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G.R. No.

L-2189 November 3, 1906


THE UNITED STATES,Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. FRANCISCO BAUTISTA, ET AL.,Defendants-Appellants.
Aguedo Velarde and Pineda and Escueta, for appellants.
Office of the Solicitor-General Araneta, for appellee.

CARSON, J.:
The appellants in this case was convicted in the Court of First Instance of Manila of the crime of conspiracy
to overthrow, put down, and destroy by force the Government of the United States in the Philippine
Islands and the Government of the Philippine Islands, as defined and penalized in section 4 of Act No. 292
of the Philippine Commission.
The appellant Francisco Bautista was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, with hard labor, and $3,000
fine, and Aniceto de Guzman and Tomas Puzon, and each of them, to three years' imprisonment, with
hard labor, and a fine of $2,000, and all and each of the said appellants to pay their proportionate share
of the costs of the trial and to undergo subsidiary imprisonment in the event of insolvency and failure to
pay their respective fines
The evidence of record conclusively establishes that during the latter part of the year 1903 a junta was
organized and a conspiracy entered into by a number of Filipinos, resident in the city of Hongkong, for the
purpose of overthrowing the Government of the United States in the Philippine Islands by force of arms
and establishing in its stead a government to be known as the Republica Universal Democratica Filipina;
that one Prim Ruiz was recognized as the titular head of this conspiracy and one Artemio Ricarte as chief
of the military forces to the organized in the Philippines in the furtherance of the plans of the conspirators;
that toward the end of December, 1903 the said Ricarte came to Manila from Hongkong in hidding on
board the steamshipYuensang; that after his arrival in the Philippines he held a number of meetings in the
city of Manila and the adjoining provinces whereat was perfected the above-mentioned conspiracy
hatched in Hongkong that at these meetings new members were taken into the conspiracy and plans
made for the enlistment of an army of revolution and the raising of money by national and private loans
to carry on the campaign; that to this end bonds were issued and commissions as officers in the
revolutionary army were granted to a number of conspirators, empowering the officers thus appointed
to raise troops and take command thereof; and that the conspirators did in fact take the field and offered
armed resistance to the constituted authorities in the Philippines, only failing in their design of
overthrowing the Government because of their failure to combat successfully with the officers of the law
who were sent against them and of the failure of the people to rise en masse in response to their
propaganda.
It further appears from the evidence that the appellant Francisco Bautista, a resident of the city of Manila,
was an intimate friend of the said Ricarte; that Ricarte wrote and notified Bautista of his coming to Manila
and that, to aid him in his journey, Bautista forwarded to him secretly 200 pesos; that after the arrival of
Ricarte, Bautista was present, taking part in several of the above-mentioned meetings whereat the plans
of the conspirators were discussed and perfected, and that at one of these meetings Bautista, in answer
to a question of Ricarte, assured him that the necessary preparations had been made and that he "held
the people in readiness." chanrobles virtual law library
It further appears that the appellant, Tomas Puzon, united with the conspirators through the agency of
one Jose R. Muoz, who was proven to have been a prime leader of the movement, in the intimate
confidence of Ricarte, and by him authorized to distribute bonds and nominate and appoint certain
officials, including a brigadier-general of the signal corps of the proposed revolutionary forces; that at the
time when the conspiracy was being brought to a head in the city of Manila, Puzon held several
conferences with the said Muoz whereat plans were made for the coming insurrection; that at one of
these conferences Muoz offered Puzon a commission as brigadier-general of the signal corps and
undertook to do his part in organizing the troops; and that at a later conference he assured the said Muoz
that he had things in readiness, meaning thereby that he had duly organized in accordance with the terms
of his commission.
Puzon at the trial declared that he had never united himself with the conspirators; that he had accepted
the appointment as brigadier-general of the signal corps of the revolutionary forces with no intention of
ever taking any further action in the matter, and merely because he did not wish to vex his friend Muoz
by refusing to do so, and that when Muoz offered him the appointment as brigadier-general he did so in
"a joking tone," and that he, Puzon, did not know that Ricarte was in Manila organizing the conspiracy at
that time.
These statements, however (except in so far as they corroborate the testimony of Muoz as to the fact
that he had several interviews with Puzon at which plans were entered into for the advancement of the
cause of the conspirators), can not be accepted as true in the light of a written statement signed by Puzon
himself at the time when he was first arrested, part of which is as follows:
Q. What is your name and what is your age, residence, and occupation?
A. My name is Tomas Puzon; born in Binondo in the Province of Manila; 37 years of age; married; by
profession a teacher of primary and secondary schools, and residing in Calle Concepcion, No. 195,
district of Quiapo.
Q. Do you know Artemio Ricarte?
A. Personally I do not know him, but by name, yes.
Q. Did you have any information that Ricarte was in these Islands and with what object he came here?
And if you know it to be true, through whom did you get such information?
A. In the first place I had notice of his coming to the Islands as well as his object by reading the
newspapers of Manila, and secondly because J. R. Muoz told me the same on one occasion when I
was in his house to visit him.
Q. Did you acquire this information through any other person?
A. No, sir; I have no more information than that which I have mentioned.
Q. Are you a part of his new revolution presided over by Ricarte? - A. Yes, sir.
Q. What is the employment ( empleo) which you have in this organization, and who is it who invited
you to join it?
A. J. R. Muoz, who is general of division of this new organization, spoke to me with much instance,
asking me to accept employment as brigadier-general, chief of signal corps, to which I, on account of
his request and in view of the fact that the said Muoz is a friend of mine from my youth, acceded;
nevertheless I have organized absolutely nothing in respect to this matter.
Q. Did you accept the employment and did they give you any commission for it? - A. Yes, sir; I accepted
said employment and although they gave me an order to organize in my brigade I did not do it, because
I had neither the confidence nor the will.
Q. If you didn't have faith in the said authorization nor the will to carry out what was intrusted to you,
why did you accept employment as general of the brigade? - A. I accepted it on account of friendship
and not to vex a friend, but I never have the intention of fulfilling the obligations.
Puzon, when on the stand in his own behalf, did not deny that he made this statement, but he attempted
to explain it away by saying that when he made it he was so exited that he did not know just what he was
saying. He does not allege that improper means were taken to procure the confession, and it was proven
at the trial that it was freely and voluntarily made and not the result of violence, intimidation, threat,
menace, or promise of reward or leniency. The accused appears to be an intelligent man and was for
eighteen years a school-teacher and later a telegraph operator under the Spanish Government, and during
the insurrection he held a commission as an officer in the signal corps of the revolutionary army. His
confession is clear and intelligible and in no way supports his pretense that he was so excited as not to
know what he was saying when he made it, and its truth and accuracy in so far it inculpates him is
sustained by other evidence of record in this case.
It is contended that the acceptance or possession of an appointment as an officer of the military forces of
the conspiracy should not be considered as evidence against him in the light of the decisions of this court
in the cases of the United States vs. Antonio de los Reyes 1 (2 Off. Gaz., 364), United States vs. Silverio
Nuez et al. 2 (3 Off. Gaz., 408), the United States vs. Eusebio de la Serna et al. 3 (3 Off. Gaz., 528), and
United States vs. Bernardo Manalo et al. 4 (4 Off. Gaz., 570). But the case at bar is to be distinguished from
these and like cases by the fact that the record clearly disclose that the accused actually and voluntarily
accepted the apppointment in question and in doing so assumed all the obligations implied by such
acceptance, and that the charge in this case is that of conspiracy, and the fact that the accused accepted
the appointment is taken into consideration merely as evidence of his criminal relations with the
conspirators. In the first of these cases - the United States vs. De los Reyes - the accused was charged with
treason, and the court found that the mere acceptance of a commission by the defendant, nothing else
being done either by himself or by his companions, was not an "overt act" of treason within the meaning
of the law, but the court further expressly held that -
That state of affairs disclosed body of evidence, . . . the playing of the game of government like children,
the secretaries, colonels, and captains, the pictures of flags and seals and commission, all on proper, for
the purpose of duping and misleading the ignorant and the visionary . . . should not be dignified by the
name of treason.
In the second case - the United States vs. Nuez et al. -- wherein the accused were charged with
brigandage, the court held that, aside from the possession of commissions in an insurgent band, there
was no evidence to show that it they had committed the crime and, "moreover, that it appeared that they
had never united with any party of brigands and never had been in any way connected with such parties
unless the physical possession of these appointments proved such relation," and that it appeared that
each one of the defendants "were separately approached at different times by armed men while working
in the field and were virtually compelled to accept the commissions." chanrobles virtual law library
In the case of the United States vs. de la Serna et al. it was contended that de la Serna had confessed that
"he was one of the members of the pulajanes, with a commission as colonel," but the court was of opinion
that the evidence did not sustain a finding that such confession had in fact been made, hence the doctrine
laid down in that decision, "that the mere possession of such an appointment, when it is not shown that
the possessor executed some external act by the virtue of the same, does not constitute sufficient proof
of the guilt of the defendant," applies only the case of Enrique Camonas, against whom the only evidence
of record was "the fact that a so-called appointment of sergeant was found at his house."chanrobles
virtual law library
In the case of the United States vs. Bernardo Manalo et al. there was testimony that four appointments
of officials in a revolutionary army were found in a trunk in the house of one Valentin Colorado, and the
court in said case reaffirmed the doctrine that "the mere possession of the documents of this kind is not
sufficient to convict," and held, furthermore, that there was "evidence in the case that at the time these
papers were received by the appellant, Valentin Colorado, he went to one of the assistant councilmen of
the barrio in which lived, a witness for the Government, showed him the envelope, and stated to him he
had received these papers; that he didn't know what they were and requested this councilman to open
them. The coucilman did not wish to do that but took the envelope and sent it to the councilman Jose
Millora. We are satisfied that this envelope contained the appointments in question and that the appellant
did not act under the appointment but immediately reported the receipt of them to the
authorities." chanrobles virtual law library
It is quite conceivable that a group of conspirators might appoint a person in no wise connected with them
to some high office in the conspiracy, in the hope that such person would afterwards accept the
commission and thus unite himself with them, and it is even possible that such an appointment might be
forwarded in the mail or otherwise, and thus come into the possession of the person thus nominated, and
that such appointment might be found in his possession, and, notwithstanding all this, the person in
whose possession the appointment was found might be entirely innocent of all intention to join the
conspiracy, never having authorized the conspirators to use his name in this manner nor to send such a
commission to him. Indeed, cases are not unknown in the annals of criminal prosecutions wherein it has
been proven that such appointments have been concealed in the baggage or among the papers of the
accused persons, so that when later discovered by the officers of the law they might be used as evidence
against the accused. But where a genuine conspiracy is shown to have existed as in this case, and it is
proven that the accused voluntarily accepted an appointment as an officer in that conspiracy, we think
that this fact may properly be taken into consideration as evidence of his relations with the conspirators.
Counsel for appellants contend that the constitutional provision requiring the testimony of at least two
witnesses to the same overt act, or confession in open court, to support a conviction for the crime of
treason should be applied in this case, but this court has always held, in conformance with the decisions
of the Federal courts of the United States, that the crime of conspiring to commit treason is a separate
and distinct offense from the crime of treason, and that this constitutional provision is not applicable in
such cases. ( In re Bollman, 4 Cranch, 74; U. S. vs. Mitchell, 2 Dall., 348.)
The evidence of record does not sustain the conviction of Aniceto de Guzman. The finding of his guilt rest
substantially upon his acceptance of a number of bonds from one of the conspirators, such bonds having
been prepared by the conspirators for the purpose of raising funds for carrying out the plans of the
conspiracy, but it does not affirmatively appear that he knew anything of the existence of the conspiracy
or that, when he received the bonds wrapped in a bundle, he knew what the contents of the bundle was,
nor that ever, on any occasion, assumed any obligation with respect to these bonds. He, himself, states
that when he opened the bundle and discovered the nature of the contents he destroyed them with fire,
and that he never had any dealings with the conspirators in relation to the conspiracy or the object for
which it was organized.
We are of opinion, therefore, that the judgment and sentence before us, in so far as it affects the said
Aniceto de Guzman, should be reversed, with his proportionate share of the costs of both instances de
oficio, and that the said Anecito de Guzman should be acquitted of the crime with which he is charged
and set a liberty forthwith, and that the judgment and sentence of the trial court, in so far as it applies to
Francisco Bautista and Tomas Puzon, should be, and is hereby, affirmed, except so far as it imposes
subsidiary imprisonment in the event of insolvency and failure to pay their respective fines, and, there
being no authority in law of such provision, so much of the sentence as undertakes to impose subsidiary
imprisonment is hereby reversed.

