People of the Philippines vs. Bulu Chowdury, G.R. No. 129577-80, February 15, 2000, 382 Phil. 459

Facts:
Complainants testified that they applied with Craftrade for employment as factory worker in South Korea. They were interviewed by Chowdury. During the interview, Chowdury told them that they would be working in a factory in Korea. He required them to submit her passport, NBI clearance, ID pictures, medical certificate and birth certificate. They were also obliged to attend a seminar on overseas employment. After they submitted all the documentary requirements, Chowdury required them to pay placement fee. They made the payment to Ong. Chowdury assured them that they would be able to leave on the first week of September but it proved to be an empty promise. They were not able to leave despite several follow-ups. Thus, they went to the POEA where they discovered that Craftrade’s license had already expired. They tried to withdraw their money from Craftrade to no avail. They filed a complaint for illegal recruitment against Chowdury upon advice of POEA’s legal counsel.

For his defense, Chowdury testified that he worked as interviewer at Craftrade from 1990 until 1994. His primary duty was to interview job applicants for abroad. As a mere employee, he only followed the instructions given by his superiors, Mr. Emmanuel Geslani, the agency’s President and General Manager, and Mr. Utkal Chowdury, the agency’s Managing Director. Chowdury admitted that he interviewed private complainants on different dates. Their office secretary handed him their bio-data and thereafter he led them to his room where he conducted the interviews. During the interviews, he had with him a form containing the qualifications for the job and he filled out this form based on the applicant’s responses to his questions. He then submitted them to Mr. Utkal Chowdury who in turn evaluated his findings. He never received money from the applicants. He resigned from Craftrade on November 12, 1994.
The RTC found the accused guilty of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale. Hence this case.

Issue:
whether accused-appellant knowingly and intentionally participated in the commission of the crime charged.

Held:
No, Evidence shows that accused-appellant interviewed private complainants in the months of June, August and September in 1994 at Craftrade’s office. At that time, he was employed as interviewer of Craftrade which was then operating under a temporary authority given by the POEA pending renewal of its license. The temporary license included the authority to recruit workers.30 He was convicted based on the fact that he was not registered with the POEA as employee of Craftrade. Neither was he, in his personal capacity, licensed to recruit overseas workers. Section 10 Rule II Book II of the Rules and Regulation Governing Overseas Employment (1991) requires that every change, termination or appointment of officers, representatives and personnel of licensed agencies be registered with the POEA. Agents or representatives appointed by a licensed recruitment agency whose appointments are not previously approved by the POEA are considered “non-licensee” or “non-holder of authority” and therefore not authorized to engage in recruitment activity.

Upon examination of the records, however, we find that the prosecution failed to prove that accused-appellant was aware of Craftrade’s failure to register his name with the POEA and that he actively engaged in recruitment despite this knowledge. The obligation to register its personnel with the POEA belongs to the officers of the agency. A mere employee of the agency cannot be expected to know the legal requirements for its operation. The evidence at hand shows that accused-appellant carried out his duties as interviewer of Craftrade believing that the agency was duly licensed by the POEA and he, in turn, was duly authorized by his agency to deal with the applicants in its behalf. Accused-appellant in fact confined his actions to his job description. He merely interviewed the applicants and informed them of the requirements for deployment but he never received money from them. Their payments were received by the agency’s cashier, Josephine Ong. Furthermore, he performed his tasks under the supervision of its president and managing director. Hence, we hold that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt accused-appellant’s conscious and active participation in the commission of the crime of illegal recruitment. His conviction, therefore, is without basis.

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