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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 200030 : April 18, 2012]



PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. NELSON
BAYOT Y SATINA, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.
R E S O L U T I O N

PEREZ, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision[1] dated 9 May 2006 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-H.C. No. 00269 affirming with modification the
Decision[2] dated 31 July 2000 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, 6th Judicial Region, Branch 61, in
Criminal Case No. 98-2025, finding herein appellant Nelson Bayot y Satina
(appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape, committed
against AAA,[3] thus, sentencing him to suffer the penalty ofreclusion
perpetua. The appellate court increased the award of indemnity from
P40,000.00 to P50,000.00. It also ordered appellant to pay AAA moral
damages in the amount of P50,000.00.cralaw
Appellant Nelson Bayot y Satina was charged with Rape in an
Information[4] dated 29 December 1997, which reads as follows:
That on or about the 17th day of September, 1997, in the Municipality of
XXX, Province of XXX, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named [appellant], by means of force, violence
and intimidation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have
carnal knowledge of and/or sexual intercourse with the [AAA], 44 years old,
against her will.[5]
On arraignment, appellant pleaded NOT GUILTY to the crime charged. Trial
on the merits ensued thereafter.
In its 31 July 2000 Decision, the RTC convicted appellant of the crime of rape
and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay AAA
the amount of P40,000.00 as indemnity with costs. In convicting appellant,
the RTC ratiocinated that AAAs testimony as regards her ordeal was simple
and straightforward, unshaken by a rigid cross-examination. There appeared
to be no inconsistency in her testimony. Further, AAAs declaration that she
was raped by appellant was corroborated by a medical certificate showing
contusion on her vagina at 6:00 oclock quadrant of the crevice, which was
explained by Dr. Rodrigo Cubid to have been caused by forceful vaginal
intrusion. The RTC negates the sweet heart defense offered by appellant.
It stated that appellants claim of being AAAs lover was a mere devise to
extricate himself from the consequence of his dastardly lust. AAAs
immediate response of reporting the rape incident carries the stamp of truth.
Moreover, if, indeed, there was such relationship between appellant and
AAA, the latter would not have pursued this case. It bears stressing that
despite appellants repeated plea for the dismissal of the case, AAA remained
steadfast in seeking justice for the violation of her womanhood.[6]
Aggrieved, appellant appealed the aforesaid RTC Decision to this Court by
filing a Notice of Appeal dated 6 September 2000.[7] In light, however, of this
Courts pronouncement in People v. Mateo,[8]the case was transferred to the
Court of Appeals for intermediate review per Resolution[9] dated 4 October
2004.
In a Decision dated 9 May 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed appellants
conviction with the modification increasing the award of indemnity from
P40,000.00 to P50,000.00. It likewise awarded moral damages in favor of
AAA in the amount of P50,000.00. The Court of Appeals aptly observed that
the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that appellant
committed the crime of rape against AAA. It further held that other than the
self-serving declaration of appellant that he and AAA were sweethearts; no
other evidence was ever presented to substantiate such claim. Even the
testimony of appellants daughter, who claimed that her father and AAA are
maintaining an illicit relationship, could not be given any considerable
weight. Aside from the fact that appellants daughter could not point to any
other circumstance supporting her claim, except for one incident when she
allegedly saw her father and AAA holding hands during a dance at
their barangay fiesta, her testimony could not be stripped of bias and
partiality considering that she is the daughter of appellant. In the same way,
her testimony that she saw her father and AAA in the act of sexual
intercourse deserves scant consideration as she was not present at the time
of the commencement of the said act. She could not, therefore, be in a
position to state with certainty that there was no struggle on the part of AAA.
Hence, her testimony regarding such matter is a mere conclusion of fact.[10]
However, in a letter dated 29 May 2006,[11] Dr. Juanito S. Leopando, Penal
Superintendent IV of the New Bilibid Prison, informed the Court of Appeals
that appellant died at the New Bilibid Prison Hospital on 4 December 2004.
Attached in his letter is the original copy of appellants Certificate of Death.
[12]
Nonetheless, the Public Attorneys Office still appealed, on behalf of
appellant, the aforesaid Court of Appeals Decision to this Court via a Notice
of Appeal[13] dated 31 May 2006, which was given due course by the Court
of Appeals per Resolution[14] dated 19 January 2007. The Court of Appeals
also directed the Chief of the Judicial Records Division to forward the entire
records of the case to this Court.
Taking into consideration appellants death, this Court will now determine its
effect to this present appeal.
Appellants death on 4 December 2004, during the pendency of his appeal
before the Court of Appeals, extinguished not only his criminal liability for the
crime of rape committed against AAA, but also his civil liability solely arising
from or based on said crime.[15]
Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, specifically provides
the effect of death of the accused on his criminal, as well as civil, liability. It
reads thus:
Art. 89. How criminal liability is totally extinguished. Criminal liability
is totally extinguished:
By death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to
pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the
death of the offender occurs before final judgment; [Emphasis
supplied].
1.
Applying the foregoing provision, this Court, in People v. Bayotas,[16] which
was cited in a catena of cases,[17] had laid down the following guidelines:
Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes
his criminal liability as well as the civil liability based solely thereon.
As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, the death of the
accused prior to final judgment terminates his criminal liability and
only the civil liability directly arising from and based solely on the
offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in senso strictiore.
1.
Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the
death of [the] accused, if the same may also be predicated on a
source of obligation other than delict. Article 1157 of the Civil Code
enumerates these other sources of obligation from which the civil
liability may arise as a result of the same act or omission:
a) Lawb) Contractsc) Quasi-contracts
d) x x x x x x x x xe) Quasi-delicts
2.
Where the civil liability survives, as explained in Number 2 above, an
action for recovery therefor may be pursued but only by way of filing
a separate civil action and subject to Section 1, Rule 111 of the 1985
Rules on Criminal Procedure as amended. This separate civil action
may be enforced either against the executor/administrator or the
estate of the accused, depending on the source of obligation upon
which the same is based as explained above.
3.
Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his
right to file this separate civil action by prescription, in cases where
during the prosecution of the criminal action and prior to its
extinction, the private-offended party instituted together therewith the
civil action. In such case, the statute of limitations on the civil liability
is deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal case,
conformably with [the] provisions of Article 1155 of the Civil Code,
that should thereby avoid any apprehension on a possible privation
of right by prescription.[18]
4.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the death of the accused pending appeal
of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability, as well as the civil
liability ex delicto. The rationale, therefore, is that the criminal action is
extinguished inasmuch as there is no longer a defendant to stand as the
accused, the civil action instituted therein for recovery of civil liability ex
delicto is ipso factoextinguished, grounded as it is on the criminal case.[19]
Evidently, as this Court has pronounced in People v. Olaco and People v.
Paniterce,[20] it is already unnecessary to rule on appellants appeal.
Appellants appeal was still pending and no final judgment had been
rendered against him at the time of his death. Thus, whether or not appellant
was guilty of the crime charged had become irrelevant because even
assuming that appellant did incur criminal liability and civil liability ex delicto,
these were totally extinguished by his death, following the provisions of
Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code and this Courts ruling in People v.
Bayotas.
In the same breath, the appealed Decision dated 9 May 2006 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-H.C. No. 00269 finding appellant guilty of the
crime of rape, sentencing him to reclusion perpetua, and ordering him to pay
AAA P50,000.00 as indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages had
become ineffectual.cralaw

WHEREFORE, in view of the death of appellant Nelson Bayot y Satina, the
Decision dated 9 May 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-H.C.
No. 00269 is SET ASIDE and Criminal Case No. 98-2025 before the RTC of
Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, is DISMISSED. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.





















FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 141718 January 21, 2005
BENJAMIN PANGAN y RIVERA, petitioner, vs.
HON. LOURDES F. GATBALITE, as the Presiding Judge, Regional Trial
Court of Angeles City, Branch 56, and COL. JAMES D. LABORDO, as
the City Jail Warden of Angeles City, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
AZCUNA, J.:
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, assailing the decision of the Regional Trial
Court of Angeles City, Branch 56, rendered on January 31, 2000.1
The facts of this case are undisputed. The petitioner was indicted for simple
seduction in Criminal Case No. 85-816, at the Municipal Trial Court of
Angeles City, Branch 3.
During the trial of the case, Atty. Eduardo Pineda, counsel for petitioner,
submitted the case for decision without offering any evidence, due to the
petitioners constant absence at hearings.
On September 16, 1987, the petitioner was convicted of the offense charged
and was sentenced to serve a penalty of two months and one day of arresto
mayor.
On appeal, the Regional Trial Court, on October 24, 1988, affirmed in toto the
decision of the Municipal Trial Court.
On August 9, 1991, the case was called for promulgation of the decision in
the court of origin. Despite due notice, counsel for the petitioner did not
appear. Notice to petitioner was returned unserved with the notation that he
no longer resided at the given address. As a consequence, he also failed to
appear at the scheduled promulgation. The court of origin issued an order
directing the recording of the decision in the criminal docket of the court and
an order of arrest against the petitioner.2
Pursuant to the order of arrest, on January 20, 2000, the petitioner was
apprehended and detained at the Mabalacat Detention Cell. On January 24,
2000, petitioner filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus at the Regional
Trial Court of Angeles City. He impleaded as respondent the Acting Chief of
Police of Mabalacat, Pampanga.3 Petitioner contended that his arrest was
illegal and unjustified on the grounds that:
(a) the straight penalty of two months and one day of arresto mayor
prescribes in five years under No. 3, Article 93 [of the] Revised Penal
Code, and
(b) having been able to continuously evade service of sentence for
almost nine years, his criminal liability has long been totally
extinguished under No. 6, Article 89 [of the] Revised Penal Code.4
After his transfer to the City Jail of Angeles City on January 25, 2000,
petitioner filed an Amended Petition with the Regional Trial Court, impleading
herein respondent Col. James D. Labordo, the Jail Warden of Angeles City,
as respondent.5
In response, the Jail Warden alleged that petitioners detention was pursuant
to the order of commitment (mittimus), issued by Marlon P. Roque, Clerk of
Court III of the Municipal Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch 3, dated January
25, 2000.6
On January 31, 2000, respondent Judge rendered the decision, which is the
subject of this present appeal, which pronounced:
The Court cannot subscribe to the contention of the petitioner that the
penalty imposed on him in the decision adverted to above had already
prescribed, hence, his detention is illegal for under Article 93 of the Revised
Penal Code:
"The period of prescription of penalties shall commence to run from the date
when the culprit should evade the service of sentence, and it shall be
interrupted if the defendant should give himself up, be captured, should go to
some foreign country with which this Government has no extradition treaty, or
should commit another crime before the expiration of the period of
prescription.
The elements of prescription are:
1. That the penalty is imposed by final judgment;
2. That convict evaded the service of the sentence by escaping
during the term of his sentence;
3. That the convict who had escaped from prison has not given
himself up, or been captured, or gone to a foreign country with which
we have no extradition treaty, or committed another crime;
4. The penalty has prescribed, because of the lapse of time from the
date of the evasion of the service of the sentence by the convict.
