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G.R. No. 109595.

April 27, 2000


CRISTETA CHUA-BURCE, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
FACTS:
On August 16, 1985, Ramon Rocamora, the Manager (of Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company,
Calapan Branch, Oriental Mindoro) requested Fructuoso Peaflor, Assistant Cashier, to conduct a physical
bundle count of the cash inside the vault. During this initial cash count, they discovered a shortage of
fifteen bundles of One Hundred Pesos denominated bills totaling P150,000.00. The One Hundred Peso
bills actually counted was P3,850,000.00 as against the balance of P4,000,000.00 in the Cash in Vault
(CIV) Summary Sheet, or a total shortage of P150,000.00. A re-verification of the records and documents
of the transactions in the bank was conducted. There was still a shortage of P150,000.00.
The bank initiated investigations totaling four (4) in all. All of these investigations concluded that
there was a shortage of P150,000.00, and the person primarily responsible was the banks Cash Custodian,
Cristeta Chua-Burce, the herein accused. Unable to satisfactorily explain the shortage of P150,000.00, the
accused service with the bank was terminated.
To recover the missing amount, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company (Metrobank) filed a Civil
Case for Sum of Money and Damages with Preliminary Attachment and Garnishment docketed as Civil
Case No. R-3733 against petitioner and her husband, Antonio Burce. Prior to the filing of the Answer, the
following Information for Estafa was filed against petitioner. Both civil and criminal cases were raffled to
the same branch of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 40.
Thereafter, petitioner moved for the suspension of the criminal case on the ground of the
existence of a prejudicial question. On petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals, the appellate court
ruled that there was no prejudicial question. Petitioner was arraigned and assisted by counsel de parte,
entered a plea of not guilty. On March 18, 1991, the trial court rendered a consolidated decision[11]
finding petitioner (a) guilty of estafa under Article 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code in the criminal
case, and (b) liable for the amount of P150,000.00 in the civil case.
Petitioner seasonably appealed her conviction in the criminal case to the Court of Appeals.
Petitioner filed a separate appeal in the civil case.
In a decision dated November 27, 1992,[12] the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts
decision in toto. Petitioners Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied.[13] Hence, the recourse to
this Court.
ISSUE:
Whether the elements of the crime of estafa under Article 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal Code
were duly proven beyond reasonable doubt against Cristeta Chua-Burce.
HELD:
Petitioner was charged with the crime of estafa under Article 315 (1) (b) of the Revised Penal
Code.[20] In general, the elements of estafa are: (1) that the accused defrauded another (a) by abuse of
confidence or (b) by means of deceit; and (2) that damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is
caused to the offended party or third person.[21] Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa with abuse
of confidence, since the breach of confidence takes the place of the fraud or deceit, which is a usual
element in the other estafas.[22]

The elements of estafa through conversion or misappropriation under Art. 315 (1) (b) of the Revised
Penal Code are:[23]
(1) that personal property is received in trust, on commission, for administration or under any other
circumstance involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same, even though the obligation is
guaranteed by a bond;
(2) that there is conversion or diversion of such property by the person who has so received it or a denial
on his part that he received it;
(3) that such conversion, diversion or denial is to the injury of another and
(4) that there be demand for the return of the property.
We find the first element absent. When the money, goods, or any other personal property is received by
the offender from the offended party (1) in trust or (2) on commission or (3) for administration, the
offender acquires both material or physical possession and juridical possession of the thing received.[24]
Juridical possession means a possession which gives the transferee a right over the thing which the
transferee may set up even against the owner.[25] In this case, petitioner was a cash custodian who was
primarily responsible for the cash-in-vault. Her possession of the cash belonging to the bank is akin to
that of a bank teller, both being mere bank employees.
In People v. Locson,[26] the receiving teller of a bank misappropriated the money received by him for the
bank. He was found liable for qualified theft on the theory that the possession of the teller is the
possession of the bank. We explained in Locson that "The money was in the possession of the defendant as receiving teller of the bank, and the possession of
the defendant was the possession of the bank. When the defendant, with grave abuse of confidence,
removed the money and appropriated it to his own use without the consent of the bank, there was the
taking or apoderamiento contemplated in the definition of the crime of theft.
Petitioner herein being a mere cash custodian had no juridical possession over the missing funds. Hence,
the element of juridical possession being absent, petitioner cannot be convicted of the crime of estafa
under Article 315, No. 1 (b) of the Revised Penal Code.