Qualified theft vs. Carnapping 

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

During the pandemic, brand new car sales have dropped dramatically; while newly-purchased ones on installments have been repossessed for erratic or non-payment altogether.

The allure of buying a new car is not easy to resist. Beguiled by commercials where popular celebrities or influencers drive flashy new cars suggesting success, it serves to captivate the imagination like no other.

But when the stark reality that the amortization payments just keep on coming and the buyer’s payments could no longer keep up, comes down; it comes down hard.

This, perhaps, persuades other car buyers to look for cheaper cars from buy-and-sell shops.

Curiously, if a car sales agent who has sold a car and received the proceeds from the sale, fails or refuses to remit the proceeds to the owner of the car sold, or to the owner of the buy-and-sell shop, would it constitute Theft, or Carnapping?

Under the Revised Penal Code, Theft is upgraded to Qualified Theft when there is “breach of trust and confidence”. In the recent case of Florentino G. Dueñas, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 211701, which was handed down on January 11, 2023, Qualified theft, was defined, as follows:  

“Theft, as defined by Article 308 of the RPC, 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. Under Article 310 of the RPC, said act shall fall under the crime of Qualified Theft if committed with grave abuse of confidence, among others”.

In Florentino G. Dueñas, Jr. v. People, a used car sales agent who was successful in selling a car, did not remit the sales proceeds to the car owner, as he instead used it to buy another car for himself. Given that the case involves a car, did the car sales agent commit the crime of “Carnapping”?

Theft is distinguishable from Carnapping in this sense:

Theft vs. Carnapping. The elements of qualified theft are as follows: (1) there was a taking of personal property; (2) the said property belongs to another; (3) the taking was done without the consent of the owner; (4) the taking was done with intent to gain; (5) the taking was accomplished without violence or intimidation against person, or force upon things; and ( 6) the taking was done under any of the circumstances enumerated in Article 310 of the RPC, i.e., with grave abuse of confidence.

On the other hand, Carnapping, as defined by Section 2 of RA 6539, as amended, is the taking, with intent to gain, of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter’s consent, or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things. The elements of carnapping are as follows: (1) the taking of a motor vehicle which belongs to another; (2) the taking is without the consent of the owner or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons or by using force upon things; and (3) the taking is done with intent to gain. (Florentino G. Dueñas, Jr. v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 211701. January 11, 2023).

Obviously, the act of failing to remit the proceeds of a car sale, when the seller has authority to sell, would amount to Theft or Qualified Theft. However, when the seller does not have authority to sell, the crime could be Carnapping.

In fact, when a person who enjoys the trust and confidence of the owner of certain goods or monies “misappropriates” or “takes away” the same, the crime committed is Qualified Theft as held in the earlier case of Rowena Gicosoy Martin v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 239760. June 3, 2019.

Everyday dealings may seem banal; yet the legal implications of the same must always be reckoned.

But the simple rule is: don’t betray another person’s trust. If you do, there will most likely be adverse consequences.  

                (The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates- a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, law professor, MCLE lecturer, bar reviewer and book author. His website is etriiilaw.com).