In this case, the essential element of prescription which is the evasion of the
service of sentence is absent. Admittedly, the petitioner herein has not served
the penalty imposed on him in prison and that during the service of the
sentence, he escaped therefrom. Notably, at the trial of Crim. Case No.
85-816 in the Municipal Trial Court, Branch III, Angeles City and on the date
set for the promulgation of the affirmed decision, the petitioner failed to
appear and remained at large.1a\^/phi1.net
"There was no evasion of the service of the sentence in this case, because
such evasion presupposes escaping during the service of the sentence
consisting in deprivation of liberty." (Infante vs. Warden, 48 O.G. No. 122) (92
Phil. 310).
Corollarily, the detention of the petitioner in Angeles City Jail in compliance
with the Order of Commitment (Exhibit E) is not illegal for
"A commitment in due form, based on a final judgment, convicting and
sentencing the defendant in a criminal case, is conclusive evidence of the
legality of his detention, unless it appears that the court which pronounced
the judgment was without jurisdiction or exceeded it." (U.S. vs. Jayne, 24 Phil
90, 24 J.F. 94, Phil. Digest, Vol. 2, 1398).
WHEREFORE, for not being meritorious and well-founded, the petition for a
writ of habeas corpus is hereby denied.
SO ORDERED.
Angeles City, January 31, 2000.7
From the above quoted decision, petitioner filed the instant petition for review
on a question purely of law and raised the following issue:
HOW SHOULD THE PHRASE "SHALL COMMENCE TO RUN FROM THE
DATE WHEN THE CULPRIT SHOULD EVADE THE SERVICE OF
SENTENCE" IN ARTICLE 93 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE ON THE
COMPUTATION OF THE PRESCRIPTION OF PENALTIES BE
CONSTRUED? PUT A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY, WHEN DOES THE
PRESCRIPTIVE PERIOD OF PENALTIES BEGIN TO RUN?8
Petitioner claims that:
xxx the period for the computation of penalties under Article 93 of the
Revised Penal Code begins to run from the moment the judgment of
conviction becomes final and the convict successfully evades, eludes, and
dodges arrest for him to serve sentence.9
Petitioner supports his claim in the following manner:
The Decision subject of this appeal, which was based on the 1952 ruling
rendered in Infante vs. Warden, 48 O.G. No. 122, 92 Phil. 310, is, petitioner
most respectfully submits, not good case law. It imposes upon the convict a
condition not stated in the law. It is contrary to the spirit, nature or essence of
prescription of penalties, creates an ambiguity in the law and opens the law
to abuse by government.
THE INFANTE RULING IMPOSES A CONDITION NOT STATED IN THE
LAW.
It appears that the Infante ruling imposes that, as an essential element, the
convict must serve at least a few seconds, minutes, days, weeks or years of
his jail sentence and then escapes before the computation of prescription of
penalties begins to run. This, petitioner respectfully submits is not a condition
stated in Article 93, which states that, the prescription of penalties "shall
commence to run from the date when the culprit should evade the service of
sentence."
There is no dispute that the duty of government to compel the service of
sentence sets in when the judgment of conviction becomes final.
The dispute, however, is in the construction of the phrase "should evade the
service of sentence." When does the period of prescription of penalties begin
to run? The Infante ruling construes this to mean that the convict must
escape from jail "because such evasion presupposes escaping during the
service of the sentence consisting in deprivation of liberty."
Petitioner, with due respect, disagrees because if that were the intention of
the law, then the phrase "should evade the service of sentence" in Article 93
would have read: "should escape during the service of the sentence
consisting in deprivation of liberty." The legislature could have very easily
written Article 93 to read this way
"The period of prescription of penalties shall commence to run from the date
when the culprit should escape during the service of the sentence
consisting in deprivation of liberty, and it shall be interrupted if the
defendant should give himself up, be captured, should go to some foreign
country with which this Government has no extradition treaty, or should
commit another crime before the expiration of the period of prescription."
But they did not.
The legislature wrote "should evade the service of sentence" to cover or
include convicts like him who, although convicted by final judgment, were
never arrested or apprehended by government for the service of their
sentence. With all the powers of government at its disposal, petitioner was
able to successfully evade service of his 2 months and 1 day jail sentence for
at least nine (9) years, from August 9, 1991 to January 20, 2000. This is
approximately 3 years and 5 months longer than the 5-year prescriptive
period of the penalty imposed on him.
That, as the respondent RTC Judge noted, petitioner did not attend the trial
at the Municipal Trial Court and the promulgation of his judgment of
conviction in August 9, 1991 is of no moment. His bond for provisional
release was surely cancelled and an order of arrest was surely issued
against petitioner. The undisputed fact is that on August 9, 1991 the judgment
of conviction was promulgated in absentia and an order for petitioners arrest
was issued by the Municipal Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch III.
The duty of government, therefore, to arrest petitioner and compel him to
serve his sentence began on August 9, 1991. The 5-year prescriptive period
of his arresto mayor penalty also began to run on that day considering that
no relief was taken therefrom. Since petitioner never gave himself up [n]or
was [he], until January 20, 2000, ever captured, for the service of his
sentence nor did he flee to some foreign country with which [our] government
has no extradition treaty, that 5-year prescriptive period of his penalty ran
continuously from August 9, 1991 when his judgment of conviction was
promulgated in absentia and was never interrupted.
For reasons known only to it, however, government failed or neglected, for
almost nine (9) years, to arrest petitioner for the service of his arresto
mayor sentence [which] should not be taken against petitioner. He was able
to successfully evade service of his sentence for a period longer than the 5-
year prescriptive period of his penalty and, as such, is entitled to total
extinction of his criminal liability.
To say, as was said in Infante, that the prescriptive period of the penalty
never began to run in favor of petitioner because he never escaped from jail
during the service of his sentence imposes a condition not written in the law.
It also violates the basic principle that the criminal statutes are construed
liberally in favor of the accused and/or convict and is contrary to the spirit
behind or essence of statutes of limitations [and] prescription, in criminal
cases.10
The Regional Trial Court based its decision on the case of Infante v.
Warden11 . In said case, Infante, the petitioner, was convicted of murder and
was sentenced to seventeen years, four months and one day of reclusion
temporal. After serving fifteen years, seven months and eleven days, he was
granted a conditional pardon. The condition was that "he shall not again
violate any of the penal laws of the Philippines." Ten years after his release
on conditional pardon, Infante was found guilty by a Municipal Court for
driving without a license. Infante was immediately ordered rearrested for
breach of the condition of his pardon. One of the issues raised by Infante in
his petition,
xxx was that the remitted penalty for which the petitioner had been
recommitted to jail one year and 11 days had prescribed. xxx 12
The Court disagreed and reasoned out thus:
The contention is not well taken. According to article 93 of the Revised Penal
Code the period of prescription of penalties commences to run from the date
when the culprit should evade the service of his sentence. It is evident from
this provision that evasion of the sentence is an essential element of
prescription. There has been no such evasion in this case. Even if there had
been one and prescription were to be applied, its basis would have to be the
evasion of the unserved sentence, and computation could not have started
earlier than the date of the order for the prisoner's rearrest.13
A perusal of the facts in Infante v. Warden reveals that it is not on all fours
with the present case. In Infante, the convict was on conditional pardon when
he was re-arrested. Hence, he had started serving sentence but the State
released him. In the present case, the convict evaded service of sentence
from the start, and was arrested eight years later.
The RTC decision, however, must stand, since it is in accord with applicable
decisions of this Court. The issue raised by petitioner is not novel. Article 93
of the Revised Penal Code14 has been interpreted several times by the
Court.
The case of Tanega v. Masakayan15 falls squarely within the issues of the
present case. In that case, petitioner Adelaida Tanega failed to appear on the
day of the execution of her sentence.1awphi1.nt On the same day,
respondent judge issued a warrant for her arrest. She was never arrested.
More than a year later, petitioner through counsel moved to quash the
warrant of arrest, on the ground that the penalty had prescribed. Petitioner
claimed that she was convicted for a light offense and since light offenses
prescribe in one year, her penalty had already prescribed. The Court
disagreed, thus:
xxx The period of prescription of penalties the succeeding Article 93
provides "shall commence to run from the date when the culprit should
evade the service of his sentence". What then is the concept of evasion of
service of sentence? Article 157 of the Revised Penal Code furnishes the
ready answer. Says Article 157:
"ART. 157. Evasion of service of sentence. The penalty of prision
correccional in its medium and maximum periods shall be imposed upon any
convict who shall evade service of his sentence by escaping during the term
of his imprisonment by reason of final judgment. xxx"
Elements of evasion of service of sentence are: (1) the offender is a convict
by final judgment; (2) he "is serving his sentence which consists in
deprivation of liberty"; and (3) he evades service of sentence by escaping
during the term of his sentence. This must be so. For, by the express terms
of the statute, a convict evades "service of his sentence" by "escaping during
the term of his imprisonment by reason of final judgment." That escape
should take place while serving sentence, is emphasized by the provisions of
the second sentence of Article 157 which provides for a higher penalty if such
"evasion or escape shall have taken place by means of unlawful entry, by
breaking doors, windows, gates, walls, roofs, or floors, or by using picklocks,
false keys, disguise, deceit, violence or intimidation, or through connivance
with other convicts or employees of the penal institution, . . ." Indeed, evasion
of sentence is but another expression of the term "jail breaking."
xxx
We, therefore, rule that for prescription of penalty of imprisonment imposed
by final sentence to commence to run, the culprit should escape during the
term of such imprisonment.
Adverting to the facts, we have here the case of a convict who sentenced
to imprisonment by final judgment was thereafter never placed in
confinement. Prescription of penalty, then, does not run in her favor.16
In Del Castillo v. Torrecampo 17 , the Court cited and reiterated Tanega.
Petitioner, Del Castillo, was charged for violation of Section 178 (nn) of the
1978 Election Code. The trial court found Del Castillo guilty beyond
reasonable doubt and sentenced him to suffer an indeterminate sentence of
imprisonment of 1 year as minimum to 3 years as maximum. On appeal the
Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court in toto. During the
execution of judgment on October 14, 1987, petitioner was not present. The
presiding Judge issued an order of arrest and the confiscation of his bond.
Petitioner was never apprehended. Ten years later, petitioner filed a motion
to quash the warrant of arrest on the ground that the penalty imposed upon
him had already prescribed. The motion was denied by the trial court. Del
Castillo, on a petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals, questioned the
denial by the trial court. The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for lack
of merit. Upon denial of his Motion for Reconsideration, Del Castillo raised
the matter to this Court. The Court decided against Del Castillo and after
quoting the ratio decidendi of the Court of Appeals in full, it ratiocinated, thus:
The foregoing conclusion of the Court of Appeals is consistent with the ruling
of this Court in Tanega vs. Masakayan, et al., where we declared that, for
prescription of penalty imposed by final sentence to commence to run, the
culprit should escape during the term of such imprisonment.1a\^/phi1.net
The Court is unable to find and, in fact, does not perceive any compelling
reason to deviate from our earlier pronouncement clearly exemplified in the
Tanega case.
