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People v. Espinoza (1993) Puno, J.

Petitioner: People of the Philippines


Respondents: Rogelio Espinoza y Ali, Victor Espinoza
y Ali and Julian Magbaril y Ombrador
Concept: Object Evidence
Brief Facts: Three accused were convicted of murder.
The conviction was based on the testimonies of
eyewitnesses attesting to seeing them hack the victim
to death together with the dying declaration of the
victim identifying the three accused as his assailants.
On appeal to the SC, they invoked several defenses
including the failure of the prosecution to present the
bolos used in the crime which allegedly weakened
the evidence against them. The SC affirmed their
conviction.
DOCTRINE: There was no showing that the "bolos"
were recovered from the scene of the crime. It is likely
that these "bolos" were disposed by the assailants to
conceal the instruments of the crime. But even without
the "bolos" as evidence, there can be no doubt that the
victim died due to hacking by means of "bolos" based
on the testimony of Lucresio. It cannot also be doubted
that the numerous wounds suffered by the victim were
due to hacking by means of sharp bladed instruments.

4.

5.

6.

(implied)
The failure to present the weapons used by the
accused in committing the crime does not suffice to
weaken the case of the prosecution. The crime can still
be proved by other means such as testimonies of
eyewitnesses and declarations of the victim on his
dying moment identifying his assailants.
FACTS:
1. Rogelio Espinoza, Victor Espinoza, and Julian
Magbaril were charged with and convicted of
MURDER by the RTC of Malaybalay, Bukidnon for
hacking to death a certain Renato Salvar.
2. According to witness LUCRECIO CRODA:

On August 30, 1988, at around 7:00 o'clock in


the evening, he was in the living room of his
house in Bukidnon, when he heard cries for
help.

As he went down the stairs, he saw the Rogelio


Espinoza, Victor Espinoza and Julian Magbaril
drag the victim away from the road towards his
house.

At a distance of approximately three fathoms


(units of six feet) from his house, he positively
recognized the victim as Renato Salvar.

He also witnessed Rogelio and Victor Espinoza


hack the victim several times with their long
bolos while Magbaril held back the victim who
was lying on his back.

Overcome with fear, he rushed back to his


house. He then assisted his wife who was in
near-faint after witnessing the incident.
3. According to witness CHARLITO GUEVARRA:

On the night of the incident, he was watching


the coronation ceremonies of the fiesta queen
at the barrio hall when he received information
from his brother, about a hacking incident.

He immediately went to the place and there


saw the victim Renato Salvar, seriously

7.
8.

wounded and lying on his back. He was able to


talk to the victim who was then still conscious
and coherent in speech.

When he asked the victim who was responsible


for hid condition, the victim answered They
betrayed me.

The victim identified the three accused as his


assailants
According to witness SIMPLICIO SALVAR:

He was able to talk to the victim in his dying


moment and the victim identified the three
accused as his assailants who allegedly
waylaid him.
Simplicio Salvar (brother of victim) together with
his father and other companions boarded Renato
Salvar in a truck to seek medical assistance in Don
Carlos. Two hours later, while they were on their
way to the hospital, the victim died. Upon noticing
this, they did not proceed to Don Carlos. Instead,
they returned to their house to bury the victim.
The three accused interposed the defense of alibi.

Victor and his brother Rogelio alleged that they


were in the house of Julian Magbaril earlier in
the evening where they took their supper at
approximately 7:30 in the evening. They left
Magbarils house around 8:30 pm to return to
their houses.

Julian Magbaril testified that he was in his


house on the night of the incident. He testified
that at around 7:30 pm. The other two accused
and another Basilio Deconlay were in his house
in connection with the payment of the fighting
cocks that the brother bought from Deconlay.
At around 8:30 pm, the two brothers left while
Deconloy stayed overnight.
The Appellate Court imposed the penalty of
Reclusion Perpetua.
The accused-appellants appealed, raising the
following errors:
a. The Trial Court and the CA erred in giving
credence to the testimony of the lone alleged
eyewitness (Croda)
b. The Trial Court and the CA erred in not acquitting
all the appellnts based on the ground that the
prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond
reasonable doubt.

