to pay the cost of their plane tickets from
Manila to the jobsite (Abu Dhabi, UAE);

4. The court a quo erred in finding (appellant)


guilty of illegal recruitment based on
(appellant's) receipt of the P32,000.00 from
Wilma Eguia Gregorio intended as placement
fees of the four (4) complaining witnesses.

We affirm appellant's conviction with modifications.

The centerpiece of appellant's defense is two-fold: (1) that she cannot be held liable for
illegal recruitment since she never represented herself to private complainants as a
POEA-licensed recruiter; and (2) that she was not the one responsible for the
recruitment of private complainants nor for their
non-deployment for work abroad, since she was merely an employee of the POEA-
licensed Lakas Agency Management Corporation. We reject these contentions.

Firstly, it is incorrect to maintain that to be liable for illegal recruitment, one must
represent himself/herself to the victims as a duly-licensed recruiter. Illegal recruitment is
defined in Article 38 (a) of the Labor Code, as amended, as "(a)ny recruitment activities,
including the prohibited practices enumerated under Article 34 of this Code, to be
undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority." Article 13 (b) of the same
Code defines "recruitment and placement" as referring to:

(A)ny act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring


or procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services, promising
or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or
not: Provided, That any person or entity which in any manner, offers or
promises for a fee employment to two or more persons shall be deemed
engaged in recruitment and placement.

Clearly, to prove illegal recruitment, only two elements need to be shown, viz.: (1) the
person charged with the crime must have undertaken recruitment activities (or any of
the activities enumerated in Article 34 of the Labor Code, as amended); and (2) said
person does not have a license31 or authority32 to do so. It is not required that it be
shown that such person wrongfully represented himself as a licensed recruiter.

Secondly, appellant cannot successfully contend she merely performed her duties as an
employee of a licensed recruitment agency. Apart from her uncorroborated testimony on
the matter, she failed to present credible evidence to buttress her claim of employment.
Thus, she failed to follow the immutable rule on burden of proof that "each party must
prove his own affirmative allegations by the amount of evidence required by law.33

On the other hand, the documentary evidence of the prosecution show that appellant
received private complainants' processing fees from Wilma Gregorio in her own
behalf. The wordings of Exhibits "C" to "G", inclusive, are strongly persuasive on this
factual issue.

They read, as follows:

Exh. "C": "Received from Wilma Gregorio the amount of


5,000 only";

Exh. "D": "Received from Romeo Eguia amount 5,000";

Exh. "E": "Received from Wilma the amount of 5,000 Wilma


— only"

Exh. "F": "Received from Wilma Gregorio amount 7,500


pesos only"; and

Exh. "G": "Received the amount of 10,000 pesos from Wilma


Gregorio as Deposit, 4 applicants."

These receipts — which are not written on Lakas agency stationary — show no
indication that the payments were accepted by appellant in behalf of the
Lakas Agency Management Corporation. Exh. "J", which is the Commitment/Agreement
executed and signed by appellant before the NBI further proves that she was acting in
her own behalf in receiving Wilma's payment. For, why else would she personally
"promise to return to Wilma Gregorio . . . the amount of P32,500.00" if said sum was for
the benefit of the Lakas Agency?

More importantly, the prosecution demonstrated reasonable doubt that appellant


performed recruitment activities without any license to do so. She informed private
complainant Ronnie Reyes that there would be a second batch of janitors to be
deployed to Abu Dhabi. After she accepted private complainants' job applications, she
assured them that they would be able to fly to that Middle Eastern nation after their
papers are processed by the POEA. She told them, through Wilma, to pay their
processing fees directly to her, and later personally received the same, in the total
amount of THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND PESOS (P32,000.00). She issued and signed
the receipts evidencing payment to her of such fees. She processed private
complainants' papers at the POEA, and she assured them that they were to fly to Abu
Dhabi on May 10, 1990, at 8:00 p.m. Throughout the entire transaction, private
complainants and Wilma Gregorio dealt with appellant, and with appellant alone. The
only time they talked to the manager of the Lakas Agency was after their aborted flight
to Abu Dhabi, when they were trying to locate the whereabouts of appellant.
Clearly, it was appellant who directly recruited private complainants within the meaning
of Article 38 (a) and (b) the Labor Code. Since it is undisputed that appellant is not a
holder of a license or authority to recruit from the Department of Labor, through the
POEA, her acts constitute illegal recruitment.

Illegal recruitment carries with it the penalty of life imprisonment, and a fine which varies
by degrees in accordance with the enumeration made in
Article 39 of the Labor Code, as amended. In the case at bench, since appellant was
charged with and convicted of illegally recruiting four (4) people, her crime is classified
as having been committed in large scale.34 As such, it is considered as involving
economic sabotage, and carries with it a fine of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS
(P100,000.00).35 In addition to these penalties, appellant must also be ordered to
indemnify private complainants the unrefunded portion of their processing fees.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Decision, dated January 25, 1994, of the Regional Trial Court
of Manila, Branch 5, in Criminal Case No. 91-93606 is AFFIRMED, subject to the
modification that, in addition to being sentenced to suffer LIFE IMPRISONMENT and
pay a fine of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P100,000.00), appellant Felicia
Mazambique Cabacang is likewise ordered to indemnify private complainants in the
amount of TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED PESOS (P25,800.00). Costs
against appellant.

G.R. No. 91552-55 March 10, 1994

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
FERNANDO MANUNGAS, JR. y GO @ "PERCY", accused-appellant.

The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

Rolando Gamalinda for accused-appellant.

NOCON, J.:

This is an appeal by accused-appellant Fernando Manungas, Jr. alias "Percy" from the
decision1 dated October 31, 1989 of the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen, Pangasisnan,
Branch 38 in Criminal Cases Nos. L-3993, L-3994,
L-3996 and L-4000 finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of
ESTAFA and ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT, the dispositive portion of which reads:

In the light of what has been stated and discussed above, the court finds
and holds the accused Fernando Manungas y Go alias "Percy" guilty
beyond peradventure of doubt of the crimes filed against him and
conformable thereto, hereby pronounces judgment as follows:

In Criminal Case No. L-3993, the court declares accused, Fernando


Manungas y Go alias "Percy" guilty of estafa for the sum of P16,800.00 as
alleged in the information filed against him and there being no aggravating
nor mitigating circumstance, and applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law in his favor, said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer the prison
term from two (2) years, eleven (11) months and ten years (10) days
as minimum to five (5) years, five (5) months and eleven (11) days of
prision correccional as maximum and to pay the costs of the proceedings.

The court further orders the accused to reimburse the offended party,
Wilfrey Mabalot, the sum of sixteen thousand eight hundred (P16,800.00)
pesos which is the amount of money paid and delivered to him by said
complaining witness without subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency.

In Criminal Case No. L-3994, the court likewise declares the accused,
Fernando Manungas y Go alias "Percy" guilty of estafa for the sum of
P17,550.00 as charged in the information. And there being no aggravating
nor mitigating circumstance present, and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law in his favor, the accused is hereby sentenced to suffer an
indeterminate prison term from two (2) years, eleven (11) months and ten
(10) days as minimum to five (5) years, five (5) months and (11) days
of prision correccional as maximum and to pay the costs of the
proceedings.

The court further directs the accused to reimburse the offended party,
Danilo Ramirez the sum of seventeen thousand five hundred fifty
(P17,550.00) pesos which the accused took from the complaint without
subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

In Criminal Case No. L-3996, the court also declares the accused,
Fernando Manungas y Go alias "Percy" guilty of estafa for eighteen
thousand six hundred (P18,600.00) pesos as charged in the information
filed against him. There being no aggravating nor mitigating circumstance
present, and applying the Indeterminate Law in his favor, said accused is
hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate prison term from two (2)
years, eleven months (11) months and ten (10) days asminimum to five
(5) years, five (5) months and eleven (11) days of prision
correccional as maximum and to pay the costs of the proceedings.

