Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 61

G.R. No.

175605

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
ARNOLD GARCHITORENA Y CAMBA a.k.a. JUNIOR; JOEY PAMPLONA a.k.a. NATO and
JESSIE GARCIA Y ADORINO, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

For automatic review is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR.-HC No. 00765
which affirmed an earlier Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Binan City, Branch 25 in
Criminal Case No.9440-B, finding accused-appellants Arnold Garchitorena y Gamba, a.k.a. "Junior,"
Joey Pamplona, a.k.a. "Nato," and Jessie Garcia y Adorino guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
murder and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of death and to indemnify jointly and severally the
heirs of the victim in the amount of ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 as moral damages,
₱50,000.00 as exemplary damages, ₱16,700.00 as actual damages, ₱408,000.00 for loss of earning
capacity and to pay the costs of the suit.

The conviction of accused-appellants stemmed from an Information3 dated January 22, 1996, filed
with the RTC for the crime of Murder, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about September 22, 1995, in the Municipality of Binan, Province of Laguna, Philippines
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Arnold Garchitorena y Gamba, alias
"Junior", Joey Pamplona alias "Nato" and Jessie Garcia y Adorino, conspiring, confederating
together and mutualy helping each other, with intent to kill, while conveniently armed with a deadly
bladed weapon, with abuse of superior strength, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously attack, assault and stab one Mauro Biay y Almarinez with the said weapon, thereby
inflicting upon him stab wounds on the different parts of his body which directly caused his death, to
the damage and prejudice of his surviving heirs.

That the crime was committed with the qualifying aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior
strength.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

When arraigned, accused-appellants, duly assisted by their counsel, pleaded not guilty to the
charge. Thereafter, trial ensued.

The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses; namely, Dulce Borero, elder sister of the victim
Mauro Biay and eyewitness to the killing of her brother; Dr. Rolando Poblete, who conducted an
autopsy on the body of the victim and prepared the post-mortem report; and Amelia Biay, the
victim’s widow. The evidence for the prosecution, as culled from the CA Decision under review, is as
follows:

In the proceedings before the trial court, witness for the prosecution Dulce Borero testified that on
September 22, 1995, at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening, she was selling "balut" at Sta. Inez,
Almeda Subdivision, Brgy. Dela Paz, Binan, Laguna. Her brother, Mauro Biay, also a "balut"
vendor", was also at the area, about seven (7) arms length away from her when she was called by
accused Jessie Garcia. Borero testified that when her brother Mauro approached Jessie, the latter
twisted the hand of her brother behind his back and Jessie’s companions- accused Arnold
Garchitorena and Joey Pamplona – began stabbing her brother Mauro repeatedly with a shiny
bladed instrument. Joey was at the right side of the victim and was strangling Mauro from behind.
Witness saw her brother Mauro struggling to free himself while being stabbed by the three (3)
accused., until her brother slumped facedown on the ground. Arnold then instructed his two co-
accused to run away. During cross-examination, Borero claims that she wanted to shout for help but
nothing came out from her mouth. When the accused had left after the stabbing incident, witness
claimed that she went home to call her elder brother Teodoro Biay, but when they returned to the
scene, the victim was no longer there as he had already been brought to the Perpetual Help
Hospital. They learned from the tricycle driver who brought Mauro top the hospital that their brother
was pronounced dead on arrival.

Dr. Rolando Poblete, the physician who conducted an autopsy on victim Mauro Biay and prepared
the post-mortem report, testified that the victim’s death was caused by "hypovolemic shock
secondary to multiple stab wounds." Witness specified the eight (8) stab wounds suffered by the
victim – one in the neck, two in the chest, one below the armpit, two on the upper abdomen, one at
the back and one at the left thigh – and also a laceration at the left forearm of Mauro. According to
the expert witness, the nature of stab wounds indicate that it may have been caused by more than
one bladed instrument.

The victim’s widow, Amelia Biay, testified that she incurred burial expenses amounting to
₱16,700.00 due to the death of her husband. Also, her husband allegedly earned a minimum of
₱300.00 a day as a "balut" vendor and ₱100.00 occasionally as a part-time carpenter.

The accused-appellants denied the charge against them. Specifically, accused-appellant Joey
Pamplona denied that he participated in the stabbing of Mauro Bay, accused-appellant Jessie
Garcia interposed the defense of alibi, while accused-appellant Arnold Garchitorena interposed the
defense of insanity. Succinctly, the CA Decision summed up their respective defenses:

On the other hand, accused Joey Pamplona denied that he participated in the stabbing of Mauro
Biay. Joey Pamplona claims that he was seated on a bench when co-accused Arnold came along.
Then the "balut" vendor arrived and Joey saw Arnold stand up, pull something from the right side of
his pocket and stab the "balut" vendor once before running away. Joey Pamplona testified that after
the stabbing incident, due to fear that Arnold might also stab him, he also ran away to the store of a
certain Mang Tony, a barangay official and related the incident to Aling Bel, the wife of Mang Tony.
Joey Pamplona said that he stayed at Mang Tony’s store until his father arrived and told him to go
home.

Danilo Garados testified that on Septemebr 22, 1995, he was at the store of Mang Tony to buy
cigarettes and saw Arnold and Joey seated on the bench near the artesian well. Arnold and Joey
allegedly called Mauro Biay and he saw Arnold stabbing Mauro. Jessie Garcia was not there and
Joey allegedly ran away when Arnold stabbed Mauro.

Clavel Estropegan testified that on September 22, 1995, around 9:00 p.m. Joey Pamplona entered
her store and told her that Junior or Arnold Garchitorena was stabbing somebody. She did not hear
any commotion outside her house which is just four houses away from the artesian well. However,
she closed her store for fear that Arnold will enter her house.

Barangay Captain Alfredo Arcega testified that he investigated the stabbing incident and, although
he had no personal knowledge, he found out that it was Arnold Garchitorena who stabbed Mauro
Biay. Upon questioning Arnold, the latter admitted that he did stab Mauro.
Defense witness Miguelito Gonzalgo testified that on September 22, 1995, he was in his shoe
factory at his house located at 186 Sta. Teresita Street, Almeda Subdivision, Binan when he heard
Mauro Biay shouting, and so he went out of his house. He allegedly saw two persons "embracing"
each other near the artesian well. He recognized these two persons as Mauro and Arnold. He saw
Arnold pulling out a knife from the body of Mauro and the latter slowly fell down on his side. After
Arnold washed his hands at the artesian well and walked away towards the house of his aunt, this
witness approached Mauro and seeing that the victim was still breathing, went to get a tricycle to
bring Mauro to the hospital. When he got back to the area, there were many people who helped
board Mauro in the tricycle and they brought him to the Perpetual Help Hospital in Binan.

The other co-accused Jessie Garcia took the stand and claimed that on September 22, 1995,
between 8:00 and 9:00 in the evening, he was still riding a bus from his work in Blumentritt. He
arrived at his home in Binan only at 11:00 p.m. On September 24, 1995, he was fetched by two (2)
policemen and two (2) Barangay Tanods from his house and brought to the Binan Police Station for
questioning. Thereafter, he was put in jail and incarcerated for six (6) months without knowing the
charges against him. He was only informed that he was one of the suspects in the killing of Mauro
Biay by his mother.

With respect to Arnold Garchitorena, Dr. Evelyn Belen, Medical Officer III and resident physician of
the National Center for Mental Health, testified that she examined the accused Arnold and based on
the history of the patient, it was found that he had been using prohibited drugs like shabu and
marijuana for two (2) years prior to the stabbing incident in 1995. The patient is allegedly suffering
from schizophrenia, wherein he was hearing auditory voices, seeing strange things and is
delusional. However, Dr. Belen also testified that the accused Garchitorena had remissions or
exaservation and understands what he was doing and was aware of his murder case in court.4

On May 9, 2001, the trial court rendered a Decision,5 as follows:

WHEREFORE, IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, the Court finds
accused Arnold Garchitorena y Gamboa alias Junior, Joey Pamplona alias Nato and Jessie Garcia y
Adorino GUILTY beyond reasonable of the crime of "MURDER" as defined and penalized under
Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, by Republic Act 7659, (Heinous Crimes).
Accordingly, all of them are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH.

Furthermore, all of the accused are hereby ordered to pay jointly and severally Amelia Biay, widow
of the victim Mauro Biay, the following sums:

a) 50,000.00 – as and for civil indemnity

b) 50,000.00 – as and for moral damages

c) 50,000.00 – as and for exemplary damages

d) 16,700.00 – as and for actual damages

e) 408,000.00 – as and for loss of the earning capacity of Mauro Biay; and

f) To pay the costs of suit.


Likewise, the Provincial Warden of the Provincial Jail, Sta. Cruz, Laguna, is hereby ordered to
transfer/commit the three (3) accused to the New Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa City, immediately upon
receipt hereof.

Considering that death penalty was meted against all of the accused, let the entire records of the
above-entitled case be forwarded to the Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment pursuant
to Rule 122, Sec.10 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

SO ORDERED.6

Accused-appellants appealed to the CA. Pamplona and Garcia reiterated their denial of the charge
against them. Garchitorena who never denied his participation in the killing, insisted, however,
insisted that he is exempt from criminal liability because he was suffering from a mental disorder
before, during and after the commission of the crime.

On May 31, 2006, the CA rendered the Decision7 now under review, affirming RTC’s Decision in
toto, thus:

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. Accordingly, the
appealed March 9, 2001 Decuision of the Regional Trial Court of Binan, Laguna, Branch 25, in
Criminal Case No. 9440-B finding herein accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of murder is AFFIRMED in its entirety.

SO ORDERED.

In arriving at the assailed Decision, the CA ratiocinated as follows:

After studying the records of this case, we do not find any reason to overturn the ruling of the trial
court.

Despite the testimony of defense witnesses that it was only accused-appellant Arnold Garchitorena
who stabbed the victim Mauro Biay, we find reason to uphold the trial court’s giving credence to
prosecution witness Dulce Borero who testified as an eyewitness on the circumstances surrounding
the incident and the manner by which the crime committed.

Defense witness Garados testified that he was at the store and saw both Arnold and Joey at the
vicinity where the stabbing incident happened, seated on a bench near the artesian well, when they
called the victim Mauro. Defense witness Gonzalgo was in his house when he heard the commotion
and went outside to see Arnold and Mauro "embracing" near the artesian well and the former pulling
a knife from the body of the latter. On the other hand, prosecution witness Borero was merely seven
arms length away from the incident and could easily see the victim Mauro overpowered and attacked
by his assailants, Arnold Garchitorena, Joey Pamplona and Jessie Garcia. She witnessed the
stabbing incident in its entirely and positively identified the accused and their criminal acts. It is a
well-settled rule that the evaluation of testimonies of witnesses by the trial court is received on
appeal with the highest respect because such court has the direct opportunity to observe the
witnesses on the stand and determine if they are telling the truth or not. (People vs. Cardel, 336
SCRA 144)

Evidence presented by the prosecution shows that the accused conspired to assault the victim
Mauro Biay. Accused Jessie Garcia was the one who called the victim and prompted the latter to
approach their group near the artesian well. When the victim was near enough, accused Jessie
Garcia and co-accused Joey Pamplona restrained Mauro Biay and overpowered him. Witness
Borero then saw the two accused, Jessie Garcia and Joey Pamplona, together with their co-accused
Arnold Garchitorena instructed his two co-accused to run. Conspiracy is apparent in the concerted
action of the three accused. There is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement
concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it (People vs. Pendatun, 434 SCRA
148). Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated
or inferred from the acts of the accused which show a joint or common purpose and design, a
concerted action and community of interest among the accused (People vs. Sicad, et al., 391 SCRA
19).

Likewise, we affirm the trial court’s appreciation of the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior
strength to qualify the crime into murder. "While it is true that superiority in number does not per se
mean superiority in strength, the appellants in this case did not only enjoy superiority in number, but
were armed with a weapon, while the victim had no means with which to defend himself. Thus, there
was obvious physical disparity between the protagonists and abuse of superior strength attended the
killing when the offenders took advantage of their combined strength in order to consummate the
offense." (People of the Phils. vs. Parreno, 433 SCRA 591). In the case at bar, the victim was
rendered helpless when he was assaulted by the three accused. He was restrained and
overpowered by the combined strength and the weapons used by his assailants.

We do not find improbable Borero’s failure to act or shout for help upon witnessing the stabbing of
her brother Mauro Biay. It is an accepted maxim that different people react differently to a given
situation or type of situation and there is no standard form of behavioral response when one is
confronted with a strange or startling experience. xxx There is no standard form of behavior when
one is confronted by a shocking incident. The workings of the human mind when placed under
emotional stress are unpredictable. (People of the Philippines vs. Aspuria, 391 SCRA 404)

Accused-appellant Jessie Garcia’s denial of any involvement cannot prevail over Borero’s positive
identification. As ruled by the trial court, allegations that accused Jessie Garcia was somewhere else
when the crime was committed is not enough. He must likewise demonstrate that he could not have
been present at the crime scene, or in its vicinity. He also could have sought the help of his co-
worker, employer or anyone in the area to support his defense of alibi. Indeed, we affirm that
accused Jessie Garcia’s allegation that he was elsewhere when the crime was committed is not
substantiated by evidence. Alibi can easily be fabricated. Well-settled is the rule that alibi is an
inherently weak defense which cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the
victim. (People of the Phils. vs. Cadampog, 428 SCRA 336)

Finally, the defense of insanity cannot be given merit when the expert witness herself, Dr. Belen,
attested that accused Arnold Garchitorena was experiencing remission and was even aware of his
murder case in court. The trial court had basis to conclude that during the commission of the crime,
Arnold was not totally deprived of reason and freedom of will. In fact, after the stabbing incident,
accused Arnold Garchitorena instructed his co-accused to run away from the scene. We agree that
such action demonstrates that Arnold possessed the intelligence to be aware of his and his co-
accused’s criminal acts. A defendant in a criminal case who interpose the defense of mental
incapacity has the burden of establishing the fact that he was insane at the very moment when the
crime was committed. There must be complete deprivation of reason in the commission of the act, or
that the accused acted without discernment, which must be proven by clear and positive evidence.
The mere abnormality of his mental faculties does not preclude imputability. Indeed, a man may act
crazy but it does not necessarily and conclusively prove that he is legally so. (People of the
Philippines vs. Galigao, 395 SCRA 195)
Having found the court a quo’s decision to be supported by the evidence on record, and for being in
accord with prevailing jurisprudence, we find no reason to set it aside.

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. Accordingly, the
appealed March 9, 2001 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Biñan, Laguna, Branch 25, in
Criminal Case No. 9440-B finding herein accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of murder is AFFIRMED in its entirely.

SO ORDERED.

The case was elevated to this Court for automatic review. The People and the accused-appellants
opted not to file any supplemental brief. The respective assignments of errors contained in the briefs
that they filed with the CA are set forth hereunder.

For accused-appellant Pamplona:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING FULL AND TOTAL CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF
PROSECUTION WITNESS DULCE BORERO

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF THE
APPELLANT

III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING APPELLANT WHEN HIS GUILT HAS NOT BEEN
DULY PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

For accused-appellant Garcia:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING UNDUE WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE ALLEGED
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT GIVEN BY DULCE BORERO, ELDER SISTER OF THE VICTIM AND
PROSECUTION WITNESS, IN RESPECT OF THE PARTICIPATION OF THE HEREIN ACCUSED
DESPITE GLARING INCONSISTENCIES, INHERENT IMPROBABILITIES AND UNRELIABLE
DECLARATION ATTENDING THE SAME; AND, ON THE OTHERHAND, IN DISREGARDING THE
COHERENT, CONSISTENT AND CREDIBLE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF DEFENSE
WITNESSES – ALL IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE RULES GOVERNING QUANTUM OF PROOF
IN CRIMINAL CASES AND THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENSE EXISTING IN FAVOR OF
ACCUSED GARCIA;

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN COMPLETELY DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE OF ALIBI


INTERPOSED BY ACCUSED-APPELLANT JESSIE GARCIA WHO WAS SOMEWHERE ELSE AT
THE TIME AS TO RENDER IT PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO HAVE BEEN AT THE
SCENE OF THE CRIME AND EVEN IF THE SAME IS SUBSTANTIATED BY CLEAR AND
CONVINCING EVIDENCE, THAT IS, THE TESTIMONIES OF OITHER DEFENSE WITNESSES
WHO WERE ONE IN SAYING THAT HE WAS NOT PRESENT THEREAT;

III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN ENTERING A VERDICT OF CONVICTION FOR JESSIE GARCIA
INSTEAD OF ACQUITTAL WHEN NONE OF THE OTHER ACCUSED, AFTER HAVING
ADMITTED THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE CRIME, IMPLICATED HIM;

IV

THE LOWER COURT ERRED, IN AWARDING MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES IN THE
ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE THEREFOR.

For accused-appellant Garchitorena:

THE COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE OVER THE TESTIMONY OF AN
EXPERT WITNESS.

II

THE COURT ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED ARNOLD GARCHITORENA TO HAVE WILLFULLY


EXECUTED THE ACTS COMPLAINED OF.

Accused-appellant Pamplona capitalized on Dulce Borero’s inaction at the time when she had
supposedly witnessed the slaying of her younger brother. He argued that if she really witnessed the
crime, she would have had readily helped her brother Mauro instead of fleeing. Accused-appellant
Garcia anchored his acquittal on his defense of alibi, while accused-appellant Garchitorena used his
alleged mental disorder, specifically, schizophrenia, as a ground to free himself from criminal liability.

The core issues raised by the both accused-appellants Pamplona and Garcia are factual in nature
and delve on the credibility of the witnesses.

Since the accused-appellants raise factual issues, they must use cogent and convincing arguments
to show that the trial court erred in appreciating the evidence. They, however, have failed to do so.

Accused-appellant Pamplona contends that the trial court’s decision was rendered by a judge other
than the one who conducted trial. Hence, the judge who decided the case failed to observe the
demeanor of the witnesses on the stand so as to gauge their credibility. This argument does not
convince the Court for the reason it has consistently maintained, to wit:

We have ruled in People v. Sadiangabay (G.R. No. 87214, March 30, 1993, 220 SCRA 551), that
the circumstance alone that the judge who wrote the decision had not heard the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses would not taint his decision. After all, he had the full record before him,
including the transcript of stenographic notes which he could study. The efficacy of a decision is not
necessarily impaired by the fact that its writer only took over from a colleague who had earlier
presided at the trial, unless there is a clear showing of a grave abuse of discretion in the factual
findings reached by him.8
A perusal of the trial court’s decision readily shows that it was duly based on the evidence presented
during the trial. It is evident that he thoroughly examined the testimonial and documentary evidence
before him and carefully assessed the credibility of the witnesses. This Court finds no plausible
ground to set aside the factual findings of the trial court, which were sustained by the CA.
lavvph!l

The eyewitness Dulce Borero’s testimony clearly established Pamplona and Garcia’s participation
and, consequently, their culpability in the appalling murder of Mauro Biay:9

"Fiscal Nofuente (To the witness)

Q: Madam witness, do you know Mauro Biay?

