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[G.R. NO. 103604-05. SEPTEMBER 23, 1993]

Facts: In two separate informations dated 28 February 1981 and filed with the then Court of First
Instance, now Regional Trial Court, of Negros Oriental, Engracio Valeriano, Juanito Rismundo,
Macario Acabal, Abundio Nahid and several John Does were charged with the crimes of Murder
and Frustrated Murder and did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault
and use personal violence on the person of one Rizalina Apatan Silvano while the latter was about
to leave her house and inflicting upon her injuries, to wit: 'right leg amputated below the knee;
left leg hacked behind the knee; abdomen hacked with viscerae evacerated,' and did then and
there set the house on fire while the aforementioned Rizalina Apatan Silvano was inside said
house trying to escape therefrom, and allowing her to be burned inside said house

On 16 May 1987, a fire gutted the building where Branch 37 was located and the records of these
two cases were burned. The records were subsequently reconstituted upon petition of the
prosecuting fiscal. The testimonies of the witnesses were retaken, however, before it could
commence, accused Engracio Valeriano jumped bail and the warrant for his arrest issued on 16
November 1987 was returned unserved because he could not be found. An alias warrant for his
arrest was issued on 26 June 1989, but he remains at large up to the present.

Immediately after the promulgation of the decision, counsel for the accused manifested in open
court their intention to appeal the decision. The ruling that conclusions and findings of the lower
court are entitled to great weight is not applicable in this case because the judge who heard the
testimonies of the witnesses in its entirety was not the same judge who penned the decision. They
further stressed the delay incurred by Antonio in reporting the crime to the authorities. The crime
was committed on 28 January 1980 but he reported it to the Office of the Governor of Negros
Oriental in Dumaguete City only on 18 February 1980 or some 21 days after its commission.

Issue/s: Whether or not the Constitutional Rights of the accused to a Speedy, Impartial and Public
Trial was violated when the Judge who heard the case was not the same Judge who rendered the
judgment for the case.
Ruling: Although it is a settled rule that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of
witnesses should be given the highest respect because it had the advantage of observing the
demeanor of the witnesses and can discern if such witnesses are telling the truth or lying through
their teeth, we cannot rely on that rule in this appeal because the judge who heard the testimonies
of the witnesses was not the same judge who penned the decision. Judge Temistocles Diez of
Branch 37 received and heard the testimonies of the witnesses but it was Judge Pacifico S.
Bulado who rendered the decision. The latter had no opportunity to observe the witnesses'
deportment and manner of testifying, which are important considerations in assessing credibility.

In conclusion, because of reasonable doubt as to their guilt, the accused-appellants must be

acquitted. Every accused is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved; that presumption is
solemnly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Accused-appellants MACARIO ACABAL, JUANITO
RISMUNDO and ABUNDIO NAHID are ACQUITTED on ground of reasonable doubt, and
their immediate release from confinement is hereby ordered, unless other lawful and valid
grounds exist for their further detention.