Estafa — Are You Aquainted?

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I better start this post with a definition.  Even though I lived under the same legal system as many of you, and even worked as a researcher for a lawyer for some years , I have to admit I never heard this word before I came to the Philippines:

Estafa is committed by a person who defrauds another causing him to suffer damage, by means of unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, or of false pretense opt fraudulent acts. For the existence of the crime of estafa, two elements are indispensable: fraud and damage.2 In other words, the essential elements of estafa are: (1) The deceit employed to defraud another; and (2) the injury or damage caused thereby.

Estafa - Know the Rules!

I surely have heard this term a lot in just my first few years here in the Philippines.  And like the differences between slander and libel laws I wrote about a week or so ago, if you are new to the Philippines you might be very well advised to make estafa’s acquaintance also.


Learn Bisaya/Cebuano

Estafa is on the books of some US states, but it’s an obscure and relatively antique statute.  Here in the Philippines it’s a staple of the legal system.  The most common place you’ll hear about it involves bouncing checks.  When you write a check that is not covered by sufficient funds you of course are attempting to defraud the payee of the check.  But you have also committed a much larger act, you have acted against the general trust of the population and the nation’s business community in particular.  Checks are meant to be truthful documents and trust in business is indispensable … so it’s very common to hear of people issuing worthless checks being charged with estafa.

But you can get in deep estafa trouble quite easily even if you never write a check.  Last year I did some research on the case of a foreigner who came to the Philippines and took up residence with a Filipina girlfriend he’d met.  They lived openly as husband and wife and even had a child together.  One little detail they seemed to overlook was, she was already married.  The woman’s husband was long ago separated from her and appeared to be out of the picture.  But under Philippine law, even couples who are “legally separated” are still married.  Period.

To me, and many others perhaps, they both committed moral crimes but my goodness, “living together” is so common these days, what could really be legally wrong?  Well, the foreigner found out.  The woman’s legal husband filed charges of estafa against the wife’s new lover boy.

His acts were deceitful (the first predicate of estafa) and his acts caused actual damage to the husband … embarrassment and a distinct loss of ‘hiya’ … face … at the very least, which is the second predicate of estafa.

The foreigner was arrested and last time I checked he was still in jail while one long drawn out legal proceeding followed another.  If found guilty, which likely he will, at the least he’ll have already served whatever time he winds up serving in pretrial confinement and then be deported to his native country, with a ban on re-entry and probably a child support order as well.  I’ve probably known, give or take, a hundred or more foreigners who chose to come here and live with a woman already married … I wonder how many of them will someday run afoul of estafa?

Estafa can be much different than sordid romances too.  A few months ago here in Bulacan a man entered the house of a neighbor and stole an expensive radio from the neighbor’s bedroom.  Nobody knew what had happened.  Wanting to turn the radio into cash, but not wanting to be seen selling it, the thief made a deal with the maid … a minor child … of the original victim.  Not knowing it was stolen property the maid agreed to take the radio to a dealer in the local market, sell it and bring the cash back to the thief.  For this she was paid a small fee, which she had reason to believe was just honest pay for an honest job.  A child trusting an adult in a position of some authority … a peer of her employer.

The police found the radio at the market and from there the whole story unfolded.

Can you guess, aside from larceny, what the thief was charged with?  Estafa.  Two counts.  He destroyed the employer’s trust in his servant (which anyone whose gone of the quest for a worthy maid knows is a thing of great value) and he destroyed the reputation of the young girl, who even though the police determined had no culpability, will be forever branded in some people’s minds as being party to thievery.

Your “takeaways” for today?

First:  Trust is important.  If someone trusts you, you do not have the option of acting in an untrustworthy manner … it’s not your option … you must uphold the trust even if you didn’t ask for it.  It matters not how you feel morally, the law of estafa compels you to maintain the trust.

Two;  Causing embarrassment or damaging a person’s reputation is more than something rude or uncouth.  It can very well be a criminal act.  Each person in the Philippines has a real property, one with legal value, their reputation.  You damage that reputation very much at your own risk.

Disclaimer.  I am not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV.  But I try to live my life in acordance with this advice and if you choose to, you can too … or not, it’s a free country.

Post Author: Dave (86 Posts)

Older (born 1945) American living with his Filipina wife and extended family in Marilao, Bulacan, Philippines. Dave is an American expat, retired from the US Civil Service and the USAF and has been enjoying living in the Philippines since 2006. Dave hails from New Jersey, but has lived in many US States and full-time in several other countries before settling on the Philippines as "home". Dave enjoys his family as well as travelling and running his own sites: www.philfaqs.com and www.retiredpay.com


Comments

    • kazami shino says

      helo.. can i ask help to all of you,, may i ask what is better accusing estafa or bp.22 of republic act..____,sumtin.. i dont know that one case… but anyway when you compare the two case that can put to a suspect who are fraudsters in terms of check waht would be better pertaining to the costs that you can incur..? in short what among the two has less cost? responds is a MUST…. i will use it to my debate tomorrow..

      • says

        Hmm. Some interesting questions there, Kazumi. However, I’m afraid two factors are at play here. Number one, I am not a lawyer, as I think I have clearly stated a number of times, so I certainly can’t give an authoritative answer … what I write here is strictly a recounting of the news and a layman’s opinion. Number two, your question strikes me as one that has no definitive answer. Which legal strategy for addressing a problem is “best” … in particular, which one is cheapest, which is what you seem to be asking.

        There is seldom one, and only one, strategy for approaching a legal issue … and the cost of any action can’t really be determined in advance. Pursuit of a case using one principle of law will cost whatever it costs. What would it cost to pursue it using a different strategy? Well, you don’t know, do you, becuase you didn’t take that action. The law is not a cut and dried math problem.

        By the way, instead of telling people what they “must” do for you, a simple please and thank you would go a long way … or am I too old-fashioned?

  1. says

    @ Ellen, yep, this is indeed a 'catchall' the way it's applied and it's something many foreigners will look at and scratch their heads. In the US there's many ways you might commit fraud, which is of course a crime, but many ways to skirt the issue …. in fact we often sort of admire the fellow who can 'get away with it' … if you get 'taken in' on some deal, unless there is an actual fraud you hear a lot of /caveat emptors' and, 'there's one born every minute' advice.

