Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Estafa; when proof of deceit, bad faith not required - G.R. No. 199150

G.R. No. 199150

"x x x.

The Issue

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

The petitioner prays for her acquittal for the prosecution’s failure to prove the element of deceit. She argues that her actions prior to, during and after the filing of theestafa case against her negated deceit, ill-motive and/or bad faith to abscond with her obligation to the private complainant. She cites the cases of People v. Singson[6] andPeople v. Ojeda[7] where the Court acquitted the accused for the failure of the prosecution to prove the element of deceit.

The Court’s Ruling

Except for the penalty imposed, we find no reversible error in the CA’s decision.

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

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

Nevertheless, we find the modification of the penalty imposed to be in order to conform to the prevailing jurisprudence. The second paragraph of Article 315 provides the appropriate penalty if the value of the thing, or the amount defrauded, exceeds P22,000.00:

1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years.

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

x x x."