The court also directs the accused to reimburse the offended party the
sum of eighteen thousand six hundred (P18,600.00) pesos which is the
amount paid and delivered by the offended party to him without subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency.

In Criminal Case No. L-4000, the court likewise holds the accused,
Fernando Manungas y Go alias "Precy" guilty of the crime of Illegal
Recruitment on Large Scale as charged in the information filed against
him, defined and penalized under the provisions of Article 39, par. (a) of
Presidential Decree No. 2018 amending Articles 38 and 39 of P.D. No.
442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, and
conformable thereto, hereby sentences the said accused to suffer the
penalty of Life Imprisonment and to pay a fine of One Hundred Thousand
(P100,000.00) pesos without subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency pursuant to law.

The accused shall serve the penalties herein imposed against him
successively or one after the other according to their severity.2

Based on the evidence adduced before the trial court, the facts of the case are as
follows:

Sometime in April of 1987, accused-appellant Fernando Manungas, Jr. went to


Barangay Legaspi, Tayug, Pangasinan where he stayed in the house of Arturo and Lilia
de Vera to recruit workers for employment abroad. During his stay, accused-appellant
was able to convince complainants Wilfrey Mabalot, Danilo Ramirez, Leonardo
Estanoco and Crisanto Collado to apply as janitors in Saudi Arabia. He told them to
bring all the necessary documents for the processing of their applications to his office in
Manila.

On April 29, 1987, complainants went to accused-appellant's office located at Room


611, L and S Bldg., 1414 Roxas Blvd., Ermita, Manila and paid accused-appellant
P250.00 each for their medical examination. Thereafter, accused-appellant required the
complainants to pay, on various occasions, placement fees and other expenses
incurred in the processing of their papers and issued corresponding receipts for said
amounts. The total amount paid by the complainants to accused-appellant are the
following: Wilfrey Mabalot — P16,800.00; Danilo Ramirez — P17,550.00, Leonardo
Estanoco — 18,600.00, and Crisanto Collado — 13,300.00

When complainants failed to leave for Saudi Arabia, they requested Luis "Jing"
Ramirez, to verify with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)
whether accused-appellant was licensed to recruit workers for abroad. They
subsequently learned that he was not as shown by the Certification issued by the
POEA.3

Thereafter, complaints filed against accused-appellant complaints for Estafa defined


under par. 2(a), Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code and Illegal Recruitment on a
Large Scale. In due course, informations fro three (3) counts of Estafa (Criminal Cases
Nos. L-3993, L-3994 and L-3996) and Illegal Recruitment on a Large Scale (Criminal
Case No. L-4000) were filed against accused-appellant before the Regional Trial Court
of Lingayen, Pangasinan.

On the other hand, accused-appellant maintained that he was the operations manager
of the ZG Recruitment and Placement Agency, a duly licensed recruitment agency.
Sometime in April 1987, he went to Barangay Legaspi, Tayug, Pangasinan and
recruited complainants to work in Saudi Arabia as janitors. Unfortunately, the job order
for the janitorial services was awarded to Express Placement Agency instead of ZG
Recruitment and Placement agency. Thereafter, accused-appellant transferred
complainants' application for overseas employment to Nora Cunanan of Express
Placement Agency. Accused-appellant also turned over the fees paid by the
complainants to Nora Cunanan as evidenced by the receipts4 issued by the latter. When
Nora Cunanan absconded with the money of the complainants, accused-appellant filed
an estafa case against Nora Cunanan after securing a Special Power of Attorney from
the complainants to prosecute and collect their money. However, he was not able to
attend the hearing as he was arrested in connection with the these cases.

Accused-appellant maintains that he did not make false representations to the


complainants when he requited the latter for employment abroad as he had told
complainants that he is only an employee of a licensed recruitment agency in Manila.
He further claims that he was not motivated by any deceitful intentions and had not
caused any damage to the complainants because the amounts of money given to him
by the latter were actually spent for their medical tests and other documents necessary
for their overseas employment.

Article 13 (b) of the Labor Code defines "Recruitment and Placement" as:

Any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring


or procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services, promising
or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or
not: Provided, That any person or entity which, in any manner, offers or
promises for a fee employment to two or more persons shall be deemed
engaged in recruitment and placement.

In the instant case, accused-appellant told complainants to submit to him their pictures,
birth certificates, NBI clearances and the necessary documents for the processing of
their employment in Saudi Arabia. Thereafter, accused-appellant collected from each of
the complainants payment for the their respective passport, training fee, placement fee,
medical tests and other sundry expenses which unquestionably constitutes acts of
recruitment within the meaning of the law. Besides, there is illegal recruitment when one
gives the impression of his ability to send a worker abroad5 and there is evidence that
accused-appellant had represented to the complainants that he could send them abroad
as janitors in Saudi Arabia. And because of his representation, complainants gave their
hard-earned money to accused-appellant in consideration of the same representation.
As pointed out by the Solicitor General in his brief:
It may be that at the time appellant recruited private complainants, he was
then the operations manager of the ZGR Placement Agency, a duly
licensed recruitment agency. But, as amply established by the evidence,
the recruitment of private complainants was appellant's own personal
undertaking. He did not do it for the agency. This is clearly shown by the
sequence of events that led to the consum[m]ation of the transaction in
question. Thus: it was appellant who talked private complainants into
applying for employment abroad; when private complainants signified their
interest, he alone was the one who informed them of the documents that
they have to secure; he too was the one who demanded and received
from them the fees for medical examination, passport, authentication,
training, placement and psycho and AIDS test; also, he was the one who
assured them of employment abroad and of the return of their money in
the event of their non-deployment; moreover, it was he who undertook to
inform private complainants of their departure.

But that is not all. When private complainants failed to receive notice of
their departure as promised them by appellant, they had somebody verify
with the POEA if appellant was a licensed recruiter. This circumstance
shows all the more that indeed appellant represented himself to be the
recruiter, otherwise it would have been the status of the agency with which
he allegedly worked for, that private complainants would have requested
to be verified.6

As to accused-appellant's claim that he did not misappropriate the money given to him
by the complainants as he had turned over the latters' placement fees to Nora Cunanan,
who subsequently absconded with the complainant's money, the trial court correctly
held that:

The version of the defense has the nature of a cock and bull story which is
difficult and hard to accept. It is something that is fantastic and ridiculous.
It is within the realm of fiction and patently a mere fabrication to exculpate
the accused from the consequences of his nefarious and deceitful
activities. If it is really true that the complainants were transferred and
accommodated by the agency of Nora Cunanan, why did not the accused
and Mrs. Lydia Zamora who appear to be both intelligent take the
necessary prudence and caution of putting the supposed agreement to
transfer in writing considering the amounts of funds involved in the alleged
transfer. Logic and common sense dictate that under such a situation, the
accused and Mrs. Zamora take ordinary care of their concerns. To
impress the court that there was really a transfer made, the accused
claimed that there was a estafa case filed against Mrs. Cunanan before
the City Fiscal's Office in Manila. It is however surprising why Atty. Jose
Torrefranca who was engaged by the accused to file the estafa case did
not present any letter-complaint or any charged sheet filed against Mrs.
Cunanan. He did not even mention the Fiscal who investigated the case.
More intriguing is the fact that counsel does not know what happened to
the alleged case of estafa after he filed the same. Likewise, when Mrs.
Lydia Zamora declared, she claimed that the case filed against Nora
Cunanan was before the Regional Trial Court and not in the City Fiscal's
Office.

