Sim Jr v. CA: 159280 : May 18, 2004 : J. Ynares-Santiago : First
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 159280 : May 18, 2004]
AUGUSTO SIM, JR., Petitioner, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and The PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal by Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45
of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is a Decision1 by the Court of Appeals (CA) dated May 21, 2003 affirming with modification the
Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 34, finding petitioner
Augusto Sim, Jr. and co-accused Elison Villaflor guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code, instead
of Article 315, paragraph 1 (b) thereof, as well as its Resolution3 dated August 1, 2003 denying appellants Motion for Reconsideration.
Petitioner and co-accused Elison Villaflor
were sentenced to suffer an indeterminate prison term of four (4) years and two
(2) months of prisin correccional,
as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusin
temporal, as maximum, and to indemnify the private complainant Jay Byron
Ilagan the sum of P480,000.00 representing the amount paid for the purchase of
the car that was impounded by the authorities.
Elison Villaflor and Augusto Sim, Jr., were formally charged with
the crime of Estafa in an Information dated September 6, 1999 which reads:4 cralawred
That on or about May 2, 1998, in the City of Manila, Philippines,
the said accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping
one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud
Jay Byron Ilagan in the following manner, to wit: the said accused by means of
false manifestations which they made to said Jay Byron Ilagan to the effect
that they are selling one (1) colored green Nissan Pathfinder pick-up with
motor number PD27-555735 bearing Plate No. BCF-620 in the amount of P480,000.00
registered in the name of Henry Austria, and by means of other similar deceits,
induced and succeeded in inducing said Jay Byron Ilagan to give and deliver, as
in fact he gave and delivered to said accused the amount of P480,000.00 on the
strength of said manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing
that the same were false and fraudulent, as the said car is a stolen car and
they are not the owner, and were made solely, to obtain, as in fact they did
obtain the amount of P480,000.00 which amount once in their possession, with
intent to defraud, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously misappropriated,
misapplied and converted to their own personal use and benefit, to the damage
and prejudice of said Jay Byron Ilagan in the aforesaid amount of P350,000.00,
Contrary to law.
Private complainant Jay Byron Ilagan is a tire supplier whose
store, Marfi Tire Supply, is located along the highway at San Pablo City,
Laguna. He had been dealing with accused Elison Villaflor for twenty years, as
the latter is engaged in the same business of selling tires and rims at 39 C-3
Road, Dagat-Dagatan, Caloocan City.
In March 1998, private complainant talked to Elison somewhere in
Tondo, Manila, and expressed his interest in buying a vehicle.
Elison told him that he knew someone who
sells vehicles at a cheap price, and that he had bought a Toyota Tamaraw FX at
lower than the market price.
complainant then asked Elison to ask if there was an Isuzu pick-up for sale. A
month later, Elison called private complainant to inform him that he was able
to find a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder. They agreed to inspect the vehicle together
as private complainant wanted to buy it before his birthday on May 31, 1998.5 cralawred
On April 30, 1998, only Elison went to Dagupan City to get the
Nissan Pathfinder from his friend, petitioner Augusto Sim, Jr.
Petitioner told Elison that the Nissan
Pathfinder was given to him by a customer in payment of a debt and had been
used only for a year.
Elison brought the 1997 Nissan Pathfinder to San Pablo City.
Private complainant at first did not like
the vehicle since it was not the brand he was looking for.
Elison said that his kumpadre would look at the vehicle as the latter was also
interested in it.6 cralawred
Private complainant decided to buy the 1997 Nissan Pathfinder at
the agreed price of P480,000.00. The amount was paid in five checks issued by
Fe Ilagan under her account at Solidbank-San Pablo Branch.
One check was dated May 6, 1998 in the sum
of P350,000.00, and four checks in the sum of P32,500.00 each was dated June 6,
July 6, August 6 and September 6, all in 1998.7 cralawred
Elison gave private complainant photocopies of the Certificate of
Registration (C.R.) and Official Receipt (O.R.) issued by the Land
Transportation Office (LTO) showing the name of the owner as one Henry Austria.
While waiting for the processing of the papers, the vehicle was parked at
private complainants place.
week, Elison brought the deed of sale which private complainant signed without
the signature of the owner, Henry Austria.
