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Eduarte v. People G.R. No.

176566 1 of 7

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 176566 April 16, 2009
ELISEO EDUARTE Y. COSCOLLA, Accused-Appellee,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellant.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
To ferret out the truth in the maze of the conflicting claims of opposing parties is the Herculean task of the courts,
the path which must always be illuminated by reason and justice. Tribunals should always insist on having the truth
and judging only upon satisfactory evidence of the truth. The quest for truth is their main responsibility. To judge
by means of untruths is to debase the noblest function in the hands of humanity.
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by accused-appellant Eliseo Eduarte (Eduarte) seeking
to reverse and set aside the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 12 August 2004 in CA-G.R. CR No. 26716,
affirming with modification the Decision dated 26 August 2002 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila,
Branch 53, in Criminal Case No. 94-132224. The RTC found Eduarte guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
of robbery and, accordingly, sentenced him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of four years, two months to 10
years and to pay Catherine Navarra (Navarra) compensatory damages in the amount of P8,875.00. The decretal part
of the assailed Court of Appeals Decision reads:
Wherefore, the appealed decision is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. [Eduarte] is hereby sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from [four] years and [two] months of pricion correcional
as minimum to [eight] years of prision mayor as maximum.
An Information for Robbery was filed against Eduarte, to wit:
The undersigned accuses ELISEO EDUARTE Y COSCOLIA of the crime of Robbery, committed as follows:
That on or about the 26th day of January, 1994 in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused with intent to
gain and by means of force, violence and intimidation, to wit: by pointing a sharp instrument on the waist of
Catherine Navarra y Miranda and uttering the following, to wit: "Huwag kang kikilos ng masama, masasaktan ka"
and thereafter forcibly grabbing her gold bracelet valued at P8,875.00 did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously take, rob and carry away the said bracelet belonging to CATHERINE NAVARRA Y MIRANDA against
her will, to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the aforesaid amount of P8,875.00, Philippine Currency.
Upon arraignment, Eduarte, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of not guilty. Subsequently, trial on the merits
ensued.
The prosecution presented the following witnesses: (1) Navarra, the victim; (2) Karen Adoro (Adoro), Navarras
classmate who was her companion at the time of the robbery; and (3) Senior Police Officer (SPO) 3 Maphilendo
Praves, one of the two police officers who arrested Eduarte.
The collective testimonial evidence adduced by the prosecution shows that at around 7:45 in the evening of 26
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January 1994, Navarra, together with Adoro, was walking along the corner of United Nations (UN) and Taft
Avenue in Manila. Navarra and Adoro were Tourism Management students of the Philippine Womens University
(PWU) and were on their On-the-Job Training (OJT) at Attic Tours and Travels at Malate, Manila. That night, the
two students just came from their OJT and they were on their way to the Philippine Long Distance Telephone
(PLDT) Office at Padre Faura Street, Manila, when suddenly a man positioned himself between them and poked a
pointed object at the waist of Navarra. The man ordered Navarra not to move; otherwise, she would get hurt. The
man immediately grabbed the bracelet from Navarras wrist and slowly ran away as if nothing happened. The
jewelry was a 22-karat gold bracelet with eight dangling fruits and was worth P8,875.00.
The man fled to the opposite direction of Taft Avenue going to the Manila City Hall, and he was chased by Adoro.
Right behind Adoro was Navarra who was also running after the perpetrator. Adoro then saw the man casually sit
inside the Greenrich Food Chain (not Greenwich) located below the UN Avenue Light Rail Transit (LRT) Station
and immediately confronted him, demanding the return of the bracelet: "Ikaw ang magnanakaw, ibalik mo ang
bracelet." Shortly thereafter, Navarra also arrived at the food stall and positively identified the snatcher: "Yan nga,
siya, siya yon." The man denied the accusations and even tried to impress Navarra and Adoro by bragging to them
that he was a Station Commander and that he had many connections. To convince Navarra and Adoro, the man
flaunted his purported Police Identification (ID) Card. It was shown from the ID that his name was Eduarte.
Feeling that they could not prevail over Eduarte to return the bracelet, Navarra and Adoro sought help by shouting,
"Magnanakaw, magnanakaw," which pleadings were heard by SPO3 Praves and SPO3 Nasareo Cueto (Cueto), who
happened to be in their routine anti-crime night patrol along the area. The policemen responded and brought
Eduarte to the police station for investigation.
