Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sapiera vs Court of Appeals

Facts: Remedios Nota Sapiera, a sari-sari store owner, on several occasions, purchased from Monrico Mart grocery items, mostly cigarettes and paid for them with checks issued by one Arturo de Guzman. These checks were signed by Sapiera on the back. When they were presented for payment, the checks were dishonoured because the drawer’s account was already closed. Respondent Ramon Samua informed Arturo de Guzman and petitioner but both failed to pay. Hence, four charges of Estafa were filed against Sapiera while two counts of BP 22 was filed against Arturo de Guzman. These cases were consolidated. On December 27 1999, the RTC Dagupan city acquitted Sapiera of all charges of Estafa but did not rule on the civil aspect of the case. Arturo de Guzman was held liable for the 2 BP 22 cases and was ordered to pay Sua 167,150 Php as civil indemnity and was sentenced for imprisonment of 6 months and 1 day. Respondent Sua appealed regarding the civil aspect of Sapiera’s case but the courtdenied it saying that the acquittal of petitioner was absolute. Respondent filed a petition for mandamus with the Court of Appeals praying that the appeal be given due course, this was granted. On January 1996, CA rendered a decision ordering Sapiera to pay 335000 php to Sua. Sapiera filed a motion for reconsideration. The CA the issued a resolution noting that the admission of both parties that Sua already collected 125000 for the 2 check paid by De Guzman on the BP 22 cases. It appears that the payment should be deducted on her liability as they involved the same two checks which Sapiera was involved in. the CA deducted the liability to 210,000 Php. Hence this petition by Sapiera claiming that the CA erred in rendering such decision because she was acquitted and the fact from which the civil liability exists did not exist. 

Issue: Whether or not Sapiera could be held civilly liable when she was acquitted in the criminal charges against her. 

HeldYes. Sec. 2 of rule 111 of the rules of court provides that extinction of the penal action does not carry with it the extinction of the civil, unless this shows that the fact from which the civil liability is based is proven to not have existed because of such acquittal. Civil liability is not extinguished where: (a) the acquittal is not based on reasonable doubt. (b) Where the court expressly declares that the liability is not criminal but only civil, (c) where the civil liability is not derived from or based on the criminal act. The decision of the case would show that the acquittal was based on failure of the prosecution to present sufficient evidence showing conspiracy between her and De Guzman. Since all checks were signed by Sapiera on the back, sec 17 of Negotiable instruments law says that she would be considered an indorser of the bill of exchange and under section 66 thereof would be held liable for breach of warranty and is held liable to pay the holder who may be compelled to pay the instrument.

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