[G.R. No. 11923. November 29, 1916. ]
THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. SANTIAGO DEL CASTILLO, Defendant-Appellant.
Francis B. Mahoney for Appellant.
Attorney-General Avanceña for Appellee.
1. ESTAFA; FRAUDULENTLY OBTAINING TITLE DEEDS TO REAL PROPERTY. — Where an owner is unlawfully deprived of the title deeds to his real estate by false and fraudulent representation followed by a refusal of the person so obtaining them to return them on demand or to account for them in any way, the crime of estafa is committed.
2. ID.; ID.; VALUE OF TITLE DEEDS. — Title deeds to real estate have some value; and if that value does not appear in the evidence it will be assumed that it was less than 250 pesetas.
3. ID.; ID.; ID. — The value of title deeds to real estate will not, in the absence of proof, he assumed to be the same as the value of the land to which they refer.
4. CRIMINAL LAW; APPEAL; NECESSITY OF OBJECTING IN LOWER COURT; DEFECTS IN FORM OF INFORMATION. — The defects in the form of an information are waived unless opportunity is taken advantage of in the trial court.
D E C I S I O N
MORELAND, J. :
The appellant in this case was charged with estafa by obtaining from one Juan Tudas the title deeds of his lands upon the false representation that he was qualified in law to represent him in a civil case in a justice court which was likely to be brought concerning the real estate affected by the title deeds referred to; and, upon and by means of these representations, obtained possession of the title deeds and refused to redeliver them on demand of the owner.
There is no doubt in the case that the accused obtained possession of the deeds referred to by false representations and he refused to redeliver them after the owner had found that he had been deceived and had duly demanded their return. The defense offered by the appellant that he lost them we do not think is sustained by the evidence. The trial court found against him in this contention and we are satisfied that the evidence fully supports the finding. The appellant seems to be a confirmed criminal and the trial court placed very little confidence in his testimony.
Certain objections are made in this court against the form of the information; but they not having been raised in the court below and the evidence offered by the prosecution having cured those defects, if any, the objections come too late here.
The main contention of the appellant is that no value was placed on the title deeds and that therefore it is impossible to convict the appellant of estafa, as one of the essential elements of that crime is that the complaining party must have lost something; that is, been damaged in a specified amount.
This is not the rule in this jurisdiction. We have held in several cases that papers of this character have some value; and that if value is not proved on the trial it will be assumed that it was less than 250 pesetas. (U.S. v. De la Cruz, 12 Phil. Rep., 87; U.S. v. Abad, 23 Phil. Rep., 504.) Such value brings the case within paragraph 1 of article 534 of the Penal Code which declares that a person who commits estafa with reference to property the value of which does not exceed 250 pesetas shall be punished with arresto mayor in its minimum and medium degrees. Such being the case appellant is in error in his claim that the value of the title deeds not having been proved the case against him fails.
We agree with the appellant that the value of the title deeds cannot be assumed to be the same as the value of the real estate to which they refer. The fact that the complainant lost his title deeds does not mean necessarily that he lost his real estate or that the loss damaged him to the extent of the value of such real estate. This case differs from the where the thing in controversy is a negotiable instrument such as a promissory note or check. (U.S. v. Tan Jenjua, 1 Phil. Rep., 38; U.S. v. Wickersham, 20 Phil. Rep., 440; U.S. v. Raboy, 25 Phil. Rep., 1.)
The judgment appealed from is modified and the accused is sentenced to four months of arresto mayor. The rest of the sentence imposed is affirmed, except as to the indemnification, and as to that, it is reversed. So ordered.
Torres, Johnson, Carson, Trent, and Araullo, JJ., concur.
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