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People v Sabalones

294 SCRA 751, August 31, 1998

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,

Fact: Beronga, Sabalones, Alegarbes, and Cabanero were convicted after a shooting incident in Cebu in
1985 which led to the death of Glenn Tiempo and Alfredo Nardo, and fatal injuries of Nelson Tiempo, Rey
Bolo and Rogelio Presores. The victims were asked to bring the car of a certain Stephen Lim who also
attended a wedding party. Nelson Tiempo drove the car with Rogelio Presores. Alfredo Nardo drove the
owner-type jeep along with Glenn Tiempo and Rey Bolo to aid the group back to the party after parking
the car at Lims house. When they reached the gate, they were met with a sudden burst of gunfire. The
accused were identified as the gunmen. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Sabalones and Beronga appealed.

Crime Committed: Two counts of murder, and three counts of frustrated murder

Contention of the People: Prosecution witnesses Edwin Santos and Rogelio Presores testified about the
shooting and identified the faces of the accused. Presores was riding in the car that is behind the jeep.
He positively identified Sabalones as one of the gunmen. When the gunmen fired at the car, driver
Nelson Tiempo immediately maneuvered and arrived at Major Juan Tiempos house from which they have
escaped death.

Contention of the Accused: Accused-appellants Sabalones and Beronga denied their presence during the
commission of the crime. Sabalones presented numerous witnesses who stated that he was sound asleep
when the incident took place [since he got tired watching over his brothers wake]. While Beronga
testified that he attended a cock-derby in Cebu, and was fetched by his wife at 7 pm, arrived home by
10:30 pm to sleep. Sabalones even escaped from place to place to flee from the wrath of Maj. Juan
Tiempo, the father of the two victims. The defense even pointed out errors from the testimonies of the
witnesses arguing that the place where the incident happened is dim and not lighted.

RULING: The appeal is DENIED. Costs against appellants.

Issue 1: Whether the prosecution witnesses and evidences are credible?

Yes. RTC findings were binding to court with appreciated testimonies of two witnesses. There was
positive identification by survivors who saw them when they peered during lulls in gunfire. The place was
well-lit, whether from post of cars headlights. The extrajudicial confession has no bearing because the
conviction was based on positive identification. It is binding though to the co-accused because it is used
as cirmustancial evidence corroborated by one witness. The inconcistencies are minor and
inconsequential which strengthen credibility of testimony. Furthermore, in aberratio ictus [mistake in
blow], mistake does not diminish culpability; same gravity applies, more proper to use error in personae.
Alibi cannot prevail over positive identification by the prosecution witnesses.

Issue 2: Whether the alibis are acceptable?

No. It was still quite near the crime scene. It is overruled by positive identification. Using the case of
People v. Nescio, Alibi is not credible when the accused-appellant is only a short distance from the scene
of the crime. Furthermore, flight indicates guilt.

Issue 3:Whether the correct penalty is imposed?

No. Under Article 248 of the RPC, the imposable penalty is reclusion temporal in its maximum period, to
death. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, aside from the qualifying circumstance of
treachery, the appellate court correctly imposed reclusion perpetua for murder. The CA erred in
computing the penalty for each of the three counts of frustrated murder. Under Article 50 of the RPC, the
penalty for frustrated felony is next lower in degree than that prescribed by law for the consummated
felony. Because there are no mitigating or aggravating conspiracy between the two accused. It does not
matter that the prosecution has failed to show who was between the two who actually pulled the trigger
that killed the child. They are liable as co-conspirators since the act of a conspirator becomes the act of
another regardless of the precise degree of participation in the act.

Also there was a presence of treachery, because of the circumstances that the crime was done at night
time and that the accused hid themselves among the bamboo. Evident premeditation is also an
aggravating circumstance [the accused had planned to kill the victim some days before].