G.R. No. 112170 April 10, 1996
CESARIO URSUA, petitioner,
COURT OF APPEALS AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the conviction of petitioner by the Regional Trial Court of Davao City for violation of Sec. 1 of C.A. No. 142, as amended by R.A. No. 6085, otherwise known as "An Act to Regulate the Use of Aliases". 1
Petitioner Cesario Ursua was a Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer assigned in Kidapawan, Cotabato. On 9 May 1989 the Provincial Governor of Cotabato requested the Office of the Ombudsman in Manila to conduct an investigation on a complaint for bribery, dishonesty, abuse of authority and giving of unwarranted benefits by petitioner and other officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The complaint was initiated by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cotabato through a resolution advising the Governor to report the involvement of petitioner and others in the illegal cutting of mahogany trees and hauling of illegally-cut logs in the area.2
On 1 August 1989 Atty. Francis Palmones, counsel for petitioner, wrote the Office of the Ombudsman in Davao City requesting that he be furnished copy of the complaint against petitioner. Atty. Palmones then asked his client Ursua to take his letter-request to the Office of the Ombudsman because his law firm's messenger, Oscar Perez, had to attend to some personal matters. Before proceeding to the Office of the Ombudsman petitioner talked to Oscar Perez and told him that he was reluctant to personally ask for the document since he was one of the respondents before the Ombudsman. However, Perez advised him not to worry as he could just sign his (Perez) name if ever he would be required to acknowledge receipt of the complaint. 3
When petitioner arrived at the Office of the Ombudsman in Davao City he was instructed by the security officer to register in the visitors' logbook. Instead of writing down his name petitioner wrote the name "Oscar Perez" after which he was told to proceed to the Administrative Division for the copy of the complaint he needed. He handed the letter of Atty. Palmones to the Chief of the Administrative Division, Ms. Loida Kahulugan, who then gave him a copy of the complaint, receipt of which he acknowledged by writing the name "Oscar Perez."4
Before petitioner could leave the premises he was greeted by an acquaintance, Josefa Amparo, who also worked in the same office. They conversed for a while then he left. When Loida learned that the person who introduced himself as "Oscar Perez" was actually petitioner Cesario Ursua, a customer of Josefa Amparo in her gasoline station, Loida reported the matter to the Deputy Ombudsman who recommended that petitioner be accordingly charged.
On 18 December 1990, after the prosecution had completed the presentation of its evidence, petitioner without leave of court filed a demurrer to evidence alleging that the failure of the prosecution to prove that his supposed alias was different from his registered name in the local civil registry was fatal to its cause. Petitioner argued that no document from the local civil registry was presented to show the registered name of accused which according to him was a condition sine qua non for the validity of his conviction.
The trial court rejected his contentions and found him guilty of violating Sec. 1 of C.A. No. 142 as amended by R.A. No. 6085. He was sentenced to suffer a prison term of one (1) year and one (1) day of prision correccional minimum as minimum, to four (4) years of prision correccional medium as maximum, with all the accessory penalties provided for by law, and to pay a fine of P4,000.00 plus costs.
Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals.
On 31 May 1993 the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of petitioner but modified the penalty by imposing an indeterminate term of one (1) year as minimum to three (3) years as maximum and a fine of P5,000.00.
Petitioner now comes to us for review of his conviction as he reasserts his innocence. He contends that he has not violated C.A. No. 142 as amended by R.A. No. 6085 as he never used any alias name; neither is "Oscar Perez" his alias. An alias, according to him, is a term which connotes the habitual use of another name by which a person is also known. He claims that he has never been known as "Oscar Perez" and that he only used such name on one occasion and it was with the express consent of Oscar Perez himself. It is his position that an essential requirement for a conviction under C.A. No. 142 as amended by R.A. No. 6085 has not been complied with when the prosecution failed to prove that his supposed alias was different from his registered name in the Registry of Births. He further argues that the Court of Appeals erred in not considering the defense theory that he was charged under the wrong law.5
Time and again we have decreed that statutes are to be construed in the light of the purposes to be achieved and the evils sought to be remedied. Thus in construing a statute the reason for its enactment should be kept in mind and the statute should be construed with reference to the intended scope and purpose.6 The court may consider the spirit and reason of the statute, where a literal meaning would lead to absurdity, contradiction, injustice, or would defeat the clear purpose of the lawmakers.7
For a clear understanding of the purpose of C.A. No. 142 as amended, which was allegedly violated by petitioner, and the surrounding circumstances under which the law was enacted, the pertinent provisions thereof, its amendments and related statutes are herein cited. C.A. No. 142, which was approved on 7 November 1936, and before its amendment by R.A. No. 6085, is entitled An Act to Regulate the Use of Aliases. It provides as follows:
Sec. 1. Except as a pseudonym for literary purposes, no person shall use any name different from the one with which he was christened or by which he has been known since his childhood, or such substitute name as may have been authorized by a competent court. The name shall comprise the patronymic name and one or two surnames.
