G.R. No. 1461. March 24, 1905

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4 Phil. 317

[ G.R. No. 1461. March 24, 1905 ]




The defendant, Wilson, at all the times mentioned in the complaint,
was the disbursing officer of the Bureau of Coast Guard and
Transportation in the Insular Government. He had on deposit to his
credit with the Insular Treasurer large sums of money against which he
drew checks for the payment of claims properly chargeable to his Bureau.

In and prior to the month of December, 1902, S. C. Farnham, Boyd
& Co., Limited, of Shanghai, had been engaged in the construction
of vessels for the Insular Government, and in December had several
claims against the Government therefor. The duly authorized agent in
Manila of said company was the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking
Corporation. On December 24, 1902, the defendant, Wilson, made a check
on the Insular Treasurer payable to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking
Corporation for the sum of $50,293.74, local currency. This check was
dated December 24, 1902, and was signed by the defendant as such
disbursing officer for said Bureau. In the lower left hand corner, in a
space reserved for that purpose, the defendant stated in his
handwriting that the object for which the check was drawn was “payments
on vessels.” On the same day, to wit, the 24th of December, 1902, the
defendant carried this check to the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank,
delivered it to said bank, and then received from the bank a receipt
signed by the said S. C. Farnham, Boyd & Co., Limited, for
$3,086.12, local currency, and another receipt from the same company
for the sum of $39,497.62. These receipts were attached to bills
against the Insular Government for work done by the said company in the
construction of said vessels. The amount of the two vouchers of receipt
was $42,583.74, leaving a balance unused of said check amounting to
$7,710, local currency. The said Hongkong Bank at this time, in
addition to the delivery of the two vouchers aforesaid, delivered to
said Wilson the said sum of $7,710, local currency, in cash, but
reduced to money of the United States at the rate of $2.57, local
currency, to $1, United States currency, the amount thus received in
cash by Wilson at this time as a part of the proceeds of said check
being the sum of $3,000, money of the United States. On the 26th day of
December, 1902, the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank presented the check to
the Insular Treasurer, and received from said Treasurer, the full
amount thereof, to wit, the sum of $50,293.74, local currency. The
check, to the extent of $42,583.74, was used in payment of vessels, but
to the extent of $7,710, local currency, reduced to $3,000, United
States currency, was not used by Wilson for the payment of any vessels.
On the 27th of December, 1902, Wilson secretly left the city of Manila
and the Philippine Islands, taking passage in a steamer bound for China
under the fictitious name of C. T. Thorne.

As to the facts above set out there is no substantial dispute
between the parties, but upon these facts the defendant claims, for
several reasons, that his conviction in the court below was wrong:

(1) It was stated in the oral argument that there
was no proof in this case that Wilson was the disbursing officer of the
Coast Guard Bureau. Counsel must have intended to apply this statement
to another case against the same defendant, heard at the same time, for
in this case it was expressly admitted at the trial that the defendant
was the duly appointed, qualified, and acting disbursing officer of the
Bureau of Coast Guard and Transportation of the United States Civil
Government in the Philippine Islands, on the dates charged in the

(2) It is claimed by the defendant that those
words in the check which stated the object for which it was drawn were
no part of the check; that if this was a departure from the truth, it
did not affect the integrity of the document nor the legal effect

It was shown at the trial that the Insular Treasurer, with whom
Wilson’s deposit was kept and on whom this check was drawn, had issued,
prior to the time in question, to Wilson and other disbursing officers
or clerks, instructions in regard to the drawing of checks against
their deposits, and as to the contents of such checks. Article 3 of the
instructions dated August 1, 1902, is in part as follows:

“3. A disbursing officer or agent drawing checks on
moneys deposited to his official credit must state on the face of each
the object or purpose to which the avails are to be applied. Such
statement may be made in brief form, but must clearly indicate the
object of the expenditure.”

Article 8 of the instructions dated October 25, 1902, is as follows:

“8. The object for which a check is drawn must be
stated in the space reserved therefor, and checks issued without such
statements thereon will be refused payment by the depositary.”

The Insular Treasurer, Mr. Branagan, was called as a witness by the
defendant, and testified that his office would not honor a check unless
it contained this statement. It thus appeared that without this
statement on the check the person on whom it was drawn would not pay
it; in other words, that without this statement the check was
worthless. It needs no argument to show that a statement which is
necessary to enable the bearer to get the money on the check is an
essential part thereof.

(3) It is further claimed by the defendant “that it
is an utter impossibility to defraud or deceive the Government by the
issuance of checks in excess of the amount covered by legal sufficient
vouchers.” This claim is based upon the proposition that when the
accounts of the disbursing officer are audited, and he is given credit
for payments which he may have made, the amount of such credits is
determined, not by reference to the checks which he may have drawn, but
with reference to the vouchers or receipts which he has turned in to
the Auditor’s office, and that in this case, as he had received
vouchers for only $42,583.74, local currency, he would be credited with
that amount only, and the balance of the check in question, $7,710,
would still be a charge against him. It is undoubtedly true that the
defendant, as far as this case shows, still owes the Government this
sum of $7,710; but it is none the less true that, as a matter of fact,
by means of this check which contained a false statement as to the
purpose for which it was drawn, Wilson succeeded in getting from the
Government $3,000 in money which he would not have obtained if it had
not been for this false statement. The Treasurer testified at the trial
that if this check had contained a statement that $42,000, local
currency, was for payment on vessels and had been silent as to the
purpose for which the other $8,000 was to be used, payment would have
been withheld until an investigation could have been made.

other objections are made to the preliminary proceedings by which the
defendant was brought into court. It was stated at the argument that
the defendant had been seized in Canada and brought through the United
States to Manila without any warrant whatever, and, in fact, that he
had been kidnaped. Nothing of this kind appears from the record in this
case, and we therefore can not consider it. See, however, upon this
point Ker vs. Illinois (119 U. S., 436).

