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Pat.

Manuel Lao testified that when he asked


[G.R. No. 117216. August 9, 2000] Niu how she came to have possession of the child, she
answered that a certain "Helen" brought the child to
her. This "Helen" could not be found.[16]
PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JOCELYN However, on the witness stand, Niu told a
ACBANGIN y RADAM, accused-appellant. different story. Niu narrated that it was Jocelyn who
brought Sweet to her house on April 23, 1991. Jocelyn
told Niu that she was going to leave the child and was
DECISION
going to return to get her.[17]
PARDO, J.:
On April 26, 1991, a complaint for kidnapping
The case is an appeal from the decision of the a minor[18] was filed against accused-appellant Jocelyn
Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Acbangin, accused Niu, Helen Doe and Juana Doe
Cavite,[1] finding accused-appellant, Jocelyn Daria with the Municipal Trial Court, Bacoor, Cavite, to
Radam Acbangin (hereinafter referred to as "Jocelyn") wit:[19]
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of kidnapping and
That on the 23rd day of April 1991 (Tuesday)
serious illegal detention, and sentencing her
at about 7:00 P. M. at Brgy. San Nicolas, in the
to reclusion perpetua. In the same decision, the court
municipality of Bacoor, the above-named accused,
acquitted accused Juanita Niu (hereinafter referred to
conspiring, confederating and mutually helping each
as "Niu").[2]
other, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx being a private person
We state the facts. (sic), kidnapped and deprived one SWEET
On April 23, 1991, at around seven o'clock in JOCELYN ACBANGIN, a xxxx four years old child
the evening, Danilo Acbangin was worried when his (sic) without any justifiable cause which is prohibited
daughter, four-year old Sweet Grace Acbangin by law to the damages (sic) and prejudice of said
(hereinafter referred to as "Sweet") did not come SWEET JOCELYN ACBANGIN and her relatives.
home.[3] "CONTRARY TO LAW."
Sweet's father, Danilo, testified that he last saw On September 2, 1991, an information for
Sweet on the same day, at six o'clock in the evening, kidnapping a minor was filed with the Regional Trial
playing in Jocelyn's house.[4] Jocelyn was the Court, Bacoor, Cavite[20]against Niu, Jocelyn and two
common-law wife of his second cousin, Remy Mary Does, to wit:[21]
Acbangin.[5]
"That on or about the 23rd day of April 1991
Danilo went to Jocelyn's house and looked for at around 7:00 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay
Sweet. There was no one there. [6] San Nicolas, Municipality of Bacoor, Province of
At around seven fifteen in the evening, Danilo Cavite, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
reported to the Barangay and the Bacoor Police Station Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
that Sweet was missing.[7] conspiring, confederating and mutually helping and
aiding one another, the above-named accused Jocelyn
On the same day at eleven o'clock in the Acbangin, being then the auntie of Sweet Grace
evening, Jocelyn arrived at Danilo's house without Acbangin, and being then private individuals, did,
Sweet. When asked where the child was, Jocelyn then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
denied knowing of the child's whereabouts. take, kidnap and deprive said Sweet Grace Acbangin
On April 24, 1991, Danilo made a second of her liberty and failed to return her to the custody of
report to the Bacoor Police Station, stating that Jocelyn her parents, thereby causing her damage and
returned without the child.[8] prejudice.
On April 24, 1991, Jocelyn informed Danilo's "CONTRARY TO LAW."
mother-in-law that Sweet was in Niu's house in Tondo, On May 26, 1992, accused Niu and accused-
Manila.[9]9 appellant Jocelyn were arraigned. Both pleaded "not
On April 25, 1991, the case was reported to the guilty."[22]