For his defense, Eduarte denied the accusations hurled against him. His version of the incident was that on the
night of 26 January 1994 at around 6:00 to 6:30, he arrived at the Greenrich Food Chain as part of his routine of
fetching his girlfriend Clarissa Villafranca (Villafranca). Villafranca worked at the food stall as a waitress. Eduarte
was already in Greenrich for more than an hour talking to Villafranca when Navarra and Adoro suddenly appeared
and accused him of thievery. The imputations came as a surprise to Eduarte, so he reasoned that they might be
mistaken: "Miss, baka nagkakamali po kayo." His explanation was seconded by Villafranca, who also told the
ladies that they might just have mistaken him for someone else: "Miss, baka nagkamali po kayo, kanina pa sya
nakaupo dyan," but to no avail. Eduarte then introduced himself as a former junior police officer and showed to
Navarra and Adoro his ID in an effort to make the two believe that he could not have committed the alleged acts.
Unable to sway his accusers, Eduarte told Navarra and Adoro that it would be better if all of them would go to the
nearest police station in order to clear the matter. After Eduarte said that, Navarra and Adoro left. At this point,
Villafranca tried to convince Eduarte to leave the area in order to avoid any trouble, but he stood his ground. After
around 30 minutes, Navarra and Adoro returned to the food chain; this time they were with SPO3 Praves and SPO3
Cueto. Once again, Eduarte reiterated to the policemen that he was just erroneously identified: "Sir, itinuro ako,
alam nyo naman hindi ko magagawa yun." But instead of listening to his plea, SPO3 Praves punched him on the
stomach and slapped his face, while SPO3 Cueto snapped that he better explain that in the precinct. SPO3 Praves
even took his wallet with his money and ID.
On 26 August 2002, the trial court rendered a Judgment finding Eduarte guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of robbery, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREOFRE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused Eliseo Eduarte y
Coscolla GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery defined and punished under Article 294 of the
Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced to Four (4) Years, Two (2) months of Pricion Correcional as minimum
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to Ten (10) Years of Pricion Mayor as maximum; and further, said accused is ordered to pay Catherine Navarra
compensatory damages in the amount of P8,875.00 with legal interest computed from January 26, 1994; and to pay
costs.
The Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated 12 August 2004, confirmed the presence of all the elements of robbery
under Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code and brushed aside the inconsistencies pointed out by Eduarte in the
testimonies of witnesses. The appellate court, however, reduced the maximum length of imprisonment to eight
years, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law.
Eduarte is now before this Court urging us to reverse the findings of the RTC and the Court of Appeals arguing, in
the main, that his conviction was tainted with reasonable doubt. Before we proceed, this Court opted not to
dispense with the procedural issues raised by the parties and decide this case based on the merits involved, ignoring
technicalities. Pertinent to the resolution of this case is the sole issue of:
WHETHER OR NOT THE CONVICTION OF EDUARTE TO THE CRIME OF ROBBERY IS TAINTED WITH
REASONABLE DOUBT.
Maintaining his innocence, Eduarte insists that he was mistakenly identified by Navarra and Adoro as the
malefactor who robbed Navarra of her bracelet. Eduarte invites the attention of this Court to pass upon the
circumstances that assail the credibility of testimonies offered by Navarra and Adoro, underscoring their frailties
and thereby creating a reasonable doubt on his conviction.
Inarguably, the resolution of the issue raised by Eduarte requires us to inquire into the credibility of the witnesses, a
course of action which this Court will not do, consistent with our repeated holding that this Court is not a trier of
facts.
Basic is the rule that factual findings of trial courts, including their assessment of the witnesses credibility, are
entitled to great weight and respect by this Court, particularly when the Court of Appeals affirms the findings.
Eduarte wants this Court to weigh the credibility of the prosecution witnesses vis--vis the defense witnesses and
to take this case out of the purview of the general rule and to review in its entirety, a task entrusted to the trial
court, which is in the best position to discriminate between truth and falsehood because of its untrammeled
opportunity to observe the deportment and demeanor of witnesses during trial.
Factual findings of the trial court are entitled to respect and are not to be disturbed on appeal, unless some facts and
circumstances of weight and substance, having been overlooked or misinterpreted, might materially affect the
disposition of the case. In the case under consideration, we find that the trial court did not overlook, misapprehend,
or misapply any fact or value for us to overturn the findings of the trial court. Prevailing jurisprudence uniformly
holds that findings of fact of the trial court, particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding upon
this Court.
Eduarte is charged with the crime of simple robbery under paragraph 5, Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, the
elements of which are: (1) intent to gain; (2) unlawful taking of personal property belonging to another; and (3)
violence against or intimidation of any person.