After ten days let judgment be entered in accordance herewith, when the record will be returned to the
trial court for execution. So ordered.
Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson and Tracey, JJ., concur.
Mapa, and Willard, JJ., concur as to the penalty imposed upon Bautista and dissent as to that imposed
upon Puzon.
G.R. No. L-31657 January 31, 1984

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
EDGARDO VENGCO Y DAVID alias "Edwin", ROGELIO ENCARNACION Y DE LOS SANTOS alias "Roger
Pusa", ROMEO SOLIBA Y REDOBLA alias "Romy", CONSTANTINO LENESES Y MARILLANO alias
Alexander Remonte y Marillano alias "Alex Remonte", and LEON DAVID alias "Junior", defendants,
CONSTANTINO LENESES Y MARILLANO alias "ALEXANDER REMONTE Y MARILLANO" alias ALEX
REMONTE, defendant-appellant.

G.R. No. L-32264 January 31, 1984

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
EDGARDO VENGCO Y DAVID alias "Edwin", ROGELIO ENCARNACION Y DE LOS SANTOS alias "Roger
Pusa", ROMEO SOLIBA Y REDOBLA alias "Romy", CONSTANTINO LENESES MARILLANO alias Alexander
Remonte y Marillano alias "Alex Remonte", and LEON DAVID alias "Junior", defendants, LEON DAVID
alias "Junior", defendant-appellant.

The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

Tagalo, Gozar & Associates and Ricafort, Laxamana & Nacpil Law Office for defendants-appellants.

RELOVA, J.:

hese appeals are interposed by Constantino Leneses alias "Alex Remonte" and Leon David alias "Junior"
who, together with three others, were charged in Criminal Case No. 87918, for the murder of Charlie
Celadea y Lim in the then Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch XX. The lower court adjudged them
guilty thereof, and sentenced both of them to reclusion perpetua, with the accessory penalties provided
by law, to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the sum of P12,000.00, and to pay the costs.

The information filed against said appellants recites:

That on or about the 24th day of August 1967, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said
accused, at night time, and with the use of superior strength to insure and afford
impunity, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another, with
intent to kill and with evident premeditation and treachery, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and use personal violence upon one, CHARLIE
CELADEA Y LIM, by then and there stabbing the latter with bladed and pointed
instruments which they were then armed, hitting him on the different parts of his body,
thereby inflicting upon said CHARLIE CELADEA Y LIM mortal and fatal wounds which
were the direct and immediate cause of his death moments thereafter. (p. 2, Rollo of L-
31657 & L-32264)

The version of the prosecution was unfolded by prosecution witnesses Go Hong, Rolando Quiane, Purita
Delgado, and Dr. Mariano de Lara, Chief of the Medico-Legal Division, Manila Police Department.
Go Hong testified that in the evening of August 24, 1967 he was in his house at 2815-A Bagac Street,
Tondo, Manila when he heard a commotion outside. Looking out of the window he saw Charlie Celadea
being stabbed by Edwin Vengco while three others, one of whom he recognized as appellant Constantino
Leneses, were moving away from the victim, all of them armed with a dagger, an ice pick and a weapon
with pointed blade. He went out of the house and lifted Celadea from the ground when he noticed that
the latter was bloody in all parts of his body. The victim was brought to the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital
where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Rolando Quiane testified that about midnight on August 24, 1967 he and his brother were conversing on
a sidewalk along Bagac Street, near the corner of Corrigidor Street, Tondo, Manila, when a taxicab came
and stopped at the place where they were. Charlie Celadea alighted from the taxicab. Thereafter, at
about 30 meters away, a group of five persons, among whom were Edwin Vengco and Leon David came
towards them. As there was an incident between Charlie Celadea and Edwin Vengco three or four nights
before, when the latter chased the former and threw bottles at him, Quiane invited Charlie Celadea to
go with him inside the apartment where he and his brother were living, to avoid the group. Celadea
would not go with them and so Quiane and his brother went inside their apartment. They then heard
Charlie Celadea knocking at the door of, and calling his sister at, the latter's house across the street. After
a while Quiane heard the voice of a girl Calling for help. Quiane opened the door of the apartment and
saw Charlie Celadea lying down on the ground bleeding.

