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Estafa

1. Define Estafa
Estafa is a criminal offense wherein a person defrauds another by the following means:

1) By UNFAITHFULNESS or ABUSE OF CONFIDENCE;

2) By DECEIT;

3) By FRAUDULENT MEANS/

Estafa is committed by a person who defrauds another causing him to suffer damage, by means of
unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, or of false pretense or fraudulent acts.

2. Explain “Estafa through unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence.”


Estafa through unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence is done by:

(a) Altering quality, quantity and substance of subject matter of contract;

(b) Misappropriating or converting goods/property of another;

(c) Taking advantage of a signature in blank

3. Explain “Estafa through deceit or fraudulent acts.”


Estafa through deceit or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of
the fraud is done by:

(a) Using fictitious name as means of deceit;

(b) Altering quality, fineness or weight of anything pertaining to art or business;

(c) By issuing unfunded checks or postdated checks;

(d) Availing of services of hotel, inn, restaurants etc. without paying therefor.

4. Explain “Estafa through fraudulent means.”


Estafa through fraudulent means is done by:

(a) Inducing another, by means of deceit, to sign any document;

(b) Resorting to some fraudulent practice to ensure success in a gambling game;

(c) Removing, concealing, or destroying, in whole or in part, any record, office files, document and
other papers.

5. What are the indispensable elements of estafa?


Estafa has two indispensable basic elements:

(a) Fraud; and

(b) Resulting damage or intent to cause damage capable of pecuniary estimation.


6. What is Fraud?
Fraud, in its general sense, is deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts,
omissions and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence justly
reposed, resulting in damage to another, or by which an undue and unconscientious advantage is
taken of another. It is a generic term embracing all multifarious means which human ingenuity can
device, and which are resorted to by one individual to secure an advantage over another by false
suggestions or by suppression of truth and includes all surprise, trick, cunning, dissembling and any
unfair way by which another is cheated. And deceit is the false representation of a matter of fact
whether by words or conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which
should have been disclosed which deceives or is intended to deceive another so he shall act upon it to
his legal injury. The false pretense or fraudulent act must be committed prior to or simultaneously
with the commission of the fraud. (Alcantara v. Court of Appeals, 416 SCRA 418 (1998))
Deceit is a species of fraud. (Garcia v. People, G.R. No. 144785, 11 September 1985)

7. Is “intent to defraud” a necessary element of estafa?


Not really. Intent to defraud is not necessary in all types of estafa.

It is true that it is sometimes said that "deception with intent to defraud" is an essential requisite of
the crime of estafa, but while this is true as to estafas in general, it is not true of
those estafasmentioned in the article under consideration, except in so far the abuse of confidence in
misappropriating the funds or property after they have come to the hands of the offender may be said
to be a fraud upon the person injured thereby. (United States v. Pascual, G.R. No. L-4265, 26
March 1908)

8. What kind of damage or intent to cause damage is required in Estafa?


Damage or prejudice may consist of:

(a) The offended party being deprived of his money or property as a result of the defraudation;

(b) Disturbance of property rights;

(c) Temporary prejudice.

(Nagrampa v. People, 435 Phil. 455)

Certainly, disturbance of property rights is equivalent to damage and is in itself sufficient to constitute
injury within the meaning of Art. 315, par. 1 (b) of the RPC. (Batulanon v. People, G.R. No.
139857, 15 September 2006)

9. What are the elements of Estafa with unfaithfulness, under Article 315, par. 1 (a) of
the Revised Penal Code?
The elements of Estafa under Article 315, 1(a) of the Revised Penal Code,

(a) That the offender has an onerous obligation to deliver something of value;

(b) That he alters its substance, quantity or quality

(c) That damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or
third persons;

10. What if the obligation asked is illegal?


It is still estafa even if the obligation be based is immoral or illegal.
11. What are the elements of Estafa with abuse of confidence, under Article 315, par. 1 (b)
of the Revised Penal Code?
The elements of Estafa under Article 315, 1(b) of the Revised Penal Code,

(a) That money, goods or other personal property is received by the offender in trust, or on
commission or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of
or to return the same;

(b) That there be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender or denial
on his part of such receipt; and

(c) That such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another;

(d) That there is demand by the offended party to the offender.

(Asejo v. People, 555 Phil. 106, (2007))

The second element establishes three ways in which estafa may be committed under this category:

1. Misappropriation of the thing received – the act of taking something for one’s own benefit;
2. Conversion of the thing received – the act of using or disposing of another’s property as it was
one’s own;
3. Denial of the receipt of the thing received.

12. What do you mean by “Misappropriation” or “conversion”?


The words "convert" and "misappropriate" as used in the aforequoted Article 315, connote an act of
using or disposing of another’s property as if it were one’s own or of devoting it to a purpose or use
different from that agreed upon. To "misappropriate" a thing of value for one’s own use or benefit, not
only the conversion to one’s personal advantage but also every attempt to dispose of the property of
another without a right. (Sy v. People, G.R. No. 85785, 24 April 1989)

It is well-settled that the essence of estafa thru misappropriation is the appropriation or conversion of
money or property received to the prejudice of the owner (U.S. vs. Ramirez, 9 Phil. 67).

Misappropriation or conversion may be proved by the prosecution by direct evidence or by


circumstantial evidence. (Lee v. People, G.R.No. 157781, 11 April 2005)

Failure to account upon demand, for funds or property held in trust, is circumstantial evidence of
misappropriation. (People v. Sullano, G.R. No. L-18209, 30 June 1966)

13. What do you mean by denial of the receipt of the thing received?
It means that a person who has possession of a thing, does not return or denies receiving the thing to
the owner.

There are two kinds of possession:

a) Material Possession – The actual physical possession of personal property, where the possessor
cannot claim a better right to such a property than that of its owner.

b) Juridical Possession – It is present when the possession of the personal property arises from a
lawful causation, contract or agreement, express or implied, written or unwritten or by virtue of a
provision of law.

When the money, goods, or any other personal property is received by the offender from the offended
party (1) in trust or (2) on commission or (3) for administration, the offender acquires both material
or physical possession and juridical possession of the thing received. (Santos v. People, 181 SCRA
487, 1990)

Juridical possession means a possession which gives the transferee a right over the thing which the
transferee may set up even against the owner.

14. Is there a difference between Theft and Estafa?


Yes. If the offender has been given Material Possession of the personal property and he
misappropriates the same, he is liable for the crime of THEFT.

However, if the offender has been given Juridical Possession and Material Possession of the personal
property and he misappropriates the same, he is liable for the crime of ESTAFA.

Theft should not be confused with estafa. According to Chief Justice Ramon C. Aquino in his book
on the Revised Penal Code, "The principal distinction between the two crimes is that in theft the thing
is taken while in estafa the accused receives the property and converts it to his own use or benefit.
However, there may be theft even if the accused has possession of the property. If he was entrusted
only with the material or physical (natural) or de facto possession of the thing, his misappropriation of
the same constitutes theft, but if he has the juridical possession of the thing, his conversion of the
same constitutes embezzlement or estafa."

15. What are the elements of theft as compared to Estafa?


Theft has the following elements:

(a) That there be taking of personal property;

(b) That said property belongs to another;

(c) That the taking be done with intent to gain;

(d) That the taking be done without the consent of the owner;

(e) That the taking be accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons or
force against things.

(U.S. v. De Vera, 43 Phil. 1000)

16. What is the nature of Demand needed as element of Estafa?


There must be a formal demand on the offender to comply with his obligation before he can be
charged with estafa.

The following are the exceptions:

a) When the offender’s obligation to comply is subject to a period;

b) When the accused cannot be located despite due diligence.

There can be no estafa without a previous demand. Demand may be made in whatever form. The law
does not require a demand as a condition precedent to the existence of the crime of embezzlement. It
so happens only that failure to account, upon demand for funds or property held in trust, is
circumstantial evidence of misappropriation. The same however, be established in the case at
bar. (Tubb v. People, G.R. No. L-9811, 22 April 1957)

The word "Demand" need not be used to show that demand had, indeed, been made upon the person
charged with the offense. A query as to the whereabouts of the money is tantamount to a
demand. (Barrameda v. Court of Appeals, 313 SCRA 477)
No specific type of proof is required to show that there was demand. Demand need not even be
formal; it may be verbal. (Lee v. People, G.R. No. 157781, 11 April 2005)

In a prosecution for estafa, demand is not necessary where there is evidence of misappropriation or
conversion. (Sy v. People, G.R. No. 85785, 24 April 1989)

The consummation of the crime of [estafa]… does not depend on the fact that a request for the return
of the money is first made and refused in order that the author of the crime should comply with the
obligation to return the sum misapplied. The appropriation or conversion of money received to the
prejudice of the owner thereof [is] the sole essential [fact] which constitute the crime of [estafa], and
thereupon the author thereof incurs the penalty imposed by the [RPC]. (Salazar v. People, 439
Phil. 762)

Even if demand is not required by law, it is necessary to prove misappropriation. Failure to account,
upon demand, is circumstantial evidence of misappropriation. (Tan v. People, G.R. No. 153460, 29
January 2007)

17. What are the elements of Estafa by taking undue advantage of the signature in blank,
under Article 315, par. 1(c) of the Revised Penal Code?
The elements of Estafa by taking undue advantage of the signature in blank are:

(a) That the paper with the signature of the offended party be in blank;

(b) That the offended party should have delivered it to the offender;

(c) That above the signature of the offended party a document is written by the offender without
authority to do so;

(d) That the document so written creates a liability of, or causes damage to the offended party or
any third person.

18. What are the elements of Estafa by means of deceit, under Article 315, par. 2 of the
Revised Penal Code?
The elements of Estafa by means of deceit are as follows:

(a) That there must be false pretenses, fraudulent act or fraudulent means;

(b) That such pretenses, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or
simultaneously with the commission of the fraud;

(c) 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 false pretense,
fraudulent act, or fraudulent means;

(d) That as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.

19. What are the acts which would constitute a deceitful act?
As a general rule, in order to constitute deceit, there must be a false representation as a matter of
fact, a positive assertion of falsehood. (People vs. Manahan, CA- G.R. No. 19602-R, 20 May
1958)
It might also consist in a fraudulent misrepresentation or contrivance by which one man deceives
another who has no means of detecting the fraud to the injury of another. (People vs. Babel, 10
CAR 133)

There is no deceit if the complainant was aware if the fictitious nature of the pretense.

20. What if the element of deceit was done AFTER the fraudulent act?
One of the elements of estafa is that “The false pretense or fraudulent act must be committed prior to
or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud.” If deceit was not present or occurred after the
commission of the fraud, there is no estafa. Likewise also, if the deceit was not the motivating factor
for the offended party to get involved in a transaction with the offending party.

