REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
- versus - CRIMINAL CASE NO. 26905
JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA,
D E C I S I O N
The accused, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, is charged with the crime of Perjury defined in and penalized by Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code in an Amended Information docketed as Criminal Case No. 26905 which reads as follows: chanrobles virtual law library
“That on or about 29 April 1999, in the City of Manila, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, being then the President of the Republic of the Philippines,
taking advantage of his official position and committing the offense in
relation to office, being then required by law to file a Statement of
Assets, Liabilities and Networth [SALN], did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously state in his SALN for the year ending 31
December 1998, which he executed under oath before a notary public and
filed as required by R.A. 6713,
that his total assets were P37,385,307.08 including P5,035,363.40 of
“cash in hand and in bank,” and that this business interests were only
in JELP Real Estate and Dev. Corp., J.E. Inc. and Feluisa Dev. Corp.,
which material statements are false and untruthful, as he had by then
much more assets, including P57,106,201.40 cash in three (3) banks
accounts alone, namely: P44,268,442.68 with Keppel Bank; P548,121.84
with ASIA UNITED Bank; and, P12,289,636.88 with Security Bank, as well
as other corporate holdings and connections with the following
corporations, namely, First LPL Land Syndication, Inc.; Asis-Ejercito
Garments, Inc.; 24K International Food, Inc.; Alpha Funds, Inc.; Prime
Entertainment for Television Production, Inc.; ADE Food, Inc.;
Electronic Sentry Systems, Inc.; All Hot Soup, Inc.; F.E.L.T. Food
Before the Court acquired jurisdiction over the person of accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the Supreme Court, in Adm. Matter No. 02-1-07-SC, resolved to create a Special Division in the Sandiganbayan to hear, try and decide the Plunder case and all related cases against the said accused pursuant to the recommendation of the Oversight Committee of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court resolution was in response to the request of the Sandiganbayan that promulgated its Resolution No. 01-2002 on January 8 and 11, 2002 with respect to the Request for Re-Raffle of the defense counsel and the Opposition to Request for Re-Raffle of the Special Prosecution Panel.
When the case was set for arraignment, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada moved to reset the same and simultaneously filed a Motion to Quash on the following grounds, to wit: “1) the facts charged in the Information do not charge an offense; 2) the officer who prematurely filed the Information had no authority to do so; 3) the Information impermissibly charges more than one offense; and 4) it arbitrarily splits the complaint because of the persistence of the prosecution in disrespecting the interdiction that “[n]o person shall be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense,” while at the same time pursuing what it calls the “main charge for Plunder,” seeking disingenuously to deprive accused of the valuable right of invoking double jeopardy, “res judicata dressed in prison grey.” chan robles virtual law library
On March 6, 2002, the Court resolved to deny accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s Motion to Quash. On the points raised by the accused in his Motion to Quash, the Court ruled as follows:
information is not duplicitous. It charges accused only of one
offense – perjury. This is evident in the title and body of the
information. The fact that the same mentions R.A. 6713
does not make it duplicitous. As the Court sees, R.A. 6713
is mentioned only by way of reference to show compliance that the
fourth element of the crime charged has been alleged in the information.
chan robles virtual law library
Consequently, arraignment proceeded with accused, assisted by counsel de oficio, refusing to enter any plea. Hence, in accordance with the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Court entered a plea of “Not Guilty” on his behalf. The case was then set for pre-trial conference and the prosecution and the accused were directed to file their corresponding pre-trial briefs on or before the said date.
During the pre-trial conference on April 22, 2002, counsels de oficio for accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada reiterated their Manifestation filed during the pre-trial in Criminal Case No. 26565 (for Illegal Use of Alias) involving the same accused as follows: chan robles virtu chanrobles virtual law library al law library
“A. Facts of the case
“x x x
“They are not in a position to
intelligently enter into any stipulation or admission because the
accused does not want to be represented by any counsel hence, they were
not able to confer with him regarding this case.
“B. Testimonial and Documentary Evidence
“The undersigned hereby respectfully
manifest that at this time, they cannot make proper listing of
witnesses and documentary exhibits because of non-cooperation of the
“Also the undersigned are not in a
position to state the defense because of the non-conference of the
On the other hand, the prosecution marked the following documentary exhibits:
Sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of
As issues, the prosecution laid down the following:
Whether accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada has cash on hand and in bank
The pre-trial conference thereafter was declared terminated. Subsequently, the prosecution started the presentation of its evidence-in-chief. When it had rested and upon admission of its exhibits, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada filed his motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, which the Court granted in a Joint Resolution promulgated on March 17, 2004.
On March 30, 2004, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada filed his demurrer to evidence in the instant case but the same was denied in the Joint Resolution of the Court promulgated on July 12, 2004. In denying accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s demurrer to evidence in the instant case, the Court held, among other things, that:
“The alleged P50 Million is covered by documents B14-4, D14-12, C14-6,
E14-1, J15 up to R15, B14 up to B14 to B14-5; C14-24 up to C14-8; C14-9
up to C14-16; C14-17 up to C14-24 up to C14-28-B which were identified
by Atty. William Chua (of Asia United Bank), Salvador Serrano (of
Security Bank) and Renato A. Balatbat (of Keppel Bank). Movant’s
explanations (or lack thereof) in his demurrer to evidence seem
insufficient to overcome the prima facie evidence against him for
perjury. It is imperative, therefore, that he presents
countervailing evidence.” (Emphasis supplied)
“On the other hand, accused-movant Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s ‘DEMURRER
TO EVIDENCE’ in Criminal Case No. 26905 (Perjury) dated 30 March 2004
is DENIED for lack of merit. If he so desires, he may present his
evidence at 9:00 o’clock in the morning of July 12 and 14, 2004 and
every Monday and Wednesday thereafter at the Sandiganbayan Building,
Accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada eventually moved for reconsideration of the said Joint Resolution, but the same was denied by the Court per its Resolution of September 3, 2004. Thereafter, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada commenced the presentation of his evidence-in-chief. When he had rested and had formally offered his evidence in the instant case, the Court resolved to admit all his exhibits over the objection of the prosecution, as the objections refer more to the probative value of the exhibits, the relevancy and admissibility of which would be considered during the rendition of the Court’s decision.
The prosecution opted not to present rebuttal evidence. Hence, the Court directed the prosecution and the accused to file their simultaneous memoranda. Upon the filing thereof, the defense moved to set the case for oral summation, which the Court granted per its Order dated May 9, 2007. After hearing the summation of the prosecution and the accused on June 15, 2007, the cases against accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada were deemed submitted for decision.
EVIDENCE FOR THE PROSECUTION
To establish its case against accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada for Perjury, the prosecution presented Gerardo Dolorito Avendano, Renato Balatbat, Salvador Rosal Serrano, Maria Pamela Fernandez Moran, Atty. William Tiu Chua, Hernando Salayun Sac, Isma Castel Gonzales, and Annete Isabel Peralta Tamayo, who testified as follows:
GERARDO DOLORITO AVENDANO. He was a Clerk III in the Central Records Division of the Office of the Ombudsman who was responsible for receiving documents such as the Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government employees within the National Capital Region including those coming from the Office of the President and Vice-President. The witness testified that on April 29, 1999, he received the SAL as of December 31, 1998 of accused Former President Estrada and Luisa P. Ejercito, signed and executed under oath. Based on this document, the cash on hand and in bank of the said accused was P5,035,363.40 and his net worth was P33,439,290.61. This document also contained a list of business interests and financial transactions specifically mentioning “the names of the corporations wherein the persons submitting the SAL has holdings”.
On cross examination, witness Avendaño stated that this was the only instance he was summoned to testify regarding the SALN of a government employee.
RENATO ABAD BALATBAT. The testimony of Renato Abad Balatbat Was offered to prove, among other things, that the accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada maintained Special Savings Account No. 6007-00057-9 in his name and benefit; that the said account was opened on August 10, 1990 and remained active up to and until August 8, 2000 when it was closed; that it was an active account in the duration of almost ten (10) years; that the remaining balance as of December 31, 1998 was P44,268,442.68; and that this savings account was not disclosed in the Statement of Assets and Liabilities for the year 1998 filed by accused Former President Estrada.