Defense also made capital of the special power of atty. executed by the
complainants (exhibit 4) and their letters sent to the accused (exhibits 5, 6,
7 and 8) to convince the court that the real culprit in the whole mess in
Nora Cunanan. The complainants made convincing explanation why they
signed the special power of attorney. Wilfrey Mabalot declared that when
the accused asked him to sign the document, he was told that its purpose
is to facilitate their departure and when he signed the letter exhibit "6" he
was just told to sign by the accused and because the latter was in [a]
hurry, he signed without knowing its contents. He likewise explained that
being a mere high school graduate he was not able to understand the
imports of its contents. Danilo Ramirez explained that when he signed the
special power of attorney, he did not read the contents because the
accused was in [a] hurry in returning to Manila and that he sent the three
letters to the accused while he was confined in jail because Manungas
asked him to help him (accused) recover the money given to Mrs.
Cunanan. Leonardo Estanoco declared, that he signed exhibit "4"
because the accused told him that the document will be used to facilitate
the processing of their papers. He did not understand its contents because
he only understands little English.7

Thus accused-appellant is guilty of the crimes of Estafa and Illegal Recruitment. Under
Article 38 of the Labor Code, as amended, the crime of illegal recruitment is qualified
when the same is committed against three (3) or more persons.

A person who violates any of the provisions under Article 13(b) and Article 34 of the
Labor Code can be charged and convicted separately of illegal recruitment and estafa
[Revised Penal Code, Article 315, 2(a)] because illegal recruitment is a malum
prohibitum where the criminal intent of the accused is not necessary for a conviction
while estafa is a malum in se where criminal intent of the accused is necessary for a
conviction.

WHEREFORE, finding the accused-appellant guilty of the crimes of estafa and illegal
recruitment in a large scale, decision of the trial court is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
FERNANDO MANUNGAS, JR. y GO @ "PERCY", accused-appellant.
Facts of the case:

In 1987, accused-appellant Fernando Manungas, Jr. recruited Wilfrey Mabalot, Danilo


Ramirez, Leonardo Estanoco and Crisanto Collado to work as janitors in Saudi-Arabia.
In connection with this, Fernando required the applicants the several amounts for
medical, placement and other fees. The applicants failed to be deployed to Saudi
however, and upon verification with POEA, they found out that Fernando was not a
licensed recruiter. Complainants filed complaints of Estafa and Illegal Recruitment on
a Large Scale against Fernando. Fernando maintained that he was not illegally
recruiting because he was connected with a duly licensed recruitment agency, and
that only because the job openings was subsequently awarded to another recruitment
agency that the applicants he recruited were not able to leave for Saudi.

Issue:

Whether or not Fernando was guilty of Illegal Recruitment on a Large Scale, given the
circumstances.

Ruling:

The Supreme Court ruled that Fernando, despite of his being connected with a
licensed recruitment agency, was still guilty of illegal recruitment under the Labor
Code, because he performed the acts of recruitment as defined in Article 13 of the
Labor Code, by himself. He was the one who recruited the applicants, and he was the
one who required of them the fees he collected himself. Illegal recruitment was also
qualified because he recruited more than three persons.

IMELDA DARVIN, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondents.

DECISION
ROMERO, J.:

Before us is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R.
CR. No. 15624 dated January 31, 1996,[1] which affirmed in toto the judgment of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite, convicting accused-appellant, Imelda
Darvin for simple illegal recruitment under Article 38 and Article 39, in relation to Article
13 (b) and (c), of the Labor Code, as amended.
Accused-appellant was charged under the following information:

That on or about the 13th day of April 1992, in the Municipality of Bacoor, Province of
Cavite, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, through fraudulent representation to one Macaria Toledo to the effect that she
has the authority to recruit workers and employees for abroad and can facilitate the
necessary papers in connection thereof, did, then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously, hire, recruit and promise a job abroad to one Macaria Toledo, without first
securing the necessary license and permit from the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration to do so, thereby causing damage and prejudice to the aforesaid Macaria
Toledo.

Contrary to law.[2]

The evidence for the prosecution, based on the testimony of private respondent,
Macaria Toledo, shows that sometime in March, 1992, she met accused-appellant Darvin
in the latters residence at Dimasalang, Imus, Cavite, through the introduction of their
common friends, Florencio Jake Rivera and Leonila Rivera. In said meeting, accused-
appellant allegedly convinced Toledo that by giving her P150,000.00, the latter can
immediately leave for the United States without any appearance before the U.S.
embassy.[3] Thus, on April 13, 1992, Toledo gave Darvin the amount of P150,000.00, as
evidenced by a receipt stating that the amount of P150,000.00 was for U.S. Visa and Air
fare.[4] After receiving the money, Darvin assured Toledo that she can leave within one
week. However, when after a week, there was no word from Darvin, Toledo went to her
residence to inquire about any development, but could not find Darvin. Thereafter, on May
7, 1992, Toledo filed a complaint with the Bacoor Police Station against Imelda
Darvin. Upon further investigation, a certification was issued by the Philippine Overseas
Employment Administration (POEA) stating that Imelda Darvin is neither licensed nor
authorized to recruit workers for overseas employment.[5] Accused-appellant was then
charged for estafa and illegal recruitment by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of
Cavite.
Accused-appellant, on the other hand, testified that she used to be connected with
Dale Travel Agency and that in 1992, or thereabouts, she was assisting individuals in
securing passports, visa, and airline tickets. She came to know Toledo through Florencio
Jake Rivera, Jr. and Leonila Rivera, alleging that Toledo sought her help to secure a
passport, US visa and airline tickets to the States. She claims that she did not promise
any employment in the U.S. to Toledo. She, however, admits receiving the amount of
P150,000.00 from the latter on April 13, 1992 but contends that it was used for necessary
expenses of an intended trip to the United States of Toledo and her friend, Florencio
Rivera[6] as follows: P45,000.00 for plane fare for one person; P1,500.00 for passport,
documentation and other incidental expenses for each person; P20,000.00 for visa
application cost for each person; and P17,000.00 for services. [7] After receiving the
money, she allegedly told Toledo that the papers will be released within 45 days. She
likewise testified that she was able to secure Toledos passport on April 20, 1992 and
even set up a date for an interview with the US embassy. Accused alleged that she was
not engaged in illegal recruitment but merely acted as a travel agent in assisting
individuals to secure passports and visa.
In its judgment rendered on June 17, 1993, the Bacoor, Cavite RTC found accused-
appellant guilty of the crime of simple illegal recruitment but acquitted her of the crime of
estafa. The dispositive portion of the judgment reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused Imelda Darvin is hereby found guilty


beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Simple Illegal Recruitment for having
committed the prohibited practice as defined by paragraph (b) of Article 34 and
punished by paragraph (c) of Article 39 of the Labor Code, as amended by PD 2018.

Accused Imelda Darvin is hereby ordered to suffer the prison term of Four (4) years, as
minimum, to Eight (8) years, as maximum; and to pay the fine of P25,000.00.

Regarding her civil liability, she is hereby ordered to reimburse the private complainant
the sum of P150,000.00 and attorneys fees of P10,000.00.

She is hereby acquitted of the crime of Estafa.