After private complainant signed the deed of sale, he gave it back to
Elison to be brought back to Dagupan City for signing by the owner/vendor and
transfer of registration in the name of private complainant.8 cralawred
On June 7, 1998, Elison returned and delivered to private
complainant the deed of sale signed by the owner/vendor, together with the new
C.R. and O.R. issued by the LTO of Lingayen, Pangasinan in the name of private
The checks given by private complainant in payment of the vehicle
were deposited by petitioner in his name at Solidbank-Dagupan Branch. All five
checks were debited in favor of petitioner. After receiving the registration
papers from Elison, private complainant was eventually able to use the Nissan
On October 28, 1998, private complainants vehicle was
apprehended by Anti-Carnapping operatives of the Philippine National Police
(ANCAR NCRTMO). The vehicle and its registration papers were inspected and
thereafter brought to Camp Crame.
turned out that the vehicle was a hot
car as it had been reported stolen on November 29, 1997 by its real owner,
Golf Construction of the Philippines, Inc. pursuant to the Alarm Sheet issued
by the PNP Traffic Management Group.11 cralawred
Private complainant accompanied the ANCAR operatives to the
residence of Elison. He went with them to Camp Crame, and named petitioner as
the owner of the vehicle.
were not able to locate petitioner right away. Meanwhile, the vehicle was
impounded by the authorities.
investigation revealed that its original motor and chassis numbers were
replaced and/or tampered but its Production Number remained intact.
Eventually, the real description of the
vehicle was fully established and identified by no less than the
manufacturer/assembler of the unit, Universal Motors Corporation.12 cralawred
Private complainant spoke with Elison about the possible recovery
of the money paid by him for the confiscated vehicle.On November 30, 1998, private complainant met petitioner for the
first time. Petitioner signed a Promissory Note with Deed of Undertaking
whereby he obligated himself to pay private complainant the amount of
P480,000.00 plus attorneys fees of P50,000.00 in scheduled installments.
Petitioner issued a check in the amount of P75,000.00 but private complainant
did not encash it, thinking that if he does, petitioner would not pay him
Private complainant was unable
to recover the money paid by him to petitioner.13 cralawred
Thereafter, Elison and petitioner were charged with estafa under
a criminal information dated September 6, 1999.Elison was arraigned on September 17, 1999; while petitioner was
arraigned on June 1, 2000.
After trial, the trial court convicted both Elison and petitioner
of the crime of estafa under Art. 315, par. 1 (b) of the Revised Penal
On appeal, the Court of Appeals
affirmed the trial courts judgment with the modification that appellants
should be convicted of estafaunder
Art. 315, par. 2 (a).
Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari, assigning the following errors:
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH DUE
RESPECT, COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT CONSPIRACY IS PRESENT
CONTRARY TO THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH DUE
RESPECT, COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT FAILED TO RULE ON THE ACQUITTAL OF
Two issues are presented before this Court: (1) Whether there was
conspiracy between petitioner and Elison Villaflor in defrauding private
complainant Jay Byron Ilagan; and (2) Whether petitioner is guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of estafa under Art. 315, par. 2 (a) of the
Revised Penal Code.
On the first assignment of error, petitioner argues that there is
no conspiracy between him and co-accused.
He points that it was only co-accused Elison Villaflor who dealt with
The latter had not
even met him before he was allegedly forced to sign the amicable agreement.
Petitioner further alleges that contrary to the findings of the
appellate court, there is no convincing evidence to show that petitioner
performed any previous or simultaneous act with Elison in committing the offense
against private complainant. The witnesses presented by the prosecution did not
show or prove that petitioner directly participated in the commission of the
offense or performed an act which would show community of purpose with Elison.
Petitioners argument is bereft of merit.
Even in the absence of direct evidence of prior agreement to
commit the crime, conspiracy may be deduced from the acts of the perpetrators
before, during and after the commission of the crime, which are indicative of a
common design, concerted action and concurrence of sentiments.14 Conspiracy is deemed implied when the malefactors have a common purpose and
were united in its execution.
Spontaneous agreement or active cooperation by all perpetrators at the
moment of the commission of the crime is sufficient to create joint criminal
In Erquiaga v. Court of Appeals ,16 we ruled that conspiracy, as a rule, has to be established with the same
quantum of proof as the crime itself and shown as clearly as the commission of
However, conspiracy need not
be shown by direct evidence, but may take the form of circumstances which, if
taken together, would conclusively show that the accused came to an agreement
to commit a crime and decided to carry it out with their full cooperation and
As correctly pointed out by the appellate court, petitioners
actions in relation to the fraudulent sale of the Nissan Pathfinder to private
complainant clearly established conspiracy as alleged in the information, which
acts transcend mere knowledge or friendship with co-accused Elison.17 Notwithstanding the fact that it was only Elison who dealt with or personally
transacted with private complainant until the time the sale was consummated, by
his own testimony petitioner admitted all the acts by which he actively
cooperated and not merely acquiesced in perpetrating the fraud upon private
complainant.18 That petitioner is a conspirator having joint criminal design with Elison is
evident from the fact that as between them, both knew that petitioner was the
person selling the vehicle under the false pretense that a certain Henry
Austria was the registered owner.19 Petitioner, together with Elison, clearly deceived private complainant in order
to defraud him in the amount of P480,000.00, to the latters damage and
prejudice. In addition, the acts of petitioner in deliberately misrepresenting
himself to private complainant as having the necessary authority to possess and
sell to the latter the vehicle so that he could collect from him P480,000.00
only to renege on that promise and for failure to reimburse the said amount he
collected from private complainant, despite demand, amount to estafa punishable
under Art. 315, par. 2 (a).