Contrary to Eduartes claim, all the above elements of robbery were proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable
doubt. That the bracelet was not found in his possession does negate the existence of animus lucrandi, considering
that there exists a substantial interval of time between the actual taking of the bracelet and the subsequent frisking
of Eduarte, giving him enough opportunity to dispose of the stolen property. Eduarte himself narrated in open court
that after he was confronted by Navarra and Adoro, the two left. They returned only after 30 minutes together with
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the policemen, viz:


Q: You mean to say Mr. Witness, that when these two (2) women continuously insisted that you were the
thief, you challenged them to call the police, my question is did they call a policeman?
A: When I told them to go to the police station they left and when they returned after thirty (30) minutes
they were with a policeman, sir.
Eduarte fervently argues that he was not the one who robbed Navarra, but was erroneously accused as the thief.
Eduarte claims the time and the manner of carrying out the crime made it highly improbable for Navarra and Adoro
to create in their minds the image of the perpetrator that would enable them to correctly identify him later on. At
the moment the snatching took place, it was already dark; and the snatching was swiftly carried out, thereby
depriving Navarra and Adoro the opportunity to look at the physical features of the culprit, making their
subsequent judgments of the identity of the suspect highly questionable.
We cannot agree. The most natural reaction of victims of violence is to strive to look at the appearance of the
perpetrators of the crime and observe the manner in which the crime is being committed. Eduartes assumption that
it is harder to look at the features of a strangers face when he is closer to you than when he is farther away may
hold water only in normal situations. Under emotional stress, however, when the human bodys adrenaline surges,
it is highly inconceivable that the mind could not even manage to register the face of the person who threatened
bodily harm. As a matter of fact, it is natural, if not instinctive, for the victims to look at the face of the felon. The
production of sketches of criminals who were able to flee from authorities is borne out by this human experience.
As aptly put by the RTC:
Experience shows that because of the unusual act committed before their very eyes, witnesses specially the victims
of the crime, can remember with a high degree of reliability the identity of criminals. Most often, the face and body
movements of the criminal create an impression which cannot easily be erased from their memory. x x x.
Eduarte further posits that if he were the one who snatched the jewelry, why would he be just sitting in a nearby
food chain and not running farther away to escape captivity. He argues that his demeanor of casually sitting in the
food stall and nonchalantly chatting to his girlfriend was not that of a person who had just escaped from a crime,
but that of an innocent man.
While this Court does not want to second-guess the wisdom of Eduartes acts, his casual pretenses after the
incident could not easily get him off the hook in light of the direct, straightforward and spontaneous identification
by both Navarra and Adoro that he was the one who robbed Navarra of her bracelet, thus:
Q: And after the snatcher grabbed your bracelet what did you do, if any?
A: My classmate chased him and I also followed my classmate, he went inside the Greenrich restaurant as if
there was nothing unusual that happened.
Q: What did he do there?
A: Sit down as if nothing happened, your Honor.
xxxx
Q: What happened, he sit down as if nothing happened?
A: We confronted him and told him that he is the snatcher.
Q: What did he say?
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A: He tried to impress us that he is a big or influential person.


Witness Adorro corroborated Navarra in this wise:
Q: What happened after the accused was able to grab the bracelet from the wrist of Catherine?
A: He ran slowly as if he was jogging only (sic) seems as if nothing happened, sir.
Q: Then what happened after that?
A: I ran after him, sir.
Q: Then what happened?
A: He just sat down at [Greenrich] sir.
Q: Is that [Greenrich] a restaurant?
A: He sat down at [Greenrich] Cathy (sic) located under the LRT, sir.
Q: What did you do?
A: I approached him at the place there he (sic) sitted (sic) himself, sir.
Q: After that what happened?
A: Then I asked him to return the bracelet "Ikaw magnanakaw, ibalik mo yong bracelet."
Q: Then what did you do?
A: He just stared at me for a long time and nod his head and I told him to look at me you are a sinner then
he looked at me and said "Hindi mo ba ako kilala" then he brought out something from his pocket and told
me that he is a police commander and I told him that if you are a police commander why do (sic) you steal?
Q: Then what was his answer?
A: He said, a lot of people knew me, ask these people around.
Q: When Catherine arrived at the Greenrich Restaurant, did anything happen between her and the accused?
A: None, your Honor, Catherine was shocked.
Q: And did she and the accused had many (sic) exchange of words or conversation?
A: There is, your Honor.
Q: What did Catherine say?
A: "Yan nga, siya, siya yon," your Honor.
Q: How about the accused?
A: There are many reactions, "how can that be, I am a police commander."