    That example with the maid, which I love, it happened near here a few months ago … if you translate that to most US states, unless the girl herself filed some kind of suit for defamation it would never go any farther … the idea that an employer's trust in his/her employees is an item of value is 'foreign' indeed … but that's part of the reason I love living here … I learn new things each and every day.

  2. John says

    Here's a hypothetical situation.
    Let's use an example of a Philippine who is supposed to show up for an appointment. or to help someone accomplish something. Remember he gave his word. He doesn't show up, and causes the other person to lose money. Is that supposed to constitute estafa ?

  3. says

    Hi John, thanks for coming by and commenting. Gosh i have no idea about your question. You read my definition and disclaimers, diba? I would ask a Filipino attorney if their tardiness provided grounds for damages … guess a lot would depend on what you really lost in terms of value.

    I know that under US law, say tax law, even though it beggars common sense your time is not worth anything … it's very difficult to make a case about 'lost time' that will even be accepted by a court … but in the Philippines? Maybe, I dunno.

    I notice from other of your writings too that this seems to trouble you a great deal. My free and totally unexpert advice is, chill. People wonder why I am often reluctant to discuss the cost of living here … it's becuase what hings cost has less to do with being able to live here than almost anything else you'll encounter in any given day. It's a different world, for sure.

    Years ago I lost a good friend because I rudely laughed at him … he wanted to form a national associating of expats to promote a law that would stop taxicabs and Jeepnys from blowing their horns when they saw prospective riders.

    He didn't like my viewpoint .. you must adapt to the Philippines, the Philippines will not adapt to you…. He was exasperated and insulted that I would not 'stand up for my rights' and that I let the Filipinos 'walk all over me'.

    To each his own, I guess, but there certainly are a number of foreigners who really will never be happy here.

  4. John Miele says

    Hi Dave: Every day you learn something new is time well spent. This is the first I've ever heard of this term (Even trying to think back to my business law courses eons ago). So, a big "Thank You" for a bit of education!

    Certainly something to keep in the back of my mind… I could see where this could potentially be manipulated when starting a business here, as in a partnership that "doesn't work out". If you sell a pig to someone and it drops dead the next day? They could say you knew it was sick…

  5. says

    Hi Dave,

    I echo John Miele's first comment. Thanks for the education. I had never heard of this word before either. I've only been a tourist down there – must be really fascinating living day-to-day!

  6. Phil R. says

    Thanks Dave nice to here that one too …My wife informed me the first time I was there about shaming someone .It's a big No No …..Phil R.

  7. says

    Dave
    Good article on RP law. This is an interesting situation and another reason to stay away from married women. I imagine most simple cases would be eliminated since the victim needs to prove damages either monetary or “loss of face”. It is very good to know about laws like this to avoid legal issues while living in the RP.

  8. mariner says

    Hi Dave,
    I enjoyed your lesson on estafa. Having lived in the P.I. for 8 years previously, I've heard that word many times and equated it with fraud. I've read about the foreigner and his married girlfriend before but never heard of the outcome of that estafa case. Any follow-up? I'm curious, do you think the wife could sue her long departed husband for estafa also? I imagine he has a girlfriend or even wife and have had kids together too.

  9. says

    Expat friends warned me about Estafa before I ever visited here. It came up again when I mentioned that a friend of mine from Australia was visiting my wife and I. He was amazed that the resort he stayed at asked for no I.D or credit card; before writing him a tab for his entire holiday of 2 weeks. Accomodation, meals, drinks, smokes, the lot. The bill was not even mentioned until it was time to leave and pay. It turned out he had to go to the bank to get the money; again, no problem. When he brought this trust up in conversation with experienced friends; he was told that you would have to be insane to not pay; as this breach of trust would count as Estafa and land the non payer in Jail quick smart! Yet another unlikely scenario in most countries there would not be this level of trust nor the severity of punishment for breach thereof. Perhaps this is why we find the vast majority of Filipino very honest and scruplous in thier dealings.
    As for the languishing friend, this story shows that the most foolish thing anyone considering becoming an expat can do is assume anything is the same as home. Any successful expat will confirm that it is vital to have trustworthy sources of information about the county, it's laws and traditional expectations.

  10. says

    @ Johh M., yes indeed that's the kind of thing I was thinking of, more than the adultery issue (although that's avery real possibility). It's one of those things that for everyday issues is not really all that important, but it's good to keep in mind …you can get away with being just about as rude as you want to, but you can't do it 'straight up' and 'in your face' the way we seem to have grown accustomed in the US.

  11. says

    @ John of Aistria … I'm dure you cna find it on the law books in Austrai, or in the US as well … just look back in the dusty 'old laws' section.

  12. says

    @ PhilR … yur wife gave great advice. As i said to John M., you can be mean or direct if the situation really calls for it .. goodness knows I'm no altar boy, I've lost my temper plenty in life … but the secret to staying out of jail is to give the other fellow 'wiggle room'. As Bob has been educating us with that SIR course he's featuring, Filipinos will almost always go out of the way to avoid direct confrontations … but if you back someone into a corner the bolo may come out, either the steel version or the leagl version.

      • says

        Hello Annie, thanks for dropping by. Gosh, how can I elaborate more? I wrote the article more than 3 years ago, and there have been comments on top of comments. I think there is already a huge body of knowledge here already … nothing more that I can say … it will tkae most people hours just to read the info here already, diba?

  13. says

    @ Chasdv … yep. I could write more than one post on just that one issue. Mainly becuase of the no divorce laws and also becuase of the desire to avoid confrontation there are a _lot_ of women who are legally married but don't seem to act it. It's completely acceptable under even today's standards for a man to run off and live else where and even cohabit with another woman … they may even raise another family … there are some umors that a recent president of the Philippi8ns had seven families when he left office … no one can say for sure. But we can say there is ubofficially a complete double standard … the man can do it, the woman is still married and bound to the marriage vows. … again, to me very reminiscent of the way things were in the UD 40 or 50 years ago.

  14. says

    @ mariner … thnaks for commenting. I have no idea for sure if that could happen, but note my answer above on the 'double standard'. I have no idea ifthe wife _could_ file such a suit. I can hazard a pretty strong guess that it has no chnace of succeeding, though.

