Saturday, January 28, 2012

Valenzuela vs. People of the Philippines, GR No. 150917, September 27, 2006

Facts: Petitioner and Jovy Calderon were sighted within the ShoeMart (SM) complex along North EDSA, by Lorenzo Lago (Lago), a security guard who was then manning his post at the open parking area of the supermarket. Lago saw petitioner, who was wearing an identification card with the mark "Receiving Dispatching Unit (RDU)," hauling a push cart with cases of detergent of the well-known "Tide" brand. Petitioner unloaded these cases in an open parking space, where Calderon was waiting. Petitioner then returned inside the supermarket, and after five (5) minutes, emerged with more cartons of Tide Ultramatic and again unloaded these boxes to the same area in the open parking space.

Thereafter, petitioner left the parking area and haled a taxi. He boarded the cab and directed it towards the parking space where Calderon was waiting. Calderon loaded the cartons of Tide Ultramatic inside the taxi, then boarded the vehicle. All these acts were seen by Lago, who proceeded to stop the taxi as it was leaving the open parking area. When Lago asked petitioner for a receipt of the merchandise, petitioner and Calderon reacted by fleeing on foot, but Lago fired a warning shot to alert his fellow security guards of the incident. Petitioner and Calderon were apprehended at the scene, and the stolen merchandise recovered.

Petitioner and Calderon were charged and, after trial, convicted of consummated theft. Petitioner appealed, arguing that he should have been convicted of frustrated theft only. However, his conviction was affirmed.

Issue: Is petitioner guilty of consummated theft?

Held: Yes. An easy distinction lies between consummated and frustrated felonies on one hand, and attempted felonies on the other. So long as the offender fails to complete all the acts of execution despite commencing the commission of a felony, the crime is undoubtedly in the attempted stage. Since the specific acts of execution that define each crime under the Revised Penal Code are generally enumerated in the code itself, the task of ascertaining whether a crime is attempted only would need to compare the acts actually performed by the accused as against the acts that constitute the felony under the Revised Penal Code.

In contrast, the determination of whether a crime is frustrated or consummated necessitates an initial concession that all of the acts of execution have been performed by the offender. The critical distinction instead is whether the felony itself was actually produced by the acts of execution. The determination of whether the felony was "produced" after all the acts of execution had been performed hinges on the particular statutory definition of the felony. It is the statutory definition that generally furnishes the elements of each crime under the Revised Penal Code, while the elements in turn unravel the particular requisite acts of execution and accompanying criminal intent.

Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code gives a general definition of theft as follows: “Theft is committed by any person who, with intent to gain but without violence against or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter's consent.”

For the purpose of ascertaining whether theft is susceptible of commission in the frustrated stage, the question is again, when is the crime of theft produced? There would be all but certain unanimity in the position that theft is produced when there is deprivation of personal property due to its taking by one with intent to gain. Viewed from that perspective, it is immaterial to the product of the felony that the offender, once having committed all the acts of execution for theft, is able or unable to freely dispose of the property stolen since the deprivation from the owner alone has already ensued from such acts of execution.

It might be argued, that the ability of the offender to freely dispose of the property stolen delves into the concept of "taking" itself, in that there could be no true taking until the actor obtains such degree of control over the stolen item. But even if this were correct, the effect would be to downgrade the crime to its attempted, and not frustrated stage, for it would mean that not all the acts of execution have not been completed, the "taking not having been accomplished." Insofar as we consider the present question, "unlawful taking" is most material in this respect. Unlawful taking, which is the deprivation of one's personal property, is the element which produces the felony in its consummated stage. At the same time, without unlawful taking as an act of execution, the offense could only be attempted theft, if at all. With these considerations, we can only conclude that under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, theft cannot have a frustrated stage. Theft can only be attempted or consummated.

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