Witness Renato Balatbat was the Bank Manager of Keppel Bank San Juan Branch from January of 1995 to May 27, 2002. He is presently the Bank Manager of Keppel Bank Caloocan Branch.
The witness identified a signature card allegedly of accused Former President Estrada relating to account number “SSB No. 057-6” which was changed to “PRO SA 57-9”. Witness Balatbat also related a ledger containing the regular transactions of the said account on a day to day basis and a certification as to the balance of the account. These documents showed that the balance of the account as of December 31, 1998 was P44,268,442.68. According to the witness, the account was closed on August 8, 2000.
On cross examination, witness Balatbat testified that the adverted account was opened on August 10, 1990 which was prior to his employment in the bank and that he had no knowledge or certainty on how the signature card was executed.
SALVADOR ROSAL SERRANO. The testimony of witness Salvador Rosal Serrano was offered to prove, among other things, the “three (3) accounts of Joseph Ejercito Estrada in the Security Bank Corporation; that contrary to what was stated in the Statement of Assets and Liabilities of Joseph Ejercito Estrada as of December 31, 1998, the latter had more than Five Million Pesos (P5,000,000.00) of cash in bank. chanrobles virtual law library
Witness Salvador Rosal Serrano was the Vice-President of Security Bank Corporation and the head of its Centralized Operation and Control Division. He was responsible for the day to day operations of one hundred nineteen (119) branches of the Security Bank Corporation; supervised the record keeping and accounting of the branch transactions; ensured the compliance of their branches to bank policies and procedures; supervised the safekeeping of all documents of all branch transactions; and issued certified true copies of documents in relation to the original documents kept by the bank.
The witness received a subpoena from this Court to bring, and testify on documents relating to the three (3) Investment Savings Accounts (ISA) issued in the name of accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada by the Security Bank Corporation San Juan Branch, Metro Manila. These pertained to Account No. 0091-203796-550, Account No. 0091-203796-554, and Account No. 0091-203796-559.
As for Account No. 0091-203796-550, witness Serrano related that this was formerly Account No. 09401083-00. The witness then related and identified the ISA Agreement dated April 21, 1998; the ISA Agreement dated May 21, 1998; the ISA Agreement dated June 22, 1998; the Memorandum of Agreement dated September 23, 1998; the ISA Ledger for the period October 26, 1998 to November 25, 1998; the ISA Ledger for the period December 28, 1998 to November 29, 1999; the ISA Ledger for the period January 7, 2000 to December 11, 2000; and the Transaction History Inquiry as of February 12, 2001. chan robles virtual law library
Witness Serrano testified that the ISA Agreement dated April 21, 1998 was issued in the name of accused Former President Joseph E. Estrada. This ISA agreement was issued for a total deposit or “placement” of P10 Million and was signed by Baby Ortaliza in behalf of the said accused. The witness related that the bank’s clerk, Eunice Cuya, informed him that a certain Baby Ortaliza was the representative of accused Estrada. The ISA Agreement dated May 21, 1998 allegedly shows a placement of P10,110,000.00 and a signature read as “Baby” above the typewritten name of Joseph E. Estrada.
Witness Serrano identified further the signatures of Anna Liza S. Angelo, the “Service Head” of Security Bank Corporation San Juan Branch, and Elizabeth M. Ruiz, who was the Senior Manager of the said branch of the bank. In the ISA Agreement dated June 22, 1998, the placement increased to P10,221,000.00. Witness Serrano likewise identified the signatures of Prosperidad A. Rondilla, who was the “Service Head” of the aforementioned branch of the bank, and the signature of Antonio M. Maneja, the former head of the same branch of the bank. In this particular document, witness Serrano noted that there was no signature over the typewritten name of Joseph E. Estrada. Subsequently, in the Memorandum of Agreement dated September 23, 1998, he stated that the original placement aggregated to P10,516,331.00. As of December 31, 1998, the balance of Account No. 0091-203796-550 was P10,817,052.52.
Witness Serrano explained that the original placement of P10 Million earned interests and was “rolled over” after every maturity date. The accrued interests were added to the principal and the sum was the new “placement” for the account.
The witness also explained that the bank changed the “documentation form” from investment savings account to memorandum of agreement. This memorandum of agreement documentation form was changed to “investment savings account ledger” sometime in October of 1998. In the latest documentation form, the bank issued a passbook to the depositor and that cash withdrawal by an authorized representative with the confirmation of the depositor was allowed unlike in the previous memorandum of agreement.
Regarding Account No. 0091-203796-554, witness Serrano testified that this was opened in the name of accused Former President Estrada initially for the “purchase of Treasury Bills”. The witness then itemized the following documents relative thereto, as follows: Confirmation of Sale No. 81046 dated April 10, 1997 with the amount of P600,000.00; Confirmation of Sale No. 82384 dated June 11, 1997 with the amount of P600,801.00; Confirmation of Sale No. 83099 dated July 23, 1997 with the amount of P612,028.00; Confirmation of Sale No. 83952 dated September 3, 1997 with the amount of P618,864.00; Confirmation of Sale No. 85007 dated October 29, 1997 with the amount of P629,981.00; Confirmation of Sale No. 85571 dated December 18, 1997 with the amount of P640,130.70; Confirmation of Sale No. 85761 dated January 21, 1998 with the amount of P646,764.00; and Confirmation of Sale No. 86099 dated March 4, 1998 with the amount of P655,638.00. These “treasury bill placements” were later converted to Investment Savings Account Agreement dated April 29, 1998. The witness further related and identified a Memorandum of Agreement dated October 2, 1998; an ISA Ledger dated November 3, 1998; an ISA Ledger for the period December 3, 1998 to November 11, 1999; an ISA Ledger dated December 13, 1999 to November 17, 2000; an ISA Ledger dated December 19, 2000 to January 18, 2001; and a Transaction History Inquiry Report as of February 12, 2001. As of December 31, 1998, the balance of this account was Seven Hundred Twelve Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Eight Pesos and Eighty Three Centavos (P712,478.83).
Anent Account No. 0091-203796-559, witness Serrano related and identified the Confirmation of Sale No. 86295 dated March 20, 1998; the ISA Agreement dated June 8, 1998; the Memorandum of Agreement dated October 7, 1998; the ISA Ledger dated November 6, 1998; the ISA Ledger from December 9, 1998 to November 15, 1999; the ISA Ledger dated December 15, 1999 to November 17, 2000; the ISA Ledger dated December 19, 2000 to January 18, 2001; and the Transaction History Report as of February 12, 2001. As of December 31, 1998, the balance of this account was Seven Hundred Twelve Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Eight Pesos and Eighteen Centavos (P712, 478.18).
Witness Serrano further testified that there was one signature card for all of the adverted accounts. This signature card pertained to accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. The witness also explained that the real nature of the three (3) adverted accounts was “good as cash”. The investment savings accounts of the accused were “cash in bank” wherein the balance of the account can be withdrawn at anytime.
When recalled for continuation of his direct examination on May 15, 2002, witness Serrano testified that sometime in February 2001, he instructed Perpetua Ognial, who was then the Officer-in-Charge of Security Bank Corporation San Juan Branch, to report all the transactions relating to the adverted accounts of accused former President Estrada as he received a subpoena from the Office of the Ombudsman concerning the matter. He likewise related that Baby Ortaliza also requested for an “updating” of the said accounts. The last “updating” of the aforementioned accounts of the accused was on November of 2001. Witness Serrano explained that “updating” means the recording of the transactions or “rollovers” in the passbook of the depositor. He added that in February 2002, Baby Ortaliza requested again Perpetua Ognial for a “Certification of Balance” of the accounts of the accused Former President Estrada which request was, however, not issued because there was no authorization given by the owner of the accounts.