  15. says

    @ Chris. Excellent thoughts, thanks for sharing. In spite of the stories one so frequently hears about cheating and 'sharp practices', in general my expereince is Filipinos will wlak a mile to return an un-earned peso. The story about the hotel visit is another of those that always ake sme up to my age. mnay things that seem strange indeed to someone say in their 20's and 30's is just kind of 'matterof course'to me. When I was a boy, even right outsdie the New Yorlk metro area where I grew up, there were no credit cards, no credit bureaus and aheck of alot less paper.

    We bought our groceries by having my mom call "IzzY' the guy who ran the local market and read him her shopping list. When my dad drove home from work he stopped at the store and picked up the groceries careful;ly packed in re-used boxes … fu8nny how no buisness ever needed plastic bags. My dad never signed a thing. Once a month he's stop buy Izzy's store n a pay day (no need to cash checks, his pay came in a brown payroll envelope) and settled up … Izzy had a little book with a page foe
    every charge customer … whatever it read, dad paid.

    Dad was out of work once about 6 months. When things got tight Izzy drove the groceries to out house himself and he didn't get paid totally for at least a year … he knew we were good for it, we knew he never cheated us. Seems like a whole different world today, doesn't it?

  16. Gerry says

    Hi Dave,
    Just a comment. The Philippine society and culture is not as 'legalistic' compared to the US. Here in the US, you can get sued for very small things and some lawyers make a living out of these frivolous lawsuits. In the Phil, people tend to settle differences informally usually thru the barangay captains or any intermediaries. Any small differences can be settled cheaper and easier. Sometimes, it may be solved in extra-judicial means. Yikes! and that's the bad part about it in some cases.

    I remember an incident a couple of years ago where a visiting friend broke her fingers and arm when she slipped in a well known restaurant in Manila. Part of the floor in the restaurant was wet and that caused her to slip. She was thinking of filing a lawsuit against the business establishment. A lawyer friend in the Phil advised them that such a lawsuit will take low priority and financial settlement will be minimal if any. If that happened in the US, that will be costly for the restaurant owners.

    Gerry

  17. says

    @ Gerry … thanks for sharing on this. I feel you're right, that lawsuits are perahos less common here. Hard to tell becuasethe court system is very different, there are levels of courts very unfamiliar to Americans and even lots of places to file lawsuits that are not even called courts … but likely you are right Gerry.

    It's just my purpose to point out with these articles that you might be in trouble for some very different sunding issues than you could get in trouble for in the US.

    The example about the slippery floor gave me a chuckle …yet again, the 'old way' comes to light. 40 years ago in the US it was unheard of to sue a restraunt for a slippery floor. Just wasn't done … people were expected to watch where they were stepping. Now, every time someone's behind hits the floor it has to be _someone_ else's fault. Things change.

    Becuase so many things here eventually wind up looking like copies of things in the US, I expect things will tend more towrds litigation than in the past, but thankfully it isn't there yet.

    Tey graduate a tremendous number of lawyesr here … so many sit for the bar exam each year thata whole a whole 4 or 5 block area on a major Manila street is cordoned off for 4 days as the exam goes on … that they have to find some sort of work ;-)

    Know what one of the best thigsabout living in Japan was? There are fewer lawyers in the entire nation of Japan thna there are in just the state of California … personal lawsuits are virtually unheard oft here.

    There's the lagalities of the thing and then there's the climate or perception of the lagaility … often quite a different thing.

  18. Henry D. says

    Hi Dave, nice info about estafa. Ive been browsing the net for several days now reading about phil laws concerning fraud/estafa. Its because we are about to get legal help & we are not sure if our case falls under estafa.
    Our story goes like this:
    Last October of this year, we havrvested rice in our province in quezon worth about P60,000 and sold it to the local buyer ( a known & respected buyer) in town. The buyer took the all the rice in the morning & promised to pay us back in the afternoon. Afternoon came & there was no payment. We were promised that it will be paid in full by next week. A week came then months & upto now there is still no payment. We have learned that the buyer did this to my relatives & other farmers in our town. There were about more or less 15 victims. We asked the buyer what happened & she cant give a reason why she cant pay us other than she doesnt have money. She wont give a definite answer what happened to the our money (like if she was robbed, used our money, etc) – no answer. Just keeps promising a payment but not giving a date anymore on as to when. We have talked to our other relatives & we have summed up about 1 million pesos worth of unpaid rice owed to different farmers. Im sorry if its quite long but do you think our case qualifies for estafa? We have heard that "the buyer" is buying up rice again on the other side of town-business as usual.
    I hope you can enlighten us about this any comments will be appreciated.

    Regards,
    Henry D.

  19. hayley R. says

    I just want to ask regarding estafa case im working here in saudi arabia for 13 years and we had a bussiness with my coleagues filipina in the lab and we gave her capital to use in her business. Unfortunately she used up our money and found out that its gone.
    we filed a case against her here in saudi arabia and its still on going…
    i just want to know if she will escape here in saudi arabia and go back to Phil will the case be over? and can we still file a case against her in the phil even it happens here in ksa? what are the chances we have in getting our money back?

    thanks a lot

  20. says

    Hi Haley R.,

    Thanks for readingand for commenting. Goodness knows, though, you must have me confused with someone who actually knows something ;-) As I think I have made clear before … certainly I will now … i am not a lawyer and there is no way I can even make a guess at the questions you pose.

    This is one of those situations where you truly need a lawyer, and a good one, becuase you have alot of international law and different nationalities involved. Asking these kinds of questioons online is fine, this is an open forum and that's what we are here for, but in my lay opinion, your chances of getting a good answer, and an accurate one online like this are slim to none.

    You may well, in fact, get a lot of mis-information or conflicting information that might tempt you to take action that could hurt your case.

    My leaglly sound advice? get a lawyer who specializes in these sorts of cases … inter-country debts involving OFW's are very common judging by some of the private questions I get, and use proper legal guidance … sorry, that's all the help I can offer.