Article 93 of the Revised Penal Code provides when the prescription of
penalties shall commence to run. Under said provision, it shall commence to
run from the date the felon evades the service of his sentence. Pursuant to
Article 157 of the same Code, evasion of service of sentence can be
committed only by those who have been convicted by final judgment by
escaping during the term of his sentence.
As correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General, "escape" in legal parlance
and for purposes of Articles 93 and 157 of the RPC means unlawful
departure of prisoner from the limits of his custody. Clearly, one who has not
been committed to prison cannot be said to have escaped therefrom.
In the instant case, petitioner was never brought to prison. In fact, even
before the execution of the judgment for his conviction, he was already in
hiding. Now petitioner begs for the compassion of the Court because he has
ceased to live a life of peace and tranquility after he failed to appear in court
for the execution of his sentence. But it was petitioner who chose to become
a fugitive. The Court accords compassion only to those who are deserving.
Petitioner's guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt but he refused to
answer for the wrong he committed. He is therefore not to be rewarded
therefor.
The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is based on settled
jurisprudence and applicable laws. It did not engage in judicial legislation but
correctly interpreted the pertinent laws. Because petitioner was never placed
in confinement, prescription never started to run in his favor.18l^vvphi1.net
Consistent with the two cases cited above, this Court pronounces that the
prescription of penalties found in Article 93 of the Revised Penal Code,
applies only to those who are convicted by final judgment and are serving
sentence which consists in deprivation of liberty. The period for prescription
of penalties begins only when the convict evades service of sentence by
escaping during the term of his sentence. Since petitioner never suffered
deprivation of liberty before his arrest on January 20, 2000 and as a
consequence never evaded sentence by escaping during the term of his
service, the period for prescription never began.
Petitioner, however, has by this time fully served his sentence of two months
and one day of arresto mayor and should forthwith be released unless he is
being detained for another offense or charge.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City,
Branch 56 is AFFIRMED, but petitioner is ordered released effective
immediately for having fully served his sentence unless he is detained for
another offense or charge.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.


























FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 143380. April 11, 2005]
OLIMPIO PANGONOROM and METRO MANILA TRANSIT
CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
This is a petition for review[1] to annul the Decision[2] dated 29
November 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 14764, as well
as its Resolution[3] dated 5 May 2000 denying the motion for
reconsideration. The Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the 5 February 1993
Decision[4] of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 79 in Criminal
Case No. Q-90-11397.
The Charge
On 21 March 1990, Assistant City Prosecutor Rosario U. Barias filed an
Information charging Olimpio Pangonorom (Olimpio) with reckless
imprudence resulting in damage to property with multiple slight physical
injuries, committed as follows:
That on or about the 10th day of July, 1989, in Quezon City, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused,
being then the driver and person in charge of a motor vehicle (MMTC-
passenger bus) with plate No. NVJ-999 TB Pil. 89, did, then and there
unlawfully and feloniously drive, manage and operate the same along E. de
los Santos Ave., Quezon Avenue this City, in a careless, reckless and
imprudent manner, by then and there driving the same without due regard to
traffic laws and regulations and without taking the necessary precautions to
prevent accident to person and damage to property, causing by such
carelessness, recklessness and imprudence said motor vehicle so driven by
him to strike and collide with an [I]suzu [G]emini car with plate No. NAR-865
L Pil. 89, belonging to Mary Berba and driven by Carlos Berba y Remulla,
thereby causing damages in the total amount of P42,600.00, Philippine
Currency; as a consequence thereof said Carlos Berba sustained physical
injuries for a period of less than nine (9) days and incapacitated him from
performing his customary labor for the same period of time and also his
passengers namely: Mary Berba y Matti and Amelia Berba y Mendoza
sustained physical injuries for a period of less than nine (9) days and
incapacitated them from performing their customary labor for the same
period of time, thereafter, abandoned said offended parties without aiding
them, to the damage and prejudice of the said offended parties in such
amount as may be awarded to them under the provisions of the Civil Code.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]
Arraignment and Plea
When arraigned on 26 June 1990, Olimpio, with the assistance of
counsel, entered a plea of not guilty.[6]
The Trial
The prosecution presented five witnesses: (1) Carlos R. Berba; (2) Mary
M. Berba; (3) Amelia Berba; (4) Edward Campos; and (5) Enrico B.
Estupigan.
On the other hand, the defense presented three witnesses: (1) Olimpio
himself; (2) Milagros Garbo; and (3) Nenita Amado.
The facts, as summarized by the trial court, are as follows:
The evidence of the prosecution shows that on July 10, 1989 at around 9:00
P.M. Carlos R. Berba was driving an Isuzu Gemini car bearing Plate No.
NAR-865 L Pil. 89 belonging to his mother Mary Berba. With him inside the
car were his mother Mary Berba who was seated in front beside him and his
auntie Amelia Berba who was at the back seat. They were cruising along
EDSA coming from the direction of Makati and headed towards the
intersection of EDSA and Quezon Boulevard but upon nearing 680
Appliances along EDSA, Quezon City, their car was bumped from behind by
MMTC Passenger Bus bearing Plate No. NVJ-999 TB Pil. 89 driven by
herein accused Olimpio Pangonorom thereby causing damages to their car
which was estimated at P42,600.00 (Exhs. F, F-1). The front and rear
portions of their car incurred damages because by reason of the strong
impact at the rear portion of their car, it was pushed forward and bumped the
car in front of it, then it rested near the island. The bus driven by the accused
still travelled a distance of 20 meters from the point of impact. The accused
left his bus but they came to know his name is Olimpio Pangonorom. Their
car was a total wreck as shown in its photographs (Exhs. B and C).
Carlos Berba noticed this bus following them closely at Nepa Q-Mart up to
the point of collision. His car was running along the second lane of EDSA
from the island. The MMTC bus driven by the accused was running very
fast, kept on switching lane until it finally occupied the second lane and
bumped his car. Carlos Berba sustained cuts on his shoulder and back
because of broken glasses and was treated at East Avenue Medical Center.
He incurred P1,000.00 for medication (Exhs. G to G-3). Mary Berba
sustained contusion, hematoma and abrasion (Exh. H). Amelia Berba
sustained abrasion on his right elbow (Exh. K). Both were also treated at
East Avenue Medical Center.
Edward Campos and Enrico Bantique Estupigan, passengers of MMTC Bus
driven by the accused explained that their bus was running at 70-80 kph
when it swerved to the right to avoid hitting a van stranded at the left side of
the island but in the process it hit and bumped an Isuzu Gemini car in front of
it. The rear portion of the Isuzu Gemini car was smashed and the front part
was also damaged as it hit the Lancer car running ahead. The bus driver,
herein accused, fled from the scene.
It was a rainy day, road was slippery, the rain had just stopped but was still
drizzling.
The defense on the other hand presented accused Olimpio Pangonorom,
Milagros Garbo, Nenita Amado and documents marked as Exhs. 1 to 15 with
sub-markings.
Accused Olimpio Pangonorom testified that he was a driver since 1976,
having worked as a truck driver in Mindanao, then employed as driver of
Silangan Transit up to 1981 and from 1981 up to the present is a driver of
Metro Manila Transit. He is a holder of professional drivers license with OR
No. 15160307 (Exhs. 1, 1-A). On July 10, 1989 he drove MMTC bus from
Monumento to Baclaran and vice-versa. He was driving MMTC bus between
7:00 8:00 P.M. along EDSA headed towards Monumento when upon
reaching infront of 680 Appliances his bus was involved in a vehicular
accident. It was drizzling, his bus was running at a speed of 70 kph along
the third lane of EDSA going to Monumento and an Isuzu Gemini car ahead
of him was on his left side running along the second lane of EDSA at a
distance of 30 meters away. When the car was at a distance of 20 meters
away and before reaching the stalled vehicle, it swerved to the right without
signal light, so he blew his horn, stepped on his brakes, but since the street
was downgrade, it was raining and slippery, his brakes failed to control his
bus, thus hit and bumped the Isuzu Gemini car. He identified the Isuzu
Gemini car and damages sustained by the car in the photograph marked as
Exh. C. His bus slided after he applied his brakes because the street was
slippery. He reported at their garage after the accident, left his vehicle and
went back at the scene with a wrecker. The passengers of the Isuzu car
were brought to the hospital.
The training officer of MMTC, Milagros Garbo, testified on the procedure of
the company in hiring an applicant driver and the requirements to be
submitted by the applicant. An applicant for a driver of MMTC as what had
been done to the accused before he was admitted as company driver of
MMTC must pass an interview, seminars, written examination, actual driving
test, psycho-physical test, road test, line familiarization test, defensive driving
seminar, drivers familiarization seminar, and traffic rules and environment
seminar. Documents they required to be submitted by an applicant driver
were NBI Clearance, Residence Certificate, Professional Drivers License,
and Official Receipts of payment of required fees for drivers license (Exhs. 1
to 15).
The internal control relative to the supervision of their drivers was explained
by witness Nenita Amado, a transport supervisor of MMTC. She supervises
and gives instructions and recommendations on bus rules and regulations to
their drivers. They have ten (10) comptrollers, thirty-six (36) dispatchers,
seven (7) field supervisors, sixty (60) inspectors and four (4) service
wreckers who helped in the supervision of the drivers and conductors of
MMTC. They have centralized radio that monitor the activities of their drivers
during their travel. Her instructions to the drivers were to avoid accident,
obey traffic rules and regulations and to be courteous to passengers.[7]
On 5 February 1993, the trial court rendered its Decision with the
following dispositive portion:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Court finds accused Olimpio Pangonorom
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of reckless imprudence resulting
in multiple slight physical injuries and sentences him to suffer an
imprisonment of thirty (30) days of arresto menor, to indemnify the offended
parties of the damages incurred by their Isuzu Gemini car in the sum
of P42,600.00 and to reimburse the medical expenses of Carlos R. Berba in
the sum of P182.50, Amelia Berba in the sum of P217.50 and Mary Berba in
the sum of P45.00.
SO ORDERED.[8]
Petitioners appealed the trial courts decision to the Court of Appeals.[9]
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals ruled that the finding that Olimpio drove the
passenger bus in a negligent manner, considering the circumstances of
weather and road condition, is a finding of fact of the trial court that is entitled
to respect. The Court of Appeals stated that it is a settled rule that factual
findings of trial courts are accorded great respect unless it can be shown that
they overlooked some circumstances of substance which, if considered, will
probably alter the result. The Court of Appeals held that no such
circumstance was overlooked in this case.
The Court of Appeals ruled that even if it were true, as Olimpio claimed,
that the car Carlos Berba (Carlos) was then driving occupied Olimpios lane
while the car was 20 meters away, it is a safe distance for a vehicle to switch
lanes. The Court of Appeals held that if only Olimpio did not drive very fast
and considered that the street was downgrade and slippery, he could have
easily avoided the accident by applying his brakes.