On cross examination, witness Serrano clarified that the three (3) adverted accounts were deposit accounts and not investments. He further testified that accused former President Estrada had a signature card for his three (3) investment savings accounts. This signature card was initially intended and opened for the purchase of Treasury Bills which was in the nature of an investment but which was later converted to a savings account. The witness also related that Account No. 0091-203796-554 was originally Account No. 0940-1087-00. The change in the account number was brought by the change in the “system” of the bank.
Witness Serrano admitted that he was not the officer who was responsible for the opening of accounts subject of the instant case. For the investment savings accounts (ISAs), he testified that the San Juan Branch only had one (1) signature card that was submitted last March 20, 1998. He stated that he did not know when the accounts were opened and neither did he know who took the signature specimen card.
On re-direct examination, witness Serrano clarified that an Investment Savings Account is not an investment but a deposit type of savings account and while the accused had three (3) ISAs, it was an acceptable practice with Security bank to maintain only one (1) signature card per depositor per branch.
On re-cross examination, witness Serrano testified that when accused Estrada’s accounts were converted into Investment Savings Accounts, they had no written authority from the investor and he had no personal knowledge as to how the accounts were converted into ISAs.
MARIA PAMELA FERNANDEZ MORAN. The prosecution offered her testimony to prove, among other things, that “as a ‘New Accounts’ holder of Security Bank [Corporation] San Juan Branch, she dealt with a certain Baby Ortaliza five (5) or six (6) times,” and that it was Baby Ortaliza who would bring to the bank the passbook of accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada pertaining to the accounts subject of the instant charge.
Witness Maria Pamela Fernandez Moran was the Branch Sales Officer of Security Bank Corporation San Juan Branch who took charge of the “New Accounts” section. Her functions included generating sales volume, acquiring new accounts, and reviewing and approving accounts opened.
The witness testified that she was familiar with the account of accused former President Estrada since she was in-charge of the records of the said account. She related that the said accused had three (3) Investment Savings Accounts (ISA) in their bank. The witness also identified an ISA Ledger for the period January 7, 2000 to December 11, 2000 which showed that she updated the accounts of the accused on April 7, 2000 to May 9, 2000 as well as for the months of June, July and September, all in year 2000. These transactions were allegedly “rollover of placements”.
Witness Moran testified that the person who transacted for the account of the accused was Baby Ortaliza, whose identity she established through a photograph. The witness mentioned that she met Baby for about five (5) or six (6) times and that the last time she met her was in the afternoon of November 13, 2001 at the Herrera Branch when Baby Ortaliza asked the witness to update the passbook of accused Former President Estrada. Witness Moran complied and returned the passbook of accused former President Estrada to Baby Ortaliza.
The defense dispensed with the cross-examination of said witness.
ATTY. WILLIAM TIU CHUA. The prosecution offered the testimony of Atty. William Tiu Chua to prove, inter alia, that accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada had an account with the Asia United Bank; that, as of December 31, 1998, the balance of the account was P548,121.84; and that the Statement of Assets and Liabilities of the accused as of December 31, 1998 did not show the true amount that the said accused had in the bank.
Witness Atty. William Tiu Chua was the Corporate Secretary of Asia United Bank since September of 1997. As Corporate Secretary, he was authorized to certify as to the authenticity of documents pertaining to the Asia United Bank. He also held the said position while concurrently the managing partner of Azcuna Yorac Arroyo and Chua Law Firm.
The witness testified that sometime in the year 2001, the bank received summons from the Office of the Ombudsman. His law firm represented the bank and that, in such capacity, replied to the summons through a Letter dated February 12, 2001 signed by Atty. Caydo as senior associate of the law firm. The letter mentioned that accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Guia Gomez had accounts in their names with Asia United Bank. The said accused had Account No. 001-01-000588-8. The letter further stated that the said bank “does not have any account under the names of Jose Velarde, Laarni Enriquez, Joy Melendrez, Peachy Osorio, Rowena Lopez, Kevin or Kelvin Garcia, 727, 737, 747, 757, 777, and 858”.
Witness Chua then identified a Statement of Account of Joseph Ejercito Estrada with Account No. 001-01-000588-8 and a Certification of Asia United Bank as to the balance of the said account. Both documents showed that, as of December 31, 1998, the adverted account of accused Former President Estrada had a balance of P548,121.84.
Witness Chua also presented and identified a Signature Card for the Account of Joseph Ejercito Estrada with three (3) specimen signatures appearing thereon and a Customer Information Form of Asia United Bank indicating likewise the name of accused Former President Estrada.
On cross-examination, the witness clarified that he was physically present at the time the adverted signature card of the accused was executed. He was likewise physically present at the time the adverted letter of the law firm was prepared. The witness, however, had no participation in the preparation of the aforesaid documents. He further clarified that the adverted Statement of Account of Joseph Ejercito Estrada was computer generated and that he was not the one who actually prepared the same.
Witness Chua further testified that, based on the Statement of Account of accused Former President Estrada, the last deposit transaction was on October 15, 1998 for P205.00. Based also on the said document, the witness testified that the bank was deducting service charges against the adverted account from March 31, 2000 because it had become dormant since the last deposit transaction. Witness Chua opined that it was a possibility that the account holder might have forgotten of the existence of the account. chan robles virtual law library
On additional direct examination, the witness claimed that he had authority to represent Asia United Bank as shown in a Secretary’s Certificate dated November 11, 2002 signed by the said witness, in his capacity as the Corporate Secretary, and by a Notary Public, Atty. Lailene Barcenas. The authority to represent given to the witness was confined to testify for and in behalf of the said corporation in “matters relating to [bank] accounts” involved in the cases filed against accused Former President Estrada.
The witness added that the abbreviation “SCI” as reflected in the Statement of Account of the accused was the bank’s code for service charges in its computer system which were deducted from dormant accounts for every month.
On additional cross examination, witness Chua testified that the Secretary’s Certificate earlier exhibited was issued after a special meeting of the Board of Directors of the corporation on October 19, 2001. He clarified that he prepared the minutes of the said special meeting and the certificate.
The witness further stated that the bank account of accused Former President Estrada with Account No. 001-01-000588-8 was subjected to service charges because it had been dormant since March 31, 2000. He explained that a current account becomes dormant when no transactions are entered for a period of one (1) year, while a savings account becomes dormant when no transactions are entered for a period of two (2) years.
HERNANDO SALAYUN SAC. The testimony of Hernando Salayun Sac was offered to prove principally that accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, his spouse and relatives had “holdings in corporations” other than those mentioned in the Statement of Assets and Liabilities of the said accused as of December 31, 1998.
Witness Hernando Salayun Sac was a Records Officer of the State and Research Unit under the Company Registration and Monitoring Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Among his functions were to prepare and certify the authenticity of documents in their records.
In compliance with the subpoena he received from the Court, the witness presented and identified the certified true copies of the Certificates of Registration, Articles of Incorporation and the By-Laws of the following corporations:
First LPL Land Syndication, Inc.;
Witness Sac affirmed that: (1) the Articles of Incorporation of First LPL Land Syndication, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Luisa P. Ejercito and a signature above the typewritten name of the aforementioned; (2) the Articles of Incorporation of Asis-Ejercito Garments, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Jacqueline P. Ejercito and Luisa P. Ejercito, and the signatures over the typewritten names of the aforementioned; (3) the Articles of Incorporation of 24-K International Food, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Luisa P. Ejercito and a signature above the typewritten name of the aforementioned; (4) the Articles of Incorporation of Alpha Funds, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Joseph Ejercito Estrada and a signature over the typewritten name of the aforementioned; (5) the Articles of Incorporation of Prime Entertainment for Television Productions, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Jinggoy Estrada, Luisa P. Ejercito and Jacqueline P. Ejercito, and the signatures over the typewritten names of the aforementioned; (6) the Articles of Incorporation of ADE Food, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Luisa P. Ejercito, and the signatures over the typewritten names of the aforementioned; (7) the Articles of Incorporation of Electronic Sentry Systems, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Joseph Ejercito Estrada and a signature over the typewritten name of the aforementioned; (8) the Articles of Incorporation of All Hot Soup, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Luisa P. Ejercito, and the signatures over the typewritten names of the aforementioned; and (9) the Articles of Incorporation of FELT Food Services, Inc. contained the amount subscribed and paid by Joseph Ejercito Estrada and a signature over the typewritten name of the aforementioned.