    I can say from a non-legal perspective that you sentence above doesn't quite make sense to me. You gave someone capital to use in her buisness and now it's gone? That's what usually happens to capital invested in buisness. More than 80% of small bsi8nesses started, even in good economic times fail within the first 5 years … that's the risk of business. And when you give soeone money for their business, unless you are also an owner, the money is their to use … using the money for a non-busines spurpose might be illeagl, but making bad investment decisons within the business is just human error. Without more sopecifics I don't know if even a alwyer can figure this one out.

    That's why if someone asks me for an investment, I almnost never agree. If I think they are a good person and the business has a chance, I make a gift and forget about it … saves me alot of ulcers and high blood pills.

  21. Justin says

    Hello,

    I wonder if courts would do anything as actually have a Filipino friend in America who's is in land dispute with his family over some valuable commercial holdings in the Philippines, one of the siblings also in America tried suing him here in states for allegedly stealing the money from their property rentals in Philippines. Anyway Judge threw the case out and gave the sibling of my friend a good scolding for wasting his time.

    Justin

  22. Justin says

    Hello Dave,

    Should their case be fought in the Philippines then indeed its possible. I have a very good friend in Mindanao currently in such a legal battle.

    The guy owns a large factory that uses a patented technology that he invented and got investment from a filipino in the states for a few hundred thousand dollars to expand the factory. Anyway he over expanded without thinking of opperating capital and factory never went into full opperation because of this.

    Fellow from America flew to Philippines and filed a case which has now been going on for around 6 years. The courts sherrifed some property and etc untill outcome of case which could realistically take decades.

    Never made much sense to me how you could sue over a failed investment but they did , so it is possible.

    Justin

  23. Justin says

    Hello Haley,

    Providing you have evidence that you gave money and money was a loan and not a gift you can file case in Philippines.

    Just hire a lawyer and let him handle case while your in Saudi, request a hold order be put on lady so she cant leave Philippines, have property sheriffed until outcome of case and if you get favorable outcome then have attached any assets the lady may hold.

    Justin

  24. BETH says

    HI?I JUST WANT TO ASK AN ADVICE?SOMEONE LEND A MONEY TO ME,BEC.I WANTED TO HELP HER I BORROWED FROM OTHER PEOPLE ,I TRUST HIM AND SHE PROMISE ME TO PAY ME 10,000 MONTHLY UNTILL SHE WILL RETURN THE AMOUNT.THAT IS HER PROMISE,SO MAKE ME BELIEVE THAT SHE IS NOT LIEYING SHE LET ME HOLD AND WITHDRAW HER MONTHLY SALARY. THE 10,000 MONTHLY PAY WAS NOT ABLE TO GIVE TO ME DUE TO THE SALARY IS NOT ENOUGH,UNTILL I FOUND OUT THAT THE ATM I'M HOLDING IS HER'S.SO,I WAS PANIC AND IMMEDIATELY MADE AN AGGREEMENT LETTER BY MY OWN, STATED THE AMOUNT SHE LEND AND HOW LONG SHE WILL PAY IT.I LET HER SIGN IT WITH THUMBMARK.BUT STILL NOTHING HAPPEN.SHE DID THE SAME, 2 MONTHS PASSED BY WITHOUT GIVING ME A PAY,UNTILL SHE GO HOME IN THE PHILLIPINES WITHOUT MY KNOWLEGDE.WHEN I LET HER SIGN THE AGREEMENT LETTER I TOLD HER TO GIVE TO HER INFORMATION IN THE PHIL.I HAVE THE ADD.IN HER HOMETOWN,DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO COMPLAIN OR ACCUSE HER AN ESTAFA?

  25. BETH says

    HI?I JUST WANT TO ASK AN ADVICE?SOMEONE LEND A MONEY TO ME,BEC.I WANTED TO HELP HER I BORROWED FROM OTHER PEOPLE ,I TRUST HIM AND SHE PROMISE ME TO PAY ME 10,000 MONTHLY UNTILL SHE WILL RETURN THE WHOLE AMOUNT.THIS IS HER PROMISE,TO MAKE ME BELIEVE THAT SHE IS NOT LIEYING SHE LET ME HOLD AND WITHDRAW HER MONTHLY SALARY. THE 10,000 MONTHLY PAY WAS NOT ABLE TO GIVE TO ME DUE TO THE SALARY IS NOT ENOUGH,UNTILL I FOUND OUT THAT THE ATM I’M HOLDING IS NOT HER OWN ATM BUT THE OTHER PEOPLE.AND FOUND OUT THAT SHE BORROWED ALSO FROM OTHER PEOPLE.SO,I WAS PANIC AND IMMEDIATELY MADE AN AGGREEMENT LETTER BY MY OWN, STATED THE AMOUNT SHE LEND AND HOW LONG SHE WILL PAY IT.I LET HER SIGN IT WITH THUMBMARK.BUT STILL NOTHING HAPPEN.SHE DID THE SAME, 2 MONTHS PASSED BY WITHOUT GIVING ME A PAY,UNTILL SHE GO HOME IN THE PHILLIPINES WITHOUT MY KNOWLEGDE.WHEN I LET HER SIGN THE AGREEMENT LETTER I TOLD HER TO GIVE TO HER INFORMATION IN THE PHIL.I HAVE HER ADDRESS HER HOMETOWN,DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO COMPLAIN OR ACCUSE HER AN ESTAFA?

  26. Pa says

    Hi Dave, it's a pity I only read your message now. I have just recently experienced this Estafa thing with a contractor who was building my house. I had paid up front 50% of the cost to build the house, and only to be told by my contractor that the house is now at 70% completion and wanted more funds. I hired a appraiser and some engineers to get a estimate of the cost and a progress report, only to find that the house value and the % finished was well below of what my contractor had said and refused to pay the extra funds. We had an argument and I stopped all works on the project. When I was ready to leave the Philippines and was about to board the plane, I was stopped by immigration and a Letter of Estafa was presented to me and I was unable to leave the country for a period of two weeks, until I got clearance from a lawyer I hired that I could leave the Philippines. This was a very very embarrassing moment for the wife and me. This happened in November and I am still waiting for either a court case or the case being thrown out of court. I have heard so much of the coruption that goes on in the Philippines and doubt wheather I will win this one, but I will do everything in my power to put this contractor behind bars. Just a heads up for other expats be very careful who you do buisness with, get a lawyer first
    Cheers

  27. Juliet Tan says

    Hi Dave,

    This story is scary, and it is true that estafa is a word much used here in the Philippines. I myself filed estafa cases against a company that did not remit payment to us. Because of my lengthy research and consultations with lawyers regarding this scary "estafa" Damocles sword hanging over just anyone, I'd like to comment on your article so that it could clear some things up.