The Court of Appeals, in affirming the findings of fact of the
trial court, aptly observed:20 cralawred
That conviction under the afore-cited provision is more proper is
evident from the trial courts finding that appellant Augusto Sim, Jr. from the
very beginning was aware that the subject vehicle was not his nor given to him
in payment of debt as he made appellant Villaflor to believe. Nonetheless,
appellant Villaflor was not absolved from liability, having actively conspired
with appellant Augusto Sim, Jr. to convince private complainant to purchase the
Pathfinder upon their false pretense and representation that said vehicle was
being sold by its real owner, Henry
Austria, the name appearing in the registration papers and deed of sale under
circumstances clearly showing their knowledge that the status of said vehicle
is dubious or anomalous, as in fact it turned out to be a hot car or had been
stolen/carnapped from its true owner. The totality of the evidence indicates a
common or joint design, purpose and objective of the accused-appellants to
defraud private complainant who parted with his money upon the belief that
there is no problem regarding the ownership of the Pathfinder sold to him by
The trial court rejected the argument of the defense that it was
private complainant who supposedly had the vehicle and its registration papers
checked at Camp Crame before buying the same. It pointed out that verification
would have been difficult considering that the motor and chassis numbers in the
registration papers are correct but the name of the owner appearing therein is
Elisons false pretense in holding out that he had authorization
from the owner to sell the 1997 Nissan Pathfinder was made in conjunction with
petitioners fraudulent misrepresentation that he was legally entitled to
possess the aforesaid vehicle.
evidence shows that petitioner and Elison acted in conspiracy to deceive
private complainant into buying a stolen Nissan Pathfinder, thereby defrauding
the latter in the amount of P480,000.00, and upon their false pretense and
representation as to the real status of the vehicle, i.e., that said unit is in fact being sold by its true owner Henry
Austria and that Augusto Sim, Jr. in whose name the checks were issued had the
authority or right to sell the same.
After a few months, the vehicle sold was apprehended and impounded by
police authorities for being stolen or carnapped which resulted in pecuniary
damage to private complainant who had demanded the return of his money from
petitioner and Elison.21 The evidence of the prosecution satisfactorily established the fraudulent acts
and representations which induced private complainant to part with his money
for which he suffered damage and loss when the vehicle sold to him by
petitioner and Elison was recovered by its true owner through operatives of the
police anti-carnapping group.22 cralawred
On the second assignment of error, petitioner contends that the
evidence is not sufficient to prove petitioners guilt beyond reasonable doubt
for the crime of estafa under Art. 315, par. 2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code.
Petitioners contention is untenable.
While the trial court charged and convicted petitioner and his
co-accused of estafa under Art. 315, par. 1 (b) of the Revised Penal Code, the
appellate court modified the lower courts decision by convicting them of the
same crime under Art. 315, par. 2 (a).
Regardless of whether petitioner is charged or convicted under
either par. 1 (b) or par. 2 (a) of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code, he would
still be guilty of estafa because damage and deceit, which are essential
elements of the crime, have been established by proof beyond reasonable
False pretenses or fraudulent
acts were committed prior to or simultaneous with the commission of the fraud
by falsely pretending to possess property.
In this case, false pretenses or fraudulent acts were employed prior to
or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud by falsely pretending to
possess the 1997 Nissan Pathfinder, where damage and deceit have been established
by proof beyond reasonable doubt.
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.
Deceit is a species of fraud.23 cralawred
Swindling or estafa by means of false pretenses or fraudulent
acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud is
committed [b]y using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power,
influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary
transactions, or by other similar deceits.24 cralawred
The elements of estafa under Art. 315, par. 2 (a) are: (1) There
must be a false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; (2) Such false
pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to
or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (3) 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 the false
pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; (4) As a result thereof, the
offended party suffered damage.25 cralawred
These four elements are present in the instant case: (1) False
pretenses were employed by petitioner and his co-accused to deceive private
complainant into purchasing the stolen Nissan Pathfinder; (2) False pretenses
were employed prior to, and simultaneously with, the fraudulent sale of the
Nissan Pathfinder; (3) Private complainant relied on false pretenses of
petitioner and co-accused, inducing him to part with his money due to the
misrepresentation employed by the perpetrators of the fraud; and (4) As a
result of false pretenses and misrepresentations by petitioner and co-accused,
private complainant suffered damages in the amount of P480,000.00.
