In every criminal case, the court has demonstrated to the accused that he should be regarded innocent unless proven guilty. Such is a cherished fundamental civil right. Yet, what about the victim? What is obvious ungratefulness? How does the court demonstrate compassion to a victim who is only good and accommodating to the offender?
If present, abused of the victim’s trust or blatant ungratefulness towards the latter should likewise be examined. If the court finds that these circumstances exist, it must not also hesitate to impose a harsher penalty to the perpetrator.
What is Obvious Ungratefulness and Abuse of Confidence?
Abuse of confidence refers to a situation where one person takes advantage of the trust and confidence that another person has placed in them, typically for personal gain. This can happen in a variety of contexts, such as when an employee steals from his or her employer, or when a trusted friend or family member exploits their relationship to gain something from the other person.
Obvious ungratefulness is that behavior of a person who fails to express or acknowledge gratitude for the generosity, support, or assistance provided by others. This behavior is characterized by a lack of gratitude, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as not expressing appreciation or acknowledgment or taking the assistance for granted.
As it disregards the efforts and generosity of others who have aided or supported the ungrateful person, manifest ingratitude is considered inappropriate and disrespectful. Additionally, it can impair relationships and create a negative impression of the ungrateful individual in the eyes of others.
Both abuse of confidence and obvious ungratefulness are negative behaviors that can harm relationships and erode trust. It is important to be aware of these behaviors and to take steps to avoid them, such as by being honest and transparent in all interactions, and by showing gratitude and appreciation for the kindness of others.
These circumstances of abuse of confidence and obvious ungratefulness when accompanying a commission of a crime may result to higher imposition of penalty. They will be considered as aggravating circumstances. Thus, under the Revised Penal Code, it provides that:
“Aggravating circumstances. – The following are aggravating circumstances:
“x x x x . . . .
“That the act be committed with abuse of confidence or obvious ungratefulness.1
“x x x x . . . .”
Criminal Law | Abuse of Confidence
The Supreme Court has defined abuse of confidence as:
“It is that there exists a relation of trust and confidence between the accused and the one against whom the crime was committed and the accused made use of such relation to commit the crime”.2
The grave abuse of confidence must be the result of the relation by reason of dependence, guardianship, or vigilance, between the appellant and the offended party that might create a high degree of confidence between them which the appellant abused.3
The offender takes advantage of the victim’s trust in order to commit or facilitate the crime. Clearly, this trust made it easier for the offender to carry out his criminal intent. Abuse of confidence is an inherent element of certain felonies.
For instance, according to Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code or the Swindling or Estafa, the crime is committed through unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence when the offender altered the substance, quantity, or quality of anything of value that he is obligated to deliver, even if the obligation is based on an immoral or illegal consideration.4
Another is when the accused misappropriated or converted, to the prejudice of another, money, goods, or any other personal property received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same, even though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having received such money, goods, or other property.5
What are the requisites?
In reference with Criminal Law Book One of Justice Luis B. Reyes, the requisites are:
- That the offended party had trusted the offender;
- That the offender abused such trust by committing a crime against the offended party; and
- That the abuse of confidence facilitated the commission of the crime.
The offended party had trusted the offender
It is reasonable to conclude that the offended party and the offender have a personal or business relationship in which trust can be established. Personal trust exists when the offender is a relative, friend, or household member. In situations involving business trust or the performance of one’s duty, it was this duty that allowed the offender to commit the illegal act.
The offender abused such trust by committing a crime against the offended party
Since the victim trusted the offender, the former had lowered his guard while in the presence of the culprit. This trust emanated as a result of their relationship. A household member has access to the offender’s residence, giving him ample opportunity to commit his crimes. The offender uses this trust not only to gain access to the offended party or to his property, but also to obtain information necessary to perpetuate the offense that caused the victim harm.
Abuse of confidence facilitated the commission of the crime
In People vs. Sabado6 the court ruled that:
Theft here became qualified because it was committed with grave abuse of confidence. Grave abuse of confidence, as an element of theft, must be the result of the relation by reason of dependence, guardianship, or vigilance, between the accused-appellant and the offended party that might create a high degree of confidence between them which the accused-appellant abused. Accused-appellant, as established by the prosecution, is an employee of the Pawnshop. Accused-appellant could not have committed the crime had he not been holding the position of the trusted employee which gave him not only sole access to the Pawnshop’s vault but also control of the premises.7
Because the defendant-appellant is an employee in the case at bar, the employer has granted him access to the pawnshop, making it simple for him to commit theft against his employer. As a result of his employment, he has been entrusted with the assets for which his employer expects him to provide diligent care.
In People vs Syou Hu,8 the accused, Syou Hu, was found guilty of Qualified Theft for stealing P435 in cash from the victim, Tiu Deit, without the victim’s permission.
