CHUA-BURCE V. CA (possession by a bank teller is possession of the bank itself; mere custodian)
Ramon Rocamora, manager of Metrobank, requested FructuosoPenaflor, Assistant Cashier, to conduct a physical bundle count of cash inside the vault, which should total to P4 million. They found out that there was a shortage of P150,000. After 4 investigations conducted by the bank and NBI, the reports concluded that Cristeta Chua-Burce, Cash Custodian, was primary responsible for the shortage. Unable to explain the shortage, the services of the accused was terminated.
Chua-Burce, together with her husband Antonio Burce, were charged with the crime of estafa. A civil case was also instituted. The accused prayed for suspension of criminal case due to a prejudicial question. It was first granted but denied by the CA. The CRIMINAL and CIVIL cases continued.
The CRIMINAL CASE ruled that she was guilty of estafa. CIVIL CASE also found her liable for the shortage of P150,000. She appealed both rulings to the CA but the court affirmed the two TC rulings.
Hence this case.
(1) W/N there was a valid trial
(2) W/N the elements of estafa were proven beyond reasonable doubt.
(1) Yes, there was a valid trial.
The accused allege that the public prosecutor did not intervene with the case (violation of Sec 5 RULE 110 ) and did not present evidence for the criminal case (no evidence for the accused to be convicted).
But the fact showed that the public prosecutor actively participated with the criminal case. And both parties, during the pre-trial, agreed to adopt their respective evidences in the CIVIL CASE to the CRIMINAL CASE. The agreement was reduced into writing, inconformity with the Rules of Court. Being bound by the pre-trial agreement, it is now too late in the day to challenge its contents.
(2) No, the crime of estafa was not proven.
The elements of Estafa, ART. 315 (1) (b), are the following:
a) The personal property is received in trust, on commission, for administration, or any other circumstances, with the duty return.
b) There is a conversion/diversion of such property or denial that he received it.
c) Such conversion/diversion is to the injury of another
d) There is demand for such property
The 1st element is absent. The 1st element gives the tranferee both material and juridical possession of the personal property. Juridical possession means the transferee has a right over the thing which he may even set up against the owner.The possession of the accused of the money had no juridical possession. Being a cash custodian, her possession is akin to that of a bank teller. And possession of a bank teller is possession of the bank. she was a mere custodian.
*She should have been charged with qualified theft, but double jeopardy is already in play.
*Difference between an agent and teller. TELLER – payment to the teller is a payment to the bank, he is a mere custodian. AGENT – he can assert his independent, autonomous right to retain money, even against the owner.