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587 Phil. 537


[ G.R. No. 170415, September 19, 2008 ]




Appellant, Jesus Castro (Castro), was charged and found guilty of Qualified Theft by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Baguio City, Branch 60 in Criminal Case No. 13963-R.

The accusatory portion of the Information filed against appellant reads:
That sometime in the month of August 1993, in the City of Baguio, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the Shop Supervisor of the complainant ROMAN CRUZ and hence, has access to the shop of the latter, with grave abuse of trust and confidence, with the intent of gain and without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away the following:

one (1) crank shaft (used for 0.9 liter)
one (1) cylinder head (used)
8 pieces piston (one set and brand new)
one (1) set over hauling gasket
one (1) main bearing
one (1) set piston ring
one (1) set connecting rod bearing

all having a total value of P64,000.00, belonging to ROMAN CRUZ, to the damage and prejudice of the owner thereof, in the aforementioned amount of SIXTY FOUR THOUSAND PESOS (P64,000.00), Philippine Currency.

The private complainant Roman Cruz (Cruz) has, for decades, been operating a trucking business under the firm name Romy's Freight Services, with principal office and repair shop at Km. 3, Naguilian Road, Irisan, Baguio City. He hired appellant as a tinsmith-mechanic in 1975. In 1995, he promoted appellant to the position of shop supervisor whose duties included purchasing spare parts during emergencies, receiving deliveries of spare parts, and supervising the mechanics. As shop supervisor, appellant had access to the storeroom.

At the time material to the present case, Cruz maintained 28 trucks.

Cruz gave the following version of events that led to the filing of the information against appellant:[2]

On March 22, 1993, July 27, 1993, and August 23, 1993, Cruz purchased truck spare parts. In December 1993, he conducted an inventory of the spare parts in the storeroom and discovered that the following were missing: one crank shaft, one cylinder head assembly for a 0.9 liter engine, one set of eight brand new pistons for a 0.9 liter engine, one set of connecting rod bearings, one set of main bearings, one set of piston rings, and one set of overhauling gasket for a 0.9 liter engine, all of which were valued at P64,000.

When Cruz confronted appellant about the loss, the latter gave a "dubious remark"[3] and "an incredible explanation"[4] denying knowledge about those missing spare parts. The other workers denied too any knowledge about any such loss.

Sometime in November 1994, Cruz requested appellant to convey, and appellant complied therewith, two workers to his (Cruz's) house to do some repair work. As Cruz left his house on his way to the office, he saw appellant's service vehicle parked in front of the store of his (Cruz's) neighbor, Delfin Torres (Torres). On arrival at the office, Cruz inquired from appellant why his service vehicle was parked in front of Torres' house, to which appellant replied that he was collecting a $2,000 loan.

Cruz later talked with Torres about his reported loan from appellant. Torres denied, however, having secured any loan from appellant; instead, he informed Cruz that appellant was trying to collect the payment of spare parts supplied to him in August 1993. When Cruz asked what those spare parts were, Torres "was not cooperative" as he gave no answer.

In January 1995, Cruz discovered that appellant, without his knowledge and consent, ordered and obtained 150 bags of cement from Bacnotan Marketing Corporation worth P14,200 which appellant charged to Cruz's overhauling fee due the said corporation. Cruz thus confronted appellant but discussion on the matter was not concluded at the close of office hours. Appellant, who had worked for him for 19 years, never reported for work thereafter.

Subsequently or on June 9, 1995, Cruz discovered that appellant had authorized the hauling of two truckloads of cement from Bacnotan to Mangaldan, Pangasinan without him remitting the overhauling fee of P10,000. Remembering the spare parts lost in 1993, Cruz spoke with Torres again and asked about the spare parts appellant had supplied to him. This time, Torres divulged that appellant supplied him in 1993 a crank shaft, one cylinder head assembly, one set of pistons, one set of piston rings, one overhauling gasket, one set of main bearings, and one set of connecting rod bearings which his (Torres') business associate Romeo Inso (Inso) delivered to Rosita Crispin (Rosita), an operator and part-owner of a "Greenland" bus.

