G.R. No. 1443. January 16, 1904

Please log in to request a case brief.

3 Phil. 191

[ G.R. No. 1443. January 16, 1904 ]




On the 8th of June, 1903, the provincial fiscal of the district of
Iloilo filed an information in the Court of First Instance of that
district charging the defendants, Abison, Juares, and Celestial, as
accessories after the fact to the crime of theft in that, on the 21st
of December, 1902, notwithstanding the fact that the three defendants
knew that the three carabaos presented to them by Susano Acasio, Benito
Albao, and Florentino Apostol were not the property of the latter, but
had been taken from certain malefactors by the said Acasio and Apostol
in an expedition which they made into the forest as members of the
Constabulary, the said defendants, Nevertheless, issued certificates of
ownership in favor of the mistresses of the said Constabulary men and
put the municipal brand of the township of Lemery on the carabaos in
order that the said Acasio, Albao, and Apostol might appropriate to
their own use the said carabaos. Albao, Apostol, Faustino Rosales, and
Marcelino Bayona were cited as witnesses for the prosecution.

From the evidence introduced during the trial it appears that one
day in the month of December, 1902, Susano Acasio, Benito Albao, and Florentino Apostol, Constabulary soldiers, while scouting in the woods,
encountered six unknown men, who took to flight when fired upon; that
these men had in their possession four carabaos and a horse; that
Acasio, who was in command of the squad, upon his return to the town
turned the horse and one of the carabaos over to Inspector Helt and
ordered that the three carabaos be taken to the town of Lemery, where
the three Constabulary men appeared before the president and the
municipal treasurer and obtained from them credentials of ownership in
favor of their mistresses, which said credentials were signed by the
president and treasurer, and also by the municipal secretary. The
Constabulary men testified that the secretary knew that the carabaos
had been taken from thieves in the woods and that although the
defendants at first refused to issue the certificates they subsequently
consented to do so in view of the persistence of Acasio, who assured
them that he would be responsible for whatever happened.

The defendants pleaded not guilty, and as witnesses for the defense
testified under oath that when these three Constabulary men came to
them with the carabaos they assured them that they had purchased the
carabaos in the Province of Capiz, but when they were asked to show
their certificates of ownership Acasio replied that they had none; that
the defendants thereupon told him that they could not issue any
certificates or brand the carabaos; that Acasio then gave them to
understand that, as the commanding officer of the post, it was his duty
to make inquiries into matters concerning stolen stock and commenced to
make threats; that in view of this action on the part of the
Constabulary, and of the fact that they assured them that the inspector
who resided some distance away knew all about these animals, for the
purpose of avoiding trouble they consented to issue certificates of
ownership for the three carabaos and to place the town brand upon them;
that some twenty days later, they having heard that the said three
carabaos had been taken from thieves, the president called a meeting of
the municipal council and reported the facts; that the council resolved
to report the matter to the provincial governor, as appears from a
document exhibited on page 34, which is a certificate from the
provincial secretary of Iloilo, who corroborates this statement of the
accused; they further testified that they had only charged 75 cents
each for the three certificates, which was the amount fixed by the
tariff, and that the fees for the two certificates issued to Albao and
Apostol have not been paid; that they did not report the facts to the
Constabulary inspector because they did not deem it necessary, report
having been made to the governor of the province; that although the
carabaos had an old brand mark on them they did not known they were
stolen until after the report made to the provincial governor on motion
of the president.

The secretary, Jacobo Celestial, testified to the same effect,
adding that he was not present when the certificates were drawn up, he
having returned to his house, and on the day following they were sent
to him for signature, as he was at that time ill.

The court below, considering that the crime had been proven and the
guilt of the accused established, condemned the first two to the
payment of a fine of 1,250 pesetas and the third to the payment of a
fine of 450 pesetas, with one-third of the costs to each one, and to
suffer subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, with no allowance
for the preventive imprisonment suffered. From this judgment the
defendants appealed.

If the crime of theft consists in the act of taking personal
property belonging to another with intent to gain, without the consent
of the owner, and without using force or intimidation in the taking, as
provided by article 517 of the Penal Code, it is evident that if it is
not proved that the property alleged to have been stolen was so stolen
and it is not determined who the owner of the property is, the mere
possession of such property can not be considered as the result of a
crime, nor can the possessor be punished as a thief. This is the
doctrine established by the courts in many decisions, among them that
of the supreme court of Spain of May 19, 1882.

If we believe the statement made by the Constabulary men, Acasio and
Apostol, the carabaos which were subsequently presented to the
municipal president of Tubig were in the possession of six unknown men
who were in the mountains and who ran away and abandoned the said
carabaos when fired upon, and as these unknown men might have been the
owners of the carabaos, and on the other hand even if they were
thieves, it does not appear that the carabaos were stolen or who the
owners thereof were, there can be no doubt that the mere possession of
these animals by the six persons unknown could not be considered as
resulting from a theft or robbery, as the evidence does not show that
the elements of this offense are present.

Common sense teaches that if there has been no crime and no
punishable act has been committed there can be no punishment; and
consequently if the record contains no proof of the existence of the
crime of theft or any other crime the defendants can not be guilty as

Furthermore, the record does not contain evidence sufficient to show
that the defendants had any knowledge of the means by which these
carabaos had been obtained, for the Constabulary men assured them that
they had purchased them in Capiz, and upon this assertion it is to be
presumed that the accused acted in good faith and that they were
influenced by the threats of the Constabulary men in question who were
determined to get these certificates, which were in fact issued by the

The best proof that the accused acted without criminal intent is the
fact of their having reported the facts to the governor of the province
a few days after the certificates were issued. Consequently, there
being no evidence of any facts constituting the offense charged, the
defendants must be acquitted.

For the reasons stated we are of the opinion that the judgment
appealed must be reversed and the defendants, Alfonso Abison, Anselmo
Juares, and Jacobo Celestial, acquitted, with the costs of both
instances de oficio; and it is so ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Cooper, Willard, Mapa, McDonough, and Johnson JJ., concur.

Date created: January 07, 2019


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Apply Filters