21. If there was no fraud on the part on the offending party, will the case for Estafa
prosper?
No. Fraud is an element of Estafa. Its absence is fatal to the prosecution of the case. When the
allegation of deceit has not been proven, there is no Estafa. (Candido dela Cruz, CA 37 O.G. 1958)

22. How is Estafa by means of deceit committed:


Estafa by means of deceit are committed in the following ways:

a) Art. 315, 2 (a)


i) By using a fictitious name.

ii) By falsely pretending to possess

1. i. Power
2. ii. Influence
3. iii. Qualifications
4. iv. Property
5. v. Credit
6. vi. Agency
7. vii. Business or imaginary transactions
iii) By means of other similar deceits

b) Art. 315, 2 (b) – By altering the quality, fineness or weight of anything pertaining to his
business.

c) Art. 315, 2 (c) – By pretending to have bribed any government employee

d) Art. 315, 2 (d)


i) That the offender post-dated a check or issued a check in payment of an obligation;

ii) That such postdating or issuing a check was done when the offender had no funds in the bank
or his funds deposited therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check.

e) Art 315, 2 (e)


i) By obtaining food, refreshment or accommodation at hotel, inn, restaurant, boarding house,
lodging house or apartment house without paying thereof, with intent to defraud the proprietor or
manager thereof;

ii) By obtaining credit at any of the said establishments by the use of any false pretense;
iii) By abandoning or surreptitiously removing any part of his baggage from any of the said
establishment after obtaining credit, food, refreshment or accommodation therein, without paying
thereof.

23. Is mere issuance of a check with no funds, a crime of estafa?


No. The issuance of the check by the offender prior or simultaneous with the transaction must be for
the purpose of contracting the obligation. Otherwise if the check is issued in payment of a pre-existing
obligation, no estafa is committed.

However, if the check was issued by the debtor for the security of the creditor, but not to be
encashed, no estafa is involved.

The law penalizes the issuance of a check only if it were itself the immediate consideration for the
reciprocal receipt of benefits. In other words, the check must be issued concurrently with, and in
exchange for, a material gain to make it a punishable offense under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) of the
Revised Penal Code. (Castro v. Mendoza, G.R. No. 50173, 21 September 1993)

24. I issued a check to my grocer as advance payment for the groceries he would be
delivering. Without my knowledge, my husband had emptied my account. What will
happen?
You will not be charged for the crime of estafa since there is already a pre-existing obligation between
you and your grocer, with the check as payment for the groceries he would be delivering to you. You
did not issue the check prior or simultaneous with any act of fraud, thus it is not the cause of the
fraud.

It was the rule that the mere issuance of a check with knowledge on the part of the drawer that he
had no funds to cover its amount and without informing the payee of such circumstances, does not
constitute the crime of estafa if the check was intended as payment of a pre-existing obligation. The
reason for the rule is that deceit, to constitute estafa, should be the efficient cause of the defraudation
and as such should either be prior to, or simultaneous with the act of fraud. (People v. Lilius)

In the issuance of a check as payment for a pre-existing debt, the drawer derives no material benefit
in return as its consideration had long been delivered to him before the check was issued. In short,
the issuance of the check was not a means to obtain a valuable consideration from the payee. Deceit,
to constitute estafa should be the efficient cause of the defraudation. (People v. Fortuno)

Good faith is a defense in a charge of estafa by postdating or issuing a check (People v. Villapando,
56 Phil. 31)

25. I sent a notice of dishonor to my cousin, who issued me a check as payment for my
catering services. I had found out that his account had no funds. Was deceit involved?
Deceit may not be incolved as your cousin could be charged for the violation of B.P. 22, or the
Bouncing Check Law.

There is prima facie evidence of deceit when the drawer fails to pay or make arrangement for payment
three days after receiving notice of dishonor.

26. Would charging a person for the crime of estafa and violation of the Bouncing Check
law, put him in double jeopardy?
No. A person can be charged with two (2) distinct and separate offenses, first under Section 1 of Batas
Pambansa Bilang 22 or the Bouncing Check Law and another under Article 315, 2 (d) of the Revised
Penal Code.

Deceit and damage are essential elements in Article 315 2(d) but are not required in B.P. 22. Under
B.P.22, mere issuance of a check that is dishonored gives rise to the presumption of knowledge on the
part of the drawer that he issued the same without sufficient funds and hence punishable which is not
so under the Revised Penal Code. (Nierras v. Dacuycuy, G.R. No. 59568-76, January 11, 1990)

While the filing of the two sets of Information under the provisions of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 and
under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, on estafa, may refer to identical acts
committed by petitioner, the prosecution thereof cannot be limited to one offense, because a single
criminal act may give rise to a multiplicity of offenses and where there is variance or differences
between the elements of an offense in one law and another law as in the case at bar there will be no
double jeopardy because what the rule on double jeopardy prohibits refers to identity of elements in
the two (2) offenses. Otherwise stated prosecution for the same act is not prohibited. What is
forbidden is prosecution for the same offense. Hence, the mere filing of the two (2) sets of information
does not itself give rise to double jeopardy (People v. Miraflores, 115 SCRA 570).

27. What are the differences between Esatafa and B.P. 22?
Other differences between the two also include the following:

(a) Damage and deceit are essential elements in Article 315 2(d) but they are not required in B.P.
22.

(b) A drawer of a dishonored check may be convicted under B.P. 22 even if he had issued the same
for a pre-existing obligation, while under Article 315 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code, such
circumstance negates criminal liability;

(c) Specific and different penalties are imposed in each of the two offenses;

(d) Estafa is essential a crime against property, while violation of B.P. 22 is principally a crime
against public interest as it does injury to the entire banking system;

(e) Violations of Article 315 are mala in se, while those of B.P. 22 are mala prohibita.
(Nierras v. Dacuycuy, G.R. No. 59568-76, January 11, 1990)

28. What are the other ways that estafa can be done?
Estafa can be done in the following ways also:

a) By inducing another to sign any document

The elements are:

i) That the offender induced the offended party to sign a document;

ii) That deceit be employed to make him sign the document;

iii) That the offended party personally signed the document;

iv) That prejudice be caused.

b) By resorting to some fraudulent practice to insure success in gambling

c) By removing, concealing or destroying document


The elements are:

a) That there be court record, office files, documents or any other papers;

b) That the offender removed, concealed or destroyed any of them;

c) That the offender had intent to defraud another.

29. Where can the crime of estafa be prosecuted?


The courts in the place where the crime of estafa was committed has jurisdiction over it. It means that
the place where any of the elements of estafa had occurred is where it may be prosecuted, regardless
if it is in several places at once.

The crime of estafa is a continuing or transitory offense which may be prosecuted at the place where
any of the essential elements of the crime took place. One of the essential elements of estafa is
damage or prejudice to the offended party. (Buaya v. Polo, G.R. No. L-75079, 26 January 1989)

The theory is that a person charged with a transitory offense may be tried in any jurisdiction where
the offense is in part committed. In transitory or continuing offenses in which some acts material and
essential to the crime and requisite to its consummation occur in one province and some in another,
the court of either province has jurisdiction to try the case, it being understood that the first court
taking cognizance of the case will exclude the others. (Tuzon v. Cruz, G.R. No. L-27410, 28
August 1975)

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 205144 November 26, 2014

MARGIE BALERTA, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

The instant petition for review on certiorari1 assails the Decision2 rendered by the Court of Appeals
(CA) on October 31, 2012 in CA-G.R. CR No. 00693 affirming, albeit with modification as to the
penalty imposed, the Decision3 dated November 15, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, Branch 66, in Criminal Case No. 99-1103, convicting Margie Balerta (petitioner)
of Estafa.

Antecedents

The Information, dated October 27,1999, filed against the petitioner before the RTC partially reads
as follows:
That on or about May 31, 1999 until June 17, 1999, in the Municipality of Balasan, Province ofIloilo,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then
an employee/cashier of Balasan Associated Barangays Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BABMPC)[,]
was in[-]charge of collecting and keeping the collections turned over to her by the collectors of the
cooperative [and of] account[ing] for and deposit[ing] the collected amount to the depository bank
which is the Balasan Rural Bank, Balasan, Iloilo, but said accused, far from complying with her
obligation, with unfaithfulness and/or abuse of confidence, did then and there wilfully, unlawfullyand
feloniously misappropriate, misapply and convert toher personal use and benefit the total collection
of One Hundred Eighty[-]Five Thousand Five Hundred Eighty[-]Four Pesos and 06/100
(₱185,584.06) Philippine Currency and despite repeated demands, the said accused failed and still
fails, to liquidate or render formal accounting of her collections or return the aforesaid amount to the
Balasan Associated Barangays Multi-Purpose Cooperative, to its damage and prejudice in the
aforesaid amount of ₱185,584.06.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

During arraignment, the petitioner entered a "not guilty" plea.5 Pre-trial then ensued. The parties
stipulated on the following: (a) the identity and existence of Balasan Associated Barangays Multi-
Purpose Cooperative (BABMPC); (b) the identity of the petitioner and her position as a cashier in
BABMPC; (c) the petitioner "cannot withdraw from the bank account of [BABMPC] alone;" and (d)
the criminal complaint against the petitioner was filed on the basis of the findings of an internal
auditor and not of an independent accountant.6

Version of the Prosecution

During the pre-trial, the prosecution manifested that BABMPC’s Manager, Napoleon Timonera
(Timonera), and Internal Auditor, Ruben Ambros (Ambros), would take the witness stand. Timonera
would testify on the function of BABMPC and the duties of the petitioner, while Ambros’ testimony
would revolve on the facts and circumstances leading to the filing of the complaint. The prosecution
intended to offer before the RTC no other documentary evidence except the affidavits of Timonera
and Ambros.7

In the course of the trial, only Timonera appeared to testify. When the proceedings before the RTC
was concluded, both the prosecution and the defense did not formally offer any documentary
evidence.8

In Timonera’s testimony, he stated that BABMPC is registered with the Cooperative Development
Authority and is engaged in micro-lending, trading and equipment rental.9 At the time he took the
witness stand, Timonera was BABMPC’s Manager, and he was authorized through a board
resolution to represent the cooperative in pursuing the criminal complaint against the petitioner.10

According to Timonera, the petitioner worked as one of the three cashiers in BABMPC.11 She used to
receive daily remittances, deposit to the bank, withdraw and issue loans12 specifically in connection
with Care Philippines’ account involving an amount of ₱1,250,000.00.13 Care Philippines entrusted
the sum to BABMPC, which in turn can release to borrowers loans ranging from ₱500.00 to
₱50,000.00.14