ISSUE:
WON the conviction of the three accused is proper
(YES)
RATIO:
There is no cogent reason to reverse the ruling
of the appellate court.
- Eyewitness Lucresio Croda, positively identified the
three accused as the assailants. His house is at
least three (3) fathoms away from the scene of the
crime.
Moreover, during the hacking incident, the place
was illuminated by the moon.
- In People vs. Jacolo, the court held that: Where
conditions of visibility are favorable, and the
witness does not appear to be biased, his assertion
as to the identity of the malefactor should normally
be accepted. This is particularly true, in this case,

where the defense failed to impute any improper


motive on the part of Croda for testifying against
the appellants.
Rogelio Espinoza himself admitted that the
witnesses are his friends and that he could not
think of any reason why they testified against him.
Lucresio also testified in detail how the accused,
taking advantage of their superior strength, hacked
to death the victim using a long bolo.
The testimony of a witness, mentioning the details
of an incident that could not easily be concocted,
deserves credence for it indicates sincerity and
truthfulness in the narration of events. The credible
testimony of a lone witness can provide a rational
basis for conviction.
The trial court correctly gave great weight to the
testimony of Croda. The probability that he
committed a mistake as to the identity of the
appellants whom he had known for 6 years is nil.
The fight for truth is not necessarily won by the
party with the more numerous witnesses. It is the
quality and not the quantity of the witnesses that
counts in assessing their credence.
In an attempt to discredit Croda as witness, the
defense assert that: Lucresio did not volunteer as a
witness immediately after the crime was
discovered
SC: After witnessing the incident, Lucresio rushed
back to his house for fear of his life and opted to
attend to his wife who had just given birth. We take
judicial notice of the fact that people usually shy
away from any involvement in criminal cases due
to its inconvenience, if not the danger. Lucresio's
initial hesitation to report the crime due to the
shocking experience should not be counted against
his credibility.
[RELEVANT] Defense: The prosecution failed
to present the "bolos" which were used in the
commission of the crime. This weakened the
evidence against them.
SC: There was no showing that the "bolos"
were recovered from the scene of the crime.
It is likely that these "bolos" were disposed
by the assailants to conceal the instruments
of the crime. But even without the "bolos" as
evidence, there can be no doubt that the
victim died due to hacking by means of
"bolos" based on the testimony of Lucresio. It
cannot also be doubted that the numerous
wounds suffered by the victim were due to
hacking
by
means
of
sharp
bladed
instruments.
Their participation in the merciless killing is further
buttressed by the fact that before the victim died,
he disclosed to the witnesses the name of his
assailants. Utterances made immediately after a
startling occurrence and before the declarant had
an opportunity to fabricate a false statement can
be considered as part of the res gestae pursuant to
Sec 42 of the Revised Rules of Evidence 1.

1 Sec 42, Rule 130. Part of the Res GestaeStatements made


by a person while a startling occurrence is taking place or
immediately prior or subsequent thereto with respect to the
circusmtances thereof, may be given in evidence as part of
res gestae. So, also, statements accompanying an equivocal
act material to the issue, and giving it a legal significance,
may be received as art of the res gestae.

Defense: The testimonies of the witnesses are not


credible because they are relatives of the victim.
SC: Relationship of the witnesses to the victim per
se does not affect their credibility. Their defense
consists of alibi which cannot prevail over the
positive identification by an eyewitness who had no
improper motive to falsify testify. As between the
positive declarations of the prosecution witness
and the negative statements of the appellants, the
former deserve more credence and weight.
The SC gives full credit to the factual findings of
the trial court considering that it is in the best
position to weigh conflicting declarations of
witnesses as it was able to observe their demeanor
and conduct while giving their testimonies.

DISPOSITIVE: Three accused are guilty beyond


reasonable doubt
The penalty for Murder is reclusion temporal in its
maximum period to death. In the absence of any
mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the proper
penalty is reclusion perpetua. The proper indemnity
should be P50,000.00.
Digest maker: Kat