Craft or Fraud and Disguise: Ways and Means to Ensure the Seamless Accomplishment of a Crime
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We shall tackle Craft or Fraud and Disguise, as ways and means to ensure the seamless accomplishment of a crime. Television series and even movies, whether local and international, are replete with scenes and storylines wherein villains make use of ways and means to seamlessly accomplish their hideous designs.

For instance, a villain pretending to be the mother of a preschooler just so she can kidnap the child, and then will thereafter ask for a ransom money; a boss which uses work-related excuses as a pretext to rape his employee; and burglars who utilize masks or even stockings to conceal their identity and steal from a bank, among others.

Can you distinguish the difference among the three given situations?

Craft, fraud, and disguise, respectively, characterize the three aforementioned circumstances. It is not so unusual to see fictional characters employing these means or methods so as to ensure the successful implementation of their unlawful plans.

However, the employment of these methods may not only be seen in television or movies, but also in real life. Utilizing such methods in real life actually aggravates the crime committed. They serve to increase the penalty imposed to the offender.

Craft or Fraud and Disguise

In fact, Article 14, paragraph 14 of the Revised Penal Code provides three instances which may aggravate a crime, thus:

Article 14. Aggravating circumstances. – The following are aggravating circumstances:1

    1. That craft, fraud or disguise be employed.”2

Under this paragraph, there are three ways by which a crime may be aggravated, namely by employing craft, fraud, or disguise. The very basis of this aggravating circumstance is the means employed in the commission of the crime.

Considering that aggravating circumstances serves to increase the maximum penalty against an individual, it is not to be lightly inferred. The presence of such shall be alleged in the information. Because even if proven in trial, but the same is not alleged in the information, it shall not be considered to aggravate the crime committed. The rationale for this is that the accused has the right to know the nature of the accusations against him or her.

It must be noted, however, that these methods are different from one another, and they are not to be mistaken to have one and the same meaning. The succeeding discussions shall explain the three instances one by one.

What is Craft?

Craft involves the use of intellectual trickery or cunning on the part of the accused.3 In this aggravating circumstance, the offender, instead of employing physical means and method, resorts to mental or intellectual means to ensure the accomplishment of the crime.

The Court, in a long line of cases, has appreciated craft as an aggravating circumstance. One of which is the case of People vs. Empacis.4 In this case, the two accused Empacis and Romualdo pretended to be bona fide customers of the store of the victim just so they can gain entry therein and, subsequently, to the other part of the owner’s dwelling. The Supreme Court here ruled that such act constitutes craft.

Likewise, the Supreme Court also held, in the case of People vs. Napili,5 that the aggravating circumstance of craft is present when one of the malefactors pretended to be a legitimate buyer of a cigarette so as to compel the offended party to open the kitchen, thereby providing them means to enter and intrude the house.

In People vs Aspili,6 however, the Court held that craft should not have been considered by the lower court since even without employing craft, the unlawful scheme will still be carried out nonetheless, viz:


Neither did the appellants employ craft, since they had already boarded the vessel when they pretended to buy Tanduay Rum in exchange for the dried fish and chicken they were carrying. Even without such pretense, they could nonetheless have carried out their unlawful scheme.7


Basically, the employment of craft shall be to aid in the execution and commission of a crime.

What is Fraud or Deceit?

On the other hand, fraud or deceit is manifested by the use of insidious words or machinations resorted to by the accused so that the offended party will perform an act that will make the offender do the crime easily.8

This definition is perfectly exemplified and present in the case of People vs. Famador9 wherein the accused lured the minor to go with him on the pretext that they will look for the latter’s sister who was allegedly waiting for the said minor in a certain street.

The Court held that the aforementioned acts constitute fraud as a means for the accused to rape the minor. This is especially so in the case of People vs. De Leon10 wherein the accused, the step-father of a 15-year-old deaf and dumb girl, fooled the said minor by saying that he shall accompany her to her godmother, then later on raping her in another place.

As can be observed from the above-mentioned cases, deceit or fraud was employed to ensure the successful commission of the unlawful acts. The victims were made to believe that they were in good hands, but then they later on found themselves doomed in the hands of the offender.

