[ G.R. No. 249196, April 28, 2021 ]




Can a disputable presumption be the sole basis, the corner stone, of a conviction beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of fencing? Through this case, the Court underscores that without proper factual foundation, the presumption of fencing must be upended in favor of the presumption of innocence enjoyed by the accused.

No prima facie evidence or case shall arise in the absence of the required facts on which the same must operate. The prosecution cannot, and should not, merely depend on the operation of the presumption of fencing to establish moral certainty for convicting the accused. More importantly, the courts should be mindful in applying such presumption, subject to a careful scrutiny of the facts of each case. This, considering that unjust convictions result to forfeiture of life, liberty, and property.

The Case

This Petition for Review on Certiorari1 seeks to reverse and set aside the Decision2 dated 30 April 2019 and the Resolution3 dated 03 September 2019 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 41527, which affirmed with modification the Decision4 dated 27 June 2017 of Branch 263, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Marikina City in Criminal Case No. 14-15920-MK, finding Dante Lopez y Atanacio (petitioner) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1612, otherwise known as the Anti-Fencing Law of 1979.


Petitioner was charged with the crime of fencing in an Information that reads:

"That on or about the 23rd day of February 2014, in the city of Marikina, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this honorable Court, the above-named accused with intent to gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly possesses one blue MOUNTAIN BIKE with frame name "ARAYA" VALUED At One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) which he knows or should be known to him to have been the subject of robbery or thievery, belonging to private complainant RAFAEL MENDOZA y DELA PAZ.


Upon arraignment, petitioner pleaded not guilty to the charge. After pre-trial was terminated, trial on the merits ensued.6

Version of the Prosecution

Private complainant Rafael Mendoza (Mendoza) averred that on 23 February 2014, he saw his bicycle at the corner of Katipunan and Ordonez Streets. He commanded the driver of said bicycle, Magno Lopez (Magno), to halt and asked him where he got the bicycle. Magno answered that the same was given to him by petitioner. They then went to the barangay for the blotter of the incident. At the barangay, it was agreed that the subject vehicle be turned over to Mendoza, but the following day the same was taken back as ordered by the barangay captain.7

Mendoza alleged that the said vehicle was stolen from him on 15 January 2011, which was reported in a police blotter the day after the incident. He insisted that he is the owner of the bicycle, having bought the same abroad.8

Jose Manalo Martinez corroborated Mendoza's allegations, averring that he used to bike with Mendoza.9

Version of the Defense

According to petitioner's brother, Magno, he met Mendoza on 23 February 2014 at around 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. while riding his bike at Katipunan Extension near Ordońez Street. Allegedly, Mendoza suddenly cut him off and claimed the bike was his. So as to not prolong the argument, Magno invited Mendoza to the barangay. Magno described the bicycle as a blue Araya-made model Muddy Fox Frame with a Shimano Deore XT group set, with a handle bar made by Girvin, as shown in the pictures taken by him and his brother. Magno testified that he got the bike from petitioner in 2002. He pointed out that the handle bar and the front fork of his bicycle as compared to those shown in. the pictures are different.10

On the other hand, petitioner insisted that he used to own the subject bicycle. According to petitioner, he bought it from Bicycle Works located in Katipunan, Quezon City and presented evidence of the existence of said bicycle shop including its SEC Registration, Articles of Incorporation, and By-Laws. He could not present the receipt for the purchase of the bike since he bought: it from Bicycle Works twenty (20) years ago. He also presented two (2) notarized affidavits from Bicycle Works, one from its President, Leopoldo De Jesus (President), another from its Chief Mechanic, Carmelito Gomez (Chief Mechanic) as proof.11

Ruling of the RTC

On 27 June 2017, the RTC rendered its Decision finding petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of fencing, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this court finds accused Dante Lopez y Atanacio, GUILTY, beyond reasonable doubt of the violation of P.D. 1612 (Anti-Fencing Law of 1979).

He is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of SEVEN (7) YEARS TO TWELVE (12) YEARS imprisonment.

With the return of the subject bicycle to the private complainant, this Court declares no civil liability against the accused.


The RTC ruled that the claim of ownership by Mendoza prevails over that of petitioner.13 It gave credence to the police blotter stating that on 15 January 2011, two (2) unidentified persons unlawfully and feloniously entered Mendoza's garage and took his Mountain Bike colored blue with frame name "ARAYA" made in Japan and worth Php100,000.00.

According to RTC, considering it was established that Mendoza owns the subject bicycle, the burden now shifted on the part of petitioner to overcome the presumption of fencing.14 Moreover, the trial court underlined that Leopoldo's affidavit was not specific that the bicycle subject of the case is really the same item that petitioner bought from him in 1997 and the bike being claimed by Mendoza.15

Ruling of the CA

On 30 April 2019, the CA affirmed with modification petitioner's conviction, viz:

WHEREFORE, the herein impugned Decision of the court a quo is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that accused-appellant is sentenced to the straight penalty of two (2) months of arresto mayor.


