G.R. No. 168217 June 27, 2006
JOY LEE RECUERDO, Petitioner,
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
Petitioner Recuerdo, a dentist, was charged with the crime of Estafa under Art. 315 of Revised Penal Code for, with intent to gain and by means of deceit, false pretenses and fraudulent manifestations, and pretending to have sufficient funds with the Unitrust Makati Commercial Center Branch, PCI Bank Makati-De La Rosa Branch, and Prudential Bank Legaspi Village Branch, did willfully, unlawfully and feloniously prepare, draw, make and issue checks amounting to P132,000, P78,000, and P600,000, to complaining witness Yolanda G. Floro, who is engaged in the business of buying and selling of jewelry, as payment for jewelry she obtained from the said complainant, knowing fully well at the time the checks were issued that her representations were false for she had no sufficient funds in the said bank, so much that upon presentment of the said checks with the said bank for encashment, the same were dishonored and refused payment for having been drawn against an “Account Closed”, and in spite of repeated demands to deposit with the said bank, the said accused failed and refused to do so.
Recuerdo argued that her act of issuing the dishonored checks does not constitute the offense of Estafa considering that the subject checks were not issued and delivered to Floro simultaneous to the purchase of the pieces of jewelry, but only several days thereafter, when she had already thoroughly examined the jewelry and is fully satisfied of its fine quality; that out of the 17 subject checks, nine were honored by the drawee banks; that she made partial payments of the amounts of the subject checks while the case was pending in the CA, contrary to the findings of the courts that she acted with deceit when she drew and delivered the checks.
Whether or not petitioner Recuerdo committed the crime of estafa.
Yes, Recuerdo committed the crime of estafa.
Estafa through false pretense or fraudulent act under Paragraph 2(d) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 4885, is committed as follows:
By postdating a check, or issuing a check in payment of an obligation when the offender had no funds in the bank, or his funds deposited therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check. The failure of the drawer of the check to deposit the amount necessary to cover his check within three (3) days from receipt of notice from the bank and/or the payee or holder that said check has been dishonored for lack or insufficiency of funds shall be prima facie evidence of deceit constituting false pretense or fraudulent act.
The essential elements of the felony are: (1) a check is postdated or issued in payment of an obligation contracted at the time it is issued; (2) lack or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; and (3) damage to the payee thereof. It is criminal fraud or deceit in the issuance of a check which is made punishable under the Revised Penal Code, and not the non-payment of a debt. Deceit is the false representation of a matter of fact whether by words or conduct by false or misleading allegations or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed which deceives or is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury. Concealment which the law denotes as fraudulent implies a purpose or design to hide facts which the other party ought to have. The postdating or issuing of a check in payment of an obligation when the offender had no funds in the bank or his funds deposited therein are not sufficient to cover the amount of the check is a false pretense or a fraudulent act.
Petitioner’s defense of good faith is even belied by the evidence of the prosecution and her own evidence. When the postdated checks issued by petitioner were dishonored by the drawee banks and the private complainant made demands for her to pay the amounts of the checks, she intransigently refused to pay; she insisted that she issued and delivered the postdated checks to the private complainant after the subject pieces of jewelry had been delivered to her. Petitioner never offered to pay the amounts of the checks after she was informed by the private complainant that they had been dishonored by the drawee banks. It was after the CA promulgated its decision affirming the decision of the trial court, that petitioner made several payments to the private complainant; however, there is no showing as to which checks they were made in payment for. In fine, it was the spectre of a long prison term which jolted petitioner into making remittances to the private complainant, after the CA affirmed the decision of the trial court and increased the penalty meted on her, and not because she had acted in good faith in her transactions with the private complainant. To reiterate, petitioner rejected the demands of the private complainant to pay the amounts of the dishonored checks.
While it is true that nine of the 17 postdated checks petitioner issued and delivered to the private complainant were honored by the drawee banks, such a circumstance is not a justification for her acquittal of the charges relative to the dishonored checks. The reimbursement or restitution to the offended party of the sums swindled by the petitioner does not extinguish the criminal liability of the latter. Estafa is a public offense which must be prosecuted and punished by the State on its own motion even though complete reparation had been made for the loss or damage suffered by the offended party. The consent of the private complainant to petitioner’s payment of her civil liability pendente lite does not entitle the latter to an acquittal. Subsequent payments does not obliterate the criminal liability already incurred. Criminal liability for estafa is not affected by a compromise between petitioner and the private complainant on the former’s civil liability.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. No costs.