SO ORDERED.[8]

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court in toto, hence
this petition.
Before this Court, accused-appellant assails the decision of the trial and appellate
courts in convicting her of the crime of simple illegal recruitment. She contends that based
on the evidence presented by the prosecution, her guilt was not proven beyond
reasonable doubt.
We find the appeal impressed with merit.
Article 13 of the Labor Code, as amended, provides the definition of recruitment and
placement as:

x x x; b) any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or


procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for
employment. locally or abroad, whether for profit or not: Provided , that any person or
entity which, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment to two or more
persons shall be deemed engaged in recruitment and placement.

On the other hand, Article 38 of the Labor Code provides:

a) Any recruitment activities, including the prohibited practices enumerated under


Article 34 of this Code, to be undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of
authority shall be deemed illegal and punishable under Article 39 of this
Code. The Ministry of Labor and Employment or any law enforcement officer may
initiate complaints under this Article.

x x x x x x x x x.
Applied to the present case, to uphold the conviction of accused-appellant, two
elements need to be shown: (1) the person charged with the crime must have undertaken
recruitment activities; and (2) the said person does not have a license or authority to do
so.[9]
In this case, private respondent, Macaria Toledo alleged that she was offered a job
in the United States as nursing aide[10] by accused-appellant. In her direct examination,
she testified as follows:
Atty Alejandro:
Q : How did you come to know the accused?
Witness : I was introduced by my two friends. One of whom is my best friend. That
according to them, this accused has connections and authorizations, that she can
make people leave for abroad, sir.
Court : What connections?
Witness : That she has connections with the Embassy and with people whom she can
approach regarding work abroad, your Honor.
xxxxxxxxx
Q : When you came to meet for the first time in Imus, Cavite, what transpired in that
meeting of yours?
A : When I came to her house, the accused convinced me that by means of
P150,000.00, I will be able to leave immediately without any appearance to any
embassy, non-appearance, Sir.
Q : When you mentioned non-appearance, as told to you by the accused, precisely,
what do you mean by that?
A : I was told by the accused that non-appearance, means without working personally
for my papers and through her efforts considering that she is capacitated as
according to her I will be able to leave the country, Sir.
xxxxxxxxx
Atty. Alejandro : What transpired after the accused told you all these things that you
will be able to secure all the documents without appearing to anybody or to any
embassy and that you will be able to work abroad?
Witness : She told me to get ready with my P150,000.00, that is if I want to leave
immediately, Sir.
Atty. Alejandro : When you mentioned kaagad, how many days or week?
Witness : She said that if I will able to part with my P150,000.00. I will be able to leave
in just one week time, Sir.
x x x x x x x x x.[11]
The prosecution, as evidence, presented the certification issued by the POEA that
accused-appellant Imelda Darvin is not licensed to recruit workers abroad.
It is not disputed that accused-appellant does not have a license or authority to
engage in recruitment activities. The pivotal issue to be determined, therefore, is whether
the accused-appellant indeed engaged in recruitment activities, as defined under the
Labor Code. Applying the rule laid down in the case of People v. Goce,[12] to prove that
accused-appellant was engaged in recruitment activities as to commit the crime of illegal
recruitment, it must be shown that the accused appellant gave private respondent the
distinct impression that she had the power or ability to send the private respondent abroad
for work such that the latter was convinced to part with her money in order to be so
employed.
In this case, we find no sufficient evidence to prove that accused-appellant offered a
job to private respondent. It is not clear that accused gave the impression that she was
capable of providing the private respondent work abroad. What is established, however,
is that the private respondent gave accused-appellant P150,000.00. The claim of the
accused that the P150,000.00 was for payment of private respondents air fare and US
visa and other expenses cannot be ignored because the receipt for the P150,000.00,
which was presented by both parties during the trial of the case, stated that it was for Air
Fare and Visa to USA.[13] Had the amount been for something else in addition to air fare
and visa expenses, such as work placement abroad, the receipt should have so stated.
By themselves, procuring a passport, airline tickets and foreign visa for another
individual, without more, can hardly qualify as recruitment activities. Aside from the
testimony of private respondent, there is nothing to show that accused-appellant engaged
in recruitment activities.We also note that the prosecution did not present the testimonies
of witnesses who could have corroborated the charge of illegal recruitment, such
as Florencio Rivera, and Leonila Rivera, when it had the opportunity to do so. As it stands,
the claim of private respondent that accused-appellant promised her employment abroad
is uncorroborated. All these, taken collectively, cast reasonable doubt on the guilt of the
accused.
This Court can hardly rely on the bare allegations of private respondent that she was
offered by accused-appellant employment abroad, nor on mere presumptions and
conjectures, to convict the latter. No sufficient evidence was shown to sustain the
conviction, as the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to establish that accused-
appellant indeed engaged in recruitment activities, thus committing the crime of illegal
recruitment.
In criminal cases, the burden is on the prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable
doubt, the essential elements of the offense with which the accused is charged; and if the
proof fails to establish any of the essential elements necessary to constitute a crime, the
defendant is entitled to an acquittal. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such
a degree of proof as, excluding the possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral
certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an
unprejudiced mind.[14]
At best, the evidence proffered by the prosecution only goes so far as to create a
suspicion that accused-appellant probably perpetrated the crime charged. But suspicion
alone is insufficient, the required quantum of evidence being proof beyond reasonable
doubt. When the Peoples evidence fail to indubitably prove the accuseds authorship of
the crime of which he stands accused, then it is the Courts duty, and the accuseds right,
to proclaim his innocence. Acquittal, therefore, is in order.[15]
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby GRANTED and the decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 15624 dated January 31, 1996, is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Accused-appellant Imelda Darvin is hereby ACQUITTED on ground of
reasonable doubt. Accordingly, let the accused be immediately released from her place
of confinement unless there is reason to detain her further for any other legal or valid
cause. No pronouncement as to costs.
Darvin v Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 125044
July 13, 1998

Facts:

Imelda Darvin was convicted of simple illegal recruitment under the Labor Code by the RTC. It
stemmed from a complaint of one Macaria Toledo who was convinced by the petitioner that
she has the authority to recruit workers for abroad and can facilitate the necessary papers in
connection thereof. In view of this promise, Macaria gave her P150,000 supposedly intended
for US Visa and air fare.
On appeal, the CA affirmed the decision of the trial court in toto, hence this petition.

Isue:
Whether or not appellant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal recruitment.

Held:
Ar. 13 of the Labor Code provides the definition of recruitment and placement as:
...b.) any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring
workers and includes referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for employment
locally or abroad, whether for profit or not: Provided, that any reason person or entity which, in
any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment to two or more persons shall be deemed
engaged in recruitment and placement.

Art. 38 of the Labor Code provides:


a.)Any recruitment activities, including the prohibited practices enumerated under Article 43 of
the Labor Code, to be undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority shall be deemed
illegal and punishable under Article 39 of the Labor Code.

Applied to the present case, to uphold the conviction of accused-appellant, two elements need
to be shown: (1) the person charged with the crime must have undertaken recruitment
activities: and (2) the said person does not have a license or authority to do so.
In the case, the Court found no sufficient evidence to prove that accused-appellant offered a
job to private respondent. It is not clear that accused gave the impression that she was capable
of providing the private respondent work abroad. What is established, however, is that the
private respondent gave accused-appellant P150,000.
By themselves, procuring a passport, airline tickets and foreign visa for another individual,
without more, can hardly qualify as recruitment activities. Aside from the testimony of private
respondent, there is nothing to show that appellant engaged in recruitment activities.
At best, the evidence proffered by the prosecution only goes so far as to create a suspicion that
appellant probably perpetrated the crime charged. But suspicion alone is insufficient, the
required quantum of evidence being proof beyond reasonable doubt. When the People’s
evidence fail to indubitably prove the accused’s authorship of the crime of which he stand
accused, then it is the Court’s duty, and the accused’s right, to proclaim his innocence.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby granted and the decision of the CA is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Appellant is hereby ACQUITTED on ground of reasonably doubt. The accused is ordered
immediately released from her confinement.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
LOMA GOCE y OLALIA, DAN GOCE and NELLY D. AGUSTIN, accused. NELLY D.
AGUSTIN, accused-appellant.