The testimony of Rolando Quiane was corroborated by Go Hong and Purita Delgado who declared that
about midnight of August 24, 1967 while she was sleeping in the house of "Ate During" the sister of Charlie
Celadea, along Bagac Street, Ate During woke her up and she heard a commotion outside the house.
When she peeped through the opening of the window, she saw her "Kuya Charlie" leaning against the
wall of the house being held by two men, one of whom was appellant Leon David, on his hands. Thereafter,
another person approached the one being held by the two and stabbed him, followed by two more men
who also stabbed him. There were several thrusts with pointed instruments hurled at Charlie until one of
them ran away, followed by three others, leaving the tall one who continued stabbing Charlie, then
already prostrate on the ground.

Dr. Mariano de Lara conducted the autopsy on the body of the deceased and his post-mortem findings
show that the deceased sustained eleven (11) stab wounds mostly located in the chest and abdomen and
one in the back. Five (5) of the stab wounds were fatal.

The defense of Constantino Leneses alias "Alex Remonte", is denial and alibi. He contends that earlier in
the afternoon of August 24, 1967, he was at the tailor shop near Jose Abad Santos Boulevard waiting for
a pair of pants the tailor was making for him. While waiting there, Edgardo Vengco, Rogelio Encarnacion,
Romeo Soliba and Leon David arrived and invited him to go with them. They went to the house of Leon
David where they had a drinking spree. He became dead drunk that he was taken to his house in
Balintawak where he stayed the whole evening unconscious and regained consciousness only the
following morning.

Appellant Leon David denied participation in the crime committed, contending that only Edwin Vengco,
Roger, Romeo and Alex attacked and killed Charlie Celadea. He testified that about 10:30 in the evening
of August 24, 1967 he went home to turn over the proceeds of the sale of cigarettes to his mother. He
then proceeded to the house of Edwin Vengco and joined the group, namely: Vengco, Romy, Roger and
Alex in a drinking spree. Vengco even asked money from him for the jeepney fares of the three. Knowing
Vengco to be a tough guy and a "siga-siga", he gave the latter money. After about five minutes, he
separated from them and proceeded to go home. On the way, he saw at a distance of about eight meters
a person being ganged up by Edwin Vengco and his companions. Vengco and Alex were stabbing the
person with bladed weapons, while Roger and Romy were holding the hands of the victim. He shouted at
them not to do it and then left the place because he was afraid that he might be implicated.

Further, Leon David denied the truth of the testimony of Purita Delgado who Identified him as one of the
persons who held the victim by his hands when the latter was being stabbed by Edwin Vengco and his
companions. However, on cross examination, he could not say what reason or motive could have induced
Purita Delgado to testify falsely against him.

The defense also presented Melquiades Nuque, a taxi driver, who declared that he was about 20 meters
from the place of the incident which occurred in the evening of August 24, 1967. He saw Vengco, Alex and
the others assaulting the victim, but appellant Leon David was not one of them,

Appellants put squarely in issue the credibility of Go Hong, Rolando Quiane and Purita Delgado averring
that the lower court erred (1) in relying purely on the testimony of these three witnesses; (2) in not
considering the individual participation of each of the accused there being no proof of conspiracy; and (3)
in not holding that the evidence adduced by the prosecution is insufficient to convict him.

The trial court committed no error in finding appellants Constantino Leneses and Leon David guilty of the
crime charged.

1. WE have consistently held that when there is no showing of improper motive on the part of witnesses
for testifying against an accused, the fact that they are neighbors, friends or relatives of the victim does
not render their clear and positive testimony less worthy of full faith and credit. Purita Delgado saw her
"Kuya Charlie" leaning on the wall by the window of the house of her Ate During about a meter away,
being ganged up by appellants and their companions, when she peeped through the window. The place
was bright because of the two mercury lamps in front of the house. Go Hong, husband of Ate During,
immediately went to the assistance of the victim after the assailants had ran away.

2. As found by the lower court, a circumstance highly indicative of the guilt is the fact that soon after the
commission of the crime, Leon David left Manila for Cavitewhere he hid himself until he was arrested on
February 2, 1970. His explanation for hiding that he was afraid of Edwin Vengco does not impress Us
because if he was really innocent, as he claimed to be, he would not have gone into hiding and would
even tell the authorities what transpired that evening. The truth is, he would have no reason to be afraid
of anyone, including Edwin Vengco who has no reason to go after him, he having done nothing wrong
against him. On the contrary, he was not afraid to shout at Vengco and his companions not to assault the
victim and later to testify in court with respect to their participation in the incident.

3. The testimonies of prosecution witnesses have not been shown to suffer from any inconsistency and/or
contradiction. In fact, the testimony of only one witness, if credible and positive and if it satisfies the court
beyond reasonable doubt, is sufficient to convict. (People vs. Argana, 10 SCRA 311). Alibi, which is the
defense of Constantino Leneses, is weak since it is easy to concoct. Courts view it with caution and accept
it only when proved by positive, clear and convincing evidence. The positive Identification of appellant
Leneses as one of the perpetrators of the crime dwindles the defense of alibi.

The crime committed is murder, qualified by abuse of superior strength. The People's evidence relative
to the commission of the crime, the manner of its perpetration and the circumstance of abuse of superior
strength is not disputed. Appellant Leon David and his witness, the taxi driver, confirmed these facts. The
conspiracy among therein appellants and their companions is easily discernible from their conduct. The
way in which they assaulted Charlie Celadea and their conduct sometime before and immediately after
the stabbing, clearly show that they had agreed to kill him. The rule is that "if it is proven that two or more
persons aimed by their acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part
so that their acts, although apparently independent, were in fact connected and cooperative, indicating a
closeness of personal association and concurrence of sentiment, a conspiracy may be inferred though no
actual meeting among them is proven (Underhill, Criminal Evidence, 4th Ed. by Niblack, pp. 1402-3; People
vs. Carbonel, 48 Phil. 868, 875). (Cited in People vs. Velez, 58 SCRA 21, 31).

WE agree with the trial court that "no generic aggravating circumstance was sufficiently proved by the
prosecution, the elements of nighttime, evident premeditation and treachery, not having been
established by its evidence. On the other hand, no mitigating circumstance was shown by the evidence of
the defense. The medium of the penalty prescribed for the offense should be imposed on the accused.
The penalty to be imposed is reclusion perpetua, it being the medium of the penalty of reclusion temporal
in its maximum period to death for murder."

WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is AFFIRMED, with the modification that appellants pay, jointly
and severally, the heirs of the deceased in the sum of P30,000.00. (People vs. de la Fuente, G.R. Nos. L-
63251-52, Dec. 29, 1983)

SO ORDERED.

Teehankee, Melencio-Herrera, Plana and Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., concur.


G.R. No. L-75390 March 25, 1988

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
DANILO VALDEZ and SINIPLICIO ORODIO alias "Kamlon", appellants.

FELICIANO, J.:

This case is before us on automatic review of the decision of the Regional Trial Court, First Judicial
Region, Branch 26, San Fernando, La Union, convicting the accused-appellants Danilo Valdez and
Simplicio Orodio of the crime of murder and sentencing each of them to death.

The accused Danilo Valdez and Simplicio Orodio were charged in an information which read as follows:

That on or about the 7th day of June, 1977, in the Municipality of Santol, Province of La
Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually aiding one another, armed with a fire
arm, with treachery and evident premeditation and with deliberate intent to kill, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, shoot Eleno Maquiling inflicting
upon him a gunshot wound which caused the victim's instantaneous death.

That the aggravating circumstance of nighttime was present in the commission of the
crime. Contrary to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.

After arraignment and trial, the trial court rendered in due course, on 27 June 1986, a decision finding
both of the accused guilty of murder. The dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court finds the accused Danilo Valdez and
Simplicio Orodio alias 'Kamlon' guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder
and judgment is hereby rendered imposing upon each of them the Capital penalty of
death; to indemnify the heirs of Eleno Maquiling the sum of P30,000.00; to reimburse
the expenses in the sum of P3,000.00 to said heirs, and to pay the costs.

The bail bonds posted by the accused for their provisional liberty are hereby cancelled
and their immediate arrest ordered.

The accused-appellants argue that the trial court erred in the following respects:
1) That the evidence of the prosecution does not establish the guilt of the accused
beyond reasonable doubt; and
2) That the evidence of the prosecution is based simply on suspicion.
We will address these arguments together.