Sec. 2. Any person desiring to use an alias or aliases shall apply for authority therefor in proceedings like those legally provided to obtain judicial authority for a change of name. Separate proceedings shall be had for each alias, and each new petition shall set forth the original name and the alias or aliases for the use of which judicial authority has been, obtained, specifying the proceedings and the date on which such authority was granted. Judicial authorities for the use of aliases shall be recorded in the proper civil register . . . .
The above law was subsequently amended by R.A. No. 6085, approved on 4 August 1969. As amended, C.A. No. 142 now reads:
Sec. 1. Except as a pseudonym solely for literary, cinema, television, radio or other entertainment purposes and in athletic events where the use of pseudonym is a normally accepted practice, no person shall use any name different from the one with which he was registered at birth in the office of the local civil registry or with which he was baptized for the first time, or in case of all alien, with which he was registered in the bureau of immigration upon entry; or such substitute name as may have been authorized by a competent court: Provided, That persons whose births have not been registered in any local civil registry and who have not been baptized, have one year from the approval of this act within which to register their names in the civil registry of their residence. The name shall comprise the patronymic name and one or two surnames.
Sec. 2. Any person desiring to use an alias shall apply for authority therefor in proceedings like those legally provided to obtain judicial authority for a change of name and no person shall be allowed to secure such judicial authority for more than one alias. The petition for an alias shall set forth the person's baptismal and family name and the name recorded in the civil registry, if different, his immigrant's name, if an alien, and his pseudonym, if he has such names other than his original or real name, specifying the reason or reasons for the desired alias. The judicial authority for the use of alias, the Christian name and the alien immigrant's name shall be recorded in the proper local civil registry, and no person shall use any name or names other than his original or real name unless the same is or are duly recorded in the proper local civil registry.
The objective and purpose of C.A. No. 142 have their origin and basis in Act No. 3883, An Act to Regulate the Use in Business Transactions of Names other than True Names, Prescribing the Duties of the Director of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry in its Enforcement, Providing Penalties for Violations thereof, and for other purposes, which was approved on 14 November 1931 and amended by Act No. 4147, approved on 28 November 1934.8 The pertinent provisions of Act No. 3883 as amended follow —
Sec. 1. It shall be unlawful for any person to use or sign, on any written or printed receipt including receipt for tax or business or any written or printed contract not verified by a notary public or on any written or printed evidence of any agreement or business transactions, any name used in connection with his business other than his true name, or keep conspicuously exhibited in plain view in or at the place where his business is conducted, if he is engaged in a business, any sign announcing a firm name or business name or style without first registering such other name, or such firm name, or business name or style in the Bureau of Commerce together with his true name and that of any other person having a joint or common interest with him in such contract, agreement, business transaction, or business . . . .
For a bit of history, the enactment of C.A. No. 142 as amended was made primarily to curb the common practice among the Chinese of adopting scores of different names and aliases which created tremendous confusion in the field of trade. Such a practice almost bordered on the crime of using fictitious names which for obvious reasons could not be successfully maintained against the Chinese who, rightly or wrongly, claimed they possessed a thousand and one names. C.A. No. 142 thus penalized the act of using an alias name, unless such alias was duly authorized by proper judicial proceedings and recorded in the civil register.9
In Yu Kheng Chiau v. Republic 10 the Court had occasion to explain the meaning, concept and ill effects of the use of an alias within the purview of C.A. No. 142 when we ruled —
There can hardly be any doubt that petitioner's use of alias "Kheng Chiau Young" in addition to his real name "Yu Cheng Chiau" would add to more confusion. That he is known in his business, as manager of the Robert Reid, Inc., by the former name, is not sufficient reason to allow him its use. After all, petitioner admitted that he is known to his associates by both names. In fact, the Anselmo Trinidad, Inc., of which he is a customer, knows him by his real name. Neither would the fact that he had encountered certain difficulties in his transactions with government offices which required him to explain why he bore two names, justify the grant of his petition, for petitioner could easily avoid said difficulties by simply using and sticking only to his real name "Yu Kheng Chiau."