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Q: One last question. What made you sure that it was the accused who grabbed the bracelet of your friend?
A: Simple lang, yong height nya, buhok, everything, his appearance sir.
It is ineluctably clear from the foregoing that Eduarte was the snatcher. The firm, candid and unmistakable
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declaration of the prosecution witnesses that it was he whom they saw grabbing the bracelet was unerring and rang
with truth. A testimony is credible if it bears the earmarks of truth and sincerity and has been delivered in a
spontaneous, natural, and straightforward manner. The credible and forthright narrations of the prosecution
witnesses debase the already weak denials of Eduarte. The infirmity of his denial becomes even more evident
when, in his vain attempt to extricate himself, he pretended to be a police commander who had many connections.
Eduartes explanation that he was probably misheard by Navarra and Adoro is clearly an afterthought and deserves
scant consideration.
What further fortifies the credibility of prosecution witnesses is that Eduarte has not shown that Navarra and Adoro
had any ulterior motive in testifying against him. Adoro testified that the only reason why she testified against
Eduarte was because he was the real culprit. Absent evidence showing any reason or motive for prosecution
witnesses to perjure, the logical conclusion is that no such improper motive exists, and their testimony is thus
worthy of full faith and credit.
Eduartes insinuations, that it was only after the real culprit eluded the victim and the authorities pursuit that they
turned to him, is clutching at straws. The grabbing incident and the confrontation at the food stall constitute one
continuous, unbroken chain of events that could lead to only one conclusion -- that Eduarte was the one who
forcefully took Navarras bracelet. The heated arguments that ensued at the restaurant was but an offshoot of the
robbery that took place one block away. That the incident was attended by an interval of ten minutes does not
detract from the continuity of events for, during such gap, Eduarte was being chased by the victim and her friend
who never lost sight of the fleeing accused. For this Court to buy the fall-guy theory postulated by Eduarte is for us
to close our eyes on the glaring facts and betray our formidable task of ferreting out the truth and administering
justice to all.
Finally, Eduarte invoked his non-flight as an indication of his innocence. We remain unperturbed. Although flight
is an indication of guilt, non-flight does not necessarily mean non-guilt or innocence. This judicial doctrine is
simply applied to strengthen the evidence of guilt, taking into consideration other corroborative pieces of evidence.
It cannot be singularly considered as evidence or as a manifestation determinative of innocence.
All told, the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Eduarte of the charge of robbery when,
with the use of violence against the person of Navarra, he managed to take away the latters jewelry. The trial court
aptly gave full credence to the testimonies of Navarra and Adoro, which unmistakably demonstrated how Eduarte
successfully robbed Navarra and almost successfully eluded apprehension. This finding was adopted by the
appellate court, considering that the trial court was in the best position to ascertain credibility issues, having heard
the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. Considering that
the records show a dearth of evidence that reasonable doubt attended the conviction of Eduarte, we affirm the
conclusion of the trial court and the appellate court that Eduarte is guilty of robbery under Article 294(5) of the
Code and should be accorded with the proper penalty.
Article 294(5) of the Revised Penal Code provides for the penalty for simple robbery, to wit:
Art. 294. Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons - Penalties. - Any person guilty of robbery with
the use of violence against or intimidation of any person shall suffer.
xxxx
5. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium period in other cases."
The felony committed by Eduarte was robbery by means of violence against or intimidation of persons which,
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under Article 294(5) of the Revised Penal Code, is punishable with prision correccional maximum to prision mayor
medium (4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 10 years). There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the
penalty should be imposed in the medium period, i.e., prision mayor minimum, which has a range of 6 years and 1
day to 8 years. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, Eduarte is entitled to a minimum term to be taken within
the penalty next lower in degree to that imposed by the Code, or arresto mayor maximum to prision correccional
medium, which has a range of 4 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months. As correctly found by the Court of
Appeals, the penalty of imprisonment to be imposed should be 4 years and 2 months of prision correccional, as
minimum, and 8 years of prision mayor, as maximum.
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant petition is DENIED. The Decision dated 12
August 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 26716 affirming the conviction of Eliseo Eduarte y
Coscolla for the crime of Robbery and sentencing him to suffer the prison term ranging from 4 years and 2 months
of prision correccional as minimum to 8 years prision mayor as maximum, is hereby affirmed in toto. He is ordered
to pay private complainant Catherine Navarra the amount of P8,875.00 by way of restitution.
SO ORDERED.
Ynares-Santiago, (Chairperson), Austria-Martinez, Nachura, and Peralta, JJ., concur.