The witness testified that the name of accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada did not appear in the Articles of Incorporation of Asis-Ejercito Garments, Inc., 24-K International Food, Inc., and Prime Entertainment for Television Production, Inc. chanrobles virtual law library
On cross examination, witness Sac clarified that he had no participation in the execution of the foregoing documents and that he was not the one who photocopied the same.
ISMA CASTEL GONZALES. The testimony of witness Isma Castel Gonzales was offered to prove, among other things, that “she authenticated the dorsal portions of the last pages of the Certificate of Registration, Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws of the nine (9) corporations mentioned in the Information of Criminal Case No. 26905 on May 11, 2001.
Witness Isma Castel Gonzales was the Supervisor of the Public Reference Unit under the Human Resources and Administrative Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the time material to this case. She supervised the overall operation of the Public Reference Unit, issued authenticated documents and signed the same after verification by the employee in charge.
The witness was subpoenaed to appear before this Court to testify on certain documents related to this case. The documents pertained to nine (9) corporations, namely,
First LPL Land Syndication, Inc.;
Witness Gonzales confirmed the authenticity of a set of three (3) documents for each of the abovementioned corporations. She attested to the genuineness of the Certificates of Registration, the Articles of Incorporation and the By-Laws of these corporations by identifying her signatures thereon as well as the signatures of the records custodian of the SEC, Mr. Hernando S. Sac, with whom she had worked with for eight (8) years at the same office.
On cross-examination, the witness related that, based on the documents she earlier exhibited and identified, the same were presented for filing and were approved before June of 1998. She likewise testified that the name of Joseph Ejercito Estrada did not appear in the set of documents pertaining to First LPL Land Syndication, Inc., Asis-Ejercito Garments, Inc., 24-K International Food, Inc., and Prime Entertainment for Television Production, Inc. Witness Gonzales further related the amount of investments made by accused Former President Estrada and his wife as appearing in the documents she brought.
ANNETTE ISABEL PERALTA TAMAYO. The prosecution offered the testimony of Annette Isabel P. Tamayo to prove that “the nine (9) corporations mentioned in the information in the instant charge were still existing as of December 31, 1998.”
Witness Annette Isabel Tamayo was the Officer-in-Charge of the Corporate Filing and Records Division under the Corporate Registration and Monitoring Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Aside from supervising the Corporate Filing and Records Division, the witness was also responsible for the issuance of certifications of corporate filing and information on registered corporations as well as the non-registration of several entities.
In compliance with the subpoena sent to her by this Court, witness Tamayo brought the Certificates of Status of certain corporations. The witness exhibited and identified the Certificates of Corporate Filing Information all dated November 26, 2002 for the following corporations:
Witness Tamayo testified that the aforementioned certificates state the date of registration, period of existence and the fact that the foregoing corporations still existed as of December 31, 1998.
On cross-examination, witness Tamayo testified that ADE Food, Inc. has not filed its general information sheet and financial statement from 1988 to 2001 so that the SEC had already issued a show order to the said corporation under threat of revocation of its registration. Witness Tamayo added that the same holds true for F.E.L.T. Food Services, Inc. which did not submit its financial statements and general information sheet from 1981 to 2000. She testified that she based her findings only on the monitoring sheet submitted by the Law and Regulations Division of SEC. She admitted, however, being incompetent to testify on the shareholdings of the accused former President in the said corporations and on whether the said corporations actually received the show cause order of SEC.
As to Electronics Sentry Systems, Inc., witness Tamayo testified that the said corporation did not also file its general information sheet from 1984 to 2001. Neither did it file its financial statements from 1984 to 2000. As to All Hot Soup, Inc., witness Tamayo testified that its registration had been revoked effective November 11, 2002 although she was not sure if the accused was ever notified of the same because it was another office in the SEC that took charge of the same. As for Primetime Entertainment and Alpha Funds, Inc., she testified that she had also issued a certification to the effect that said corporations had no general information sheet filed from 1986 to 2000 and 1988 to 2000, respectively and neither did the same have stock and transfer books.
Witness Tamayo added that as a matter of procedure, revocation of a corporation’s registration takes effect ninety (90) days after issuance of the show cause orders. In the case of the aforesaid corporations, she stated that despite the show cause orders, there was nothing in her records that showed their compliance therewith. chan robles virtual law library
During the continuation of her cross examination, witness Tamayo attested that she neither knew the amount of paid subscription of the stockholders of the subject corporations nor the assets of the corporations as of December 31, 1998. She related that First LPL Land Syndication, Inc. filed its Financial Statement for the year 1998. The witness testified, however, that Asis-Ejercito Garments, Inc. did not file its General Information Sheets for the years 1991 to 2002; that 24-K International Food, Inc. did not file its General Information Sheets for the years 1981 to 2001; that Alpha Funds, Inc. did not file its General Information Sheets for the years 1988 to 1999; that Prime Entertainment for Television, Inc. did not file its General Information Sheets for the years 1986 to 2000; that ADE Food, inc. did not file its General Information Sheets for the years 1986 to 2001; that Electronics Sentry Systems, Inc. did not file its Financial Statements for the years 1984 to 2000; that All Hot Soup, Inc. did not file its Financial Statements for the years 1986 and 1989 to 1999; and that FELT Food Services, Inc. did not file its Financial Statements for the years 1981 to 2000.
Witness Tamayo likewise identified the series of Show Cause Orders of the SEC to the corporations concerned but she could not ascertain whether the said documents were actually sent and received by the said corporations.
On re-direct examination, witness Tamayo testified that the subject corporations were still registered with the SEC and the respective registrations thereof had not been revoked as of December 31, 1998.
EVIDENCE FOR THE ACCUSED
In defense, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada testified on his behalf in the instant charge for Perjury and also presented Lorna Dumlao. Their testimonies are summed up as follows:
FORMER PRESIDENT JOSEPH EJERCITY ESTRADA. During direct examination, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada categorically stated that he did not willfully violate the law and that since he became a public official starting with his position as a mayor, he religiously filed his Statement of Assets and Liabilities. Accused thus denied all the charges against him.
The accused clarified that he did not personally prepare his Statements of Assets and Liabilities as he just asked his staff to do it for him, but he clarified that he always told them to comply with the requirements of the law. Specifically as to his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) for the year ending December 31, 1998 (also referred to as the “1998 SALN”), the accused identified the late Atty. Antonio Dollete, a certain Mr. Guerrero and a certain Mr. Martin as among his staff who prepared said 1998 SALN
In describing the status of the companies mentioned in the instant Information, the accused sought the aid of memoranda consisting of certain notes/matrix previously prepared by his staff. The prosecution objected to the use of the prepared matrix but the Court allowed the accused’s use of the same. Hence, the accused continued his testimony using the said matrix to specifically describe how he was familiar with the corporations that he allegedly failed to include in his 1998 SALN.
As to First LPL Land Syndication, Inc., accused Estrada stated that said corporation was included in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities under the heading “Investments.”
With regards to Asis Ejercito Garments, the accused acknowledged that the shareholder therein was his wife, “Senator Loi”, who was in turn, a nominee of their daughter “Jackelyn”, whose total number of shares was only ten (10) shares worth One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00). He pointed out that the shares were bought in 1990 and that Asis Ejercito Garments had been a dormant corporation even before he became a senator.
As to 24K International Food, Inc., the accused former President recounted that the said corporation operated a restaurant when he was a mayor; that his wife had one thousand shares therein worth One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) and that the restaurant was closed even before he became a Senator.
As for the corporations in which his wife had shareholdings, the accused allegedly did not include the said corporations in his 1998 SALN because “most of the time (his wife) is just a nominee.”
According to the accused, his wife was a shareholder of Prime Entertainment for Television Production, Inc., being the nominee of their son Jinggoy, who had twenty (20) shares with a par value of Two Thousand Pesos. He allegedly did not include the said corporation in his 1998 SALN because it was already closed when he was still a Senator.