Inso admitted to Cruz having delivered those spare parts to Rosita, and Rosita confirmed that she had bought them, she adding that in September 1993, appellant negotiated with her the price of the spare parts; that after negotiation, she gave him a downpayment of P10,000; that in June 1994, she gave appellant's wife P500; and that as she was unable to pay the balance of the purchase price, appellant retrieved all of the spare parts in February 1995 from the bus, No. 888, to which they were installed together with one lumber pulley and six nozzles.

Hence, Cruz's accomplishing of an Affidavit-Complaint on August 2, 1995[5] charging appellant of Qualified Theft. Torres and Inso also executed a Joint Affidavit[6] dated July 10, 1995 stating that appellant supplied them spare parts which were delivered to Rosita in August 1995 and that appellant had told them that the spare parts were ordered from a supplier of Cruz' firm, "a certain Doming."

For his part, appellant, admitting having sold spare parts to Rosita through Inso and Torres but claiming that the same did not come from Cruz's storeroom, gave the following version:[7]

In August 1993, Cruz asked him to help repair Torres' heavily damaged vehicle,[8] a 0.9 Series, International Harvester (IH). The spare parts needed for the repair were one cylinder head assembly with bulb, one set of eight pistons, one set connecting rod bearings, one set main bearings, and a head gasket.

As Torres requested him to look for secondhand spare parts, he contacted a supplier, Dominador Uson, if he had the needed spare parts, but Uson advised him days later that he had none.

In the first week of October 1993, he went to the shop of Angel Boleyley (Boleyley), a licensed contractor of the Department of Public Works and Highways, and inquired from him if he was selling the 0.9 series engine of his IH truck. Since Boleyley answered in the affirmative, he inquired from Torres if he wanted to buy the engine and the latter told him that he wanted to buy only the needed spare parts as it would be expensive to buy the whole engine, hence, he bought only the cylinder assembly, the connecting rod bearings, the main bearings, eight pistons, the piston rings, and the head gasket, as well as the crank shaft from the disassembled engine. The parts cost P47,000, P20,000 of which were given by Torres and Inso, the balance to be paid in December 1993. In December 1993, Torres paid only P6,000, however.

As shop supervisor, he was in charge of dispatching the IH trucks of Cruz which were transporting cement.[9] On receiving a report from any of the mechanics that a truck needed repair, he would prepare a list of the needed parts which he brought to Cruz and Cruz would thereafter order them from suppliers. And after the ordered parts were delivered, he would turn them over to the mechanics who would install them and place the replaced/damaged or scrap parts in a drum.

Appellant went on to claim as follows:

There had been no inventory of any spare parts in Cruz's storeroom during his years of employment because any spare parts purchased were immediately installed in vehicles under repair. What were stocked were those which were immediately needed such as filter, spring and "undersize parts of motor," and it was only he (appellant) who conducted inventory thereof.

He stopped working for Cruz in January 1995 because he was treated at the St. Louis University Hospital of the Sacred Heart for what was later diagnosed to be "C5-6 Nerve root irritation."[10] Upon returning for work, he discovered that he had already been terminated from his job, drawing him to file a case in May 1995[11] against Cruz for illegal dismissal[12] before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

His complaint for illegal dismissal against Cruz was decided by the NLRC Baguio in his favor but, at the time he took the witness stand, was under appeal.

