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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Buying and selling stolen items

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“Savings from the purchase of stolen personal property may not be enough to compensate for years of imprisonment, civil liability, and cost of litigation.”

Everyone wants to save money for the rainy days.

Thus, buying personal properties at an extremely reduced price is appreciated by most.

However, the buyer must make sure he is not buying, receiving, or possessing any object or anything of value which is known to him to have been derived from robbery or theft (see Presidential Decree 1612).

It is interesting to note that Presidential Decree 1612, also known as the Anti-Fencing Law, was a product of executive legislation which took effect on March 2, 1979.

It was decreed by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos during the time in our history wherein the making of laws was lodged with the Chief Executive.

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Aside from buying and acquiring stolen items, fencing also describes the selling, disposing of, or dealing with any article, item, or object which a person knows or is known to him as stolen.

If the offender is a partnership, firm, corporation or association, the president or the manager or any officer thereof who knows or should have known the commission of the offense shall be held liable (Section 4, PD 1612).

The essential elements of the crime of fencing are: (1) a crime of robbery or theft has been committed; (2) the accused buys, sells or disposes, or buys and sells any article, item, or object derived from the proceeds of a robbery or theft; (3) the accused knew or should have known that the article or object was derived from the proceeds of robbery or theft; and (4) there is, on the part of one accused, intent to gain for oneself or for another (see Ong v. People, G.R. 190475, April 10, 2013).

In the case of Ong v. People, the criminal information against accused Ong alleged that he “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously receive[d] and acquire[d] from unknown person… 13 truck tires worth ₱65, 975.00, belonging to FRANCISCO AZAJAR Y LEE, and thereafter selling One (1) truck tire knowing the same to have been derived from the crime of robbery” (G.R. 190475, April 10, 2013).

The accused was convicted for violation of PD 1612.

First, the owner of the tires, private complainant Francisco Azajar (Azajar) and Jose Cabal, the caretaker of the warehouse where the 38 tires were stolen, testified the crime of robbery had been committed on February 17, 1995.

Azajar was able to prove ownership of the tires from its Inventory List (G.R. 190475, April 10, 2013).

Second, the accused never denied the fact the 13 tires of Azajar were caught in his possession.

While the facts do not establish whether Ong was a principal or an accomplice in the crime of robbery, the missing tires were found in his possession.

The accused likewise admitted that he bought the said tires from Go of Gold Link for the total amount of ₱45,500 (G.R. No. 190475, April 10, 2013).

Third, since Ong was in the business of buying and selling of tires for the past 24 years, he ought to have known with the exercise of reasonable prudence the ordinary course of business in purchasing from an unknown seller.

His experience should have raised doubts as to the legitimate ownership of the tires considering it was the first time he transacted with Go, and given that the tires were sold to him as if by a peddler (G.R. 190475, April 10, 2013).

Finally, there was evident intent to gain for himself, as during the buy-bust operation, the accused was actually caught selling the stolen tires in his store.

Furthermore, the accused knew the requirements of the law in selling secondhand tires with which he complied, “but, in this particular transaction, he was remiss in his duty as a diligent businessman who should have exercised prudence” (G.R. 190475, April 10, 2013).

In the case of Cahulogan v. People, private complainant Johnson Tan (Tan) instructed his truck driver and helper, Braulio Lopez (Lopez) and Loreto Lariosa (Lariosa) to deliver 210 cases of Coca-Cola products (subject items) worth P52,476.00 to Demins Store.

The following day, Tan discovered that contrary to his instructions, the subject items were instead delivered to Cahulogan’s store (G.R. 225695, March 21, 2018).

Tan then met Cahulogan to inform him the delivery to his store was a mistake and he was pulling out the subject items.

However, Cahulogan refused, claiming he bought the same from Lariosa for P50,000.00, but could not present any receipt evidencing such transaction (G.R. 225695, March 21, 2018).

In affirming the conviction of Cahulogan, the Supreme Court said it “finds no reason to deviate from the factual findings of the trial court, as affirmed by the CA, as there is no indication that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case” (G.R. 225695, March 21, 2018).

The factual findings are clear that Lariosa sold to Cahulogan the subject items without authority and consent from Tan; Cahulogan bought the subject items from Lariosa; Cahulogan should have been forewarned the subject items came from an illegal source, as his transaction with Lariosa did not have any accompanying delivery and official receipts; and Cahulogan’s intent to gain was evident since he bought the subject items for a price lower than their value (G.R. 225695, March 21, 2018).

In another case, accused Mariano Lim, the proprietor of Basco Metal Supply (BMS), allegedly purchased one unit of Komatsu Road Grader (Road Grader) for the amount of P400,000 knowing it was stolen and owned by Second Rural Road Improvement Project (SRRIP) PMO-DPWH.

The possession of the Road Grader by BMS was reported by the project engineer (Engr. Gulmatico) of SRRIP to the police (Lim v. People, G.R. 211977, October 12, 2016).

In acquitting the accused, the Supreme Court said “except for his statement that the subject grader was procured by his office, Engr. Gulmatico failed to establish… his office’s ownership over the subject grader.”

Even the Memorandum Receipt submitted by the prosecution did not state the subject grader is owned by the SRRIP-DPWH (G.R. No.211977, October 12, 2016).

“A cursory reading of Engr. Gulmatico’s testimony shows that his statements pertaining to the alleged theft are all based on information which he claims… [to] have [been] received from third persons, all of whom were never presented to testify… [T]hus, it was erroneous for the trial court to give probative value on Engr. Gulmatico’s testimony considering that the truth… [of] such statements cannot be ascertained for being mere hearsay”(G.R. 211977, October 12, 2016).

“On the presumption that fencing had been committed as provided by Sec. 5 of PD 1612, we rule that petitioner was able to overcome the same upon his presentation of the Affidavit of Ownership which he secured from, Petronilo Banosing… Both the RTC and the CA failed to consider that the Affidavit of Ownership given by Petronilo Banosing to petitioner was a duly notarized document which, by virtue of its notarization, enjoys a presumption of regularity”(G.R. 211977, October 12, 2016).

Moreover, “the clearance (of the station commander) stated in Sec. 6 of PD 1612 is only required if several conditions are met: first, that the person, store, establishment or entity is in the business of buying and selling of any good[s], articles, item[s], object[s], or anything of value; second, that such thing of value was obtained from an unlicensed dealer or supplier thereof; and third, that such thing of value is to be offered for sale to the public”(G.R. 211977, October 12, 2016).

“In the present case, the first and third requisites were not met. Nowhere was it established that petitioner was engaged in the business of buy and sell. Neither was the prosecution able to establish that petitioner intended to sell or was actually selling the subject grader to the public” (G.R. 211977, October 12, 2016).

While value for money is always sought after by a sensible buyer, he has to be wary of objects or articles which are products of the crime of robbery or theft.

Savings from the purchase of stolen personal property may not be enough to compensate for years of imprisonment, civil liability, and cost of litigation.

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