As to Alpha Funds, Inc., the accused former President recalled that it was a stock trading corporation in which he had one million (1,000,000) shares with a total par value of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00). But Alpha Funds, Inc., allegedly never operated since the accused’s co-incorporator, William Chu died way back when the accused was still a senator.
As for ADA Food, Inc., the accused said that it was a restaurant which operated when he was still a mayor; that his wife, Senator Loi, had a total of eight hundred fifty (850) shares therein with a value of eighty-five thousand pesos (P85,000.00); and that the restaurant lost money and closed down even before he became senator. Thus, the accused allegedly did not disclose ADA Food, Inc., in his 1998 SALN anymore.
Concerning Electronic Sentry Systems, Inc., the accused recalled that it was a “joint securities” in which Mr. Angelo Castro, Jr. along with his wife June Keithley, who were broadcaster friends of his, allegedly invited him to be one of the shareholders back in 1983. The venture allegedly held seminars but never operated, such that the accused no longer reported the same in his 1998 SALN.
All Hot Soup, Inc., according to the accused, was a corporation put up by him and his wife in 1983, along with Mr. and Mrs. Avecilla in order to operate the “Sabawan Restaurant” in Greenhills, San Juan. He and his wife allegedly had Fifty-Five Thousand Pesos worth of shares therein but he did not include this corporation in his 1998 SALN because it closed down when he was still a mayor.
Similarly, for F.E.L.T. Food Services, the accused and his wife, along with the Spouses Avecillas, established the corporation in 1978 in order to operate a restaurant called “Sinugba”. The accused said that he did not report the corporation in his 1998 SALN because the restaurant lost money and was eventually closed even before he became a senator.
As for the alleged accounts in Asia United Bank, the accused said that the amounts therein are included in his 1998 SALN under the heading “cash on hand and in bank.”
Concerning the Security Bank accounts, the accused declared that these were part of the campaign contributions to his political party, the “Partido ng Masang Pilipino”, when he ran for president. He stated that he was a mere trustee of the funds in the said bank accounts so he could not include them in his 1998 SALN as they actually belonged to his political party. 
As to the Keppel Bank accounts, the accused claims that the funds therein where political contributions to his party when Senator Loi (Ejercito) ran for the Senate in 2001 and that he was just a trustee for the said account.
Finally, the accused denied having appeared before a notary public and thus claims that he did not execute his 1998 SALN under oath.
The accused’s testimony during direct examination, specifically with regards to the corporations, is summarized in the accused’s Memorandum as follows:
“FIRST LPL LAND SYNDICATION, INC. –
included under the heading ‘investments’;
On cross-examination, accused former President Estrada was confronted with the question as to how many times he had accomplished and filed his SALN in connection with his statement during direct examination that he “always religiously filed (his) Statement of Assets and Liabilities,” The accused confirmed that every year he asks his staff to file his statements and to comply with the requirements of the law.
The accused verified his signature appearing on the 1998 SALN, marked as prosecution’s Exhibit “A”. Accused also confirmed the following typewritten entry on “Part B. Business Interest and Financial Connections” on page 2 of his 1998 SALN: (1) the words, “WIFE AND CHILDREN” in the column “Name”; (2) on the next column after that, the name of three (3) companies; and (3) on the fourth column, the word “INCORPORATOR”.
The accused confirmed that JELP Real Estate Development Corporation, JE, Inc., and Fe Luisa Development Corporation are the only three companies in operation as of December 31, 1998. The accused also confirmed that the name of his wife is Senator Luisa Pimentel; that he affixed his signature below the certification portion of the 1998 SALN; that his investment in Asia United Bank as of December 31, 1998 was Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00); and that as far as he could remember the amount of more or less Twelve Million Pesos was in the Security Bank account as of December 31, 1998.
The accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada clarified that he did not include the amounts in Security Bank and Keppel Bank in his 1998 SALN because being campaign contributions, they were held in trust for accused’s political party. Accused Estrada acknowledged that he had no documents showing that the funds in Security Bank and Keppel Bank were held in trust by him since campaign donors are not usually issued nor do they ask for receipts. He added that the political contributions were not reported to the COMELEC as it was not his duty as titular party head but that of the party treasurer. Accused Estrada, however, declared that party officers knew about said campaign contributions.
When asked about First LPL Land Syndication Inc., the accused averred that as to the status of the corporation, he would have to ask his wife, who is in charge of this corporation. He said that when his wife earns money, she does not tell him about it and vice versa.
LORNA DUMLAO. Her testimony was offered, among other things, to corroborate the testimony of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada that certain corporations, particularly All Hot Soup, Inc., ADE Food Incorporated, and FELT Food Services Incorporated, have informed the Social Security System (SSS) that they were no longer going to operate.
Witness Lorna Dumlao had been with the SSS since 1981 and was the section head of the Members Section at the time she testified. As such, she evaluated and determined the coverage of employers and employees and also acted on the requests of employers for suspension or termination or dissolution of operations.
Lorna Dumlao testified that having been connected with the SSS for a long period of time, she has become familiar with the procedures it has adopted. The witness, however, manifested that she was not competent to testify on the matter of the collection of employers or employees contribution, but she agreed and confirmed that there are certain instances when a corporation files a termination notification once it intends to terminate the remittances of the employers or employees contribution to the SSS. She enumerated these instances as retirement, dissolution, merger, change of ownership, change of legal personality, temporary suspension, cancellation of membership, and such other reasons such as expiration or shortening of the corporate term. chanrobles virtual law library
Witness Dumlao brought along and formally identified SSS records called “employer static information” concerning the status of certain companies with the said agency. On the employer static information on the corporation, All Hot Soup, Inc.,  the witness confirmed that as of July 14, 2006, the account status of the said corporation as per SSS records is “temporary suspension, reactivation or termination on 11-07-89”. Witness Dumlao testified that said corporation was covered by the SSS beginning October 1984, but its account status was on temporary suspension effective November 7, 1989 based on a report of the Collections Department of the SSS that the building of its given address had been demolished eight (8) years ago. Witness also confirmed that the account’s status has been noted to be “FOR SEC VERIFICATION”. The witness explained that said notation means that the report generated by the SSS Contributions Collection Department as to the account’s status was slated for SEC verification on the actual status of the corporation. The witness added, however, that “SEC verification” was not the function of her section, thus, she had no knowledge as to the SEC records on the said company. She said that the task of SEC verification was already “downloaded to the jurisdiction of where the location of the company is.”
As for F.E.L.T. Food Services, Inc., witness Dumlao testified that based on SSS records, the company was covered in November 1980 although on December 4, 1986, SSS effected the temporary suspension of its account based on the termination notice submitted by the corporation that it has been dissolved effective November 1, 1986. The witness verified that as of July 14, 2006, the SSS records show that the corporation’s account status is “temporary suspension as of 12-01-83” and that based on SSS records, F.E.L.T. Food Services, Inc. was dissolved effective November 1, 1986 although no deed of dissolution was submitted to the SSS.
As for ADE Food Incorporated, witness Dumlao testified that the company was covered by the system effective October 1985 but it was put on temporary suspension effective April 15, 1988 based on the report of the Collections Department of the SSS that no such company existed within the supposed location. The witness also confirmed that as of July 14, 2006, the account was considered under temporary suspension, reactivation or termination on the date 04-15-1986.
Witness Dumlao admitted that she had no personal knowledge as to the status of ALL HOT SOUP, INC., FELT Food Services, Inc., and ADE Food Services Inc., in the records of the Securities and Exchange Commission. As per the records of the SSS, however, she testified that all three corporations were “no longer reactivated” or were no longer SSS member corporations.
Witness Dumlao also testified that with respect to Alpha Funds, Inc., the SSS records show that said corporation was on temporary suspension effective April 1, 1992 and that there were no records that the said company was reactivated. As to the account status of First LPL Lands Syndication, Inc., the witness stated that SSS records show that the said corporation was likewise temporarily suspended as of May 19, 1997 and that there were no records that the same was reactivated since that date.
