Cesario Ursua vs Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 112170 – 256 SCRA 149 – Statutory Construction – Purpose of a Law

Civil Law – Application of Laws – Interpretation of Laws

In 1989, Cesario Ursua was charged with bribery and dishonesty. His lawyer then asked him to get a copy of the complaint against him from the Office of the Ombudsman. His lawyer asked him to do that because the law firm’s messenger, a certain Oscar Perez, was unable to go to the Ombudsman.

Before going to the Ombudsman, Ursua talked to Perez. Ursua revealed to Perez that he feels uncomfortable asking for a copy of the complaint because he is the respondent in the said case. Perez then told him that he can go there as “Oscar Perez” so that he does not have to reveal his true identity.

At the Office of the Ombudsman, Ursua signed the logbook there as “Oscar Perez”. When he was handed a copy of the complaint, he signed the receipt as “Oscar Perez”. However, a staff of the Ombudsman was able to learn that he was in fact Cesario Ursua. The staff then recommended that a criminal case be filed against Ursua. Eventually, Ursua was sentenced to three years in prison for violating C.A. No. 142, as amended, otherwise known as “An Act To Regulate The Use Of Aliases“.

ISSUE: Whether or not Cesario Ursua’s conviction is proper.

HELD: No. Ursua should be acquitted. The Supreme Court ruled that a strict application of C.A. No. 142, as amended, in this case only leads to absurdity – something which could not have been intended by the lawmakers.

Under C.A. No. 142, as amended, save for some instances, a person is not allowed to use a name or an alias other than his registered name or that which he was baptized. Under the law, what makes the use of alias illegal is the fact that it is being used habitually and publicly in business transactions without prior authorization by competent authority. In this case, Ursua merely used the name “Oscar Perez” once, it was not used in a business transaction, the use of the name was with the consent of Oscar Perez himself, and even if he used a different name, in this instance, he was not even required to disclose his identity at the Office of the Ombudsman. When he was requesting a copy of the complaint, he need not disclose his identity because the complaint is a public record open to the public.

In short, the evils sought to be avoided by C.A. No. 142 was not brought about when Ursua used a name other than his name. A strict application of the law is not warranted. When Ursua used the name of Oscar Perez, no fraud was committed; there was no crime committed punishable under C.A. No. 142. The purpose of the law is to punish evils defined therein so when no such evil was produced by Ursua’s act, said law need not be applied.

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