Distinction between Craft and Fraud

From the above definitions, it may seem difficult to distinguish craft from fraud. What must be borne in mind, however, is that when there is a direct inducement by insidious words or machinations, what is present is fraud. On the other hand, when the act of the accused was done in order to avoid suspicion, what is present is craft.8

In People vs. Empacis,4 the Supreme Court held that the following acts constitute the aggravating circumstance of fraud or craft:


…where the accused—a) pretended to be constabulary soldiers and by that ploy gained entry into the residence of their prey whom they thereafter robbed and killed; b) pretended to be needful of medical treatment, and through this artifice, entered the house of the victim whom they thereupon robbed and killed;11

    1. c) pretended to be wayfarers who had lost their way and by this means gained entry into a house, in which they then perpetrated the crime of robbery with homicide; d) pretended to be a customer wanting to buy a bottle of wine; e) pretended to be co-passengers of the victim in a public utility vehicle; f) posed as customers wishing to buy cigarettes; and as being thirsty, asking for drink of water.11


What is Disguise?

Disguise are ways and means resorted to by the accused to conceal his identity.8 It is an aggravating circumstance because it provides means to the accused to remain anonymous while he or she carries out the unlawful acts12 It must be noted that the very purpose in resorting to this method is to actually conceal the identity of the offender.

The Supreme Court held, in the case of People vs. Sibbu,13 that the accused Sibbu employed disguise when he wore a bonnet on his face during the shooting incident. Obviously, there can be no other probable purpose for the use of bonnet than to conceal his identity. There is actually a basis for such concealment, especially because the victim and the accused live in the same barangay and, as such, they are familiar with each other.

In the case of People vs. Feliciano,12 on the other hand, several masked members of Scintilla Juris fraternity, carrying baseball bats and lead pipes, attacked some members of the Sigma Rho fraternity who were eating lunch in a canteen near the Main Library of the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

The accused argued that the prosecution should not have incorporated in the information the phrase “wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise” considering that not all accused were wearing masks and that some of their masks fell off. They then averred that it violated their constitutional right to be informed of the cause of the accusation against them.

The Supreme Court, however, held that:


Contrary to the arguments of the appellants, the inclusion of the phrase “wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise” in the information does not violate their constitutional rights. It should be remembered that every aggravating circumstance being alleged must be stated in the information. Failure to state an aggravating circumstance, even if duly proven at trial, will not be appreciated as such. It was, therefore, incumbent on the prosecution to state the aggravating circumstance of “wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise” in the information in order for all the evidence, introduced to that effect, to be admissible by the trial court.14


What is important in alleging disguise as an aggravating circumstance is that there was a concealment of identity by the accused. The inclusion of disguise in the information was, therefore, enough to sufficiently apprise the accused that in the commission of the offense they were being charged with, they tried to conceal their identity.14

In this case, the Supreme Court said that what is material in alleging disguise as an aggravating circumstance is that there was an actual concealment of identity. This is regardless of the fact that the masks fell off thereafter. It does not eliminate the fact that the mask was used to conceal the identity of the offenders.

Craft, Fraud, or Disguise in Sum

In sum, Article 14, paragraph 14 of the Revised Penal Code provides three instances by which crimes may be aggravated. First is by employing craft; second, by fraud; and third, by disguise. The very basis for aggravating the crime in paragraph 14 is the means by which an offender may commit a crime.

Craft is employed when the offender uses intellectual trickery in the commission of the crime, usually by pretending to be some other person. Fraud, on the other hand, is present when insidious words or machinations are utilized so as to induce the victim to comply with the whims of the offender, thereby allowing him or her to carry out the unlawful acts.

Lastly, there is disguise when the offender uses ways or means, particularly the employment of objects, to conceal the identity of the offender. The employment of the aforementioned instances is obviously for the purpose of aiding the offender in the seamless commission of the crime.

Surely, after having discussed all the distinctions among the three instances, you will also be able to determine which among the three are employed by the villains in your favorite television series or movies.

  1. Article 14, Paragraph 11, Revised Penal Code[]
  2. Id.[]
  3. People vs. Juliano, G.R. No. L-33053, January 28, 1980[]
  4. G.R. No. 95756, May 14, 1993[][]
  5. G.R. No. L-2406, February 22, 1950[]
  6. G.R. Nos. 89418-19, November 21, 1990[]
  7. Ibid.[]
  8. Justice J.B.L Reyes, Revised Penal Code Book One, 2021[][][]
  9. G.R. No. 36553, March 30, 1982[]
  10. G.R. 26867, August 10, 1927[]
  11. Ibid.[][]
  12. People vs. Feliciano, G.R. No. 196735, May 5, 2014[][]
  13. G.R. No. 214757, March 29, 2017[]
  14. Ibid.[][]

RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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