Genuine motives
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Atty. Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - July 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Illegal recruitment is the promise and offer of employment to a person or persons for a fee without being first duly licensed to engage in such activity. This is prohibited and punished under Article 38 in relation to Article 13 and 39 of the Labor Code. If there are at least three persons victimized, whether individually or as a group, it is considered as a large scale illegal recruitment punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of P100,000. This is one of the crimes involved in this case. Also involved here is the crime of estafa for defrauding a person or persons sums of money through misrepresentation and deceit under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. In these cases, the main issue raised is the credibility of the complaining witnesses who have allegedly nefarious motives.

These cases involve Liza Sagum and the siblings Ramon, Kaloy, and Linda Serrano (not their true names). Ramon was a farmer residing in the province who wanted to work abroad. So his compadre Aldo, a policeman, visited him at his house accompanied by Liza who was introduced by Aldo as a recruiter for jobs abroad. Liza tried to convince Ramon that she could help him in getting a job abroad by working on his travel papers within two months. She assured Ramon that he would be able to work in Japan as a factory worker if he could produce the initial sum of P5,000. So Ramon signed the application form presented to him by Liza. A week later, Aldo and Liza went back and asked for the P5,000. But Ramon only had P2,500 which he gave to Liza who did not issue any receipt. Then Liza tried to convince Ramon to look for other persons interested to work abroad and refer them to her. Hence Ramon introduced his brother Kaloy, a fisherman and sister Linda and then went back to the province.

Thereafter, Liza along with Aldo, also met Kaloy and Linda who were made to fill up application forms at Liza’s office for deployment as factory workers in Japan. The following day Kaloy personally paid the first installment of Liza’s fee in the amount of P2,000 followed by subsequent installments all totaling P70,000 which are without receipts. Linda on the other hand also gave Liza P20,500 upon the assurance that she could work abroad.

Subsequently, however, the Philippine passports and Japanese visas given by Liza to Ramon, Kaloy and Linda turned out to be fake, according to the NBI and the Bureau of Immigration. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) also certified that Liza is not a licensed recruiter.

So, criminal charges for illegal recruitment and for estafa were filed against Liza. During the trial, the prosecution presented the three siblings who narrated what Liza had done to them. On the other hand Liza denied the accusations and claimed that she had never been engaged in the processing of travel documents for recruitment of workers abroad. She said that she was a licensed contractor of a low-cost housing project earning P50,000 a month, and prior thereto she operated a general services enterprise earning P10,000 to P15,000 a month. She even produced an affidavit of desistance signed by Ramon.

But after trial, the lower court convicted Liza of one count of illegal recruitment and sentenced her to life imprisonment; and two counts of estafa and sentenced her to one year, eight months and 21 days to minimum of five years, five months and 11 days maximum for the estafa of P20,500; and four years, two months, to six years, eight months and 21 days maximum for the estafa of P70,000.

In her appeal, Liza faulted the lower court for relying heavily on the testimonies of the siblings who allegedly have nefarious motives against her because they did not include Aldo who is more guilty of their charges and for not relying on the affidavit of desistance of Ramon.

The Supreme Court however sustained the decision of the lower court. According to the SC, the allegation of improper motives has not been satisfactorily proven by evidence. The complainants would not go through an elaborate and circuitous process of initiating and prosecuting the cases against Liza merely to pin ultimate liability to Aldo. The fact alone that Aldo is a kumpadre of Ramon could not be enough reason for complainants not to promptly and directly implicate him. Equating her liability to that of Aldo will not necessarily prove her innocence. Ramon’s affidavit of desistance cannot also subvert the testimonies of the three complainants especially because Ramon repudiated said affidavit. It should be ignored when pitted against the positive evidence given at the witness stand.

There is also no reason to doubt the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses who are simple barrio folks one a farmer and another, a fisherman. From their appearance and manner of testifying in court, perversion of truth is far and remote. They would not take the trouble of coming to court several times if their motive is other than to seek justice for themselves. The SC said that it has itself has gone over the testimonies of each complainant in the transcript of stenographic notes and found their testimonies are credible. So Liza is really guilty of the crimes charged (People vs. De Gui ang, G.R. L-116382, January 29, 1998)

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Email: js0711192@gmail.com

LIZA SAGUM
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