BSB Group, Inc., represented by its president, Ricardo, filed a case for Qualified Theft against Sally, his wife. Per the complaint, Sally was employed by the company as cashier, engaged to receive and account for the payments made by the various customers of the company. Sally was charged when several checks totalling P1,534,135.50 issued by the company’s customers were indorsed by by her to her personal banking account with the Security Bank and Trust Company. After a finding of probable cause, the Office of the City Prosecutor filed an Information charging Sally with Qualified Theft for theft of “cash” money belonging to BSB Group Inc. After arraignment, trial ensued on the merits. To prove that Sally deposited the money to her personal account, the prosecution moved for issuance of subpoena duces mecum against the managers/representatives of SecurityBank, as well as the Metrobank Jose Abad Santos branch. Sally moved to quash the subpoena to Metrobank, noting that no mention was made of Sally’s bank account with Metrobank. While arguing that the account with Metrobank was immaterial to the case, she waived her objection to the Security Bank subpoena. BSB opposed the motion to quash, arguing that the complaint affidavit showed two checks were deposited to the Metrobank account. Sally also filed a supplemental motion to quash, alleging secrecy of bank deposits under R.A. 1405. The trial court denied the motions to quash. In the meantime, the representative of Security Bank testified and identified the checks deposited to Sally’s Security Bank account. Before her testimony could be completed, however, Sally moved to suppress her testimony, invoking irrelevancy and secrecy of bank deposits under R.A. 1405. When the trial court denied anew her motion to suppress, Sally filed a petition with the Court of Appeals, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in denying her motions to quash with respect to the Metrobank account, and the motion to suppress on the testimony of the bank representative from Security Bank.
The Court of Appeals granted the petition for certiorari filed by Sally and reversed the assailed orders of the trial court as well as struck off the testimony of the bank representative of Security Bank.
BSB Group, Inc and Ricardo then filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. They argue that the allegation in the Information of “cash” money taken by Sally encompass the checks deposited to the questioned bank accounts of Sally, thus the opening of Sally’s Bank Account is material and relevant to the case.
The Supreme Court:
“Prefatorily, fundamental is the precept in all criminal prosecutions, that the constitutive acts of the offense must be established with unwavering exactitude and moral certainty because this is the critical and only requisite to a finding of guilt. Theft is present when a person, with intent to gain but without violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things, takes the personal property of another without the latter’s consent. It is qualified when, among others, and as alleged in the instant case, it is committed with abuse of confidence. The prosecution of this offense necessarily focuses on the existence of the following elements: (a) there was taking of personal property belonging to another; (b) the taking was done with intent to gain; (c) the taking was done without the consent of the owner; (d) the taking was done without violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things; and (e) it was done with abuse of confidence. In turn, whether these elements concur in a way that overcomes the presumption of guiltlessness, is a question that must pass the test of relevancy and competency in accordance with Section 3 Rule 128 of the Rules of Court.
Thus, whether these pieces of evidence sought to be suppressed in this case î º the testimony of Marasigan, as well as the checks purported to have been stolen and deposited in respondent’s Security Bank account î º are relevant, is to be addressed by considering whether they have such direct relation to the fact in issue as to induce belief in its existence or non-existence; or whether they relate collaterally to a fact from which, by process of logic, an inference may be made as to the existence or non-existence of the fact in issue.
The fact in issue appears to be that respondent has taken away cash in the amount of P1,534,135.50 from the coffers of petitioner. In support of this allegation, petitioner seeks to establish the existence of the elemental act of taking by adducing evidence that respondent, at several times between 1988 and 1989, deposited some of its checks to her personal account with Security Bank. Petitioner addresses the incongruence between the allegation of theft of cash in the Information, on the one hand, and the evidence that respondent had first stolen the checks and deposited the same in her banking account, on the other hand, by impressing upon the Court that there obtains no difference between cash and check for purposes of prosecuting respondent for theft of cash. Petitioner is mistaken.
In theft, the act of unlawful taking connotes deprivation of personal property of one by another with intent to gain, and it is immaterial that the offender is able or unable to freely dispose of the property stolen because the deprivation relative to the offended party has already ensued from such act of execution. The allegation of theft of money, hence, necessitates that evidence presented must have a tendency to prove that the offender has unlawfully taken money belonging to another. Interestingly, petitioner has taken pains in attempting to draw a connection between the evidence subject of the instant review, and the allegation of theft in the Information by claiming that respondent had fraudulently deposited the checks in her own name. But this line of argument works more prejudice than favor, because it in effect, seeks to establish the commission, not of theft, but rather of some other crime î º probably estafa.
Moreover, that there is no difference between cash and check is true in other instances. In estafa by conversion, for instance, whether the thing converted is cash or check, is immaterial in relation to the formal allegation in an information for that offense; a check, after all, while not regarded as legal tender, is normally accepted under commercial usage as a substitute for cash, and the credit it represents in stated monetary value is properly capable of appropriation. And it is in this respect that what the offender does with the check subsequent to the act of unlawfully taking it becomes material inasmuch as this offense is a continuing one. In other words, in pursuing a case for this offense, the prosecution may establish its cause by the presentation of the checks involved. These checks would then constitute the best evidence to establish their contents and to prove the elemental act of conversion in support of the proposition that the offender has indeed indorsed the same in his own name.
Theft, however, is not of such character. Thus, for our purposes, as the Information in this case accuses respondent of having stolen cash, proof tending to establish that respondent has actualized her criminal intent by indorsing the checks and depositing the proceeds thereof in her personal account, becomes not only irrelevant but also immaterial and, on that score, inadmissible in evidence.”