The petitioner neither resigned nor was terminated from employment, but she stopped reporting for
work from June 19, 1999 onwards after BABMPC discovered discrepancies and fraud in her
records.15 Bank records showed that there was a variance of ₱40.00 indicated in BABMPC’s
passbook, on one hand, and in the deposit slip, on the other.16 This prompted BABMPC’s
bookkeeper, Rose De Asis (De Asis) to request the Internal Auditor, Ambros, to verify with the bank,
which in turn disowned the entries and signatures in the passbook made and affixed between March
12, 1999 and June 15, 1999.17 BABMPC also found out from the bank teller that the petitioner
declaredthe cooperative’s passbook as missing since March 1999, hence, a new one was issued on
May 6, 1999.18 The petitioner used the new passbook in making actual transactions with the bank,
but she kept the old passbook, upon which she made falsified entries to prevent BABMPC from
discovering the discrepancies.19 The court asked Timonera how he knew that the signatures in the
old passbook were affixed by the petitioner herself. Timonera replied that it was the petitioner who
kept the passbook, 20 and collected, remitted and withdrew money from the bank.21 BABMPC’s
bookkeeper, De Asis, on the other hand, merely controlled the vouchers and the records of the
transactions.22 The petitioner and De Asis were the two authorized signatories of BABMPC as
regards the passbook kept with the bank.23

Upon audit, BABMPC found that "there was a discrepancy of some ₱185,000.00," ₱90,000.00 of
which in the passbook, while the rest of the amount related to the records of the cooperative kept by
the petitioner. When asked by the petitioner’s counsel about where exactly was the discrepancy
shown in the copy of the bank’s ledger and pages of a passbook, which were part of BABMPC’s
records, Timonera answered that he is not an accountant and Ambros knew more about the matter.24

Timonera also stated that BABMPC had sent the petitioners three letters, dated June 22, 1999, June
24, 1999 and August 30, 1999. The first letter requested the petitioner to report to the office to
explain the discrepancies. The second letter requested the petitioner to pay BABMPC. The first two
letters were brought tothe petitioner’s house by BABMPC’s secretary, Marilyn Mombay (Mombay).
Both times, the petitioner was not at home, and it was Estela Balerta, the former’s sister-in-law, who
received the letters. The last letter was sentby mail, but the petitioner refused to receive it as well.25

Timonera also testified that without the petitioner’s presence and permission, the latter’s table and
drawers were opened through the use of duplicate keys kept by De Asis. The use of the duplicate
keys to open each other’s office drawers was howevera common practice between the petitioner and
De Asis.26

Version of the Defense

The defense, on its part, offered the testimony of the petitioner.

The petitioner testified that the lastday she reported for work as a cashier in BABMPC was on June
17, 1999. Timonera got angry that day when the petitioner reminded him of his cash advances,
which were already equivalent to his salaries for five months. The petitioner emphasized that
Timonera had exceeded the allowable cash advance amount of one month salary.27

On June 18, 1999, the petitioner suffered from migraine and was advised by her doctor to rest for
two weeks. The day after, Timonera visited the petitioner’s house, instructed her to rest, and
informed her that she will be notified in case a necessity for her toreport for work arises. On June 25,
1999, the petitioner received a letter requiring her to go to BABMPC’s office. She complied with the
directive on the same day. Timonera then presented to the petitioner the result of Ambros’ audit
showing that she incurred a shortage of ₱80,000.00. She was not however furnished a copy thereof.
The petitioner also protested that the audit was conducted in her absence, but Timonera informed
her that they would just thresh the matter up in court.28

The petitioner likewise stated that she can no longer find the receipts, vouchers and books in her
drawers showing the cash advances of Timonera. Her plea for the conduct of an independent audit
also fell on deaf ears.29
On July 7, 1999, the petitioner proceeded to the Balasan Police Station to report about the forced
opening of her table and drawers which occurred on June 25, 1999. She also informed the police
that the amount of ₱5,000.00 kept in the drawers was missing. She confronted BABMPC about the
missing cash. Ambros admitted that he and De Asis opened the drawers, but made no mention of
any cash found thereon.30

The petitioner alleged that Timonera was ill motivated when he initiated the filing of the criminal
complaint against her. Timonera intended to evade his financial liabilities from BABMPC relative to
his cash advances and the money which he had diverted to other projects in violation of the rules of
the cooperative. The petitioner also suspected that Timonera must have speculated that the former
had money as she then had plans to go abroad.31

Prior to the petitioner’s reminder to Timonera about the latter’s cash advances, there was no
untoward incident whatsoever between them. She admitted though that she did not report
Timonera’s cash advances to BABMPC’s board.32

The petitioner testified that the only shortage she was aware of involved the amount of ₱1,896.00,
which was reflected in a past monthly audit. To date, the amount remains unsettled.33

Ruling of the RTC

On November 15, 2006, the RTC rendered a Decision,34 the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby finds the [petitioner] guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Estafa by misappropriation and hereby sentences [the petitioner to] five (5) years, five (5) months
and eleven (11) days of prision correccional as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal
as maximum, together with the accessory penalty provided by law, to pay [BABMPC] ₱185,584.06
without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.35

The RTC’s reasonsare quoted below:

According to the [petitioner], the internal audit wherein she has a shortage of ₱185,584.06 was false.
However, she failed to prove and explain to the Court the exact figure or amount of money she is
accountable of. She failed to cause an audit of her own to show that no shortage was incurred by
her. Her testimony was not corroborated by any witness or other documentary evidence. What she
did was simply to deny her shortage and pointed to [Timonera] as one responsible for the filing of
charges against her. But the [petitioner] alone, being the one keeping the passbook of the
cooperative, was able to misrepresent with the Rural Bank of Balasan that the passbook was lost
and thereafter, she secured a new passbook. After she secured a new passbook, she used both the
old passbook and new passbook and falsified the entries in the old passbook making it appear that
the old passbook was presented and transactions were made using the old passbook with the bank.
With this scheme, it is clear that the accused has all the intention to defraud. For what is the purpose
of using the old passbook when it was already cancelled and of no legal use? Worst is that, by
means of falsification, she made false entries in the old passbook to mislead the officers of
[BABMPC] to believe that the money entrusted to her is safely kept, when in truth[,] there were
already shortages.

The Court believes that the evidence of the prosecution is overwhelming to point out the [petitioner’s]
criminal liability to the offense charged.36
Ruling of the CA

The petitioner challenged the above ruling before the CA raising the factual issues of whether or not,
as claimed by BABMPC, she had (a) falsified the entries in the passbook, (b) received collections for
remittance to the bank, (c) misappropriated BABMPC’s money, and (d) committed estafa.37

On October 31, 2012, the CA rendered the herein assailed Decision, the decretal portion of which
states:

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the Decision dated November 15, 2006 of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 66, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo in Criminal Case No. 99-1103 with modifications with respect
to the indeterminate penalties imposed. The [petitioner] is hereby sentenced to four (4) years and
one (1) day of prision correccional as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporalas
maximum and to pay [BABMPC] the amount of Php185,584.06.

SO ORDERED.38

The CA based its disposition on the following:

The elements of estafa through conversion or misappropriation under subsection 1 (b) of Art. 315 of
the Revised Penal Code are as follows:

I. That money, goods, or other personal property be received by the offender in trust, or on
commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery
of, or to return, the same, even though the obligation is guaranteed by a bond;

II. That there be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the person who
received it, or a denial on his part that he received it;

III. That such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and

IV. That there be demand for the return of the property.

The essence of this kind of estafais the appropriation or conversion of money or property received to
the prejudice of the entity to whom a return should be made. The words "convert" and
"misappropriate" connote the act of using or disposing of another’s property as if it were one’s own,
or of devoting it to a purpose or use different from that agreed upon. Tomisappropriate for one’s own
use includes not only conversion to one’s personal advantage, but also every attempt to dispose of
the property of another without right. In proving the element of conversion or misappropriation, a
legal presumption of misappropriation arises when the accused fails to deliver the proceeds of the
sale or to return the items to besold and fails to give an account of their whereabouts.39

All the elements are present in the instant case. Firstly, it was sufficiently proven from the
testimonies of both the prosecution and defense witnesses that the [petitioner] was employed as one
of the three cashiers of the cooperative. From the testimonies, it was established that as a cashier,
she was responsible in handling the specific account of the money loaned by Care Philippines to the
cooperative. The money from Care Philippines was used by the cooperative for micro-lending, that
is, lending a small amount of money to small entrepreneurs from ₱500.00 to ₱50,000.00. Being such
a cashier, [thepetitioner’s] duties include receiving daily remittances, making deposits to and
withdrawals from the bank, as well as issuing loans. By receiving the money of the cooperative, [the
petitioner] also had the obligation to make delivery of or to return the same to the cooperative.
Secondly, on the matter of misappropriation, [the petitioner] deplored the conduct of an internal audit
in her absence but she merely denied the shortage of money as shown by the result of the internal
audit. [The petitioner] did not cause an audit of her own to rebut the evidence against her. She did
not show any documentary evidence nor present any witness to support her claims. It is axiomatic
that denial is the weakest form of defense. As held in People v. Magbanua, "[i]t is elementary that
denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is a negative and self-serving evidence
which has far less evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testify on
affirmative matters.

Through the use of the two (2) passbooks, [the petitioner] was able to dispose of the funds of the
cooperative to the latter’s disadvantage. Moreover, [the petitioner] did not refute the evidence of the
private offended party that she maintained two (2) passbooks. The certification issued by the
Assistant Manager of the rural bank showing that [the petitioner] had declared as lost the old
passbook was not contradicted by the defense at all. In like manner, there was no evidence
presented by the defense to controvert the claim that the [petitioner] falsified the initials of the bank
employees every time she records an entry in the old passbook, either withdrawal or deposit.

Thirdly, it is needless to say that the cooperative was greatly prejudiced by the misappropriation of
its funds and by the denial of [the petitioner] of the shortfall. Considering that the amount loaned by
Care Philippines to the cooperative for its micro-lending project was Php1,250,000.00 and
considering further that most of its clients only borrow from Php500.00 to Php50, 000.00, [the
petitioner’s] shortage of ₱185, 584.06 is already a substantial amount that could have been lent to a
number of borrowers of the cooperative.

As to the last element pertaining to the demand by the offended party, it has been held that, "[i]n a
prosecution for estafa, demand is not necessary where there is evidenceof misappropriation or
conversion. However, failure to account upon demand, for funds or property held in trust, is
circumstantial evidence of misappropriation". Moreover, a query as to the whereabouts of the
money, such as the one proven in the present case, is tantamount to a demand. The prosecution in
the case at bar, was able to show that the offended party inquired as to the whereabouts of the
shortage amounting to Php185, 584.06. The General Manager of the cooperative sent letters to the
[petitioner] asking her to report to the offices of the cooperative in order to explain a number of
questionable transactions that they have discovered.