A: Yes sir.

xxx

Q: Do you know likewise the cause of his death?

A: Yes sir.

Q: What was the cause of his death?

A: He was repeatedly stabbed sir.

Q: You said that Mauro Biay was repeatedly stabbed, who stabbed Mauro Biay repeatedly?

A: Arnold Gatchitorena, was stabbing repeatedly the victim sir.

Q: Was Arnold Gatchitorena alone when he stabbed Mauro Biay?

A: They were three (3) who were stabbing Mauro Biay, sir.

Q: You said that they were three who were stabbing Mauro Biay, who are the other two?

A: Jessie Garcia and Joey Pamplona sir.

Q: So that when you said three, you are referring to Arnold Gatchitorena, Joey Pamplona
and Jessie Garcia?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Now, when [did] this stabbing incident [happen]?

A: On September 22, 1995 sir.

Q: Do you know what was [the] time when this incident happened on September 22, 1995?

A: 9:00 o’clock in the evening sir.

Q: Where [did] this stabbing [happen]?


A: At Sta. Inez, Almeda Subdivision, dela Paz, Biñan, Laguna sir.

Q: Could you tell Madam Witness, where in particular place in Sta. Inez, Almeda Subdivision
this stabbing incident happened?

A: In the street near the artesian well sir.

Q: Do you know where is that street?

A: Sta Inez St., Almeda Subdivision, dela Paz, Biñan, Laguna sir.

Q: You said a while ago that accused Arnold Gatchitorena, Jessie Garcia, Joey Pamplona
repeatedly [stabbed] Mauro Biay, do you know these three accused?

A: Yes sir.

xxx

Q: Will you kindly step down from your seat and tap the three accused that you have pointed
to us to be the persons who stabbed and killed your brother Mauro Biay?

Court: Police Officer Dionisio will you kindly accompany the witness.

P02 Dionisio: Yes sir.

Fiscal: I would like to manifest Your Honor, that the witness was crying when she was
pointing to the three accused, uttering that "Sila ang pumatay sa aking kapatid!".

xxx

Q: What is the name of that person wearing that blue t-shirts?

A: Arnold Gatchitorena sir.

Q: We would like to confirm if he is really Arnold Gatchitorena pointed to by the witness?

Interpreter: The person pointed to by the witness wearing blue t-shirts identified himself as
Arnold Gatchitorena.

Fiscal: Do you know the name of second person whom you tapped on his side wearing white
t-shirts?

A: Yes sir.

Q: What is his name?

A: Jessie Garcia sir.

Interpreter: The person pointed to by the witness identified himself as certain Jessie Garcia.
Fiscal: Likewise Madam Witness, do you know the name of a person in longsleeves polo
shirts-checkered?

A: Yes sir, Joey Pamplona sir.

Interpreter: The person pointed by the witness identified himself as certain Joey Pamplona.

xxx

Q: How far were you from Mauro Biay when he was being stabbed by the three accused
Joey Pamplona, Jessie Garcia, and Arnold Gatchitorena?

A: Seven (7) arms length sir.

Q: You said that your brother was stabbed successively by the three accused, how did it
[happen] Madam Witness?

A: They called him sir.

Q: Who was called?

A: Mauro Biay sir.

Q: Who called Mauro Biay?

A: It was Jessie who called sir.

Q: When you said Jessie, are you referring to Jessie Garcia, one of the accused in this
case?

A: Yes sir.

Q: When Mauro Biay was called by Jessie Garcia, what was [M]auro Biay doing there?

A: Mauro Biay approached sir.

Q: By the way Madam Witness, do you know why Mauro Biay was in that place where the
incident happened?

A: Yes sir.

Atty. Pajares: Witness would be incompetent Your Honor.

Court: Witness may answer.

Fiscal: Why was he there?

A: He was selling "balot" sir.

xxx
Fiscal: When Mauro Biay approached Jessie Garcia, what [did] Mauro Biay do, if any?

A: Jessie Garcia twisted the hand of my brother and placed the hand at his back sir.

Q: Who were the companions of Jessie Garcia when he called [M]auro Biay?

A: Joey Pamplona and Jr. Gatchitorena sir.

Q: When you said Jr. Gatchitorena are you referring to Arnold Gatchitorena?

A: Yes sir.

Q: So that when Jessie Garcia called Mauro Biay, he was together with Arnold Gatchitorena
and Joey Pamplona?

A: Yes sir.

Q: If you know Madam Witness, what did Joey Pamplona and Arnold Gatchitorena do after
Jessie Garcia twisted the arm of Mauro Biay on his back?

A: Arnold Gatchitorena repeatedly stabbed [M]auro Biay at his back and also Jessie Garcia
also stabbed my brother sir.

xxx

Q: Were you able to know the weapon used to stab Mauro Biay?

A: It was like a shiny bladed instrument sir.

Q: Now, what was the position of Mauro Biay when being stabbed by the three accused?

A: He was struggling to free himself sir.

Q: You said that he was struggling to free himself, why did you say that he was struggling to
free himself?

A: Because I could see sir.

Q: You see what?

A: Because that three were repeatedly stabbing Mauro Biay sir.

Q: Aside from stabbing Mauro Biay, what was Joey Pamplona doing to Mauro Biay, if you
can still remember?

A: He was also repeatedly stabbing my brother sir.

Q: Aside from that stabbing, what else if any Joey Pamplona was doing to Mauro Biay?
A: Aside from stabbing Mauro Biay Joey Pamplona was also struggling [strangling] the neck
of Mauro Biay sir.

Q: You said that Mauro Biay was stabbed by the three accused successively, was Mauro
Biay hit by these stabbing?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Why do you know that he was hit by stabbing of the three?

A: Because I saw the blood oozing from the part of his body sir.

Q: Now, what happened to Mauro Biay, when he was stabbed and hit by the successive
stabbing of the three accused?

A: The victim Mauro Biay was suddenly slumped face down on the ground sir.

xxx

Q: What did you learn if any when you went to the hospital to see your brother [M]auro Biay?

A: He was already dead sir.

Even under cross-examination, Dulce Borero was unwavering, straightforward, categorical


and spontaneous in her narration of how the killing of her brother Mauro took
place.10 Notably, her testimony as to the identification of Garchitorena as the one who
stabbed Mauro Biay was even corroborated by defense witness Miguelito Gonzalgo,11 thus:

Q: From the time you saw these two persons near the artesian well, what happened after
that, mr. witness?

A: Mauro Biay slumped on the floor and I saw Junior stabbed once more the victim but I am
not sure if the victim was hit at the back, ma’am.

Q: How far were you from the two when you saw the incident, mr. witness?

A: More or less 7 to 8 meters, ma’am.

Q: Were there anything blocking your sight from the place where you were standing to the
place of incident, mr. witness?

A: None, ma’am.

Absent any showing of ill motive on the part of Borero, we sustain the lower court in giving her
testimony full faith and credence. Moreover, the prosecution’s version is supported by the physical
evidence.12 Borero’s testimony that the victim was successively stabbed several times conforms with
the autopsy report that the latter suffered multiple stab wounds.13

Accused-appellant Pamplona’s argument that there were inconsistencies in the testimony of


prosecution witnesses Borero is not convincing. He specifically points out that in the direct
examination of Borero, she stated that it was Jessie Garcia who twisted the hand of Mauro Biay
backwards when the latter approached the former.14 In the cross-examination, she stated that it was
Joey Pamplona who strangled the victim when the latter approached Jessie Garcia.

The seeming inconsistencies between her direct testimony and her cross-examination testimonies
are not sufficient ground to disregard them. In People v. Alberto Restoles y Tuyo, Roldan Noel y
Molet and Jimmy Alayon y De la Cruz,15 we ruled that:

…minor inconsistencies do not affect the credibility of witnesses, as they may even tend to
strengthen rather than weaken their credibility. Inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution
witnesses with respect to minor details and collateral matters do not affect either the substance of
their declaration, their veracity, or the weight of their testimony. Such minor flaws may even enhance
the worth of a testimony, for they guard against memorized falsities.

Moreover, such inconsistencies did not contradict the credibility of Borero or her narration of the
incident. On the contrary, they showed that her account was the entire truth. In fact, her narration
was in harmony with the account of defense witness Gonzalgo. We note further that both the Sworn
Statement16 of Borero and her testimony before the lower court17 were in complete congruence.

Undoubtedly, accused-appellants’ identities as the perpetrators were established by the prosecution.


The prosecution witness was able to observe the entire incident, because she was there. Thus, we
find no reason to differ with the trial court’s appreciation of her testimony. Positive identification,
where categorical and consistent, and not attended by any showing of ill motive on the part of the
eyewitnesses on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial.18

Accused-appellant Garcia’s alibi has no leg to stand on. In People v. Desalisa,19 this Court ruled that:

…for the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other
place when the crime was committed, but also that it was physically impossible for him to be at the
scene of the crime or its immediate vicinity through clear and convincing evidence.

Here, the crime was committed at Binan, Laguna. Although Garcia testified that he was still riding a
bus from his work in Blumentritt and arrived in Binan only at 11:00 P.M. or two hours after the killing
incident, still, he failed to prove that it was physically impossible for him to be at the place of the
crime or its immediate vicinity. His alibi must fail.

Accused-appellant Garchitorena’s defense of insanity has also no merit. Unlike other jurisdictions,
Philippine courts have established a more stringent criterion for the acceptance of insanity as an
exempting circumstance.20 As aptly argued by the Solicitor General, insanity is a defense in the
nature of confession and avoidance. As such, it must be adequately proved, and accused-appellant
Garchitorena utterly failed to do so. We agree with both the CA and the trial court that he was not
totally deprived of reason and freedom of will during and after the stabbing incident, as he even
instructed his co-accused-appellants to run away from the scene of the crime.

Accused-appellant Garcia also argues that there was no conspiracy, as "there was no evidence
whatsoever that he aided the other two accused-appellants or that he participated in their criminal
designs."21 We are not persuaded. In People v. Maldo,22 we stated:

"Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of
a felony and decide to commit it. Direct proof is not essential, for conspiracy may be inferred from
the acts of the accused prior to, during or subsequent to the incident. Such acts must point to a joint
purpose, concert of action or community of interest. Hence, the victim need not be actually hit by
each of the conspirators for the act of one of them is deemed the act of all." (citations omitted,
emphasis ours)

In this case, conspiracy was shown because accused-appellants were together in performing the
concerted acts in pursuit of their common objective. Garcia grabbed the victim’s hands and twisted
his arms; in turn, Pamplona, together with Garchitorena, strangled him and straddled him on the
ground, then stabbed him. The victim was trying to free himself from them, but they were too strong.
All means through which the victim could escape were blocked by them until he fell to the ground
and expired. The three accused-appellants’ prior act of waiting for the victim outside affirms the
existence of conspiracy, for it speaks of a common design and purpose.

Where there is conspiracy, as here, evidence as to who among the accused rendered the fatal blow
is not necessary. All conspirators are liable as co-principals regardless of the intent and the
character of their participation, because the act of one is the act of all.23

The aggravating circumstance of superior strength should be appreciated against the accused-
appellants. Abuse of superior strength is present whenever there is inequality of forces between the
victim and the aggressor, considering that a situation of superiority of strength is notoriously
advantageous for the aggressor and is selected or taken advantage of by him in the commission of
the crime.24 This circumstance was alleged in the Information and was proved during the trial. In the
case at bar, the victim certainly could not defend himself in any way. The accused-appellants, armed
with a deadly weapon, immobilized the victim and stabbed him successively using the same deadly
weapon.

All told, the trial court correctly convicted the accused-appellants of murder, considering the
qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength. Since an aggravating circumstance of abuse
of superior strength attended the commission of the crime, each of the accused-appellants should be
sentenced to suffer the penalty of death in accordance with Article 6325 of the Revised Penal Code.
Murder, under Article 24826 of the Revised Penal Code, is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death.
Following Article 63 of the same code, the higher penalty of death shall be applied.

In view, however, of the passage of R.A. No. 9346,27 otherwise known as the Anti-Death Penalty
Law, which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, reclusion perpetua without eligibility for
parole should instead be imposed. Accordingly, accused-appellants shall be sentenced to reclusion
perpetua without eligibility for parole in lieu of the penalty of death.

While the new law prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty provided for by law for a
heinous offense is still death and the offense is still heinous.28 Consequently, the civil indemnity for
the victim is still ₱75,000.00. In People v. Quiachon,29 we explained that even if the penalty of death
was not to be imposed on appellant because of the prohibition in Republic Act No. 9346, the civil
indemnity of ₱75,000.00 was still proper. Following the ratiocination in People v. Victor,30 the said
award is not dependent on the actual imposition of the death penalty, but on the fact that qualifying
circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty attended the commission of the crime.

Hence, we modify the award of civil indemnity by the trial court from ₱50,000.00 to ₱75,000.00. Civil
indemnity is mandatory and granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the
commission of the crime. Likewise the award of ₱50,000.00 for moral damages is modified and
increased to ₱75,000.00, consistent with recent jurisprudence31 on heinous crimes where the
imposable penalty is death, it is reduced to reclusion perpetua pursuant to R.A. 9346. The award of
moral damages does not require allegation and proof of the emotional suffering of the heirs, since
the emotional wounds from the vicious killing of the victim cannot be denied.32 The trial court’s award
of exemplary damages in the amount of ₱50,000.00 shall, however, be reduced to ₱30,000.00, also
pursuant to the latest jurisprudence on the matter.33

As to the award of actual damages amounting to ₱16,700.00, we modify the same. In People v.
Villanueva,34 this Court declared that "…when actual damages proven by receipts during the trial
amount to less than ₱25,000.00, as in this case, the award of temperate damages for ₱25,000.00 is
justified in lieu of actual damages of a lesser amount." In the light of such ruling, the victim’s heirs in
the present case should, therefore, be awarded temperate damages in the amount of ₱25,000.00.

The award of ₱408,000.00 for loss of earning capacity is justified. As a rule, documentary evidence
should be presented to substantiate the claim for damages for loss of earning capacity. By way of
exception, damages for loss of earning capacity may be awarded despite the absence of
documentary evidence when (1) the deceased is self-employed and earning less than the minimum
wage under current labor laws, in which case judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the
deceased’s line of work no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased is employed as a
daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.35 It cannot be
disputed that the victim, at the time of his death, was self-employed and earning less than the
minimum wage under current labor laws. The computation arrived at by the trial court was in
accordance with the formula for computing the award for loss of earning capacity.36 Thus,

Award for lost = 2/3 [80-age at time of death] x [gross annual income – 50%
earnings (GAI)]

= 2/3 [80-29] x ₱24,000.00 – ₱12,000.00

= (34) x (₱12,000.00)

= ₱408,000.00

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the CA in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00765, finding the three-
accused appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder is hereby AFFIRMED WITH the
following MODIFICATIONS: (1) the penalty of death imposed on accused-appellants is REDUCED
to RECLUSION PERPETUA without eligibility for parole pursuant to RA 9346; (2) the monetary
awards to be paid jointly and severally by the accused-appellants to the heirs of the victim are as
follows: ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, ₱30,000.00 as exemplary
damages, and ₱25,000.00 as temperate damages in lieu of actual damages; (3) ₱408,000.00 for
loss of earning capacity; and (4) interest is imposed on all the damages awarded at the legal rate of
6% from this date until fully paid.37

No costs.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 175926 July 6, 2011

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
RESTITUTO CARANDANG, HENRY MILAN AND JACKMAN CHUA, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an appeal by Henry Milan and Jackman Chua from the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01934 dated May 10, 2006. Said Decision affirmed that of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) convicting them and one Restituto Carandang for two counts of murder and one count
of frustrated murder in Criminal Cases No. Q-01-100061, Q-01-100062 and Q-01-100063, the
Informations for which read:

Criminal Case No. Q-01-100061

That on or about the 5th day of April 2001, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused,
conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another, did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with intent to kill, taking advantage of superior strength and with
treachery and evident premeditation, attack, assault and employ personal violence upon the person
of PO2 DIONISIO ALONZO Y SALGO, by then and there shooting the latter several times with the
use of a firearm of unknown caliber hitting him on the different parts of the body, thereby inflicting
upon him serious and mortal gunshot wounds which were the direct and immediate cause of his
death, to the damage and prejudice of the immediate heirs of said PO2 DIONISIO ALONZO Y
SALGO.

That the crime was committed in contempt of or with insult to the public authorities.2

Criminal Case No. Q-01-100062

That on or about the 5th day of April, 2001, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused,
conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another, did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with intent to kill, taking advantage of superior strength and with
treachery and evident premeditation, attack, assault and employ personal violence upon the person
of SPO2 WILFREDO RED Y PILAR, by then and there shooting the latter several times with the use
of a firearm of unknown caliber, hitting him on the different parts of the body and as soon as the said
victim fell on the ground, by placing a hand grenade (sic) underneath the body which directly caused
an explosion and mutilated the body which directly caused the death of SPO2 WILFREDO RED Y
PILAR, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the victim in such amount as may be awarded to
them under the provisions of the Civil Code.

That the crime was committed in contempt of or with insult to the public authorities.3
Criminal Case No. Q-01-100063

That on or about the 5th day of April, 2001, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused,
conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill with
evident premeditation and with treachery, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
assault, attack and employ personal violence upon the person of SPO1 WILFREDO MONTECALVO
Y DALIDA, by then and there shooting the latter with the use of a firearm of unknown caliber, hitting
him on his neck, thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal injuries, the offender thus performing
all the acts of execution which would have produced the crime of murder as a consequence, but
nevertheless did not produce it by reasons or causes independent of the will of the perpetrators, that
is the timely and able medical assistance rendered to said SPO1 WILFREDO MONTECALVO Y
DALIDA, to the damage and prejudice of the said offended party.

That the crime was committed in contempt of or with insult to the public authorities.4

On May 15, 2001, accused-appellants Carandang, Milan and Chua pleaded not guilty to the crimes
charged.