REGALADO, J.:
On January 12, 1988, an information for illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate
and in large scale, punishable under Articles 38 and 39 of the Labor Code (Presidential
Decree No. 442) as amended by Section 1(b) of Presidential Decree No. 2018, was
filed against spouses Dan and Loma Goce and herein accused-appellant Nelly Agustin
in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 5, alleging —

That in or about and during the period comprised between May 1986 and
June 25, 1987, both dates inclusive, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the
said accused, conspiring and confederating together and helping one
another, representing themselves to have the capacity to contract, enlist
and transport Filipino workers for employment abroad, did then and there
willfully and unlawfully, for a fee, recruit and promise employment/job
placement abroad, to (1) Rolando Dalida y Piernas, (2) Ernesto Alvarez y
Lubangco, (3) Rogelio Salado y Savillo, (4) Ramona Salado y Alvarez, (5)
Dionisio Masaya y de Guzman, (6) Dave Rivera y de Leon, (7) Lorenzo
Alvarez y Velayo, and (8) Nelson Trinidad y Santos, without first having
secured the required license or authority from the Department of Labor. 1

On January 21, 1987, a warrant of arrest was issued against the three accused but not
one of them was arrested. 2Hence, on February 2, 1989, the trial court ordered the case
archived but it issued a standing warrant of arrest against the accused. 3

Thereafter, on learning of the whereabouts of the accused, one of the offended parties,
Rogelio Salado, requested on March 17, 1989 for a copy of the warrant of
arrest.4 Eventually, at around midday of February 26, 1993, Nelly Agustin was
apprehended by the Parañaque police.5 On March 8, 1993, her counsel filed a motion to
revive the case and requested that it be set for hearing "for purposes of due process
and for the accused to immediately have her day in court" 6 Thus, on April 15, 1993, the
trial court reinstated the case and set the arraignment for May 3, 1993,7 on which date
of Agustin pleaded not guilty8 and the case subsequently went to trial.

Four of the complainants testified for the prosecution. Rogelio Salado was the first to
take the witness stand and he declared that sometime in March or April, 1987, he was
introduced by Lorenzo Alvarez, his brother-in-law and a co-applicant, to Nelly Agustin in
the latter's residence at Factor, Dongalo, Parañaque, Metro Manila. Representing
herself as the manager of the Clover Placement Agency, Agustin showed him a job
order as proof that he could readily be deployed for overseas employment. Salado
learned that he had to pay P5,000.00 as processing fee, which amount he gave
sometime in April or May of the same year. He was issued the corresponding receipt. 9

Also in April or May, 1987, Salado, accompanied by five other applicants who were his
relatives, went to the office of the placement agency at Nakpil Street, Ermita, Manila
where he saw Agustin and met the spouses Dan and Loma Goce, owners of the
agency. He submitted his bio-data and learned from Loma Goce that he had to give
P12,000.00, instead of the original amount of P5,000.00 for the placement fee. Although
surprised at the new and higher sum, they subsequently agreed as long as there was
an assurance that they could leave for abroad.10

Thereafter, a receipt was issued in the name of the Clover Placement Agency showing
that Salado and his aforesaid co-applicants each paid P2,000.00, instead of the
P5,000.00 which each of them actually paid. Several months passed but Salado failed
to leave for the promised overseas employment. Hence, in October, 1987, along with
the other recruits, he decided to go to the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration (POEA) to verify the real status of Clover Placement Agency. They
discovered that said agency was not duly licensed to recruit job applicants. Later, upon
learning that Agustin had been arrested, Salado decided to see her and to demand the
return of the money he had paid, but Agustin could only give him P500.00. 11

Ramona Salado, the wife of Rogelio Salado, came to know through her brother,
Lorenzo Alvarez, about Nelly Agustin. Accompanied by her husband, Rogelio, Ramona
went to see Agustin at the latter's residence. Agustin persuaded her to apply as a
cutter/sewer in Oman so that she could join her husband. Encouraged by Agustin's
promise that she and her husband could live together while working in Oman, she
instructed her husband to give Agustin P2,000.00 for each of them as placement fee, or
the total sum of P4,000.00. 12

Much later, the Salado couple received a telegram from the placement agency requiring
them to report to its office because the "NOC" (visa) had allegedly arrived. Again,
around February, or March, 1987, Rogelio gave P2,000.00 as payment for his and his
wife's passports. Despite follow-up of their papers twice a week from February to June,
1987, he and his wife failed to leave for abroad. 13

Complainant Dionisio Masaya, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Aquiles Ortega,


applied for a job in Oman with the Clover Placement Agency at Parañaque, the
agency's former office address. There, Masaya met Nelly Agustin, who introduced
herself as the manager of the agency, and the Goce spouses, Dan and Loma, as well
as the latter's daughter. He submitted several pertinent documents, such as his bio-data
and school credentials. 14

In May, 1986, Masaya gave Dan Goce P1,900.00 as an initial downpayment for the
placement fee, and in September of that same year, he gave an additional P10,000.00.
He was issued receipts for said amounts and was advised to go to the placement office
once in a while to follow up his application, which he faithfully did. Much to his dismay
and chagrin, he failed to leave for abroad as promised. Accordingly, he was forced to
demand that his money be refunded but Loma Goce could give him back only
P4,000.00 in installments. 15

As the prosecution's fourth and last witness, Ernesto Alvarez took the witness stand on
June 7, 1993. He testified that in February, 1987, he met appellant Agustin through his
cousin, Larry Alvarez, at her residence in Parañaque. She informed him that "madalas
siyang nagpapalakad sa Oman" and offered him a job as an ambulance driver at the
Royal Hospital in Oman with a monthly salary of about $600.00 to $700.00. 16

On March 10, 1987, Alvarez gave an initial amount of P3,000.00 as processing fee to
Agustin at the latter's residence. In the same month, he gave another P3,000.00, this
time in the office of the placement agency. Agustin assured him that he could leave for
abroad before the end of 1987. He returned several times to the placement agency's
office to follow up his application but to no avail. Frustrated, he demanded the return of
the money he had paid, but Agustin could only give back P500.00. Thereafter, he
looked for Agustin about eight times, but he could no longer find her. 17

Only herein appellant Agustin testified for the defense. She asserted that Dan and Loma
Goce were her neighbors at Tambo, Parañaque and that they were licensed recruiters
and owners of the Clover Placement Agency. Previously, the Goce couple was able to
send her son, Reynaldo Agustin, to Saudi Arabia. Agustin met the aforementioned
complainants through Lorenzo Alvarez who requested her to introduce them to the
Goce couple, to which request she acceded. 18

Denying any participation in the illegal recruitment and maintaining that the recruitment
was perpetrated only by the Goce couple, Agustin denied any knowledge of the receipts
presented by the prosecution. She insisted that the complainants included her in the
complaint thinking that this would compel her to reveal the whereabouts of the Goce
spouses. She failed to do so because in truth, so she claims, she does not know the
present address of the couple. All she knew was that they had left their residence in
1987. 19

Although she admitted having given P500.00 each to Rogelio Salado and Alvarez, she
explained that it was entirely for different reasons. Salado had supposedly asked for a
loan, while Alvarez needed money because he was sick at that time. 20

On November 19, 1993, the trial court rendered judgment finding herein appellant guilty
as a principal in the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale, and sentencing her to
serve the penalty of life imprisonment, as well as to pay a fine of P100,000.00. 21

In her present appeal, appellant Agustin raises the following arguments: (1) her act of
introducing complainants to the Goce couple does not fall within the meaning of illegal
recruitment and placement under Article 13(b) in relation to Article 34 of the Labor
Code; (2) there is no proof of conspiracy to commit illegal recruitment among appellant
and the Goce spouses; and (3) there is no proof that appellant offered or promised
overseas employment to the complainants. 22 These three arguments being interrelated,
they will be discussed together.