From the record, the facts of the case may be collated as follows:

The house of the Maquiling family stands on the slope of a mountain in Barangay Ambagat, Santol, La
Union. At about 8:00 o'clock in the evening of 7 June 1977, the victim Eleno Maquiling, his sisters Leticia
and Thelma, his mother Esmenia, and his father Juanito were an in the yard of their house. Esmenia and
Juanito were under the awning of their house facing north, engaged in stringing together tobacco leaves.
The victim's brother Dionisio was eating his dinner in the wall-less kitchen located on the ground floor of
the house. The victim Eleno was seated with his back toward the north and plucking a guitar. The place
and its surroundings were lighted by a 300 candle power petromax lamp hanging under the northern end
of the awning of the house. 1

While the Maquilings were thus seated in their yard, a relative of the family, one Carolina, arrived and
asked Esmenia to accompany her to a prayer meeting. Esmenia demurred and instead asked Eleno to
accompany Carolina. The victim was then just about two (2) meters away from his parents and about to
stand up when suddenly a very loud gun shot rang out from the northern side of the yard and Eleno fell
to the ground, crying out to his father for help. Juanita rushed to his fallen son and carried him into their
house; Eleno, however, died immediately thereafter.

The victim's mother Esmenia was about to succour Eleno when she instinctively looked toward the
direction from whence the gunshot came and saw the two (2) accused, Danilo Valdez and Simplicio
Orodio, running down the hill away from the bamboo groves on the northern side of the house. According
to Esmenia, the accused Danilo was wearing a blue shirt and dark pants and carrying a long firearm, while
the other accused Simplicio was running along side the former. Dionisio Maquiling, brother of the victim,
also testified that he too had seen Danilo with a gun and Simplicio both running away in a westernly
direction. Danilo stated that he was then about seven (7) meters away from the accused-
appellants. 2 Danilo Valdez was a neighbor and a relative of the Maquilings, while Simplicio Orodio was
their old accquaintance residing in Sitio Village, Barangay Corooy of the same town; thus, both were well-
known to Esmenia and Dionisio Maquiling.

On 8 June 1977, the Municipal Health Officer of Balaoan, Dr. Monico O. Morales, conducted an autopsy
which showed that the victim Eleno had sustained eight (8) gunshot (pellet) wounds on his back:

1. Wound, gunshot, ; inch longest dia., 1 cm. below base of neck, medial, pellet plowed
slightly upward and found its exist at the lower 3rd of neck, left, measuring 3/4 inch
longest diameter. (Thru and thru).

2. Wound, gunshot, inch longest dia medial, 1 inch lateral to vertebral column, right,
pellet plowed upward and found its exit at the base of neck, left, measuring longest
diameter. (Thru and thru).

3. Wound, gunshot, inch longest dia level of 4th intercostal space, back, right,
penetrating the chest cavity, pellet was recovered at the upper lobe of right lung.

4. Wound, gunshot, inch longest dia 1 inch above armpit, back, right, pellet plowed
slightly upwards and to left. Pellet was not recovered.

5. Wound, gunshot, inch longest dia 8th intercostal space, back, right, 1 inch lateral to
the vertebral column, pellet penetrated check cavity hitting lower lobe of lungs, right.
Pellet was not recovered.

6. Wound, gunshot inch longest dia medial, back, left, level of 8th intercostal space,
hitting the lower lobe, lung, left. Pellet was not recovered.

7. Wound, gunshot. inch longest dia chest, back medial, left, (Level of 9th interspace),
penetrating chest cavity hitting lower lobe, lung, left. Pellet was not recovered.
8. Wound, gunshot, inch longest dia postero-lateral, back, I inch below lowest rib of
chest, right. Pellet was recovered at the abdominal wall, hypochondic region, front,
right. Two (2) pellets were given to Chief of Police, Segundo Tuvera. 3

The morning after the shooting, on 8 June 1977, Sgt. Segundo Tuvera of the Integrated National Police,
Santol, La Union, went to the house of the Maquilings to investigate the death of Eleno. 4 He saw a
petromax lamp hanging from the awning of the northern end of the house, as well as footprints near the
bamboo groves near the northern side of the house. During his investigation, neither Esmenia nor Dionisio
informed Sgt. Tuvera of what they had seen.

On 10 June 1977, Juanito Maquiling, the victim's father, executed a sworn statement before the police in
the Santol Police Substation. Juanita admitted in his statement that he had not seen the accused-
appellants on the night of the shooting. He did relate, however, that three (3) days prior to the shooting
of Eleno, Eleno had informed him that in case something untoward happened to him (Eleno), the accused-
appellants Danio Valdez and Simplicio Orodio should be held responsible, since he (Eleno) had quarrelled
with them concerning their stealing and robbing. 5Juanita further, stated that the accused Danilo has had
a personal grudge against Eleno; Danilo had mortgaged to Eleno's brother a stolen spading fork, a
circumstance that Eleno discovered when the real owner of the spading fork came to talk to him. Esmenia,
Eleno's mother, gave no sworn statement on that day. Ten (10) days later, on 20 June 1977, however, she
made a sworn statement to the Philippine Constabulary in San Fernando, La Union. Shortly thereafter, on
23 June 1977, Dionisio Maquiling, Eleno's brother, gave his own separate sworn statement also to the
Philippine Constabulary. Both Esmenia and Dionisio Identified Danilo Orodio as Eleno's killers. 6

At the trial, Esmenia Maquiling was firm and categorical in Identifying the appellants as the men she saw
running from the bamboo groves immediately after the shooting

Q. When you heard that gunshot, what did you do?


A. We immediately rushed to his side and we found
him on the ground, sir.
Q. From what direction did you hear the gunshot?
A. North of our yard, sir.
Q. When you went to the succour of your son, what
else did you do?
A. When I went, to give succour to my son, I turned
and I saw these two, sir,
Q. Where did you see the two accused?
A. North of our yard, sir.
Q. How far were they from you when you saw them?
A. Witness indicating a distance of more or less five
meters.
Q. When you saw the two accused, did you see
anything in their possession?
A. They have, sir, (Witness indicating a length of
about a foot), and it was Danilo Valdez who was
holding that object.
Q. Were you able to recognize that object which
Danilo Valdez was then holding?
A. It was a gun, sir.
Q. When you saw Danilo Valdez and Simplicio Orodio
north of your yard, what were they doing?
A. I saw Danilo Valdez holding the gun while Simplicio
Orodio ran downhill and then Danilo Valdez followed,
sir.
Q. You Id that you saw Danilo Valdez and Simplicio
Orodio north of your yard. In relation to the place
where you heard the gunshot, where were they?
A. Near the bamboo grove which is located north of
our house, sir?
Q. In relation to that bamboo grove where you heard
the gunshot, where were Danilo Valdez and Simplicio
Orodio at the time you saw them?
A. They were east of the bamboo grove, sir.
Q. How far were they from that bamboo grove?
A. Witness referring to a distance of about 6 to 6-
meters away.
COURT:
Q. How far were you from the accused when you
recognized them?
A. Less than a meter away when I recognized them,
sir.
FISCAL:
Q. You Id that the distance between you and the two
accused at the time you saw them was five meters
more or less. Upon questioning of the court, you Id
that the distance is less than a meter. Which is true?
A. Witness pointing to a distance of more or less five
meters.
Q. How were you able to recognize the two accused
at that distance of five meters from you considering
that it was nighttime?
A. There was a light from the petromax lamp which
was hanging [from] the awning of our house, sir.
Q. That part of the house where this awning is
located, is there a wall surrounding the awning?
A. None, sir.
Q. That petromax lamp which you said was hanging
under the awning of your house, how high is the
petromax light from the ground level?
A. The height is 12 feet, sir.
Q. How big was the petromax light?
A. About two feet, sir. 7
Esmenia's testimony was corroborated by the equally
definite testimony of Dionisio Maquiling, who
declared that:
Q. Where were you at the time your brother was shot
to death?
A. I was in our kitchen eating.
Q. Where was your brother then at the time he was
shot in relation to your house?
A. He was west of our kitchen.
Q. In what particular part of your house, inside or
outside?
A. Outside of our house.
Q. What time was your brother shot to death?
A. More or less 8 o'clock in the evening.
Q. You said you were in the kitchen of your house
eating and you Pointed to Danilo Valdez and Simplicio
Orodio alias "Kamlon" as the persons who shot your
brother. How were you able to see Simplicio Orodio
and Danilo Valdez shoot your brother?
A. I saw them.
Q. Will you relate how were you able to see Danilo
Valdez and Simplicio Orodio alias Kamlon shoot your
brother Eleno Maquiling?
A. When I was eating facing westward I heard a
gunshot and when I looked through the north I saw
Danilo Valdez running being followed by Simplicio
Orodio.
Q. When you looked northward and you saw Danilo
Valdez and Simplicio Orodio running, did you see
anything in their possession?
A. A gun. (Witness showing a length of about half a
meter).
Q. Who of the two, Danilo Valdez and Simplicio
Orodio was hiding the gun?
A. Danilo Valdez. 8

The trial court found the testimony of witnesses Esmenia and Dionisio as positive, credible and reliable.
We find no reason to disagree with the finding of the trial court. It is commonplace that "the findings of
the trial court as to the credibility of the witnesses are to be given great weight and a high degree of
respect by the appellate court". 9 There is nothing in the record to show that the prosecution witnesses
were moved by any improper motive to accuse falsely the accused-appellant one a relative and the
other an old acquaintance of so grave a crime as murder.