Boleyley and Dominador Viloria (Viloria), a mechanic who had worked as such with Cruz from 1977 to March 3, 1995,[13] executed separate Affidavits dated August 12, 1995 in defense of appellant. Boleyley corroborated at the witness stand appellant's testimony respecting his (Boleyley's) sale to him of those spare parts on or about the time claimed by appellant.[14] Viloria corroborated too appellant's testimony respecting the procedure in the purchase of spare parts and in the immediate installation thereof in Cruz's trucks.[15]

By Decision of December 23, 1999, Branch 60 of the Baguio City RTC found appellant guilty of qualified theft, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused, Jesus Castro, GUILTY of the crime of qualified theft as defined and penalized under Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of 10 years and 1 day of prision mayor as minimum, to 14 years and 8 months of reclusion temporal as maximum. He is further ordered to pay Roman Cruz the amount of P64,000.00 plus interests at the legal rate from the filing of the Information for actual damages.[16]
Before the Court of Appeals, appellant assigned the errors of the trial court as follows:









The appellate court affirmed appellant's conviction but increased the penalty of imprisonment to reclusion perpetua.[18]

His Motion for Reconsideration[19] having been denied,[20] appellant brought the case to this Court.[21]

The Court finds the appeal meritorious.

For circumstantial evidence - which was what the prosecution presented in the present case against appellant - to be sufficient for conviction, the following conditions must be satisfied:
(a) There is more than one circumstance;
(b) The facts from which the circumstances are derived are proven;
(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.[22]
Amplifying the above-listed conditions, this Court held that circumstantial evidence suffices to convict an accused
only if the circumstances proved constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion that points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others as the guilty person; the circumstances proved must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with any other hypothesis except that of guilty. As a corollary to the constitutional precept that the accused is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, a conviction based on circumstantial evidence must exclude each and every hypothesis consistent with his innocence.[23] (Underscoring supplied)
In the case at bar, the trial court based its conviction of appellant on the following circumstances as indicated in its decision:
x x x 1] Cruz bought the spare parts sometime on or before the third week of August, 1993 and [they] were kept in the storeroom; 2] In August, 1993, Torres sought the help of Castro to look for spare parts for a 0.9 liter engine; 3] The list of spare parts that Torres asked Castro to look for corresponded to some spare parts for 0.9 liter engine that were earlier bought by Cruz; 4] Inso received the spare part from Castro in the third week of August 1993, 5] In that same month, Inso delivered the spare parts to [Rosita], 6] In September 1993, [Rosita] negotiated with Castro about the cost of the spare parts; 7] In December 1993, Cruz discovered missing parts from his storerooms, that corresponded with the spare parts that Castro delivered to Inso and which [Rosita] negotiated for the price with Castro; and 8] Castro is the only holder of the keys, aside from Cruz, of the storeroom of the shop, which is also proof positive that Castro enjoyed the trust and confidence of his employer, Cruz.[24]
To the trial court, the foregoing circumstances were convincingly proven by the prosecution, whereas it found appellant to have failed to show proof "that the spare parts that Inso and Torres took from his residence which were delivered . . . [to Rosita], came from the 0.9 liter engine owned by Boleyley."[25]

The appellate court, in affirming the trial court's decision, first quoted the People's Brief, appellant's brief, the trial court's above-enumerated circumstances that "constitute an unbroken chain"-bases of the trial court's conviction of appellant.

In passing on appellant's assigned errors, the appellate court, holding that the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court, held that it had "carefully reviewed appellant's brief in search of substantial facts of circumstances that could have been overlooked by the [trial court] but . . . found none";[26] and that the circumstances listed by the trial court were "correctly found and invoked"[27] as the transcript of stenographic notes showed.

The Court at once notes that the trial court found that the spare parts delivered by appellant to Inso did "correspond" to the alleged missing spare parts. "Correspond" does not mean "the same." It means to "match" or "compare closely." Cruz himself admitted this when on cross examination he stated that the missing spare parts "match[ed] what [appellant had] sold to [Torres and Inso] as described [by] them."[28] Cruz in fact additionally admitted also during cross-examination that the missing spare parts were not unique and were readily available in the market.[29]

The Court further notes that, by Cruz's own information, when any of his trucks needed repairs and the reserve spare parts served the purpose, they would be used right away;[30] and that some of his trucks broke down in March 1993 to August 1993.[31]

The prosecution had not, however, shown that Cruz's trucks which broke down and were repaired in March 1993 to August 1993 did not avail of those alleged reserve spare parts purchased in the same period.