On cross-examination, the witness confirmed that as per SSS records, the said two (2) corporations were on temporary suspension status.
D I S C U S S I O N
Accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada is charged with the crime of Perjury defined in and penalized by Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code as follows:
“Art. 183. False testimony in other cases and perjury
in solemn affirmation. – The penalty of arresto mayor in its
maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be
imposed upon any person who, knowingly making untruthful statements and
not being included in the provisions of the next preceding articles,
shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material
matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in
cases in which the law so requires.
In the instant case, the prosecution is required to establish by the necessary quantum of proof, the elements of perjury, and unless the State succeeds in proving the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence in his favor, because “the conscience (of the Court) must be satisfied that on the accused could be laid the responsibility of the offense charged”.
The prosecution claims that it has undisputedly proven all the elements of the crime. This was allegedly what the Court found when it earlier denied the accused former President’s demurrer to evidence -- that there exists a prima facie case against the accused for perjury. The prosecution adds that the defense has failed to present countervailing evidence to rebut the prima facie case against the accused. Accordingly, where the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the accused, the burden is shifted upon the accused to prove otherwise.
After considering the defense’s presentation of its evidence however, it appears that the prima facie case built by the prosecution, specifically with regard to the existence of the third element of the crime of perjury charged herein, has been sufficiently challenged or rebutted by the accused. Hence, “if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction.”
The Court’s finding may be better explained by considering the elements of perjury in seriatim as discussed by the prosecution and the accused.
The elements of perjury are:
FIRST ELEMENT: That the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter
There appears to be no dispute as to the first element since the accused former President has admitted to having filed his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (or SALN, for brevity) as of December 31, 1998, thus admitting to making a statement under oath on material matters which are required to be disclosed by all public officials by virtue of Republic Act No. 6713. Thus, accused testified as follows:
The defense questions the alleged failure of the prosecution to prove the second element but such issue was previously raised in the accused’ Demurrer to Evidence and had been resolved by this Court in its Resolution dated July 12, 2004, which ruling is being maintained in this decision. The said ruling is herein quoted as follows:
Accused former President Estrada denies having any oath administered to him in connection with the subject 1998 SALN. The defense insists that it is the State’s burden to prove that the notary public concerned had a commission at the relevant time, before whom accused appeared, but which the prosecution allegedly failed to do.
The Court agrees with the prosecution’s argument that being a notarized document, the subject SALN has “in its favor the presumption of regularity, which may only be rebutted by evidence so clear, strong and convincing as to exclude all controversy as to the falsity of the certificate”. The accused former President’s statement that he never appeared before a notary public to execute an oath cannot overcome the presumed validity and due execution of the notarized document for a “notarial document is, by law, entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. Courts, administrative agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgment executed by a notary public and appended to a private instrument.” Instead of bare denials, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada should have presented clear and convincing proof to rebut the presumption of regularity in the notarization of the subject SALN.
Moreover, Section 2, Rule 131 of the Revised Rules of Evidence creates a conclusive presumption that one who, “by his own declaration, act or omission, intentionally and deliberately led another to believe a particular thing is true, and to act upon such belief, he cannot, in any litigation arising out of such declaration, act or omission, be permitted to falsify it”. When the accused former President submitted his SALN, he knew that it had to be executed under oath as required by law and by his act of submitting the subject 1998 SALN, he led the authorities to believe that the jurat contained therein is true; that the said SALN was subscribed and sworn to before Notary Public RODUALDO C. DELOS SANTOS on April 29, 1999 and thus executed under oath. Such presumption now governs the case at bar and remains conclusive upon the accused.
THIRD ELEMENT: That in that statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood
The prosecution asserts that it has clearly shown by voluminous documentary evidence and numerous witnesses that the accused willfully and deliberately committed falsehood in his 1998 SALN. Allegedly, the accused lied in the following entries in his SALN as of December 31, 1998:
1. The accused, his
wife and unmarried children’s business interests in and
First LPL Land Syndication, Inc.;
The prosecution also asserts that all the above evidence were not controverted nor denied by the accused.
Surprisingly, the prosecution merely dismissed the accused’ defenses as either irrelevant, immaterial or being non-sequitur without refuting the same. Despite the explanation of accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada on his failure to indicate in his SALN the money held in trust for his political party and his corporate holdings or connections, the prosecution made no effort to rebut his testimony. Hence, as it stands, the prosecution’s evidence, which merely pointed out the purported omissions in the accused’s 1998 SALN, failed to convince the Court of the crucial consideration in the third element of perjury, that the accused deliberately and willfully committed a falsehood in his 1998 SALN, especially after hearing the evidence of the accused former President.
In order to be liable for perjury, the falsehood committed by the accused in his sworn statement must be deliberate and willful. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “the use of the word (deliberate) in describing a crime, the idea is conveyed that the perpetrator weighs the motives for the act and its consequences, the nature of the crime, or other things connected with his intentions, with a view to a decision thereon; that he carefully considered all these and that the act is not suddenly committed.”
The Court is not convinced that the accused’s omission in his SALN of the subject moneys in the bank and business and financial interests in the said corporations was deliberate and intentional. The accused former President’s testimony as corroborated by documentary evidence from the Securities and Exchange Commission on the inactive status of the corporations and the certifications from the Social Security System on the temporary suspension of the corporations for not filing contributions for several years, if considered in their totality, negate the element of willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.
In fact, from the accused former President’s testimony, three things are readily apparent: (1) the accused believed that he did not have to disclose the money in the banks (as these were not his own) and the other corporations, which to him no longer existed because the businesses for which the said corporations had been established either failed to operate or had long been closed or became non-operational; (2) the accused did not personally prepare the entries in his 1998 SALN; and (3) the accused is not knowledgeable about the business and financial interests of his immediate family. These circumstances do not amount to a calculated, premeditated and deliberate intention to conceal the money in the banks or the financial interests in the corporations.
As to the accused’s main defenses, his testimony during direct examination as summarized in his Memorandum is as follows:
“FIRST LPL LAND SYNDICATION, INC. –
included under the heading ‘investments’;
The gist of the accused’s testimony concerning the status of the subject corporations is consistent with the records of two government agencies -- the Social Security System (SSS) as seen in defense exhibits “477” to “478”, which were identified by witness Lorna Dumlao and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as shown in prosecution Exhibits “J15” to “R15” inclusive, and as testified to by prosecution witness Ms. Annette Tamayo, the Officer-in-Charge of the SEC Corporate Filing and Records Division.
Witness Dumlao affirmed that two of the corporations, Alpha Funds Inc., and First LPL Land Syndication, Inc. had been temporarily suspended on April 1, 1992 and May 19, 1997, respectively, by the SSS for failure to remit mandatory contributions. On the other hand, witness Tamayo testified that while the subject corporations were considered as existing (certificates of registration were not yet revoked and the periods of existence had not yet lapsed) as of December 31, 1998, interestingly, the corporations failed to submit their SEC-required reports and were considered inactive for several years prior to and after 1998. In fact, she testified to the fact that some of the corporations’ certificates of registration have already been revoked as a result of their non-submission of the SEC’s annual reportorial requirements for several years, while others are being summoned to a hearing on whether to suspend or revoke their certificates of registration. Her testimony thus corroborated accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s defense that the subject corporations were already inactive and non-operating as of 31 December 1998.
