Estafa

1. What is Estafa?

Estafa is a criminal offense wherein a person defrauds another by any of the following means: (1) by unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence; (2) by deceit; or (3) fraudulent means.

Estafa through unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence is done by (1) altering quality, quantity and substance of subject matter of contract; (2) misappropriating or converting goods/property of another; and (3) taking advantage of a signature in blank.

Estafa through deceit or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud is done by: (1) using fictitious name as means of deceit; (2) altering quality, fineness or weight of anything pertaining to art or business; (3) by issuing unfunded checks or postdated checks; and (4) availing of services of hotel, inn, restaurants etc, without paying therefor.

Estafa through fraudulent means is done by: (1) inducing another, by means of deceit, to sign any document; (2) resorting to some fraudulent practice to ensure success in a gambling game; and (3) removing, concealing, or destroying, in whole or in part, any court record, office files, document and other papers. (Article 315, Revised Penal Code)

2. What are the two basic indispensable elements of Estafa?

The two basic elements common to all forms of Estafa are: (1) Fraud; and (2) Resulting damage or intent to cause damage capable of pecuniary estimation.

3. What if there was no fraud on the part of the other party, will the Estafa case prosper?

No, as fraud is an element of Estafa, its absence is fatal to the prosecution of the case. When the allegation of deceit has not been proven, there is no Estafa. (Candido dela Cruz, CA 37 O.G. 1958)

4. An acquaintance failed to perform as promised despite the fact that I have already paid him. Can I file a case against him for Estafa?

No, there is no deceit that would warrant the filing of an Estafa case. A mere promise to perform and a failure to perform such promise may not constitute deceit. The intent to defraud must be coetaneous with the alleged deceitful act. (People vs. Villarin, CA-G.R. No. 10598-R, 31 October 1953)

5. What acts constitutes a deceitful act?

As a general rule, in order to constitute deceit there must be a false representation as a matter of fact, a positive assertion of falsehood. (People vs. Manahan, CA- G.R. No. 19602-R, 20 May 1958)

It might also consist in a fraudulent misrepresentation or contrivance by which one man deceives another who has no means of detecting the fraud to the injury of another. (People vs. Babel, 10 CAR 133)

6. When should deceit be committed by the Respondent for the Estafa case to prosper?

For deceit to constitute an element of Estafa, such should be done prior to or simultaneously with the damage and must be the cause thereof. (Gonzaludo vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 150910, 06 February 2006)

7. What if a person who defrauded another through fraud and misrepresentation subsequently returned the money, can the aggrieved party still file a case for Estafa?

Yes, permanent damage or prejudice in Estafa is not required or necessary as the temporary disturbance of property rights is equivalent to damage. (US vs. Goyenechea, 8 Phil. 117)

8. I entered into a contract of sale with a seller. However, he delivered a substandard product that that which is mentioned in the contract, can I sue him for Estafa?

Yes, paragraph 1(a) of the Revised Penal Code punishes the offender for altering the substance, quality or substance of the subject matter of the contract. The same holds true if what was given was less or different than what was agreed upon.

However, it is vital that the aggrieved party must have already paid the seller previously or simultaneously with the commission of the abuse of confidence. Without such, no damage is done, hence, no Estafa.

9. I gave a certain amount of money to a friend for the purpose of safekeeping. However, I subsequently learned that my friend used the money for his own pleasure. Can I file case against him for Estafa?

Yes, misappropriation of the thing given in trust is considered as Estafa. This is deemed as Estafa through misappropriation. (Article 315 paragraph 1 (b), Revised Penal Code)

10. What if the thing misappropriated was the check I gave to another for safekeeping; can I still file for Estafa?

Yes. A check, for all intents and purposes, is included and is deemed as money in commercial usage. (Galvez vs. Court of Appeals, 42 SCRA 278)

11. Can I file the case of Estafa right away if I learned that the money which I gave in trust was misappropriated by another?

No, the aggrieved party must first make a demand upon the offender for the return of that which was given in trust, or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation.

However, the demand is not necessary when there is evidence or misappropriation of the goods by the defendant. (Tubb vs. People of the Philippines, 101 Phil. 114)

12. What if the other offender failed to render an account despite due demand?

Failure of the offender to render an account despite due demand is circumstantial evidence of misappropriation. (People vs. Sullano, G.R. No. L-18209, 30 June 1966)

13. After the other party rendered an accounting after I made a demand, does that mean that I cannot file the Estafa case anymore?

No, you can still file a case for Estafa if the explanation is devoid of merits. (People vs. Lopez, 56 O.G. 5881-5882)

14. I gave my watch to my friend with the understanding that he will keep it but after a while he sold it to another person. Can I sue him for Estafa through misappropriation?

No, Estafa through misappropriation contemplates a situation where the obligation to return or deliver the thing is contractual. It is not applicable if ownership of the thing has been transferred to another.

15. I purchased a sack of rice from a merchant. However when I weighed the sack again it turned out that the weight of the sack of rice is substantially less than what was indicated in the weighing scale of the merchant. Can I sue him for Estafa?

Yes, the act of altering the weight by the merchant is deemed as Estafa by means of fraudulent acts. However, note that in Estafa what is being punished is not the altering of the weights but the fraud which caused the merchant to alter the weights. (U.S. vs. Cheng Chua, 31 Phil 302)

16. I paid in post-dated checks without having checked if I have enough in the funds in the bank. It turned out that I do not have enough funds. Can I be sued for Estafa?

No, you can only be sued for Estafa if you fail to deposit the amount necessary to cover the check within three (3) days from receipt of notice from the bank and or the payee. (Article 315 paragraph 2 (d), Revised Penal Code)

17. I learned that the court record of my other case against another person was deliberately destroyed by court personnel. What crime is committed?

The crime committed is Estafa. Article 315 paragraph 2 (d), Revised Penal Code provides that Estafa is already committed if a person removes, conceals or destroys a court record, office files, documents or any other paper with intent to defraud another.

18. Can I file the case of Estafa directly with the Courts?

No, a Preliminary Investigation is needed to be conducted and probable cause must first be established by the Fiscal before the Estafa case can be filed at the Court level. Hence, you must first file a complaint-affidavit with the Prosecutor's Office of the place where any of the elements of the crime of Estafa was committed.

19. If the Fiscal determined that there was indeed Probable Cause, which Court will have jurisdiction?

If the amount is in excess of PhP250,000.00, the case would be filed at the Regional Trial Court of the place where any element of the offense was committed. If the amount is less than PhP250,000.00, the case would be filed at the Municipal Trial Court.