The prosecution evidence, culled from the testimonies of Senior Police Officer (SPO) 1 Wilfredo
Montecalvo, SPO1 Rodolfo Estores, Police Senior Inspector (P/Sr. Insp.) Virgilio Calaro, P/Supt.
Manuel Roxas and Dr. Wilson Tan, yielded the following version of the facts:

In the afternoon of April 5, 2001, the drug enforcement unit of the La Loma Police Station 1 received
a request for assistance from the sister of accused Milan regarding a drug deal that would allegedly
take place in her house at Calavite St., Brgy. Salvacion, Quezon City. The station commander called
SPO2 Wilfredo Pilar Red and instructed him to talk to Milan’s sister, who was in their office. SPO2
Red, accompanied by Police Officer (PO) 2 Dionisio Alonzo, SPO1 Estores and SPO1 Montecalvo,
talked to Milan’s sister. Thereafter, SPO2 Red formed a team composed of the officers who
accompanied him during the interrogation, with him as team leader. The team received further
instructions from the station commander then proceeded to Calavite Street aboard two vehicles, a
mobile patrol car and an unmarked car.5

When the team reached the place at around 4:00 p.m.,6 they alighted from their vehicles and
surrounded Milan’s house. SPO1 Montecalvo’s group went to the left side of the house, while SPO2
Red’s group proceeded to the right. The two groups eventually met at the back of the house near
Milan’s room. The door to Milan’s room was open, enabling the police officers to see Carandang,
Milan and Chua inside. SPO2 Red told the group that the persons inside the room would not put up
a fight, making them confident that nothing violent would erupt. However, when the group introduced
themselves as police officers, Milan immediately shut the door.7

PO2 Alonzo and SPO2 Red pushed the door open, causing it to fall and propelling them inside the
room. PO2 Alonzo shouted "Walang gagalaw!" Suddenly, gunshots rang, hitting PO2 Alonzo and
SPO2 Red who dropped to the floor one after the other. Due to the suddenness of the attack, PO2
Alonzo and SPO2 Red were not able to return fire and were instantly killed by the barrage of
gunshots. SPO1 Montecalvo, who was right behind SPO2 Red, was still aiming his firearm at the
assailants when Carandang shot and hit him. SPO1 Montecalvo fell to the ground. SPO1 Estores
heard Chua say to Milan, "Sugurin mo na!" Milan lunged towards SPO1 Montecalvo, but the latter
was able to fire his gun and hit Milan. SPO1 Estores went inside the house and pulled SPO1
Montecalvo out.8

Reinforcements came at around 4:30 p.m. upon the arrival of P/Sr. Insp. Calaro, Chief Operations
Officer of the La Loma Police Station 1, and P/Supt. Roxas, the Deputy Station Commander of
Police Station 1 at the time of the incident.9 SPO1 Montecalvo was brought to the Chinese General
Hospital. Milan stepped out of the house and was also brought to a hospital,10 but Carandang and
Chua remained holed up inside the house for several hours. There was a lengthy negotiation for the
surrender of Carandang and Chua, during which they requested for the presence of a certain
Colonel Reyes and media man Ramon Tulfo.11 It was around 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight when
Carandang and Chua surrendered.12 SPO2 Red and PO2 Alonzo were found dead inside the house,
their bodies slumped on the floor with broken legs and gunshot and grenade shrapnel wounds.13

Dr. Winston Tan, Medico-Legal Officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory,
conducted the post-mortem examination of the bodies of SPO2 Red and PO2 Alonzo. He found that
the gunshot wounds of Red and Alonzo were the cause of their deaths.14

According to SPO1 Montecalvo’s account, Dr. Bu Castro of the Chinese General Hospital operated
on him, removing a bullet from the right portion of his nape. SPO1 Montecalvo’s hospitalization
expenses amounted to ₱14,324.48. He testified that it was a nightmarish experience for him as he
feared that he might be paralyzed later on.15

The defense presented the three accused as witnesses, testifying as follows:

Carandang claims that he had no firearm during the incident, and that it was the police officers who
fired all the shots. He was in Milan’s house during the incident in order to ask Milan to accompany
him to convert his cellular phone’s SIM card. When he arrived at Milan’s place, he found Milan and
Chua playing a card game. A short time later, there was banging on the door. The door of the house
was destroyed and gunfire suddenly erupted, prompting him to take cover under a bed. Chua cried
out to him that he was hit and that he might lose blood. Milan ran outside and sustained injuries as
well. There was an explosion near the door, causing burns on Carandang’s left arm. Gunfire
continued coming from different directions for two to three minutes. Suddenly, the place became
dark as the lights went out.16

Since gunshots were still heard every now and then, Carandang stayed in the house and did not
come out. Col. Tor, the new Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Sikatuna, negotiated
for Carandang to come out. Carandang requested for the presence of his wife, Col. Doroteo Reyes
and media man Ramon Tulfo. He went out of the house at around midnight when the three arrived.17

Milan testified that he was at home in Calavite St. at the time of the incident. He knew Carandang for
seven months. Chua was their neighbor. While playing a card game inside his room, they heard
someone pounding at the door. He stood and approached the door to check. The door was
destroyed, and two unidentified men barged in. Gunshots erupted. He was hit on the left side of his
body. He ran out of the room, leaving Chua and Carandang behind. As he was doing so, he saw his
mother lying down and shouting "Itigil niyo ang putukan; maraming matatanda dito!" Milan was then
hit on his left leg by another gunshot.18

Chua testified that he went to the house of Milan at around noontime of April 4, 2001 to play a card
game. They played inside Milan’s ground floor room. Five to ten minutes later, Carandang arrived
and laid down on the bed. Chua did not pay much attention as Milan and Carandang discussed
about cellular phones. Later, they heard a loud banging in the door as if it was being forced open.
Milan stood up to see what was happening. Chua remained seated and Carandang was still on the
bed. The door was forcibly opened. Chua heard successive gunshots and was hit on his left big toe.
He ducked on the floor near the bed to avoid being hit further. He remained in that position for
several hours until he lost consciousness. He was already being treated at the Chinese General
Hospital when he regained consciousness. In said hospital, a paraffin test was conducted upon
him.19
P/Sr. Insp. Grace Eustaquio, Forensic Chemist of the PNP Crime Laboratory, later testified that the
paraffin test on Chua yielded a negative result for gunpowder nitrates, but that performed on
Carandang produced a positive result. She was not able to conduct a paraffin test on Milan, who just
came from the operating room when she saw him. Milan seemed to be in pain and refused to be
examined.20

On April 22, 2003, the trial court rendered its Decision21 finding Carandang, Milan and Chua guilty of
two counts of murder and one count of frustrated murder:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused RESTITUTO CARANDANG, HENRY MILAN AND JACKMAN
CHUA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder described and penalized under Article
249 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Article 63 of the same Code, for the killing of SPO2
Wilfredo Pilar Red and PO2 Dionisio Alonzo qualified by treachery and acting in conspiracy with
each other, they are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count of
murder and to indemnify the heirs of the victims, jointly and severally, as follows:

To the heirs of SPO2 Wilfredo Red:

1. ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity;

2. ₱50,000.00 as moral damages;

3. ₱149,734.00 as actual damages; and

4. ₱752,580.00 as compensatory damages

To the heirs of PO2 Dionisio Alonzo:

1. ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity;

2. ₱50,000.00 as moral damages;

3. ₱139,910.00 as actual damages; and

4. ₱522,960.00 as compensatory damages.

Likewise, finding the accused Restituto Carandang, Henry Milan and Jackman Chua guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of frustrated murder, described and penalized under Article 249 in
relation to Article 6, paragraph 2, having acted in conspiracy with each other and applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, they are hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of six (6) years of
prision mayor to twelve (12) years and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, and to indemnify the victim
Wilfredo Montecalvo as follows:

1. ₱14,000.00 as actual damages;

2. ₱20,000.00 as moral damages;

3. ₱20,000.00 as reasonable attorney’s fees; and

4. To pay the costs.22


Carandang, Milan and Chua appealed to this Court.23 The appeals were separately docketed as
G.R. Nos. 160510-12.24 Pursuant, however, to the decision of this Court in People v. Mateo,25 the
appeals were transferred26 to the Court of Appeals, where they were assigned a single docket
number, CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01934.

On May 10, 2006, the Court of Appeals rendered the assailed Decision modifying the Decision of the
trial court:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,
Branch 76, in Criminal Case Nos. Q-01-100061-63 finding accused-appellants guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of Murder and one (1) count of Frustrated Murder is hereby
AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS as follows:

1) In Criminal Case Nos. Q-01-100061 and Q-01-100062, accused-appellants are hereby


ordered to pay the heirs of PO2 Dionisio S. Alonzo and SPO2 Wilfredo P. Red an indemnity
for loss of earning capacity in the amount of ₱2,140,980.69 and ₱2,269,243.62, respectively;
and

2) In Criminal Case No. Q-01-100063, accused-appellants are hereby instead sentenced to


suffer an indeterminate prison term of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as
maximum.

With costs against the accused-appellants.27

Milan and Chua appealed to this Court anew.28 Carandang did not appeal, and instead presented a
letter informing this Court that he is no longer interested in pursuing an appeal.29 On April 9, 2008,
Milan and Chua filed a Supplemental Appellant’s Brief to further discuss the Assignment of Errors
they presented in their September 28, 2004 Appellant’s Brief:

I.

The court a quo erred in holding that there was conspiracy among the appellants in the case
at bar.

II.

Assuming arguendo that conspiracy exists, the court a quo gravely erred in convicting them
of the crime of murder and frustrated murder instead of homicide and frustrated homicide
only, the qualifying circumstance of treachery not having been duly proven to have attended
the commission of the crimes charged.30

The trial court had ruled that Carandang, Milan and Chua acted in conspiracy in the commission of
the crimes charged. Thus, despite the established fact that it was Carandang who fired the gun
which hit SPO2 Red, PO2 Alonzo and SPO1 Montecalvo, all three accused were held equally
criminally responsible therefor. The trial court explained that Carandang, Milan and Chua’s
actuations showed that they acted in concert against the police officers. The pertinent portion of the
RTC Decision reads:

Milan, Carandang and Chua were all inside the room of Milan. Upon arrival of police officers Red,
Alonzo and the others and having identified themselves as police officers, the door was closed and
after Alonzo and Red pushed it open and as Alonzo shouted, "walang gagalaw," immediately shots
rang out from inside the room, felling Alonzo, then Red, then Montecalvo. Chua was heard by
Estores to shout to Milan: "Sugurin mo na" (tsn, October 16, 2001, page 8). And as Milan lunged at
Montecalvo, the latter shot him.

That the three acted in concert can be gleaned from their actuations. First, when they learned of the
presence of the police officers, they closed the door. Not one of them came out to talk peacefully
with the police officers. Instead, Carandang opened fire, Alonzo and Red did not even have the
chance to touch their firearms at that instant.31

In affirming this ruling, the Court of Appeals further expounded on the acts of Milan and Chua
showing that they acted in concert with Carandang, to wit:

In the present case, when appellants were alerted of the presence of the police officers, Milan
immediately closed the door. Thereafter, when the police officers were finally able to break open
said door, Carandang peppered them with bullets. PO2 Alonzo and SPO2 Red died instantly as a
result while SPO1 Montecalvo was mortally wounded. Then, upon seeing their victims helplessly
lying on the floor and seriously wounded, Chua ordered Milan to attack the police officers. Following
the order, Milan rushed towards Montecalvo but the latter, however, was able to shoot him.

At first glance, Milan’s act of closing the door may seem a trivial contribution in the furtherance of the
crime. On second look, however, that act actually facilitated the commission of the crime. The brief
moment during which the police officers were trying to open the door paved the way for the
appellants to take strategic positions which gave them a vantage point in staging their assault. Thus,
when SPO2 Red and PO2 Alonzo were finally able to get inside, they were instantly killed by the
sudden barrage of gunfire. In fact, because of the suddenness of the attack, said police officers were
not able to return fire.

Insofar as Chua is concerned, his participation in the conspiracy consisted of lending


encouragement and moral ascendancy to his co-conspirators as evidenced by the fact that he
ordered Milan to attack the already fallen police officers with the obvious intention to finish them off.
Moreover, he did not immediately surrender even when he had the opportunity to do so but instead
chose to stay with Carandang inside the room until their arrest.32

Milan and Chua object to the conclusion that they were in conspiracy with Carandang due to their
acts of closing the door and not peaceably talking to the police officers. According to them, those
acts were caused by their being frightened by the police officers who were allegedly in full battle
gear.33 Milan and Chua further assert that the fortuitous and unexpected character of the encounter
and the rapid turn of events should have ruled out a finding of conspiracy.34 They claim that the
incident happened so fast, giving them no opportunity to stop Carandang.35

Appellants contest the factual finding that Chua directed Milan to go after SPO1 Montecalvo, alleging
that they were both unarmed and that there was no way for Milan to attack an armed person. What
really happened, according to them, was that Milan ran out of the room for safety and not to attack
SPO1 Montecalvo.36 Milan claims that he was already injured in the stomach when he ran out, and it
was natural for him to seek safety.

Assuming arguendo that Chua uttered "Sugurin mo na!" to Milan, appellants argue that no crime was
committed due to the same as all the victims had already been shot when said words were
shouted.37 Furthermore, it appears to have been uttered as a result of indiscretion or lack of
reflection and did not inherently carry with it inducement or temptation.38
In the Supplemental Brief, Milan and Chua point out that the assault on the victims was the result of
the impulsive act of Carandang and was not a result of any agreement or a concerted action of all
the accused.39 They claim that when the shootout ensued, Chua immediately dove down near the
bed while Milan ran out of the room out of fear.40It is allegedly hard to imagine that SPO1 Montecalvo
with certainty heard Chua utter the phrase "Sugurin mo na," considering that the incident happened
so fast, there were lots of gunshots.41

To summarize, Milan’s and Chua’s arguments focus on the lack of direct evidence showing that they
conspired with Carandang during the latter’s act of shooting the three victims. However, as we have
held in People v. Sumalpong, 42 conspiracy may also be proven by other means:

Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a
felony and decide to commit it. Evidence need not establish the actual agreement among the
conspirators showing a preconceived plan or motive for the commission of the crime. Proof of
concerted action before, during and after the crime, which demonstrates their unity of design and
objective, is sufficient. When conspiracy is established, the act of one is the act of all regardless of
the degree of participation of each.43

In the case at bar, the conclusion that Milan and Chua conspired with Carandang was established by
their acts (1) before Carandang shot the victims (Milan’s closing the door when the police officers
introduced themselves, allowing Carandang to wait in ambush), and (2) after the shooting (Chua’s
directive to Milan to attack SPO1 Montecalvo and Milan’s following such instruction). Contrary to the
suppositions of appellants, these facts are not meant to prove that Chua is a principal by
inducement, or that Milan’s act of attacking SPO1 Montecalvo was what made him a principal by
direct participation. Instead, these facts are convincing circumstantial evidence of the unity of
purpose in the minds of the three. As co-conspirators, all three are considered principals by direct
participation.

Appellants’ attempt to instill doubts in our minds that Chua shouted "sugurin mo na" to Milan, who
then ran towards SPO1 Montecalvo, must fail. SPO1 Estores’s positive testimony44 on this matter
prevails over the plain denials of Milan and Chua. SPO1 Estores has no reason to lie about the
events he witnessed on April 5, 2001. As part of the team that was attacked on that day, it could
even be expected that he is interested in having only the real perpetrators punished.

Furthermore, we have time and again ruled that factual findings of the trial court, especially those
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are conclusive on this Court when supported by the evidence on
record.45 It was the trial court that was able to observe the demeanors of the witnesses, and is
consequently in a better position to determine which of the witnesses are telling the truth. Thus, this
Court, as a general rule, would not review the factual findings of the courts a quo, except in certain
instances such as when: (1) the conclusion is grounded on speculations, surmises or conjectures;
(2) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion;
(4) the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) the findings of fact are conflicting; (6)
there is no citation of specific evidence on which the factual findings are based; (7) the finding of
absence of facts is contradicted by the presence of evidence on record; (8) the findings of the Court
of Appeals are contrary to the findings of the trial court; (9) the Court of Appeals manifestly
overlooked certain relevant and undisputed facts that, if properly considered, would justify a different
conclusion; (10) the findings of the Court of Appeals are beyond the issues of the case; and (11)
such findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties.46

Neither can the rapid turn of events be considered to negate a finding of conspiracy. Unlike evident
premeditation, there is no requirement for conspiracy to exist that there be a sufficient period of time
to elapse to afford full opportunity for meditation and reflection. Instead, conspiracy arises on the
very moment the plotters agree, expressly or impliedly, to commit the subject felony.47

As held by the trial court and the Court of Appeals, Milan’s act of closing the door facilitated the
commission of the crime, allowing Carandang to wait in ambush. The sudden gunshots when the
police officers pushed the door open illustrate the intention of appellants and Carandang to prevent
any chance for the police officers to defend themselves. Treachery is thus present in the case at bar,
as what is decisive for this qualifying circumstance is that the execution of the attack made it
impossible for the victims to defend themselves or to retaliate.48

The trial court correctly sentenced appellants to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua in Criminal
Case Nos. Q-01-100061 and Q-01-100062. The penalty for murder under Article 24849 of the
Revised Penal Code is reclusion perpetua to death. Applying Article 6350 of the same Code, since
there was no other modifying circumstance other than the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the
penalty that should be imposed is reclusion perpetua.

In Criminal Case No. Q-01-100063, the Court of Appeals correctly modified the penalty for the
frustrated murder of SPO1 Montecalvo. Under Article 5051 in connection with Article 61, paragraph
252 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for frustrated murder is one degree lower than reclusion
perpetua to death, which is reclusion temporal. Reclusion temporal has a range of 12 years and 1
day to 20 years. Its medium period, which should be applied in this case considering that there is no
modifying circumstance other than the qualifying circumstance of treachery, is 14 years, 8 months
and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months – the range of the maximum term of the indeterminate penalty
under Section 153 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law. The minimum term of the indeterminate
penalty should then be within the range of the penalty next lower to reclusion temporal, and thus
may be any term within prision mayor, the range of which is 6 years and 1 day to 12 years. The
modified term of 6 years and 1 day of prision mayor as minimum, to 14 years, 8 months and 1 day of
reclusion temporal as maximum, is within these ranges.

The civil liabilities of appellants should, however, be modified in accordance with current
jurisprudence. Thus, in Criminal Case Nos. Q-01-100061 and Q-01-100062, the award of
₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity for each victim must be increased to ₱75,000.00.54 In cases of murder
and homicide, civil indemnity of ₱75,000.00 and moral damages of ₱50,000.00 are awarded
automatically, without need of allegation and proof other than the death of the victim.55Appellants are
furthermore solidarily liable to each victim for ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages, which is awarded
when the crime was committed with an aggravating circumstance, be it generic or
qualifying.56 However, since Carandang did not appeal, he is only solidarily liable with Milan and
Chua with respect to the amounts awarded by the Court of Appeals, since the Court of Appeals’
Decision has become final and executory with respect to him. The additional amounts (₱25,000.00
as civil indemnity and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages) shall be borne only by Milan and Chua,
who are hereby held liable therefor solidarily.

