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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 199150 February 6, 2012

CARMINA G. BROKMANN, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

BRION, J.:

We review, pursuant to Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the decision 1 and the
resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31887 which
denied the appeal of Carmina G. Brokmann (petitioner). The CA affirmed the
judgment3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 132, Makati City,
convicting the petitioner of the crime of estafa, defined and penalized under
Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

As borne by the records, the criminal charge stemmed from the failure of the
petitioner to return or remit the proceeds of jewelries amounting to
P1,861,000.00. The prosecution anchored its case on the testimony of Anna de
Dios (private complainant), and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
executed between the private complainant and the petitioner. The gist of the
MOA provides: (1) the petitioners acknowledgment and receipt, on various
dates, of jewelries from the private complainant amounting to P1,861,000.00;
(2) the petitioner failed to remit the proceeds of the sale of the subject
jewelries; and (3) the private complainant filed the estafa case against the
petitioner for the non-remittance of the proceeds of the sale of the jewelries.

The petitioner asserted in defense her lack of bad faith and intention to deceive
the private complainant. She narrated that she and the private complainant had
been engaged in the buy and sell of jewelries for 15 years. She admitted
receiving the subject jewelries on a consignment basis but she averred that not
all the jewelries were sold. The petitioner emphasized that she made partial
payments of her obligation and had no intention of absconding. With respect to
the MOA, she insisted that there was no period in the agreed terms as to when
the remittance of the proceeds for the sale of the jewelries or the return of the
unsold jewelries should be made.

The RTC found the petitioner liable for estafa, and sentenced the petitioner to
imprisonment of six (6) years and six (6) months of prision mayor, as
minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as maximum. 4 The RTC
also ordered the petitioner to restitute the private complainant P1,047,720.00 as
actual damages.

The petitioner appealed the judgment of the RTC to the CA which affirmed the
petitioners conviction. The CA held:
As to the first element, without a doubt[,] appellant acquired material
possession of the jewelry. She admitted that she received the subject pieces of
jewelry from De Dios.

xxxx

Additionally, by the terms and conditions of the memorandum of agreement,


Brokmann agreed to hold in trust the said pieces of jewelry for the purpose of
selling them to the customers and with the obligation to remit the proceeds of
those sold and return the items unsold. What was created was an agency for the
sale of jewelry, in which Brokmann as an agent has the duty to return upon
demand of its owner, herein appellee.

On the second element, misappropriation was clearly evident. Appellee sent a


demand letter to appellant, reminding the latter of her subsisting obligation,
however, it was simply ignored. x x x. The demand for the return of the thing
delivered in trust and the failure of the accused-agent to account for it are
circumstantial evidence of misappropriation. x x x.

xxxx

The third element, it is apparent that appellee was prejudiced when appellant
did not return the pieces of jewelry upon her demand. x x x. Damage as an
element of estafa may consist in 1) the offended party being deprived of his
money or property as a result of the defraudation; 2) disturbance in property
right; or 3) temporary prejudice. x x x.

Lastly, the fourth element, it has duly been established that appellee demanded
for the payment and return of the pieces of jewelry, however, the same was
unheeded.5 (Emphases supplied.)

The petitioner elevated her judgment of conviction to the Court under Rule 45
of the Rules of Court.

The Issue

The petitioner raises the sole issue of whether the CA committed a reversible
error in affirming the judgment of the RTC finding her guilty of estafa beyond
reasonable doubt.

The petitioner prays for her acquittal for the prosecutions failure to prove the
element of deceit. She argues that her actions prior to, during and after the
filing of the estafa case against her negated deceit, ill-motive and/or bad faith
to abscond with her obligation to the private complainant. She cites the cases of
People v. Singson6 and People v. Ojeda7 where the Court acquitted the accused
for the failure of the prosecution to prove the element of deceit.

The Courts Ruling

Except for the penalty imposed, we find no reversible error in the CAs
decision.

First, the offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of


confidence or (b) means of deceit.8 The acts constituting estafa committed with
abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised
Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed
by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of
confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which
is a usual element in the other estafas.9 In this case, the charge against the
petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafa committed by abuse of
confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as
this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with.

Second, the cases cited by the petitioner are inapplicable. Our pronouncements
in Singson and Ojeda apply to estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) where
the element of deceit was necessary to be proven.

Nevertheless, we find the modification of the penalty imposed to be in order to


conform to the prevailing jurisprudence. The second paragraph of Article 315
provides the appropriate penalty if the value of the thing, or the amount
defrauded, exceeds P22,000.00:

1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision


mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos
but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; and if such amount exceeds the latter sum,
the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period,
adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which
may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years.

The minimum term of imprisonment imposed by the CA and the RTC does not
conform with the Courts ruling in People v. Temporada,10 where we held that
the minimum indeterminate penalty in the above provision shall be one degree
lower from the prescribed penalty for estafa which is anywhere within the
range of prision correccional, in its minimum and medium periods, or six (6)
months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2) months. In this case, the
minimum term imposed by the CA and the RTC of six (6) years and six (6)
months of prision mayor is modified to four (4) years and two (2) months of
prision correccional, consistent with the prevailing jurisprudence.1wphi1

ACCORDINGLY, premises considered, we AFFIRM with MODIFICATION


the decision dated May 4, 2011 and the resolution dated October 26, 2011 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 31887. We find petitioner Carmina
G. Brokmann GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of estafa defined and
penalized under Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended. We MODIFY the penalty imposed and sentence her to suffer the
penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional, as minimum term, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as
maximum term.

SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MARIA LOURDES P. A.
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
SERENO
Associate Justice
Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

ATT E S TAT I O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

C E R T I F I CAT I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution
had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Courts Division.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

Footnotes
1
Dated May 4, 2011; penned by Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-
Padilla, and concurred in by Associate Justices Stephen C. Cruz and
Agnes Reyes-Carpio. Rollo, pp. 27-41.
2
Dated October 26, 2011; id. at 42-43.
3
Dated February 13, 2008; penned by Judge Rommel O. Baybay. Id. at
63-69.
4
Supra note 3, at 69.
5
Supra note 1, at 37-39.
6
G.R. No. 75920, November 12, 1992, 215 SCRA 534.
7
G.R. Nos. 104238-58, June 3, 2004, 430 SCRA 436.
8
Sy v. People, G.R. No. 183879, April 14, 2010, 618 SCRA 264, 270.
9
Chua-Burce v. Court of Appeals, 387 Phil. 15, 25 (2000).
10
G.R. No. 173473, December 17, 2008, 574 SCRA 258, 302.
The Court's Ruling
After a careful evaluation of the evidence, the Court finds that the
prosecution was able to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of accused
MELANIE VERJES Y SIMPLE of the crime of Estafa defined and penalized
under Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of Revised Penal Code.

Absolute guarantee of guilt is not demanded by law to convict a person


of a criminal charge but there must, at least, be moral certainty on each element
essential to constitute the offense and on the responsibility of the offender.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt is meant to be that, all things given, the mind of
the judge can rest at ease concerning its verdict.1

The elements of estafa or swindling under paragraph 2 (a) of Article 315 of the
Revised Penal Code2 are the following:

1. That there must be a false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent


means.

2. That such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be


made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the
fraud.

3. That the offended party must have relied on the false pretense,
fraudulent act, or fraudulent means, that is, he was induced to part with
his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act, or
fraudulent means.

4. That as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.3

I In the case at bench, this Court finds that the following circumstances,
conclusively show the role of accused Melanie Verjes in defrauding private
complainant: (1) The fake jewelry was pawned by the accused at Capiz
Pawnshop on 05 May 2013 as shown in the pawn receipt bearing her signature;
(2) The fake jewelry was accepted by accused's sister Mary Grace Bengan y
Simple, who is the employee [Cashier/Appraiser] of Capiz Pawnshop in charge
of examining and appraising the pawn value of the collateral; (3) the collateral
was knowingly grossly over-valued so as to cover the loan amount of
Php3,200.00 especially since the collateral was a fake jewelry; and (4) The
aforesaid collateral was never redeemed by the accused, ostensibly because by
the deceit, thus causing damage and prejudice to private complainant.

Patently, each of the accused played a key role in their devious scheme
to pawn a valueless product, alleged to be a jewelry, for which they got a
substantial amount from private complainant Marialuz Billones.

Considering further the close relationship of the two (2) accused, the
court is convinced that estafa had been committed by the accused in conspiracy
with each other.

The accused's defense of improper motive of private complainant must


crumble in light of the prosecution witnesses' positive and specific evidence
against her even as she did not impute any ill motive on the part of the other
prosecution witnesses' to falsely testify against her, especially witness -
Marilou Bofill - an eyewitness when she pawned the fake jewelry. Without
doubt, there was fraud and deceit since the fake jewelry presented as collateral
does not evidently justify a loan of Php3,200.00. Both accused conspired with
each other to defraud private complainant's pawnshop. The Supreme Court has
consistently held that positive identification of the accused, when categorical
and consistent, and without any showing of ill-motive on the part of the
testifying eyewitness, should prevail over the denial of the accused whose
testimony is not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.4 A denial is
negative evidence. To be believed, it must be buttressed by strong evidence of
non-culpability; otherwise, the denial is purely self-serving and has no
evidentiary value.5

Under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, since the amount of the damage
is Php3,097.66, the imposable penalty is arresto mayor maximum to prision
correccional minimum, with a range of 4 months and 1 day to 2 years 4
months.

1 People vs. Lumibao, G.R. Nos. 144080-81, 26 January 2004, 421 SCRA 65,
74.

2 Art. 315. Swindling (estafa).- Any person who shall defraud another by any
of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:

xxx

2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts


executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:

(a) By using a fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power,


influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary
transactions; or by means of other similar deceits.

xxx

3 Luis B. Reyes, Revised Penal Code, Book 2, 14th Edition, p. 763.

4 See Tapdasan, Jr. vs. People, 440 Phil. 864, 877 (2002).

5 Tan vs. Pacuribot, A.M. Nos. RTJ-06-1982-1983, December 14, 2007, 540
SCRA 246, 300.