In affirming the RTC, the CA underlined that petitioner failed to destroy the presumption of fencing.17 However, it modified the penalty imposed by the RTC. The CA held that Mendoza failed to prove that the bicycle was indeed worth Php100,000.00. Consequently, when there is no available evidence to prove the value of the stolen property or that the prosecution failed to prove it, the corresponding penalty to be imposed should be the minimum penalty corresponding to the theft in the value of Php5.00.18

Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated 03 September 2019.19 Hence, this petition.20


Petitioner is now before this Court raising the following issues:





Essentially, the issue is whether or not the prosecution was able to establish the guilt of petitioner beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of fencing.

Ruling of the Court

The petition is meritorious.

At the outset, it must be underlined that only questions of law may be raised in petitions for review on certiorari. It is settled that in the exercise of the Supreme Court's power of review, the court is not a trier of facts and does not normally undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the case.22 This rule, however, is subject to a number of exceptions, including when the appellate court failed to notice certain relevant facts, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion and when the judgment of the CA is premised on misapprehension of facts.23 Said exception is present in the instant case.

Further, the general rule is that factual findings by the trial court deserve a high degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could alter the result of the case. However, a careful review of the evidence on record of the case compels us to take exception to the aforesaid rule.24

More importantly, proof beyond reasonable doubt charges the prosecution with the immense responsibility of establishing moral certainty. The prosecution's case must rise on its own merits, not merely on relative strength as against that of the defense. Should the prosecution fail to discharge its burden, acquittal must follow as a matter of course.25 The prosecution bears the primary duty to present its case with clarity and persuasion, to the end that conviction becomes the only logical and inevitable conclusion. We emphasize that a conviction cannot be made to rest on possibilities; strongest suspicion must not be permitted to sway judgment.26

With the foregoing principles in mind, We hold that there exists reasonable doubt that petitioner committed the crime charged against him.

The identity of the bicycle in issue
was not established; hence, the
presumption of fencing did not arise

Fencing is the act of any person who, with intent to gain for himself or for another, shall buy receive, possess, keep, acquire, conceal, sell or dispose of, or shall buy and sell, or in any other manner deal in any article, item, object or anything of value which he knows, or should be known to him, to have been derived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft.27 The essential elements of the crime of fencing are:

1. A crime of robbery or theft has been committed;

2. The accused, who is not a principal or an accomplice in the commission of the crime of robbery or theft, buys, receives, possesses, keeps, acquires, conceals, sells or disposes, or buys and sells, or in any manner deals in any article, item, object or anything of value, which has been derived from the proceeds of the said crime;

3. The accused knows or should have known that the said article, item, object or anything of value has been derived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft; and

4. There is on the part of the accused, intent to gain for himself or for another.28

In the instant case, We find that the prosecution has failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt the identity of the bicycle in issue.

Apart from the police blotter of the alleged robbery, no evidence was presented to prove Mendoza's ownership of the bicycle in issue. The photos presented did not show any distinctive features to identify the bike. Worse, the evidence at hand did not establish that the bicycle given by petitioner to Magno is the same bicycle stolen from Mendoza.

Indeed, the features of the bicycle allegedly stolen from Mendoza and the one owned by petitioner are principally different from each other. The color of the fork of the bike owned by private complainant is aluminum or silver, while that of petitioner is blue.

The composition or the material used for the frame is also different. Mendoza's is magnesium while petitioner's is aluminum. Notably, this was established by Mendoza's testimony, as such:

Q: What about the frame, Mr. Witness, would you know what your frame is made of?

A: Magnesium, Chromoly, Araya, made in Japan.29

As to the serial number, Mendoza's bicycle has the number "8303042" on its frame, while accused-appellant's serial number is A303042 on its fork, thus:

Q: By any chance, Mr. Witness, do you have proof of the serial number of the frame that you were describing?

A: I know it ma'am.

Q: What is your serial number?

A: 8303042 Ma'am.

Q: What proof do you have, if any, that that is the serial number of your bike?

A: It has the serial number on its frame Ma'am. Walang kamukha yung number na iyon.

x x x

Q: You mean to say you memorized the serial number of the frame of your bike?

A: Yes, Ma'am.30

The lower courts put much emphasis on the presumption under Section 5 of PD 1612 which states that mere possession of any object which has been the subject of robbery or thievery shall be prima facie evidence of fencing. However, this presumption was overcame by petitioner upon presentation of the notarized affidavits of the President and Chief Mechanic of Bicycle Works that indeed, petitioner bought the bicycle subject of the case from their store.31

Verily, presumptions are "inference[s] as to the existence of a fact not actually known, arising from its usual connection with another which is known, or a conjecture based on past experience as to what course human affairs ordinarily take."32 In law, a presumption is an inference of the existence or non-existence of a fact which courts are permitted to draw from proof of other facts,33 and is mandatory unless rebutted.34

The application of disputable presumptions on a given circumstance must be based on the existence of certain facts on which they are meant to operate.35 Since "[p]resumptions are not allegations, nor do they supply their absence[,]"36 disputable presumptions apply only in the absence of contrary evidence or explanations. They do not apply when there are no facts or allegations to support them,37 as in this case.

Without establishing beyond reasonable doubt that the item which has been the subject of theft is the same object in the possession of petitioner, the presumption under Section 5 of PD 1612 would not operate.

