[G.R. No. 12597. August 30, 1917. ]
THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. FRANCISCO MALONG, Defendant-Appellant.
L. Porter Hamilton for Appellant.
Assistant Attorney-General Gloria for Appellee.
1. ESTAFA. — To induce illiterate persons to sign a document which they believed to be a power of attorney but which in reality was a bill of sale in favor of the accused is estafa and not falsification of a private document. The two essential elements of estafa, deceit and injury to the complainants, concur. As to the latter, there was at least disturbance in the property rights of the complainants, and this is sufficient.
D E C I S I O N
The accused was charged in the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila with the crime of estafa committed within the jurisdiction of the city. He was convicted and sentenced to one year eight months and twenty-one days of presidio correccional, with the accessory penalties of article 58 of the Penal Code, to make restitution to the offended parties Pedro Leonen and Bonifacia Rodriguez of the land described in Exhibit A and the documents corresponding thereto, and to pay the costs. From this judgment he has appealed making eight assignments of error, all of which either concern the sufficiency of the proof or appellant’s contention that if any crime was committed, it was falsification of a private document and not estafa.
Pedro Leonen and Bonifacia Rodriguez are a husband and wife, residents of the municipality of Umingan, Province of Pangasinan. Both are illiterate. They are the owners of three parcels of registered land located in their home municipality. Desiring to mortgage their property in the amount of P6,000, they came to the city of Manila, and through the connivance of the accused were induced to sign the documents appearing as Exhibits A and B. They executed Exhibit A under the belief that it was a power of attorney in favor of the accused. They executed Exhibit B in ratification of Exhibit A before a notary public. On different occasions, the accused told the offended parties that the land described in the document which they had signed that been mortgaged to the National Bank and that within a short time they would secure the corresponding amount. It later appeared that Exhibit A, which the complainants in their ignorance thought only to be a power of attorney was in reality a bill of sale of their property for P4,000 to the accused. The lower court found that as against the prominent facts which have just been narrated, the accused had not succeeded in demonstrating that this was a valid sale of the property in question by the complainants to the accused. We are shown no reason which would justify us in interfering with the findings of the court.
Do the proven facts establish the crime of estafa or the crime of falsification of a private document?
The amount involved would, under the supposition that the offense is estafa, place the fraud under paragraph 3 of article 534 of the Penal Code. As supplementary to this provision, paragraph 7 of the following article provides for the imposition of the penalty upon "any person who shall commit a fraud by inducing another, by means of deceit, to sign any document." The documents in question, Exhibits A and B, were signed by the complainants. Did the accused employ deceit to get the complainants to so sign? The answer is plain that if we accept the findings of the trial court then the accused made misrepresentation to mislead the complainants as to the character of the documents executed by them. There is not intimation to the effect that the documents were read over to the parties thereto in a language which they understood. Is injury to complainants necessary also to be shown in order to constitute estafa under the portion of the Penal Code we are construing? A decision of the Supreme Court of Spain of December 24, 1891, holds that, "in order that the crime defined in paragraph 7 of article 548 of the Penal Code (535 of our Code) may exist, it is necessary that with the object to deceive a person, he be made to subscribe, with deceit, a certain document, i. e., that at the moment of putting his signature thereon he was induced by error as to the import, concept, or importance of the document affecting the will of the signer when he expressed his consent thereto in that manner."cralaw virtua1aw library
But, admitting that according to the settled jurisprudence the essential elements of the crime of estafa are: (1) the deceit employed to defraud another, which we have discussed, and (2) the injury caused thereby (U. S. v. Berry , 5 Phil. Rep., 370), are we justified in finding that the complainants have suffered damage? Surely, there was at least disturbance in the property rights of the complainants. In the leading case of U. S. v. Goyenechea (, 8 Phil. Rep., 117), it was said that, "this fact, by itself, and without it being necessary to deal with the other considerations of material fact herein, always constitutes real and actual damage, and is positive enough under rule of law to produce one of the elements constituting the offense, the crime of estafa."cralaw virtua1aw library
As general corroborative authority to the conclusion toward which we are progressing is the unpublished opinion of this court in U. S. v. Valdeo (R. G. No. 8796, promulgated on December 2, 1913, not published), in which Mr. Justice Torres, speaking for the court found facts nearly identical to those now before us to constitute estafa. (See also U. S. v. Barnes , 3 Phil. Rep., 704; U. S. v. Berry , 5 Phil. Rep., 370; and U. S. v. Pimentel , 15 Phil. Rep., 416.)
We hold that the accused is guilty of crime of estafa as penalized by article 534 paragraph 3 in connection with article 535 paragraph 7 of the Penal Code. The judgment of the trial court is accordingly affirmed with the costs. The documents marked Exhibits A and B are hereby declared null and void. So ordered.
Arellano, C.J., Johnson, Carson, Araullo and Street, JJ., concur.