Manila police.[10] At the trial, Jocelyn testified that: For six years, she
Jocelyn accompanied Danilo, Sweet's was employed as Niu's housemaid. While working for Niu,
she took care of several children of different ages. The
grandfather and police officers to Niu's
number of children in Niu's household would vary from
house.[11] Jocelyn personally knew Niu and was first to seven to fourteen. According to Jocelyn, Niu was in the
enter the house.[12] Jocelyn went up to the second floor business of selling children. On April 23, 1993, Sweet was
of the house. She went down with Niu and brought to Niu's house by a certain Celia and Helen. Jocelyn
Sweet.[13] Sweet was well-dressed and smiling.[14]14 recognized Sweet as her niece. Upon seeing Sweet, she
She ran to her father and embraced him. Niu then decided to go to Sweet's parents in Bacoor, Cavite. She then
voluntarily turned Sweet over to her father and the accompanied Sweet's father, along with some policemen to
policemen.[15] Niu's house.[23]
On June 22, 1994, the trial court rendered the "(c) that any serious physical injuries
appealed decision. We quote its fallo:[24] are inflicted upon the person
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, only kidnapped or detained or
accused Jocelyn Acbangin is hereby found Guilty Beyond threats to kill him are made; or
Reasonable Doubt of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious "(d) that the person kidnapped is a
Illegal Detention punishable under Article 267 of the minor, female or public
Revised Penal Code with the imposable penalty of officer. (underscoring ours)"
Reclusion Perpetua to Death. Thus, she should suffer the
prison term of Reclusion Perpetua. In the case at bar, all the aforementioned
"This Court finds the above penalty to be too requisites were present and were proven beyond
harsh to be imposed against 23-year old and third year reasonable doubt.
high school student-accused Jocelyn Acbangin. The In cases of kidnapping, if the person detained is
evidence on record had not clearly indicated that a child, the question is whether there was actual
Danilo Acbangin and minor-victim Sweet Grace deprivation of the child's liberty, and whether it was
Acbangin during the latter's two-day stay in the house the intention of the accused to deprive the parents of
of Juanita Niu has been emotionally or physically the custody of the child.[29]
injured. The degree of malicious intent of accused
Sweet was deprived of her liberty. True, she
Jocelyn does not warrant the excessive penalty of
was treated well. However, there is still
Reclusion Perpetua.
kidnapping. For there to be kidnapping, it is not
"In connection with Article 5 of the Revised necessary that the victim be placed in an enclosure. It
Penal Code, this Court recommends to His is enough that the victim is restrained from going
Excellency, the President of the Philippines, thru the home. Given Sweet's tender age, when Jocelyn left her
Secretary of Justice, that executive clemency be in Niu's house, at a distant place in Tondo, Manila,
extended to accused Jocelyn Acbangin as a means of unknown to her, she deprived Sweet of the freedom to
mitigating the undue harshness of the penalty herein leave the house at will. It is not necessary that the
imposed. detention be prolonged.[30]
"Also send a copy of this Decision to the The intention to deprive Sweet's parents of her
Provincial Warden of Trece Martires City for his custody is indicated by Jocelyn's hesitation for two
information and guidance. days to disclose Sweet's whereabouts and more so by
"SO ORDERED."[25] her actual taking of the child. Jocelyn's motive at this
point is not relevant. It is not an element of the crime.
On August 8, 1994, accused-appellant filed a
notice of appeal with the trial court.[26] Sweet's testimony, stating that it was Jocelyn
who brought her to Niu's house, should not be