In fine, the evidence of the prosecution was able to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that [the
petitioner] committed estafa by misappropriation under Art. 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code.
With the evidence on record, We find no convincing reason to disturb the findings of the trial
court.40 (Some citations omitted, underscoring ours and italics in the original)

Issues

Undaunted, the petitioner assails the above ruling. Restated, the issues she presents for our
resolution are whether or not: (a) she is entitled to an acquittal considering that a cashier possesses
no juridical possession over the funds he or she holds; (b) demand, as an element of the crime of
estafa, had been proven in the instant case;and (c) her guilt had been proven beyond reasonable
doubt.41

The petitioner claims that in Chua-Burce v. Court of Appeals,42 the Court ruled that a cashier cannot
be convicted of estafaif he or she has no juridical possession over the funds held.43 Further, the
element of demand was not established. There was no proof conclusively showing that the three
letters were sent to the petitioner by BABMPC. Assuming they were sent, no ample evidence exists
to prove that they were in fact received by the petitioner.44
More importantly, the prosecution had not discharged the burden of proof required to convict in
criminal cases. First. Timonera admitted that he did not have any personal knowledge about how the
petitioner committed the acts of misappropriation.45 Second. The statements of the Internal Auditor,
Ambros, were vital, but he never appeared in court to testify or to shed light on any documents
purportedly pointing to the petitioner’s liability.46 Third. No representatives of the bank testified on the
alleged inconsistencies found in the passbooks.47 Fourth. Even the amount of money claimed to have
been misappropriated was not determined with certainty.48 Fifth. In convicting the petitioner, the RTC
and the CA primarily relied on the falsified entries made on the passbooks, but they were not
formally offered as evidence, and the prosecution failed to establish that the petitioner was solely in
control of the said passbooks.49

In its Comment,50 the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) argues that the petitioner had juridical
possession over the funds, which were lent by Care Philippines to BABMPC. The petitioner received
daily remittances, deposited to and withdrew money from the bank, and issued loans in connection
with the said account. Moreover, while denying having incurred the shortage, she offered no
explanation as to how much money she was accountable for. No other witness corroborated the
petitioner’s claims as well. The petitioner also failed to refute the existence of the two passbooks.
Anent the prejudice caused to BABMPC, the amount of ₱185,584.06 was substantial and could have
been loanedto a number of borrowers.

Ruling of the Court

There is merit in the instant petition.

The petitioner had no juridical possession over the allegedly misappropriated funds.

Chua-Burce is instructive anent what constitutes mere material possession, on one hand, and
juridical possession, on the other, for the purpose of determining whether the first element of estafais
present in a particular case, viz:

Have the foregoing elements been met in the case at bar? We find the first element absent. When
the money, goods, or any other personal property is received bythe offender from the offended party
(1) in trustor (2) on commissionor (3) for administration, the offender acquires both material or
physical possession and juridical possessionof the thing received. Juridical possession means a
possession which gives the transferee a right over the thing which the transferee may set up even
against the owner. In this case, petitioner was a cash custodian who was primarily responsible for
the cash-in-vault. Her possession of the cash belonging to the bank is akin to that of a bank teller,
both being mere bank employees.

In People v. Locson, the receiving teller ofa bank misappropriated the money received by him for the
bank. He was found liable for qualified theft on the theory that the possession of the teller is the
possession of the bank. We explained in Locson that –

"The money was in the possession of the defendant as receiving teller of the bank, and the
possession of the defendant was the possession of the bank. When the defendant, with grave abuse
of confidence, removed the money and appropriated it to his own use without the consent of the
bank, there was the taking or apoderamiento contemplated in the definition of the crime of theft."

In the subsequent case of Guzman v. Court of Appeals, a travelling sales agent misappropriated or
failed to return to his principal the proceeds of things or goods he was commissioned or authorized
to sell. He was, however, found liable for estafa under Article 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code,
and not qualified theft. In the Guzman case, we explained the distinction between possession of a
bank teller and an agent for purposes of determining criminal liability – "The case cited by the Court
of Appeals (People vs. Locson, 57 Phil. 325), in support of its theory that appellant only had the
material possession of the merchandise he was selling for his principal, or their proceeds, is not in
point. In said case, the receiving teller of a bank who misappropriated money received by him for the
bank, was held guilty of qualified theft on the theory that the possession of the teller is the
possession of the bank. There is an essential distinction between the possession by a receiving
teller of funds received from third persons paid to the bank, and an agent who receives the proceeds
of sales of merchandise delivered to him in agency by his principal. In the former case, payment by
third persons to the teller is payment to the bank itself; the teller is a mere custodian or keeper of the
funds received, and has no independent right or title to retain or possess the same as against the
bank. Anagent, on the other hand, can even assert, as against his own principal, an independent,
autonomous, right to retain money or goods received in consequence of the agency; as when the
principal fails to reimburse him for advances he has made, and indemnify him for damages suffered
without his fault (Article 1915, [N]ew Civil Code; Article 1730, old)."51 (Citations omitted, underscoring
ours and italics in the original)

In the case at bench, there is no question that the petitioner was handling the funds lent by Care
Philippines to BABMPC. However, she held the funds in behalf of BABMPC. Over the funds, she
had mere physical or material possession, but she held no independent right or title, which she can
set up against BABMPC. The petitioner was nothing more than a mere cash custodian. Hence, the
Court finds that juridical possession of the funds as an element of the crime of estafaby
misappropriation is absent in the instant case.

In the prosecution of the crime of estafa, demand need not be formal if there exists evidence of
misappropriation. However, in the instant case, conclusive proofs of both misappropriation and
demand are wanting.

"Fundamental is the precept in all criminal prosecutions, that the constitutive acts of the offense must
be established with unwavering exactitude and moral certainty because this is the critical and only
requisite to a finding of guilt."52

At the outset, it is significant to point out that neither the prosecution nor the defense had made any
formal offer of documentary evidence.53 The two passbooks, ledger, and three demand letters, while
mentioned by Timonera in his testimony, were notformally offered as evidence. The Court notes too
that the contending parties each had only one witness, namely, Timonera, for the prosecution, and
the petitioner, for the defense. Both of their testimonies were therefore without any corroboration.
Considering the absence of formal offers of documentary evidence, the judgments rendered by the
RTC and the CA solely hinged on who was more credible between the two witnesses.

While this Court does not find Timonera’s testimony as incredible, by itself alone, it is insufficient to
discharge the burden of proof required for conviction in criminal cases. The petitioner was indicted
for allegedly misappropriating the amount of 185,584.06. However, Timonera failed to state with
certainty where in the records held by the petitioner were the discrepancies shown. Timonera
evaded answering the question by emphasizing that he is not an accountant and that Ambros knew
more about the matter.54 Note too that Timonera admitted it was the petitioner and De Asis who were
the two authorized signatories relative to the funds lent to BABMPC by Care Philippines.55Hence, the
petitioner did not have sole access over the records and funds. Consequently, the authorship of the
falsified entries in the passbook cannot be attributed with certainty to the petitioner alone. It was thus
fatal for the prosecution’s cause that Ambros, De Asis, Mombay and the bank personnel did not take
the witness stand especially since documentary evidence were never formally offered as well.
The RTC and the CA faulted the petitioner for not offering countervailing evidence, including an audit
conducted in her own behalf. Still, it does not justify a conviction tobe handed on that ground
because the "[c]ourts cannot magnify the weakness of the defense and overlook the prosecution’s
failure to discharge the onus probandi."56

"Concededly, the evidence of the defense is weak and uncorroborated. This, however, cannot be
used to advance the cause of the prosecution as the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall
on its own weight and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense.
Moreover, when the circumstances are capable of two or more inferences, as in this case, such that
one of which is consistent with the presumption of innocence and the other is compatible with guilt,
the presumption of innocence must prevail and the court must acquit."57

"In a criminal case, the accused isentitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond doubt.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of
error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which
produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind."58

In the case at bar, however, the paltry evidence for the prosecution, consisting merely of Timonera’s
testimony, casts doubts anent the guilt of the petitioner, and does not amply rebut her right to be
presumed innocent of the crime charged.

The acquittal of the accused from the crime charged does not necessarily negate the existence of
civil liability. However, in the instant case, the prosecution had failed as well to present preponderant
1âw phi1

evidence from which the Court can determinately conclude that the petitioner should pay BABMPC
the amount of ₱185,584.06.

Eusebio-Calderon v. People59 is instructive anent the effects of the two kinds of acquittal on the civil
liability of the accused, viz:

In the case of Manantan v. Court of Appeals, we elucidated on the two kinds of acquittal recognized
by our law as well as its different effects on the civil liability of the accused. Thus:

x x x. First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or omission
complained of this instance closes the door to civil liability, for a person who has been found to benot
the perpetrator of any act or omission cannot and can never be held liable for such act or omission.
There being no delict, civil liability ex delictois out of the question, and the civil action, if any, which
may be instituted must be based on grounds other than the delict complained of. This is the situation
contemplated in Rule 111 of the Rules of Court. The second instance is an acquittal based on
reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not
been satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by
preponderance of evidence only. This is the situation contemplated in Article 29 of the Civil Code, x
x x.60 (Citation omitted and underscoring ours)

In the case now under consideration, the Court acquits the petitioner notbecause she is found
absolutely innocent of the crime charged. The Court acquits merely because reasonable doubt
exists anent her guilt. Hence, the petitioner can still be held civilly liable to BABMPC if preponderant
evidence exist to prove the same.

Rule 133, Section 1 of the Rules of Court indicates how preponderance of evidence shall be
determined, viz:
Section 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined. — In civil cases, the party having the
burden of proofmust establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where the
preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all
the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their
means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to
which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest,
and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The
court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with
the greater number. (Underscoring ours)

In the instant petition, the prosecution manifested during the pre-trial that Timonera's testimony
would touch on the functions of the BABMPC and the duties of the petitioner.61 During the trial,
Timonera made references to the alleged falsifications and misappropriations committed by the
petitioner. However, he denied specific knowledge of where exactly the falsifications and
misappropriations were shown and recorded.62 This, plus the fact that the prosecution made no
formal offer of documentary evidence, leaves the Court in the dark as to how the petitioner's civil
liability, if any, shall be determined.

In precis, the Court finds that Timonera's testimony does not quality as preponderant evidence from
which the Court can conclude that the petitioner is civilly liable to pay BABMPC the amount of
₱185,584.06.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of
Appeals dated October 31, 2012 in CA-G.R. CR No. 00693 is REVERSED. The petitioner, MARGIE
BALERTA, is ACQUITTED of the crime of Esta/a under Article 315(l)(b) of the Revised Penal Code.
The directive of the Court of Appeals for Margie Balerta to PAY Balasan Associated Barangays
Multi-Purpose Cooperative the amount oL₱185,584.06 as CIVIL LIABILITY is likewise SET ASIDE
for lack of basis.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO* DIOSDADO M. PERALTA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case
was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

CERTIFICATION

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

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice

Footnotes

* Additional member per Special Order No. 1887 dated November 24, 2014 in view of the
inhibition of Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza.

1
Rollo, pp. 18-36.

2
Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos, with Associate Justices Gabriel T.
Ingles and Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, concurring; id. at 39-48.