In Criminal Case No. Q-01-100063, the solidary liability of Milan and Chua for moral damages to
SPO1 Wilfredo Montecalvo is likewise increased to ₱40,000.00, in accordance with prevailing
jurisprudence.57 An award of ₱20,000.00 as exemplary damages is also warranted.58 The additional
amounts (₱20,000.00 as moral damages and ₱20,000.00 as exemplary damages) are likewise to be
solidarily borne only by Milan and Chua.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01934 dated May 10,
2006 is hereby AFFIRMED, with the following MODIFICATIONS:
1. In Criminal Case Nos. Q-01-100061 and Q-01-100062, appellants Henry Milan and
Jackman Chua are held solidarily liable for the amount of ₱25,000.00 as civil indemnity and
₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages to the heirs of each of the victims, PO2 Dionisio S.
Alonzo and SPO2 Wilfredo P. Red, in addition to the amounts to which they are solidarily
liable with Restituto Carandang as held in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01934. Thus, to summarize
the rulings of the lower courts and this Court:

a. The heirs of SPO2 Wilfredo Red are entitled to the following amounts:

i. ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 of which shall be solidarily borne


by Carandang, Milan and Chua, while ₱25,000.00 shall be the solidary
liability of Milan and Chua only;

ii. ₱50,000.00 as moral damages to be solidarily borne by Carandang, Milan


and Chua;

iii. ₱149,734.00 as actual damages to be soldarily borne by Carandang,


Milan and Chua;

iv. ₱2,140,980.00 as indemnity for loss of earning capacity to be solidarily


borne by Carandang, Milan and Chua; and

v. ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages to be solidarily borne by Milan and


Chua only;

b. The heirs of PO2 Dionisio Alonzo are entitled to the following amounts:

i. ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 of which shall be solidarily borne


by Carandang, Milan and Chua, while ₱25,000.00 shall be the solidary
liability of Milan and Chua only;

ii. ₱50,000.00 as moral damages to be solidarily borne by Carandang, Milan


and Chua;

iii. ₱139,910.00 as actual damages to be solidarily borne by Carandang,


Milan and Chua;

iv. ₱2,269,243.62 as indemnity for loss of earning capacity to be solidarily


borne by Carandang, Milan and Chua;

v. ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages to be solidarily borne by Milan and


Chua only;

2. In Criminal Case No. Q-01-100063, appellants Henry Milan and Jackman Chua are held
solidarily liable for the amount of ₱20,000.00 as moral damages and ₱20,000.00 as
exemplary damages to SPO1 Wilfredo Montecalvo, in addition to the amounts to which they
are solidarily liable with Restituto Carandang as held in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01934. Thus,
to summarize the rulings of the lower courts and this Court, SPO1 Wilfredo Montecalvo is
entitled to the following amounts:
i. ₱14,000.00 as actual damages to be solidarily borne by Carandang, Milan and
Chua;

ii. ₱40,000.00 as moral damages, ₱20,000.00 of which shall be solidarily borne by


Carandang, Milan and Chua, while ₱20,000.00 shall be the solidary liability of Milan
and Chua only;

iii. ₱20,000.00 as exemplary damages to be solidarily borne by Milan and Chua only;
and

iv. ₱20,000.00 as reasonable attorney’s fees, to be solidarily borne by Carandang,


Milan and Chua.

3. Appellants are further ordered to pay interest on all damages awarded at the legal rate of
Six Percent (6%) per annum from date of finality of this judgment.1avv phi1

SO ORDERED.

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO


Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 201860 January 22, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff -Appellee,


vs.
MARCELINO DADAO, ANTONIO SULINDAO, EDDIE MALOGSI (deceased) and ALFEMIO
MALOGSI,*Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an appeal from a Decision1 dated May 16, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C.
No. 00364, entitled People of the Philippines v. Marcelino Dadao, Antonio Sulindao, Eddie Malogsi
and Alfemio Malogsi, which affirmed with modifications the Decision2 dated January 31, 2005 of the
Regional Trial Court of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, Branch 11 that convicted appellants Marcelino
Dadao, Antonio Sulindao, Eddie Malogsi (deceased) and Alfemio Malogsi for the felony of murder
under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in Criminal Case No. 93-1272.

The genesis of this court case can be traced to the charge of murder against the appellants in the
trial court via an Information3 dated July 16, 1993. The accusatory portion of said indictment reads:

That on or about the 11th day of July 1993, at 7:30 in the evening more or less at barangay Salucot,
municipality of Talakag, province of Bukidnon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping with
(sic) one another, with intent to kill, by means of treachery, armed with guns and bolos, did then and
there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally attack, assault and sho[o]t PIONIO YACAPIN, hitting his back
and left leg, inflicting wounds that cause[d] his death thereafter.

To the damage and prejudice [of] the heirs of the deceased PIONIO YACAPIN in such sum they are
entitled under the law.

Contrary to and in violation of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.

On September 27, 1993, the appellants were arraigned. All four (4) accused pleaded "NOT GUILTY"
to the charge leveled against them.4

The factual backdrop of this case as condensed in the trial court’s assailed January 31, 2005
judgment and adopted by the Court of Appeals in its similarly assailed May 16, 2011 Decision is
reproduced hereunder:

Evidence for the Prosecution

Prosecution’s first witness, Ronie Dacion, a 14-year old stepson of the victim, Pionio Yacapin,
testified that on July 11, 1993 at about 7:30 in the evening he saw accused Marcelino Dadao,
Antonio Sulindao, Eddie Malogsi and [A]lfemio Malogsi helping each other and with the use of
firearms and bolos, shot to death the victim, Pionio Yacapin in their house at Barangay Salucot,
Talakag, Bukidnon.

The testimony of the second witness for the prosecution, Edgar Dacion, a 12-year old stepson of the
victim, corroborates the testimony of his older brother Ronie Dacion.

Prosecution’s third witness, Nenita Yacapin, the widow of the victim, also corroborates the testimony
of the prosecution’s first and second witness. The said witness further testified that she suffered civil
and moral damages [due to] the death of her husband.

Prosecution’s fourth witness, Bernandino Signawan, testified that at about 10:00 o’clock in the
evening of July 11, 1993, Ronie and Edgar Dacion reached to [sic] his house and related to him that
their stepfather was killed by accused Eddie Malogsi, [A]lfemio Malogsi, Marcelino Dadao and
Antonio Sulindao. Witness Signawan further testified that on the following morning, he and the other
people in Ticalaan including the barangay captain, Ronie and Edgar Dacion returned to the house of
the victim and found the latter already dead and in the surrounding [area] of the house were
recovered empty shells of firearms.

Prosecution’s fifth witness, SPO2 Nestor Aznar, testified that he was the one who prepared the
sketch of the hut where the incident happened and further testified that the four accused were in the
custody of the government and in the following morning of the incident, he was at the scene of the
crime and found in the yard of the hut eight (8) garand empty shells caliber 30m[m].

The prosecution presented its sixth and last witness, Modesto Libyocan, who testified that on the
evening of July 11, 1993, at Barangay Salucot, he saw in the house of the victim, Pionio Yacapin,
lights caused by flashlights and heard several gunshots from the house of the victim, and that the
family left their house on that evening and went to Ticalaan where they learned that Pionio Yacapin
was killed in his house and that early the following morning, July 12, 1993, he was with some
companions, barangay officials of Ticalaan in the house of the victim where they found him dead and
sustaining gunshot wounds.

Evidence for the Defense

Defense’s first witness, Police Inspector Vicente Armada, testified that on July 30, 1993, at 11:00 in
the morning, he conducted an examination for paraffin test on all four accused with the findings that
they yielded negative result x x x.

The defense presented Eddie Malogsi, one of the accused, as its second witness, who testified that
on July 11, 1993 at 7:30 in the evening, he was at the farm of a certain Boyle together with his
brother, [A]lfemio Malogsi, one of the accused herein, being a worker of that farm. He further
testified that on the said date and time, he never fired a gun.

Defense’s third witness, [A]lfemio Malogsi, another accused in this case, corroborates the testimony
of his brother and co-accused, Eddie Malogsi, that on the said date and time above-mentioned, he
was at the farm of a certain Boyle with his brother and that they heard several gunshots. He further
testified that he never owned a garand rifle.

Another accused, Antonio Sulindao, defense’s fourth witness, testified that on the date and time
above-mentioned, he was at Salucot together with his family and at 7:30 x x x in the evening, he
heard some gun shots. He further testified among others, that he has no grudge x x x with the victim
prior to the incident.
The testimony of defense’s fifth witness, Fernandez Saplina, [was to] establish the defense of denial
and alibi in so far as accused Marcelino Dadao, that on the whole evening of July 11, 1993, accused
Marcelino Dadao was all the time at his house in San Fernandez, Salucot, Talacag, Bukidnon, and
there was no occasion that said accused went outside or left his house on the said date and time.
The said witness further testified that he visited the accused at the municipal jail of Talakag,
Bukidnon, where he was detained for having been the suspect in the killing of Pionio Yacapin.

The defense presented its sixth witness, Camilo Dumalig, who corroborates the testimony of
Fernandez Saplina to the effect that accused Marcelino Dadao has been residing at San Fernandez,
Salucot, Talakag, Bukidnon at the time of the incident on July 11, 1993 which place is about 7
kilometers from the place of the incident.

Defense’s seventh witness, Venancio Payonda, father-in-law of accused Antonio Sulindao, testified
that the latter was in his house the whole day of July 11, 1993.

The defense presented as its last witness, accused Marcelino Dadao, who testified that three (3)
months prior to July 11, 1993, he had been staying at the house of one Fernandez Saplina at Sitio
San Fernandez, Salucot, Talakag, Bukidnon, which is about 7 kilometers away from the house of the
victim. He further testified that on July 11, 1993, he did not leave the house of Fernandez Saplina
until the following morning.5

After trial was concluded, a guilty verdict was handed down by the trial court finding appellants guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of murdering Pionio Yacapin. The assailed January 31, 2005 Decision
disposed of the case in this manner:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds accused, EDDIE MALOGSI, [A]LFEMIO
MALOGSI, ANTONIO SULINDAO and MARCELINO DADAO, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Murder, as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended, the said four accused are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
and are ordered to pay the heirs of the victim, the amount of SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND PESOS
(₱75,000.00) as moral damages and TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (₱20,000.00) as exemplary
damages and to pay the cost of the suit. Pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 2-
92, dated January 20, 1992, the bailbonds of all four accused are hereby ordered cancelled and the
latter are ordered detained, pending resolution of any Appeal that may be pursued in this case.6

Appellants elevated their case to the Court of Appeals. During the pendency of the appeal, the
appellate court acted on a Manifestation filed by Rogelio Tampil, bondsman for Eddie Malogsi, who
sought the cancellation of the memorandum of encumbrance that was reflected in his land title
(Original Certificate of Title No. P-13825, Entry No. 165683) for the reason that Eddie Malogsi had
already died on August 25, 2003. Thus, on February 11, 2008, the Court of Appeals issued a
resolution granting Tampil’s request.7 Subsequently, after considering the pleadings and memoranda
of the parties, the Court of Appeals issued its May 16, 2011 Decision, the dispositive portion of which
states:

ACCORDINGLY, this appeal is DISMISSED and the Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED with the
modification the ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity and ₱25,000.00 as temperate damages shall be
awarded in addition to the moral and exemplary damages already awarded by the lower court.8

Hence, appellants, through counsel, seek final recourse with the Court and reiterate the following
assignment of errors from their Appellants’ Brief filed with the Court of Appeals:

I
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING APPELLANTS OF THE CRIME
CHARGED DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE THEIR GUILT BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT.

II

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE EVIDENCE OF THE
DEFENSE.

III

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN APPRECIATING THE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE


OF ABUSE OF SUPERIOR STRENGTH WHEN THE SAME WAS NOT ALLEGED IN THE
INFORMATION.9

The foregoing arguments were later on amplified by appellants’ Supplemental Brief.10

Appellants reiterate that their guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt because the
testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution were afflicted with inconsistencies and
improbabilities, thus, making them of doubtful veracity. Furthermore, appellants faulted the trial court
for disbelieving their alibis and for disregarding the fact that the paraffin test which all of them were
subjected to produced a negative result. Appellants also underscored the fact that they did not take
flight despite the knowledge that they were made suspects in the murder of Pionio Yacapin. Lastly,
appellants maintain that the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength should not have
been appreciated as it was not alleged in the criminal information filed against them.

The petition is without merit.

In fine, the pivotal issue raised by appellants in questioning the validity of their conviction for the
crime of murder is whether or not the eyewitness testimonies presented by the prosecution,
specifically that of the two stepsons (Ronie and Edgar Dacion) and the widow (Nenita Yacapin) of
the deceased victim, Pionio Yacapin, are credible enough to be worthy of belief.

We have consistently held in jurisprudence that the resolution of such a factual question is best left
to the sound judgment of the trial court and that, absent any misapprehension of facts or grave
abuse of discretion, the findings of the trial court shall not be disturbed. In People v. De la Rosa,11 we
yet again expounded on this principle in this wise:

[T]he issue raised by accused-appellant involves the credibility of [the] witness, which is best
addressed by the trial court, it being in a better position to decide such question, having heard the
witness and observed his demeanor, conduct, and attitude under grueling examination. These are
the most significant factors in evaluating the sincerity of witnesses and in unearthing the truth,
especially in the face of conflicting testimonies. Through its observations during the entire
proceedings, the trial court can be expected to determine, with reasonable discretion, whose
testimony to accept and which witness to believe. Verily, findings of the trial court on such matters
will not be disturbed on appeal unless some facts or circumstances of weight have been overlooked,
misapprehended or misinterpreted so as to materially affect the disposition of the case. x x x.

Jurisprudence also tells us that where there is no evidence that the witnesses of the prosecution
were actuated by ill motive, it is presumed that they were not so actuated and their testimony is
entitled to full faith and credit.12 In the case at bar, no imputation of improper motive on the part of the
prosecution witnesses was ever made by appellants.

Furthermore, appellants contend that the prosecution witnesses made inconsistent and improbable
statements in court which supposedly impair their credibility, such as whether or not the stepsons of
the victim left for Ticalaan together to report the incident, whether the accused were still firing at the
victim when they left or not, and whether or not the accused went after the stepsons after shooting
the victim. We have reviewed the relevant portions of the transcripts pointed out by the appellants
and have confidently arrived at the conclusion that these are matters involving minor inconsistencies
pertaining to details of immaterial nature that do not tend to diminish the probative value of the
testimonies at issue. We elucidated on this subject in Avelino v. People,13 to wit:

Given the natural frailties of the human mind and its capacity to assimilate all material details of a
given incident, slight inconsistencies and variances in the declarations of a witness hardly weaken
their probative value. It is well-settled that immaterial and insignificant details do not discredit a
testimony on the very material and significant point bearing on the very act of accused-appellants.
As long as the testimonies of the witnesses corroborate one another on material points, minor
inconsistencies therein cannot destroy their credibility. Inconsistencies on minor details do not
undermine the integrity of a prosecution witness. (Emphasis omitted.)

Notwithstanding their conflicting statements on minor details, Ronie, Edgar and Nenita positively
identified appellants as the perpetrators of the dastardly crime of murder committed on the victim
which they categorically and consistently claimed to have personally witnessed.

In order to counter the serious accusation made against them, appellants put forward the defense of
alibi which necessarily fails in the face of positive identification. It is a time-honored principle in
jurisprudence that positive identification prevails over alibi since the latter can easily be fabricated
and is inherently unreliable.14 Hence, it must be supported by credible corroboration from
disinterested witnesses, and if not, is fatal to the accused.15 An examination of the record would
indicate that Eddie and Alfemio Malogsi were unable to present a corroborating witness to support
their alibi that they were working at a farm owned by a certain Boyle on the date and time of Pionio
Yacapin’s murder. While the witnesses presented by the defense to corroborate the respective alibis
of Marcelino Dadao and Antonio Sulindao consisted of friends and relatives who are hardly the
disinterested witnesses that is required by jurisprudence.

With regard to appellants’ assertion that the negative result of the paraffin tests that were conducted
on their persons should be considered as sufficient ground for acquittal, we can only declare that
such a statement is misguided considering that it has been established in jurisprudence that a
paraffin test is not conclusive proof that a person has not fired a gun.16 It should also be noted that,
according to the prosecution, only Eddie and Alfemio Malogsi held firearms which were used in the
fatal shooting of Pionio Yacapin while Marcelino Dadao and Antonio Sulindao purportedly held
bolos. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that the latter two tested negative for powder burns
because they were never accused of having fired any gun. Nevertheless, the evidence on record
has established that all four accused shared a community of criminal design. By their concerted
action, it is evident that they conspired with one another to murder Pionio Yacapin and should each
suffer the same criminal liability attached to the aforementioned criminal act regardless of who fired
the weapon which delivered the fatal wounds that ended the life of the victim.

In People v. Nelmida,17 we elaborated on the principle of criminal conspiracy and its ramifications in
this manner:
There is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of
a felony and then decide to commit it. It arises on the very instant the plotters agree, expressly or
impliedly, to commit the felony and forthwith decide to pursue it. Once established, each and every
one of the conspirators is made criminally liable for the crime actually committed by any one of them.
In the absence of any direct proof, the agreement to commit a crime may be deduced from the mode
and manner of the commission of the offense or inferred from acts that point to a joint purpose and
design, concerted action, and community of interest. As such, it does not matter who inflicted the
mortal wound, as each of the actors incurs the same criminal liability, because the act of one is the
act of all. (Citation and emphasis omitted.)

As to appellants’ argument that their act of bravely reporting to the police station to answer the
serious charge of murder against them instead of fleeing militates against a finding of any criminal
liability on their part especially in light of the dubious evidence presented by the prosecution, we can
only dismiss this as a hollow line of reasoning considering that human experience as observed in
jurisprudence instructs us that non-flight does not necessarily connote innocence. Consequently, we
have held:

Flight is indicative of guilt, but its converse is not necessarily true. Culprits behave differently and
even erratically in externalizing and manifesting their guilt. Some may escape or flee – a
circumstance strongly illustrative of guilt – while others may remain in the same vicinity so as to
create a semblance of regularity, thereby avoiding suspicion from other members of the community.18

Contrary to appellants’ claim that the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength was
used by the trial court to qualify the act of killing committed by appellants to murder despite it not
having been alleged in the criminal information filed against them, the text of the assailed January
31, 2005 Decision of the trial court clearly shows that, even though abuse of superior strength was
discussed as present in the commission of the crime, it was not appreciated as either a qualifying or
generic aggravating circumstance.