The circumstance that Esmenia waited for thirteen (13) days after her son's assassination before reporting
the Identities of the accused to the authorities, was not unnatural in itself. She explained the delay by
saying that she was afraid to talk about the killing and that she had seen the accused loitering frequently
around the Maquilings' house, carrying a gun, after the burial of her son.10 The trial court observed that
Esmenia's fear

was not imaginary because the night that she reported the Identities of the accused their
house was stoned by unidentified persons. The delay was satisfactorily explained.
In People vs. Martinez, 127 SCRA 260, it was held that delay of witness for several months,
because of fear, in reporting the incident to the police does not affect credibility. "Fear of
likely retaliation by the several accused who were still at large has been considered as a
justified reason for the witnesses' delay in coming forward with their testimony' (People
vs. Sampang, 16 SCRA 531; People vs. Equal, 14 SCRA 89). 11

This explanation does not appear incredible in itself and certainly such a delay of thirteen(13)days, under
the circumstances of this case, does not warrant a conclusion that her testimony as to the Identities of
the killers of her son was false. In People v. Martinez, 12 the Court held that the failure of a witness to
reveal immediately the Identities of the accused does not militate against his credibility.

Both Esmenia Maquiling and Dionisio Maquiling did not testify that they had actually seen either Danilo
Valdez or Simplicio Orodio shooting at the deceased victim. The principal evidence against the accused is,
therefore, circumstantial in character. The trial court recognized this and was careful to analyze the chain
of circumstantial evidence on the basis of which the trial court concluded that the two (2) accused had
killed Eleno Maquiling:

While the prosecution failed to present an eye witness to the actual shooting by the
accused of deceased Eleno, the chain of circumstances, prior and subsequent to the killing,
leaves no room for doubt that accused are the guilty persons. The rule is that before
conviction upon circumstantial evidence, the circumstances proved should constitute an
unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused
as the authors of the crime. (People vs. Pamintuan, 127 SCRA 820). In this case, this
requisite has been fully met.

Rule 133, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:

CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, WHEN SUFFICIENT. Circumstantial


evidence is sufficient for conviction if:
(a) There is more than one circumstances;
(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and
(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a
conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tested by the rule stated above, and considering that Eleno was killed by a shot in the
back and suffered eight (8) pellet wounds from one gunshot only; that the accused were
immediately seen running down-hill away from the scene after the gunshot report with
accused Danilo v. Valdez carrying a long firearm; that three (3) days before the incident
there was already bad blood between the victim and accused Danilo Valdez as the victim
confided to his father Juanito Maquiling that if ever he would be shot accused Danilo
Valdez is the one to be blamed; 13 that when the place where the clime was committed is
an isolated place and it is highly probable that some other malefactors could have been
present; and that footprints were seen by the police investigators behind the bamboo
grove where the accused were seen to come from immediately after the shooting that
Esmenia Maquiling even described the clothing of accused Danilo Valdez; that the two
accused are well known to the victim's family thereby precluding the possibility of
mistaken Identity; all these proven facts afford sufficient or a reasonable inference that
the two accused were indeed the killers of the victim. 14

In his brief, the Solicitor General took the position that accused-appellant Simplicio Orodio should be
acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence to sustain this conviction either as a principal or an accomplice.
The Solicitor General said:
In the case at bar, the information charged Orodio as having allegedly conspired with
Valdez in killing Eleno. The prosecution did not however adduce any evidence establishing
the aforesaid alleged conspiracy between Valdez and Orodio to commit the crime
charged. The only fact that the prosecution was able to successfully prove was the
presence of Orodio at the crime scene when he was seen running together with Valdez
by Dionisio and Esmenia after Eleno was gunned down and that he was a barkada of
Eleno. It is submitted that in the light of the aforecited ruling in the Madera case, there
exist no factual and legal basis to sustain the conviction of Orodio either as a principal or
accomplice in this case. 15

We are unable to agree with the Solicitor General, whose view appears to be too drastic a simplification
of the evidence that was in fact before the trial court. Orodio was present with Valdez at the time Eleno
Maquiling was killed by a shotgun blast at his back. He was in the company of a man running with a
shotgun, at approximately 8:00 o'clock in the evening, immediately after the fatal shooting, just outside
the Maquilings house where he had no business being if he were not acting in concert with Danilo Valdez,
the accused-appellant who carried the shotgun. He was a close friend (barkada) of the accused Danilo
Valdez, both of whom the deceased victim had Identified as probably responsible should any untoward
event befall the victim. Simplicio Orodio completely failed to explain what he was doing with Danilo Valdez
the night of the killing, on the one hand. Upon the other, both Danilo Valdez and Simplicio Orodio pleaded
the same alibi. Valdez and Orodio both testified that they were in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, when Eleno was
shot to death. Their common alibi remained uncorroborated for both failed to present either the mother
of accused Danilo Valdez who was supposed to have come to Cervantes Ilocos Sur, to inform them that
Eleno Maquiling had been shot to death, or any other witness for that matter. The trial court found the
accused common defense of alibi as non-credible "as it was not impossible for the accused to be present
at the scene of the crime. 16

We hold that the prosecution's evidence was more than adequate to sustain the finding of the trial court
of a conspiracy between Danilo Valdez and Simplicio Orodio. Conspiracy being present, it does not matter
that the prosecution had failed to show who as between the two actually pulled the trigger of the shotgun
that killed Eleno Maquiling. 17 Both Danilo Valdez and Simplicio Orodio are liable as co-conspirators since
any act of a co- conspirator becomes the act of the other regardless of the precise degree of participation
in the act. 18

The trial court correctly appreciated the presence of treachery and evident premeditation. The accused
had purposely sought nocturnity and hid themselves behind the bamboo groves located close by the
victim's house and had fired at Eleno Maquiling suddenly, without any warning, from behind obviously to
ensure the success of their deadly purpose without any risk to themselves and without any possibility of
retaliation. Three (3) days before his assassination, Eleno was already apprehensive for his life when he
disclosed to his father, Juanito Maquiling, his quarrel with Danilo Valdez and Simplicio Orodio over the
latter's thievery and robbery. Clearly, the accused had planned to kill Eleno some days before the fateful
night of 7 June 1977; the shotgun blast at the back of Eleno was not the result of a spur of the moment
decision.

Since both treachery and evident premeditation were present, and only one (1) qualifying circumstance
is necessary to constitute homicide into murder, evident premeditation may be considered as a generic
aggravating circumstance. 19 The circumstance of nighttime is, however, absorbed by treachery. 20 A
second aggravating circumstance that the victim who had given no provocation was slain in his dwelling
was also found by the trial court. 21
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the trial court finding Danilo Valdez and Simplicio
Orodio guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder is hereby AFFIRMED. In view of the
abolition of capital punishment under the 1987 Constitution, and in view of the presence of two (2)
aggravating circumstances not offset by any mitigating circumstance, the applicable penalty is reclusion
perpetua.

SO ORDERED.

Fernan (Chairman), Gutierrez, Jr., Bidin and Cortes, JJ., concur.


Case Analysis of People vs Escober
G.R. No. L-69564 January 29, 1988

I. Identify the parties

The accused-appellants in this case are Juan Escober, Macario Punzalan Jr., Peter Doe, Richard
Doe and Juan Doe, who were charged with the crime of Robbery with Homicide before the Regional Trial
Court of Quezon City. The aggrieved parties in the case are the spouses Vicente and Lina Chua. Their two
minor children, Irvin and Tiffany, were killed on the occasion of the robbery.