Furthermore, we find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of
the trial court, which is in the best position to make an assessment of the
witnesses credibility and to appreciate complainants truthfulness, honesty
and candor.26 Factual findings of trial courts, as well as their assessment of the
credibility of witnesses, are entitled to great weight and respect by this
Court more so when these are affirmed by the Court of Appeals.27 As against the positive and categorical testimonies of the complainant,
petitioners mere denial cannot prevail.
The proper imposable penalty for the crime of estafa under Art.
315, par. 2 (a) is prisin correccional
in its maximum period to prisin mayor
in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over P12,000.00 but does not
exceed P22,000.00, and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty shall
be imposed in its maximum period, adding one (1) year for each additional
P10,000.00; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty
In such cases, the penalty
shall be termed prisin mayor or reclusin temporal, as the case may be.
Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law,28 if the offense is punished by the Revised Penal Code, the court shall sentence
the accused to an indeterminate penalty, the maximum term of which shall be
that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed
under the rules of the Revised Penal Code, and the minimum term of which shall
be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Code
for the offense. The penalty next lower should be based on the penalty
prescribed by the Code for the offense, without first considering any modifying
circumstance attendant to the commission of the crime. The determination of the
minimum penalty is left by law to the sound discretion of the court and can be
anywhere within the range of the penalty next lower without any reference to
the periods into which it might be subdivided.
The modifying circumstances are considered only in the imposition of the
maximum term of the indeterminate sentence.
In the present case, petitioner defrauded private complainant in
the amount of P480,000.00.
that the amount involved in the case at bar exceeds P22,000.00 should not be
considered in the initial determination of the indeterminate penalty; instead,
the matter should be so taken as analogous to modifying circumstances in the
imposition of the maximum term of the full indeterminate sentence.
This legal interpretation accords with the
rule that penal laws should be construed in favor of the accused.29 cralawred
The maximum penalty to be imposed on petitioner should be taken
from the maximum period of the penalty under Art. 315, which is reclusin temporal, since the amount
defrauded exceeds P22,000.00, adding one year for each additional P10,000.00,
but the total penalty which may be imposed should not exceed twenty (20) years.
Since the penalty prescribed by law for the crime of estafa under
Art. 31530 is prisin mayor in its minimum
period if the amount of the fraud exceeds P22,000.00, the minimum term should
be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Code
for the offense, which is prisin
correccional in its maximum period.
Hence, the minimum period of the penalty should be from four (4) years,
two (2) months and one (1) day to six (6) years.The determination of the minimum penalty is left by law to the
sound discretion of the court and can be anywhere within the range of the
penalty next lower without any reference to the periods into which it might be
We are convinced that the appropriate penalty in accordance with
law that can best serve the ends of justice in the case at bar should range
from four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prisin correccional, as minimum, to twenty years of reclusin temporal, as maximum, for the
crime of estafa under Art. 315, par.
2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code.
WHEREFORE, the May 21,
2003 Decision and August 1, 2003 Resolution of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED
with MODIFICATION as to the penalty imposed.
Appellant Augusto Sim, Jr. is sentenced to an indeterminate prison term
of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prisin correccional, as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusin temporal, as maximum, for the crime
of estafa under Art. 315, par. 2 (a). He is further ordered to indemnify the private complainant Jay Byron
Ilagan, jointly and severally with Elison Villaflor, the sum of P480,000.00
with interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum until fully paid.
Costs against petitioner.
Panganiban, (Working Chairman) ,Carpio andAzcuna, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), on
1 Decision penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. of the Third Division
of the Court of Appeals. Concurred in by Associate Justices Eubulo G. Verzola
(Chairman) and Mario L. Guaria III.
2 Decision penned by Judge Romulo A. Lopez.
3 Resolution penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. as Acting
Chairman of the Special Third Division of the Court of Appeals. Concurred in by
Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion and Mario L. Guaria III.
4 Original Records, pp. 1-2. See CA Rollo,
5 CA decision, p. 1. See Rollo, p. 18.
7 Id. at 2. See Rollo at 19.
11 Id. at 2. See Rollo at 19-20.
12 Id. at 3. See Rollo at 20.
15 Luis B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Book One (15th Ed., 2001),
16 G.R. No. 124513, 17 October 2001, 367 SCRA 357, 363.
17 CA decision, supra note 5 at 13-14. See Rollo, pp. 30-31.
20 Id. at 9. See Rollo at 26.
21 Id. at 14. See Rollo at 31.
23 Garcia v. People, G.R. No. 144785, 11 September 1985, citing People v.
Hernando, 375 Phil. 1078, 1091 (1999).
24 Art. 315, No. 2 (a),
Revised Penal Code.
25 L. B. Reyes, Revised Penal Code, Book Two (14th Ed., 1998),
28 Sec. 1, Indeterminate Sentence Law.
30 Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). Any
person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow
shall be punished by:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The penalty of prisin correccional
in its maximum period to prisin mayor
in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 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 case, 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 prisin mayor or reclusin
temporal, as the case may be.
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