As correctly observed by the Court of Appeals, the lower court appreciated treachery, which was
alleged in the information, as an aggravating circumstance which qualified the offense to murder.
This is proper considering that, even if abuse of superior strength was properly alleged and proven
in court, it cannot serve to qualify or aggravate the felony at issue since it is jurisprudentially settled
that when the circumstance of abuse of superior strength concurs with treachery, the former is
absorbed in the latter.19

Time and again, we have declared that treachery is present when the offender commits any of the
crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly
and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the
offended party might make.20 Furthermore, we have also held that the essence of treachery is that
the attack is deliberate and without warning, done in a swift and unexpected manner, affording the
hapless, unarmed and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape.21In the case at bar, the
manner by which Pionio Yacapin was killed carried all the indubitable hallmarks of treachery. We
quote with approval the following discussion of the Court of Appeals on this matter, to wit:

Treachery, which was alleged in the information, was duly proven by the prosecution. The Court
1âwphi 1

notes, in particular, the testimony of Nenita Yacapin who declared that when the victim was making
a fire in the kitchen, she heard shots and she saw the barrel of the gun inserted on the bamboo split
walling of their house. Exhibit "B", the anatomical chart certified by the Philippine National Police
(PNP) personnel, shows the relative location of the gunshot wounds sustained by the victim. The
chart indicates that the victim was shot from behind. Clearly, the execution of the attack made it
impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate.22 (Citations omitted.)
After reviewing the penalty of imprisonment imposed by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of
Appeals, we declare that the imposition of the penalty of reclusion perpetua on the appellants is
correct and should be upheld. Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act
No. 7659, provides for the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death for the felony of murder. There
being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the proper penalty is reclusion perpetua pursuant
to Article 63, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code.23

Anent the award of damages, it is jurisprudentially settled that when death occurs due to a crime, the
following may be recovered: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or
compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; (5) attorney’s fees and
expenses of litigation; and (6) interest, in proper cases.24

Thus, the award of civil indemnity in the amount of ₱75,000.0025 is proper. Likewise, the award of
temperate damages, in lieu of actual damages, in the amount of ₱25,000.0026 is warranted
considering that the death of the victim definitely caused his heirs some expenses for his wake and
burial though they were not able to present proof.

However, we must modify the amounts of moral and exemplary damages already awarded in order
to conform to existing jurisprudence. Therefore, the exemplary damages awarded should be
increased from ₱20,000.00 to ₱30,000.00.27 Moreover, there being no aggravating circumstance
present in this case, the award of moral damages in the amount of ₱75,000.00 should be decreased
to ₱50,000.00.28 Lastly, the interest rate of 6% per annum is imposed on all damages awarded from
the date of finality of this ruling until fully paid.29

Finally, we observe that the Court of Appeals did not rule on the effect of the death of Eddie Malogsi
during the pendency of this case. Considering that no final judgment had been rendered against him
at the time of his death, whether or not he was guilty of the crime charged had become irrelevant
because even assuming that he did incur criminal liability and civil liability ex delicto, these were
totally extinguished by his death, following Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code and, by analogy,
our ruling in People v. Bayotas.30 Therefore, the present criminal case should be dismissed with
respect only to the deceased Eddie Malogsi.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated May 16, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00364 is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that:

(1) The amount of exemplary damages to be paid by appellants Marcelino Dadao, Antonio
Sulindao and Alfemio Malogsi is increased from Twenty Thousand Pesos (₱20,000.00) to
Thirty Thousand Pesos (₱30,000.00);

(2) The amount of moral damages to be paid by appellants Marcelino Dadao, Antonio
Sulindao and Alfemio Malogsi is decreased from Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos
(₱75,000.00) to Fifty Thousand Pesos (₱50,000.00);

(3) Appellants Marcelino Dadao, Antonio Sulindao and Alfemio Malogsi are ordered to pay
the private offended party interest on all damages at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per
annum from the date of finality of this judgment; and

(4) Criminal Case No. 93-1272 is DISMISSED with respect to Eddie Malogsi in view of his
death during the pendency of this case.

No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 195196 July 13, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
ESTANLY OCTA y BAS, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

SERENO, CJ:

Before us is a Notice of Appeal1 dated 30 July 2010 from the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision2 dated
19 July 2010 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03490, affirming the Decision3 dated 15 May 2008 in Criminal
Case No. 04-224073 issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 48, Manila, convicting
accused-appellant Estanly Octa y Bas, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of kidnapping for
ransom.

As culled from the records, the prosecution's version is herein quoted:

In the morning of September 25, 2003, around 6:40 A.M., Johnny Corpuz (Johnny) and Mike Adrian
Batuigas (Mike Adrian) were on board a Honda Civic Car colored silver with Plate No. UPT 697
travelling on Buenos Aires St., Sampaloc, Manila when their way was blocked by a Mitsubishi box
type Lancer car colored red-orange. The four (4) armed occupants of the Lancer car alighted.
Johnny did not open the door of the Honda Civic car but one of the armed men fired his pistol at the
left window of the civic car, thus compelling Johnny to open the locked door of the car. The armed
men went inside the car and Johnny was ordered to transfer at the back seat at that time. Inside the
car, Johnny was handcuffed, blindfolded and was even boxed. The armed men asked for the names
and telephone numbers of his mother-in-law. The armed men called his mother-in-law giving the
information that Johnny was in their custody and they would just meet each other at a certain place.
They travelled for a while and then they stopped and Johnny was brought to a safehouse.

After Johnny and Mike were kidnapped, the kidnappers communicated with Johnny’s wife Ana Marie
Corpuz (Ana Marie) giving the information that they have intheir custody her husband Johnny and
her brother Mike Adrian. Ana Marie tried to confirm the kidnapping incident by talking to her
husband, who confirmed to his wife that he and Mike Adrian were indeed kidnapped and they were
in the custody of their abductors. Ana Marie sought the assistance of the PACER [Police AntiCrime
and Emergency Response] and stayed in a PACER safehouse located at P. Tuazon, Cubao,
Quezon City. During her stay, she had several communications with her husband’s kidnappers. The
latter started demanding the amount of ₱20 million for the release of her husband and her brother
but the amount was considerably reduced up to the time that Ana Marie was able to raise the
amount of ₱538,000.00 which was accepted by the kidnappers.

Finally, on September 30, 2003 at 10PM, the kidnappers set up the manner on how the ransom
money would be delivered. Ana Marie travelled to Quiapo Church, then to Quezon City circle up to
SM Fairview and to Robinsons Fairview. She was made to stop at Red Lips Beer House and go to
the nearby Caltex Auto Supply where she would see a man wearing a red cap and who would ask
her "saan yong padala ni boss". She was instructed to deliver the wrapped bundled ransom money
to the man wearing red cap. When she saw the man with red cap, she was asked for the money. At
first, she did not give the money because she wanted to be sure that she was giving the money to
the right man. Using her own cellphone, she called up the man who had been instructing her all
along and asked him to confirm if the man in front of her is the right man to give the ransom money
to, saying "kausapin mo muna ito kung siya ba." The man in the phone and the man in the red cap
talked for a while in another dialect which Ana Marie did not understand. When she asked the man
to give back her cellphone to her, he refused and, instead instructed her to give the money to him.
She described the man wearing red cap to be goodlooking, lightly built, in his early 20s, around 5’4"
in height and with dimples, which she later identified in court as accused Estanly Octa.

On October 1, 2003, Johnny was released by his captors after the payment of ransom money. He
was detained for the duration of six (6) days. After his release, he removed his blindfold and
handcuffs but he could hardly regain his sight and see things. He flagged down a private pick-up and
learned that he was in Camarin, Caloocan City. He asked a favor that he be driven to Meycauayan,
Bulacan where he took a jeepney to Monumento, and from there, he took a taxi bound home. When
he was released, his brother-in-law Mike Adrian was also released.4

The defense recounted a different set of facts, to wit:

x x x [O]n September 25, 2003, he was still in Daet, Camarines Norte working as a welder in the
welding shop of his uncle Edwin delos Reyes. He went to Daet on the second week of August 2003
and returned to Manila when he was called by his father sometime in November 2003. In addition to
his defense of denial and alibi, he clings to the theory that he himself was a victim of abduction. He
testified that, on December 1, 2003, while crossing the street, his way was blocked by a van and
thereafter, two (2) persons alighted and a gun was poked at him then he was boarded inside the
van. His hands were tied and eyes covered. The incident happened at Susano Road, Camarin,
Caloocan City. He was eventually brought to the PACER Office, Camp Crame, Quezon City. He
claims that he was tortured to admit the charge filed against him. At the PACER’s office, he was
presented to a State Prosecutor of the DOJ but he claimed he was not assisted by counsel. He said
that he did not submit himself for medical examination. He categorically stated that, when he was
inquested by a State Prosecutor, he did not tell of the alleged torture that he suffered because he
was afraid.5

On 4 December 2003, accused-appellant was arrested by the operatives of the Police Anti-Crime
and Emergency Response (PACER) on S[u]sano Road, Camarin, Caloocan City, in connection with
another kidnap for ransom incident. He was identified by prosecution witness Ana Marie Corpuz
from a police line-up as the person who had received the ransom money from her.6 Consequently,
on 26 February 2004, an Information7 was filed against accused-appellant charging him with the
crime of kidnapping for ransom as follows:

That on or about 6:40 a.m. of September 25, 2003, in the City of Manila, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating, and
mutually helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously kidnap and
deprive JOHNNY L.CORPUZ and MIKE ADRIAN BATUIGAS, a minor, of their liberty and against
their will by means of threats and intimation with the use of firearms, and then bring them through
the use of a motor vehicle to a house, wherein they were detained for a period of six (6) days, and
that the abduction of the said victims was for the purpose of extorting Php538,000.00 was actually
delivered to the above-mentioned accused in exchange for the release of the victims.
CONTRARY TO LAW.8

When arraigned on 5 July 2004,accused-appellant, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the
charge. Trial on the merits then ensued.9

On 15 May 2008, the RTC rendered a Decision,10 the dispositive portion of which is herein quoted:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused Estanly Octa y Bas guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the
felony charge [sic] and pursuant to law, he is hereby sentenced to suffer maximum prison term of
reclusion perpetua and to pay the private aggrieved party of the following:

1. The amount of 538,000.00 as actual and compensatory damages;

2. The amount of 100,000.00 as moral damages; and

3. The amount of 50,000.00 as exemplary damages and cost.

In view of the conviction of the accused, the Manila City Jail is ordered to commit his person to the
National Penitentiary immediately without necessary [sic] delay.

SO ORDERED.11

In so ruling, the RTC ruled that prosecution witness Ana Marie Corpuz, wife of victim Johnny
Corpuz, steadfastly testified that she gave the ransom money in the amount of 538,000 to accused-
appellant. She did not waiver in identifying and describing him as good-looking, wearing red cap,
light in built, in his early 20’s, 5’4" and with dimples. The assertion of Ana Marie Corpuz that
accused-appellant was sporting dimples was squarely corroborated by the court’s observation when
he took the witness stand.12

The trial court also viewed the act of receiving ransom money as sufficient evidence to establish
accused-appellant’s conspiratorial act in the kidnapping for ransom of the victims in this case.13

With respect to the defense of denial and alibi, the RTC found them to be inherently weak as
opposed to the straightforward testimony of Corpuz. The claim of accused-appellant that he was
abducted did not convince the court either, inasmuch as it was not supported by evidence, nor was it
the subject of an investigation.14

Upon intermediate appellate review, the CA rendered a Decision15 promulgated on 19 July 2010, to
wit:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, the appeal in this case is DENIED and the
assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 48, in Manila in Criminal Case No. 04-224073
finding Estanly Octa y Bas guilty of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and imposing the penalty of
reclusion perpetua and ordered him to pay 538,000.00 as actual and compensatory damages,
100,000.00 as moral damages and 50,000.00 as exemplary damages and cost, is hereby
AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.16

The CA found the positive identification of accused-appellant by prosecution witness Ana Marie
Corpuz to be unwavering and steadfast. It stressed that his positive identification, when categorical,
consistent, straightforward, and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness
testifying on the matter, would prevail over mere alibi and denial.17 Such positive identification
constituted direct evidence, and not merely circumstantial evidence.18

Moreover, the CA ruled that accused-appellant had been rightly found to be a co-conspirator in this
case. At the time he received the ransom money, the crime of kidnapping was still continuing, since
both victims were still illegally detained by the kidnappers. Accused-appellant’s act of taking the
ransom money was an overt act made in pursuance or furtherance of the complicity.19

Hence, the instant appeal.20

ISSUES

In seeking a reversal of the decisions of the CA and the RTC, accused-appellant Octa argues that:

1. The trial court gravely erred in convicting him despite the prosecutions’ failure to positively
identify him as the ransom taker;21

2. The trial court gravely erred in finding him to be a conspirator to the crime charged;22 and

3. The trial court gravely erred in convicting him of the crime charged based on
circumstantial evidence.23

THE COURT’S RULING

We deny accused-appellant’s appeal.

When the credibility of a witness is at


issue, the findings of fact of the trial
court are accorded high respect if
not conclusive effect, more so if
those findings have been affirmed by
the appellate court.

In his Brief, accused-appellant contends that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable
doubt that he was the one who received the ransom money. He primarily argues that prosecution
witness Ana Marie Corpuz could not have positively ascertained the identity of the ransom taker,
because the area where the transaction took place was dark, and the man was wearing a cap.
Neither did Corpuz declare in her Sinumpaang Salaysay that the person who received the ransom
money was sporting a dimple, a fact that she mentioned on direct examination.24 Accused-appellant
further insinuates that the police might have influenced his out-of-court identification in the line-up
when they informed Corpuz that they had apprehended some people who were suspects in other
kidnap for ransom cases, and that information might have conditioned her mind that the ransom
taker had already been apprehended.25

We disagree.

In People v. Basao,26 the Court held that:

[T]the matter of assigning values to declarations on the witness stand is best and most competently
performed by the trial judge, who had the unmatched opportunity to observe the witnesses and to
assess their credibility by the various indicia available but not reflected on the record. The demeanor
of the person on the stand can draw the line between fact and fancy. The forthright answer or the
hesitant pause, the quivering voice or the angry tone, the flustered look or the sincere gaze, the
modest blush or the guilty blanch – these can reveal if the witness is telling the truth or lying through
his teeth.27

xxxx

[Thus], when the credibility of a witness is in issue, the findings of fact of the trial court, its calibration
of the testimonies of the witnesses and its assessment of the probative weight thereof, as well as its
conclusions anchored on said findings are accorded high respect if not conclusive effect. This is
more true if such findings were affirmed by the appellate court, since it is settled that when the trial
court’s findings have been affirmed by the appellate court, said findings are generally binding upon
this Court. Without any clear showing that the trial court and the appellate court overlooked,
misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance, the rule should
not be disturbed."28

In this case, both the RTC and the CA found Corpuz to be a credible witness who had categorically
testified that she saw the face of the ransom taker, and that he was actually the accused-appellant.

The fact that Corpuz failed to declare in her Sinumpaang Salaysay that the ransom taker was
sporting a dimple was not fatal to her testimony because she was able to positively and categorically
identify accused-appellant during the police line-up and in open court.

Even accused-appellant’s insinuation that Corpuz could have been influenced by the police during
the line-up cannot be given weight in the face of his positive identification as the ransom taker. On
this point, we agree with the observation of the CA that "assuming arguendo that the accused-
appellant’s out of court identification was defective, her subsequent identification in court cured any
flaw that may have initially attended it. We emphasize that the ‘inadmissibility of a police line-up
identification x x x should not necessarily foreclose the admissibility of an independent in-court
identification.’"29

To hold an accused guilty as a co-


principal by reason of conspiracy, he
must be shown to have performed an
overt act in pursuance or
furtherance of the complicity.

Accused-appellant also claims that he cannot be considered as a conspirator to the kidnapping in


the absence of concrete proof that he actually participated in the execution of the essential elements
of the crime by overt acts indispensable to its accomplishment. His receipt of the ransom money
transpired only after the kidnapping had been consummated and was not an essential element of the
crime.30

We disagree.

On point is our dissertation in People v. Bautista,31 to wit:

Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a
felony and decide to commit it. Where all the accused acted in concert at the time of the
1aw p++i1

commission of the offense, and it is shown by such acts that they had the same purpose or common
design and were united in its execution, conspiracy is sufficiently established. It must be shown that
all participants performed specific acts with such closeness and coordination as to indicate a
common purpose or design to commit the felony.

xxxx

Evidently, to hold an accused guilty as a co-principal by reason of conspiracy, he must be shown to


have performed an overt act in pursuance or furtherance of the complicity. There must be intentional
participation in the transaction with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose. x x
x.

xxxx

Taking these facts in conjunction with the testimony of Dexter, who testified that accused-appellant
was the one who received the ransom money x x x then the commonality of purpose of the acts of
accused-appellant together with the other accused can no longer be denied. Such acts have the
common design or purpose to commit the felony of kidnapping for ransom.

Thus, accused-appellants’ argument that he is a mere accomplice must fail. He is liable as a


principal for being a co-conspirator in the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom under Art. 267 of the
RPC, as amended by R.A. 7659 x x x.32(Emphasis ours)

Moreover, the CA is correct in its observation that at the time accused-appellant received the
ransom money, the crime of kidnapping was still continuing, since both victims were still being
illegally detained by the kidnappers.33While his receipt of the ransom money was not a material
element of the crime, it was nevertheless part of the grand plan and was in fact the main reason for
kidnapping the victims.34 Ransom is money, price or consideration paid or demanded for the
redemption of a captured person or persons; or payment that releases from captivity.35 Without
ransom money, the freedom of the detained victims cannot be achieved. The positive identification
of accused-appellant constitutes direct, and not merely circumstantial, evidence.

Accused-appellant's contention that he was convicted based only on circumstantial evidence


deserves scant consideration. We agree with the conclusion of the CA that "[Corpuz] testified that
she gave the ransom money to accused-appellant, and as the trial court declared, his act of
receiving the ransom money is sufficient conspiratorial act in the commission of the kidnapping for
ransom. The positive identification of the accused-appellant then constitutes direct evidence, and not
merely circumstantial evidence."36

With respect to the penalty imposed, we agree with the imposition by the RTC and the CA on
accused-appellant of the penalty of reclusion perpetua, considering the prohibition on the death
penalty.37 To conform to recent jurisprudence,38 we hereby modify the exemplary damages awarded
by increasing the amount from ₱50,000 to ₱100,000.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR.-HC No. 03490 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Accused-appellant is hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordered to pay ₱538,000 as actual
damages, ₱100,000 as moral damages, and ₱100,000 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 196735 May 5, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
DANILO FELICIANO, JR., JULIUS VICTOR MEDALLA, CHRISTOPHER SOLIVA, WARREN L.
ZINGAPAN, and ROBERT MICHAEL BELTRAN ALVIR, Accused-appellants.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

It is in the hallowed grounds of a university where students, faculty, and research personnel should
feel safest. After all, this is where ideas that could probably solve the sordid realities in this world are
peacefully nurtured and debated. Universities produce hope. They incubate all our youthful dreams.

