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People vs Cruz

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINESPlaintiff-Appelleev. EDGARDO T. CRUZAccused-Appellant.
G.R. No. 200081, June 08, 2016


Facts: Sometime in November 2000, private complainant Eduardo S. Carlos (Carlos) put up a business engaged in the sale of tires, batteries, and services for wheel alignment, wheel balancing and vulcanizing under the name and style of Chromax Marketing (Chromax).

During the infancy of Chromax, Carlos sought the help of accused-appellant Edgardo T. Cruz (Cruz) to register and manage the business.

When Chromax began to gain recognition, Carlos employed several other employees. However, despite the rise of number of clients they were servicing, Chromax's financial capital remained unimpressive. Thus, upon inquiry prompted by suspicion, Carlos discovered through his sister, Eliza Cruz, that Cruz was stealing from Chromax.

Carlos, as part of his routine, checked the daily sales report containing the list of payments and balances of customers. Upon examination, he discovered that the remaining balance of their customers and Cruz's advances (vale) totaled to P97,984.00.3 At the bottom of the balance sheet4 was an acknowledgment that the amount stated as lost was actually used by Cruz, which reads, "Mr. Eddie Carlos (sic) Amount stated lost was actually used by me for my personal use and (sic) which I promise to pay you back.

Upon further investigation, Carlos also discovered an irregularity in the receipts issued to services rendered to Miescor covering the same transaction with an invoice number 0287. The discrepancies were between the amounts as indicated in the receipt issued to Miescor and the receipt shown to him by Cruz. The receipt issued to Miescor indicated the amount of P1,259.006 while the receipt shown to him by Cruz contained the amount of P579.00.

Thus, Carlos filed a criminal complaint for qualified theft against Cruz.  RTC convicted Cruz finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Qualified Theft. The CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC and found that all the elements of theft, together with the circumstances that led to the appreciation of the crime as qualified theft, were sufficiently established by the prosecution.

As regards the defense's contention that his conviction was merely based on circumstantial evidence, the CA ruled that, "[d]irect evidence is not the sole means of establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt since circumstantial evidence, if sufficient, can supplant its absence. The crime charged may also be proved by circumstantial evidence. xxx. It is this submission that forms the basis of the present appeal the argument being that the CA erred in convicting Cruz on the basis of insufficient circumstantial evidence.

Issue: Whether the crime charged may also be proved by circumstantial evidence.

 Yes.   As correctly held by the CA, direct evidence is not the sole means to establish guilt because the accused's guilt can be proven by circumstantial evidence.

Circumstantial evidence is defined as that which "goes to prove a fact or series of facts other than the facts in issue, which, if proved, may tend by inference to establish a fact in issue." Rule 133, Section 4 of the Revised Rules of Court provides for the requirements in order for circumstantial evidence can sustain conviction: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Contrary to the defense's allegation that the pieces of circumstantial evidence presented were insufficient, a perusal of the records reveal otherwise. Based on the evidence, there is more than one circumstance which can prove Cruz's guilt.

As sufficiently discussed by the trial court, besides Cruz's own admission that he took the unaccounted money without Carlos' knowledge and authority, Cruz's guilt was also proven through the following circumstantial evidence: Cruz, as the manager of Chromax, had sole access to the money and other collectibles of Chromax; he had sole authority to issue receipts; he gave commissions without Carlos' authority; he forged the amount in the sales report and receipts; and finally, insinuated that it was Albaitar who misappropriated the money without providing any scintilla of proof to support his accusations.

Contrary to the defense's allegation that due to lack of direct evidence the Court cannot uphold Cruz's conviction, circumstantial evidence is not a "weaker" form of evidence. The Rules of Court does not distinguish between direct and circumstantial evidence insofar as their probative value is concerned. In the case at bar, the combination of the circumstantial evidence draws no other logical conclusion, but that Cruz stole the money with grave abuse of confidence.

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