Escober was then a Security guard at Bee Seng Electrical Supply at Joyce St. Grace Village,
Balintawak, Quezon City,owned by the spouses Chua. Also, one of the alleged co-conspirators is Amadeo
Abuyen alias Roberto Alorte who was formerly a co-security guard of appellant Juan Escober at the same
corporation.

Abuyen together with respondent Punzalan went to the above said company. Escober recognized
Abuyen so he let him get inside the compound. After several minutes, gunshots were heard. Thereafter,
Abuyen and Punzalan fled, followed by Escober.The spouses Chua were surprised to see that their two
children were stabbed which caused their deaths and several items were missing. Hence, the conviction
of the accused-appellants.

II. Prior Proceedings

These consolidated cases originated from the decision rendered by Judge Oscar Leviste in Criminal
Case No. Q-22896 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch XCVII, on January 10, 1984, finding
the accused-appellants Juan Escober and Macario Punzalan, Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Robbery with Homicide. A motion for reconsideration was filed but it was denied on November
21, 1984. Hence, this petition and the automatic review.

III. Theories of the Parties

In this petition, the People claimed that the actions of Escober are indicators that he has the prior
knowledge of the plot of Abuyen and Punzalan, and that Escober is a principal by indispensable
cooperation since he was the one who opened the gate for Abuyen.

Escober asserts that he was under an irresistible force when Abuyen pointed a gun. Because of
this, Escober was not able to prevent the crime. When Abuyen and company were about to escape, he
fired shots and even told Mrs. Chua that he was not hit. It is his contention that his acts are indications of
his innocence and that he has no prior knowledge of the crime.

Punzalan claims that during his custodial investigation, he was forced to make statements and
answer questions of the investigators without his full understanding of his constitutional rights and
assistance of a counsel during custodial investigation. Likewise, he asserts that he has no knowledge about
the evil plan of Abuyen.

IV. Objectives of the Parties


Accused-appellants Juan Escober and Macario Punzalan, Jr. seek the reversal of their conviction
and pray to be acquitted from the crime of robbery with homicide allegedly commited. The People prays
the affirmation of the conviction of Escober as a principal by indispensable cooperation in the crime of
robbery with homicide.

V. Key Facts

The Court held that Escobers act of opening the gate of the compound is an innocent getsure and
not a crime at all. On one hand, the People posits that the act of opening the gate of Escober to Abuyen
upen seeing him in the eyehole after the latter knocked once indicates the formers guilt and prior
knowledge of the crime to be committed. Also, the gun shot was just a staged one just to avoid suspicion
and the phrase uttered was just a deviation of what really happened and is part of the criminal plan. On
the other hand, Escober contends that his act of opening the gate upon seeing Abuyen was just a friendly
gesture which is common in treating a friend and that his act of chasing the perpetrators indicates that he
is not a co- conspirator in the crime committed.

VI. Issues

The issue here is whether or not there exists a conspiracy among the accused-appellants in
committing the crime of robbery with homicide. Is there proof beyond reasonable doubt that Escober is
a co-conspirator in the case at bar?

VII. Holdings and Findings

The Supreme Court held that the act of opening a gate upon hearing a knock is by itself an
innocent gesture. The act of opening the gate by Escober at the knock of the Abuyen would not constitute
sufficient and convincing proof that Escober had prior knowledge of the crime. The Court also held that
the theory ofgun firing incident as a mere ritual in avoidance of suspicion is holding waters. To allow
Escober to be shot by a gun is too risky as a ritual for he might get killed. Escobers utterance that he was
not hit does not prove either that he was a co-conspirator. It was but natural that he would want to inform
and assure his superior who is presumed to be concerned with his safety and well- being.

In the case of Punzalan, the Court held that he knew of the plan to commit the crime and that it
is incredible that his companions would fetch him on the pretext of drinking spree and just bring him along
to the scene of the crime, thereby risking another eyewitness to the perpetration thereof.

The Court through Justin Fernan established the fact whenever a homicide has been committed
as a consequence of or on the occasion of a robbery, all those who took part as principals in the
commission of the robbery are also guilty as principals in the special complex crime of robbery with
homicide although they did not actually take part in the homicide unless it clearly appeared that they
endeavored to prevent homicide.

VIII. Ratio Decidendi

The Court anchored its decision on the principle of justice and fairness. It held that the fact that
the accused was at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission is not, by itself, sufficient to
establish his criminal liability. To hold the accused guilty as co-principal in the crime charged, the existence
of conspiracy between the accused and the actual killers, must be shown, and the same degree of proof
required for establishing the crime is required to support a finding of the presence of the conspiracy, i.e.,
it must be shown to exist as clearly and convincingly as the commission of the crime itself. Convictions
can never rest on mere suspicions, however, grave and serious.

IX. Disposition

The decision dated January 10, 1984 in Criminal Case No. Q-22896 of the Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City was set aside. Accused-appellant Juan Escober was acquitted of the crime of Robbery with
Homicide and his immediate release from confinement is ordered, unless detained for some other crimes.
Accused- appellant Macario Punzalan, Jr.was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal in the
complex crime of Robbery with Homicide and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
and to indemnify the heirs of the victims in the amount of P60,000,00.
G.R. Nos. 111294-95 September 7, 1995

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
WALTER NACIONAL alias "KA DENNIS," ABSALON MILLAMINA alias "KA ALVIN," EFREN MUSA, RUDY
LUCES, JAVIER MIRABETE alias "COMMANDER," and ZACARIAS MILITANTE alias "CARE, " accused.

JAVIER MIRABETE alias "COMMANDER," accused-appellant.

PUNO, J.:

This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Legazpi City in Criminal Cases
Nos. 4854-4855.

On December 18, 1989, Walter Nacional alias "Ka Dennis," Absalon Millamina alias "Ka Alvin," Efren
Musa, Rudy Luces, Javier Mirabete alias "Commander, " and Zacarias Militante alias "Care" were charged
with murder in two separate informations. The first information reads as follows:

That on or about the 21st day of February 1985 at Brgy. Salvacion, Municipality of Daraga,
Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court , the
above-named accused, with intent to kill, conspiring, confederating and helping one
another, with evident premeditation and taking advantage of superior strength, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot with a firearm one QUIRINO
LAGASON, inflicting upon the latter injuries resulting to his death, to the damage and
prejudice of his immediate heirs.1

The second information reads:

That on or about the 21st day of February 1985 at Brgy. Salvacion, Municipality of Daraga,
Province of Albay, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, with intent to kill, conspiring, confederating and helping one
another, with evident premeditation and taking advantage of superior strength, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot with a firearm one JOEL LAGASON,
inflicting upon the latter injuries, resulting to his death, to the damage and prejudice of
his immediate heirs.2

When arraigned, all the accused, except Absalon Millamina who was at large, pleaded "not guilty." The
two informations were later consolidated and assigned to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Legazpi
City.3 Trial thereafter ensued.

On May 31, 1993, the trial court rendered a decision finding the accused (except Millamina) guilty of two
counts of murder qualified by evident premeditation and attended by a conspiracy. The dispositive
portion of the decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, having been convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the
accused, Walter Nacional, Efren Musa, Rudy Luces, Javier Mirabete and Zacarias Militante
of the crime of Murder in both of the above-entitled cases, judgment is hereby rendered:
In Criminal Case No. 4854:
1. Sentencing each of the above-mentioned accused to undergo the
penalty of Reclusion Perpetua;
2. To indemnify the heirs of the deceased the sum of P50,000.00; and
3. To pay the costs.
In Criminal Case No. 4855:
1. Sentencing each of the above-named accused to undergo the penalty
of Reclusion Perpetua;
2. To indemnify the heirs of the victim the sum of P50,000.00; and
3. To pay the costs.4

All five (5) accused appealed to this Court. We accepted their appeal in a Resolution dated November 8,
1993.5

On March 1, 1994, Walter Nacional, Zacarias Militante and Efren Musa, through counsel, moved to
withdraw their appeal. They claimed that the charges against them were political in nature "committed
while they were members of the New People's Army (NPA).6 They informed the Court that as political
prisoners, they applied for and were recommended by then Secretary of Justice Franklin M. Drilon for
conditional pardon by the President of the Philippines.7 The Court granted their motion on May 11, 1994.8

On February 1, 1995, Rudy Luces, through counsel, also moved to withdraw his appeal for becoming moot
and academic.9 He claimed that he had been granted conditional pardon by the President of the
Philippines and had been released from prison per instruction. In its Comment, the Office of the Solicitor
General opined that Rudy Luces abandoned his appeal when he accepted the pardon granted him. We
now therefore dismiss his appeal.

