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Corpuz v.

People
29 April 2014 | Peralta, J. | Rule 45 certiorari | I. General principles – B. Nullum crimen nulla poena sine lege | Conejero

PETITIONER: Lito Corpuz


RESPONDENT: People of the Philippines

SUMMARY: Corpuz offered to sell jewelry which Tangcoy was selling, for a commission, and after failing to return the goods or
remit the proceeds within 60 days, promised Tangcoy he would pay. After demand went unsatisfied, Corpuz was sued and convicted
for estafa. The imposable penalty was disputed by several justices who believed the Court must take current factors such as inflation
when imposing the penalty (based on 1932 values of money as approximations for damage). The Court held that it must impose the
penalties based on Article 315 of the RPC in relation to Article 65, quoting Guillermo Guevara’s book, Commentaries on the Revised
Penal Code regarding Article 5 that the duty of the court is merely to report to the Chief Executive, with a recommendation for an
amendment or modification of the legal provisions which it believes to be harsh, “based under the legal maxim "nullum crimen, nulla
poena sige lege," that is, that there can exist no punishable act except those previously and specifically provided for by penal statute.

DOCTRINE: See Issue/Ratio 3. The primordial duty of the Court is merely to apply the law in such a way that it shall not usurp
legislative powers by judicial legislation and that in the course of such application or construction, it should not make or supervise
legislation, or under the guise of interpretation, modify, revise, amend, distort, remodel, or rewrite the law, or give the law a
construction which is repugnant to its terms. The Court should apply the law in a manner that would give effect to their letter and
spirit, especially when the law is clear as to its intent and purpose. Succinctly put, the Court should shy away from encroaching upon
the primary function of a co-equal branch of the Government; otherwise, this would lead to an inexcusable breach of the doctrine of
separation of powers by means of judicial legislation.

SEPARATE OPINIONS: Brion concurred, saying thr ''plain meaning rule" and the principle of separation of powers prevented the
SC from judicially legislating a new penalty. Both Sereno and Leonen concurred and dissented as they voted to affirm the conviction
but recompute the penalty, saying that jurisprudence and statutory construction both permit recomputation. Carpio and Abad,
dissenting separately, stated that the penalty in Art 315(1) is unconstitutional for violating the proscription against cruel punishment.

guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced him to


FACTS: pay 98k plus serve a minimum 4y 2m prison
1. Petnr. Corpuz seeks to reverse his RTC San Fernando correccional in the medium period to a maximum 14y
conviction for estafa [Article 315(1)(b) RPC1] (30 Jul 8m reclusion temporal in its minimum period.
2004) and the CA Decision and Resolution (Mar 22 6. The CA denied Corpuz’s appeal but changed the
and Sept 5, 2007) affirming the same. penalty to 4y 2m prison correccional as minimum, to
2. On May 2, 1991 Danilo Tangcoy was approached by 8y prison mayor as maximum, plus 7 years (a year for
and entrusted to Corpuz ₱98k worth of jewelry items2 each additional P10k over P22k).
for the latter to sell on commission. Corpuz was to tum 7. Corpuz filed with the SC this petition saying that there
over either the proceeds or the items after 60 days. was a best evidence violation due to photocopy
3. Corpuz neither remitted the stated proceeds nor evidence, a fatal defect in the information for estafa,
returned what he got after 60 days. He promised and insufficient evidence—it was denied.
Tangcoy he would pay the value but did not.
Consequently, the Public Prosecutor of Olongapo ISSUE/RATIO:
charged him with estafa before the RTC. 1. Whether the crime of estafa was proven—YES.
4. Corpuz said at trial that he and Tangcoy were  Whether Corpuz may submit objection to photocopy
collecting agents of Antonio Balajadia, a financer of evidence—NO, as he waived it by not raising it at
loans to Base employees. Corpuz said he signed a testimonial identification of the evidence.
blank receipt dated 2 May 1991 to obtain a loan from  Whether the information for estafa was defective—
Balajadia in 1989, which was being used to frame him. NO, as the period for return of the jewelry is not material
5. After trial, the RTC on 30 July 2004 found petitioner to the crime and was sufficiently approximated as