The Court of Appeals also ruled that the testimonies of Edward Campos
(Edward) and Enrico Bantigue, who were passengers of the MMTC bus,
are worthy of credence. The Court of Appeals stated that they are neutral
witnesses who had no motive to testify against Olimpio. They testified that:
(1) the MMTC bus was running at 70-80 kilometers per hour; (2) the bus
swerved to the right to avoid hitting a van stranded at the left side of the
island; and (3) in the process, the bus hit and bumped the Gemini car ahead
of it. Edward further testified that Olimpio earlier overtook another bus.
Edward stated that it was for this reason that the MMTC bus went into the
lane where the stalled van was located. The Court of Appeals held that the
MMTC bus was the one switching lanes.
The dispositive portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals reads:
WHEREFORE, the judgment herein appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in
toto.
SO ORDERED.[10]
On 28 December 1999, petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a
motion for reconsideration of the assailed decision. Petitioners asserted that
the Court of Appeals erred in finding Olimpio negligent in driving the subject
bus. Petitioners also asserted that Carlos was the one switching lanes and
was therefore the one negligent in driving his car. Petitioners stated that the
Court of Appeals erred in not holding that the MMTC was not subsidiarily
liable for Olimpios civil liability in the instant case. Petitioners stated that the
testimonies of witnesses Milagros Garbo and Nenita Amado, as well as
Exhibits 1 to 15, proved that the MMTC exercised due diligence in the
selection and supervision of its drivers.[11]
On 5 May 2000, the Court of Appeals issued a Resolution[12] denying
the motion for reconsideration. With the assailed decision having amply
discussed, considered and ruled upon the issues that petitioners raised in
their motion for reconsideration, the Court of Appeals held that there was no
cogent reason for it to reverse the assailed decision. The Court of Appeals
also held that the MMTC was already estopped in assailing the trial courts
decision considering that the MMTC never appealed the decision within the
reglementary period.
The Issues
Petitioners have presented the following for our consideration:
1. The Court of Appeals gravely abused its discretion in sustaining
the trial courts findings of facts instead of considering certain
facts and circumstance raised by petitioners that properly cast
an element of reasonable doubt.
2. Whether Estoppel applies to MMTC.[13]
The Ruling of the Court
The petition is without merit.
In criminal cases, an appeal throws the entire case wide open for review
and the reviewing tribunal can correct errors, though unassigned in the
appealed judgment, or even reverse the trial courts decision based on
grounds other than those that the parties raised as errors.[14]
Petitioners fault the Court of Appeals for having sustained the trial
courts findings of fact. Petitioners assert that the Court of Appeals failed to
consider certain circumstances that would warrant a reversal of the factual
findings of the trial court.
Petitioners claim that Carlos negligence in switching lanes to avoid
hitting a stranded van caused the collision. Petitioners assert that Carlos
was negligent because he transferred to the lane where Olimpio was then
driving along without first blinking his signal light and with his car only 20
meters away from the bus. This being so, petitioners assert that they should
not be held responsible for Carlos negligence.
Petitioners assertions have no merit. The issue of whether a person is
negligent is a question of fact.[15] Findings of fact of the Court of Appeals,
when they affirm the findings of fact of the trial court, are binding on this
Court, unless the findings of the trial and appellate courts are palpably
unsupported by the evidence on record or unless the judgment itself is based
on misapprehension of facts.[16] We hold that the Court of Appeals committed
no reversible error in upholding the factual findings of the trial court.
Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code states that reckless imprudence
consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from
which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution
on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into
consideration (1) his employment or occupation; (2) his degree of
intelligence; (3) his physical condition; and (4) other circumstances regarding
persons, time and place.
Olimpio is a professional driver who has been in the employ of the
MMTC since 1984.[17] As a public utility driver, Olimpio should have as his
primary concern the safety not only of himself or of his passengers, but, also
the safety of his fellow motorists. Considering that it had just rained, it was
still drizzling and the road was slippery when the subject incident took place,
[18] Olimpio should have been more cautious and prudent in driving his
passenger bus.
Based on Olimpios testimonial admission, he was driving at 70
kilometers per hour. He testified he was familiar with the road.[19]Therefore,
he ought to have known the downhill slope coming from the Nepa-Q Mart.
[20] As the bus was moving downhill, Olimpio should have slowed down since
a downhill drive would naturally cause his vehicle to accelerate. However,
instead of slowing down, Olimpio admitted he was running very fast. Thus,
Olimpio testified:
Atty. ANTONIO:
Q It was nighttime Mr. Witness, will you tell us whether you
were able to see this vehicle you were following?
A Yes, sir.
Q Will you tell us how did you notice this vehicle?
A Because I saw its tail light, sir.
Q Before this vehicle you were following reached the place
where this stalled vehicle was, do you know where was this
vehicle proceeded?
FISCAL:
I think he is incompetent, Your Honor.
COURT:
Sustained.
Atty. ANTONIO:
Q Before your vehicle reached the place where this stalled
vehicle was, what did you notice if any?
A I noticed that the vehicle I was following Isuzu Gemini before
reaching the stalled vehicle suddenly swerved to the right
and I was already approaching, sir.
Q Before this Isuzu Gemini car you were following suddenly
swerved to the right, how far were you?
A About twenty (20) meters, sir. It suddenly swerved to the right
and I was running very fast because it was downward.
Q And when you noticed this Isuzu Gemini suddenly swerved to
the right, what if any did you do?
A I blew my horn and stepped on my brakes, sir. Considering
that it was raining and slippery I cannot control.
Q And after your were not able to control your vehicle despite
the precaution you made, what happened?
A I bumped him, sir.[21] (Emphasis supplied)
The only conclusion that we can draw from the factual circumstances is
that Olimpio was negligent. He was hurrying to his destination and driving
faster than he should have. The fact that after Olimpio stepped on the brake,
the bus still traveled a distance of 20 meters before it finally stopped, and the
car, after it was hit, was thrown 10 to 15 meters away,[22] only prove that
Olimpios bus was running very fast.
Olimpios claim that Carlos suddenly transferred to his lane to avoid
hitting a van stranded at the left side of the island could hardly carry the day
for him. Olimpio says that the distance between the car and the bus before
the car allegedly swerved to the bus lane was 20 meters. Therefore, at that
point, Olimpio still had the opportunity to avoid the collision by slowing down
or by stepping on the brake. However, what Olimpio did was to continue
running very fast.
Another telling proof of Olimpios negligence is the testimony of Edward,
a passenger of the MMTC bus who was seated at the right front seat nearest
to the door of the bus.[23] Edward recounted the incident, thus:
Q You said that there was a van parked which the Metro
Manila Transit tried to avoid. Where was that van parked?
A It was stranded above the middle island of the road, sir.
COURT:
Q When you said of the road you are referring to EDSA?
A Yes, Your Honor.
FISCAL:
Q So when it swerved to avoid hitting the parked van, what happened?
A It was too late, sir, when he noticed that there was a car
slowly cruising EDSA so when he swerved he was very
fast so it was too late to avoid the car. He just braked, the
road was slippery so he could not swerve because the bus
might turn over.
x x x
Q Mr. Witness, did you notice this stalled vehicle before you
reached the place where it was stalled?
A No, sir.
Q Even when the lights of the Metro Manila Transit were on,
you did not notice it?
A Actually, sir, he was overtaking another bus so thats why
he did not notice this stalled van.
Q Who was overtaking another bus?
A MMTC bus, sir, because it stopped at the MMC office near
Timog and then it overtook another moving bus. He went to
the left side overtaking that bus.
x x x
Atty. ANTONIO:
Q Are you a driver?
A Yes, sir.
Q And if circumstances similar to that incident that happened, it
would be prudent for you to swerve also, is it not?
A At that condition, sir, Id rather brake than swerve, it is slippery.
Q Mr. Witness, will you tell how far was this MMTC bus when it
swerved in relation to the place where the stalled vehicle
was?
A I guess, sir, it was a few seconds before too late because
when it swerved the bus was already tilting, so it is a
matter of seconds.
Atty. ANTONIO:
Q It was a matter of seconds?
A Yes, sir.
Q So if you were in this position stopping would not be sufficient
precautionary measure, was it not?
A Before that, sir, he overtook that bus so if he did not
overtake that bus he would have seen the parked van.
Being a driver myself the way he overtook was
dangerous, it was so close that you could not see the
other lane.
x x x
Q Will you please explain Mr. Witness, how this MMTC bus hit
the car when you claimed that the car was running ahead of
the bus?
A There was this stalled van and there was this bus, now this
was the Gemini car, this slowed down to avoid also the stalled
van, it swerved so the bus was here running very fast and
then noticed the van so it swerved also and the Gemini here
was of course slowed down to avoid that van, the bus was
still running fast then after swerving it was too late for him to
notice that there was this car running slowly by the bus, he
stepped on the brake.
Q Do you mean to say Mr. Witness, that both the Isuzu vehicle
and the MMTC bus were running on the same course?
A Yes, sir.[24] (Emphasis supplied).
Edwards declarations that the bus was running very fast and that
Olimpio did not see the stranded van because he earlier overtook another
bus are clear and categorical. There is no evidence of any ill or improper
motive on Edwards part that would discredit his testimony. He was not in
any way related to the complainants. Neither was the defense able to show
that some form of consideration induced Edward to testify for the
prosecution. The defense did not even try to rebut Edwards testimony.
When there is nothing to indicate that a witness was actuated by
improper motives, his positive and categorical declarations on the witness
stand under solemn oath deserve full faith and credit.[25]
Petitioners likewise fault the Court of Appeals for having ruled that the
MMTC is already estopped from assailing the trial courts decision
considering that the MMTC never appealed the same within the
reglementary period.
We have carefully gone over the records of this case and found that
when petitioners filed their Notice of Appeal with the trial court on 8 March
1993, the MMTC already appealed the civil aspect of this case. We quote
petitioners Notice of Appeal:
The ACCUSED and his employer, Metro Manila Transit Corporation, by their
undersigned counsel, unto this Honorable Court, most respectfully give
notice that they are appealing, as they hereby appeal, the Decision dated
February 5, 1993, which was received on February 23, 1993, to the Court of
Appeals on the ground that the Decision is contrary to the facts, law and
settled jurisprudence.
Metro Manila Transit Corporation likewise interposes an appeal with respect
to the civil aspect of this case because of its subsidiary liability as employer
of the accused under the Revised Penal Code.[26]
It is therefore not correct for the Court of Appeals to state in its
Resolution[27] dated 5 May 2000 that the MMTC failed to appeal seasonably
the issue of its alleged non-subsidiary liability[28] as Olimpios employer.
