EVANGELINE LADONGA VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
G.R. No. 141066
February 17, 2005
In 1989, spouses Adronico and Evangeline Ladonga became Alfredo Oculam’s regular customers in his pawnshop business. Sometime in May 1990, the Ladonga spouses obtained a P9,075.55 loan from him, guaranteed by United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) Check No. 284743, post dated to July 7, 1990 issued by Adronico; sometime in the last week of April 1990 and during the first week of May 1990, the Ladonga spouses obtained an additional loan of P12,730.00, guaranteed by UCPB Check No. 284744, post dated to July 26, 1990 issued by Adronico; between May and June 1990, the Ladonga spouses obtained a third loan in the amount of P8,496.55, guaranteed by UCPB Check No. 106136, post dated to July 22, 1990 issued by Adronico; the three checks bounced upon presentment for the reason “CLOSED ACCOUNT”; when the Ladonga spouses failed to redeem the check, despite repeated demands, he filed a criminal complaint against them. While admitting that the checks issued by Adronico bounced because there was no sufficient deposit or the account was closed, the Ladonga spouses claimed that the checks were issued only to guarantee the obligation, with an agreement that Oculam should not encash the checks when they mature; and, that petitioner is not a signatory of the checks and had no participation in the issuance thereof. The RTC rendered a joint decision finding the Ladonga spouses guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating B.P. Blg. 22. Petitioner brought the case to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of petitioner.
Whether or not the petitioner who was not the drawer or issuer of the three checks that bounced but her co-accused husband under the latter’s account could be held liable for violations of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 as conspirator.
The conviction must be set aside. Article 8 of the RPC provides that “a conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.” To be held guilty as a co-principal by reason of conspiracy, the accused must be shown to have performed an overt act in pursuance or furtherance of the complicity. The overt act or acts of the accused may consist of active participation in the actual commission of the crime itself or may consist of moral assistance to his co-conspirators by moving them to execute or implement the criminal plan. In the present case, the prosecution failed to prove that petitioner performed any overt act in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy. Apparently, the only semblance of overt act that may be attributed to petitioner is that she was present when the first check was issued. However, this inference cannot be stretched to mean concurrence with the criminal design. Conspiracy must be established, not by conjectures, but by positive and conclusive evidence. Conspiracy transcends mere companionship and mere presence at the scene of the crime does not in itself amount to conspiracy. Even knowledge, acquiescence in or agreement to cooperate, is not enough to constitute one as a party to a conspiracy, absent any active participation in the commission of the crime with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose