By Benjamin Pulta

(File photo)

MANILA – The prosecution must still prove that an accused intentionally committed a prohibited act even if the offenses involved do not require criminal intent as an element.

The Supreme Court (SC) stressed this in reversing a Court of Appeals (CA) decision and acquitting a man convicted for violation of the law protecting buyers of subdivision and condominiums.

In a statement Thursday, the court said “dispensing with proof of criminal intent for crimes mala prohibita, where criminal intent is not an element, does not discharge the prosecution’s burden of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, that the prohibited act was done by the accused intentionally.”

The SC ruling granted the petition for review filed by Felix Valenzona challenging the CA which had affirmed the Regional Trial Court’s conviction for violation of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 957 or the Subdivision and Condominium Buyers’ Protective Decree (PD 957).

Valenzona was the president of ALSGRO Industrial and Development Corporation, a real estate company.

In 2003, ALSGRO entered into two contracts to sell with Ricardo Porteo two lots in ALSGRO’s Bayfair of Margana Subdivision (subject contracts) in Laguna.

However, upon verification with the Registry of Deeds of Muntinlupa City in 2006, Porteo discovered that the subject contracts were not registered in accordance with Section 17 of PD 957.

In reversing the conviction of the accused, the Court distinguished between “intent to commit the crime” and “intent to perpetrate the act.”

“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, which the prosecution failed to do,” the SC ruled.

The SC added that it cannot simply rely on the bare findings of a violation of PD 957 committed by ALSGRO, and that Valenzona was the corporation’s president.

“The Court must be satisfied that the nexus between Valenzona’s position in the corporation, and the commission of the offense with which he was charged, has been shown. If such nexus is not required for purposes of conviction, and the mere pretext that a violation of PD 957 is malum prohibitum is deemed sufficient, then the President (or Manager or Administrator) of every corporation engaged in the real estate business covered by the law automatically becomes criminally liable for every violation of PD 957 committed by such corporation,” the Court ruled, stressing that such is an absurd interpretation of the law. (PNA)