However, due diligence in the selection and supervision of employees is
not a defense in the present case. The law involved in the present case is
Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Articles 100[29] and
102[30] of the same Code, which reads thus:
Art. 103. Subsidiary civil liability of other persons. The subsidiary liability
established in the next preceding article shall also apply to employers,
teachers, persons, and corporations engaged in any kind of industry for
felonies committed by their servants, pupils, workmen, apprentices, or
employees in the discharge of their duties.
Pursuant to Article 103, an employer may be subsidiarily liable for the
employees civil liability in a criminal action when there is adequate evidence
establishing (1) that he is indeed the employer of the convicted employee; (2)
that he is engaged in some kind of industry; (3) that the employee committed
the offense in the discharge of his duties; and (4) that the execution against
the employee has not been satisfied due to insolvency.[31]
The provisions of the Revised Penal Code on subsidiary liability
Articles 102 and 103 are deemed written into the judgments in cases to
which they are applicable. Thus, in the dispositive portion of its decision, the
trial court need not expressly pronounce the subsidiary liability of the
employer.[32]
The subsidiary liability of the employer arises only after conviction of the
employee in the criminal action.[33] In the present case, there exists an
employer-employee relationship between petitioners, the MMTC is engaged
in the transportation industry,[34] and Olimpio has been adjudged guilty of a
wrongful act and found to have committed the offense in the discharge of his
duties.[35] However, there is no proof here of Olimpios insolvency. The
judgment of conviction against Olimpio has not attained finality. This being
so, no writ of execution can issue against him to satisfy his civil liability. Only
after proof of the accused-employees insolvency may the subsidiary liability
of his employer be enforced.[36]
In short, there is as yet no occasion to speak of enforcing the
employers subsidiary civil liability unless it appears that the accused-
employees primary liability cannot in the first instance be satisfied because
of insolvency. This fact cannot be known until some time after the verdict of
conviction shall have become final. And even if it appears prima facie that
execution against the employee cannot be satisfied, execution against the
employer will not issue as a matter of course.[37] The procedure for the
enforcement of a judgment will have to be followed. Once the judgment of
conviction against Olimpio becomes final and executory, and after the writ of
execution issued against him is returned unsatisfied because of his
insolvency, only then can a subsidiary writ of execution be issued against the
MMTC after a hearing set for that precise purpose. It is still too early to hold
the MMTC subsidiarily liable with its accused-employee considering that
there is no proof yet of Olimpios insolvency.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the instant petition. The Decision dated 29
November 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 14764 finding
petitioner Olimpio Pangonorom GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of reckless
imprudence resulting in multiple slight physical injuries, as well as its
Resolution dated 5 May 2000 denying the motion for reconsideration, are
AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.






FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 154130 October 1, 2003
BENITO ASTORGA, petitioner, vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking the
reversal of a Decision of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 24986,
dated July 5, 2001,1 as well as its Resolutions dated September 28, 2001
and July 10, 2002.
On October 28, 1998, the Office of the Ombudsman filed the following
Information against Benito Astorga, Mayor of Daram, Samar, as well as a
number of his men for Arbitrary Detention:
That on or about the 1st day of September, 1997, and for sometime
subsequent thereto, at the Municipality of Daram, Province of Samar,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, a public officer, being the Municipal Mayor of Daram,
Samar, in such capacity and committing the offense in relation to office,
conniving, confederating and mutually helping with unidentified persons, who
are herein referred to under fictitious names JOHN DOES, who were armed
with firearms of different calibers, with deliberate intent, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously detain Elpidio Simon, Moises dela Cruz,
Wenifredo Maniscan, Renato Militante and Crisanto Pelias, DENR
Employees, at the Municipality of Daram, by not allowing them to leave the
place, without any legal and valid grounds thereby restraining and depriving
them of their personal liberty for nine (9) hours, but without exceeding three
(3) days.
CONTRARY TO LAW.2
On September 1, 1997, Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Office No. 8,
Tacloban City sent a team to the island of Daram, Western Samar to conduct
intelligence gathering and forest protection operations in line with the
governments campaign against illegal logging. The team was composed of
Forester II Moises dela Cruz, Scaler Wenifredo Maniscan, Forest Ranger
Renato Militante, and Tree Marker Crisanto Pelias, with Elpidio E. Simon,
Chief of the Forest Protection and Law Enforcement Section, as team leader.
The team was escorted by SPO3 Andres B. Cinco, Jr. and SPO1 Rufo
Capoquian.3
The team stopped at Brgy. Bagacay, Daram, Western Samar at 2:00 p.m.,
where they saw two yacht-like boats being constructed. After consulting with
the local barangay officials, the team learned that the boats belonged to a
certain Michael Figueroa. However, since Figueroa was not around at the
time, the team left Brgy. Bagacay.4
En route to Brgy. Manungca, Sta. Rita, Samar, the team spotted two more
boats being constructed in the vicinity of Brgy. Lucob-Lucob, Daram, Samar,
between 4:30-5:00 p.m., prompting them to stop and investigate. Thus,
Maniscan and Militante disembarked from the DENRs service pump boat
and proceeded to the site of the boat construction. There, they met Mayor
Astorga. After conversing with the mayor, Militante returned to their boat for
the purpose of fetching Simon, at the request of Mayor Astorga.5
When Simon, accompanied by dela Cruz, SPO3 Cinco, and SPO1
Capoquian, approached Mayor Astorga to try and explain the purpose of their
mission, Simon was suddenly slapped hard twice on the shoulder by Mayor
Astorga, who exclaimed, "Puwede ko kamo papaglanguyon pag-uli ha
Tacloban. Ano, di ka maaram nga natupa ako? Natupa baya ako. Diri kamo
makauli yana kay puwede kame e charge ha misencounter." (I can make you
swim back to Tacloban. Dont you know that I can box? I can box. Dont you
know that I can declare this a misencounter?)6 Mayor Astorga then ordered
someone to fetch "reinforcements," and forty-five (45) minutes later, or
between 5:00-6:00 p.m., a banca arrived bearing ten (10) men, some of them
dressed in fatigue uniforms. The men were armed with M-16 and M14 rifles,
and they promptly surrounded the team, guns pointed at the team members.
7 At this, Simon tried to explain to Astorga the purpose of his teams mission.
8 He then took out his handheld ICOM radio, saying that he was going to
contact his people at the DENR in Catbalogan to inform them of the teams
whereabouts. Suddenly, Mayor Astorga forcibly grabbed Simons radio,
saying, "Maupay nga waray kamo radio bis diri somabut an iyo opisina kon
hain kamo, bis diri kamo maka aro hin bulig." (Its better if you have no radio
so that your office would not know your whereabouts and so that you cannot
ask for help).9 Mayor Astorga again slapped the right shoulder of Simon,
adding, "Kong siga kamo ha Leyte ayaw pagdad-a dinhi ha Samar kay diri
kamo puwede ha akon." (If you are tough guys in Leyte, do not bring it to
Samar because I will not tolerate it here.)10 Simon then asked Mayor
Astorga to allow the team to go home, at which Mayor Astorga retorted that
they would not be allowed to go home and that they would instead be
brought to Daram.11 Mayor Astorga then addressed the team, saying, "Kon
magdakop man la kamo, unahon an mga dagko. Kon madakop niyo an mga
dagko, an kan Figueroa dida ha Bagacay puwede ko liwat ipadakop an
akon." (If you really want to confiscate anything, you start with the big-time. If
you confiscate the boats of Figueroa at Brgy. Bagacay, I will surrender
mine.)12 Simon then tried to reiterate his request for permission to leave,
which just succeeded in irking Mayor Astorga, who angrily said, "Diri kamo
maka uli yana kay dad on ko kamo ha Daram, para didto kita mag uro
istorya." (You cannot go home now because I will bring you to Daram. We will
have many things to discuss there.)13
The team was brought to a house where they were told that they would be
served dinner. The team had dinner with Mayor Astorga and several others at
a long table, and the meal lasted between 7:00-8:00 p.m.14 After dinner,
Militante, Maniscan and SPO1 Capoquian were allowed to go down from the
house, but not to leave the barangay.15 On the other hand, SPO3 Cinco and
the rest just sat in the house until 2:00 a.m. when the team was finally
allowed to leave.161awphi1.nt
Complainants filed a criminal complaint for arbitrary detention against Mayor
Astorga and his men, which led to the filing of the above-quoted Information.
Mayor Astorga was subsequently arraigned on July 3, 2000, wherein he
pleaded not guilty to the offenses charged.17 At the trial, the prosecution
presented the testimonies of SPO1 Capoquian and SPO3 Cinco, as well as
their Joint Affidavit.18 However, the presentation of Simons testimony was
not completed, and none of his fellow team members came forward to testify.
Instead, the members of the team sent by the DENR RSOG executed a Joint
Affidavit of Desistance.19
On July 5, 2001, the Sandiganbayan promulgated its Decision, disposing of
the case as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding
accused BENITO ASTORGA Y BOCATCAT guilty of Arbitrary Detention, and
in the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances, applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment
of four (4) months of arresto mayor as minimum to one (1) year and eight (8)
months of prision correctional as maximum.
SO ORDERED.20
The accused filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated July 11, 200121 which
was denied by the Sandiganabayan in a Resolution dated September 28,
2001.22 A Second Motion for Reconsideration dated October 24, 200123was
also filed, and this was similarly denied in a Resolution dated July 10, 2002.24
Hence, the present petition, wherein the petitioner assigns a sole error for
review:
5.1. The trial court grievously erred in finding the accused guilty of Arbitrary
Detention as defined and penalized under Article 124 of the Revised Penal
Code, based on mere speculations, surmises and conjectures and, worse,
notwithstanding the Affidavit of Desistance executed by the five (5)
complaining witnesses wherein the latter categorically declared petitioners
innocence of the crime charged.25
Petitioner contends that the prosecution failed to establish the required
quantum of evidence to prove the guilt of the accused,26 especially in light of
the fact that the private complainants executed a Joint Affidavit of
Desistance.27 Petitioner asserts that nowhere in the records of the case is
there any competent evidence that could sufficiently establish the fact that
restraint was employed upon the persons of the team members.
28Furthermore, he claims that the mere presence of armed men at the scene
does not qualify as competent evidence to prove that fear was in fact instilled
in the minds of the team members, to the extent that they would feel
compelled to stay in Brgy. Lucob-Lucob.29
Arbitrary Detention is committed by any public officer or employee who,
without legal grounds, detains a person.30The elements of the crime are:
1. That the offender is a public officer or employee.
2. That he detains a person.
3. That the detention is without legal grounds.31
That petitioner, at the time he committed the acts assailed herein, was then
Mayor of Daram, Samar is not disputed. Hence, the first element of Arbitrary
Detention, that the offender is a public officer or employee, is undeniably
present.
Also, the records are bereft of any allegation on the part of petitioner that his
acts were spurred by some legal purpose. On the contrary, he admitted that
his acts were motivated by his "instinct for self-preservation" and the feeling
that he was being "singled out."32 The detention was thus without legal
grounds, thereby satisfying the third element enumerated above.
What remains is the determination of whether or not the team was actually
detained.