Herein appellant is accused of violating Articles 38 and 39 of the Labor Code. Article 38
of the Labor Code, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 2018, provides that any
recruitment activity, including the prohibited practices enumerated in Article 34 of said
Code, undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority shall be deemed illegal
and punishable under Article 39 thereof. The same article further provides that illegal
recruitment shall be considered an offense involving economic sabotage if any of these
qualifying circumstances exist, namely, (a) when illegal recruitment is committed by a
syndicate, i.e., if it is carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring and/or
confederating with one another; or (b) when illegal recruitment is committed in large
scale, i.e., if it is committed against three or more persons individually or as a group.

At the outset, it should be made clear that all the accused in this case were not
authorized to engage in any recruitment activity, as evidenced by a certification issued
by Cecilia E. Curso, Chief of the Licensing and Regulation Office of the Philippine
Overseas Employment Administration, on November 10, 1987. Said certification states
that Dan and Loma Goce and Nelly Agustin are neither licensed nor authorized to
recruit workers for overseas
employment. 23 Appellant does not dispute this. As a matter of fact her counsel agreed
to stipulate that she was neither licensed nor authorized to recruit applicants for
overseas employment. Appellant, however, denies that she was in any way guilty of
illegal recruitment. 24

It is appellant's defensive theory that all she did was to introduce complainants to the
Goce spouses. Being a neighbor of said couple, and owing to the fact that her son's
overseas job application was processed and facilitated by them, the complainants
asked her to introduce them to said spouses. Allegedly out of the goodness of her heart,
she complied with their request. Such an act, appellant argues, does not fall within the
meaning of "referral" under the Labor Code to make her liable for illegal recruitment.

Under said Code, recruitment and placement refers to any act of canvassing, enlisting,
contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers, and includes referrals,
contract services, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether
for profit or not; provided, that any person or entity which, in any manner, offers or
promises for a fee employment to two or more persons shall be deemed engaged in
recruitment and placement. 25 On the other hand, referral is the act of passing along or
forwarding of an applicant for employment after an initial interview of a selected
applicant for employment to a selected employer, placement officer or bureau. 26

Hence, the inevitable query is whether or not appellant Agustin merely introduced
complainants to the Goce couple or her actions went beyond that. The testimonial
evidence hereon show that she indeed further committed acts constitutive of illegal
recruitment. All four prosecution witnesses testified that it was Agustin whom they
initially approached regarding their plans of working overseas. It was from her that they
learned about the fees they had to pay, as well as the papers that they had to submit. It
was after they had talked to her that they met the accused spouses who owned the
placement agency.

As correctly held by the trial court, being an employee of the Goces, it was therefore
logical for appellant to introduce the applicants to said spouses, they being the owners
of the agency. As such, appellant was actually making referrals to the agency of which
she was a part. She was therefore engaging in recruitment activity. 27

Despite Agustin's pretensions that she was but a neighbor of the Goce couple, the
testimonies of the prosecution witnesses paint a different picture. Rogelio Salado and
Dionisio Masaya testified that appellant represented herself as the manager of the
Clover Placement Agency. Ramona Salado was offered a job as a cutter/sewer by
Agustin the first time they met, while Ernesto Alvarez remembered that when he first
met Agustin, the latter represented herself as "nagpapaalis papunta sa
Oman." 28 Indeed, Agustin played a pivotal role in the operations of the recruitment
agency, working together with the Goce couple.

There is illegal recruitment when one gives the impression of having the ability to send a
worker abroad." 29 It is undisputed that appellant gave complainants the distinct
impression that she had the power or ability to send people abroad for work such that
the latter were convinced to give her the money she demanded in order to be so
employed. 30

It cannot be denied that Agustin received from complainants various sums for purpose
of their applications. Her act of collecting from each of the complainants payment for
their respective passports, training fees, placement fees, medical tests and other sundry
expenses unquestionably constitutes an act of recruitment within the meaning of the
law. In fact, appellant demanded and received from complainants amounts beyond the
allowable limit of P5,000.00 under government regulations. It is true that the mere act of
a cashier in receiving money far exceeding the amount allowed by law was not
considered per se as "recruitment and placement" in contemplation of law, but that was
because the recipient had no other participation in the transactions and did not conspire
with her co-accused in defrauding the victims. 31 That is not the case here.

Appellant further argues that "there is no evidence of receipts of collections/payments


from complainants to appellant." On the contrary, xerox copies of said receipts/vouchers
were presented by the prosecution. For instance, a cash voucher marked as Exhibit
D, 32 showing the receipt of P10,000.00 for placement fee and duly signed by appellant,
was presented by the prosecution. Another receipt, identified as Exhibit E, 33 was issued
and signed by appellant on February 5, 1987 to acknowledge receipt of P4,000.00 from
Rogelio and Ramona Salado for "processing of documents for Oman." Still another
receipt dated March 10, 1987 and presented in evidence as Exhibit F, shows that
appellant received from Ernesto Alvarez P2,000.00 for "processing of documents for
Oman." 34

Apparently, the original copies of said receipts/vouchers were lost, hence only xerox
copies thereof were presented and which, under the circumstances, were admissible in
evidence. When the original writing has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced in
court, upon proof of its execution and loss or destruction, or unavailability, its contents
may be proved by a copy or a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by
the recollection of witnesses. 35
Even assuming arguendo that the xerox copies presented by the prosecution as
secondary evidence are not allowable in court, still the absence thereof does not
warrant the acquittal of appellant. In People vs. Comia, 36where this particular issue was
involved, the Court held that the complainants' failure to ask for receipts for the fees
they paid to the accused therein, as well as their consequent failure to present receipts
before the trial court as proof of the said payments, is not fatal to their case. The
complainants duly proved by their respective testimonies that said accused was
involved in the entire recruitment process. Their testimonies in this regard, being clear
and positive, were declared sufficient to establish that factum probandum.

Indeed, the trial court was justified and correct in accepting the version of the
prosecution witnesses, their statements being positive and affirmative in nature. This is
more worthy of credit than the mere uncorroborated and self-serving denials of
appellant. The lame defense consisting of such bare denials by appellant cannot
overcome the evidence presented by the prosecution proving her guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. 37

The presence of documentary evidence notwithstanding, this case essentially involves


the credibility of witnesses which is best left to the judgment of the trial court, in the
absence of abuse of discretion therein. The findings of fact of a trial court, arrived at
only after a hearing and evaluation of what can usually be expected to be conflicting
testimonies of witnesses, certainly deserve respect by an appellate court. 38 Generally,
the findings of fact of the trial court on the matter of credibility of witnesses will not be
disturbed on appeal. 39

In a last-ditch effort to exculpate herself from conviction, appellant argues that there is
no proof of conspiracy between her and the Goce couple as to make her liable for illegal
recruitment. We do not agree. The evidence presented by the prosecution clearly
establish that appellant confabulated with the Goces in their plan to deceive the
complainants. Although said accused couple have not been tried and convicted,
nonetheless there is sufficient basis for appellant's conviction as discussed above.