Accused-appellant contends that her guilt was disregarded. Section 20, Rule 134 of the Revised Rules
not proven beyond reasonable doubt.[27] of Court provides that, "All persons who can perceive,
We deny the appeal. and perceiving, can make known their perception to
others may be witnesses." A witness' young age will
Jocelyn knew for two days where Sweet not deter him or her from being a competent and
was. In fact, it was she who brought Sweet to Niu's credible witness. To be a competent child witness, the
house. The fact that she later on felt remorse for taking following criteria must be met: (a) capacity of
Sweet to Tondo, Manila and showed Sweet's father observation; (b) capacity of recollection and (c)
where the child was, cannot absolve her. At that point, capacity of communication.[31] All these were met by
the crime was consummated. Jocelyn's repentance and Sweet. Besides, the trial court's assessment of Sweet's
desistance came too late. credibility should be upheld and respected since its
The elements of serious illegal detention assessment was not tainted with arbitrariness or
are: [28] oversight of any material fact.[32]
"(1) that the offender is a private individual; Burdensome and harsh as it may be, the trial
court correctly imposed the penalty of reclusion
"(2) that he kidnaps or detains another, or in perpetua. True, Sweet was not maltreated. True also,
any manner deprives the latter of his that at the time of the crime, Jocelyn was only 21 years
liberty; old. However, the crime as defined by law was
"(3) that the act of detention or kidnapping committed. Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh,
must be illegal; but it is the law.
"(4) in the commission of the offense any of We agree with the trial court that a strict
the following circumstances are present: application of Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code
would be too harsh, taking into consideration the
"(a) that the kidnapping or detention
minimal injury caused by the offense. We agree that
lasts for more than 5 days;
the accused be recommended to the Chief Executive
"(b) that it is committed simulating for the possible exercise of his pardoning power.
public authority;
WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM in toto the G.R. No. 183891 October 19, 2011
decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19,
Bacoor, Cavite, dated June 22, 1994, finding ROMARICO J. MENDOZA, Petitioner,
accused-appellant JOCELYN RADAM vs.
ACBANGIN guilty beyond reasonable doubt of PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
kidnapping and serious illegal detention defined and
penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, R E SO L U T I O N
and sentencing her to reclusion perpetua, with all the
accessory penalties of the law and to pay the costs. BRION, J.:
Pursuant to Article 5 of the Revised Penal
We resolve the motion for reconsideration filed by
Code,[33] we recommend to His Excellency, the
petitioner Romarico J. Mendoza seeking the reversal of
President of the Philippines, through the Secretary of our Decision dated August 3, 2010. The Decision affirmed
Justice, the grant to accused-appellant JOCELYN the petitioner’s conviction for his failure to remit the
RADAM ACBANGIN of either a commutation of Social Security Service (SSS) contributions of his
sentence to an indeterminate penalty of prision employees. The petitioner anchors the present motion on
correctional to prision mayor or executive clemency, his supposed inclusion within the coverage of Republic
considering that she has been in preventive detention Act (RA) No. 9903 or the Social Security Condonation
since April 29, 1991.[34] Let a copy of this decision be Law of 2009, whose passage the petitioner claims to be
forwarded to His Excellency, the President of the a supervening event in his case. He further invokes the
Philippines, through the Secretary of Justice. equal protection clause in support of his motion.