In the case of People v. Acosta,33 which involved the illegal detention of a
child, we found the accused-appellant therein guilty of kidnapping despite the
lack of evidence to show that any physical restraint was employed upon the
victim. However, because the victim was a boy of tender age and he was
warned not to leave until his godmother, the accused-appellant, had
returned, he was practically a captive in the sense that he could not leave
because of his fear to violate such instruction.34
In the case of People v. Cortez,35 we held that, in establishing the intent to
deprive the victim of his liberty, it is not necessary that the offended party be
kept within an enclosure to restrict her freedom of locomotion. At the time of
her rescue, the offended party in said case was found outside talking to the
owner of the house where she had been taken. She explained that she did
not attempt to leave the premises for fear that the kidnappers would make
good their threats to kill her should she do so. We ruled therein that her fear
was not baseless as the kidnappers knew where she resided and they had
earlier announced that their intention in looking for her cousin was to kill him
on sight. Thus, we concluded that fear has been known to render people
immobile and that appeals to the fears of an individual, such as by threats to
kill or similar threats, are equivalent to the use of actual force or violence.36
The prevailing jurisprudence on kidnapping and illegal detention is that the
curtailment of the victims liberty need not involve any physical restraint upon
the victims person. If the acts and actuations of the accused can produce
such fear in the mind of the victim sufficient to paralyze the latter, to the
extent that the victim is compelled to limit his own actions and movements in
accordance with the wishes of the accused, then the victim is, for all intents
and purposes, detained against his will.
In the case at bar, the restraint resulting from fear is evident. Inspite of their
pleas, the witnesses and the complainants were not allowed by petitioner to
go home.37 This refusal was quickly followed by the call for and arrival of
almost a dozen "reinforcements," all armed with military-issue rifles, who
proceeded to encircle the team, weapons pointed at the complainants and
the witnesses.38 Given such circumstances, we give credence to SPO1
Capoquians statement that it was not "safe" to refuse Mayor Astorgas
orders.39 It was not just the presence of the armed men, but also the evident
effect these gunmen had on the actions of the team which proves that fear
was indeed instilled in the minds of the team members, to the extent that
they felt compelled to stay in Brgy. Lucob-Lucob. The intent to prevent the
departure of the complainants and witnesses against their will is thus clear.
Regarding the Joint Affidavit of Desistance executed by the private
complainants, suffice it to say that the principles governing the use of such
instruments in the adjudication of other crimes can be applied here. Thus, in
People v. Ballabare, it was held that an affidavit of desistance is merely an
additional ground to buttress the defenses of the accused, not the sole
consideration that can result in acquittal. There must be other circumstances
which, when coupled with the retraction or desistance, create doubts as to
the truth of the testimony given by the witnesses at the trial and accepted by
the judge. Here, there are no such circumstances.40 Indeed, the belated
claims made in the Joint Affidavit of Desistance, such as the allegations that
the incident was the result of a misunderstanding and that the team acceded
to Mayor Astorgas orders "out of respect," are belied by petitioners own
admissions to the contrary.41 The Joint Affidavit of Desistance of the private
complainants is evidently not a clear repudiation of the material points
alleged in the information and proven at the trial, but a mere expression of
the lack of interest of private complainants to pursue the case.
1awphi1.nt This conclusion is supported by one of its latter paragraphs,
which reads:
11. That this affidavit was executed by us if only to prove our sincerity and
improving DENR relations with the local Chiefs Executive and other official of
Daram, Islands so that DENR programs and project can be effectively
implemented through the support of the local officials for the betterment of
the residence living conditions who are facing difficulties and are much
dependent on government support.42
Petitioner also assails the weight given by the trial court to the evidence,
pointing out that the Sandiganbayans reliance on the testimony of SPO1
Capoquian is misplaced, for the reason that SPO1 Capoquian is not one of
the private complainants in the case.43 He also makes much of the fact that
prosecution witness SPO1 Capoquian was allegedly "not exactly privy to,
and knowledgeable of, what exactly transpired between herein accused and
the DENR team leader Mr. Elpidio E. Simon, from their alleged
confrontation, until they left Barangay Lucob-Lucob in the early morning of 2
September 1997."44
It is a time-honored doctrine that the trial courts factual findings are
conclusive and binding upon appellate courts unless some facts or
circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked,
misapprehended or misinterpreted.45 Nothing in the case at bar prompts us
to deviate from this doctrine. Indeed, the fact that SPO1 Capoquian is not
one of the private complainants is completely irrelevant. Neither penal law
nor the rules of evidence requires damning testimony to be exclusively
supplied by the private complainants in cases of Arbitrary Detention.
Furthermore, Mayor Astorgas claim that SPO1 Capoquian was "not exactly
privy" to what transpired between Simon and himself is belied by the
evidence. SPO1 Capoquian testified that he accompanied Simon when the
latter went to talk to petitioner.46 He heard all of Mayor Astorgas threatening
remarks.47 He was with Simon when they were encircled by the men dressed
in fatigues and wielding M-16 and M-14 rifles.48 In sum, SPO1 Capoquian
witnessed all the circumstances which led to the Arbitrary Detention of the
team at the hands of Mayor Astorga.
Petitioner submits that it is unclear whether the team was in fact prevented
from leaving Brgy. Lucob-Lucob or whether they had simply decided to "while
away the time" and take advantage of the purported hospitality of the
accused.49 On the contrary, SPO3 Cinco clearly and categorically denied that
they were simply "whiling away the time" between their dinner with Mayor
Astorga and their departure early the following morning.50 SPO1 Capoquian
gave similar testimony, saying that they did not use the time between their
dinner with Mayor Astorga and their departure early the following morning to
"enjoy the place" and that, given a choice, they would have gone home.51
Petitioner argues that he was denied the "cold neutrality of an impartial
judge", because the ponente of the assailed decision acted both as
magistrate and advocate when he propounded "very extensive clarificatory
questions" on the witnesses. Surely, the Sandiganbayan, as a trial court, is
not an idle arbiter during a trial. It can propound clarificatory questions to
witnesses in order to ferret out the truth. The impartiality of the court cannot
be assailed on the ground that clarificatory questions were asked during the
trial.52
Thus, we affirm the judgment of the Sandiganbayan finding petitioner guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of Arbitrary Detention. Article 124 (1) of the
Revised Penal Code provides that, where the detention has not exceeded
three days, the penalty shall be arresto mayor in its maximum period to
prision correccional in its minimum period, which has a range of four (4)
months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months. Applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, petitioner is entitled to a minimum term to be
taken from the penalty next lower in degree, or arresto mayor in its minimum
and medium periods, which has a range of one (1) month and one (1) day to
four (4) months. Hence, the Sandiganbayan was correct in imposing the
indeterminate penalty of four (4) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to
one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional, as maximum.
Before closing, it may not be amiss to quote the words of Justice Perfecto in
his concurring opinion in Lino v. Fugoso, wherein he decried the impunity
enjoyed by public officials in committing arbitrary or illegal detention, and
called for the intensification of efforts towards bringing them to justice:
The provisions of law punishing arbitrary or illegal detention committed by
government officers form part of our statute books even before the advent of
American sovereignty in our country. Those provisions were already in effect
during the Spanish regime; they remained in effect under American rule;
continued in effect under the Commonwealth. Even under the Japanese
regime they were not repealed. The same provisions continue in the statute
books of the free and sovereign Republic of the Philippines. This
notwithstanding, and the complaints often heard of violations of said
provisions, it is very seldom that prosecutions under them have been
instituted due to the fact that the erring individuals happened to belong to the
same government to which the prosecuting officers belong. It is high time that
every one must do his duty, without fear or favor, and that prosecuting
officers should not answer with cold shrugging of the shoulders the
complaints of the victims of arbitrary or illegal detention.
Only by an earnest enforcement of the provisions of articles 124 and 125 of
the Revised Penal Code will it be possible to reduce to its minimum such
wanton trampling of personal freedom as depicted in this case. The
responsible officials should be prosecuted, without prejudice to the detainees
right to the indemnity to which they may be entitled for the unjustified
violation of their fundamental rights.53
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is hereby DENIED. The
Decision of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 24986, dated July 5,
2001 finding petitioner BENITO ASTORGA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of Arbitrary Detention and sentencing him to suffer the
indeterminate penalty of four (4) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to
one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional, as maximum, is
AFFIRMED in toto.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
EN BANC





[G.R. NO. 137182. April 24, 2003]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. ABDILA SILONGAN Y
LINANDANG, MACAPAGAL SILONGAN Y LINANDANG, AKMAD
AWAL Y LAGASI, TEDDY SILONGAN, ROLLY LAMALAN Y
SAMPOLNAK, SACARIA ALON Y PAMAALOY, JUMBRAH
MANAP Y BANTOLINAY, RAMON PASAWILAN Y EDO,
MAYANGKANG SAGUILE, HADJI KUTANG OMAR, BASCO
SILONGAN, MONGA ALON, OTENG SIILONGAN, BEDDO
LAXAMANA, and FIFTY-FOUR (54) OTHERS KNOWN ONLY BY
THEIR ALIASES, AND OTHER JOHN DOES, accused,
ABDILA SILONGAN Y LINANDANG, MACAPAGAL SILONGAN Y
LINANDANG, AKMAD AWAL Y LAGASI, ROLLY LAMALAN Y
SAMPOLNAK, SACARIA ALON Y PAMAALOY, JUMBRAH
MANAP Y BANTOLINAY, and RAMON PASAWILAN Y
EDO, appellants.
D E C I S I O N
PER CURIAM:
For automatic review is the decision[1] dated January 18, 1999, of the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 103, in Criminal Case No.
98-75208 convicting appellants Abdila Silongan, Macapagal Silongan, Akmad
Awal, Rolly Lamalan, Sacaria Alon, Jumbrah Manap, and Ramon Pasawilan
of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom with Serious Illegal Detention[2] and
sentencing them to suffer the penalty of death. The appellants were also
ordered to pay jointly and severally, Alexander Saldaa[3] and Americo
Rejuso, Jr., indemnification damages of P50,000 each and moral damages of
P100,000 and P50,000, respectively.
The amended information,[4] under which the appellants have been
tried and convicted, reads as follows:
That on or about 8:30 oclock in the evening of March 16, 1996, at Sitio
Kamangga, Barangay Laguilayan, Municipality of Isulan, Province of Sultan
Kudarat, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
said accused, in the company with other unidentified persons, conspiring,
confederating and mutually aiding one another, did then and there, willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously kidnap ALEXANDER SALDANA, AMERICO
REJUSO, JR., ERVIN TORMIS and VICTOR CINCO for the purpose of
demanding ransom in the amount of Twelve Million Pesos (P 12,000,000.00),
detaining and depriving Alexander Saldana of his personal liberty up to
September 24, 1996.
CONTRARY TO LAW....
xxx
Upon arraignment,[5] all the appellants pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Subsequently, this Court issued a Resolution[6] on December 9, 1997,
granting the request of the Secretary of Justice for a change of venue from
the RTC, Branch 19, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, to any of the special crimes
court of the RTC of Quezon City. The case was raffled to the RTC, Branch
103, Quezon City, and trial ensued.