3
Rendered by Judge Rogelio J. Amador; records, pp. 136-139.

4
Id. at 1.

5
Id. at 36.

6
Please seePre-Trial Order, id. at 39-40.

7
Id.

8
CA rollo, p. 5.

9
TSN, March 10, 2000, p. 2.

10
Id. at 3-4.

11
Id. at 7.

12
Id. at 3.

13
Id. at 7.

14
Id. at 8.
15
Id. at 3.

16
Id. at 8.

17
Id. at 8-9, 11.

18
Id. at 10-11.

19
Id.

20
Id. at 10.

21
Id. at 12.

22
Id.

23
Id. at 16.

24
Id. at 9.

25
Id. at 12-13.

26
Id. at 15.

27
TSN, April 18, 2005, p. 4.

28
Id. at 5-6.

29
Id. at 6.

30
Id. at 7, 9.

31
Id. at 10.

32
Id. at 12.

33
Id. at 11, 13.

34
Records, pp. 136-139.

35
Id. at 139.

36
Id.

37
Rollo, p. 43.

38
Id. at 47.

39
Pamintuan v. People, G.R. No. 172820, June 23, 2010, 621 SCRA 538, 547.
40
Rollo,pp. 44-47.

41
Id. at 23.

42
387 Phil. 15 (2000).

43
Id. at 27; rollo, pp. 32-33.

44
Rollo, pp. 33-34.

45
Id. at 25.

46
Id. at 26.

47
Id. at 27.

48
Id.

49
Id. at 28-29.

50
Id. at 95-105.

51
Chua-Burce v. Court of Appeals, supra note 42, at 26-27.

52
BSB Group, Inc. v. Go, G.R. No. 168644, February 16, 2010, 612 SCRA 596, 606.

53
TSN, March 10, 2000, p. 2, CA rollo, p. 5.

54
TSN, March 10, 2000, p. 9.

55
Id. at 16.

56
People v. Gatlabayan, G.R. No. 186467, July 13, 2011, 653 SCRA 803, 824.

57
People v. Santos, Jr., 562 Phil. 458, 473 (2007).

58
People v. Bansil, 364 Phil. 22, 34 (1999).

59
484 Phil. 87 (2004).

60
Id. at 99.

61
Records, pp. 39-40.

62
TSN, March 10, 2000, p. 9.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 80130 August 19, 1991

BENJAMIN ABEJUELA, petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

Vicente Y. Bayani for petitioner.

FERNAN, C.J.:

In this petition for review by certiorari, petitioner seeks a reversal of the decision of the Court of
Appeals dated September 16, 1987 which affirmed in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch VII of Palo, Leyte, dated January 11, 1984, convicting him as an accomplice in the complex
crime of estafa thru falsification of a commercial document under Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the
Revised Penal Code in relation to Article 172 thereof.1

The facts of this case are uncontroverted.

Petitioner Benjamin Abejuela, a businessman engaged in the manufacture and fabrication of hand
tractors and other agricultural equipment, had a savings deposit with Banco Filipino, Tacloban
Branch. Sometime in April or May 1978, petitioner was befriended by Glicerio Balo, Jr., an employee
of Banco Filipino in the same Tacloban Branch. On several occasions, petitioner Abejuela and Balo
would dine together, go to nightclubs or have drinking sprees.2 They became close friends. Balo
even became the godfather of Abejuela's daughter.3 Moreover, Balo offered Abejuela financial
assistance in the latter's welding business, claiming that he was expecting a large sum of money out
of the insurance policy of his late father.

On August 3, 1978, Balo went to Abejuela's welding shop to borrow the latter's passbook. Abejuela
was surprised and thought that it was not possible for Balo to use his passbook. Balo showed
Abejuela some checks purporting to be the proceeds of his father's insurance policy. He wanted to
deposit the checks in Abejuela's account with Banco Filipino. Abejuela then suggested that Balo
open his own account. However, Balo explained that he was prohibited from opening an account
with Banco Filipino since he was employed with that bank as a savings bookkeeper. Abejuela
advised Balo to open an account instead with another bank but Balo insisted that he wanted the
checks deposited with Banco Filipino so that he could facilitate their immediate encashment as well
as avail himself of some privileges. Balo assured Abejuela that there was nothing wrong in allowing
him to use his passbook and even reassured Abejuela that he would accompany him to the bank to
make the deposit.

Accepting Balo's explanations and assurances Abejuela entrusted his passbook to Balo. On August
8,1978, Balo returned Abejuela's passbook where a deposit in the amount of P20,000.00 was
already reflected. Once again, Balo assured Abejuela that there was nothing wrong with the deposit,
and stated that he just deposited one of his checks. On the same, day Balo requested Abejuela
himself to withdraw, in the former's behalf, money from his account with Banco Filipino. Again with
assurances from Balo, Abejuela reluctantly agreed. He went to Banco Filipino and withdrew the
amount of P15,000.00 which he gave to Balo at a restaurant called Felisa's Cafe.

Balo's practice of depositing and withdrawing money using Abejuela's passbook continued for quite
some time. During the month of August 1978, the account of Abejuela with Banco Filipino reflected a
total deposits of P176,145.00 and a total withdrawal of P175,607.96.

In the meantime, Abejuela borrowed P20,000.00 from Balo, payable within 90 days from August 9,
1978. But feeling apprehensive over Balo's constant use of his passbook, Abejuela decided to pay
his loan on August 31, 1978 by borrowing P10,000.00 from his father and taking the other
P10,000.00 from his business profits.4 Abejuela also closed his account with Banco Filipino by
surrendering his passbook and withdrawing the balance of his deposit.

Thereafter, the bank's accountant and interest bookkeeper discovered a discrepancy between the
interest reconciliation balance and the subsidiary ledger balance. The interest bookkeeper could not
locate the posting reconciliation and the proof reconciliation. He also notice that Account No. 6701-
0160 in the name of Benjamin Abejuela reflected four (4) large deposits on various dates from
August 3, 1978 to August 23, 1978, totaling P176,145.25, but the deposits slips thereof could not be
located.

After further examination of the bank records, the manager, accountant and interest bookkeeper
were convinced that the irregularities were caused by Balo who was the savings bookkeeper at that
time and who had access to Abejuela savings account ledger. They concluded that Balo was able to
manipulate the ledger, by posting the fictitious deposits after banking hours when the posting
machine was already closed and cleared by the bank accountant.

The bank officials confronted Balo, who feigned ignorance and initially denied the accusations, but
later admitted having posted the false deposits. Petitioner Abejuela was also implicated because he
was the owner of the passbook used by Balo in accomplishing his fraudulent scheme. On December
5,1978, an information was filed against Glicerio Balo, Jr. and Benjamin Abejuela for the crime of
estafa thru falsification of commercial documents.5Separately arraigned, both pleaded "not guilt to
the crime charged6 Trial followed.

On May 29, 1979, acting on an application by Banco Filipino, the trial court issued an order of
preliminary attachment against all the properties of accused Glicerio Balo, Jr. and Benjamin
Abejuela not exceeding P176,145.25 in value, the amount allegedly embezzled or misappropriated.
On September 4,1979, the Deputy Sheriff of Palo, Leyte, filed a return of service and submitted an
inventory of the goods taken from the two accused and which goods were placed in the custody of
the National Bureau of Investigation. While the refrigerator and television set taken from the
residence of Abejuela would not command a good pace on account of their poor condition, the
goods seized from Balo were appraised at P62,295.00.7

In the meantime, accused Glicerio Balo, Jr. was reportedly killed by members of the New People's
Army in the mountains of Mati Balangkayan Eastern Samar, on suspicion that he was a PC informer
and a collaborator. This information came from a rattan gatherer and former NPA member whose
testimony before the court a quo was never impeached. Consequently, on February 25, 1981, the
trial court dismissed the case against Glicerio Balo, Jr., pursuant to Article 89 of the Revised Penal
Code, but without prejudice to a civil action for recovery of damages arising from the offense which
may be instituted by Banco Filipino and without prejudice also to the reinstatement of the instant
criminal action in the event the accused would turn out to be alive.8 On September 7, 1981, Banco
Filipino filed a motion praying for the forfeiture in its favor of the goods seized from the accused
which were in the custody of the National Bureau of investigation. On November 5, 1981, the trial
court, thru District Judge Auxencio C. Dacuycuy, granted the motion and ordered the National
Bureau of Investigation to deliver the seized goods to Banco Filipino. In addition, the bank was
authorized to withdraw the savings deposit of Glicerio Balo, Jr. for eventual reversion to said bank.9

Thereafter, trial continued with respect to petitioner Abejuela. On January 11, 1984, the lower court
adjudged petitioner Abejuela guilty. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the court finds the accused Benjamin Abejuela guilty beyond reasonable
doubt as accomplice of the complex crime of estafa thru falsification of a commercial
document under Art. 315, par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Art. 172 thereof
and as the amount involved is more than P22,000 he is hereby sentenced to an
indeterminate penalty of not less than fifteen (15) years, three months and 11 days to not
more than sixteen (16) years, eight months and 21 days of reclusion temporal, to indemnify
Banco Filipino, Tacloban Branch, in the sum of One Hundred Seventy Six Thousand One
Hundred Forty Five Pesos and Twenty Five Centavos (P 176,145.25), without subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay one half of the costs.

On May 29, 1979, the court issued a writ of preliminary attachment of the properties of
defendants Glicerio Balo, Jr. and Benjamin Abejuela. This Attachment is hereby made
permanent.10

Abejuela appealed to the Court of Appeals. On September 16, 1987, the Appellate Court affirmed
the decision of the trial court.11 A motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner was denied in a
resolution dated October 7, 1987. Hence the instant appeal.

Petitioner Abejuela contends that the Appellate Court erred in not acquitting him for the following
reasons:

(1) Accused-petitioner has no knowledge of the criminal intent of his co-accused, Glicerio
Balo, Jr., hence, there being no conspiracy, be cannot be convicted as principal, neither as
accomplice, nor did he benefit from the effects of the crime, hence, he cannot be convicted
even as an accessory.

(2) The lending of the accused-petitioner of his passbook was made in good faith, and after
he was deceived by co-accused Glicerio Balo, Jr. that it is necessary because as employee
of Banco Filipino he cannot deposit in the said hank

(3) The presumption of innocence and the 'equipoise rule' apply in favor of accused-
petitioner.12

Respondents, in their comment, maintain that petitioner Abejuela had knowledge of the fraudulent
acts of Glicerio Balo, Jr. They asseverate that petitioner is an intelligent individual who can take care
of his concerns, considering that he is a businessman who finished third (3rd) year college
(commerce).13

Respondent also point out that Abejuela should not only have been convicted as an accomplice but
as a principal by indispensable cooperation, because without the withdrawal slips which he executed
allegedly in spite of his many doubts and apprehensions, Glicerio Balo, Jr. could not have
succeeded in his scheme.
Petitioner, on the other hand, claims that he had no knowledge at all of the fraudulent machinations
of Balo, and that his act of lending his passbook was done in good faith.