Given the length of time that had elapsed between the date of purchase (March, July and August 1993) of the spare parts, and the discovery of their loss (December 1993), the lack of claim that those spare parts were not used on broken down trucks that were repaired in March, July and August 1993, the lack of concrete proof that the missing spare parts and those eventually sold to Rosita were the same, the Court finds that the prosecution failed to satisfy the conditions for circumstantial evidence to suffice to prove its case against appellant.

In fine, the prosecution failed to discharge the onus of prima facie proving appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The burden of evidence did not thus even shift to the defense. Such notwithstanding, appellant by his evidence, proved that, contrary to the trial court's observation, he sourced the spare parts which were delivered to Torres and Inso from Boleyley who corroborated appellant's claim that he purchased spare parts from him on or about the time that appellant claimed. And appellant proved too, and this was corroborated by Viloria, that it was "only when there [was] a defective spare part that has to be replaced" that a new one would be bought by appellant, who would give the newly bought ones to the mechanics which they would "immediately" install in the motor or engine of Cruz's trucks to replace the destroyed spare parts; and that there were no spare parts stored in the bodega of Cruz.

That Cruz executed a complaint-affidavit charging appellant on August 2, 1995 which resulted in the filing of the Information in Criminal Case No. 13963-R on August 31, 1995 because appellant had priorly filed a case for illegal dismissal against him, as theorized by the defense, is thus not far-fetched. Cruz himself admitted that a complaint for illegal dismissal had been priorly filed - "I think in June 1995."[32]

In fine, contrary to the trial court's decision, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that appellant is guilty of the crime charged. The appellate court's affirmance of the trial court's decision must thus fail.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant, Jesus Castro, is ACQUITTED of qualified theft for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.


Quisumbing, (Chairperson), Tinga, Velasco, Jr., and Brion, JJ., concur.

[1] Records, p. 1.

[2] TSN, February 27, 1997, pp. 3-18; id. at 5-8.

[3] Id. at 6.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Id. at 5-8.

[6] Id. at 11-12.

[7] TSN, July 20, 1998, pp. 2-36; TSN, December 9, 1998, pp. 2-13.

[8] There is confusion in Castro's testimony whether Torres' vehicle is a truck or a bus. Vide TSN, July 20, 1998, pp. 13-14.

[9] TSN, July 20, 1998, pp. 8-10.

[10] Vide Annex "3" to Exhibit "3," February 7, 1995 Medical Report, records, p. 328.

[11] TSN, July 20, 1998, p. 6.

[12] Ibid.

[13] TSN, April 21, 1998, pp. 3-4

[14] TSN, January 20, 1998, pp. 2-15; TSN, February 9, 1998, pp. 2-7.

[15] TSN, April 21, 1998, pp. 2-12; TSN, June 5, 1998, pp. 2-9.

[16] Records, p. 429. Vide pp. 433-435.

[17] CA rollo, pp. 39-40.

[18] Decision of February 23, 2005, penned by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Roberto A. Barrios and Amelita G. Tolentino. Id. at 97-122.

[19] Id. at 125-132.

[20] Id. at 138.

[21] Id. at 141-143.

[22] RULES OF COURT, Rule 133, Section 4.

[23] People v. Calica, G.R. No. 139178, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 336, 349-350.

[24] Records, p. 429.

[25] RTC Decision, p. 9, records, p. 429.

[26] CA rollo, pp. 113-114.

[27] Id. at 115.

[28] TSN, March 4, 1997, p. 16.

[29] Id. at 15-16.

[30] TSN, February 27, 1997, p. 22.

[31] Id. at 22-23.

[32] Vide TSN, March 4, 1997, p. 7.

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