    First, I cannot understand why the foreigner who had an affair with a married woman is still in jail. All criminal cases (where one might be jailed) go through preliminary investigation, where the plaintiff (one being accused of committing a crime) is given a chance to file a counter affidavit (his defense). Then there are stages of counter-replies. All in all, this takes a long time, like 2 months. Only overt cases of crime, like robbery or physical attacks, where one is arrested on the spot, are exempt from this stage.

    After this prelim investigation stage, the fiscal takes about forever to decide whether there the complaint is indeed criminal in nature (it could be civil in nature like collection of debt). This resolution as it is called, should take 10 days with the investigating fiscal, then forwarded to the head fiscal for approval, which on paper should be another 10 days.

    Anyone who has filed an estafa charge will know that this never happens in a month. One estafa case of ours took 3 years for the
    UNfavorable resolution to come out, meaning the fiscal found it not to be criminal in nature.

    Once the resolution comes out, if it is favorable to the complainant, a warrant of arrest will be issued, and the plaintiff can be picked up. BUT HE CAN POST BAIL. So, he will not stay in jail as the case is elevated to the court.

    The preliminary investigation is a privilege given to people so that they would not be wrongfully accused of anything under the sun. This is where you get to present your case, that there was no intention to commit FRAUD, which is the operative word here. Like you wrote,
    trust should not violated.

    Most likely the foreigner in question ignored the summons, which would speed up the issuance of a resolution, and warrant of arrest.
    Even if the complaint is submitted (hence no defense can be filed anymore) lawyers could still file a Motion to Reopen, and then, the plaintiff could file his defense, prolonging the process even more.

    In my opinion, there was no fraudulent act when this guy cohabited with the married woman. Maybe the husband works or has friends in the judiciary. A good lawyer is a must in this case.

  28. says

    Hi Juliet,
    Thanks so much for reading and for your valuable comment. You've essentially writen awhole new article here and it will take me alot of words to answer …so here's my goal and making it short (which I seldom succeeed at ;-)

    First regarding the whole case on the foreigner in jail … he's a German national, BTW and few months ago he was still in jail, don't have time or inclination to find out more right now. What you say abut the filing iof charges and counter clams/affidavits etc. is indeed true so far as I know the law. Please remember I boldly slugges the article with a disclaimer … I am not a lawyer.

    The gentleman (to use the term very loosely), came to the Philippines to cohabit with another man's wife. Perhaps he culd not be arrested for that. He then fathered a child with that woman and publicly paraded his deeds to the world … to the legal husband's distress and embarrassment. Perhaps he would not get arrested for that … although in my part of the country he would likely be more concerned about being 'salvaged'), but again he didn't.

    He also ignored the Immigration authorities and overstayed his visa, something else he _probably_ wouldn't get picked up off the street for … although he could have, because Immigration law has some different rules than civil law, or so I believe.

    He also may or may not have ignored summons. Something which certainly can result in arrest after some time.

    So how did he actually get in jail? He did something he must have thought was ok somewhere … certainly not in Germany, I lived there and people didn't act this bastos … but many foreigners seem to operate on the premise that there are no morals or decency in the Philippines… he took the woman to a public beach, parked his car in a crowded public parking lot with people passing, and proceeded to get naked with her in the back seat and engage in public (semi-public) sex. Someone, I know not who, called this to the attention of the local police and the man was arrested … red handed so to speak.

    (by the way, a Filipino executive and his lawful wife were arrested for a similar ofence in QC a month or so back, this isn't some anti-foreigner scam, it's illegal for Filipinos to engage in public lewdness as well, just FYI)

    During the 'sorting out' of htis affair both the estafa charges and the immigration irregularities came to light. At the time my original source article was written he was being held in immigration jail … from which there is normally no bail … he was suing the Director of the BI over is, what heand his lawyer claimed as illegal imprisonment.

    So was he clapped in jail directly for the alleged estafa of cuckolding the husband? No, to be technical.

    Did he remain in jail, _without possibility of bail_ for months over what began with estafa … what many today consider a moral issue rather than a leagl one? I would say 'yes'.

    Absent aby other issues, people overstaying tourist visas very seldom see a jail, they get to pay a fine and perhaps get blacklisted and forced to leave … but I would certainly suggest this fellow's predicament was certainly contributed in large part by his original acts of estafa.

    Anyway, an interesting legal system here, not always good, not always bad, but the main point to my fellow foreigners is, "You aren't in Kansas any more", things that are not a crime back home may very well be a crime here.

    And remeber, I am not a lawyer … please don't write me querstions about what you can and can't file against a person, what the law can and can't do … I don't know.

  29. Leah velasco says

    Hi good day
    l just want t0 ask something and hoping to have an answer to my question i have a friend who is on trouble now she is the one incharge looking for a class ring of our class she transacted it to one of the employee working in the company who is making the rings and now the said employee is no were to be found my friend has issued an acknowlegement reciept to all of us as a proof that we have paid is that a ground for her to be sue by estafa or fraud?h0pe youll reply to my message i badly need an advice thankyou so much

    • says

      Hi Leah,

      Sorry to be tardy in answering this but I can’t answer this question with proper legal authority. As a common ordinary man, I can’t understand you wanting to sue your classmate, though. Didn’t she get scammed to, by the ring supplier employee taking off with your money? I don’t know, but it seems that way to me.

      Before you consider nay legal action, consider this … if you file a case and then win the case, does the person you would win against have any money? If they don’t, seems to me you are SOL (Surely Out Of Luck).

  30. Ken says

    Hi Dave,

    Can you tell me what the statute of limitation are to file estafa against someone? I am an American and lost a lot of money over $10,000 to a Canadian who may or may not be here still in the Philippines as I am now. This happened last December and I am told I may be to late to file a case or subpoenas. I have been told that there is a 6 month time limit to file after the incident took place. Is this true.

