Friday, February 19, 2016

Estafa; elements of estafa with abuse of confidence


“x x x. 
The foregoing findings clearly support private complainant's claim regarding the purpose of the money, that is, that petitioner received the money in trust to be used as proof of her financial liquidity. The Trust Undertaking, which was regularly executed, shows that the agreement was not a loan. This places the transaction within the purview of Art. 315, the relevant paragraphs of which read:

Art. 315Swindling (estafa).Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by:
1st. The penalty of prisiόn correccional in its maximum period to prisiόn 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. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of the other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prisiόn mayor or reclusiόn temporal, as the case may be;

x x x provided that in the x x x cases mentioned, the fraud be committed by any of the following means:

1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely:

x x x x

(b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another, money, goods or any other personal property 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 such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having received such money, goods, or other property

 The elements of estafa with abuse of confidence under Art. 315 1(b) are:

1. That the 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;
2. That there be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender, or denial on his part of such receipt;
3. That such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and
4. That there is a demand made by the offended party to the offender.

All these elements are present in the case at bar. Petitioner admitted having received in trust the amount of PhP 100,000 from Castro; the amount was misappropriated or converted; such misappropriation or conversion was to the prejudice of Castro; and Castro demanded payment from petitioner.

Petitioner asserts that upon receipt of the amount, it was transferred to her and she was not prohibited to use or spend the same.[16] The very same money cannot be returned but only the same amount. This makes the transaction a loan and not a trust agreement; thus, her liability is merely civil and not criminal.

Petitioners arguments are not meritorious. Art. 315 1(b) explicitly includes money in its scope. The nature of money, that is, the exact bills and coins received in trust cannot be returned, was already considered by the law. As long as the money was received in trust, on commission, for administration, or under an obligation to return, failure to account for it upon demand is punishable under Art. 315 1(b). The Solicitor General added:

In a trust agreement, the transfer of the property to the trustee is mere physical possession and not juridical possession. Unlike in a contract of loan where the debtor acquires juridical possession and is technically the owner of the amount, in a trust, the obligation of the trustee is fiduciary in nature, i.e. to take care of the thing strictly for the benefit of the trustee in accordance with the purpose of the express trust.[17]

In the case at bar, the amount was received by the petitioner for the sole purpose of using it as show money to the bank. The money was entrusted to her for a particular purpose. Hence, she did not acquire the right to dispose or spend the amount as she sees fit; she had the obligation to account for said amount.

Furthermore, the Trust Undertaking expressly states that the amount was received by the petitioner not as a loan or credit. Under the parol evidence rule,[18] petitioner cannot vary the terms of the written agreement by claiming that the amount was received pursuant to a contract of sale of their lot.
X x x.”