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[ GR No. 5337, Feb 10, 1910 ]



15 Phil. 178

[ G.R. No. 5337, February 10, 1910 ]




In  this case the following information was  filed against the accused:

"In or about the month of April, 1908, the  said accused, being a justice of the peace of Camiling, and  as such, by reason of his office, having in his possession public moneys, maliciously and criminally failed to give account thereof and sought to appropriate to his own use the sum of P166 out of P223.50 which he  had  collected in his court during the months of January, February, and  March of the same year, paying over only the sum of P57.50."

It appears that the accused,  being justice of  the peace of the municipality of Camiling, Province of Tarlac, on or about the 1st of April, 1908, presented  to the treasurer of said municipality,  for the purposes of a settlement, his accounts for fees, fines, and costs collected by him during the months of January, February, and March of said year, a  written  statement  of the various fines he had received during said  months; that said written statement was  a correct statement of the moneys received; that said treasurer was very busy at the time  of the presentation of said statement and the  matter was turned over to a clerk in his office, Cecilio Torres, for a settlement of the same; that the latter,  after having examined the accounts, came to the conclusion  that the accused was indebted to the treasurer, for moneys in his hands  belonging to the Government, in the sum of P57.50; that thereupon said accused paid over said sum  and took a receipt therefor.  A few days later the clerk  of the accused  called his  atttention to  the  fact that an error had been made by the treasurer in settling the accounts of the said accused.  The accused immediately sent word to the treasurer and  asked that his accounts be again examined.   The clerk of the treasurer stated that he was very busy at that  time but he would reexamine the accounts and inform the accused later if he discovered any errors.  A few days afterwards, and on or about the 20th of April,  the defendant  was notified  that,  according to the result of the reexamination of the accounts, the accused still owed  the treasurer the sum  of P166.  The accused immediately  paid over  that  amount to the treasurer.  These facts are undisputed.

Upon these facts the defendant was found guilty and condemned to six months' imprisonment in the provincial jail of Tar lac and to pay the costs of the action.

We are of the opinion that the conclusion of the court that  the  defendant  was guilty of  the crime  charged is sustained by the proofs. It is  unquestioned that the defendant had collected during the months of January, February, and March the sum of P223.50.  During the month of January he collected P182.50, the principal part of which was made up of two fines imposed  and collected by him, one of P1105 and the other of P60.   The items constituting the account of  the  justice  of the peace for these three months were very few in number.   It is unbelievable that the accused, when he paid over to the treasurer the sum of P57.50, did not  then  know  perfectly well that  he owed the Government  a much larger sum.  In this particular case it is  of no consequence  that the treasurer did not ask more than P57.50.  All  public officials who have in their hands public moneys owe a duty to the Government, namely, the duty to pay over, not a portion, but all of said moneys. They owe the further duty of being fair  to the Government, a duty which the accused failed to discharge in this case.  He stood  by  and  saw the  receiving  official  make a clerical  mistake in calculating the amount due from him to the Government,  and took advantage of that  mistake, knowing that it was a mistake and  realizing that to take advantage thereof was unfair and unjust.  A different question would be presented  if the accounts were long and intricate.  In  that  case  an honest mistake  might be  made by the accounting officer in the sum  which should be paid to the receiving official.  An  honest  mistake by an official when rendering his account and  paying over money is not criminal.  Under the circumstances of this case, however, by reason  of the fewness of the items, the largeness of the sum in his hands,  and the simplicity of the accounts, it is impossible to believe otherwise than that the accused knew at the time that he was not paying to the Government all the money that was due it.  Thus willfully failing to live up  to his known duty and obligation  to the public he appropriated such money to his own use.

In view of the fact, however, that the money was later repaid upon the instance of the accused himself and without any request upon the part of the treasurer, we are of the opinion that the minimum penalty ought to be imposed.

The judgment of the court below is hereby modified and the defendant is sentenced to two months of imprisonment in the provincial jail of Tarlac and to  pay the costs of this action.   So ordered.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Mapa, Johnson,  and Carson, JJ., concur.