    Thanks,

    Ken

    • says

      Ken, I’m sorry but I don’t know the answer to that question. When you say “I have been told”, who was doing the telling? A qualified lawyer or just another Internet opinion jockey like me?

      Here’s some practical thoughts from someone who has been involved in lawsuits on both sides. $10,000 – odd dollars is an amount just big enough to cause you a lot of trouble. It’s way too much for the average guy to just write off and say, “screw it”., but in US or Canadian legal claims it’s absolute chicken feed. In the US or Canada you can figure 40% or more of anyhting you recover goes to the lawyers. In the Philippines, legal costs are much lower but also the system grinds on for years and years and years.

      Is this something you care to devote another couple years of your life to? If it is, get a lawyer now, not later, and follow competent legal advice. If it isn’t (and since it seems it wasn’t very important to you in the past, or you wouldn’t have let all this time go by), then just chalk it up to the tuition we all pay in the school of hard knocks.

      You know I think I am overdue on writing about a subject this comment brings up … in spite of all the talk about Filipinos scamming foreigners, as a foreigner here in the Philippines I can show you way more “foreigner scamming fellow foreigner” cases than any scams that involve Filipinos. Sad but true.

  31. Barry says

    Hi my wife and I purchased a boat from a apparent boat builder in Masbate we paid 55,000p when the boat was delivered. It turned out we went out the next day to try some fishing and the boat capsized . Luckily we were picked up by some local fisherman who towed the boat back to the shore. We were told by the local fisherman that the boats price was in fact only 20,000p. We contacted the boat builder who came back to speak to us and promised he would return with another boat to the value of 55,000p which of course he did not. We filed a police report in Bogo and of course we were told that this was a civil case of breach of contract and not a criminal case even although we could have drowned .
    So between the “swindling” act and this “Estafa” act which could have been used by the local police they choose to do nothing. Its strange that if a foreigner was to do this to a Filipino there would be retribution I am sure. One of the main problems in getting anyone to do anything is that you are sure going to end up with the T shirt with the large V on the front. This of course distinguishes you as yet another Victim !

    • says

      Hi Barry. Sorry to hear you had an unfortunate incident like that. In my experience an awful lot of Filipino get cheated in life too, but if you feel this was something directed at you as a foreigner, well, you would know best, after all.

      I’m not sure what the police should have done here. It sounds as if there is cause for some complaint that the oat bullder took advanatge of you, but it’s a little unrealistic, in my view, to expect the police to construct a case and swear out a warrant. Did you seek the advice of a lawyer?

  32. catherine says

    hello i am catherine all those who can read my comments will you please give me some advises on my case… i am a 24 year old woman living here in the philippines… i have an australian bf.. he rely me to buy some properties here in the philippines.. we never meet each other yet,even that he trust me he send me cash through western union to buy land and to build a house and to buy car,to put on his name
    but our government here not allow foreighners to own property here..but because he really want it to put his name i made a false documents, i put on his name on the false papers and i send it to him……. now he knew that i fraud him.. he want to come in the philippines and apply me estafa or fraud case….

    now please help me,if he can really apply a fraud case to me from those false paper i sent him?
    we never meet yet,he dont really meet me in real…
    please help me what will i do…
    thanks

    • says

      Hi Catherine.

      Wow, well I have to say, I don’t think talking much about your case online in a public forum will do much good for you. You’ve kind of admitted her before thousands and thousands of folks that you committed fraud, or estafa, a breach of trust.

      I don’t know what advice I can offer, except to seek an attorney and to follow his or her advice. One thing almost any attorney in any country is going to tell you is, “Don’t talk about a case, especially admitting guilt, in public.” Mum’s the word.

      So far as your Australian friend is concerned, if he wanted to pursue a case against you, I’ll make a guess that he could, although what his remedy would be, I can’t say. I’ll make another guess and say that his money is already long gone, correct?

      Guys reading this, for what it’s worth, I’ve been saying this, nay literally preaching this, for more than ten years now. DO NOT Send Money to people you meet online in the Philippines. It’s as simple as that. My wife and I have a standing joke where we say if our regular income were to evaporate for some reason, we’d both sit in the Internet cafe at night ‘trolling’ for love-lorn men who have a great need to part with their money. When I’m out at night and pass a crowded Internet cafe, I can’t help but wonder how many of the girls (and guys, posing as girls) in there are working some sort of scheme … it goes on, big time.

      Sorry to have to say things ‘as they are’ rather than how some people ‘wish they were’, but, after all, I was provoked.

    • rebecca Ferry says

      Catherine,
      Sorry to tell you this but i am so ashamed about what you did to your BF it’s so obvious that you cheated on him coz being a filipino i’m sure you know damned well that a foreigner cannot buy any property in the Philippines even if he keep pushing you the idea, you should keep telling him that it’s not possible for him to own property in the Phils. But instead of telling him the truth you made a false document so that he can send you the money and that’s the biggest mistakes that you did… Aren’t you know what is legal or not, a right or wrong? Cmon , you know better than this right?, You already admitted the obvious and in all places you use the internet in a public forum (tsk!,tsk!tsk.),,, well, if you’re bf happened to read this he has a solid evidence to sue you..So the best thing you can do is to return the money back to him through WESTERN UNION too “if you’re honest enough to do it “,after all it doesn’t belong to you……..

  33. Jun Balingit says

    I own a small bar here in BF Homes Paranaque.

    Last December, my parents decided to visit my sister living in the United States. Having sold their house a few months earlier, they decided to put the money in a joint time deposit account with me. This they did just in case something happens to them, I can withdraw and share it with my brothers and sisters. The branch manager of the bank decided to go to my place to have my signature affixed on the documents. I had no idea that a waiter of mine was listening on our conversation at that time and even checked the documents when I left.

    He then decided to gather evidence against me like payslips even those written on scratch paper. He started sleeping on the job and he does it in front of me even with customers around. After talking to several of my employees, I found out that he assaulted 4 of them on several occasions. 2 of them had left while the 2 others remain. This prompted me to finally suspend him.