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ART. 315. Swindling (estafa). – Any person who shall defraud another by any commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the
of the means mentioned hereinbelow… 1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of duty to make delivery of, or to return the same; (b) that there be
confidence, namely: (b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender or
another, money, goods, or any other personal property received by the offender denial on his part of such receipt; (c) that such misappropriation or conversion
in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation or denial is to the prejudice of another; and (d) that there is a demand made by
involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same, even though such the offended party on the offender.
obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having 2
The pieces of jewelry were an 18k diamond ring for men worth ₱45k; a 2-baht
received such money, goods, or other property; [one baht = 15.244 grams] woman's bracelet worth ₱12k; one (1) men's
The elements of estafa with abuse of confidence are as follows: (a) that money, necklace and a 3-bath men's bracelet worth ₱25k.
goods or other personal property is received by the offender in trust, or on
substantial compliance. of imprisonment ranging from 3y 2m 11d of prision
 Whether asking about the jewelry was sufficient correccional, as minimum, to 15y of reclusion temporal as
demand—YES. Tancoy testified that he located Corpuz maximum. Pursuant to Article 5 RPC, let a Copy of this
after 2 months and “talked to him about the items he Decision be furnished the President, through the DOJ; also, the
gave,” but was “promised he would pay the amount.. President of the Senate and the Speaker of the HOR
Demand need not be formal or written; even a verbal
query is demand as the law does not qualify, and even so CONCURRENCE: Brion
the crime may be proven by other evidence (Tubb v. o Present day application of the 1930 values will not result
People). Prosecution herein proved misappropriation in the denial of Corpuz' s right to equal protection.
with the 2 May 1991 receipt, and its witness was credible o The permissible solution to perceived disparity between
by both CA and RTC findings. the prescribed penalty and the crime in light of he present
values of money and property is the President’s grant of
2. Whether the penalty imposed was appropriate—NO. The executive clemency through pardon or parole.
penalty imposed should be 3y 2m 11d prison correccional o I disagree that the incremental penalty for estafa is
as minimum, to 15y reclusion temporal as maximum. Based unconstitutional as a cruel and unusual punishment; Lim v.
on People v. Cosme: under Art. 315, estafa is punished by People and People v. Tongko prove otherwise.
prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor o Some statutes increased the penalties for estafa under
in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is 12,001- certain conditions despite the then already declining
₱22k; if such exceeds ₱22k, the penalty shall be imposed in monetary value on account of inflation: (1) Presidential
its maximum period, adding 1 year up to 20 years for each Decree No. 818 (enacted in October 22, 1975) increased
additional ₱10k pesos (prision mayor/reclusion temporal). the penalties in cases of estafa resulting from bouncing
 Maximum: Prisión correccional maximum to checks under Article 315(2)(d); and (2) Presidential Decree
prisión mayor minimum should be divided into No. 1689 (enacted on April 6, 1980) increased the penalty
three equal portions of time each of which portion for certain forms of estafa under Articles 315 and 316.
shall be deemed to form one period in accordance o Justice Abad’s view is not agreeable: (1) the modification
with Article 65. Here, the maximum penalty of the penalty transgressed the clear intent of the legislature
imposable should be within the maximum period of as the adjustment for inflation is not supported by the letter
6y 8m 21d to 8y of prision mayor. Article 315 also of Article 315 of the RPC nor by its intent; (2) in adjusting
states that a period of one year (up to a max 20 for inflation the monetary values to modify the penalties
years) shall be added to the penalty for every
additional ₱10k defrauded over ₱22k.₱98k is ₱76k CONCURRING AND DISSENTING: Sereno and Leonen
or 7 times more than the ₱22k ceiling set by law, so  Sereno: Inaction would erroneously endanger the
the maximum period of 6y 8m 21d to 8y of prision accused’s right to liberty contrary to the presumed
mayor minimum would be increased by 7 years. The intention of the legislature, and the law must be
maximum of the prescribed penalty, which is 8 construed in favor of the accused.
years, plus 7 years, makes the maximum 15 years. o Money is an assigned representation, similar
 Minimum term of the indeterminate sentence: 6 to People v. Pantoja (1968) on compensatory
to m 1d to 4y 2m after applying the Indeterminate damages for death, where the Court
Sentence Law, since the penalty for estafa is prision explained that P9k was imposed based on the
correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum, pre-war purchasing power. The NCC in post-
and the penalty next lower is prision correccional in war 1950 imposed P3k damages since the
its minimum and medium periods. peso was 1/3rd pre-war value. As the Court
then found the 1968 peso as 1/4th the pre-war
2. Whether the Court may adjust penalties fixed by law— purchasing power, damages were set at P12k.
NO. The Court here went into a long discussion about the o The purchasing power of the peso was
correct penalties to be imposed because they were accepted as a "judicially manageable
excessive, as based on the amount of damage measured by standard": for adjustment of penalty,
the value of money in 1932. It decided that it could not valuation in expropriation cases, penalties in
modify the said range of penalties as it would be judicial criminal cases, and damages and indemnities.
legislation. It would be encroachment to remedy the o The Court must construe criminal rules in
legislature's failure in amending penalties through judcicial favor of the accused, as based on the equally
decisions. Article 5 RPC provides that in case of excessive vital doctrine of presumption of innocence.
penalties, the Court shall render the proper decision and o Article 10 of the Civil Code states: "In case
report to the Chief Executive reasons for legislative action. 3 of doubt in the interpretation or application of
laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body
DISPOSITIVE: Petition DENIED. CA and RTC affirmed with intended right and justice to prevail."
MODIFICATION that the penalty is the indeterminate penalty  Leonen: We must reflect the purchasing power of

