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Digest: Balerta vs. People

G.R. No. 205144.November 26, 2014


Facts: Petitioner was convicted for the crime of estafa by the RTC. The petitioner challenged the above ruling before the CA raising the factual issues of whether or not, as claimed by BABMPC, she had (a) falsified the entries in the passbook, (b) received collections for remittance to the bank, (c) misappropriated BABMPC’s money, and (d) committed estafa.

CA Affirms the RTC’s Decision.

 on the matter of misappropriation, [the petitioner] deplored the conduct of an internal audit in her absence but she merely denied the shortage of money as shown by the result of the internal audit. [The petitioner] did not cause an audit of her own to rebut the evidence against her. She did not show any documentary evidence nor present any witness to support her claims. It is axiomatic that denial is the weakest form of defense. As held in People v. Magbanua, "[i]t is elementary that denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is a negative and self-serving evidence which has far less evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.


Through the use of the two (2) passbooks, [the petitioner] was able to dispose of the funds of the cooperative to the latter’s disadvantage. Moreover, [the petitioner] did not refute the evidence of the private offended party that she maintained two (2) passbooks. The certification issued by the Assistant Manager of the rural bank showing that [the petitioner] had declared as lost the old passbook was not contradicted by the defense at all. In like manner, there was no evidence presented by the defense to controvert the claim that the [petitioner] falsified the initials of the bank employees every time she records an entry in the old passbook, either withdrawal or deposit.


Issue: whether or not the petitioner must be acquitted from the crime.

            Whether or not the petitioner acquittal in crime is acquittal in civil liability.

Ruling: Yes.

1.     First, the petitioner had no juridical possession over the allegedly misappropriated funds. Chua-Burce is instructive anent what constitutes mere material possession, on one hand, and juridical possession, on the other, for the purpose of determining whether the first element of estafais present in a particular case.


"Fundamental is the precept in all criminal prosecutions, that the constitutive acts of the offense must be established with unwavering exactitude and moral certainty because this is the critical and only requisite to a finding of guilt.


Second,  At the outset, it is significant to point out that neither the prosecution nor the defense had made any formal offer of documentary evidence. The two passbooks, ledger, and three demand letters, while mentioned by Timonera in his testimony, were notformally offered as evidence. 

While this Court does not find Timonera’s testimony as incredible, by itself alone, it is insufficient to discharge the burden of proof required for conviction in criminal cases. The petitioner was indicted for allegedly misappropriating the amount of 185,584.06. However, Timonera failed to state with certainty where in the records held by the petitioner were the discrepancies shown. 


The RTC and the CA faulted the petitioner for not offering countervailing evidence, including an audit conducted in her own behalf. Still, it does not justify a conviction tobe handed on that ground because the "[c]ourts cannot magnify the weakness of the defense and overlook the prosecution’s failure to discharge the onus probandi."


"In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind."

2.     The acquittal of the accused from the crime charged does not necessarily negate the existence of civil liability. However, in the instant case, the prosecution had failed as well to present preponderant evidence from which the Court can determinately conclude that the petitioner should pay BABMPC the amount of ₱185,584.06.

In the case of Manantan v. Court of Appeals, we elucidated on the two kinds of acquittal recognized by our law as well as its different effects on the civil liability of the accused. Thus:


x x x. First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or omission complained of this instance closes the door to civil liability, for a person who has been found to benot the perpetrator of any act or omission cannot and can never be held liable for such act or omission. There being no delict, civil liability ex delictois out of the question, and the civil action, if any, which may be instituted must be based on grounds other than the delict complained of. This is the situation contemplated in Rule 111 of the Rules of Court. The second instance is an acquittal based on reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not been satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by preponderance of evidence only. This is the situation contemplated in Article 29 of the Civil Code, x x x.60 (Citation omitted and underscoring ours)


in the case now under consideration, the Court acquits the petitioner notbecause she is found absolutely innocent of the crime charged. The Court acquits merely because reasonable doubt exists anent her guilt. Hence, the petitioner can still be held civilly liable to BABMPC if preponderant evidence exist to prove the same.

Rule 133, Section 1 of the Rules of Court indicates how preponderance of evidence shall be determined, viz:

Section 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined. — In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number. (Underscoring ours)


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