The facts established by the prosecution are as follows:
On March 16, 1996, businessman Alexander Saldaa went to Barangay
Laguilayan, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat with Americo[7] Rejuso,[8] Jr., Ervin
Tormis, and Victor Cinco to meet with a certain Macapagal Silongan alias
Commander Lambada.[9] They arrived in the morning and were able to talk
to Macapagal concerning the gold nuggets that were purportedly being sold
by the latter.[10] During the meeting Macapagal told them that someone in
his family has just died and that he has to pick up an elder brother in
Cotabato City, hence, they had better transact business in the afternoon.[11]
In the afternoon, Alexanders group and Macapagal, with a certain
Teddy Silongan and another person named Oteng[12] Silongan, traveled to
Cotabato City to fetch Macapagals brother.[13] Afterwards, the group
returned to Isulan on Macapagals orders. At Isulan, Macapagal gave
additional instructions to wait until dark allegedly because the funeral
arrangements for his relative were not yet finished.[14] When the group
finally got on their way, Macapagal ordered the driver to drive slowly towards
the highway.[15] Oteng Silongan and his bodyguards alighted somewhere
along the way.
Then around 7:30 p.m., as they headed to the highway, Alexander
Saldaa noticed that Macapagal Silongan was busy talking over his hand-
held radio with someone. But because the conversation was in the
Maguindanaoan dialect, he did not understand what was being said. At 8:30
p.m., they neared the highway. Macapagal ordered the driver to stop.
Suddenly, 15 armed men appeared. Alexander and his three
companions were ordered to go out of the vehicle, tied up, and blindfolded.
Macapagal and Teddy were also tied up and blindfolded, but nothing more
was done to them.[16] Alexander identified the appellants Oteng Silongan,
Akmad Awal,[17] Abdila Silongan alias Long Silongan,[18] and Rolly
Lamalan as belonging to the group that abducted them.[19] He also pointed
to an elder brother of Macapagal, alias Keddy, alias Wet, and an alias Ngunib
as also belonging to the group.[20]
The four victims were taken to a mountain hideout in Maganoy,
Maguindanao, where a certain Salik Karem, Hadji Kutang Omar alias
Commander Palito, and Jumbrah Manap met them.[21] Initially, the three
demanded fifteen million pesos (P15,000,000) from Alexander Saldaa for
his release, but the amount was eventually reduced to twelve million pesos
after much haggling.[22] They made Alexander write a letter to his wife to
pay the ransom. The letter was hand-carried by a certain Armand Jafar, alias
Dante, and two of the victims, Ervin Tormis and Victor Cinco, who both later
managed to escape.[23] No ransom was obtained so Commander Palito and
Jumbrah Manap sent other persons and one of the victims, Americo Rejuso,
Jr., to renegotiate with Alexanders wife. No agreement was likewise reached.
Seven days later, Alexander Saldaa and Americo Rejuso, Jr., were
transferred to the town proper of Maganoy. Commander Palito, Jumbrah
Manap, Sacaria[24] Alon alias Jack Moro,[25] Ramon Pasawilan,
[26] guarded them. When the kidnappers learned that the military was
looking for Alexander, they returned to the mountain hideout and stayed there
for two weeks.[27]
At one time, Alexander Saldaa was made to stay at a river hideout
where a certain Commander Kugta held him and sheltered his abductors for
at least a week.[28] There, Alexander saw Macapagal Silongan with
Jumbrah Manap and other armed men. These men brought Alexander to
Talayan where he met Mayangkang Saguile. From Talayan, Mayangkang and
his men brought Alexander to Maitum, Kabuntalan, Maguindanao, where
Mayangkangs lair is located. Mayangkang made Alexander write more
letters[29] to the latters family. On several occasions, Mayangkang himself
would write letters[30] to Alexanders wife. Alexander personally was
detained in Kabuntalan for a total period of five (5) months and was kept
constantly guarded by armed men. Among his guards were the appellants
Macapagal Silongan, Abdila Silongan, Akmad Awal, and a certain Basco
Silongan.[31]
On September 24, 1996, Mayangkang released Alexander Saldaa to
the military in exchange for a relative who was caught delivering a ransom
note to Alexanders family. However, only eight of the accused were brought
to trial, namely, Abdila, Macapagal, and Teddy, all surnamed Silongan,
Akmad Awal, Rolly Lamalan, Sacaria Alon, Jumbrah Manap, and Ramon
Pasawilan.
The prosecution presented Alexander Saldana; his wife, Carmelita
Saldaa, and a certain Major Parallag who was responsible for Alexanders
release. Carmelita testified as to matters relayed to her by Americo Rejuso,
Jr., and identified the ransom notes sent to her. Major Parallag, for his part,
testified as to the operations undertaken by the military to effect the rescue of
Alexander.
In their defense, all the accused, except Macapagal and Teddy
Silongan, denied ever having met Alexander Saldaa and his three (3)
companions much less having kidnapped them.[32] Additionally, all eight of
the accused established that they came under the control of the government
military authorities when they surrendered as Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.[33] They claim
they voluntarily surrendered when a certain Perry Gonzales convinced them
that the government would grant them amnesty, pay for their guns, and give
them the items listed in their lists of demands.[34]
On the witness stand, appellant Macapagal Silongan admitted being
with Alexanders group in the van when they were waylaid. But he denies
involvement in the kidnapping.[35] In fact he said when Alexander Saldaa
saw him in the mountains, he was there specifically to beg Mayangkang
Saguile to release Alexander. He further claimed that he was also hogtied by
the armed men who blocked the van that evening of March 16, 1996. He
testified that he was separated from Teddy Silongan and did not know what
happened to Teddy.[36] He admitted knowing Alexander Saldaa for four
months prior to March 16, 1996 because the latter asked for his help in
locating a plane that crashed in the mountains.[37] According to him,
Alexander Saldaa hired him to act as a guide in treasure hunting. When
asked to give more information about the plane, Macapagal Silongan stated
that he saw it before he met Alexander, and that when he saw said plane it
had no more sidewalls. He added that many people have already seen the
plane and that vines and mosses have grown about the plane because it had
been quite some time since it crashed.[38]
Appellant Teddy Silongan, for his part, testified that his cousin
Macapagal Silongan contacted him so he could act as interpreter for
Macapagal because Alexander could not speak Maguindanaoan and
Macapagal does not understand any other language. He added that after the
van stopped, one of those who stopped the van opened its rear door and
then someone hit him with the butt of a gun rendering him unconscious.
When he regained consciousness he found himself hogtied like Macapagal
but could not find Alexanders group or the van.[39]
All eight of the accused, except Akmad Awal, admitted having signed
separate extra-judicial confessions[40] admitting to their complicity in the
kidnapping of Alexander Saldaa and his companions, but they asserted that
they did not understand what they were signing.[41] Additionally, they assert
that they did not know or hire Atty. Plaridel Bohol III, the lawyer who appears
to have assisted them in making their confessions.[42]
After trial, the RTC rendered judgment[43] on January 18, 1999, the
decretal portion of which reads as follows:
ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered finding the herein accused:
1. ABDILA SILONGAN y Linandang;
2. MACAPAGAL SILONGAN y Linandang;
3. AKMAD AWAL y Lagasi;
4. ROLLY LAMALAN y Sampolnak;
5. SACARIA ALON y Pamaaloy;
6. JUMBRAH MANAP y Bantolinay; and
7. RAMON PASAWILAN y Edo
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt, as principals, of the crime, herein
charged, of Kidnapping for Ransom as defined by law, and the said seven (7)
accused are hereby sentenced to DEATH as provided for in Article 267 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659.
On the civil aspect, the above-named seven (7) accused are hereby ordered
jointly and severally to pay Alexander Saldana the sum of Fifty Thousand
Pesos (P50,000.00) as indemnification damages and One Hundred
Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) as moral damages; and to pay Americo
Rejuso, Jr. the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as indemnification
damages and Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages.
The accused TEDDY SILONGAN is hereby ACQUITTED of the charge of
Kidnapping for Ransom filed in this case.
Cost against the accused, except Teddy Silongan.
SO ORDERED.
Hence, this automatic review.[44] The appellants in their brief allege that
the trial court committed the following errors:
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT PROSECUTION
EVIDENCE HAS ESTABLISHED THE GUILT OF ACCUSED BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT DESPITE MATERIAL INCONSISTENCIES IN THE
TESTIMONIES OF PROSECUTION WITNESSES;
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING CREDENCE TO THE
DEFENSE PUT UP BY ACCUSED WHICH ARE VALID, CREDIBLE AND IN
ACCORDANCE WITH HUMAN EXPERIENCES.[45]
Essentially, the issue before this Court is whether the guilt of the
appellants has been proven by credible evidence beyond reasonable doubt.
The appellants assert that the identification of the kidnappers of
Alexander Saldaa is gravely flawed. They contend that Alexander Saldaa
and Americo Rejuso,Jr., could not have positively identified Rolly Lamalan,
Akmad Awal, Sacaria Alon, and Abdila Silongan as their
abductors[46] because the incident happened at night in a place where there
was no electricity,[47] and more importantly, because both of them were
hogtied and blindfolded at the time.
Americo Rejuso, Jr., erroneously pointed to Akmad Awal when asked to
identify the accused Teddy Silongan. Neither did he know the names of
Jumbrah Manap and Ramon Pasawilan.[48] Alexander Saldaa, for his part,
testified that Mayangkang Saguile detained him for five months in
Kabuntalan,[49] but when asked in open court to point to Mayangkang
Saguile,[50] he pointed to someone who was not Mayangkang Saguile. The
appellants claim the real Mayangkang Saguile remains at large.
The appellants also point to inconsistencies in the testimony of
Alexander Saldaa who testified that Teddy and Macapagal Silongan were
among the 15 armed persons who stopped the vehicle and abducted the
group[51] after having earlier testified that the two were inside the van and
were unarmed.[52] Also, Alexander testified that they were abducted around
7:30 p.m. on March 16, 1996, but at pre-trial, the time of the abduction was
stipulated to be around 8:30 p.m. on the same date.[53]
The appellants further argue that the fact that they are rebel
surrenderees precludes conviction for the common crime of kidnapping.
[54] CitingPeople v. Hernandez,[55] they contend that common crimes are
absorbed in rebellion. Therefore, the trial court erred when it convicted them
of kidnapping for ransom.
Finally, appellants assert that some of them are illiterate and that the
trial court should have accordingly mitigated their liability.
At the outset, we hold that the trial court correctly ruled that the
extrajudicial statements of the appellants are inadmissible in evidence. The
assistance afforded by Atty. Plaridel Bohol is not the assistance contemplated
by the fundamental law. Atty. Bohol limited his assistance (f)or the purpose
of (the) written waiver as expressly stated by him in all confessions. It does
not appear that he was present and independently and competently
participated in all the investigation proceedings. All the accused, except
Teddy Silongan, are conversant only in the Maguindanaoan dialect and yet
the statements were written in almost perfect Filipino. There is no evidence
that the accused, prior to the taking of the supposed confessions, were made
aware of their right to be silent and to have independent and competent
counsel. Neither is there evidence that, as required by Rep. Act. No.