With these developments, only accused Javier Mirabete has remained and pursued his appeal to this
Court.

The judgment convicting the five accused is based on the evidence presented by the prosecution. It is
derived mainly from the testimonies of two eyewitnesses Bienvenida Lagason, Quirino's widow and
Joel's mother, and Crisanto Miranda, a neighbor of the Lagasons and accused Walter Nacional.

The findings of the trial court as supported by the evidence are summarized as follows:

The six (6) accused, including accused-appellant, were all civilian members of the barangay organization
of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) NPA at Daraga, Albay.10 A few days before February
21, 1985, their organization had a pulong-pulong (conference) at Barangay Lacag, Daraga for the purpose
of identifying suspected informers of the military whom they perceived as posing a threat to the NPA's
operations within the vicinity. They identified Quirino and Joel Lagason, both residents of Barangay
Salvacion, Daraga as military informants and were targeted for liquidation. Elevino Rincopan, their team
leader, however, disapproved the proposal for lack of clearance and approval from the higher NPA
authorities.11

On February 21, 1985, at 4:00 p.m., the six (6) accused and Wilson Lita alias "Ka Cris" were gathered in
front of the RCPI building at Lacag, Daraga. Wilson Lita informed them that they were to go on a mission
at Salvacion, Daraga to talk to two (2) military informers, Quirino and Joel Lagason. Some members of the
group were to confront the two about their being informers and if they "resisted" they were to be
killed.12 The others were instructed to provide maximum security during the confrontation.13 Wilson Lita
and Absalon Millamina were each armed with a short firearm and the whole group left Lacag at 4:30 p.m.
and walked towards Salvacion, four kilometers away.14

At about 5:00 p.m., the group stopped at the sari-sari store of Genita Miranda and asked Genita for
directions to the house of Quirino and Joel Lagason. 15 They continued walking and passed by a waiting
shed where they met Crisanto Miranda. They requested Crisanto to accompany them to the Lagason's
house. Wilson Lita, Zacarias Militante and accused-appellant remained at the waiting shed and the rest of
the group proceeded on their mission.16

Along the way, the group saw two men walking on the road whom Crisanto identified as Quirino and Joel
Lagason. Rudy Luces told Crisanto to leave but the latter did not. Walter Nacional approached Quirino and
said something to him. Walter then pulled out a gun from his waist and shot Quirino in the face, hitting
him between the eyebrows. Quirino fell to the ground and died instantly. A few seconds later, Absalon
Millamina shot Joel Lagason on the head. The group then fled towards the direction of the RCPI Relay
Station. Joel's mother, who was at the scene of the crime, rushed him to the hospital where he died a few
hours later.17

The defense set up by the accused consisted of denials. Walter Nacional claimed that Quirino was killed
by Wilson Lita alias "Ka Cris" while Joel was allegedly shot by Absalon Millamina.18 He further averred that
he and the other accused merely provided security to Absalon Millamina and Wilson Lita who later on was
reportedly killed in an encounter with the military.19 Rudy Luces, Zacarias Militante, Efren Musa and Javier
Mirabete denied being members of the NPA. They denied any participation in the killings. They declared
that their presence in the vicinity of the crime was merely incidental. Rudy Luces testified that he merely
showed Wilson Lita and Absalon Millamina the way to the Lagasons' house.20 Zacarias Militante claimed
that he gave the two the directions to the RCPI building.21Efren Musa alleged that he gave a glass of water
to Wilson Lita and Absalon Millamina who were passing by his house.22 Javier Mirabete testified that he
was watching a volleyball game near the scene of the crime when the shooting happened.23

The trial court rejected the denials of the accused and convicted them.

In this appeal, accused-appellant Javier Mirabete insists on his claim that he was merely watching a
volleyball game when the shooting happened.24 He denies being a member of the NPA or any rebel
organization. He likewise denies the existence of a plot and a conspiracy to kill the Lagasons. Accused-
appellant claims that he is a mere farmer, already 69 years old and had barely finished Third Grade in
school. According to him, his advanced age made it impossible for him join the NPA at the time of the
incident. He contends that the testimonies of Bienvenida Lagason and Crisanto Miranda identifying him
with the group that killed the Lagasons are unreliable and hearsay because both witnesses never knew
him. It was only four years after the shooting that Crisanto Miranda purportedly learned of the members'
identities and revealed the same to Bienvenida.25

Reviewing the records, we find that accused-appellant was part of the group that conspired to kill and
actually killed the Lagasons. The identification of accused-appellant was made not only by Bienvenida
Lagason and Crisanto Miranda but by other witnesses as well, including prosecution witnesses Elevino
Rincopan, Genita Miranda, and appellant's co-accused Walter Nacional himself.

Elevino Rincopan, a former CPP-NPA team leader at Daraga, Albay identified accused-appellant as one of
the civilian members of their barangay organization. Elevino testified that accused-appellant was present
at the pulong-pulong before February 21, 1985 where the Lagasons were identified and proposed to be
liquidated.26 The fact that Elevino Rincopan alias "Ka Boy" was the NPA team leader at Daraga, Albay was
corroborated by Walter Nacional himself.27 Walter Nacional likewise identified accused-appellant as
present at the meeting on February 21, 1985 at 4:00 p.m. in front of the RCPI building at Lacag, Daraga. It
was at this meeting that the group was instructed by Wilson Lita alias "Ka Cris" to seek out the Lagasons
and shoot them.28 Later, Genita Miranda, who was tending her sari-sari store recognized and identified
accused-appellant as part of the group that passed by her store and asked her for directions to the victims'
house.29

Accused-appellant was also identified by Crisanto Miranda who testified that he recognized all of the
accused when they approached him at the waiting shed.30 Crisanto explained that he recognized them
because they all came from neighboring barangays.31 In fact, Crisanto was able to clearly identify and
distinguish three of the group who remained at the waiting shed and the rest whom he accompanied in
their search of the Lagasons.32 His credibility is not adversely affected by the fact that he did not reveal
their identities to the authorities immediately after the shooting. He averred that Efren Musa threatened
him to remain silent. For fear of his life, Crisanto fled to Manila.33He stayed in almost two years and
returned to Daraga, Albay after some time.34 It was only in 1989 that Crisanto revealed to Bienvenida
Lagason the identities of her husband's and son's assailants, and voluntarily gave his statement to the
police.35

Clearly, the evidence proves beyond doubt that accused-appellant was a civilian member of the CPP-NPA
at Daraga, and was part of the group of CPP-NPA members that deliberately planned the killing of the
Lagasons.

The events that led to the victims' deaths also show that this group of CPP-NPA members deliberately
planned, plotted and premeditated their victims' deaths.

Evident premeditation exists when the execution of the criminal act is preceded by cool thought and
reflection upon the resolution to carry out the criminal intent. There must be, between the reflection and
execution of the crime, a space of time sufficient for the offender to arrive at a calm judgment.36

Indeed, there was more than sufficient time for the group to reflect on their criminal intentions between
the decision to shoot the victims and the actual shooting itself. At the pulong-pulong a few days before
February 21, 1995, the Lagasons were identified as military informers and the idea of killing them was
openly suggested. On February 21, 1985, all the accused were gathered at one place where the decision
to kill the Lagasons was made. The group planned the execution of the crimes, assigned the participation
of each member, and armed two of them. The group thereafter deliberately and intentionally searched
for the victims and more than an hour later, shot them as planned.

We also hold that the prosecution has clearly and convincingly established the existence of a conspiracy
in the planning and execution of the crimes. Conspiracy arises at the very instant the plotters agree,
expressly or impliedly to commit the felony and forthwith to actually pursue it.37

The conspiracy in the instant case was established at the meeting of February 25, 1985 at 4:00 p.m.
Apparently, nobody disagreed with the plan to shoot the victims because immediately after the meeting,
all the accused and Wilson Lita were seen walking as a group towards Barangay Salvacion. When they saw
their intended victims, they shot them and fled towards the RCPI building. Even those left at the waiting
shed likewise fled towards the same direction. Clearly, the shooting of the Lagasons was characterized by
a unity of purpose, intention and design.38
It hardly matters that accused-appellant was not actually present at the specific place of the shooting. He
was at the waiting shed but this was for the purpose of providing security to those who carried out the
shooting. The waiting shed was located along the way to the Lagasons' house, strategically at the entrance
to and exit from it.39

A conspiracy, once established, makes each of the conspirators liable for the acts of the others.40 All
conspirators are liable as co-principals regardless of the extent of their participation because in
contemplation of law, the act of one is the act of all.41

We also agree with the trial court that the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength cannot
be appreciated against the appellant. Mere superiority in number does not prove abuse of superior
strength.42

We likewise find no mitigating circumstance in the commission of the crimes. The analogous circumstance
of age of over 70 years cannot be considered mitigating because accused-appellant was only 59 years old
at the time of the commission of the offense.

