[ G.R. No. 131143. February 22, 1999]




Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated FEB 22, 1999.

G.R. No. 131143 (Geronimo Buenaventura vs. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines.)

Before this Court is a Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of this Court dated January 26, 1998, denying the Petition for Review which assailed the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 7, 1997. Said CA Decision affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court convicting petitioner Atty. Buenaventura of 2 counts of estafa and 3 counts of attempted estafa.

Atty. Buenaventura was the lawyer of Mr. Corazon Dionisio. Mr. Dionisio requested his assistance in encashing certain checks. According to Mr. Dionisio, he was a commission agent of Fuji-Triumph Corporation, private complainant in the criminal case in the RTC, that he had certain collectibles from Fuji-Triumph, and that in order to collect, he would cause Fuji-Triumph to issue checks payable to Atty. Buenaventura.

Atty. Buenaventura believed this story, deposited the checks in his account, withdrew the amounts and delivered these amounts to Mr. Dionisio. A total of 6 checks were deposited: 2 were encashed, 1 was dishonored for insufficient funds, and 3 were dishonored under a stop payment order by Fuji-Triumph. The stop payment order was issued by Fuji-Triumph after it discovered that its missing checks were being encashed by Atty. Buenaventura. It turned out the signatures of the Fuji-Triumph corporate officers in the checks were forgeries.

The Provincial Prosecutor of Bulacan resolved to file informations against Atty. Buenaventura and Mr. Dionisio. The Department of Justice, on appeal, dropped Mr. Dionisio's name as respondent. On the other hand, Atty. Buenaventura's appeal was dismissed for having been filed out of time.

Five informations were filed in the RTC against Atty. Buenaventura, two for estafa, and three more for attempted estafa. Trial was conducted.

A Demurrer to Evidence filed by Atty. Buenaventura was denied by the RTC. He then presented evidence for his defense. The RTC convicted Atty. Buenaventura of two counts of estafa and three counts of attempted estafa, all committed thru falsification of commerical document by means of deceit. The RTC acquitted him of the third charge of estafa.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals held:

In sum the Court finds appellant's conviction in Criminal Cases Nos. 115-M-89, 117-M-89, 118-M-89 and 118-M-89 to be in accord with law and the evidence.

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in toto."

After his Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the Court of Appeals, Atty. Buenaventura filed the Petition for Review raising these two (2) issues:

Whether or not the petitioner can be convicted for the acts of his client in the pursuit of attorney-client relationship.

Whether or not the petitioner can be convicted of the crimes of estafa committed by means of deceit after he was misled by the order of the trial court duly affirmed by the Honorable Court of Appeals that the crimes of estafa charged against him are committed by abuse of confidence and not by deceit.

The Supreme Court, in a Resolution dated 26 January 1998, denied his Petition for Review for failure to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error. Atty. Buenaventura then filed a Motion for Reconsideration, reiterating the arguments raised in his Petition for Review. The Solicitor General filed a Comment to the Motion dated July 30, 1998. A Reply was posted by Atty. Buenaventura on September 17, 1998.

The Motion for Reconsideration is denied for lack of merit.

As regards the first issue, Atty. Buenaventura contends that he was merely the agent, or "conduit," for the encashment of the checks, and as such he cannot be held liable for the acts of his principal, Mr. Dionisio. He also asserts that his acts were innocent because these were pursuant to their attorney-client relationship.

The agency theory cannot be a shield for crime. Where an agent conspires with his principal for the commission of a crime and carries out their agreement, he becomes a conspirator and, under criminal law, a principal by direct participation.

Contrary to Atty. Buenaventura's contention, the attorney-client relationship does not impose an obligation upon the lawyer to aid his client in the commission of a crime. Neither does it compel the lawyer to accede to any and all requests by his client. Indeed, there is the remote possibility that Atty. Buenaventura felt obligated to accommodate Mr. Dionisio's request for the encashment of the checks, and that he acted in good faith and without criminal intent.

Yet, intent is a state of mind, and is hidden from the judicial eye. Courts are left to evaluate the overt acts, and on their basis to form a conclusion as to the actor's intentions. The legal presumption drawn from human experience and generally applied by the courts is that men intend the natural consequences of their voluntary acts,1 [Section 3, Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, reads:

Disputable presumptions.- The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

(c) That a person intends the ordinary consequences of his voluntary act;


and that unlawful acts are done with unlawful intent.2 [Section 3, Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, reads:

Disputable presumptions.- The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by the evidence:

(b) That an unlawful act was done with an unlawful intent;


Unlawful intent is an element of estafa.3 [Aquino, III Revised Penal Code (1988 ed.) 236-237 citing U.S. vs. Mendezona, 1 Phil 696, 700, People vs. Alverio (Unrep), 100 Phil. 1083.] And the RTC, after evaluating the overt acts of Atty. Buenaventura and after considering his claim that he acted in good faith pursuant to an attorney-client relationship, concluded that Atty. Buenaventura acted with unlawful intent and committed the crimes for which he was charged. These findings of fact by the trial court, in the absence of patent error, must be respected.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolved to DENY the Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit.

Very truly yours,


Clerk of Court

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