CASE BrieF NO. 2019-0033
“The burden to overcome the presumption of innocence of the accused lies on the prosecution.”
CASE: People of the Philippines VS. Joenil Pin Molde [G.R. No. 228262, January 21, 2019]
PONENTE: Associate Justice Marcelo Del Castillo
- CRIMINAL LAW:
i. Qualified Theft– Elements
i. Presumption of Innocence
FACTS: Joenil Pin Molde was charged with the crime of qualified theft under Article 310, in relation to Article 308, of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). It was alleged that Molde was hired as “accounting-in-charge” by Sun Pride Foods, Inc. (Sun Pride). He was stationed at the company’s Las Piñas Branch. As accounting-in-charge, he had custody over the cash and check collections of sales agents as well as the Weekly Remittance Transmittal Reports (WRTR) submitted by them. In particular, he was in-charge of depositing the cash payments in Sun Pride’s account with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), and sending the checks issued as payments for Sun Pride to its main office in Cebu City.
Sometime in 2010, Sun Pride conducted an investigation with regard the low cash remittances from the company’s Las Piñas Branch. After investigation, it was discovered that the total amount unremitted to Sun Pride had ballooned to P1,149,960.56.
After furnishing Molde with a copy of the audit report, Sun Pride sent two demand letters requiring the him to pay the total unremitted amount but to no avail. Sun Pride eventually suspended Molde from work pending investigation. For his part, Molde stopped reporting to work after tendering his letter of resignation despite Sun Pride’s refusal to accept said letter.
Molde denied the allegations against him. He argued that while he received check payments, the checks were payable to Sun Pride Foods, Inc., and he was not authorized to encash the same. Also, the BPI bank deposit slips he received were from the sales agents, who deposit their cash collections directly to the bank. Copies of the deposit slips were submitted to him to be attached to the WRTR.
In its Decision, the RTC found Molde guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of qualified theft.
Molde thereafter appealed the RTC Decision before the CA.
In its Decision dated October 30, 2015, the CA affirmed the assailed RTC Decision in toto. It upheld the RTC’s findings that the prosecution was able to prove all the elements of the crime charged.
Aggrieved, Molde appealed to the Supreme Court.
A. What are the elements of qualified theft?
B. Whether the prosecution established the elements of the crime of qualified theft.
A. The elements of qualified theft are: “(a) taking of personal property; (b) that the said property belongs to ‘another; (c) that the said taking be done with intent to gain; (d) that it be done without the owner’s consent; (e) that it be accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons, nor of force upon things; and (f) that it be done with grave abuse of confidence.”
B. The prosecution miserably failed to establish the elements of the crime of qualified theft. The prosecution failed to prove the crucial elements of taking of personal property and intent to gain on the part of Molde.
First, the subject checks were issued payable to Sun Pride; hence, Molde could not have possibly presented said checks to the drawee bank for encashment for his own personal gain. This fact was confirmed by no other than Sun Pride’s own internal auditor, Victorillo.
Second, it appears that Molde, too, could not have taken the cash collections of Sun Pride’s sales agents for his own personal gain, considering that what he actually received from said sales agents were only deposit slips of the cash payments, personally deposited by the sales agents themselves with the bank. The prosecution never denied that the company policy mandated its sales agents to personally deposit their cash collections to the bank. It simply argued that the policy was suddenly changed for the months of November and December 2009 and January 2010 to accommodate the high sales during said period. The documentary evidence, however, negates this assertion completely.
To illustrate, the WRTR of Sonia Tigson (Tigson) dated December 13, 2009 showed that P47,467.80 worth of cash collections for the period December 7 to 12, 2009 had been deposited by Tigson herself to Sun Pride’s bank account. Another WRTR dated December 13, 2009 similarly showed that cash collections for the same period in the sum of P95,850.37 was also deposited by Tigson to said bank account.
Significantly, the prosecution failed to adduce any evidence that Molde had actually received the check and cash collections from the company’s sales agents. In fact, Victorillo (Sun Pride’s internal auditor), in his testimony, stated that he merely assumed that Molde received the cash and checks from the agents as the supposedly acknowledgement receipt to prove that he had personally received cash and checks from the sales agents were mysteriously gone missing.
The totality of these circumstances leads the Court to inevitably conclude that the elements of taking of personal property with intent to gain were not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Absent any concrete proof that Molde indeed received: (a) cash collections of Sun Pride’s sales agents; and/or (b) checks payable to cash or in Molde’s name, he cannot be adjudged to have taken the same for his own personal gain.
At this juncture, it bears to stress that the burden to overcome the presumption of innocence of the accused lies on the prosecution [People v. Angelio (2012)]. The Court consistently ruled that “the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own weight and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense.”(Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon v. Dionisio, G.R. No. 220700, July 10, 2017).
WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The October 30, 2015 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06077 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant Joenil Pin Molde is hereby ACQUITTED for insufficiency of evidence. His immediate RELEASE from detention is hereby ordered unless he is being held for another lawful cause.
Related CASE BrieFs:
- People v. Angelio (2012)
- Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon v. Dionisio, G.R. No. 220700, July 10, 2017)
- The burden to overcome the presumption of innocence of the accused lies on the prosecution.
- The evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own weight and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense.
‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis
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