THE Supreme Court (SC) has ordered a Manila court to proceed with the trial of criminal cases for estafa through falsification of commercial documents against bank owner Jose Go and several other bank officials.
In a ruling, written by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the SC reminded judges of the court to be more diligent and circumspect in the performance of their duties as members of the bench.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, Jose Portugal Perez and Martin Villarama Jr.
On October 14, 1998, the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued a resolution ordering the closure of Orient Commercial Banking Corp. (OCBC) and placing the bank under the receivership of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC).
PDIC, as the statutory receiver of OCBC, effectively took charge of the bank’s assets and liabilities in accordance with its mandate under Section 30 of Republic Act 7653.
It began collecting on OCBC’s past due loans receivable by sending demand letters to its borrowers for immediate settlement of their outstanding loans.
Allegedly among these borrowers are Timmy’s Inc. and Asia Textile Mills Inc., which appeared to have obtained a loan of P10 million each.
A representative of Timmy’s Inc. denied being granted any loan by OCBC and insisted that the signatures on the loan documents were falsified.
The criminal cases for estafa through falsification of commercial documents against the respondents are based on the theory that in 1997, fictitious loans in favor of two entities—Tim my’s Inc. and Asia Textile Mills Inc—were approved, after which two manager’s checks representing the supposed proceeds of these fictitious loans were issued but made payable to two different entities—Philippine Recycler’s Inc. and Zeta International–without any documents issued by the supposed borrowers Timmy’s Inc. and Asia Textile Mills, Inc. assigning the supposed loan proceeds to the two payees.
These two manager’s checks, together with several others totaling P120,819,475.0024, were encashed, and then deposited in the OCBC savings account of Go.
Then, several automatic transfer deposits were made from Go’s savings account to his OCBC current account that were then used to fund Go’s previously dishonored personal checks.
Aida dela Rosa and Felecitas Necomedes were also charged for the same offenses.
Surprisingly, and considering that hundreds of millions of OCBC depositors’ money appear to have been lost—which must have contributed to the bank’s being placed under receivership—no motion for reconsideration of the July 2, 2007 order granting respondents’ demurrer to evidence was filed by the handling public prosecutor, Manila Prosecutor Marlo Campanilla.
When the case was brought to the Court of Appeals, it ruled that the prosecution failed to demonstrate that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in granting the demurrer, or that it was denied its day in court, and that on the contrary, the prosecution was afforded every opportunity to present its evidence, yet it failed to prove that respondents committed the crime charged.
“Furthermore, as correctly pointed out by petitioner [People of the Philippines], it is superfluous to require that the recipients of Go’s personal checks be identified. For purposes of proving the crime, it has been shown that Go converted bank funds to his own personal use when they were deposited in his accounts and his personal checks were cleared and the funds were debited from his account. This suffices,” the SC said.
According to the High Court, as a result of declaration of nullity of the assailed orders of the trial court, “any dissection of the truly questionable actions of Prosecutor Campanilla—which should merit appropriate disciplinary action for they reveal a patent ignorance of procedure, if not indolence or a deliberate intention to bungle his own case—becomes unnecessary.”
“It is conceded that the lack of Campanilla’s approval and/or conformé to PDIC’s motion for reconsideration should have rendered the trial court’s assailed orders final and executory were it not for the fact that they were inherently null and void; Campanilla’s irresponsible actions almost cost the people [their]day in court and their right to exact justice and retribution, not to mention that [such actions]could have caused immeasurable damage to the banking industry.”