The scene of the crime | Inquirer Business
Property rules

The scene of the crime

Margie wanted to buy a house-and-lot in Iloilo City. At that time, the real property she wanted to buy was then mortgaged with the bank.

The bank manager recommended Atty. Hec to Lizbeth, the niece of Margie, for advice regarding the transfer of the title in her aunt’s name. Atty. Hec informed Lizbeth that for the titling of the property in the name of her aunt, the amount of P200,000 would be incurred for the payment of taxes and attorney’s fees.

Lizbeth gave P150,000 to Atty. Hec who then issued a corresponding receipt. He thereafter prepared a Deed of Sale with Assumption of Mortgage. Subsequently, Atty. Hec gave Lizbeth BIR Revenue Official Receipts representing the payment of the required taxes.


When Lizbeth went to the BIR, however, the latter informed her that the receipts were fake. Atty. Hec admitted to her that the receipts were fake and that he used the money for his other transactions. Naturally, Lizbeth demanded the return of the money.


To settle his accounts, Atty. Hec issued in favor of Lizbeth a check in the amount of P120,000, deducting from P150,000 the P30,000 as attorney’s fees.

When the check was deposited with the ABC Bank, Makati branch, the same was dishonored for the reason that the account was closed. Notwithstanding repeated demands, Atty. Hec failed to pay.

Lizbeth filed an estafa case against Atty. Hec before a Makati City court. Atty. Hec, acting as his own counsel, entered a plea of “Not Guilty.”

The court convicted Atty. Hec of the crime of Estafa under section 1, paragraph (b), of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.

On appeal, Atty. Hec asserts: (a) that nowhere in the evidence presented by the prosecution does it show that P150,000 was given to and received by him in Makati City. Instead, the evidence shows that the Receipt issued by petitioner for the money was issued without any indication of the place where it was issued.

The other documentary exhibit presented, the Deed of Sale with Assumption of Mortgage, which was prepared by Atty. Hec himself was signed and notarized in Iloilo City. Atty. Hec then claimed that the only logical conclusion is that the money was actually delivered to him in Iloilo City, especially since his residence and office were situated there as well.


It further appears that the only time Makati City was mentioned was with respect to the time when the check provided by petitioner was dishonored by the bank in its branch in Makati. Perforce, he concluded that the court did not have the authority to hear, try and determine the case. Thus, his conviction should be set aside.

Q: What does the principle “venue is jurisdictional in criminal cases” mean?

A: It means that place where the crime was committed determines not only the venue of the action but is an essential element of jurisdiction. It is a fundamental rule that for jurisdiction to be acquired by courts in criminal cases, the offense should have been committed or any one of its essential ingredients should have taken place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.

Territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases is the territory where the court has jurisdiction to take cognizance or to try the offense allegedly committed therein by the accused. Thus, it cannot take jurisdiction over a person charged with an offense allegedly committed outside of that limited territory.

Q: How is jurisdiction of over the criminal case is determined?

A: It is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information. And once it is so shown, the court may validly take cognizance of the case. However, if the evidence adduced during the trial shows that the offense was committed somewhere else, the court should dismiss the action for want of jurisdiction.

Q: Must the criminal case against Atty. Hec be dismissed?

A: Yes. Except from the lone allegation in the information that the crime was alleged to have been committed in Makati City, no evidence was presented by the prosecution to prove that the offense or any of its elements was committed in said city. Although the prosecution alleged that the check issued by Atty. Hec was dishonored in a bank in Makati, such dishonor is not an element of the offense of estafa under Article 315, par. 1 (b) of the RPC.

One must remember that in a criminal case, the prosecution must not only prove that the offense was committed, it must also prove the identity of the accused and the fact that the offense was committed within the jurisdiction of the court.

Q: What are the elements of estafa under Article 315, par. 1 (b) of the Revise Penal Code that should have been proven?

It should be proven: (1) that money, goods or other personal property is received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same; (2) that there be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender, or denial on his part of such receipt; (3) that such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and (4) there is demand by the offended party to the offender.

Q: Is Atty. Hec very lucky?

A: Not all. The dismissal of the criminal case was without prejudice, and thus can be refiled. Moreover, the same can be referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against said counsel. (Source: Trenas v People, G.R. No. 195002, 25 January 2012)

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The author is Dean, College of Law, at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, and founder of Mawis Law Office

TAGS: property

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