Penalty for Theft if value of stolen items NOT proven

Given the adjustments made by Republic Act No. 10951 to the penalties imposed under the Revised Penal Code, in People v. Mejares (G.R. No. 225735. January 10, 2018), the Supreme Court had to adjust the penalty to be imposed on accused-appellant.

Since the penalty in cases of theft is dependent on the value of stolen personal properties, it is critical to ensure that the penalty is based on the value proven during trial, and not merely on the Information or uncorroborated testimonies presented by the prosecution. Here in the case of Mejares, a perusal of the records leads to the conclusion that while the Regional Trial Court reduced the value of the stolen jewelry from P1,000,000.00 to P500,000.00 on the basis of the complainant's social standing, such determination is devoid of evidentiary basis.

Citing People v. Paraiso and People v. Marcos in Francisco v. People, the Supreme Court explained that "an ordinary witness cannot establish the value of jewelry" and that courts cannot take judicial notice of the value of properties when "[it] is not a matter of public knowledge [or] unquestionable demonstration"; thus:
The value of jewelry is not a matter of public knowledge nor is it capable of unquestionable demonstration and in the absence of receipts or any other competent evidence besides the self-serving valuation made by the prosecution, we cannot award the reparation for the stolen jewelry.
The Regional Trial Court did not only err in setting the amount of the stolen jewelry on the basis of nothing but the complainant's social standing, but also in sustaining the values of the other stolen items as they appeared in the Information and asserted by the complainant. These items were valued as follows: the antique Rolex wristwatch at P400,000.00, the foreign currencies at P86,308.00, and cash at P50,000.00. They were valued this way since no other competent evidence such as in the form of watch make, model description, receipts, or exchange rates was presented to satisfactorily prove their value.Thus, in the absence of factual and legal bases, the amount of P1,056,308.00 could not be the basis to determine the proper penalty to be imposed on accused-appellant. On the same ground, the complainant is likewise not entitled to reparation. Instead, the rule articulated in Candelaria v. People[48] applies:
In the absence of independent and reliable corroboration of such estimate, the courts may either apply the minimum penalty under Article 309 or fix the value of the property taken based on the attendant circumstances of the case.
Given that the value of the stolen personal properties in this case was not determined by reliable evidence independent of the prosecution's uncorroborated testimonies, this Court is constrained to apply the minimum penalty under Article 309(6) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 81 of Republic Act No. 10951, which is arresto mayor.

However, in view of Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code concerning qualified theft,[50] accused-appellant must be meted a penalty two (2) degrees higher, i.e., prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods with a range of two (2) years, four (4) months, and one (1) day to six (6) years.

Also applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, where there are no modifying circumstances and the minimum of the indeterminate penalty is computed from the full range of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period and the maximum of the indeterminate penalty is reckoned from the medium of prision correccional in its medium and maximum period, accused-appellant must only suffer a minimum indeterminate penalty of four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor to a maximum of three (3) years, six (6) months, and twenty-one (21) days of prision correccional.

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