As for the bank accounts, the accused former President’s testimony on said matter was summarized in his Memorandum as follows:
“ASIAN UNITED BANK – the amount of
548,121.84 was included in the entry ‘cash on hand and in bank’;
The accused former President however, explains that “the money in the banks comprised excess political contributions not used by his political party” and that “the money was not for the accused to claim as his own but comprised trust funds, to be used for various political ends. In other words, the accused alleges that, except for the money in Asia United Bank which is already included in his SALN, he could not claim and declare the money in the banks as his own as he was holding it in trust for his political party as its titular head since the money purportedly came from political contributions given during his presidential campaign. chan robles virtual law library
Thus, the accused did not deny the existence of the money in the banks as well as the existence of the other corporations, but he sufficiently explained that he was only under the impression that he did not have to state them in his SALN because (1) as to the money in the banks, these were not his personal funds but merely held in trust for his political party; and (2) as for the other corporations, they were either defunct or non-operating and/or he and his wife’s interests therein were nominal. Further, accused former President Estrada was able to point out that his and his family’s interests in the other corporations are already included in the generic term “investments” on page 1 of the subject 1998 SALN. Verily, this point was not rebutted by the prosecution nor made the subject of a thorough cross-examination as to what were the specifics of the term “investments” on page 1 of the accused’ SALN. Hence, being unrebutted evidence, they stand to refute prosecution evidence that the omission of the subject entries in the SALN was deliberate and malicious.
Another consideration which negates the element of “deliberate and willful” effort to commit a falsehood is the accused’s candid assertion that he did not personally prepare his 1998 SALN. According to the accused, although he admitted to signing his SALN, he always left it to his staff to prepare the same. Thus, he testified that:
“WITNESS (Accused former President
Joseph Ejercito Estrada)
Aside from having limited participation in the preparation of his SALN, the accused’s testimony and demeanor during cross-examination clearly showed he had little knowledge of his wife’s and children’s business and financial interests in certain corporations. His testimony also confirmed his insistence that the businesses which these corporations represent either failed to operate or had long been closed, circumstances which further belie an intentional and deliberate attempt to conceal the said assets in his 1998 SALN. Even on cross-examination, accused former President Estrada did not falter nor waver on his testimony, thus showing that he was a credible and consistent witness when he testified that:
(CROSS EXAMINATION OF ACCUSED JOSEPH E.
To sum it all up, the third element of perjury has not been proven at all by the prosecution. Perjury being a felony by dolo, there must be malice on the part of the accused. Willfully means intentionally; with evil intent and legal malice, with the consciousness that the alleged perjurious statement is false with the intent that it should be received as a statement of what was true in fact. It is equivalent to "knowingly." "Deliberately" implies meditated as distinguished from inadvertent acts. It must appear that the accused knows his statement to be false or as consciously ignorant of its truth.
The missing crucial factor is the accused’s “deliberate and willful assertion of a falsehood” as the above evidence convinces the Court that perjury was not committed in this case. The accused, who did not personally prepare his 1998 SALN, may be faulted for his failure to ascertain whether or not his SALN had fully disclosed his and his wife’s interests in compliance with the law, but the same does not necessarily amount to a deliberate and willful assertion of a falsehood in the absence of proof of malice on his part. Certainly, accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s inattention to the requirements of R.A. No. 6713 does not merit the filing of this criminal action as it should have first been rectified through the corrective mechanism precisely prescribed by the said law.
Ordinarily, any discrepancy in the entries in a public officer’s SALN or any situation of non-compliance with the rules of R.A. 6713 should have been resolved at the administrative level such that an accused should first be afforded the opportunity to avail of the Review and Compliance Procedure provided for by Republic Act No. 6713. This brings the Court to a discussion on the relevance of the provisions of R.A. 6713 in the prosecution of perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code as it mandates the establishment of review and corrective procedures to ensure the public officer’s proper compliance with its provisions.
FOURTH ELEMENT: That the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose
The fourth element of perjury entails that the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity must be required by law. In the instant case, the relevant law, which the Court has taken judicial notice of, is Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as “THE CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES.” On this point, there is no issue that the fourth element is present herein considering that the SALN subject of the instant case is the sworn statement required by law, particularly R.A. No. 6713.
A crucial issue in this case however, shall remain unresolved if the case ends with just the Court’s taking cognizance of Section 8 of R.A. No. 6713, which is the provision that obligates public officials and employees to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests, in disregard of the other important provision in Section 10 of R.A. No. 6713 on the review and compliance procedure.
The defense has even raised the issue of selective prosecution and invidious discrimination for the accused’s not having been provided the opportunity to avail of the said corrective process. Allegedly, there have been previous cases against public officials, which were later dismissed with the finding that penalizing an employee for a perceived breach of the provisions on SALN, without the benefit of allowing him to avail of the corrective mechanism under the law, was premature.
It is basic in statutory construction that if the legislature passes a special law while there is a general law covering the same state of things or facts, the special law is deemed to supercede and prevail over the general law being the later expressed intention of the legislature. In the instant case, the general law is the Revised Penal Code (RPC), in particular Article 183 thereof pertaining to Perjury, and the special law is R.A. No. 6713 , having been passed only in 1989 and specifically for the purpose of promoting a high standard of ethics in public service. As the Information herein asserts, the elements of Article 183 of the RPC can only be made applicable to the instant case if the same are considered in relation to the provisions of R.A. No. 6713 .
The accomplishment of the SALN under oath and compulsory disclosure of matters such as real and personal property, investments, cash on hand and in banks, liabilities and business and financial interests all become material because these are required by Section 8 of R.A. No. 6713 . Hence, the provisions of R.A. No. 6713 are not irrelevant to any prosecution for Article 183 for as long as the information so holds that the sworn statement or affidavit was filed as required by R.A. No. 6713 and/or that the information was filed in relation to R.A. No. 6713 . chanrobles virtual law library
Pursuing the same line of thought, the entire special law and not merely parts of it, should be applied or should be read together with the provisions of the general law. Thus, Sections 1 to 17 of R.A. No. 6713 are all relevant to Article 183 and all the duties, privileges and benefits contained therein should be made applicable and available to the persons charged in relation thereto.
As pointed out by the accused, R.A. No. 6713 and its implementing rules prescribe a review procedure to determine whether or not a public official has properly complied with the requirements for the filing of his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Section 10 of R.A. No. 6713 provides:
“Section 10. Review and Compliance Procedure. -
In the case at bar, the accused insists that said corrective process was denied him. If the law should be applied, the instant case should have been referred to the Secretary of Justice, who is in charge of the review and compliance process for the executive department. But with the present circumstances of the accused, who is no longer connected with the executive department, the pendency of this case and the impending decision, the matter is now moot and academic. This notwithstanding, the Court is not precluded from determining whether given the factual circumstances, accused can actually be held liable for perjury under Article 183 in view of his alleged omissions in his SALN. As it is, considering that the elements of the crime of Perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code have not been proven with moral certainty by the prosecution, the administrative remedies provided under R.A. No. 6713 have become immaterial and irrelevant.
The highest consideration of public office is enshrined in the Declaration of Principles and State Policies under Article II of the 1987 Constitution which provides that:
27. The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public
service and take positive and effective measures against graft and
Relatively, this state principle is echoed in Article XI of the 1987 Constitution on accountability of being in public office which declares that:
1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and
employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them
with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act
with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”
The instant case articulates the principle that “no one is above the law” as no less than the person holding the highest position in the land, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, is being held liable and is charged with the crime of Perjury defined in and penalized by Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code allegedly for his failure to include in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) certain assets consisting of cash in three (3) banks and corporate holdings or connections. This notwithstanding, however, it is likewise a constitutional and legal truism that the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.
In criminal law, the quantum of evidence for conviction of an accused is that which produces moral certainty in an unprejudiced mind that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Conviction must rest on hard evidence showing that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. In criminal cases, moral certainty — not mere possibility — determines the guilt or the innocence of the accused. Even when the evidence for the defense is weak, the accused must be acquitted when the prosecution has not proven guilt with the requisite quantum of proof required in all criminal cases.
After a judicious evaluation of the evidence in this case, the Court cannot assert with moral certainty that accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada is guilty of the crime charged. All told, the prosecution failed to establish the guilt of the accused with moral certainty. Its evidence falls short of the quantum of proof required for conviction for the crime of Perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code. Accordingly, the constitutional presumption of the petitioner's innocence must be upheld and he must be acquitted.
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in Criminal Case No. 26905 finding the accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada NOT GUILTY of the crime of Perjury defined in and penalized by Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, and he is hereby ACQUITTED.
Accordingly, the Hold Departure Order dated February 4, 2002 issued by the Court against accused former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada is hereby recalled and rendered functus oficio.