No costs. In our Decision dated August 3, 2010,


SO ORDERED. we AFFIRMED, with modification, the decree of
conviction issued by both the trial and appellate
courts for the petitioner’s violation of Section 22(a)
and (d), in relation to Section 28 of RA No. 8282 or
the Social Security Act of 1997. To recall its
highlights, our Decision emphasized that the
petitioner readily admitted during trial that he did not
remit the SSS premium contributions of his
employees at Summa Alta Tierra Industries, Inc. from
August 1998 to July 1999, in the amount of
₱239,756.80; inclusive of penalties, this unremitted
amount totaled to ₱421,151.09. The petitioner’s
explanation for his failure to remit, which the trial
court disbelieved, was that during this period, Summa
Alta Tierra Industries, Inc. shut down as a result of
the general decline in the economy. The petitioner
pleaded good faith and lack of criminal intent as his
defenses.

We ruled that the decree of conviction was founded


on proof beyond reasonable doubt, based on the
following considerations: first, the remittance of
employee contributions to the SSS is mandatory
under RA No. 8282; and second, the failure to comply
with a special law being malum prohibitum, the
defenses of good faith and lack of criminal intent are
immaterial.

The petitioner further argued that since he was


designated in the Information as a "proprietor," he
was without criminal liability since "proprietors" are
not among the corporate officers specifically
enumerated in Section 28(f) of RA No. 8282 to be
criminally liable for the violation of its provisions.
We rejected this argument based on our ruling
in Garcia v. Social Security Commission Legal and
Collection.1 We ruled that to sustain the petitioner’s
argument would be to allow the unscrupulous to
conveniently escape liability merely through the
creative use of managerial titles.
After taking into account the Indeterminate Penalty Upfront, we reject the petitioner’s claim that the
Law and Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, prosecution failed to prove all the elements of the
we MODIFIED the penalty originally imposed by crime charged. This is a matter that has been resolved
the trial court2 and, instead, decreed the penalty of in our Decision, and the petitioner did not raise
four (4) years and two (2) months of prision anything substantial to merit the reversal of our
correccional, as minimum, to twenty (20) years finding of guilt. To reiterate, the petitioner’s
of reclusion temporal, as maximum. conviction was based on his admission that he failed
to remit his employees’ contribution to the SSS.
In the present motion for reconsideration, the
petitioner points out that pending his appeal with the The petitioner cannot benefit from the terms of RA
Court of Appeals (CA), he voluntarily paid the SSS No. 9903, which condone only employers who pay
the amount of ₱239,756.80 to settle his their delinquencies within six months from the law’s
delinquency.3 Note that the petitioner also gave notice effectivity
of this payment to the CA via a Motion for
Reconsideration and a Motion for New We note that the petitioner does not ask for the
Trial. Although the People did not contest the fact of reversal of his conviction based on the authority of
voluntary payment, the CA nevertheless denied the RA No. 9903; he avoids making a straightforward
said motions. claim because this law plainly does not apply to him
or to others in the same situation. The clear intent of
The present motion for reconsideration rests on the the law is to grant condonation only to employers
following points: with delinquent contributions or pending cases for
their delinquencies and who pay their delinquencies
First. On January 7, 2010, during the within the six (6)-month period set by the law. Mere
pendency of the petitioner’s case before the payment of unpaid contributions does not suffice; it is
Court, then President Gloria Macapagal- payment within, and only within, the six (6)-month
Arroyo signed RA No. 9903 into law. RA No. availment period that triggers the applicability of RA
9903 mandates the effective withdrawal of all No. 9903.
pending cases against employers who would
remit their delinquent contributions to the SSS True, the petitioner’s case was pending with us when
within a specified period, viz., within six RA No. 9903 was passed. Unfortunately for him, he
months after the law’s effectivity.4 The paid his delinquent SSS contributions in 2007. By
petitioner claims that in view of RA No. 9903 paying outside of the availment period, the petitioner
and its implementing rules, the settlement of effectively placed himself outside the benevolent
his delinquent contributions in 2007 entitles sphere of RA No. 9903. This is how the law is
him to an acquittal. He invokes the equal written: it condones employers — and only those
protection clause in support of his plea. employers — with unpaid SSS contributions or with
pending cases who pay within the six (6)-month
Second. The petitioner alternatively prays that period following the law’s date of effectivity. Dura
should the Court find his above argument lex, sed lex.
wanting, he should still be acquitted since the
prosecution failed to prove all the elements of The petitioner’s awareness that RA No. 9903 operates
the crime charged. as discussed above is apparent in his plea for equal
protection. In his motion, he states that
Third. The petitioner prays that a fine be
imposed, not imprisonment, should he be [he] is entitled under the equal protection clause to the
found guilty. dismissal of the case against him since he had already
paid the subject delinquent contributions due to the
The Solicitor General filed a Manifestation In Lieu of SSS which accepted the payment as borne by the
Comment and claims that the passage of RA No. 9903 official receipt it issued (please see Annex "A"). The
constituted a supervening event in the petitioner’s equal protection clause requires that similar subjects,
case that supports the petitioner’s acquittal "[a]fter a [sic] should not be treated differently, so as to give
conscientious review of the case."5 undue favor to some and unjustly discriminate against
others. The petitioner is no more no less in the same
THE COURT’S RULING situation as the employer who would enjoy freedom
from criminal prosecution upon payment in full of the
The petitioner’s arguments supporting his prayer for delinquent contributions due and payable to the SSS
acquittal fail to convince us. However, we find basis within six months from the effectivity of Republic
to allow waiver of the petitioner’s liability for accrued Act No. 9903.6
penalties.

