My neighbors, Carmen, Lita, and I were persuaded by Ms. Mayel to work abroad as domestic helpers. We were led to believe that Ms. Mayel has the capacity to bring us to Saudi Arabia. In consideration thereof, we were asked to give money as placement fee and other fees and expenses relative to the processing of our passports, visa, and plane tickets. She assured us that we could depart for Saudi Arabia on October 31, 2017; however, until now we are still in the Philippines. On top of that, we can no longer locate Ms. Mayel. Can we file a case of estafa against Ms. Mayel, and what are the pieces of evidence that we may present to convict her?
Based on the facts presented, you may not only file a case of estafa, but also illegal recruitment against Ruby, particularly violation of Article 315, par. (2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and Article 38 of the Labor Code. The said provision of the RPC states:
“Article 315. Swindling [estafa]. – Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:
2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:
(a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by means of other similar deceits.
(b) xxx” (Emphasis supplied)
The Supreme Court in the case of RR Paredes et al. vs Tarciso S. Calilung (GR No. 156055, March 5, 2007), penned by former Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, enumerates the elements of estafa by means of deceit, to wit: (a) that there must be a false pretense or fraudulent representation as to his power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions; (b) that such false pretense or fraudulent representation was made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (c) that the offended party relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means and was induced to part with his money or property; and (d) that, as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.
In your case, the foregoing elements are present. Ms. Mayel deliberately misrepresented herself and falsely pretended that she had the capacity to deploy you to Saudi Arabia. The misrepresentation was made prior to your payment of the fees she required you to pay. It was her false pretenses that induced you to part with your money. As a result of Ms. Mayel’s misrepresentation and false pretenses, you suffered damages considering that her commitment to give you employment abroad never materialized and you were not able to recover the money.
On the other hand, she may likewise be convicted for illegal recruitment in large scale, in accordance with Article 38 of the Labor Code:
“Article 38. Illegal recruitment. – (a) Any recruitment activities, including the prohibited practices enumerated under Article 34 of this Code, to be undertaken by non-licensees or non-holders of authority, shall be deemed illegal and punishable under Article 39 of this Code. The Department of Labor and Employment or any law enforcement officer may initiate complaints under this Article.
(b) Illegal recruitment when committed by a syndicate or in large scale shall be considered an offense involving economic sabotage and shall be penalized in accordance with Article 39 hereof.
Illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring and/or confederating with one another in carrying out any unlawful or illegal transaction, enterprise or scheme defined under the first paragraph hereof. Illegal recruitment is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three or more persons individually or as a group.
xxx.” (Emphasis supplied)
The Supreme Court in the case of People of the Philippines vs Ma. Harleta Velasco y Briones, et al. (GR No. 195668, June 25, 2014), penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin elucidated that the essential elements of illegal recruitment committed in large scale are: (1) that the accused engaged in acts of recruitment and placement of workers as defined under Article 13(b) of the Labor Code, or in any prohibited activities under Article 34 of the same Code; (2) that the accused had not complied with the guidelines issued by the Secretary of Labor and Employment with respect to the requirement to secure a license or authority to recruit and deploy workers; and (3) that the accused committed the unlawful acts against three or more persons. In simplest terms, illegal recruitment is committed by persons who, without authority from the government, give the impression that they have the power to send workers abroad for employment purposes.
Based on the foregoing, there is no doubt that Ms. Mayel committed illegal recruitment in large scale by giving you the impression that she can give you employment abroad despite the fact that she had no authority or license to do so.
We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org