    Three days after, I received a letter from the Department Of Labor asking for a mandatory mediation. His contention is that he is underpaid and lacks overtime pay, SSS, Philhealth, Pag-Ibig and 13th month pay. All in all he is asking for a settlement of P82,000.00 for the underpayment with a threat to include the other charges if I dont settle right away.

    Now, in all honesty, he receives an average of P380/day excluding tips. His nightly tips averages P200/night. My bar is small and I only have 5 regular employees and 8 casual employees. I am willing to settle if he will agree for a lesser amount but he won’t oblige. My bank is Banco Filipino and as some may already know, Banco Filipino was closed down by the BSP. That’s when he started to say “BDO” the bank where my parents opened a joint account with me. That account is now closed when my parents flew back late January of this year.

    My question is, is it possible for me to file this case?

    • Ricardo Sumilang says

      Jun, is there a branch of the Cosa Nostra in the Philippines? That would probably be your best bet to deal with scums like your waiter. LOL

    • says

      I really don’t know what ‘case’ you are asking me about, Jun? Estafa by the waitier in that he violated the trust you placed in im by overhearing the name of the bank? This is all way over my head, as I believe I have said many times … I am not an attorney … and it sounds to me as if you really need one.

      One question, since you brought it up … how can he charge all those breaches of employment law if you have been following the law? Doesn’t sound to me as if his case can proper at all, providing you have the evidence to show you complied with the law. Again, a real need for professional advice here.

  34. Mark Anthony says

    Hi Dave, i just wanna ask regarding Esatafa case. Heres the story. Last February 2009 my father hospitalized due to a stroke, i borrowed money from our neighbor worth 50T, i personally wrote the agreement to return the money within a week, the purpose of that money is to advance fully paid for our balanced to a lending company, in order to increase our loan into 100k, which is very needed for hospitalizations for my father on that day, so i went to the lending company to pay, afterwards they handed me the computations and lot of deductions, from 100k we will only recieve 70k + because of some deductions, wich is 100k payable plus interest. To make it short, i went to the hospital carrying the 50k, i did not pay the lend comp. and used the money for medecine because my father at that time was in critical condition. So time passes by my father is now ok, i talk to our neighbor and explain to her that things not went through as what i promise because of this reason and its not intentional. i ask her that i will pay it monthly. which is ok for her. on that year my total payment reached 14,ooo +, and then on January 2010 , she ask me to pay the full amount of 50K without the deduction of my 14k payment coz its just serves as an interest she said, so i was shock.. i beg beg beg to continue paying monthly, but his heart and mind is closed, we end up to a brgy. settlement, and still keep her stand asking to pay it full, and giving me an option to pay it 5000 /month for an amount of 100k including the interest, still no deduction for my previous payment, i felt abuse on my side, but still begging her to pay it mothly with a minimum of 2000. She said she will file a small claims against me. until one she inform me that file an estafa case against me.. now im stuck on this problem.. from the start i did not refuse to pay my debt to her. im scared to go to jail, my question is, do i go to jail for this case?

    • says

      Hello Mark, sorry I don’t get to come by here and comment all that often. I’m really sorry to hear your story, but honestly, I have no idea what your legal liabilities might be.

      I know you don’t want to hear this, but the only reliable source of legal advice is from a lawyer … anything I say about your case might be wrong advice and simply make things worse.

  35. Maria Lisette Ermino says

    My coworker loaned a large amount of money from me from my credit cards. I was the one who made the cash advances and the cash loans from the banks but she knows that the money comes from the bank (credit cards). She even accompanied me to the bank. I CHARGED HER 7% INTEREST PER MONTH. BUT FOR 8 MONTHS, SHE DIDN’T PAY ME. NOW, MY HUSBAND AND I ARE THE ONE WHO ARE PAYING THE BANKS FOR THE INTERESTS AND FINANCE CHARGES. AND ITS TAKING A TOLL ON OUR MARRIAGE AND FINANCIAL STATUS.
    WE MADE A COMPROMISE WITH HER TO MAKE THE PAYMENTS AS INSTALLMENT BASIS BUT SHE DOESN’T PAY THE AGREED AMOUNT AS SCHEDULED. SHE SIGNED THE AGREEMENT, BY THE WAY.
    CAN I SUE HER FOR ESTAFA?

    • says

      Not really sure why this is posted twice, but I’ll answer it once, OK?

      In general you can sue anyone for anything. Whether you will win, or whether what you win will be worth more than what you invest? Ah, that’s a different question.

      Remember, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. A lawyer, I am sure, will be happy to to consult with you on this matter.

      The main issue is, what would you get if you sued? Also, a lot depends upon where this took place … are you in the Philippines, the US or ???

      The essence of the case (and a few things for you to think about,yourself) seems to be:

      a. You loaned money to a third-party. Where you licensed to do this where the transaction took place? Once you bring this to court you bring it to the attention of law enforcement. Money lending is very tightly regulated in many jurisdictions. Also, if you bring this to the attention of your credit card company you may have an issue with them. Under the terms of agreement of most credit cards, cash advances to fund loans to other parties may be illegal … just a thought.

      b. You had no written agreement with her? A Promissory note (they are available in any book or staionery store) or something like that? If not, what will you tell the court when they ask for proof of the loan and she denies she borrowed? Verbal contracts may be binding at times, but you have a real sticky issue here unless you have some sort of proof.

      c. You were charging her 7% per month interest? Wow! What are the laws on usury in your state/jurisdiction? Even the greedy credit card companies themselves can’t get away with charging that sort of interest … because it’s often illegal, that’s why … that’s 84% per year! Better talk this over with an attorney for sure before you think about filing any documents on this.

      So now that I have rained on your parade, what should you do? Well, if it were me, I would go to this person and say, look, we need to settle this and if I file a case it will hurt us both. Ask here to sign a promissory note with reasonable repayment terms. If the threat of court won’t convince her, then bargain with her … maybe she will sign for a smaller amount, or no interest, etc.

      Giving up part of your money to get back some of your money sounds to me like a better deal than trying to sue the blood out of a stone. Besides, if you have her sign a note you would then be in a position to garnish her wages if she doesn’t honor her commitment, and her employer would have to pay you directly … sounds a lot better than a court case you have little chance of winning, diba?