(5) It is claimed,
also, that the judgment of conviction is erroneous because no
preliminary investigation was held, as required by sections 12 and 13
of General Orders, No. 58. This claim is answered by reference to Act
No. (612 of the Commission, which in section 2 provides asfollows:

cases triable only in the Court of First Instance in the city of Manila
the defendant shall have a speedy trial, but shall not be entitled as
of right to a preliminary examination in any case where the prosecuting
attorney, after due investigation of the facts under section 39 of the
act of which this is an amendment, shall have presented an information
against him in proper form.”

The information in this case shows upon its face that such an
investigation was made by the prosecuting attorney. This act took
effect on the 15th day of February, 1903, before the defendant was

(6)It is claimed by the defendant that the judgment
should be set aside because the warrant of arrest was issued in
violation of that part of section 5 of the act of Congress of July 1,
1902, relating to the Philippines, which part of said section 5 reads
as follows:

“That no warrant shall issue but upon probable
cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing
the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized—” and
also in violation of that other clause of said section 5, which reads
as follows:

“That no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.”

It appears from the record that an unverified information was
presented by the assistant prosecuting attorney on the 17th day of
March, 1903; that on the same day the court upon this information
issued a warrant of arrest, and on the same day the sheriff of Manila
certified that he had arrested the defendant, and held him subject to
the order of the court. On the 19th day of March the defendant, through
his attorneys, moved that the warrant of arrest be declared void,
because the judge had not examined under oath the complainant and the
witnesses, and that the testimony of such witnesses had not been taken
down in writing. On the same day said prosecuting attorney made
affidavit before the clerk of the court to the effect that he had
investigated the charges in the information filed on the 17th, and was
acquainted therewith, and knew the same to be true. This affidavit was
attached to the complaint already on file.

On the 21st day of March the defendant renewed his motion to have
the warrant of arrest declared void upon the same grounds stated in his
former motion, and upon the additional ground that the assistant
prosecuting attorney could not have known, of his own knowledge, the
truth of the facts stated in the information. This motion was overruled
on March 29. Whether or not any action was taken upon the first motion
does not appear. After the overruling of the second motion the
defendant was called upon to plead, entered a plea of not guilty, and
the trial proceeded.

Article IV of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, is as follows:

“The right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and
seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon
probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be

When this article was carried into the said act of Congress of July
1, 1902, it was divided into two parts; the latter part, which has
already been quoted, appears near the end of section 5; the first part
appears in substance in the middle of section 5, and is as follows:

“That the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.’

Whether this division of the article into two parts and the slight
change in the phraseology of one part has in any way changed the effect
that should be given to the article it is not necessary to consider,
for it must be apparent that neither under the Constitution itself nor
under section 5 of the act of July 1, 1902, can that part relating to
warrants be held to apply to all criminal cases.

The right to arrest without a warrant was well established in the
common law of England and the cases in which that right could be
exercised were clearly defined. They are also defined, as far as the
city of Manila is concerned, by section 37 of Act No. 183. Where a
person who has been legally arrested without a warrant was actually
before a court, that court had a right to proceed against him without
in the first place issuing a warrant for his detention. It is probable
that the article was intended to apply to cases where an arrest without
a warrant was not allowed and in which it was necessary that a warrant
should be issued in order to get the accused person before the court.

In this case, whatever may be said about the manner of his arrest,
the fact remains that the defendant was actually in court in the
custody of the law on March 29, when a complaint sufficient in form and
substance was read to him. To this he pleaded not guilty. The trial
followed, in which, and in the judgment of guilty pronounced by the
court, we find no error. Whether, if there were irregularities in
bringing him personally before the court, he could have been released
on a writ of habeas corpus or now has a civil action for
damages against the person who arrested him we need not inquire. It is
enough to say that such irregularities are not sufficient to set aside
a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint and after a trial
free from error.

In the case of In re Johnson (167 U. S., 120, 125, 127) the court says:

“If the petitioner was in the actual custody of the
marshal on September 1 his subsequent indictment and trial was valid
though in the first instance he might have been illegally arrested. * *
*” Had he been arrested without a warrant by the marshal, or even by a
private individual, and detained in custody until after the 1st of
September, he might then have been indicted, although perhaps an action
might have lain against the person so arresting him for false

In the case of Ker vs. Illinois (119 U. S., 436, 440, 447), the court says :

“We do not intend to say that there may not be
proceedings previous to the trial in regard to which the prisoner could
invoke in some manner the provisions of this clause of the
Constitution; but for mere irregularities in the manner in which he may
be brought into the custody of the law, we do not think he is entitled
to say he should not be tried at all for the crime with which he is
charged in a regular indictment. He may be arrested for a very heinous
offense by persons without any warrant or without any previous
complaint and brought before a proper officer. This may be in some
sense said to be without due process of law,’ but it would hardly be
claimed that after the case had been investigated and the defendant
held by the proper authorities to answer for the crime, he could plead
that he was first arrested ‘without due process of law.”

The judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this instance against the defendant.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Mapa, and Carson, JJ.. concur.
Johnson, J., disqualified.

Date created: April 24, 2014


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