G.R. No. 210612. October 09, 2017 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title:
People of the Philippines vs. Ervin Y. Mateo

### Facts:
In March 2001, Herminio Alcid, Jr. encountered Geraldine Alejandro, representing MMG International Holdings Co., Ltd., who solicited investments showcasing MMG’s businesses and SEC registration. Herminio Jr. initially invested P50,000, led by positive returns, further investments were made, including by his father and sister, amounting to a total of P250,000 among them.

Investments were formalized through notarized Memoranda of Agreement, undersigned by the accused-appellant, Ervin Y. Mateo, promising monthly returns. Upon attempting to cash provided post-dated checks, investors were informed of closed bank accounts and subsequent demands for refunds were ignored.

The case proceeded to the SEC and then to the Makati City Prosecutor, resulting in two Informations of syndicated estafa under Article 315 of the RPC in relation to Presidential Decree No. 1689 against Mateo and others. Only Mateo was apprehended and pleaded not guilty. Despite failures to present defense evidence leading to a submission for resolution, the RTC convicted Mateo, setting off a series of appeals concluding with the Supreme Court’s affirmation of his life imprisonment sentences and mandated actual damages payments.

### Issues:
1. Validity of condemning Mateo under PD 1689 in connection with Article 315(2)(a) of the RPC.
2. Establishment of defraudation beyond reasonable doubt.
3. Sufficiency of evidence for conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
4. Impact of the stay order from corporate rehabilitation on the conviction.
5. Correctness of the CA in denying reconsideration motions.

### Court’s Decision:
The Supreme Court thoroughly dismissed Mateo’s arguments, affirming the CA and RTC’s decisions. It elucidated that estafa under Article 315(2)(a) indeed falls under PD 1689’s scope, and the involvement in a fraudulent scheme, even without direct transaction with victims, suffices for syndicated estafa under conspiracy. The Court highlighted the unmistakable pattern of deceit Mateo engaged in with co-accused under MMG, dispelling his challenge on the signature’s validity and the irrelevance of MMG’s corporate rehabilitation to his criminal liability. Consequently, his appeal was found meritless, and his convictions were upheld.

### Doctrine:
– The ruling reaffirmed that estafa under Article 315(2)(a) of the RPC is encompassed by PD 1689, addressing syndicated estafa.
– It also underscored the principle that in cases of conspiracy, the act of one conspirator is the act of all, establishing collective responsibility for the deception employed to defraud victims.

### Class Notes:
1. **Syndicated Estafa**: A collective act by five or more persons forming a syndicate, intending to carry out unlawful or illegal acts resulting in defraudation, specifically impacting public investment.
2. **Presidential Decree No. 1689**: Stipulates heavier penalties for syndicated estafa, identifying it as economic sabotage, warranting life imprisonment to death.
3. **Article 315(2)(a) RPC**: Defines estafa by deceit including false pretenses or fraudulent acts inducing someone to part with money or property.
4. **Conspiracy in Criminal Acts**: Once established, each participant’s actions are imputed to all, regardless of the direct involvement in every act leading to the crime.
5. **Corporate Rehabilitation’s Non-effect on Criminal Liability**: The initiation of corporate rehabilitation does not shield corporate officers from criminal prosecution for acts committed in their individual capacities.

### Historical Background:
This case highlights the Philippines’ stern approach to combating large-scale fraud, particularly syndicated estafa, underscoring the legal system’s efforts to protect public investment against deceitful schemes. It affirms the judiciary’s commitment to enforcing strict penalties on economic sabotage, emphasizing on the collective liability of individuals committing fraud under the guise of corporate entities.


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