• Civil liability arises in case of non-compliance with contractual obligation

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    Ramil and I entered into a contract of sale where I will sell him 100 square meters of residential land in Tagaytay. Under the terms we agreed upon, he will pay the downpayment of 20 percent of the total consideration and the balance of P400,000.00 shall be paid within one year. For three years, I have been demanding from him the payment of the balance but he just promised that he will pay on a certain date, which he never does. I intend to file a complaint for estafa against him in order to force him to pay the balance. Please guide me on this matter.
    Ador

    Dear Ador,
    The proper legal remedy in your situation is to file a civil action for collection of sum of money or breach of contract or specific performance against Ramil, not a criminal case for estafa under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. Under the same provision of law, the crime can be committed by any person who shall defraud another by means of unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud and fraudulent means.

    In the case of Sy vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 183879, April 14, 2010), then Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura stated:

    The elements of estafa by means of deceit are the following, viz.: (a) that there must be a false pretense or fraudulent representation as to his power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions; (b) that such false pretense or fraudulent representation was made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud; (c) that the offended party relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means and was induced to part with his money or property; and (d) that, as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.

    Applying the above decision in your situation, Ramil is not culpable of estafa because the second element of the crime was not met. No false pretense or fraudulent representation was made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud. When Ramil failed to pay his balance on the stated date in the contract of sale or promised date of payment, such failure does not constitute deceit, which will give rise to the filing of a complaint for estafa, but only an appropriate civil action for sum of money or breach of contract or specific performance.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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