Description, not designation

Published by rudy Date posted on December 10, 2008

An ex post facto law is one which, among others, aggravates a crime or makes it greater than it was when committed or changes the punishment and inflicts a greater one than the law annexed to the crime when committed. Such law cannot be given retroactive effect. This is the principle unsuccessfully invoked by Charing in her case.

On October 5, 1998 Charing, together with Pinang, were charged with illegal recruitment as defined under Sections 6 and 7 of R.A. 8042 in an Information wherein it was alleged that on or about January 1993, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another through fraudulent machination and deceitful machination, they unlawfully and feloniously recruited Nita for employment abroad and demanded and received P6,500 as placement fee, even without license or authority to engage in the recruitment of workers abroad, to the damage and prejudice of Nita.

Only Charing was tried as Pinang remained at large. After trial the Regional Trial Court (RTC) found the evidence of the prosecution more credible than that of the defense and thus held Charing liable for the offense of illegal recruitment under the Labor Code as amended, not under R.A. 8042. So, Charing was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty ranging from 4 years minimum to 6 years maximum. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals with the modification that Charing should also pay Nita P10,000 as temperate damage.

The CA noted that the criminal acts alleged to have been committed happened sometime in 1993 but R.A. 8042 under which Charing was charged was approved only on June 7, 1995. Thus the CA declared that Charing should have been charged under Article 38 in relation to Article 13 (b) of the Labor Code, not under R.A. 8042. Accordingly the CA made its findings on the basis of said articles of the Labor Code not under R.A. 8042.

Charing questioned this ruling. She insisted that since the Information charged her with violation of R.A. 8042 which did not exist yet when the crime was allegedly committed in 1993 when the law applicable was still the Labor Code, and since R.A. 8042 increased the penalty of imprisonment provided by the Labor Code, her charge and conviction constitutes a violation of the prohibition against ex post facto law and the retroactive application of R.A. 8042. Was Charing correct?

No. The real nature of the crime charged is determined, not from the caption or preamble of the information nor from the specification of the law alleged to have been violated — these being conclusions of law — but by the actual recital of facts in the information. What controls is not the designation but the description of the offense charged. From the legal point of view, and in a very real sense, the technical name of the crime of which an accused stands charged is not his concern. If the accused performed the acts alleged in the body of the information, in the manner stated therein, then he ought to be punished accordingly whatever may be the name of the crime constituting those acts.

In this case, both the RTC and the CA found that the prosecution has established beyond doubt, the acts constituting the offense defined in Article 38 in relation to Article 13 (b) as follows, (1) the person charged with the crime has undertaken recruitment and placement activities particularly, canvassing enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing hiring or procuring workers for employment locally or abroad whether profit or not; and (2) said person does not have a license or authority to do so.

Charing was charged in 1998 under an information erroneously designating the offense as covered by R.A. 8042 although the acts alleged in its body are punishable under the Labor Code. Both courts passed upon Charing’s case only under the aegis of the Labor Code as alleged in the body of the information. Hence the proceedings before the RTC and the CA did not violate the prohibition against ex post facto law nor involved a retroactive application of R.A. 8042 in any way (Nasi-Villar vs. People, G.R. 176169, November 14, 2008).–Jose C. Sison, Philippine Star

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

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