In People vs. Sendon, 40 we held that the non-prosecution of another suspect therein
provided no ground for the appellant concerned to fault the decision of the trial court
convicting her. The prosecution of other persons, equally or more culpable than herein
appellant, may come later after their true identities and addresses shall have been
ascertained and said malefactors duly taken into custody. We see no reason why the
same doctrinal rule and course of procedure should not apply in this case.

WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of the court a quo is hereby AFFIRMED in toto,
with costs against accused-appellant Nelly D. Agustin.

G.R. No. 113161, August 29, 1995


People of the Phil., plaintiff-appellee
vs Loma Goce, et. al., accused-appellant
Ponente: Regalado
Facts:
On January 1988, an information for illegal recruitment committed
by a syndicate nd in large scale, punishable under Articles 38 and
39 of the labor code as amended by PD 2018, filed against Dan and
Loma Goce and Nelly Agustin in the RTC of Manila, alleging that in
or about during the period comprised between May 1986 and June 25,
1987, both dates inclusive in the City of Manila, the accused
conspired and represent themsleves to have the capacity to recruit
Filipino workers for employment abroad.

January 1987, a warrant of arrest was issued against the 3 accused


bot none of them was arrested. Hence, on February 1989, the RTC
prdered the case archived but issued a standing warrant os arrest
against the accused.

Thereafter, knowing the whereabouts of the accused, Rogelio Salado


requested for a copy of the warrant of arrest and eventually Nelly
Agustin was apprehended by the Paranaque Police. Agustin's counsel
filed a motion to revive the case and requested to set a hearing
for purpose of due process and for accused to immediately have her
day in court. On the arraignment, Agustin pleaded not guilty and
the trial went on with four complainants testified for the
prosecution and reciepts of the processing fees they paid.

Agustin for the defense asserted that Goce couple were licensed
recruiters but denied her participation in the recruitment and
denied knowledge of the receipts as well.

On November 1993, trial court rendered judgment finding that


Agustin as a principal in the crime of illegal recruitment in large
scale with sentence of life imprisonment and pay P100,000.00.

Issues:
Agustin appealed witht the follwing arguments: (1) her act of
introducing the complainants to the couple does not fall within
the meaning of illegal recruitment and placement under Article 13
in relation to Article 34 of the labor code; (2) there is no proof
of conspiracy and (3) there is no proof that appellant
offered/promised overseas employment to the complainants.

Ruling:

The testimonial evidence shows that Agustin indeed further


committted acts constitutive of illegal recruitment because, the
complainants had a previous interview with Agustin (as employee of
the Goce couple) about fees and papers to submit that may
constitute as referral. Agustin collected the payments of the
complainants as well as their passports, trainning fees, medical
tests and other expenses.On the issue of proof, the court held
that the receipts exhibited by the claimants are clear enough to
prove the payments and transaction made.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. BULU


CHOWDURY, accused-appellant.

DECISION

PUNO, J.:

In November 1995, Bulu Chowdury and Josephine Ong were charged before the
Regional Trial Court of Manila with the crime of illegal recruitment in large
scale committed as follows:

"That sometime between the period from August 1994 to October 1994 in
the City of Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, representing themselves to have the
capacity to contract, enlist and transport workers for employment abroad,
conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously recruit the herein complainants:
Estrella B. Calleja, Melvin C. Miranda and Aser S. Sasis, individually or as
a group for employment in Korea without first obtaining the required
license and/or authority from the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration."[1]

They were likewise charged with three counts of estafa committed against private
complainants.[2] The State Prosecutor, however, later dismissed the estafa charges
against Chowdury[3]and filed an amended information indicting only Ong for the
offense.[4]

Chowdury was arraigned on April 16, 1996 while Ong remained at large. He pleaded
"not guilty" to the charge of illegal recruitment in large scale.[5]

Trial ensued.

The prosecution presented four witnesses: private complainants Aser Sasis, Estrella
Calleja and Melvin Miranda, and Labor Employment Officer Abbelyn Caguitla.

Sasis testified that he first met Chowdury in August 1994 when he applied with
Craftrade Overseas Developers (Craftrade) for employment as factory worker in South
Korea. Chowdury, a consultant of Craftrade, conducted the interview. During the
interview, Chowdury informed him about the requirements for employment. He told him
to submit his passport, NBI clearance, passport size picture and medical certificate. He
also required him to undergo a seminar. He advised him that placement would be on a
first-come-first-serve basis and urged him to complete the requirements immediately.
Sasis was also charged a processing fee of P25,000.00. Sasis completed all the
requirements in September 1994. He also paid a total amount of P16,000.00 to
Craftrade as processing fee. All payments were received by Ong for which she issued
three receipts.[6] Chowdury then processed his papers and convinced him to complete
his payment.[7]

Sasis further said that he went to the office of Craftrade three times to follow up his
application but he was always told to return some other day. In one of his visits to
Craftrades office, he was informed that he would no longer be deployed for employment
abroad. This prompted him to withdraw his payment but he could no longer find
Chowdury. After two unsuccessful attempts to contact him, he decided to file with the
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) a case for illegal recruitment
against Chowdury. Upon verification with the POEA, he learned that Craftrade's license
had already expired and has not been renewed and that Chowdury, in his personal
capacity, was not a licensed recruiter.[8]

Calleja testified that in June 1994, she applied with Craftrade for employment as factory
worker in South Korea. She was interviewed by Chowdury. During the interview, he
asked questions regarding her marital status, her age and her province. Toward the end
of the interview, Chowdury told her that she would be working in a factory in Korea. He
required her to submit her passport, NBI clearance, ID pictures, medical certificate and
birth certificate. He also obliged her to attend a seminar on overseas employment. After
she submitted all the documentary requirements, Chowdury required her to
pay P20,000.00 as placement fee. Calleja made the payment on August 11, 1994 to
Ong for which she was issued a receipt.[9] Chowdury assured her that she would be
able to leave on the first week of September but it proved to be an empty promise.
Calleja was not able to leave despite several follow-ups. Thus, she went to the POEA
where she discovered that Craftrade's license had already expired. She tried to
withdraw her money from Craftrade to no avail. Calleja filed a complaint for illegal
recruitment against Chowdury upon advice of POEA's legal counsel.[10]

Miranda testified that in September 1994, his cousin accompanied him to the office of
Craftrade in Ermita, Manila and introduced him to Chowdury who presented himself as
consultant and interviewer. Chowdury required him to fill out a bio-data sheet before
conducting the interview. Chowdury told Miranda during the interview that he would
send him to Korea for employment as factory worker. Then he asked him to submit the
following documents: passport, passport size picture, NBI clearance and medical
certificate. After he complied with the requirements, he was advised to wait for his visa
and to pay P25,000.00 as processing fee. He paid the amount of P25,000.00 to Ong
who issued receipts therefor.[11] Craftrade, however, failed to deploy him. Hence,
Miranda filed a complaint with the POEA against Chowdury for illegal recruitment.[12]
Labor Employment Officer Abbelyn Caguitla of the Licensing Branch of the POEA
testified that she prepared a certification on June 9, 1996 that Chowdury and his co-
accused, Ong, were not, in their personal capacities, licensed recruiters nor were they
connected with any licensed agency. She nonetheless stated that Craftrade was
previously licensed to recruit workers for abroad which expired on December 15, 1993.
It applied for renewal of its license but was only granted a temporary license effective
December 16, 1993 until September 11, 1994. From September 11, 1994, the POEA
granted Craftrade another temporary authority to process the expiring visas of overseas
workers who have already been deployed. The POEA suspended Craftrade's temporary
license on December 6, 1994.[13]