A T T E
S T A T I O N
I attest that conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division. chan robles virtual law library
C E R T
I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division Chairman’s Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
 Records, Volume I, Accused Estrada’s Motion to Quash and Reset Arraignment, Pages 89-101
 Records, Volume I, Resolution of March 6, 2002, Pages 164-167
 Records, Volume 3, Joint Resolution, Pages 89-107
 Records, Volume 3, Resolution promulgated on September 3, 2004, Pages 115-121
 Records, Volume 53, Resolution promulgated on March 7, 2007, Pages 463-476
 Records, Volume 55, Manifestation of the Prosecution dated April 23, 2007, Page 12
 TSN dated May 8, 2002
 See Exhibit “A” and submarkings chanrobles virtual law library
 TSN dated October 30, 2002
 See Exhibit “B” -perjury and submarkings
 TSN dated May 8, 2002; TSN dated May 15, 2002; TSN dated May 20, 2002; and TSN dated November 25, 2002
 See Exhibit “C-1” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-2” and submarkings
 See Exhibit C-3 and submarkings
 See Exhibit C-4 and submarkings
 See Exhibit C-5 and submarkings
 See Exhibit C-6 and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-7” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-8” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-9” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-10” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-11” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-12” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-13” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-14” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-15” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-16” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-17” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-18” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-19” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-20” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-21” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-22” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-23” and submarkings
 See Exhibit “C-24”
 See Exhibit “C-25”
 See Exhibit “C-26”
 See Exhibit “C-27”
 See Exhibit “C-28”
 See Exhibit “C-29”
 See Exhibit “C-30”
 See Exhibit “C-31”
 See Exhibits “C”; “CC”; and “CCC”, including submarkings
 TSN dated May 15, 2002 and TSN dated May 20, 2002
 See Exhibit “C-7”
 TSN dated November 6, 2002, TSN dated November 20, 2002, and TSN dated November 27, 2002
 See Exhibit “D14”
 See Exhibit “D14-9”
 See Exhibit “D14-12”
 See Exhibit “D14-1”
 See Exhibit “D14-5”
 See Exhibits “D14-15”;”D14-15-A ” ; and “D14-15-”
 TSN dated November 6, 2002
 See Exhibits “E14”; “E14-1”; and “E14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “F14”; “F14-1”; and “F14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “G14”; “G14-1”; and “G14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “H14”; “H14-1”; and “H14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “I14”; “I14-1”; and “I14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “J14”; “J14-1”; and “J14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “K14”; “K14-1”; and “K14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “L14”; “L14-1”; and “L14-2”, including submarkings
 See Exhibits “M14”; “M14-1”; and “M14-2”, including submarkings
 TSN dated November 27, 2002
 See Exhibits “E14” to “M14”, inclusive of submarkings
 TSN dated November 27, 2002 and TSN dated January 15, 2003
 See Exhibits “J15” to “R15”, inclusive of submarkings
 TSN dated May 24, 2006 pages 49.
 Id., at 50.
 Id., at pp. 54-56. The prosecution objected to the matrix that allegedly listed the companies, shareholdings and numbers of shares, among others, which matrix served as a guide for the defense counsel and the accused in the direct examination. The defense countered that said matrix serves as the accused’s notes since the accused would not have been in a position to recall or monitor the corporations that were created twenty to thirty years ago. The Court allowed the accused to refer to the said notes/matrix. The prosecution had the matrix marked as Exhibit “W” but did not formally offer the same).
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, page 52.
 Id., at 52-53.
 Id., at 59.
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, page 60.
 Id., at 61.
 Id., at 62.
 Id., at 66-67.
 Id., at 68.
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, page at 69.
 Id., at 70.
 Id., at 51-52.
 Id., at 52-53.
 Id. at pp. 56-57, 59.
 Id., at pp. 59-60.
 Id., pp. 60-61.
 Id., at pp. 61-62. chan robles virtual law library
 Id., at 66-67.
 Id., at 67-68.
 Id., at 37.
 TSN dated June 14, 2006 (a.m.), page 31. chan robles virtual law library
 Id., at 39.
 Id., at 40-41.
 Id., at 47-48.
 TSN dated June 14, 2006 (a.m.), pages 48-49.
 Id., at 79.
 Id., at 84.
 Id., 85-86.
 Id., at 87.
 Id., at 90.
 Id., at 99-100.
 Exhibit “472”
 Exhibit “472”
 Exhibit “472-a”
 Exhibit “472-b”
 Exhibit “472-A”
 TSN dated July 19, 2006, page 17.
 Exhibit “471”
 Exhibit “471”
 Exhibit “471-a” – “471-b”
 Exhibit “471-d”
 Exhibit “471-D”
 Id., at page 18.
 Exhibit “473”
 Exhibit “473-a”
 Exhibit “473-d”
 Exhibit 473”
 Exhibit 477”
 Exhibit “478”
 People vs. Eslaban, 218 SCRA 534, 544 (1993); People vs. Nicolas, 204 SCRA 191 (1991)
 People vs. Austria, 195 SCRA 700 (1991) chan robles virtual law library
 Criste B. Villanueva vs. Secretary of Justice, et al., G.R. No. 162187, November 18, 2005, citing Diaz vs. People, 191 SCRA 86  chan robles virtual law library
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, Page 50
 Tabas vs. Mangibin, 421 SCRA 511, 514 (2004)
 MEMORANDUM for the People dated 12 June 2007, page 72.
 Ibid., pp. 73-74.
 MEMORANDUM for the People dated 12 June 2007, page 76.
 BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY, Abridged 5th Edition, page 222. See also 11A Words and Phrases, Permanent Ed., 459 (1971) citing State vs. Wells, 1 N.J.L. (Coxe) 424,429.
 See also TSN dated May 24, 2006, page 51-52.
 Ibid.at pp. 52-53.
 Ibid. at pp. 56-57, 59.
 Ibid., at pp. 59-60.
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, pp. 60-61.
 Ibid., at pp. 61-62.
 Ibid., at 66-67.
 Ibid., at 67-68.
 Id., at pp. 50-69.
 TSN dated July 26, 2006, pages 9-11.
 TSN dated November 27, 2002; pages 167-170 and January 15, 2003.
 MEMORANDUM for the accused dated June 12, 2007, page 3; TSN dated May 24, 2006, page 70.
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, page 69. chanrobles virtual law library
 TSN dated May 24, 2006, Pages 49-50
 TSN dated June 14, 2006
 Villanueva vs. Secretary of Justice, supra, citing People v. Abaya, 74 Phil. 59 (1942)
 Ibid., citing Welch v. State, 157 S.W. 946; Ferguson v. State, 35 S.W. 369, cited in 70 C.J.S. Perjury §30, p. 473
 Ibid. citing Butler v. McKey, 138 F.2d 373 (1943)
 Full title of R.A. No. 6713 is “AN ACT ESTABLISHING A CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES, TO UPHOLD THE TIME-HONORED PRINCIPLE OF PUBLIC OFFICE BEING A PUBLIC TRUST, GRANTING INCENTIVES AND REWARDS FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE, ENUMERATING PROHIBITED ACTS AND TRANSACTIONS AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES”
 Accused cites the cases of PRESIDENTIAL ANTI-GRAFT COMMISSION vs. CRISTOBAL (OP Case No. 04-E-226 dated July 28, 2005), which is defense Exhibit No. 393 up to 393-D; and VALMONTE vs. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO filed in the Office of the Ombudsman chan robles virtual law library
 G. LEE, JR., HANDBOOK OF LEGAL MAXIMS, 74, (1ST rev. ed., 1985).
 Section 14, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that: chan robles virtual law library
(1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without
due process of law.
 Hence, Section 3, Rule 131 of the Rules on Evidence provides that:
SEC. 3. Disputable presumptions. – The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence.
(a) That a person is innocent of crime or wrong;
xxx xxx xxx.
 People vs. Jimmy Manambit, et al., G.R. No.72744-45, April 18, 1997
 Evangeline Ladonga vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. 141066, February 17, 2005