  36. Maria Lisette Ermino says

    MY CO WORKER LOANED A LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY FROM ME FROM MY CREDIT CARDS. I WAS THE ONE WHO MADE THE CASH ADVANCES AND CASH LOANS FROM THE BANKS BUT SHE WAS WITH ME WHEN I DID IT. SHE KNOWS THAT THE MONEY CAME FROM THE BANKS NOT FROM MY PERSONAL ACCOUNTS. BUT I DIDN’T MAKE HER SIGNED AN AGREEMENT BECAUSE SHE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE. I TRUSTED HER THAT MUCH.
    I CHARGED HER 7% PER MONTH AS INTEREST PAYABLE IN 3-6 MONTHS BUT FOR 8 MONTHS, SHE DIDN’T PAY ME. MY HUSBAND AND I ARE THE ONE WHO IS PAYING THE INTEREST S AND FINANCE CHARGES OF THE BANKS. AND ITS TAKING A TOLL ON OUR MARRIAGE.
    WE MADE A COMPROMISE WITH HER TO MAKE THE PAYMENTS AS INSTALLMENT BASIS EVERY PAY DAY BUT SHE DIDN’T PAY THE AGREED AMOUNT AS SCHEDULED. BUT SHE SIGNED THE AGREEMENT WITH HER SIGNATURE AND THUMBMARKS.
    CAN I SUE HER FOR ESTAFA?
    THE

  37. angel says

    uhmm.. i have a problem. i was trying to help my ex-girlfriend’s family to start up a little business so i lend her a little amount of money. it’s been almost a year and still she hasn’t paid me back. she claims that she didn’t borrow any money from me and i can’t do anything about it coz we don’t have any proof like a written letter signed by her. what shall i do?

    • says

      Well, Angel, hard to advise on this without knowing how much “a little” is. You lent money, informally, with no proof, and now the borrower refuses to acknowledge the debt? You’re pretty much out of luck from what I can tell. If the “a little” amount is enough to pay for a lawyer and the other expenses of legal action, talk to one. Oral agreements, such as the one you had with your friend, are sometimes enforceable by law … but it takes an attorney to give you competent advice on something like this. And it’s never free, that’s why the actual amount of the debt is important … it takes a lot of potential return to make the legal process worth trying.

      As that great Filipino Benjamin Franklin once said, “Neither borrower nor lender be”.

      (Oh, wait, you say Franklin wasn’t Filipino? Oh, never mind then ;-) )

  38. gigi says

    Is there an estafa case for not paying your credit card bills for a long tiem, inspite the bank knows you are currently working and can afford paying at least the minimum?

  39. says

    May a person be charged of Estafa by blocking his Automated Teller Machine (ATM) as a security of his debt from a certain lending institution in which he is indebted?

    If I borrowed money from another person and making my ATM card as a security of the loan and payments were made by withdrawing the deposits therein corresponding to the amount of my debt and after several payments, i blocked the said ATM machine and obtained another new atm machine.

    Based on the circumstances given above, Can I be charged of Estafa?

  40. kit says

    Hi! I invested in an existing business over a year ago..recently, i found out that my business partner had a case of Estafa in 2005. And if i’m being honest with myself, she wasn’t really honest the whole time we’ve been doing business together.. Any advise?

  41. James Chang says

    Hi Dave;

    I have been staying in Philippines for last one year. Recently I have been accused by Waterfront hotel in Cebu under Estafa criminal case. During my stay in the other hotel, they called me to say they have a room available and would give me at good rate. Therefore, I moved to Waterfront and stay there for almost two months without paying, but under their permission. And one day on Friday they asked me pay up my outstanding bill and I answered to pay up. But, unfortunately, I was not able to pay until next Wendsday afternoon and they took me to police office for detainment without giving any notice to me. And they filed a Estafa case against me and I was released after I posted bail. At first hearing, I pleaded not guilty and several days later I paid up all my outstanding bill amounting 165,000 pesos. But, the Waterfront hotel keep asking me to reimburse their attorney’ fee of 80,000 pesos. If I lived in here, I want to fight against them because I am sure I will not be found guilty in this case. But I want to live here as soon as possible. They said they would not withdraw this case until I reimburse attorney’s fee. I am now very upset, and I would like to have your valuable advise at your earliest convenience. Thank you in advance and really appreciate Dave.

  42. Zherrimae says

    Hi Dave,

    Since you’ve done researches for attorney.. do you have someone in mind who’s very good with civil cases such as estafa/fraud? more of bouncing checks?

    Thanks.

  43. Juliet Tan says

    Thanks, Dave, for the clarification on the story of this foreigner in jail. I still have pending estafa complaints against some parties and I had hoped that imprisonment for the offending parties was as easy as you had written. :-)

    I guess he is in jail for overstaying and being an undesirable alien, for having committed "immoral acts". His fathering a child or cohabiting with a married woman, are not in the list of acts considered as estafa, which is essentially the crime of swindling, which can be found in Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.

    Your article has generated a lot of interest,as I can see from the comments you got, so I just shared my experiences in estafa cases.
    for people who are reading up on estafa.

  44. says

    Sorry I missed this comment, but just in case you are still reading, or for the benefit of someone else in similar situations, let me ask you this … what benefit do you gain from someone else going to jail? I mean getting back your money? Sure, I can see that … but will someone else going to jail make your life better in some way? I get this all the time from Filipino friends and I wonder what on earth the motivation is? I guess I am missing something here. Maybe I’m just too old to understand what I think I understand about vengeance. I do marvel though at how totally “revenge oriented” so many of my Filipino friends/acquaintances are. I wonder if we even read the same Bible ….

  45. Ces says

    My GOD! I thank God i read this now or i would have ruined a family by suing them and putting their parents behind bars for all the trouble, humiliation and..and..etc.

    It’s a Holy Thursday. Let’s forgive. FORGET? NO!

    Thanks. I’m only 31 (does it matter?), but I’m too old fashioned too. You’re more of a Filipino than many of us are. Sorry but true. Dunno if it’s a compliment or I’ll be sued for saying this.

  46. says

    Hi Starra, gosh, love that name LoL. Sorry, but the only person I would trust to advise you on proofs and evidence would be the lawyer you are taking advice from before filing the case.

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