The fact that petitioner intends to reside permanently in the Philippines, as shown by his having filed a petition for naturalization in Branch V of the above-mentioned court, argues the more against the grant of his petition, because if naturalized as a Filipino citizen, there would then be no necessity for his further using said alias, as it would be contrary to the usual Filipino way and practice of using only one name in ordinary as well as business transactions. And, as the lower court correctly observed, if he believes (after he is naturalized) that it would be better for him to write his name following the Occidental method, "he can easily file a petition for change of name, so that in lieu of the name "Yu Kheng Chian," he can, abandoning the same, ask for authority to adopt the name Kheng Chiau Young."
All things considered, we are of the opinion and so hold, that petitioner has not shown satisfactory proper and reasonable grounds under the aforequoted provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 142 and the Rules of Court, to warrant the grant of his petition for the use of an alias name.
Clearly therefore an alias is a name or names used by a person or intended to be used by him publicly and habitually usually in business transactions in addition to his real name by which he is registered at birth or baptized the first time or substitute name authorized by a competent authority. A man's name is simply the sound or sounds by which he is commonly designated by his fellows and by which they distinguish him but sometimes a man is known by several different names and these are known as aliases. 11 Hence, the use of a fictitious name or a different name belonging to another person in a single instance without any sign or indication that the user intends to be known by this name in addition to his real name from that day forth does not fall within the prohibition contained in C.A. No. 142 as amended. This is so in the case at bench.
It is not disputed that petitioner introduced himself in the Office of the Ombudsman as "Oscar Perez," which was the name of the messenger of his lawyer who should have brought the letter to that office in the first place instead of petitioner. He did so while merely serving the request of his lawyer to obtain a copy of the complaint in which petitioner was a respondent. There is no question then that "Oscar Perez" is not an alias name of petitioner. There is no evidence showing that he had used or was intending to use that name as his second name in addition to his real name. The use of the name "Oscar Perez" was made by petitioner in an isolated transaction where he was not even legally required to expose his real identity. For, even if he had identified himself properly at the Office of the Ombudsman, petitioner would still be able to get a copy of the complaint as a matter of right, and the Office of the Ombudsman could not refuse him because the complaint was part of public records hence open to inspection and examination by anyone under the proper circumstances.
While the act of petitioner may be covered by other provisions of law, such does not constitute an offense within the concept of C.A. No. 142 as amended under which he is prosecuted. The confusion and fraud in business transactions which the anti-alias law and its related statutes seek to prevent are not present here as the circumstances are peculiar and distinct from those contemplated by the legislature in enacting C.A. No. 142 as amended. There exists a valid presumption that undesirable consequences were never intended by a legislative measure and that a construction of which the statute is fairly susceptible is favored, which will avoid all objectionable, mischievous, indefensible, wrongful, evil and injurious consequences. 12 Moreover, as C.A. No. 142 is a penal statute, it should be construed strictly against the State and in favor of the accused. 13 The reason for this principle is the tenderness of the law for the rights of individuals and the object is to establish a certain rule by conformity to which mankind would be safe, and the discretion of the court limited. 14 Indeed, our mind cannot rest easy on the proposition that petitioner should be convicted on a law that does not clearly penalize the act done by him.
WHEREFORE, the questioned decision of the Court of Appeals affirming that of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and petitioner CESARIO URSUA is ACQUITTED of the crime charged.
Padilla, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 24-37.
2 Id., p. 26.
3 Records, p. 7.
4 Rollo, p. 26.
5 Id., p. 12.
6 People v. Purisima, Nos. L-42050-66, 28 November 1978, 86 SCRA 542.
7 Gregorio, Antonio L., Fundamentals of Criminal Law Review, 1985 Ed., p. 9; People v. Manantan, No. L-14129, 31 July 1962, 5 SCRA 684.
8 Aquino, Ramon C., The Revised Penal Code, 1961 Ed., Vol. II, pp. 1008-1009.
9 Francisco, Vicente J., The Revised Penal Code Annotated, 1954 Ed., Vol. II, p. 331; Guevarra, Guillermo B., Commentaries on the Revised Penal Code, 1946 Ed., p. 359.
10 106 Phil. 762 (1959).
11 Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition, Vol. III, West Publishing Co., p. 139.
12 See Note 6.
13 People v. Uy Jui Pio, 102 Phil. 679 (1957).
14 See Note 6.
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