After carefully weighing the arguments of both parties as well as taking into consideration the
evidence on record, we are inclined to believe that petitioner Abejuela was completely unaware of
the malevolent scheme of Balo. From Balo's own admissions, it was he who deceived Abejuela
through sweet talk, assurances, drinking sprees and parties and cajoled him into giving in to his
requests. Furthermore, during that time, nobody would have questioned Balo's source of money and
since he had a perfect alibi, i.e. the insurance proceeds of his later father. When Balo showed
Abejuela some checks purporting to be his father's insurance proceeds, Abejuela was hoodwinked
into believing that Balo indeed had money. Balo's request to borrow Abejuela's passbook in order to
facilitate the encashment of the checks seemed reasonable enough, considering that they were
close friends and "compadres", Abejuela's acquiescence to Balo's overtures is understandable.

Furthermore, the court takes judicial notice of the practice of banks in allowing anybody to deposit in
an account even without the owner's passbook, as long as the account number is known. Thus,
even without Abejuela's passbook, the false deposits could still have been posted by Balo in the
savings account ledger of Abejuela. After all, the ledger is the record of the bank reflecting the
transactions of the depositor, while the passbook is the record of the depositor. More often than not,
it is the ledger which is more accurate and up-to-date. This is the reason why depositors have their
passbooks updated for unrecorded transactions like interests, checks deposited beyond clearance
cut-off time and bank charges.

In the instant case, the evidence of the prosecution clearly points at Balo as the one who had posted
the bogus deposits in Abejuela's ledger. He was also the one who wisely manipulated petitioner
Abejuela in order that the fictitious deposits could be placed at his Balo disposal, Thus, when Balo
requested Abejuela to withdraw the amount he had earlier placed in the latter's account, Abejuela
had no choice but to give in. He actually believed that the money was really owned by Balo and he
did not want Balo to think that he was interested in it. Thus, the prosecution miserably failed to prove
beyond reasonable doubt that Abejuela had knowledge of the fraudulent scheme of Balo. The most
that could be attributed to Abejuela was his negligence in lending his passbook and his utter
gullibility.

Knowledge of the criminal intent of the principal in this case, (Glicerio Balo, Jr.) is essential in order
that petitioner Abejuela can be convicted as an accomplice in the crime of estafa thru falsification of
commercial document. To be convicted as an accomplice, there must be cooperation in the
execution of the offense by previous or simultaneous acts. However, the cooperation which the law
punishes is the assistance rendered knowingly or intentionally, which assistance cannot be said to
exist without the prior cognizance of the offense intended to be committed.

In a number of cases decided by this Court, it has been held that knowledge of the criminal intention
of the principal is indispensable in order to hold a person liable as an accomplice. Thus:

It appearing that the accused who drove the taxicab in which the other accused rode did not
actually take part in the conspiracy to commit the crime of robbery but only furnished the
means through which the robbery could be perpetrated, with knowledge of the said criminal
design, he is not guilty as principal of the crime of robbery with homicide but is an
accomplice therein.14

There is no evidence that appellant had conspired with the malefactors, nor that he actually
participated in the commission of the crime. He cannot, therefore, be considered as a
principal. But in going with them, knowing their criminal intention and in staying outside of the
house with them while the others went inside the store to rob and kill, appellant effectively
supplied the criminals with material and moral aid, making him guilty as an accomplice.15

It is axiomatic that in criminal proceedings, proof beyond reasonable doubt is necessary before a
judgment of conviction can be rendered. Not an iota of doubt must cloud the Court's mind. A
1âwphi1

conviction of a criminal offense must be based on clear and positive evidence and not on mere
assumptions.16

In the light of the facts and the evidence on record, we believe that the guilt of petitioner Abejuela
has not been established beyond a reasonable doubt for which reason he must be acquitted. The
question that must be resolved now is the effect of Abejuela's acquittal on his civil liability.

The Rules provide: The extinction of the penal action does not carry with it extinction of the civil,
unless the extinction proceeds from a declaration in a final judgment that the fact from which the civil
might arise did not exist. In other cases, the person entitled to the civil action may institute it in the
jurisdiction and in the manner provided by law against the person who may be liable for restitution of
the thing and reparation or indemnity for the damage suffered."17

We decree the acquittal of Abejuela because we seriously doubt whether he had knowledge of the
plan of Balo to defraud Banco Filipino by means of posting false deposits and withdrawing these
later. Because of this doubt, however, his exoneration will not extinguish his civil liability. Thus, the
civil liability is not extinguished by acquittal where the same is based on reasonable doubt as only
preponderance of evidence is required in civil cases, or where the court has expressly declared that
the liability of the accused is not criminal but only civil in nature.18

In Banal vs. Tadeo, Jr.,19 we declared:

.1s1

While an act or omission is felonious because it is punishable by law, it gives rise to civil
liability not so much because it is a crime but because it caused damage to another. Viewing
things pragmatically, we can readily see that what gives rise to the civil liability is really the
obligation and moral duty of everyone to repair or make whole the damage caused to
another by reason of s own act or omission, done intentionally or negligently, whether or not
the same be punishable by law.

It has been satisfactorily established that Banco Filipino suffered damage in the amount of
P176,145.25 representing the fictitious deposits posted by Glicerio Balo, Jr. and systematically
withdrawn through the passbook of petitioner Abejuela. Although Abejuela, was unaware of the
criminal workings in the mind of Balo, he nevertheless unwittingly contributed to their eventual
consummation by recklessly entrusting his passbook to Balo and by signing the withdrawal slips.
Abejuela failed to exercise prudence and care. Therefore, he must be held civilly accountable.

WHEREFORE, on reasonable doubt, Benjamin Abejuela is hereby ACQUITTED of the complex


crime of estafa thru falsification of commercial documents. However, the writ of preliminary
attachment issued by the Regional Trial Court of Leyte on May 29, 1979 against petitioner's
properties and those of his co-accused Glicerio Balo, Jr. to satisfy their civil obligation in the amount
of P176,145.25 and which was subsequently made permanent by the said court stands. No
pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
Gutierrez, Jr. and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.
Bidin, J., concur in the result.

Separate Opinions

FELICIANO, J., concurring and dissenting:

I quite agree with the holding of the Chief Justice's ponencia that Benjamin Abejuela must be held
civilly accountable and making permanent the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court
against Abejuela's properties and those of his coaccused Glicerio Balo, Jr. to satisfy their civil
obligation in the amount of P 176,145.25.

At the same time, I submit, with respect, that Abejuela should not be completely exonerated of
criminal liability. The facts in this case appear so similar as to be practically on all fours with the facts
in Samson v. Court of Appeals (103 Phil. 277 [19581). In Samson, the Court held the accused guilty
of "estafa through falsification of commercial documents by reckless negligence." Two (2) out of ten
(10) members of the Court dissented: Reyes, J.B.L., J. and Concepcion, J. As far as I can
determine, however, Samson has not been overruled, expressly or impliedly. Upon the other hand,
the doctrine in Samson was explicitly followed in People v. Rodis, et al. (105 Phil. 1294 [1959]),
where the Court held that the accused could be held liable for the crime of "malversation of public
funds through falsification of a public document by reckless negligence." Much the same doctrine
has been applied in both earlier and subsequent cases: U.S. v. Malesa et al. (14 Phil. 468 [1909])
(Falsification of documents through reckless negligence); People v. Blancas (56 Phil. 801 [19311)
(Unpublished) (Falsification of public document through reckless negligence); People v.
Leopando (C.A.) 36 O.G. 2937 (1938) (Falsification of public document through reckless
negligence); Sarep v. Sandiganbayan (177 SCRA 440 [1989]) (Falsification of public document
through reckless imprudence).

Finally, it might be noted that the ponencia explicitly found Abejuela to have acted with reckless
negligence:

... although Abejuela was unaware of the criminal workings in the mind of Balo, he
nevertheless unwittingly contributed to their eventual consummation by recklessly entrusting
his passbook to Balo and by signing the withdrawal slips. Abejuela failed to exercise
prudence and care. Therefore, he must be held civilly accountable. (Emphasis supplied)

Footnotes

1
Criminal Case No. 3272.

2
TSN, p. 7, July 26, 1983.

3
TSN, p. 17, July 26, 1983; p. 5, August 17, 1983.

4
TSN, pp. 3-4, 6 and 24, July 26, 1983.
5
Original Record, pp. 1-10.

6
Ibid, pp. 94 and 106.

7
Original Record, pp. 287-288.

8
Original Record, pp. 235-236.

9
Original Record, pp. 296-302.

10
Original Record, pp. 480-481.

11
Rollo, pp. 118-125.

12
Rollo, p. 178.

13
Rollo, p. 134.

14
People vs. Lingad, 51 O.G. p. 6191; Emphasis supplied.

15
People vs. Balili, No. L-14044, August 5,1966,17 SCRA 892, 898; Emphasis supplied.

16
Gaerlan vs, Court of Appeals, et al. G.R. No. 57876, November 6, 1989, 179 SCRA 20.

17
Rule 111, Sec. 2 (c)

Padilla vs. Court of Appeals, No. L-39999, May 31, 1984, 129 SCRA 558, citing PNB vs.
18

Catipon, 98 Phil. 286 and De Guzman vs. Alvia, 96 Phil. 558.

19
G.R. Nos. 78911-25. December 11, 1987, 156 SCRA 325, 330.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

GINA A. DOMINGO, G.R. No. 186101


Petitioner,
Present:

- versus - CARPIO, J., Chairperson,


CHICO-NAZARIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, NACHURA, and
Respondent. PERALTA, JJ.

Promulgated:
October 12, 2009
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

This is an appeal from the Decision[1] dated November 24, 2008 of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31158 entitled People of the Philippines v.
Gina A. Domingo, which affirmed the Decision[2] dated May 21, 2007 in Criminal
Case Nos. Q-98-75971-87 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 80 in Quezon
City. The RTC convicted petitioner Gina Domingo (petitioner) of 17 counts of
Estafa through Falsification of Commercial Document.

The Facts

Private complainant, Remedios D. Perez (Remedios), is a businesswoman and


a valued depositor of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Aurora
Boulevard branch. Petitioner, on the other hand, is a dentist who had a clinic in
Remedios compound.

Being the wife of the best friend of Remedios son, petitioner had a close
relationship with Remedios and her family.
On June 15, 1995, Remedios accompanied petitioner to BPI because the latter
wanted to open an account therein. Remedios then introduced petitioner to the banks
staff and officers. Soon thereafter, petitioner frequented Remedios office and
volunteered to deposit her checks in her bank account at BPI.

Sometime in October 1996, Remedios wanted to buy a car thinking that she
already had a substantial amount in her account. Thus, she went to BPI to withdraw
two hundred thousand pesos (PhP 200,000). To her surprise, however, she found out
that her money had already been withdrawn. The withdrawals were effected through
18 encashment slips bearing her forged signatures reaching the amount of eight
hundred thirty-eight thousand pesos (PhP 838,000). She denied having affixed her
signatures on the encashment slips used.