The prosecution failed to establish

the elements of fencing

Further, the prosecution failed to prove the remaining elements of fencing. There is no evidence shown that petitioner is neither the principal nor an accomplice of the alleged thievery reported by Mendoza, and that he possessed or disposed of the latter's alleged bicycle. No proof was offered to show that petitioner had knowledge that the bicycle he gave to Magno was stolen, or that he had intent to gain therefrom. It is necessary to remember that in all criminal prosecutions, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. It has the duty to prove each and every element of the crime charged in the information to warrant a finding of guilt for the said crime.38

To be sure, the prosecution has failed to discharge its onus of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, the guilt of petitioner for violation of PD 1612.ℒαwρhi৷ For settled is the rule that in every criminal prosecution, the accused is presumed innocent until the contrary is established by the prosecution. Thus, if the prosecution tails, it fails utterly, even if the defense is weak, or indeed, even if there is no defense at all. The prosecution, at all times, bears the burden of establishing an accused's guilt beyond reasonable doubt. No matter how weak the defense may be, it is not and cannot be the sole basis of conviction if, on the other hand, the evidence for the prosecution is even weaker.39

Further, it is well-settled, to the point of being elementary, that when inculpatory facts are susceptible to two or more interpretations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused, the evidence does not fulfill or hurdle the test of moral certainty required for conviction.40 Hence, the acquittal of petitioner is in order.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated 30 April 2019 and the Resolution dated 03 September 2019 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 41527, which affirmed with modification the Decision dated 27 June 2017 of Branch 263, Regional Trial Court of Marikina City in Criminal Case No. 14-15920-MK finding Dante Lopez y Atanacio guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Presidential Decree No. 1612, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

Accordingly, petitioner Dante Lopez y Atanacio is ACQUITTED of the crime of violation of Presidential Decree No. 1612.


Gesmundo, C.J., (Chairperson), Caguioa, Carandang, and Gaerlan, JJ., concur.


1 Rollo, pp. 59-85.

2 Id. at 87-102; penned by Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla (a retired Member of this Court) and concurred in by Associate Justices Jhosep Y. Lopez (now a Member of this Court) and Louis P. Acosta of the Special Thirteenth Division, Court of Appeals, Manila.

3 Id. at 104-105.

4 Id. at 106-112; penned by Presiding Judge Armando C. Velasco.

5 Id. at 106.

6 Id. at 88.

7 Id.

8 Id. at 107.

9 Id. at 88.

10 Id. at 108.

11 Id. at 109-110.

12 Id. at 112.

13 Id. at 110-111.

14 Id. at 111.

15 Id.

16 Id. at 101.

17 Id.

18 Id. at 100-101.

19 Id. at 54-55.

20 Id. at 59-85.

21 Id. at 68.

22 See Shangri-La Properties, Inc. v. BF Corp., G.R. Nos. 187552-53 & 187608-09, 15 October 2019 [Per CJ Bersamin] and Vda. de Aguilar v. Spouses Alfaro, 637 Phil. 131(2010); G.R. No. 164402, 05 July 2010 [Per J. Del Castillo].

23 See Spouses Belvis v. Spouses Erola, G.R. No. 239727, 24 July 2019 [Per J. Caguioa].

24 People v. Bon, 444 Phil. 571 (2003); G.R. No. 149199, 28 January 2003 [Per J. Ynares-Santiago].

25 Daayata v. People, 807 Phil. 102 (2017); G.R. No. 205745, 08 March 2017 [Per J. Leonen].

26 People v. Estibal, 748 Phil. 850 (2014); G.R. No. 208749, 26 November 2014 [Per J. Reyes].

27 Capili v. Court of Appeals, 392 Phil. 577 (2000); G.R. No. 139250, 15 August 2000 [Per J. Gonzaga-Reyes].

28 Id, citing Tan v. People, 372 Phil. 93 (1999); G.R. No. 134298, 26 August 1999 [Per J. Pardo].

29 Rollo, p. 148; TSN dated 27 August 2015 (Rafael Mendoza on Cross-Examination), p. 20.

30 Id. at 19.

31 Id. at 176-177.

32 University of Mindanao, Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 776 Phil. 401 (2016); G.R. Nos. 194964-­65, 11 January 2016 [Per J. Leonen] citing Martin v. Court of Appeals, 282 Phil. 610 (1992); G.R. No. 82248, 30 January 1992 [Per J. Cruz].

33 Vda. de De la Rosa v. Heirs of Rustia, 516 Phil. 130 (2006); G.R. No. 155733, 27 January 2006 [Per J. Corona].

34 Supra at note 32.

35 Id.

36 Id. citing De Leon v. Villanueva, 51 Phil. 676 (1928); G.R. No. 27738, 13 March 1928 [Per J. Romualdez].

37 Supra at note 32.

38 Id.

39 See People v. Salidaga, 542 Phil. 295 (2007); G.R. No. 172323, 29 January 2007 [Per J. Chico-Nazario].

40 People v. Estibal, 748 Phil. 850 (2014); G.R. No. 208749, 26 November 2014 [Per J. Reyes].

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