The petitioner’s liability for the crime is a settled


matter
The Court cannot amplify the scope of RA No. 9903 The petitioner is entitled to a waiver of his accrued
on the ground of equal protection, and acquit the penalties
petitioner and other delinquent employers like him; it
would in essence be an amendment of RA No. 9903, Despite our discussion above, the petitioner’s move to
an act of judicial legislation abjured by the trias have our Decision reconsidered is not entirely futile.
politica principle.7 The one benefit the petitioner can obtain from RA
No. 9903 is the waiver of his accrued penalties, which
RA No. 9903 creates two classifications of employers remain unpaid in the amount of ₱181,394.29. This
delinquent in remitting the SSS contributions of their waiver is derived from the last proviso of Section 4 of
employees: (1) those delinquent employers who RA No. 9903:
pay within the six (6)-month period (the former
group), and (2) those delinquent employers who Provided, further, That for reason of equity,
pay outside of this availment period (the latter employers who settled arrears in contributions before
group). The creation of these two classes is obvious the effectivity of this Act shall likewise have their
and unavoidable when Section 2 and the last proviso accrued penalties waived.
of Section 48 of the law are read together. The same
provisions show the law’s intent to limit the benefit of This proviso is applicable to the petitioner who settled
condonation to the former group only; had RA No. his contributions long before the passage of the law.
9903 likewise intended to benefit the latter group, Applied to the petitioner, therefore, RA No. 9903
which includes the petitioner, it would have expressly only works to allow a waiver of his accrued penalties,
declared so. Laws granting condonation constitute an but not the reversal of his conviction.1avvphi1
act of benevolence on the government’s part, similar
to tax amnesty laws; their terms are strictly construed Referral to the Chief Executive for possible
against the applicants. Since the law itself excludes exercise of executive clemency
the class of employers to which the petitioner
belongs, no ground exists to justify his acquittal. An We realize that with the affirmation of the petitioner’s
implementing rule or regulation must conform to and conviction for violation of RA No. 8282, he stands to
be consistent with the provisions of the enabling suffer imprisonment for four (4) years and two (2)
statute; it cannot amend the law either by abridging or months of prision correccional, as minimum, to
expanding its scope.9 twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as
maximum, notwithstanding the payment of his
For the same reason, we cannot grant the petitioner’s delinquent contribution.
prayer to impose a fine in lieu of imprisonment;
neither RA No. 8282 nor RA No. 9903 authorizes the Under Article 5 of the Revised Penal Code,12 the
Court to exercise this option. courts are bound to apply the law as it is and impose
the proper penalty, no matter how harsh it might be.
On the matter of equal protection, we stated The same provision, however, gives the Court the
in Tolentino v. Board of Accountancy, et al.10 that the discretion to recommend to the President actions it
guarantee simply means "that no person or class of deems appropriate but are beyond its power when it
persons shall be denied the same protection of the considers the penalty imposed as excessive. Although
laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other the petitioner was convicted under a special penal
classes in the same place and in like circumstances." law, the Court is not precluded from giving the
In People v. Cayat,11 we further summarized the Revised Penal Code suppletory application in light of
jurisprudence on equal protection in this wise: Article 1013 of the same Code and our ruling in
People v. Simon.14
It is an established principle of constitutional law that
the guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not WHEREFORE, the Court PARTIALLY GRANTS
violated by a legislation based on reasonable petitioner Romarico J. Mendoza’s motion for
classification. And the classification, to be reasonable, reconsideration. The Court AFFIRMS the petitioner’s
(1) must rest on substantial distinctions; (2) must be conviction for violation of Section 22(a) and (d), in
germane to the purposes of the law; (3) must not be relation to Section 28 of Republic Act No. 8282, and
limited to existing conditions only; and (4) must the petitioner is thus sentenced to an indeterminate
apply equally to all members of the same class. prison term of four (4) years and two (2) months of
prision correccional, as minimum, to twenty (20)
The difference in the dates of payment of delinquent years of reclusion temporal, as maximum. In light of
contributions provides a substantial distinction Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9903, the petitioner’s
between the two classes of employers. In limiting the liability for accrued penalties is considered WAIVED.
benefits of RA No. 9903 to delinquent employers who Considering the circumstances of the case, the Court
pay within the six (6)-month period, the legislature transmits the case to the Chief Executive, through the
refused to allow a sweeping, non-discriminatory Department of Justice, and RECOMMENDS the
condonation to all delinquent employers, lest the grant of executive clemency to the petitioner.
policy behind RA No. 8282 be undermined.1avvphi1 SO ORDERED.