Testimonies showed that on several occasions beginning September 18, 1995


until October 18, 1996, petitioner presented a number of encashment slips of various
amounts to BPI, and by virtue of which she was able to withdraw huge amounts of
money from the checking account of the complainant. She deposited the bigger
portion of these amounts to her own account and pocketed some of them, while also
paying the rest to Skycable. The transactions were processed by four tellers of BPI,
namely: Regina Ramos, Mary Antonette Pozon, Sheila Ferranco, and Kim Rillo who
verified the signatures of the complainant on the questioned encashment slips.

As synthesized by the trial court, the transactions are as follows:

Amount Amount paid


Amount
withdrawn to Skycable Name of Teller
Date of deposited to
via (PS) or who processed
encashment slip accuseds
encashment Pocketed (Po) the transaction
account
slip by the accused
1. Sept. 8, 1995 P10,000.00 P8,000.00 P2,000.00 (Po) Regina Ramos
2. Sept. 18, 1995 30,000.00 20,000.00 10,000.00 (Po)
3. Feb. 12, 1996 30,000.00 28,550.00 1,450.00 (PS) Shiela Ferranco
4. Feb. 15, 1996 Mary Antonette
20,000.00 20,000.00 none
Pozon
5. March 21, 1996 40,000.00 30,000.00 10,000.00 (Po) Shiela Ferranco
6. April 8, 1996 40,000.00 35,000.00 5,000.00 (Po) Regina Ramos
7. April 10, 1996 30,000.00 30,000.00 none Shiela Ferranco
8. April 29, 1996 40,000.00 34,500.00 5,500.00 (Po) Regina Ramos
9. May 13, 1996 40,000.00 38,550.00 1,450.00 (PS) Shiela Ferranco
10. May 24, 1996 Mary Antonette
50,000.00 50,000.00 none
Pozon
11. June 7, 1996 40,000.00 40,000.00 none Shiela Ferranco
12. June 26, 1996 45,000.00 45,000.00 none Shiela Ferranco
13. July 5, 1996 Mary Antonette
25,000.00 25,000.00 none
Pozon
14. July 17, 1996 Mary Antonette
40,000.00 40,000.00 none
Pozon
15. Aug. 5, 1996 50,000.00 48,550.00 1,450.00 (PS) Shiela Ferranco
16. Sept. 17, 1996 35,000.00 35,000.00 none Shiela Ferranco
17. Oct. 4, 1996 40,000.00 40,000.00 none Kim P. Rillo
18. Oct. 18, 1996 40,000.00 40,000.00 none Kim P. Rillo

After having been apprised of the illegal transactions of petitioner on


complainants account, the latter complained to the bank for allowing the withdrawal
of the money with the use of falsified encashment slips and demanded that the
amount illegally withdrawn be returned. She was required by BPI to submit checks
bearing her genuine signature for examination by the Philippine National Police
(PNP) Crime Laboratory. After examination, Josefina dela Cruz of the PNP Crime
Laboratory came up with a finding that complainants signatures on the questioned
encashment slips had been forged. Only then did the bank agree to pay her the
amount of PhP 645,000 representing a portion of the amount illegally withdrawn
with the use of the forged encashment slips.

In her defense, petitioner testified that she is a dentist, practicing her


profession in her house at No. 21, Alvarez Street, Cubao, Quezon City. She further
stated that she knew Remedios as the owner of the house that she and her husband
were renting at No. 3 New Jersey Street, New Manila, Quezon City. She declared
that she never used Perez as an alias or nickname and that the signatures appearing
on the questioned encashment slips were not hers.

Petitioner, however, admitted that she was once a depositor of BPI Aurora
Boulevard branch, having opened an account in said bank sometime in June 1995.
She had been maintaining said account until she was arrested in 1998. She used to
frequent the bank three times a week or as the need arose for her bank transactions,
for which reason, she and the bank tellers had become familiar with each other. She
knows that, like her, Remedios was also a depositor of BPI Aurora
Boulevard branch, but there was no occasion that they met each other in the bank.

Remedios and BPI filed a complaint before the prosecutors office.


The Information in Criminal Case No. Q-98-75971 reads as follows:
That on or about the 18th day of October 1996, in Quezon City, Philippines, the
above-named accused, a private individual, by means of false pretenses and/or
fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the
fraud and by means of falsification of commercial document did, then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud Remedios D. Perez and/or the Bank
of the Philippine Islands represented in the following manner, to wit: said accused
falsified or caused to be falsified an encashment slip of Bank of the Philippine
Islands dated October 18, 1996 for P40,000.00, Philippine Currency, by then and
there filling up said encashment slip and signing the name of one Remedios D.
Perez, a depositor of said bank under Account No. 3155-0572-61, thereby making
it appear, as it did appear that said encashment slip is genuine in all respect, when
in truth and in fact said accused well knew that Remedios D. Perez never signed
the said encashment slip; that once said encashment slip was forged and falsified in
the manner set forth, accused pretending to be the said Remedios D. Perez used it
to withdraw the aforesaid sum of P40,000.00 from the latters account, and once, in
possession of the said amount of money misappropriated, misapplied and converted
the same to her own personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the
offended party.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

The allegations in the Information in Criminal Case Nos. Q-98-75972-87 are all
substantially the same as those in Criminal Case No. Q-98-75971, except for the
dates of the commission of the crime or dates of the BPI encashment slips and the
amounts involved, to wit:

Criminal Case No. Date of the commission of Amount Involved the crime/encashment slip
1. Q-98-75972 October 4, 1996 P40,000.00
2. Q-98-75973 September 4, 1996 35,000.00
3. Q-98-75974 August 5, 1996 50,000.00
4. Q-98-75975 July 17, 1996 40,000.00
5. Q-98-75976 July 5, 1996 25,000.00
6. Q-98-75977 June 26, 1996 45,000.00
7. Q-98-75978 June 7, 1996 40,000.00
8. Q-98-75979 May 24, 1996 50,000.00
9. Q-98-75980 May 13, 1996 40,000.00
10. Q-98-75981 April 29, 1996 40,000.00
11. Q-98-75982 April 10, 1996 30,000.00
12. Q-98-75983 April 8, 1996 40,000.00
13. Q-98-75984 March 21, 1996 40,000.00
14. Q-98-75985 February 15, 1996 20,000.00
15. Q-98-75986 February 12, 1996 30,000.00
16. Q-98-75987 September 18, 1995 30,000.00[4]

Upon motion by the prosecution, the 17 cases were consolidated and tried
jointly by the trial court. When arraigned, petitioner pleaded not guilty to each of the
crimes charged in the 17 Informations. Trial on the merits ensued with the
prosecution presenting seven witnesses, namely: Remedios; Arturo Amores,
General Manager of BPI, Aurora Blvd. Branch; Regina Ramos, Mary Antonette
Pozon, Sheila Ferranco, and Kim P. Rillo, all bank tellers of BPI, Aurora Blvd.
Branch; and Josefina Dela Cruz, a Document Examiner III of the PNP Crime
Laboratory. On the part of the defense, it presented petitioner herself and Carmelita
Tanajora, petitioners house helper.

Ruling of the Trial Court

On May 21, 2007, the RTC rendered its Decision, the dispositive portion of
which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, joint judgment is hereby rendered finding the


accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged in Criminal
[Case] Nos. Q-98-75971; Q-98-75972; Q-98-75973; Q-98-75974; Q-98-75975; Q-
98-75976; Q-98-75977; Q-98-75978; Q-98-75979; Q-98-75980; Q-98-75981; Q-
98-75982; Q-98-75983; Q-98-75984; Q-98-75985; Q-98-75986 and Q-98-75987.
Accordingly, and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, she is hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment, as follows:

1. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75971 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

2. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75972 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;
3. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75973 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

4. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75974 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Eight (8) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

5. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75975 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

6. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75976 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Six (6) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

7. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75977 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Eight (8) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

8. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75978 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

9. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75979 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Eight (8) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

10. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75980 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

11. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75981 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

12. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75982 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Six (6) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

13. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75983 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

14. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75984 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Seven (7) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;
15. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75985 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Six (6) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

16. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-75986 Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Six (6) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

17. In Criminal Case No. Q-98-7598[7] Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months
and Eleven (11) Days of [prision] correccional to Six (6) Years and
Twenty One (21) Days of prision mayor;

Further, the accused is hereby ordered to pay BPI and/or Remedios Perez
the total sum of Six Hundred Thirty Five Thousand Pesos (P635,000.00), as civil
indemnity, plus six percent (6%) interest per annum from the time of the filing of
these cases, until fully paid.

The bond posted by the accused for her provisional liberty is hereby
canceled.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Ruling of the Appellate Court

On appeal, the CA, in its Decision dated November 24, 2008, disposed of the case
as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Appeal is hereby DISMISSED and the


challenged Joint Decision of the Court a quo is AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.[6]

The CA held that petitioner was the one who authored the crimes of which she was
convicted reasoning that she was the only person who stood to be benefited by the
falsification of the document in question; thus, the presumption that she is the
material author of the falsification is present.

Moreover, petitioners theory that the crimes committed were perpetrated by


the bank tellers or is an inside job cannot be sustained because of the lack of any
evidence showing that the tellers harbored any ill motive against her. The CA
emphasized that the defense of denial, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing
evidence, is negative and self-serving and merits no weight in law; it cannot be given
greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testified on
affirmative matter.

On March 4, 2009, petitioner filed a timely appeal before this Court.

The Issues

Petitioner interposes in the present appeal the following assignment of errors:

ERROR IN THE APPRECIATION OF THE EVIDENCE, DOCUMENTARY


AND TESTIMONIAL, WERE COMMITTED BY THE LOWER COURT IN
THE PROMULGATION AND ISSUANCE OF THE SUBJECT DECISION;

II

ERROR IN THE APPLICATION OF THE LAW, SUBSTANTIVE AND


PROCEDURAL, WERE COMMITTED IN THE PROMULGATION OF THE
SUBJECT DECISION.

Our Ruling

The appeal has no merit.

Substantially, the issues raised boil down to the question of whether or not the
evidence adduced by the prosecution is sufficient to establish the guilt of petitioner
beyond reasonable doubt.
Elements of Falsification of Commercial Documents are Present

Petitioner contends that the decision of the lower court is not supported by the
evidence on record and that this evidence cannot sustain in law the requirements of
proof beyond reasonable doubt for the crime for which she was charged.

Specifically, petitioner claims that, as a matter of policy, the bank personnel


verified the signature cards of private complainant Remedios before any encashment
can be drawn against the account of Remedios. Thus, petitioner contends that the
signatures in the encashment slips are genuine as found by the staff and manager of
BPI and that the cases filed against her are the products of inside jobs. Further, she
argues that the results of the examinations conducted by Josefina dela Cruz of the
PNP Crime Laboratory lack evidentiary value, since the report only stated that the
signatures on the Encashment/Withdrawal Slips were different from the genuine
signatures of Remedios based on the checks, which contained the genuine signatures
of Remedios, but did not state that the signatures belong to petitioner.