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ART. 5. Duty of the court in connection with acts which should be repressed and shall report to the Chief Executive, through the Department of Justice, the
but which are not covered by the law, and in cases of excessive penalties. - reasons which induce the court to believe that said act should be made the
Whenever a court has knowledge of any act which it may deem proper to subject of penal legislation.
repress and which is not punishable by law, it shall render the proper decision,
the peso after 80yrs, as part of construing the law. probation under Colinares v. People.
o The gravity of a crime where someone was o As a general principle, RPC crimes carry the
defrauded of ₱50 of property in 1932 is not same penalties whatever year the accused
the same as the gravity of the same offense in commits them (e.g. mutilation of a Philippine
2014. Even the inflation rate can be derived coin in 1932 and in 2014 would still mean the
from comparing one year’s price index with same 2 year and 4 month maximum penalty).
another year’s price index. same index from But proportional correspondence between the
one year to the next. Price index is the gravity of the offense and severity of the
"measure of the average level of prices," the penalty changes for RPC crimes re: property.
most common being the Consumer Price o There is violation of the equal protection
Index (1948). clause in comparing uneven treatment: ₱98k
jewelry items subject of his offense would be
DISSENTS: Carpio and Abad valued at ₱980 in 1932 when he would have
 Carpio: Penalty should be 3y 1m 11d prision been imprisoned for only 2y 4m maximum,
correccional, as minimum, to 4y 9m 11d of prision but in 1991 he gets a 15 years maximum.
correccional, as maximum; and the portion of the first o Carpio’s view annuls the incremental penalty
paragraph of Article 315 RPC is unconstitutional for but maintain the validity of the basic
being violative of Section 19(1), Article III of the 1987 penalties for fraud. The uniform adjustment
Constitution prohibiting cruel punishment as well as in the base amounts using the PSA formula
the UDHR in 1948 and the ICCPR in 1986. (from a 2013 study) of ₱1 in 1949 to ₱100 in
o Jurisprudence shows standards of 2013 will maintain uniform levels of
disproportionality for the threshold for the legislative indignation or outrage over the
breach of the Cruel Punishment Clause. wrongs committed in these crimes.
Punishments that "shock public sentiment o The clear intent of the law can be given by
and violate the judgment of reasonable "harmonizing" the law or "aligning the
people" or "[are] flagrantly and plainly numerical figures to the economic realities.
oppressive" are violative of the Clause.  When the Code Commission drafted
o Impermissible disproportionality is gauged the Civil Code in 1949, it fixed the
by using alternative parameters: (1) whether new minimum civil indemnity for
more serious crimes are equally or less death to ₱3k but the Court in the
severely punished; or (2) whether the light of inflation t ₱75k in 2009.
punishment reasonably advances the state  The Court emphasized in People v.
interest behind the penalty. Pantoja that these judicial
o Article 315 of the Code calibrates the adjustments are dictated by: "the
maximum penalty for estafa on an escalated difference between the value of the
basis of one year imprisonment for every present currency and that at the time
₱10k fraud, with 20 years as ceiling. For a when the law fixing a minimum
fraud of ₱98k, the trial court sentenced indemnity was passed. Pantoja
petitioner to a maximum term of 15 years explained that, then, the purchasing
(within the range for homicide or kidnapping power of the peso has declined
and 3-day detainment). By imposing a level further until the rate of exchange in
of punishment for estafa equal to more the free market was U.S. $1.00 to
serious crimes against persons such as ₱4.00 Philippine pesos.
homicide and kidnapping, Article 315’s o In case of doubt the RPC is to be construed in
system of calibration is arbitrary and favor of the accused. While the Court has in
disproportionate to the severity of the crime 1964 construed the minimum in Article 2206
punished. Crucially, the calibration does not as subject to adjustment to cope with inflation
take into account the real value of the peso. although this worked against the accused.
o The enormous disparity in the values of fraud The Court has not similarly constructed to the
between these points in time (exceeding favorable, inflation-affected penalty
100%) and the imposition of the same level provisions of Article 315 RPC.
of maximum punishment in both instances
remove any semblance of reasonability in the
manner by which the punishment is derived
and its connection to the purpose of the law.
The arbitrary differential treatment of estafa
(and theft) crosses the line separating the
exercise of valid legislative discretion and the
Cruel Punishment Clause.
 Abad: The penalty should be the indeterminate
penalty to 2m arresto mayor, as minimum, to 1 y 8m
prision correccional, as maximum, entitling him to