Yet, there are elements within this academic milieu that trade misplaced concepts of perverse
brotherhood for these hopes. Fraternity rumbles exist because of past impunity. This has resulted in
a senseless death whose justice is now the subject matter of this case. It is rare that these cases are
prosecuted. It is even more extraordinary that there are credible witnesses who present themselves
courageously before an able and experienced trial court judge.

This culture of impunity must stop. There is no space in this society for hooliganism disguised as
fraternity rumbles. The perpetrators must stand and suffer the legal consequences of their actions.
They must do so for there is an individual who now lies dead, robbed of his dreams and the dreams
of his family. Excruciating grief for them will never be enough.

It is undisputed that on December 8, 1994, at around 12:30 to 1:00 in the afternoon, seven (7)
members of the Sigma Rho fraternity were eating lunch at the Beach House Canteen, near the Main
Library of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, when they were attacked by several masked
men carrying baseball bats and lead pipes. Some of them sustained injuries that required
hospitalization. One of them, Dennis Venturina, died from his injuries.

An information1 for murder, docketed as Criminal Case No. Q95-6113 3, was filed against several
members of the Scintilla Juris fraternity, namely, Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Julius Victor L. Medalla,
Warren L. Zingapan, Robert Michael Beltran Alvir, Christopher L. Soliva, Reynaldo G. Ablanida,
Carlo Jolette Fajardo, George Morano, Raymund E. Narag, Gilbert Merle Magpantay, Benedict
Guerrero, and Rodolfo Penalosa, Jr. with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 219. The
information reads:

That on or about the 8th day of December 1994, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named
accused, wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise, conspiring, confederating with other
persons whose true names, identities and whereabouts have not as yet been ascertained, and
mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, qualified with treachery, and with evident
premeditation, taking advantage of superior strength, armed with baseball bats, lead pipes, and
cutters, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and employ personal
violence upon the person of DENNIS F. VENTURINA, by then and there hitting him on the head and
clubbing him on different parts of his body thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal injuries
which were the direct and immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of
said DENNIS F. VENTURINA. (Emphasis supplied)

Separate informations were also filed against them for the attempted murder of Sigma Rho fraternity
members Cesar Mangrobang, Jr.,2 Cristobal Gaston, Jr.,3 and Leandro Lachica,4 and the frustrated
murder of Sigma Rho fraternity members Mervin Natalicio5 and Amel Fortes.6 Only 11 of the accused
stood trial since one of the accused, Benedict Guerrero, remained at large.

A trial on the merits ensued.

The facts, according to the prosecution, are as follows:

Leandro Lachica, Amel Fortes, Derinis Venturina, Mervin Natalicio, Cristobal Gaston, Jr., Felix
Tumaneng,7 and Cesar Magrobang, Jr. are all members of the Sigma Rho Fraternity. On December
8, 1994, at around 12:30 to 1 :00 p.m., they were having lunch at Beach House Canteen, located at
the back of the Main Library of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.8 Suddenly,
Dennis Venturina shouted, "Brads, brods!"9

According to Leandro Lachica, Grand Archon of Sigma Rho Fraternity, he looked around when
Venturina shouted, and he saw about ten (10) men charging toward them.10 The men were armed
with baseball bats and lead pipes, and their heads were covered with either handkerchiefs or
shirts.11 Within a few seconds, five (5) of the men started attacking him, hitting him with their lead
pipes.12 During the attack, he recognized one of the attackers as Robert Michael Beltran Alvir
because his mask fell off.13

Lachica tried to parry the blows of.his attackers, suffering scratches and contusions.14

He was, however, able to run to the nearby College of Education.15 Just before reaching it, he looked
back and saw Warren Zingapan and Julius Victor L. Medalla holding lead pipes and standing where
the commotion was.16 Both of them did not have their masks on.17 He was familiar with Alvir,
Zingapan, and Medalla because he often saw them in the College of Social Sciences and
Philosophy (CSSP) and Zingapan used to be his friend.18 The attack lasted about thirty (30) to forty-
five (45) seconds.19

According to Mervin Natalicio, the Vice Grand Archon of Sigma Rho, he looked to his left when
Venturina shouted.20He saw about fifteen (15) to twenty (20) men, most of who were wearing masks,
running toward them.21 He was stunned, and he started running.22 He stumbled over the protruding
roots of a tree.23 He got up, but the attackers came after him and beat him up with lead pipes and
baseball bats until he fell down.24 While he was parrying the blows, he recognized two (2) of the
attackers as Warren Zingapan and Christopher L. Soliva since they were not wearing any
masks.25 After about thirty (30) seconds, they stopped hitting him.26

He was lying on his back and when he looked up, he saw another group of four (4) to five (5) men
coming toward him, led by Benedict Guerrero.27 This group also beat him up.28 He did not move until
another group of masked men beat him up for about five (5) to eight (8) seconds.29

When the attacks ceased, he was found lying on the ground.30 Several bystanders brought him to the
U.P. Infirmary where he stayed for more than a week for the treatment of his wounds and fractures.31
According to Cesar Mangrobang, Jr., member of Sigma Rho, he also looked back when Venturina
shouted and saw a group of men with baseball bats and lead pipes. Some of them wore pieces of
cloth around their heads.32 He ran when they attacked, but two (2) men, whose faces were covered
with pieces of cloth, blocked his way and hit him with lead pipes.33 While running and parrying the
blows, he recognized them as Gilbert Merle Magpantay and Carlo Jolette Fajardo because their
masks fell off.34 He successfully evaded his attackers and ran to the Main Library.35 He then decided
that he needed to help his fraternity brothers and turned back toward Beach House.36 There, he saw
Venturina lying on the ground.37 Danilo Feliciano, Jr. was beating Venturina up with a lead pipe while
Raymund E. Narag was aiming to hit Venturina.38 When they saw him, they went toward his
direction.39 They were about to hit him when somebody shouted that policemen were coming.
Feliciano and Narag then ran away.40

Cesar Mangrobang, Jr. then saw Amel Fortes. Fortes accompanied him to his car so they could
bring Venturina to the U.P. Infirmary.41 When they brought the car over, other people, presumably
bystanders, were already loading Venturina into another vehicle.42 They followed that vehicle to the
U.P. Infirmary where they saw Natalicio.43 He stayed at the infirmary until the following morning.44

According to Cristobal Gaston, Jr., member of Sigma Rho, he immediately stood up when he heard
someone shout, "Brods!"45 He saw a group of men charging toward them carrying lead pipes and
baseball bats.46 Most of them had pieces of cloth covering their faces.47 He was about to run when
two (2) of the attackers approached him.48 One struck him with a heavy pipe while the other stabbed
him with a bladed instrument.49 He was able to parry most of the blows from the lead pipe, but he
sustained stab wounds on the chest and on his left forearm.50

He was able to run away.51 When he sensed that no one was chasing him, he looked back to Beach
House Canteen and saw Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Warren Zingapan, and George Morano.52 He decided
to go back to the canteen to help his fraternity brothers.53 When he arrived, he did not see any of his
fraternity brothers but only saw the ones who attacked them.54 He ended up going to their hang-out
instead to meet with his other fraternity brothers.55 They then proceeded to the College of Law where
the rest of the fraternity was already discussing the incident.56

According to Amel Fortes, member of Sigma Rho, he also ran when he saw the group of attackers
coming toward them.57 When he looked back, he saw Danilo Feliciano, Jr. hitting Venturina.58 He was
also able to see Warren Zingapan and George Morano at the scene.59

Leandro Lachica, in the meantime, upon reaching the College of Education, boarded a jeepney to
the College of Law to wait for their other fraternity brothers.60 One of his fraternity brothers, Peter
Corvera, told him that he received information that members of Scintilla Juris were seen in the west
wing of the Main Library and were regrouping in SM North.61 Lachica and his group then set off for
SM North to confront Scintilla Juris and identify their attackers.62

When they arrived in SM North, pillboxes and stones were thrown at them.63 Lachica saw Robert
Michael Beltran Alvir and Warren Zingapan and a certain Carlo Taparan.64 They had no choice but to
get away from the mall and proceed instead to U.P. where the Sigma Rho Fraternity members held
a meeting.65

On the night of December 8, 1994, the officers of Sigma Rho advised the victims to lodge their
complaints with the National Bureau of Investigation.66 Their counsel, Atty. Frank Chavez, told the
U.P. Police that the victims would be giving their statements before the National Bureau of
Investigation, promising to give the U.P. Police copies of their statements. In the meantime,
Venturina was transferred from the U.P. Infirmary to St. Luke's Hospital on December 8, 1994. He
died on December 10, 1994.67 On December 11, 1994, an autopsy was conducted on the cadaver of
Dennis Venturina.68 Dr. Rolando Victoria, a medico-legal officer of the National Bureau of
Investigation, found that Venturina had "several contusions located at the back of the upper left arm
and hematoma on the back of both hands,"69 "two (2) lacerated wounds at the back of the
head,70 generalized hematoma on the skull,"71 "several fractures on the head,"72 and "inter-cranial
hemorrhage."73 The injuries, according to Dr. Victoria, could have been caused by a hard blunt
object.74 Dr. Victoria concluded that Venturina died of traumatic head injuries.75

On December 12, 1994, Lachica, Natalicio, Mangrobang, Fortes, and Gaston executed their
respective affidavits76before the National Bureau of Investigation and underwent medico-legal
examinations77 with their medicolegal officer, Dr. Aurelio Villena. According to Dr. Villena, he found
that Mervin Natalicio had "lacerated wounds on the top of the head, above the left ear, and on the
fingers; contused abrasions on both knees; contusion on the left leg and thigh,"78 all of which could
have been caused by any hard, blunt object. These injuries required medical attendance for a period
of ten (10) days to thirty (30) days from the date of infliction.79

Dr. Villena found on Amel Fortes "lacerated wounds on the head and on the right leg which could
have been caused by a blunt instrument."80 These injuries required hospitalization for a period of ten
(10) days to thirty (30) days from date of infliction.81 He also found on Cesar Mangrobang, Jr. a
"healed abrasion on the left forearm which could possibly be caused by contact with [a] rough hard
surface and would require one (1) to nine (9) days of medical attention."82 He found on Leandro
Lachica "contusions on the mid auxiliary left side, left forearm and lacerated wound on the infra
scapular area, left side."83 On Christopher Gaston, Jr. he found "lacerated wounds on the anterior
chest, left side, left forearm; swollen knuckles of both hands; contusions on the mid auxiliary left
side, left forearm and lacerated wound on the infra scapular area, left side."84

On September 18, 1997, after the prosecution presented its evidence-in-chief, the court granted the
demurrer to evidence filed by Rodolfo Penalosa, Jr. on the ground that he was not identified by the
prosecution's witnesses and that he was not mentioned in any of the documentary evidence of the
prosecution.85

Upon the presentation of their evidence, the defense introduced their own statement of the facts, as
follows:

According to Romeo Cabrera,86 a member of the U.P. Police, he was on foot patrol with another
member of the U.P. Police, Oscar Salvador, at the time of the incident. They were near the College
of Arts and Sciences (Palma Hall) when he vaguely heard somebody shouting, "Rumble!" They went
to the place where the alleged rumble was happening and saw injured men being helped by
bystanders. They helped an injured person board the service vehicle of the Beach House Canteen.
They asked what his name was, and he replied that he was Mervin Natalicio. When he asked
Natalicio who hit him, the latter was not able to reply but instead told him that his attackers were
wearing masks. Oscar Salvador87 corroborated his testimony.

Benjamin Lato,88 a utility worker of the Beach House Canteen, likewise testified that the identities of
the attackers were unrecognizable because of their masks. He, however, admitted that he did not
see the attack; he just saw a man sprawled on the ground at the time of the incident.

Frisco Capilo,89 a utility worker of U.P. assigned to the Main Library, was buying a cigarette at a
vendor located nearby. From there, he allegedly saw the whole incident. He testified that ten (10)
men, wearing either masks of red and black bonnets or with shirts covering their faces, came from a
red car parked nearby. He also saw three (3) men being hit with lead pipes by the masked men. Two
(2) of the men fell after being hit. One of the victims was lifting the other to help him, but the
attackers overtook him. Afterwards, the attackers ran away. He then saw students helping those who
were injured. He likewise helped in carrying one of the injured victims, which he later found out to be
Amel Fortes.

A U.P. student and member of the Sigma Alpha Nu Sorority, Eda Panganiban,90 testified that she and
her friends were in line to order lunch at the Beach House Canteen when a commotion happened.
She saw around fifteen (15) to eighteen (18) masked men attack a group of Sigma Rhoans. She did
not see any mask fall off. Her sorority sister and another U.P. student, Luz Perez,91 corroborated her
story that the masked men were unrecognizable because of their masks. Perez, however, admitted
that a member of Scintilla Juris approached her to make a statement.

Another sorority sister, Bathalani Tiamzon,92 testified on substantially the same matters as
Panganiban and Perez. She also stated that she saw a person lying on the ground who was being
beaten up by about three (3) to five (5) masked men. She also stated that some of the men were
wearing black masks while some were wearing white t-shirts as masks. She did not see any mask
fall off the faces of the attackers.

According to Feliciana Feliciano,93 accused-appellant Danilo Feliciano, Jr.'s motlier, her son was in
Pampanga to visit his sick grandfather at the time of the incident. She alleged that her son went to
Pampanga before lunch that day and visited the school where she teaches to get their house key
from her.

According to Robert Michael Beltran Alvir,94 he had not been feeling well since December 5, 1994.
He said that he could not have possibly been in U.P. on December 8, 1994 since he was absent
even from work. He also testified that he wore glasses and, thus, could not have possibly been the
person identified by Leandro Lachica. He also stated that he was not enrolled in U.P. at the time
since he was working to support himself.

According to Julius Victor Medalla,95 he and another classmate, Michael Vibas, were working on a
school project on December 8, 1994. He also claimed that he could not have participated in the
rumble as he had an injury affecting his balance. The injury was caused by an incident in August
1994 when he was struck in the head by an unknown assailant. His testimony was corroborated by
Jose Victor Santos96 who stated that after lunch that day, Medalla played darts with him and,
afterwards, they went to Jollibee.

Christopher Soliva,97 on the other hand, testified that he was eating lunch with his girlfriend and
another friend in Jollibee, Philcoa, on December 8, 1994. They went back to U.P. before 1:00 p.m.
and went straight to their fraternity hang-out where he was told that there had been a rumble at the
Main Library. He also met several Sigma Rhoans acting suspiciously as they passed by the hang-
out. They were also told by their head, Carlo Taparan, not to react to the Sigma Rhoans and just go
home. Anna Cabahug,98 his girlfriend, corroborated his story.

Warren Zingapan99 also testified that he was not in U.P. at the time of the incident. He claimed to
have gone to SM North to buy a gift for a friend's wedding but ran into a fraternity brother. He also
alleged that some Sigma Rhoans attacked them in SM North that day.

On February 28, 2002, the trial court rendered its decision100 with the finding that Robert Michael
Alvir, Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Christopher Soliva, Julius Victor Medalla, and Warren Zingapan were
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and attempted murder and were sentenced to, among
other penalties, the penalty of reclusion perpetua.101 The trial court, however, acquitted Reynaldo
Ablanida, Carlo Jolette Fajardo, Gilbert Magpantay, George Morano, and Raymund Narag.102 The
case against Benedict Guerrero was ordered archived by the court until his apprehension.103 The trial
court, m evaluating the voluminous evidence at hand, concluded that:
After a judicious evaluation of the matter, the Court is of the considered view that of the ten accused,
some were sufficiently identified and some were not. The Court believes that out of the amorphous
images during the pandemonium, the beleaguered victims were able to espy and identify some of
the attackers etching an indelible impression in their memory. In this regard, the prosecution
eyewitnesses were emphatic that they saw the attackers rush towards them wielding deadly
weapons like baseball bats, lead pipes, pieces of wood and bladed ones, and pounce on their
hapless victims, run after them, and being present with one another at the scene of the crime during
the assault. Although each victim had a very strong motive to place his fraternity rivals permanently
behind bars, not one .of them testified against all of them. If the prosecution eyewitnesses, who were
all Sigma Rhoans, were simply bent on convicting Scintilla Juris members for that matter, they could
have easily tagged each and every single accused as a participant in the atrocious and barbaric
assault to make sure that no one else would escape conviction. Instead, each eyewitness named
only one or two and some were candid enough to say that they did not see who delivered the blows
against them.104

Because one of the penalties meted out was reclusion perpetua, the case was brought to this court
on automatic appeal. However, due to the amendment of the Rules on Appeal,105 the case was
remanded to the Court of Appeals.106 In the Court of Appeals, the case had to be re-raffled several
Times107 before it was eventually assigned to Presiding Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. for the writing of
the decision.

On December 26, 2010, the Court of Appeals, in a Special First Division of Five, affirmed108 the
decision of the Regional Trial Court, with three (3) members concurring109 an one (1) dissenting.110

The decision of the Court of Appeals was then brought to this court for review.

The issue before this court is whether the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt
that accused-appellants attacked private complainants and caused the death of Dennis Venturina.

On the basis, however, of the arguments presented to this court by both parties, the issue may be
further refined, thus:

1. Whether accused-appellants' constitutional rights were violated when the information


against them contained the aggravating circumstance of the use of masks despite the
prosecution presenting witnesses to prove that the masks fell off; and

2. Whether the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals correctly ruled, on the basis of
the evidence, that accused-appellants were sufficiently identified.

An information is sufficient
when the accused is fully
apprised of the charge against
him to enable him to prepare
his defense

It is the argument of appellants that the information filed against them violates their constitutional
right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them. They argue that the
prosecution should not have included the phrase "wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise" in
the information since they were presenting testimonial evidence that not all the accused were
wearing masks or that their masks fell off.
It is enshrined in our Bill of Rights that "[n]o person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense
without due process of law."111 This includes the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until
proven guilty and "to be informed of the nature and accusation against him."112

Upon a finding of probable cause, an information is filed by the prosecutor against the accused, in
compliance with the due process of the law. Rule 110, Section 1, paragraph 1 of the Rules of
Criminal Procedure provides that:

A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the
offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the
name of the offended pary; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place
where the offense was committed.