The contentions are flawed.

Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) punishes any private individual
who commits any of the acts of falsification enumerated in Art. 171 of the Code in
any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial
document. The acts of falsification enumerated in Art. 171 are:

Art. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee or notary or ecclesiastic


minister. The penalty of prision mayor and a fine not to exceed 5,000 pesos shall
be imposed upon any public officer, employee or notary who, taking advantage of
his official position, shall falsify a document by committing any of the following
acts:

1. Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature, or rubric;


2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or
proceeding when they did not in fact participate;
3. Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding
statements other than those in fact made by them;
4. Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;
5. Altering true dates;
6. Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which
changes its meaning;
7. Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of
an original document when no such original exists, or including in such
copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine
original; or
8. Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a
protocol, registry or official book. (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied.)

Essentially, the elements of the crime of Falsification of Commercial


Document under Art. 172 are: (1) that the offender is a private individual; (2) that
the offender committed any of the acts of falsification; and (3) that the act of
falsification is committed in a commercial document.

As borne by the records, all the elements of the crime are present in the instant
case. Petitioner is a private individual who presented to the tellers of BPI 17 forged
encashment slips on different dates and of various amounts. The questioned
encashment slips were falsified by petitioner by filling out the same and signing the
name of the private complainant, thereby making it appear that Remedios signed the
encashment slips and that they are genuine in all respects, when in fact petitioner
knew very well that Remedios never signed the subject encashment slips.

In her testimony, Remedios categorically denied having filled out and signed
any of the subject encashment slips on the dates indicated on them. Her testimony is
further strengthened by the testimonies of the bank manager and the bank tellers,
who facilitated the banking transactions carried out by petitioner with their branch.
Their testimonies were coherent and consistent in narrating that it was indeed
petitioner who presented the encashment slips, received the proceeds of the
transactions, and/or caused the transfer of the money to her own bank account.
Moreover, the testimony of Josefina dela Cruz (dela Cruz) bolsters the
findings of the trial court that the alleged signatures of Remedios in the encashment
slips are forged, to wit:

Q: Using the method you employed in the examination of questioned and standard
signatures of Remedios Perez, will you please elaborate the study you
made?
A: After conducting the examination, I reduced my examination to writing and my
findings are as follows:
Scientific comparative examination and analysis of the questioned documents and
the submitted standard signature reveals significant divergences in
handwriting movement, stroke structure and other individual handwriting
characteristics.
Q: You mentioned divergences in handwriting movement, will you please point to
this Honorable Court this significant divergences of differences in the
strokes of handwriting?
A: First of all the manner of execution. The manner of execution is slow while in
the execution of the standard, it is moderate. The line quality in the
questioned signature, there is presence of tremors in the strokes while in the
standard signatures, all the strokes are smooth. In the capital R in the
questioned signature, there is presence of re-trace strokes while in the
standard signature, there is no re-trace strokes. In the downward portion of
the letter R in the questioned signature, the direction is downward while in
the standard it is horizontal. Now the angular strokes following the capital
R is traced in the middle part of the letter R, the downward portion while in
the standard, it is found in the last stroke of capital R. In the middle name
letter D, the shape is more rounded on the questioned signature but in the
standard it is more elongated. In the loop of the family name, it is more
rounded in questioned signature[;] while in the standard, it is more
elongated. With that, I was able to conclude that the questioned signatures
Remedios D. Perez marked Q-1 to Q-36 standard signatures of Remedios
Perez marked S-1 to S-27 inclusive were not written by one and the same
person.[7]

Typically, such inconspicuous divergences noted by dela Cruz on the


questioned signatures could not be easily detected by untrained eyes or by one who
had no formal training in handwriting examination; thus, resort to the opinion of an
expert is imperative. This explains why the bank tellers who processed the illegal
transactions entered into by the petitioner on the account of Remedios failed to notice
the forgery or falsification. As a result, they allowed the encashment by petitioner.
The training or skill, if any, of the tellers in detecting forgeries is usually minimal or
inadequate and their opinion is generally unreliable. It was, therefore, prudent on the
part of the bank to seek the opinion of an expert to determine the genuineness of the
signatures in the encashment slips.

As found by the trial court, the totality of the testimonies of Remedios, dela
Cruz, the handwriting expert, and the bank tellers bears the earmarks of truth that
the questioned encashment slips had been falsified by petitioner and that they were
presented to the bank in order to defraud the bank or holder of the account.

Additionally, the Court has held that in gauging the relative weight to be given
to the opinion of handwriting experts, the following standards are adhered to:

We have held that the value of the opinion of a handwriting expert depends
not upon his mere statements of whether a writing is genuine or false, but upon the
assistance he may afford in pointing out distinguishing marks, characteristics and
discrepancies in and between genuine and false specimens of writing which would
ordinarily escape notice or detection from an unpracticed observer. The test of
genuineness ought to be the resemblance, not the formation of letters in some other
specimens but to the general character of writing, which is impressed on it as the
involuntary and unconscious result of constitution, habit or other permanent course,
and is, therefore itself permanent.[8]

Moreover, it cannot be said that since none of the prosecution witnesses saw
the falsification actually done by petitioner, she cannot be held liable. The bank
tellers who processed the illegal transactions of petitioner involving the account of
Remedios were consistent in their testimonies that it was petitioner herself who
presented the encashment slips and received the proceeds of the slips. In such a
situation, the applicable rule is that if a person has in his possession a falsified
document and he made use of it, taking advantage of it and profiting from it, the
presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification.[9] In the instant case,
petitioner has failed to overthrow the presumption.

Furthermore, contrary to petitioners assertions, the questioned encashment


slips are commercial documents. Commercial documents are, in general, documents
or instruments which are used by merchants or businessmen to promote or facilitate
trade.[10] An encashment slip necessarily facilitates bank transactions for it allows
the person whose name and signature appears thereon to encash a check and
withdraw the amount indicated therein.

Even more, petitioner would have this Court believe that the crime of
falsification of a commercial document did not exist because Remedios and BPI did
not suffer any damage. Such argument is specious. It has been ruled that damage or
intent to cause damage is not an element in falsification of a commercial document,
because what the law seeks to repress is the prejudice to the public confidence in
such documents.[11]

Therefore, the acts of petitioner clearly satisfy all the essential elements of the
crime of Falsification of Commercial Document.

Crime of Falsification was a Necessary Means to Commit Estafa

It has been held that whenever a person carries out on a public, official, or
commercial document any of the acts enumerated in Art. 171 of the RPC as a
necessary means to perpetrate another crime, such as estafa or malversation, a
complex crime is formed by the two crimes.[12]

Under Art. 48 of the RPC, a complex crime refers to: (1) the commission of
at least two grave or less grave felonies that must both (or all) be the result of a single
act; or (2) one offense must be a necessary means for committing the other (or
others).

The falsification of a public, official, or commercial document may be a


means of committing estafa, because before the falsified document is actually
utilized to defraud another, the crime of falsification has already been consummated,
damage or intent to cause damage not being an element of the crime of falsification
of public, official, or commercial document. In other words, the crime of
falsification has already existed. Actually utilizing that falsified public, official, or
commercial document to defraud another is estafa. But the damage is caused by the
commission of estafa, not by the falsification of the document. Therefore, the
falsification of the public, official, or commercial document is only a necessary
means to commit estafa.[13]

In general, the elements of estafa are: (1) that the accused defrauded another
(a) by abuse of confidence or (b) by means of deceit; and (2) that damage or
prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third
person. Deceit is the false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or
conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should
have been disclosed; and which deceives or is intended to deceive another so that he
shall act upon it, to his legal injury.

In the case before us, all the elements of estafa are present. Once petitioner
acquired the possession of the amounts she encashed by means of deceit, she
misappropriated, misapplied, and converted the same to her own personal use and
benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the private complainant and BPI.

Without a doubt, the falsification of the encashment slips was a necessary


means to commit estafa. At that time, the offense of falsification is already
considered consummated even before the falsified document is used to defraud
another.

Therefore, the trial court aptly convicted petitioner for the complex crime of
Estafa through Falsification of Commercial Document.

Defense of Denial Is Untenable


It is a hornbook doctrine that the defense of denial, unsubstantiated by clear
and convincing evidence, is negative and self-serving, and merits no weight in law
and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible
witnesses who testified on affirmative matters.[14]

In the instant case, petitioners defense of denial crumbles in the face of the
positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses during trial. As enunciated
by this Court, [p]ositive identification where categorical and consistent and not
attended by any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses on the matter
prevails over alibi and denial.[15] The defense has miserably failed to show any
evidence of ill motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses as to falsely testify
against her.

Thus, between the categorical statements of the prosecution witnesses, on the


one hand, and bare denials of the accused, on the other hand, the former must,
perforce, prevail.[16]

We accord the trial courts findings the probative weight it deserves in the
absence of any compelling reason to discredit its findings. It is a fundamental judicial
dictum that the findings of fact of the trial court are not disturbed on appeal, except
when it overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of
weight and substance that would have materially affected the outcome of the case.
We find that the trial court did not err in convicting petitioner of the crime of Estafa
through Falsification of Commercial Document.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED for failure to sufficiently show reversible
error in the assailed decision. The Decision dated November 24, 2008 of the CA in
CA-G.R. CR No. 31158 is AFFIRMED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision 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

CERTIFICATION

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

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Acting Chief Justice

[1]
Rollo, pp. 56-78. Penned by Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan Vidal and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose
L. Sabio, Jr. and Jose C. Reyes, Jr.
[2]
Id. at 38-54. Penned by Judge Ma. Theresa Dela Torre-Yadao.
[3]
Id. at 38-39.
[4]
Id. at 39.
[5]
Id. at 52-54.
[6]
Id. at 78.
[7]
Id. at 45-46.
[8]
Eduarte v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 105944, February 9, 1996, 253 SCRA 391, 399; citations omitted.
[9]
Pacasum v. People, G.R. No. 180314, April 16, 2009.
[10]
Monteverde v. People, G.R. No. 139610, August 12, 2002, 387 SCRA 196.
[11]
See Samson v. Court of Appeals, 103 Phil. 277 (1958).
[12]
Ambito v. People, G.R. No. 127327, February 13, 2009.
[13]
2 Reyes, THE REVISED PENAL CODE 226 (2006).
[14]
People v. Aguilar, G.R. No. 177749, December 17, 2007, 540 SCRA 509; People v. Castillo, G.R. No. 118912,
May 28, 2004, 430 SCRA 40.
[15]
People v. Abolidor, G.R. No. 147231, February 18, 2004, 423 SCRA 260.
[16]
People v. Bello, G.R. No. 92597, October 4, 1994, 237 SCRA 347; People v. Carizo, G.R. No. 96510, July 6, 1994,
233 SCRA 687.