LEGAL BYTES: Absence of receipts in illegal recruitment case

By: ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | May 31,2022 - 09:00 AM

The absence of receipts issued by the accused in an illegal recruitment case is not fatal to their conviction if the prosecution establishes, through credible evidence, that the accused has engaged in illegal  recruitment.

The Supreme Court reiterated this ruling in People vs  Valdez (G.R. No. 251876 March  21,   2022) where the accused were charged with several counts of illegal recruitment committed in large scale under Section 6 of Republic Act No.8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, as amended by Republic Act No. 10022, and estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code. The accused promised overseas employment to more than 30 individuals in 2014 who allegedly collected more than P1,000,000.00 in the guise of using the money to process their documents for deployment.

Under RA 8042, a non-licensee or non-holder of authority is liable for illegal recruitment when the following elements concur: (1) the offender has no valid license or authority required by law to enable him to lawfully engage in recruitment and placement of workers; and (2) the offender undertakes any of the activities within the meaning of “recruitment and placement”, or any of the enumerated prohibited practices.

In the case of illegal recruitment in large scale, a third element is added: that the offender commits any of the acts of recruitment and placement against three or more persons, individually or as a group.

To prove illegal recruitment, it must be shown that the accused gave the complainants the distinct impression that he had the power or ability to deploy the complainants abroad in such a manner that they were convinced to part with their money for that end.

In the instant case, accused admitted collecting fees for medical requirements and Department of Foreign Affairs documents (such as birth certificates and marriage contracts), preparatory to the supposed deployment of complainants.

Accused  may have denied being the actual recruiter, but they  admitted asking for sums of money to process documents.

The  accused had no license or authority to recruit and deploy workers abroad.

Accused’s acts gave the impression that they could deploy complainants overseas. They  also recruited more than three individuals.

The absence of receipts in a case for illegal recruitment is not fatal, as long as the prosecution is able to establish through credible testimonial evidence that accused has engaged in illegal recruitment.

Such case is made, not by the issuance or the signing of receipts for placement fees, but by engagement in recruitment activities without the necessary license or authority.

Neither in the Statute of Frauds nor in the rules of evidence is the presentation of receipts required in order to prove the existence of a recruitment agreement and the procurement of fees in illegal recruitment cases. Such proof may come from the testimonies of witnesses.

The absence of receipts for some of the amounts delivered to the accused did not mean that they  did not accept or receive such payments.

The accused  gave an acknowledgment receipt to one of the complainants.

While the other  complainants did not present receipts, they testified why they believed accused could deploy them.

Complainants testified that accused either presented job orders or told them that they would be hired directly.

Moreover, accused  admitted that she asked money for “authentication and red ribbon of their birth certificates  and also the translation of the Italian documents.”

The documents accused promised to process are not normally required if one is simply to travel to a foreign country for leisure or vacation.

Even if accused received sums of money from complainants, they were never deployed yet accused did not return the money received. The act of non­ reimbursement is included in the definition of illegal recruitment.

Elements of estafa were also proven in this case. Complainants were made to believe that accused could legally deploy them overseas.

Accused presented job orders to complainants who  believed  accused  could deploy workers because of the documents shown to them.

On the other hand, some complainants parted with their money because accused told them that they could be deployed.

Accused’s false pretenses led private complainants to part with various amounts of money, hoping for a better life abroad.

Unfortunately, they were never deployed and were never reimbursed. Thus, they suffered damage.

Any person found guilty of illegal recruitment shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than 12 years and one day but not more than 20 years and a fine of not less than P1,000,000.00 nor more than P2,000,000.00.

There are only 17 criminal cases for illegal recruitment and estafa which accounted for 7.62 percent of the  total number of OFW cases decided by the Supreme Court from 2015- 2019.

(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)

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TAGS: absence of receipts, Cebu‬, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, estafa, illegal recruitment, Legal bytes, People vs  Valdez, RA 8042, Statute of Fraud

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