For his defense, Chowdury testified that he worked as interviewer at Craftrade from
1990 until 1994. His primary duty was to interview job applicants for abroad. As a mere
employee, he only followed the instructions given by his superiors, Mr. Emmanuel
Geslani, the agencys President and General Manager, and Mr. Utkal Chowdury, the
agency's Managing Director. Chowdury admitted that he interviewed private
complainants on different dates. Their office secretary handed him their bio-data and
thereafter he led them to his room where he conducted the interviews. During the
interviews, he had with him a form containing the qualifications for the job and he filled
out this form based on the applicant's responses to his questions. He then submitted
them to Mr. Utkal Chowdury who in turn evaluated his findings. He never received
money from the applicants. He resigned from Craftrade on November 12, 1994.[14]

Another defense witness, Emelita Masangkay who worked at the Accreditation Branch
of the POEA presented a list of the accredited principals of Craftrade Overseas
Developers[15] and a list of processed workers of Craftrade Overseas Developers from
1988 to 1994.[16]

The trial court found Chowdury guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal
recruitment in large scale. It sentenced him to life imprisonment and to pay a fine
of P100,000.00. It further ordered him to pay Aser Sasis the amount of P16,000.00,
Estrella Calleja, P20,000.00 and Melvin Miranda, P25,000.00. The dispositive portion of
the decision reads:

"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, the prosecution


having proved the guilt of the accused Bulu Chowdury beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Illegal Recruitment in large scale, he is hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine
of P100,000.00 under Art. 39 (b) of the New Labor Code of the
Philippines. The accused is ordered to pay the complainants Aser Sasis
the amount of P16,000.00; Estrella Calleja the amount of P20,000.00;
Melvin Miranda the amount of P25,000.00."[17]

Chowdury appealed.

The elements of illegal recruitment in large scale are:


(1) The accused undertook any recruitment activity defined under Article
13 (b) or any prohibited practice enumerated under Article 34 of the Labor
Code;

(2) He did not have the license or authority to lawfully engage in the
recruitment and placement of workers; and

(3) He committed the same against three or more persons, individually or


as a group.[18]

The last paragraph of Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) 8042[19] states who shall be held
liable for the offense, thus:

"The persons criminally liable for the above offenses are the principals,
accomplices and accessories. In case of juridical persons, the officers
having control, management or direction of their business shall be
liable."

The Revised Penal Code which supplements the law on illegal recruitment [20] defines
who are the principals, accomplices and accessories. The principals are: (1) those who
take a direct part in the execution of the act; (2) those who directly force or induce
others to commit it; and (3) those who cooperate in the commission of the offense by
another act without which it would not have been accomplished.[21] The accomplices are
those persons who may not be considered as principal as defined in Section 17 of the
Revised Penal Code but cooperate in the execution of the offense by previous or
simultaneous act.[22] The accessories are those who, having knowledge of the
commission of the crime, and without having participated therein, either as principals or
accomplices, take part subsequent to its commission in any of the following manner: (1)
by profiting themselves or assisting the offenders to profit by the effects of the crime; (2)
by concealing or destroying the body of the crime, or the effects or instruments thereof,
in order to prevent its discovery; and (3) by harboring, concealing, or assisting in the
escape of the principal of the crime, provided the accessory acts with abuse of his
public functions or whenever the author of the crime is guilty of treason, parricide,
murder, or an attempt at the life of the chief executive, or is known to be habitually guilty
of some other crime.[23]

Citing the second sentence of the last paragraph of Section 6 of RA 8042, accused-
appellant contends that he may not be held liable for the offense as he was merely an
employee of Craftrade and he only performed the tasks assigned to him by his
superiors. He argues that the ones who should be held liable for the offense are the
officers having control, management and direction of the agency.

As stated in the first sentence of Section 6 of RA 8042, the persons who may be held
liable for illegal recruitment are the principals, accomplices and accessories. An
employee of a company or corporation engaged in illegal recruitment may be held liable
as principal, together with his employer,[24] if it is shown that he actively and
consciously participated in illegal recruitment.[25] It has been held that the existence of
the corporate entity does not shield from prosecution the corporate agent who
knowingly and intentionally causes the corporation to commit a crime. The corporation
obviously acts, and can act, only by and through its human agents, and it is their
conduct which the law must deter. The employee or agent of a corporation engaged in
unlawful business naturally aids and abets in the carrying on of such business and will
be prosecuted as principal if, with knowledge of the business, its purpose and effect, he
consciously contributes his efforts to its conduct and promotion, however slight his
contribution may be.[26] The law of agency, as applied in civil cases, has no application
in criminal cases, and no man can escape punishment when he participates in the
commission of a crime upon the ground that he simply acted as an agent of any
party.[27] The culpability of the employee therefore hinges on his knowledge of the
offense and his active participation in its commission. Where it is shown that the
employee was merely acting under the direction of his superiors and was unaware that
his acts constituted a crime, he may not be held criminally liable for an act done for and
in behalf of his employer.[28]

The fundamental issue in this case, therefore, is whether accused-appellant knowingly


and intentionally participated in the commission of the crime charged.

We find that he did not.

Evidence shows that accused-appellant interviewed private complainants in the months


of June, August and September in 1994 at Craftrade's office. At that time, he was
employed as interviewer of Craftrade which was then operating under a temporary
authority given by the POEA pending renewal of its license.[29] The temporary license
included the authority to recruit workers.[30] He was convicted based on the fact that he
was not registered with the POEA as employee of Craftrade. Neither was he, in his
personal capacity, licensed to recruit overseas workers. Section 10 Rule II Book II of the
Rules and Regulation Governing Overseas Employment (1991) requires that every
change, termination or appointment of officers, representatives and personnel of
licensed agencies be registered with the POEA. Agents or representatives appointed by
a licensed recruitment agency whose appointments are not previously approved by the
POEA are considered "non-licensee " or "non-holder of authority" and therefore not
authorized to engage in recruitment activity.[31]

Upon examination of the records, however, we find that the prosecution failed to prove
that accused-appellant was aware of Craftrade's failure to register his name with the
POEA and that he actively engaged in recruitment despite this knowledge. The
obligation to register its personnel with the POEA belongs to the officers of the
agency.[32] A mere employee of the agency cannot be expected to know the legal
requirements for its operation. The evidence at hand shows that accused-appellant
carried out his duties as interviewer of Craftrade believing that the agency was duly
licensed by the POEA and he, in turn, was duly authorized by his agency to deal with
the applicants in its behalf. Accused-appellant in fact confined his actions to his job
description. He merely interviewed the applicants and informed them of the
requirements for deployment but he never received money from them. Their payments
were received by the agency's cashier, Josephine Ong. Furthermore, he performed his
tasks under the supervision of its president and managing director. Hence, we hold that
the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt accused-appellant's conscious
and active participation in the commission of the crime of illegal recruitment. His
conviction, therefore, is without basis.

This is not to say that private complainants are left with no remedy for the wrong
committed against them. The Department of Justice may still file a complaint against the
officers having control, management or direction of the business of Craftrade Overseas
Developers (Craftrade), so long as the offense has not yet prescribed. Illegal
recruitment is a crime of economic sabotage which need to be curbed by the strong arm
of the law. It is important, however, to stress that the government's action must be
directed to the real offenders, those who perpetrate the crime and benefit from it.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court is REVERSED
and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant is hereby ACQUITTED. The Director of the Bureau
of Corrections is ordered to RELEASE accused-appellant unless he is being held for
some other cause, and to REPORT to this Court compliance with this order within ten
(10) days from receipt of this decision. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the
Secretary of the Department of Justice for his information and appropriate action.

SO ORDERED.