In People v. Wilson Lab-ea,113 this court has stated that:

The test of sufficiency of Information is whether it enables a person of common understanding to


know the charge against him, and the court to render judgment properly. x x x The purpose is to
allow the accused to fully prepare for his defense, precluding surprises during the trial.114

Contrary to the arguments of the appellants, the inclusion of the phrase "wearing masks and/or other
forms of disguise" in the information does not violate their constitutional rights.

It should be remembered that every aggravating circumstance being alleged must be stated in the
information. Failure to state an aggravating circumstance, even if duly proven at trial, will not be
appreciated as such.115 It was, therefore, incumbent on the prosecution to state the aggravating
circumstance of "wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise" in the information in order for all the
evidence, introduced to that effect, to be admissible by the trial court.

In criminal cases, disguise is an aggravating circumstance because, like nighttime, it allows the
accused to remain anonymous and unidentifiable as he carries out his crimes.

The introduction of the prosecution of testimonial evidence that tends to prove that the accused were
masked but the masks fell off does not prevent them from including disguise as an aggravating
circumstance.116 What is important in alleging disguise as an aggravating circumstance is that there
was a concealment of identity by the accused. The inclusion of disguise in the information was,
therefore, enough to sufficiently apprise the accused that in the commission of the offense they were
being charged with, they tried to conceal their identity.

The introduction of evidence which shows that some of the accused were not wearing masks is also
not violative of their right to be informed of their offenses.

The information charges conspiracy among the accused. Conspiracy presupposes that "the act of
one is the act of all."117 This would mean all the accused had been one in their plan to conceal their
identity even if there was evidence later on to prove that some of them might not have done so.

In any case, the accused were being charged with the crime of murder, frustrated murder, and
attempted murder. All that is needed for the information to be sufficient is that the elements of the
crime have been alleged and that there are sufficient details as to the time, place, and persons
involved in the offense.

II
Findings of the trial court,
when affirmed by the
appellate court, are entitled
to great weight and credence

As a general rule, the findings of fact by the trial court, when affirmed by the appellate court, are
given great weight and credence on review. The rationale for this was explained in People v. Daniel
Quijada,118 as follows:

Settled is the rule that the factual findings of the trial court, especially on the credibility of witnesses,
are accorded great weight and respect. For, the trial court has the advantage of observing the
witnesses through the different indicators of truthfulness or falsehood, such as the angry flush of an
insisted assertion or the sudden pallor of a discovered lie or the tremulous mutter of a reluctant
answer or the forthright tone of a ready reply;

or the furtive glance, the blush of conscious shame, the hesitation, the sincere or the flippant or
sneering tone, the heat, the calmness, the yawn, the sigh, the candor or lack of it, the scant or full
realization of the solemnity of an oath, the carriage and mien.119

There are, of course, recognized exceptions to this rule. In People v. Leticia Labarias,120 this court
stated that:

It is the policy of this Court to sustain the factual findings of the trial court on the reasonable
assumption that it is in a better position to assess the evidence before it, particularly the testimonies
of the witnesses, who reveal much of themselves by their deportment on the stand. The exception
that makes the rule is where such findings arc clearly arbitrary or erroneous as when they are tainted
with bias or hostility or are so lacking in basis as to suggest that they were reached without the
careful study and perceptiveness that should characterize a judicial decision.121(Emphasis supplied)

In criminal cases, the exception gains even more importance since the presumption is always in
favor of innocence. It is only upon proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt that a conviction is
sustained.

In this case, a total of eleven (11) witnesses for the prosecution and forty-two (42) witnesses for the
defense were put on the stand from 1995 to 2001. In an eighty-three (83)-page decision, the trial
court acquitted six (6) and convicted five (5) of the accused. On the basis of these numbers alone, it
cannot be said that the trial court acted arbitrarily or that its decision was "so lacking in basis" that it
was arrived at without a judicious and exhaustive study of all the evidence presented.

Inasmuch, however, as the trial court's findings hold great persuasive value, there is also nothing
that precludes this court from coming to its own conclusions based on an independent review of the
facts and the evidence on record.

The accused were sufficiently


identified by the witnesses for
the prosecution

The trial court, in weighing all the evidence on hand, found the testimonies of the witnesses for the
prosecution to be credible. In its decision, the trial court stated that:
x x x. Although each victim had a very strong motive to place his fraternity rivals permanently behind
bars, not one testified against all of them. If the prosecution eyewitnesses, who were all Sigma
Rhoans, were simply bent on convicting Scintilla Juris members for that matter, they could have
easily tagged each and every accused as a participant in the atrocious and barbaric assault to make
sure no one would escape conviction. Instead, each eyewitness named only one or two and some
were candid enough to say that they did not see who delivered the blows against them.

Thus, the prosecution witnesses, Ernest Paulo Tan, Dennis Gaio and Darwin Asuncion, testified to
have seen it all but they could not, and did not, disclose any name. Lachica, on the other hand, said
that he did not have the opportunity to see and identify the person who hit him in the back and
inflicted a two-inch cut. His forearm was also hit by a lead pipe but he did not see who did it.
Natalicio, one of the other three who were hospitalized, was severely beaten by three waves of
attackers totalling more than 15 but he could only name 3 of them. He added, however, that he
would be able to recognize those he saw if he would see them again. Of them, Mangrobang pointed
to at least 5 but he stressed that he did not see Zingapan, Soliva, Guerrero, Del Rosario, Daraoay,
Denoista, and Penalosa during the onslaught. Gaston could have named any of the accused as the
one who repeatedly hit him with a heavy pipe and stabbed him but he frankly said their faces were
covered. Like Natalicio, Fortes was repeatedly beaten by several groups but did not name any of the
accused as one of those who attacked him. The persons he identified were those leading the pack
with one of them as the assailant of Venturina, and the two others who he saw standing while he
was running away. He added that he saw some of the accused during the attack but did not know
then their names.122 (Emphasis supplied)

We agree.

The trial court correctly held that "considering the swiftness of the incident,"123 there would be slight
inconsistencies in their statements. In People v. Adriano Cabrillas,124 it was previously observed that:

It is perfectly natural for different witnesses testifying on the occurrence of a crime to give varying
details as there may be some details which one witness may notice while the other may not observe
or remember. In fact, jurisprudence even warns against a perfect dovetailing of narration by different
witnesses as it could mean that their testimonies were prefabricated and rehearsed.125 (Emphasis
supplied)

According to their testimonies, Lachica was able to identify Alvir, Zingapan, and Medalla;126

Natalicio was able to identify Medalla, Zingapan, and Soliva;127 and Fortes was able to identify
Feliciano, Medalla, and Zingapan.128 Their positive identification was due to the fact that they either
wore no masks or that their masks fell off.

It would be in line with human experience that a victim or an eyewitness of a crime would endeavor
to find ways to identify the assailant so that in the event that he or she survives, the criminal could be
apprehended. It has also been previously held that:

It is the most natural reaction for victims of criminal violence to strive to see the looks and faces of
their assailants and observe the manner in which the crime was committed. Most often the face of
the assailant and body movements thereof, creates a lasting impression which cannot be easily
erased from their memory.129

In the commotion, it was more than likely that the masked assailants could have lost their masks. It
had been testified by the victims that some of the assailants were wearing masks of either a piece of
cloth or a handkerchief and that Alvir,130 Zingapan,131 Soliva,132 and Feliciano133 had masks on at first
but their masks fell off and hung around their necks.

Equally telling was the testimony of defense witness Frisco Capilo during cross-examination who
observed that some of the attackers were wearing masks and some were not, thus:

Q Mr. Capilo, do you know this Scintilla Juris Fraternity?

A No, sir.

Q During the incident of December 8, 1994, there were a lot of people eating in the Beach House
Canteen, and then running towards different directions, is it not?

A Yes, sir.

Q And some people were wearing masks and some were not?

A Yes, sir.134

While the attack was swift and sudden, the victims would have had the presence of mind to take a
look at their assailants if they were identifiable. Their positive identification, in the absence of
evidence to the contrary, must be upheld to be credible.

It has been argued that the trial court did not give Mangrobang's testimony credence while Gaston's
testimony was found to be "hazy." This argument is unmeritorious.

It should be noted that it was the trial court itself that stated that the acquittal of the Scintilla Juris
members identified by Mangrobang "should not be. misinterpreted to mean that the tt:'.stimony of
Mangrobang was an absolute fabrication."135 The court went on to state that they "were exonerated
merely because they were accorded the benefit of the doubt as their identification by Mangrobang,
under tumultuous and chaotic circumstances were [sic] not corroborated and their alibis, not
refuted."136 There was, therefore, no basis to say that Mangrobang was not credible; it was only that
the evidence presented was not strong enough to overcome the presumption of innocence.

Gaston's testimony, on the other hand, was considered "hazy"137 by the trial court only with regard to
his identification of Zingapan's companion. Gaston testified that he saw Zingapan with Morano, with
Zingapan moving and Morano staying in place. Fortes, however, testified that both Zingapan and
Morano were running after him. Lachica also testified that it was Medalla, not Morano, who was with
Zingapan. Because of this confusion, the trial court found that there was doubt as to who was really
beside Zingapan. The uncertainty resulted into an acquittal for Morano. Despite this, the court still
did not" impute doubt in their testimonies that Zingapan was present at the scene.

Be that as it may, the acquittals made by the trial court further prove that its decision was brought
about only upon a thorough examination of the evidence presented: It accepted that there were
inconsistencies in the testimonies of the victims but that these were minor and did not affect their
credibility. It ruled that "[s]uch inconsistencies, and even probabilities, are not unusual 'for there is no
person with perfect faculties or senses."'138

Evidence as part of the res


gestae may be admissible but
have little persuasive value in
this case

According to the testimony of U.P. Police Officer Salvador,139 when he arrived at the scene, he
interviewed the bystanders who all told him that they could not recognize the attackers since they
were all masked. This, it is argued, could be evidence that could be given as part of the res gestae.

As a general rule, "[a] witness can testify only to the facts he knows of his personal knowledge; that
is, which are derived from his own perception, x x x."140 All other kinds of testimony are hearsay and
are inadmissible as evidence. The Rules of Court, however, provide several exceptions to the
general rule, and one of which is when the evidence is part of res gestae, thus:

Section 42. Part of res gestae. - Statements made by a person while a starting occurrence is taking
place or immediately prior or subsequent thereto with respect to the circumstances thereof, may be
given in evidence as part of res gestae. So, also, statements accompanying an equivocal act
material to the issue, and giving it a legal significance, may be received as part of the res gestae.141

In People v. Rodrigo Salafranca,142 this court has previously discussed the admissibility of testimony
taken as part of res gestae, stating that:

A declaration or an utterance is deemed as part of the res gestae and thus admissible in evidence
as an exception to the hearsay rule when the following requisites concur, to wit: (a) the principal act,
the res gestae, is a startling occurrence; (b) the statements are made before the declarant had time
to contrive or devise; and (c) the statements must concern the occurrence in question and its
immediately attending circumstances.

xxxx

The term res gestae has been defined as "those circumstances which are the undersigned incidents
of a particular litigated act and which are admissible when illustrative of such act." In a general way,
res gestae refers to the circumstances, facts, and declarations that grow out of the main fact and
serve to illustrate its character and are so spontaneous and contemporaneous with the main fact as
to exclude the idea of deliberation and fabrication. The rule on res gestae encompasses the
exclamations and statements made by either the participants, victims, or spectators to a crime
immediately before, during, or immediately after the commission of the crime when the
circumstances are such that the statements were made as a spontaneous reaction or utterance
inspired by the excitement of the occasion and there was no opportunity for the declarant to
deliberate and to fabricate a false statement. The test of admissibility of evidence as a part of the res
gestae is, therefore, whether the act, declaration, or exclamation is so intimately interwoven or
connected with the principal fact or event that it characterizes as to be regarded as a part of the
transaction itself, and also whether it clearly negatives any premeditation or purpose to manufacture
testimony.143

There is no doubt that a sudden attack on a group peacefully eating lunch on a school campus is a
startling occurrence. Considering that the statements of the bystanders were made immediately after
the startling occurrence, they are, in fact, admissible as evidence given in res gestae.

In People v. Albarido,144 however, this court has stated that "in accord to ordinary human experience:"

x x x persons who witness an event perceive the same from their respective points of reference.
Therefore, almost always, they have different accounts of how it happened. Certainly, we cannot
expect the testimony of witnesses to a crime to be consistent in all aspects because different
persons have different impressions and recollections of the same incident. x x x145

(Emphasis supplied)

The statements made by the bystanders, although admissible, have little persuasive value since the
bystanders could have seen the events transpiring at different vantage points and at different points
in time. Even Frisco Capilo, one of the bystanders at the time of the attack, testified that the
attackers had their masks on at first, but later on, some remained masked and some were
unmasked.

When the bystanders' testimonies are weighed against those of the victims who witnessed the
entirety of the incident from beginning to end at close range, the former become merely
corroborative of the fact that an attack occurred. Their account of the incident, therefore, must be
given considerably less weight than that of the victims.

The belated identification by


the victims do not detract from
their positive identification of
the appellants

It is argued that the fact that the victims stayed silent about the incident to the U.P. Police or the
Quezon City Police but instead executed affidavits with the National Bureau of Investigation four (4)
days after the incident gives doubt as to the credibility of their testimonies.

U.P. Police Officer Romeo Cabrera146 testified that on their way to the U.P. Infirmary, he interviewed
the victims who all told him they could not recognize the attackers because they were all wearing
masks. Meanwhile, Dr. Mislang147testified to the effect that when she asked Natalicio who attacked
them, Natalicio answered that he did not know because they were masked.

It must be remembered that the parties involved in this case belong to rival fraternities. While this
court does not condone their archaic and oftentimes barbaric traditions, it is conceded that there are
certain practices that are unique to fraternal organizations.

It is quite possible that at this point in time, they knew the identities of their attackers but chose not to
disclose it without first conferring with their other fraternity brothers. This probability is bolstered by
the actions of Sigma Rho after the incident, which showed that they confronted the members of
Scintilla Juris in SM North. Because of the tenuous relationship of rival fraternities, it would not have
been prudent for Sigma Rho to retaliate against the wrong fraternity.

Their act of not disclosing the correct information to the U.P. Police or to Dr. Mislang does not make
the police officer or the doctor's testimonies more credible than that of the victims. It should not be
forgotten that the victims actually witnessed the entire incident, while Officer Salvador, Officer
Cabrera, and Dr. Mislang were merely relaying secondhand information.

The fact that they went to the National Bureau of Investigation four (4) days after the incident also
does not affect their credibility since most of them had been hospitalized from their injuries and
needed to recover first.
Since a fraternity moves as one unit, it would be understandable that they decided to wait until all of
them were well enough to go to the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in order to give
their statements.

Seniority is also often the norm in fraternities. It was upon the advice of their senior "brads" and their
legal counsel that they executed their sworn statements before the National Bureau of Investigation
four (4) days after the incident.

The decision to report the incident to the National Bureau of Investigation instead of to the U.P.
Police was the call of their legal counsel who might have deemed the National Bureau of
Investigation more equipped to handle the investigation. This does not, however, affect the credibility
of the witnesses since they were merely following the legal advice of their counsel.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that the National Bureau of Investigation is better equipped than
the U.P. Police to handle the investigation of the case. As stated in the U.P. College of Economics
website:

The UP Diliman Police (UPDP) is tasked with maintaining campus security. Their station is located in
front of the College of Architecture.

The primary missions of the UPDP are to maintain peace and order, secure and protect lives and
property, enforce basic laws, applicable Quezon City Ordinances, and University Rules and
Regulations including policies and standards; and to perform such other functions relative to the
general safety and security of the students, employees, and residents in the U.P. Diliman Campus. x
x x.148 (Emphasis supplied)

It can be seen that the U.P. Police is employed by U.P. primarily for campus security. They are by no
means an actual police force that is equipped to handle a full-blown murder investigation. Fraternity-
related violence in U.P. has also increasingly become more frequent, which might possibly have
desensitized the U.P. Police in such a way that would prevent their objectivity in the conduct of their
investigations. The victims' reliance on the National Bureau of Investigation, therefore, is
understandable.

III

Alibi cannot prevail over the


positive identification of the
victim

It is settled that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the victim.149 In
People v. Benjamin Peteluna,150 this court stated that:

It is a time-honored principle that the positive identification of the appellant by a witness destroys the
defense of alibi and denial. Thus:

x x x. It is well-entrenched that alibi and denial are inherently weak and have always been viewed
with disfavor by the courts due to the facility with which they can be concocted. They warrant the
least credibility or none at all and cannot prevail over the positive identification of the appellant by
the prosecution witnesses. For alibi to prosper, it is not enough to prove that appellant was
somewhere else when the crime was committed; he must also demonstrate that it was physically
impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. Unless
substantiated by clear and convincing proof, such defense is negative, self-serving, and undeserving
of any weight in law. Denial, like alibi, as an exonerating justification[,] is inherently weak and if
uncorroborated regresses to blatant impotence. Like alibi, it also constitutes self-serving negative
evidence which cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the declaration of credible
witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.151

In this case, the victims were able to positively identify their attackers while the accused-appellants
merely offered alibis and denials as their defense. The credibility of the victims was upheld by both
the trial court and the appellate court while giving little credence to the accused-appellants' alibis.
There is, thus, no reason to disturb their findings.

Accused-appellants were
correctly charged with
murder, and there was
treachery in the commission
of the crime

According to the provisions of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the accused-appellants were
correctly charged with murder. Article 248 states:

ART. 248. Murder.-Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246, shall kill another,
shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua, to death if committed with any
of the following attendant circumstances:

1. With treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid of armed men, or employing
means to weaken the defense, or of means or persons to insure or afford impunity;

xxxx

It is undisputed that on December 8, 1994, a group of men armed with lead pipes and baseball bats
attacked Dennis Venturina and his companions, which resulted in Venturina's death.

As correctly found by the trial court and the appellate court, the offense committed against Dennis
Venturina was committed by a group that took advantage of its superior strength and with the aid of
armed men. The appellate court, however, incorrectly ruled out the presence of treachery in the
commission of the offense.

It has been stated previously by this court that:

[T]reachery is present when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing
means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution,
without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make.152

Similarly, in People v. Leozar Dela Cruz,153 this court stated that:

There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means,
methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without
risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence of
treachery is that the attack comes without a warning and in a swift, deliberate, and unexpected
manner, affording the hapless, unarmed, and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape. For
treachery to be considered, two elements must concur: (1) the employment of means of execution
that gives the persons attacked no opportunity to defend themselves or retaliate; and (2) the means
of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted.154 (Emphasis supplied)

The appellate court, in affirming the conviction of the accused-appellants, ruled that contrary to the
findings of the trial court, there was no treachery involved. In particular, they ruled that although the
attack was sudden and unexpected, "[i]t was done in broad daylight with a lot of people who could
see them"155 and that "there was a possibility for the victims to have fought back or that the people in
the canteen could have helped the victims."156

This reasoning is clearly erroneous. The victims in this case were eating lunch on campus. They
were not at a place where they would be reasonably expected to be on guard for any sudden attack
by rival fraternity men.