7438, [56]the statements were read to and explained to the accused by the
investigating officer.
This notwithstanding, we find there exist sufficient evidence on record to
sustain the conviction of the appellants.
The rule in evidence, which the Court has always applied, is that
positive identification prevails over the simple denial of the accused. Denial,
like alibi, is an insipid and weak defense, being easy to fabricate and difficult
to disprove. A positive identification of the accused, when categorical,
consistent and straightforward, and without any showing of ill motive on the
part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter, prevails over this defense.[57]
The conditions which purportedly created serious doubt on the ability of
prosecution witnesses Alexander Saldaa and Americo Rejuso, Jr., to identify
positively their abductors did not perdure throughout the duration of their
captivity. The records bear out that Alexander and Americo both had a
number of opportunities to see the faces of the appellants. They were
transferred from one lair to another without blindfolds and often in broad
daylight. These improved circumstances necessarily permitted both
Alexander and Americo to see the faces of the appellants. Moreover, it must
be remembered that Alexander was detained for six months. During this
period, Alexander saw them, ate with them, and actually lived with them.
Appellants Akmad Awal and Ramon Pasawilan have both acted as guards to
Alexander many times: Akmad in Kabuntalan[58] and Ramon in the mountain
hideout of Maganoy[59] as well as when Alexander was transferred to the
hideout in the town proper of Maganoy.[60] For their part, the appellants
Jumbrah Manap, Abdila Silongan, and Sacaria Alon guarded Alexander both
in the mountain hideout of Maganoy and in Kabuntalan.[61] These instances,
among many others, gave Alexander ample time to see and imprint their
faces in his memory. We likewise note that as borne by the records, the
kidnappers made little or no attempt to conceal their identities. In fact, they
even told Alexander their names when he asked for them.[62] The positive
identification Alexander and Americo made in open court[63] thus deserves
much weight. We have held in People v. Bacungay,[64] that it is the most
natural reaction for victims of crimes to strive to remember the faces of their
assailants and the manner in which they committed the crime.
That prosecution witness Americo Rejuso, Jr., does not know the names
of the abductors is not sufficient to cast doubt on his testimony. It is not
necessary that the name of an accused be specifically stated by a witness in
an affidavit or in his testimony. Victims of crimes cannot always identify their
assailants by name. It is imperative, however, that the attacker be pointed out
and unequivocally identified during the trial in court as the same person who
committed the crime.[65] We hold that this imperative requirement has been
met as to all appellants.
Moreover, not only are the testimonies of Alexander Saldaa and
Americo Rejuso, Jr., consistent in all material aspects, they are also replete
with precise details of the crime and the specific involvements of the different
accused therein. In more than one instance, Alexander has identified the
appellants to be his kidnappers. He has recounted both on the witness stand
as well as in his sworn statement the specific acts performed by the
appellants. The records of this case reflect that in more than one instance,
the appellants have acted together as guards to Alexander in Kabuntalan,
Maganoy, and while he was being transferred from one lair to another.
[66] There can be no question, therefore, that the appellants committed the
crime. Absent any showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or
misapplied any fact or circumstance of weight and influence which could
affect the outcome of the case, the factual findings and assessment of
credibility of a witness made by the trial court remain binding on the appellate
tribunal.[67]
The records are bereft of any evidence that Alexander Saldaa
entertained any particular or specific prejudice against the appellants
especially because there were 68 accused in this case. The trial court
correctly opined that it was quite strange that Alexander would point to the
appellants as the perpetrators of the crime if it were true that all of them,
except Macapagal and Teddy, do not know or have not even met Alexander.
Indeed, it was in Alexanders best interest to implicate only those people who
were responsible for abducting him. He has nothing to gain by implicating
and testifying against persons innocent of the crime. In People v. Garalde,
[68] this Court ruled that when there is no evidence to show any dubious
reason or improper motive why a prosecution witness would testify falsely
against an accused or falsely implicate him in a heinous crime, the testimony
is worthy of full faith and credit.
The essence of the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention as
defined and penalized in Article 267[69] of the Revised Penal Code is the
actual deprivation of the victims liberty coupled with proof beyond
reasonable doubt of an intent of the accused to effect the same. It is thus
essential that the following be established by the prosecution: (1) the
offender is a private individual; (2) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any
other manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) the act of detention or
kidnapping must be illegal; and (4) in the commission of the offense, any of
the four circumstances enumerated in Article 267 be present.[70] But if the
kidnapping was done for the purpose of extorting ransom, the fourth element
is no longer necessary.[71]
There is no mistaking the clear, overwhelming evidence that the
appellants abducted Alexander Saldaa and his companions at gunpoint and
deprived them of their freedom. That the appellants took shifts guarding the
victims until only Alexander was left to be guarded and in transferring
Alexander from one hideout to another to prevent him from being rescued by
the military establish that they acted in concert in executing their common
criminal design.
Macapagals participation is clearly evident from the records. Aside from
being one of Alexanders armed guards in Kabuntalan,[72] and having been
part of a party which brought Alexander from the river hideout of Commander
Kugta to Mayangkang Saguiles lair in Talayan,[73]indirect evidence also
support Macapagals participation in the criminal design. First, Macapagal
made several postponements of their trip on March 16, 1996 until it was
already 7:30 in the evening. His reason that someone in his family died is not
corroborated at all. Teddy, his cousin, never mentioned it, and his other
relative, co-accused Abdila Silongan, was reticent about it. In fact, nobody
told the trial court the name of the deceased relative. Secondly, Americo
testified that when they stopped over at Macapagals house, he heard the
wife of Macapagal utter the words kawawa naman sila as they were
leaving.[74] Thirdly, it was established that Macapagal ordered the driver to
proceed slowly towards the highway. During this time, he was busy talking on
his handheld radio with someone and the victims heard him say ok. When
they were near the highway, he ordered the driver to stop whereupon 15
armed men appeared and blocked their vehicle. Finally, while the 15 men
took away Alexander Saldaa and his three companions, nothing was done
to Macapagal or to Teddy Silongan. By their own admission, they were just
left behind after being hogtied. How they managed to escape was not
explained. All these taken together give rise to the reasonable inference that
Macapagal had concocted the funeral for a supposed recently deceased
relative purposely to afford his co-conspirators time to stage the kidnapping.
Then, also, it was through Macapagals indispensable contribution that the
armed men were able to stop the vehicle at a precise location near the
highway.
Likewise, the prosecution has established beyond reasonable doubt that
the kidnapping was committed for the purpose of extorting ransom from
Alexander, as to warrant the mandatory imposition of the death penalty. For
the crime to be committed, at least one overt act of demanding ransom must
be made. It is not necessary that there be actual payment of ransom
because what the law requires is merely the existence of the purpose of
demanding ransom. In this case, the records are replete with instances when
the kidnappers demanded ransom from the victim. At the mountain hideout in
Maganoy where Alexander was first taken, he was made to write a letter to
his wife asking her to pay the ransom of twelve million pesos. Among those
who demanded ransom were the appellants Ramon Pasawilan,[75] Sacaria
Alon,[76] and Jumbrah Manap.[77] Then, when Alexander was in the custody
of Mayangkang Saguile, not only was he made to write more letters to his
family, Mayangkang himself wrote ransom notes. In those letters,
Mayangkang even threatened to kill Alexander if the ransom was not paid.
As regards the argument that the crime was politically motivated and
that consequently, the charge should have been rebellion and not
kidnapping, we find the same likewise to be without merit. As held in Office
of the Provincial Prosecutor of Zamboanga Del Norte vs. CA,[78] the
political motivation for the crime must be shown in order to justify finding the
crime committed to be rebellion. Merely because it is alleged that appellants
were members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or of the Moro National
Liberation Front does not necessarily mean that the crime of kidnapping was
committed in furtherance of a rebellion. Here, the evidence adduced is
insufficient for a finding that the crime committed was politically motivated.
Neither have the appellants sufficiently proven their allegation that the
present case was filed against them because they are rebel surrenderees.
This court has invariably viewed the defense of frame-up with disfavor. Like
the defense of alibi, it can be just as easily concocted.
Finally, that appellants Jumbrah Manap, Abdila Silongan, Rolly Lamalan,
Sacaria Alon, and Macapagal Silongan are illiterate is not sufficient to lower
the penalty. Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code is specific. It states that
(i)n all cases in which the law prescribes a single indivisible penalty, it shall
be applied by the courts regardless of any mitigating or aggravating
circumstances that may have attended the commission of the deed. Hence,
while illiteracy is generally mitigating in all crimes, such circumstance, even if
present, cannot result in a reduction of the penalty in this case.
Considering that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the
abduction of Alexander Saldaa, Americo Rejuso, Jr., Ervin Tormis, and
Victor Cinco were for the purpose of extorting ransom, the trial court correctly
imposed the death penalty.
As already stated, the trial court ordered the appellants to pay, jointly
and severally, Alexander Saldaa and Americo Rejuso, Jr., indemnification
damages of P50,000 each and moral damages of P100,000 and P50,000,
respectively. However, to be entitled to actual damages, it is necessary to
prove the actual amount of loss with reasonable degree of certainty,
premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence available to the
injured party.[79] There is no evidence adduced before the trial court as to
actual damages suffered by either Alexander or Americo. Hence, we are
constrained to delete the award. This notwithstanding, under Article
2221[80] of the New Civil Code, nominal damages are adjudicated in order
that a right of the plaintiff, which has been violated by the defendant, may be
vindicated by him. Conformably, the Court rules that both Alexander and
Americo shall be awarded P50,000 each as nominal damages.[81]
We affirm the award of P100,000 to Alexander and P50,000 to Americo
as moral damages. The amount of moral anxiety suffered by the two victims
is in no wise the same. Undoubtedly, Alexanders family had undergone
greater distress in the uncertainty of seeing Alexander again.
Three Justices of the Court maintain their position that R.A. No. 7659 is
unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty; nevertheless, they
submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional, and that the
death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,
Branch 103, convicting the appellants ABDILA SILONGAN, MACAPAGAL
SILONGAN, AKMAD AWAL, ROLLY LAMALAN, SACARIA ALON, JUMBRAH
MANAP, and RAMON PASAWILAN of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom
with Serious Illegal Detention and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of
DEATH is AFFIRMED. Further, the appellants are ORDERED to pay, jointly
and severally, Alexander Saldaa and Americo Rejuso, Jr., nominal damages
of P50,000.00 each and moral damages of P100,000.00 and
P50,000.00, respectively.
In accordance with Section 25 of R.A. No. 7659 amending Article 83 of
the Revised Penal Code, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded,
upon finality of this decision, to the Office of the President for possible
exercise of the pardoning power.
SO ORDERED.