[G.R. No. 10675. February 28, 1916. ]
THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. YAP TIAN JONG, Defendant-Appellant.
Alfredo Chicote, Jose Arnaiz and R. del Castillo y Tirol for Appellant.
Attorney-General Avanceña for Appellee.
1. ESTAFA; RETAINING GOODS ERRONEOUSLY DELIVERED BY CARRIER. — By mistake a box of sinamay, consigned to a merchant at Manila, was put off a coasting steamer at an intermediate port and turned over to the accused, together with a shipment of goods duly consigned to him. The accused took possession of the box thus delivered to him by mistake, converted it to his own use, and upon demand being made some days later by the captain of the ship for its return, denied that he had received it and declared that he knew nothing whatever about it. Held: That the accused is guilty of the crime of estafa as defined and penalized in subsection 5 of article 535 of the Penal Code.
2. CARRIERS; ACTION BY MASTER OF VESSEL FOR CONVERSION AND UNLAWFUL DETENTION OF GOODS. — The captain of the vessel to whose possession this box of goods had been intrusted for transportation, had sufficient interest therein to institute and maintain proceedings against the accused, both civil and criminal, for its conversion and unlawful detention, after due demand had been made for its return.
D E C I S I O N
CARSON, J. :
This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Capiz convicting the defendant and appellant of the crime of estafa. The commission of the crime is charged in the information as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 26th of July, 1914, in the municipality of Ibajay, Province of Capiz, P.I., a case containing a number of bolts of sinamay cloth of the value of P625 was by mistake unloaded from the steamship Batangueño by reason of its being marked the same as, or similar to, certain cases consigned to the defendant (Y. J.) and together with these latter, was taken to defendant’s store; there the accused, after opening the box and discovering that it contained bolts of sinamay cloth, maliciously, fraudulently and criminally, and thereby prejudicing another person, appropriated to himself the said box and the bolts of sinamay without the consent of their owner or the person having charge of the goods, well knowing that they belonged to another shipper or that they formed part of the freight of the said steamship Batangueño, and denied having received the said goods."cralaw virtua1aw library
The interisland steamer Batangueño, plying between Manila and Capiz, received at Manila a shipment of goods consigned to the accused, Yap Tian Jong, at Ibajay, Capiz Province. The bill of lading (Exhibit A) shows that the consignment consisted of 18 packages or boxes, each of which bore the marks "Y. J.," letters presumably representing the initials of the accused. Before reaching Ibajay the Batangueño took aboard at New Washington, Province of Capiz, a box of sinamay valued at P625, consigned by Sy Jong Kuang to another Chinese merchant in Manila (Exhibit B). This box also bears the marks "Y.J." and through mistake, possibly due to the similarity to the marks on defendant’s goods, it was put off the vessel at Ibajay, with the rest of the shipment of goods consigned there. The mistake was discovered after the boat left Ibajay and before it reached Romblon, the next port, and on arriving at Romblon, the captain telegraphed back to Ibajay with regard to the missing box of sinamay. When the Batangueño stopped at ibajay on her next trip some 10 or 12 days later, the accused, in response to inquiries of the captain, denied that he had received the box and declared that he knew nothing whatever about it.
The contention of the prosecution in the court below was that this box of sinamay cloth was unloaded by mistake at Ibajay, together with the goods consigned to the accused, who took possession of it and retained it, despite the demands made upon him for its return by the captain of the ship, into whose care it had been intrusted by its owner.
If the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution can be accepted as true, there can be no reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused. That the box was put off by mistake at Ibajay is not disputed and is not subject to dispute, and three witnesses who were at that time engaged in discharging the cargo of the Batangueño, and one who was in the employ of the accused, testified positively to the delivery of the box in question to the accused, together with the other goods consigned to him on board the Batangueño.
While it appears that two of these witnesses were taken into the employ of the captain of the Batangueño since the incident occurred with reference to which they testified, it does not necessarily follow, as contended by counsel for the accused, that all that they said on the witness stand was false and unworthy of credence. It is true that they appear to have been "willing" witnesses, and that their readiness to appear and testify may have resulted, in part, from the fact that they were at that time in the employ of the captain of the Batangueño, but the trial judge, who saw and heard these as well as all the other witnesses testify, was of the opinion that, in substance, their testimony was true, and we find nothing in the record which justifies us in disturbing his conclusions in this regard. Indeed, making all allowances for the possible interest that these witnesses may have had in testifying on behalf of the captain of the vessel, who himself was doubtless interested in fixing the responsibility for the loss of the box of sinamay, we are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that it came into the possession of the accused in the manner and form charged by the prosecution, and that, notwithstanding the obligation which rested upon him to return the box to its owner or the proper representative of the owner upon demand, he refused to do so and denied having received it, declaring at the same time that he knew nothing whatever in regard to it.
With regard to the criticisms of counsel for appellant directed against the finding of the trial judge wherein he observes that the preponderance of the testimony is in favor of the prosecution, it is sufficient to say that while this finding, taken by itself, might seem to indicate that the judge found the accused guilty upon a preponderance of the evidence, nevertheless, the other findings set forth in the opinion clearly disclose that the trial judge gave no credit whatever to the testimony of the witnesses for the defense, and accepted as true beyond a reasonable doubt the testimony of the witnesses called for the prosecution.
We agree with the trial judge that the evidence clearly discloses a violation of the express provisions of subsection 5 of article 535 of the Penal Code, in that, "to the prejudice of another he converted to his own use the box of sinamay, received by him under such circumstances as to give rise to an obligation to return or make delivery of the same" to the owner upon demand, and that he "denied having received these goods."cralaw virtua1aw library
We find no merit in the contention that the captain of the vessel, to whose possession the box of sinamay was intrusted for transportation to Manila, could not lawfully file a complaint charging the defendant with the crime of estafa. The fact that this box of goods had been intrusted to the possession of the captain of the Batangueño for transportation was sufficient in itself to maintain his right to proceed against the accused, both civilly and criminally, for its conversion and unlawful detention, after due demand had been made for its return by the captain, who had a perfect right to its possession, for the purpose of its transportation aboard his ship to the original consignee.
We find no error in the proceedings prejudicial to the rights of the accused. The judgment entered in the court below, convicting and sentencing the appellant, should, therefore, be affirmed, with the costs of this instance against him. So ordered.
Arellano, C.J., Torres, Moreland and Trent, JJ., concur.
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