My former officemate approached me to borrow money. He offered to secure the loan with a mortgage, which he said is clean, on his lot. I lent him money because I thought the loan was secured. When he failed to pay me back, I checked the lot he mortgaged and was surprised to find out that he already mortgaged it to several other persons before offering it to me. Can I file a criminal case against him?
You may file a criminal case for estafa. Estafa is a crime punished under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), committed by defrauding another person through unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, false pretenses or fraudulent acts or means. As with any other crimes, there are facts or elements that must be established before it can be said that a person committed estafa. In general, the crime of estafa has two main elements. These are: abuse of confidence or deceit, and damage and prejudice (Sy vs. People, 348 SCRA 264).
With respect to the element of deceit, the Supreme Court held that deceit is a specie of fraud. It refers to the false representation of a matter of fact whether by words or conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed which deceives or is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it, to his legal injury (Aricheta vs. People, 533 SCRA 695).
In your case, it is clear that there is deceit on the part of your former officemate when he lied to you with regard to the status of the lot. Saying that the title of the lot he mortgaged is clean when in fact it was already mortgaged to other persons is a misrepresentation of facts that constitutes deceit.
Your situation is similar to the case of People vs. Galsim where the Supreme Court ruled that the false warranty that the mortgaged land is “free from all liens and encumbrances” constitutes the false representation or deceit that may give rise to the crime of estafa (107 Phil. 303).
Please note, however, that it is also necessary to establish that the offended party was induced to part with his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means used by the accused (People vs. Aricheta). It must be shown that the misrepresentation is the cause or motive that convinced the victim to enter into the contract. Thus, in the Galsim case earlier mentioned, the Supreme Court found the accused guilty considering that “it is apparent that the complainant had granted the loan to appellant in the belief that the security offered was good and sufficient to guarantee his investment because it was free from any lien or encumbrance. Had he known that it was already encumbered, the likelihood was that he would not have granted the loan.”
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org