Domestic helper; theft; qualified theft (Article 310)

Theft is consummated when three (3) elements concur: (1) the actual act of taking without the use of violence, intimidation, or force upon persons or things; (2) intent to gain on the part of the taker; and (3) the absence of the owner's consent. Moreover, for qualified theft to be committed, the following elements must concur:

[1] Taking of personal property;
[2] That the said property belongs to another;
[3] That the said taking be done with intent to gain
[4] That it be done without the owner's consent;
[5] That it be accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons, nor of force upon things;
[6] That it be done with grave abuse of confidence.

The Supreme Court has been consistent in holding that "intent to gain or animus lucrandi is an internal act that is presumed from the unlawful taking by the offender of the thing subject of asportation. Thus, actual gain is irrelevant as the important consideration is the intent to gain."In People v. Mejares (G.R. No. 225735. January 10, 2018), it was clear from the established facts that it was accused-appellant who opened the drawer in the masters' bedroom and took away the cash and valuables it contained. Therefore, the burden is on the defense to prove that intent to gain was absent despite accused-appellant's actual taking of her employer's valuables. It is precisely this burden that the defense failed to discharge.
In Mejares, accused-appellant was a domestic helper who had been working for the Spouses Gavino (the victims) for at least one (1) year when the former committed the crime. By this fact alone, the offense committed is qualified and warrants graver penalties, pursuant to Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended:
Article 310. Qualified theft. — The crime of theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding article, if committed by a domestic servant, or with grave abuse of confidence, or if the property stolen is motor vehicle, mail matter or large cattle or consists of coconuts taken from the premises of a plantation, fish taken from a fishpond or fishery or if property is taken on the occasion of fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, or any other calamity, vehicular accident or civil disturbance. (Emphasis supplied.)
The Supreme Court has explained that while grave abuse of trust and confidence per se does not produce the felony as an effect, it is a "circumstance which aggravates and qualifies the commission of the crime of theft"; hence, the imposition of a higher penalty is necessary. It is not difficult to understand why the character of accused-appellant's work as a domestic helper qualifies the offense she committed. As explained in Corpuz v. People of the Philippines ((734 Phil. 353, 2014):
[T]he rationale for the imposition of a higher penalty against a domestic servant is the fact that in the commission of the crime, the helper will essentially gravely abuse the trust and confidence reposed upon her by her employer. After accepting and allowing the helper to be a member of the household, thus entrusting upon such person the protection and safekeeping of the employer's loved ones and properties, a subsequent betrayal of that trust is so repulsive as to warrant the necessity of imposing a higher penalty to deter the commission of such wrongful acts.

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