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SC clears executive of real estate firm's failure to register documents

The Supreme Court has acquitted the president of a real estate company who was earlier convicted for his supposedly failure to register customer contracts with the Register of Deeds.

In an 18-page decision promulgated in August, the Third Division granted the petition for review of Felix Valenzona, which assailed the July 2018 decision and July 2019 resolution of the Court of Appeals.

The CA resolution and decision had affirmed a Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court decision that convicted Valenzona of violation of Section 17 of Presidential Decree (PD) 957 or the Subdivision and Condominium Buyer’s Protective Degree in 2014.

“After a very assiduous review of the records of the case, the Court finds that the prosecution failed to establish Valenzona’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the SC said.

Valenzona had argued that as president, he only oversaw the business, dealt with the company's joint venture partner, and designated signatory of contracts, checks, and other documents.

He said it was not among his functions to register documents of the business.?

In acquitting Valenzona, the SC said that while he was charged because he was president but that it found that it had been established that the function to register contracts entered by the company was the duty of the company’s marketing, documentations, and processing department.

According to the SC, though a violation of the PD 957 is regarded as malum prohibutum — or offenses that are prohibited regardless of intent — the prosecution failed to prove that the act was done intentionally.

“While a person may not have consciously intended to commit a crime regarded as malum prohibitum, he or she may still be held liable if he or she did intend to commit an act that is, by the very nature of things, the crime itself. Thus, for acts that are mala prohibita, the intent to perpetrate the prohibited act under the special law must nevertheless be shown,” the SC said.

“While volition or voluntariness refers to knowledge of the act being done (as opposed to knowledge of the nature of the act), criminal intent is the state of mind that goes beyond voluntariness and it is this intent which is punished by crimes mala in se,” it added.

The SC said that for crimes mala in se, there must be proof of criminal intent.

Meanwhile, for crimes mala prohibita, it is sufficient that the act is done freely and consciously, provided that it is established that the accused had the intent to commit it.

“To hold Valenzona criminally liable, it must also be established that he had the volition or intent to not register or to cause the non-registration of the subject contracts,” the SC said. —NB, GMA Integrated News