According to the evidence, the suspect resided in the offended party’s home at the time of the criminal act. The aggrieved party sheltered the accused out of charity. The defense counsel challenges the decision of the Court of First Instance, arguing that the court erred in concluding that the offense described in the indictment constitutes Qualified Theft.9
The lawyer for the accused has argued that unless it can be proven that the latter asked for shelter out of charity in order to commit theft, the mere fact that he had been living out of charity in the offended party’s house would not be sufficient to convert the crime from simple to qualified theft, since article 310 of the Revised Penal Code states that qualified theft is committed when “grave abuse of confidence is committed.”10
The serious breach of confidence does not result in the commission of theft. Rather, it is the asportation, with the intent to gain, of another’s personal property without the owner’s knowledge and consent, that produces the crime of theft. Therefore, there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the two concepts.11
However, the Supreme Court, in rejecting such argument, explained that:
“The grave abuse of confidence is a mere circumstance which aggravates and qualifies the commission of the crime of theft. It is not necessary for said circumstance to be premeditated in order to be taken into consideration as an aggravating circumstance qualifying said crime. Its presence in the commission of the crime is sufficient.12
“The fact that the accused was living in the house of the offended party, who had sheltered him out of charity, when he took the money belonging to his protector, aggravates the crime committed by him, inasmuch as he gravely abused the confidence which the owner of the house reposed in him upon permitting him, out of charity, to live therein, stiffling the sentiment of gratitude awakened in his bosom by his benefactor’s charitable act. This abuse of confidence was all the more grave because it happened between fellow countrymen.13
“x x x x . . . .”
All of the components in paragraph 4, Article 14 of the RPC are present in this case. Tiu Deit provided Syou Hu with shelter and access to his household. This has given Syou Hu the opportunity to steal, as well as display ungratefulness to Tiu Deit, who has helped him out of charity. This, however, aggravates the offense because the court rejected his counsel’s appeal, ruling that the conduct is not a simple theft but a qualified one.
In People vs. Verdad,14 Jose Verdad worked as a house boy in Tomas Ramos’ Cabanatuan City home. Because appellant had Tomas Ramos’ and his family’s faith and confidence, he was allowed to sleep in the sala and be alone in the house when the rest of the family was away. He was also given the keys to the house.15
On July 6, 1979, at 2:00 p.m., Tomas Ramos and his wife, Zenaida, drove to Manila, leaving their three children, Raymond, Lourdes, and Rowena, with appellant. When the couple arrived to Cabanatuan at 12:30 a.m. on July 7, their children were already asleep.16
The appellant picked up the bolo and knocked on Rowena’s door around 2:00 a.m. Appellant informed Rowena that her mother had called. Rowena, not believing him, closes the door, but the appellant pushes it away and begins hitting Rowena. Rowena was injured in the head and on the forearm. P30, a college ring, a portable stereo cassette, a watch, and a necklace were taken by the appellant.17
Rowena was discovered and taken to the hospital by her father, Tomas Ramos. Rowena was able to tell her mother that she had been attacked by the appellant before she died. The appellant was captured in Pasay City and admitted in an affidavit to his guilt.18
In the ruling of the Supreme Court, it states that the aggravating circumstance of abuse of confidence or obvious ungratefulness, and abuse of superior strength were properly appreciated by the Trial Court. The accused was treated like a member of the family and was completely trusted. That confidence facilitated the commission of the offense.19
Unlawful acts conducted with clear ungratefulness or abuse of confidence are frequently committed by an accused who has a special relationship with the aggrieved party. Because of the person’s confidence, the offended party is unaware or caught off guard. What could be more painful in a circumstance where the person in whom you have placed your trust is the same one who would inflict you harm?
In People vs. Syou Hu,20 the victim sheltered the accused. Yet, the latter still had the temerity to steal from the offended party. In People vs. Verdad,21 the spouses treated the accused as a member of their family, leaving their children to him, but he took their property and, worse, attacked Rowena, causing her death.
Acts that are committed with abuse of confidence or evident ungratefulness are considered aggravating circumstances that should have a harsher penalty. The reason is that the nature of the offense stems from a personal or private relationship that exists between the offender and the party who was offended.
Because they involve the violation of social norms and the betrayal of trust, crimes committed with abuse of confidence and evident ungratefulness are regarded as particularly egregious.
Abuse of confidence occurs when a person exploits their position of trust or authority for personal gain or to take advantage of others. On the other hand, ungratefulness refers to a lack of gratitude or appreciation for someone who has shown compassion or provided assistance.
When these two behaviors are combined in a criminal act, it represents a serious violation of the trust and confidence placed in the offender. As a result, such crimes are frequently regarded as morally reprehensible and can have far-reaching effects on the victims, both financially and emotionally.
To deter others from engaging in similar conduct and to uphold the principles of justice and accountability in society, it is essential that these offenses be punished severely.
- Article 14, Paragraph 4, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- People vs. Comendador, G.R. No. L-38000, September 19, 1980[↩]
- G.R. No. 177761, April 18, 2012[↩]
- Article 315 , Par. 1[a], Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Article 315 , Par. 1[b], Id.[↩]
- G.R. No. 218910, July 5, 2017[↩]
- G.R. No. L-45765, January 29, 1938[↩]
- G.R. No. L-51797, May 16, 1983[↩]