The victims, who were unarmed, were also attacked with lead pipes and baseball bats. The only way
they could parry the blows was with their arms. In a situation where they were unnamed and
outnumbered, it would be impossible for them to fight back against the attackers. The attack also
happened in less than a minute, which would preclude any possibility of the bystanders being able to
help them until after the incident.

The swiftness and the suddenness of the attack gave no opportunity for the victims to retaliate or
even to defend themselves. Treachery, therefore, was present in this case.

The presence of conspiracy


makes all of the accused-
appellants liable for murder
and attempted murder

In the decision of the trial court, all of the accused-appellants were found guilty of the murder of
Dennis Venturina and the attempted murder of Mervin Natalicio, Cesar Mangrobang, Jr. Leandro
Lachica, Arnel Fortes, and Cristobal Gaston, Jr. The appellate court, however, modified their
liabilities and found that the accused-appellants were guilty of attempted murder only against
Natalicio and Fortes, and not against Mangrobang, Lachica, and Gaston.

It is the appellate court's reasoning that because Lachica and Mangrobang "were no longer chased
by the attackers,"157 it concluded that accused-appellants "voluntary desisted from pursuing them and
from inflicting harm to them, which shows that they did not have the intent to do more than to make
them suffer pain by slightly injuring them."158 It also pointed out that the wound inflicted on Gaston
"was too shallow to have been done with an intent to kill."159

Thus, it concluded that the accused-appellants would have been guilty only of slight physical injuries.

This is erroneous.

It should be remembered that the trial court found that there was conspiracy among the accused-
appellants160 and the appellate court sustainedthis finding.161

Conspiracy, once proven, has the effect of attaching liability to all of the accused, regardless of their
degree of participation, thus: Once an express or implied conspiracy is proved, all of the conspirators
are liable as co-principals regardless of the extent and character of their respective active
participation in the commission of the crime or crimes perpetrated in furtherance of the conspiracy
because in contemplation of law the act of one is the act of all. The foregoing rule is anchored on the
sound principle that "when two or more persons unite to accomplish a criminal object, whether
through the physical volition of one, or all, proceeding severally or collectively, each individual whose
evil will actively contributes to the wrong-doing is in law responsible for the whole, the same as
though performed by himself alone." Although it is axiomatic that no one is liable for acts other than
his own, "when two or more persons agree or conspire to commit a crime, each is responsible for all
the acts of the others, done in furtherance of the agreement or conspiracy." The imposition of
collective liability upon the conspirators is clearly explained in one case where this Court held that

... it is impossible to graduate the separate liability of each (conspirator) without taking into
consideration the close and inseparable relation of each of them with the criminal act, for the
commission of which they all acted by common agreement ... The crime must therefore in view of
the solidarity of the act and intent which existed between the ... accused, be regarded as the act of
the band or party created by them, and they are all equally responsible

Verily, the moment it is established that the malefactors conspired and confederated in the
commission of the felony proved, collective liability of the accused conspirators attaches by reason
of the conspiracy, and the court shall not speculate nor even investigate as to the actual degree of
participation of each of the perpetrators present at the scene of the crime. x x x.162 (Emphasis
supplied)

The liabilities of the accused-appellants m this case arose from a single incident wherein the
accused-appellants were armed with baseball bats and lead pipes, all in agreement to do the highest
amount of damage possible to the victims. Some were able to run away and take cover, but the
others would fall prey at the hands of their attackers. The intent to kill was already present at the
moment of attack and that intent was shared by all of the accused-appellants alike when the
presence of conspiracy was proven. It is, therefore, immaterial to distinguish between the
seriousness of the injuries suffered by the victims to determine the respective liabilities of their
attackers. What is relevant is only as to whether the death occurs as a result of that intent to kill and
whether there are qualifying, aggravating or mitigating circumstances that can be appreciated.

The appellate court, therefore, erred in finding the accused-appellants guilty only of slight physical
injuries. It would be illogical to presume that despite the swiftness and suddenness of the attack, the
attackers intended to kill only Venturina, Natalicio, and Fortes, and only intended to injure Lachica,
Mangrobang, and Gaston. Since the intent to kill was evident from the moment the accused-
appellants took their first swing, all of them were liable for that intent to kill.
1âwphi1

For this reason, the accused-appellants should be liable for the murder of Dennis Venturina and the
attempted murder of Mervin Natalicio, Cesar Mangrobang, Jr., Leandro Lachica, Arnel Fortes, and
Cristobal Gaston, Jr.

A Final Note

It is not only the loss of one promising young life; rather, it is also the effect on the five other lives
whose once bright futures are now put in jeopardy because of one senseless act of bravado. There
is now more honor for them to accept their responsibility and serve the consequences of their
actions. There is, however, nothing that they can do to bring back Dennis Venturina or fully
compensate for his senseless and painful loss.

This is not the first fraternity-related case to come to this court; neither will it be the last. Perhaps this
case and many cases like it can empower those who have a better view of masculinity: one which
valorizes courage, sacrifice and honor in more life-saving pursuits.
"Giting at dangal" are words of the anthem of the University of the Philippines. It colors the stories of
many who choose to expend their energy in order that our people will have better lives. Fraternity
rumbles are an anathema, an immature and useless expenditure of testosterone. It fosters a culture
that retards manhood. It is devoid of "giting at dangal."

This_ kind of shameful violence must stop.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR N). 01158 dated November 26,
2010 is AFFIRMED insofar as the accused-appellants Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Julius Victor Medalla,
Christopher Soliva, Warren L. Zingapan, and Robert Michael Beltran Alvir are found GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of Murder in. Criminal Case No. Q95-61133 with the MODIFICATION that they be
fouhd GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Attempted Murder in Criminal Case Nos. Q95-61136,
Q95-61135, Q95-61134, Q95-61138, and Q95-61137.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 189833 February 5, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
JAVIER MORILLA Y AVELLANO, Accused-Appellant.

RESOLUTION

PEREZ, J.:

Before us is an appeal filed by accused-appellant Javier Morilla y Avellano (Morilla) from the
Decision1 of the Court of Appeals which affirmed his conviction and that of his co-accused Ronnie
Mitra y Tena (Mayor Mitra) by the trial court, sentencing them2 to suffer the penalty of life
imprisonment and to pay a fine of ₱10,000,000.00 each.

The Regional Trial Court Judgment

On 15 October 2001, Morilla, Mayor Mitra, Willie Yang y Yao (Yang) and Ruel Dequilla y Regodan
(Dequilla) were charged in a criminal information as follows:

That on or about October 13, 2001, in Barangay Kiloloran, Municipality of Real, Province of Quezon,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, one of
them an incumbent mayor of the Municipality of Panukulan, Quezon Province, who all belong to an
organized/syndicate crime group as they all help one another, for purposes of gain in the transport of
illegal drugs, and in fact, conspiring and confederating together and mutually aiding and abetting one
another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously transport by means of two (2) motor
vehicles, namely a Starex van bearing plate number RWT-888 with commemorative plate to read
"Mayor" and a municipal ambulance of Panukulan, Quezon Province, methamphetamine
hydrochloride, a regulated drug which is commonly known as shabu, and with an approximate
weight of five hundred three point sixty eight (503.68) kilos, without authority whatsoever.3

After trial, the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City4 on 1 August 2007 convicted Morilla and his co-
accused Mayor Mitra, then incumbent Mayor of Panukulan, Quezon, of illegal transport5 of
methamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly known as shabu, with an approximate weight of five
hundred three point sixty eight (503.68) kilos. However, it absolved Dequilla and Yang due to the
prosecution’s failure to present sufficient evidence to convict them of the offense charged. The
dispositive of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Ronnie Mitra y
Tena and Javier Morilla y Avellana GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged.
Accordingly, both accused are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to
pay a fine of ₱10,000,000.00 each. Accused Willie Yang y Yao and Ruel Dequilla y Regodan are
hereby ACQUITTED for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt and
are ordered immediately released from custody unless held for some other lawful cause.
The methamphetamine hydrochloride ordered retained by the Court as representative sample which
is still in the custody of the PNP Crime Laboratory is ordered turned over to the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency for proper disposition.6

The trial court found valid the search conducted by police officers on the vehicles driven by Mayor
Mitra and Morilla, one with control number 888 and the other an ambulance with plate number SFK-
372, as the police officers have already acquired prior knowledge that the said vehicles were
suspected to be used for transportation of dangerous drugs. During the checkpoint in Real, Quezon,
the information turned out to be accurate and indeed, the two accused had in their motor vehicles
more than five hundred kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride.7

The trial court dismissed the arguments of Mayor Mitra that he was without any knowledge of the
contents of the sacks and that he was merely requested to transport them to Manila on board his
Starex van. He explained that he only accommodated the request of a certain Ben Tan because the
latter bought his fishing boat. It likewise dismissed the defense of ambulance driver Morilla of lack of
knowledge of the illegality of the contents. Morilla insisted that he thought that he was just
transporting wooden tiles and electronic spare parts together with Dequilla. The other passenger of
the ambulance, Yang, in his defense, did not bother to inquire about the contents of the vehicle as
he was merely an accommodated passenger of the ambulance.

The court rejected the defenses presented by Morilla and Mayor Mitra as they were caught in
flagrante delicto of transporting dangerous drugs in two vehicles driven by each of them. Absent any
convincing circumstance to corroborate their explanations, the validity of their apprehension was
sustained.8

The ruling of conspiracy between Mayor Mitra and Morilla was based on the testimonies of the four
accused themselves. It was found by the trial court that the two vehicles, the Starex van driven by
Mayor Mitra and the ambulance van driven by Morilla, left Infanta, Quezon en route to Manila. The
Starex van which was ahead of the ambulance was able to pass the checkpoint set up by the police
officers. However, the ambulance driven by Morilla was stopped by police officers. Through the
untinted window, one of the police officers noticed several sacks inside the van. Upon inquiry of the
contents, Morilla replied that the sacks contained narra wooden tiles.

Unconvinced, the police officers requested Morilla to open the rear door of the car for further
inspection. When it was opened, the operatives noticed that white crystalline granules were
scattered on the floor, prompting them to request Morilla to open the sacks. At this moment, Morilla
told the police officers that he was with Mayor Mitra in an attempt to persuade them to let him
pass.9 His request was rejected by the police officers and upon inspection, the contents of the sacks
turned out to be sacks of methamphetamine hydrochloride.10 This discovery prompted the operatives
to chase the Starex van of Mayor Mitra. The police officers were able to overtake the van and Mayor
Mitra was asked to stop. They then inquired if the mayor knew Morilla. On plain view, the operatives
noticed that his van was also loaded with sacks like the ones found in the ambulance. Thus, Mayor
Mitra was also requested to open the door of the vehicle for inspection. At this instance, Mayor Mitra
offered to settle the matter but the same was rejected. Upon examination, the contents of the sacks
were likewise found to contain sacks of methamphetamine hydrochloride.11

The two other accused in this case, Dequilla and Yang, were acquitted by the trial court for failure on
the part of the prosecution to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The court ruled that
Dequilla’s and Yang’s mere presence inside the vehicle as passengers was inadequate to prove that
they were also conspirators of Mayor Mitra and Morilla.12

The Court of Appeals Decision


On 13 July 2009, the appellate court affirmed the ruling of the trial court. It upheld the finding of
conspiracy between Mayor Mitra and Morilla in their common intent to transport several sacks
containing methamphetamine hydrochloride on board their respective vehicles. The singularity of
their intent to illegally transport methamphetamine hydrochloride was readily shown when Morilla
agreed to drive the ambulance van from Infanta, Quezon to Manila together with Mayor Mitra, who
drove the lead vehicle, the Starex van.13

The appellate court likewise dismissed the argument of lack of knowledge of the illegal contents of
the sacks. The claim that the sacks were loaded with wooden tiles was implausible due to the
obvious disparity of texture and volume.14

Court’s Ruling

We affirm the ruling but modify the penalty imposed.

In his supplemental brief, Morilla raised the issues: (1) whether he may be convicted for conspiracy
to commit the offense charged sans allegation of conspiracy in the Information, and (2) whether the
prosecution was able to prove his culpability as alleged in the Information.15

We dismiss his arguments.

Morilla primarily cites the provision on Sec. 1(b), Rule 115 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure16 to
substantiate his argument that he should have been informed first of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him. He pointed out that the Information itself failed to state the word conspiracy
but instead, the statement "the above-named accused, one of them an incumbent mayor of the
Municipality of Panukulan, Quezon Province, who all belong to an organized/syndicated crime group
as they all help one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously transport x x x."
He argued that conspiracy was only inferred from the words used in the Information.17

Even assuming that his assertion is correct, the issue of defect in the information, at this point, is
deemed to have been waived due to Morilla’s failure to assert it as a ground in a motion to quash
before entering his plea.18

Further, it must be noted that accused Morilla participated and presented his defenses to contradict
the allegation of conspiracy before the trial and appellate courts. His failure or neglect to assert a
right within a reasonable time warrants a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has
abandoned it or declined to assert it.19

The finding of conspiracy by both courts is correct.

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of
a felony and decide to commit it.20 To determine conspiracy, there must be a common design to
commit a felony.21

Morilla argues that the mere act of driving the ambulance on the date he was apprehended is not
sufficient to prove that he was part of a syndicated group involved in the illegal transportation of
dangerous drugs.

This argument is misplaced.


In conspiracy, it need not be shown that the parties actually came together and agreed in express
terms to enter into and pursue a common design. The assent of the minds may be and, from the
secrecy of the crime, usually inferred from proof of facts and circumstances which, taken together,
indicate that they are parts of some complete whole.22In this case, the totality of the factual
circumstances leads to a conclusion that Morilla conspired with Mayor Mitra in a common desire to
transport the dangerous drugs. Both vehicles loaded with several sacks of dangerous drugs, were
on convoy from Quezon to Manila. Mayor Mitra was able to drive through the checkpoint set up by
the police operatives. When it was Morilla’s turn to pass through the checkpoint, he was requested
to open the rear door for a routinary check. Noticing white granules scattered on the floor, the police
officers requested Morilla to open the sacks. If indeed he was not involved in conspiracy with Mayor
Mitra, he would not have told the police officers that he was with the mayor.

His insistence that he was without any knowledge of the contents of the sacks and he just obeyed
the instruction of his immediate superior Mayor Mitra in driving the said vehicle likewise bears no
merit.

Here, Morilla and Mayor Mitra were caught in flagrante delicto in the act of transporting the
dangerous drugs on board their vehicles. "Transport" as used under the Dangerous Drugs Act
means "to carry or convey from one place to another."23 It was well established during trial that
Morilla was driving the ambulance following the lead of Mayor Mitra, who was driving a Starex van
going to Manila. The very act of transporting methamphetamine hydrochloride is malum prohibitum
since it is punished as an offense under a special law. The fact of transportation of the sacks
containing dangerous drugs need not be accompanied by proof of criminal intent, motive or
knowledge.24

In a similar case of People v. Libnao,25 this Court upheld the conviction for illegal transportation of
marijuana of Libnao and Nunga, who were caught carrying a bag full of marijuana leaves when they
were flagged down on board a passing tricycle at a checkpoint.

However, we modify the penalty imposed by the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Originally, under Section 15 of Republic Act No. 6425,26 the penalty for illegal transportation of
methamphetamine hydrochloride was imprisonment ranging from six years and one day to twelve
years and a fine ranging from six thousand to twelve thousand pesos. Pursuant to Presidential
Decree No. 1683,27 the penalty was amended to life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from
twenty to thirty thousand pesos. The penalty was further amended in Republic Act No. 7659,28 where
the penalty was changed to reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from five hundred
thousand pesos to ten million pesos.

From the foregoing, we sustain the imposed penalty of fine of ₱10,000,00.00 to be paid by each of
the accused but amend the penalty to reclusion perpetua following the provisions of Republic Act
No. 7659 and the principle of retroactive application of lighter penalty. Reclusion perpetua entails
imprisonment for at least thirty (30) years after which the convict becomes eligible for pardon. It also
carries with it accessory penalties, namely: perpetual special disqualification, etc. Life imprisonment,
on the other hand, does not appear to have any definite extent or duration and carries no accessory
penalties.29

The full particulars are in Ho Wai Pang v. People,30 thus:

As to the penalties imposed by the trial court and as affirmed by the appellate court, we find the
same in accord with law and jurisprudence. It should be recalled that at the time of the commission
of the crime on September 6, 1991, Section 15 of R.A. No. 6425 was already amended by
Presidential Decree No. 1683. The decree provided that for violation of said Section 15, the penalty
of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from ₱20,000.00 to ₱30,000.00 shall be imposed.
Subsequently, however, R.A. No. 7659 further introduced new amendments to Section 15, Article III
and Section 20, Article IV of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. Under the new amendments, the penalty
prescribed in Section 15 was changed from "life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from
₱20,000.00 to ₱30,000.00" to "reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from ₱500,000.00 to
₱10 million." On the other hand, Section 17 of R.A. No. 7659 amended Section 20, Article IV of R.A.
No. 6425 in that the new penalty provided by the amendatory law shall be applied depending on the
quantity of the dangerous drugs involved.

The trial court, in this case, imposed on petitioner the penalty of reclusion perpetua under R.A. No.
7659 rather than life imprisonment ratiocinating that R.A. No. 7659 could be given retroactive
application, it being more favorable to the petitioner in view of its having a less stricter punishment. 1âwphi 1

We agree. In People v. Doroja, we held:

"In People v. Martin Simon (G.R. No. 93028, 29 July 1994) this Court ruled (a) that the amendatory
law, being more lenient and favorable to the accused than the original provisions of the Dangerous
Drugs Act, should be accorded retroactive application, x x x."

And, since "reclusion perpetua is a lighter penalty than life imprisonment, and considering the rule
that criminal statutes with a favorable effect to the accused, have, as to him, a retroactive effect," the
penalty imposed by the trial court upon petitioner is proper. Consequently, the Court sustains the
penalty of imprisonment, which is reclusion perpetua, as well as the amount of fine imposed by the
trial court upon petitioner, the same being more favorable to him.31

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED and the assailed 13 July 2009 Decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. 02967 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION with
respect to the penalty to be imposed as Reclusion Perpetua instead of Life Imprisonment and
payment of fine of ₱10,000,000.00 by each of the accused.

SO ORDERED.