Civil Law, Criminal Law

UNITED STATES vs.  LAURENTE REY G.R. No. L-3326  September 7, 1907 Loss of Possession, Robbery

FACTS:

On the 19th of September, 1905, silver and paper money amounting to 25,000 pesos belonging to the firms of Urrutia & Co. and Muñoz & Co., was placed on the steamer Cantabria at Manila by said firms for shipment.

5,000 pesos of the said money belonged to Muñoz & Co. and 20,000 pesos to Urrutia & Co.

On the 26th day of September the Cantabria was totally wrecked off the Island of Mababuy, every person on her being drowned, the bills of lading of said money being lost, and the money sunk with the ship.

On the 28th day of September, the defendant, Laurente Rey, with the assistance of several men who were in his employ, proceeded to said wrecked steamer and willfully, unlawfully, and with the intention of appropriating it to his own use took therefrom two boxes, one containing 10,000 pesos and the other 5,000 pesos; that 10,000 pesos of the said money was the property of Urrutia & Co. and 5,000 pesos was the property of Muñoz & Co.

The theory of the appellant is that the said property which was sunk with the wrecked steamer, the said Cantabria, was abandoned properly and therefore, granting that he had taken possession of said property and appropriated it to his own use, he was not guilty of the crime of robbery.

ISSUE:

Whether or not appellant is guilty of robbery.

RULING:

It was more than six weeks after the cyclone (in which the Cantabria was sunk) before any definite knowledge was received in regard to the fate of the Cantabria, thus admitting that the owner of the money alleged to has been robbed and no definite knowledge of its lost for six weeks or more after the destruction of said ship.

Article 460 of the Civil Code provides how the possessor of property may lose his possession of the same:

(1) By abandonment of the thing.

(2) By the transfer to another for a good and valuable consideration.

(3) By the destruction of total loss of the thing or by the thing becoming unmarketable.

(4) By the possession of another, even against the will of the former possessor, if the new possessor has lasted more than one year.

The evidence shows, if it can be believed, that the defendant and his companions entered the wrecked ship and removed therefrom the said money and appropriated the same to hiss own use in about twenty-four hours after the time of sinking of the said ship. Can one be charged with the abandonment of his property without even knowing that the same has passed out of his possession or has been lost? We are of the opinion, and so hold, that this question must be answered in the negative.

Manresa, in his Commentaries upon the provisions of the Civil Code, says:

He who has a right may renounce it. This act by which thing is voluntary renounced constitutes an abandonment. There is no real intention to abandon a property when, as in the case of a shipwreck or a fire, things are thrown into the sea upon the highway.

Certainly the owner of the property ca not be held to have abandoned the same until at least he has some knowledge of the loss of its possession or of the loss of the thing.

Property can not be considered abandoned under the law and the possession left vacant for the finder until the spes recuperandi is gone and the animus revertendi is finally given up.

The theory of abandonment on the part of the owners of the money stolen is fully refuted by the fact that some weeks after the wreck of the said ship they sent men to the place of the wreck for the purpose of recovering the property which belonged to them, which was on board the ship at the time of her sinking.

The mere fact that cargo is sunk with a ship wrecked at sea by no means deprives the owner of said cargo of his property therein. The owner certainly still had the right to reclaim such property and to recover the same if possible. If it should be recovered by others, the real owner would be entitled to recover its value less the necessary expense of recovering the same and carrying it shore by the most approved appliances for that purpose by others.

If the defendant and his companions had recovered the cargo from the sunken ship for the benefit of the owners of the same, he might have been entitled to compensation of his labor, but when he entered the sunken ship and took therefrom, by force, the property of another before actual abandonment by the owner and appropriated the same to his own use, he was guilty of the crime of robbery.

The evidence adduced during the trial in the lower court fully shows that the defendant did commit such acts in the manner and form as charged in the complaint.

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