Since there is no mitigating nor generic aggravating circumstance, the penalty of reclusion perpetua was
correctly imposed by the trial court against the accused-appellant.

Finally, we rule that the grant of conditional pardon and the consequent dismissal of the appeals of Walter
Nacional, Zacarias Militante, Efren Musa and Rudy Luces does not exempt them from payment of the civil
indemnity. A conditional pardon, when granted, does not extinguish the civil liability arising from the
crime.43 The indemnity of P50,000.00 imposed by the trial court for each of the deaths of Quirino and Joel
Lagason must be shared solidarily by all the accused.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED insofar as the criminal liability of
accused-appellant Javier Mirabete is concerned, and insofar as the civil liability of all the accused in
Criminal Cases Nos. 4854-4855.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.


[G.R. No. 115693. March 17, 1999]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. SILVERIANO BOTONA, NICOLAS BOTONA, JUNICA
LINGATONG, alias TIKI (at large) and SOFRONIO BOTONA, accused-appellants.
DECISION

PURISIMA, J.:

In the case at bar, accused-appellants Silveriano Botona and Nicolas Botona seek the reversal of the
judgment[1] of Branch 31 of the Regional Trial Court in Dapa, Surigao del Norte, finding them guilty of the
crime of murder. Accused Sofronio Botona chose not to appeal while Junica (Junior) Lingatong alias Tiki
remains at large. The decretal portion of the judgment of conviction appealed from, reads:
WHEREFORE, viewed in the light of the foregoing, the Court finds Silveriano Botona, Sofronio Botona, and
Nicolas Botona guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder as defined and penalized under
Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. Without any other modifying circumstances for consideration, all
the aforenamed accused are sentenced to suffer an indivisible penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA which is
the medium period of the penalty imposable. Likewise, all said accused are jointly and severally ordered
to pay the heirs of the victim, the following:
1. Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000) as indemnification for the death of the victim;
2. Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) as reasonable reimbursement for burial and necessary expenses
incurred; plus
3. Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) for moral and exemplary damages;
but without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, to suffer the necessary penalties imposed by
law and to pay the cost.
With respect to Sofronio Botona, his recorded detention since April 25, 1990 or a total of three (3) years,
eleven (11) months and two (2) days is deductible in full from the penalty imposed herein.
Pending arrest of Junior Lingatong, alias Tiki, the records is temporarily archived.
SO ORDERED.[2]
Filed on January 9, 1989 by Third Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Clarito P. Servillas, the Information
indicting accused Silveriano Botona, Nicolas Botona, Junior Lingatong and Sofronio Botona, alleged:
That on the 27th day of June, 1988 at or about 12:00 oclock in the evening, in Barangay Bitoon,
municipality of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, said accused armed with long sharp pointed bolo and knife locally known as sundangay, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, with treachery and known premeditation and with intent
to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously attack and wound one BIENVENIDO OLIVER,
thereby inflicting upon the latter mortal wounds, to wit:
1. Stab wound - 1 cm. above the thyroid cartilage 3 inches in diameter and penetrating through the
esophagus and trachea to a point almost severing both;
2. Lacerated wound - 1 cm. below the stab wound 2 1/2 inches length - superficial;
3. Lacerated wound - 1 cm. below the wound described above - 2 inches length superficial;
4. Incised wound - left jaw - 3 1/2 inches across the left interior mandibular border - superficial;
5. Incised wound - left thumb - cutting the nail to a depth of 1 inch;
6. Superficial incised wound - dorsal aspect of forefinger 1/2 inch length.
which injuries caused the instantaneous death of said Bienvenido Oliver, consequently inflicting actual,
moral and exemplary damages upon the heirs of the victim which they hereby demand in the total sum
of P 30,000.00.
Contrary to law with the qualifying circumstance of alevosia and aggravating circumstance of evident
premeditation.[3]
On May 10, 1989, only the herein appellants and the other accused, Sofronio Botona, pleaded Not
Guilty. Accused Junica Lingatong alias Tiki was then and is still at large.[4]
On August 28, 1992, after all the witnesses, namely Julieto Oliver, Arsenia Botona Vda. de Oliver, Dr.
Douglas Subang, Silveriano Botona, Nicolas Botona, Bernandito Lubreo, Felix Comboy, Federico Antolin,
Prudencio Leyros and Diosdado Oposa, had testified, the trial was terminated. However, on October 8,
1992, the case was re-opened to admit the testimony of Sofronio Botona, a detainee at the Provincial
Rehabilitation and Detention Center in Surigao City. The trial Court noted the strained relations between
Silveriano Botona, who was bonded, and his younger brother, Sofronio Botona (detainee), because the
former did not attend to the problem on Sofronios bond.[5]
Accused Silveriano Botona and Sofronio Botona are brothers. The victim, Bienvenido Oliver, was their
brother-in-law, being the husband of their full-blooded sister, Arsenia Botona-Oliver.Nicolas Botona is the
son of Silveriano Botona while Junica (Junior) Lingatong alias Tiki is the cousin of the Botonas.
The trial court summarized the version of the prosecution, as testified on by witnesses Julieto Oliver,
Arsenia Vda. de Oliver, and Dr. Douglas Subang, thus :
JULIETO OLIVER, the victims 16 year old son, a grade VI pupil, a resident of Barangay Sta. Fe, Dapa, Surigao
del Norte said that he is the eldest among the five (5) children of Bienvenido Oliver (victim) and Arsenia
Botona Oliver; that after their supper last June 26, 1988, he was directed by his mother to fetch his father
at Bitoon Poblacion of which he complied; that he went directly to the house of his Uncle Veriano (accused)
and saw his father playing cards called bakarat with a person whose name he did not know; that he saw
his Uncle Veriano standing there only, his answers to further question were:
Q - What did you tell your father x x?
A - I told him to go home but only replied- wait for a while because we will just go home together
Q - What did you do next if any?
A - I remained standing as he was busy playing bakarat;
At about 11:00 oclock that evening, they finally left the house of Silveriano Botona and along the highway,
a person emerged from the roadside whom he recognized as accused Silveriano Botona who immediately
hugged his father while he was stunned, said accused called for assistance and another set of (3) three
persons also emerged, said persons he recognized as Nicolas Botona, Junior Lingatong and Sofronio
Botona who all hugged his father also, note his answers further:
Q - What happened after the three accused appeared or emerged?
A - The three of them hugged my father while Uncle Silveriano held the shoulder of father and pushed him
to the ground;
Q - What happened next when your father was already on the ground?
A -I do not know anymore as I ran away xx x
that he hid at the side of the ricefield about five (5) fathoms from where his fallen father was; that he
proceeded under the house of Batoy Laplana, thence, saw the four (4) accused washed themselves in the
pumpwell with Nicholas Botona pumping while the others washed themselves; that at 4:00 A. M. the
following dawn , he saw his bloodied father on the road, thence he went home to their farm in Sitio Lobo
and notified his mother that his father was already dead.
When cross-examined, he clarified that he saw the joint hugging of his father by the four (4) accused while
he briefly watched at three (3) fathoms away from them; that all the accused were there in the house of
his Uncle Veriano while his father was still playing cards; that when they started to go home, the four (4)
accused were no longer seen by him; and hiked along the highway for the barangay road to their house at
Lobo; that he clarified of no (sic) altercation/trouble that arose during the bakarat in his Uncle Verianos
house neither he knew of any grudge with any person with his father; that he authenticated his Affidavit
dated July 4, 1988 taken by Pat. Carlos Sulima; that the contents therein were stated by him during the
investigation in the presence of Wendelina Comon and his mother and signed by the MCTC Judge of Del
Carmen in his presence after which they went home, his answers further were:
Q - And in your affidavit your said that you will just go ahead of him?
A - No, sir, he did not say that to me.
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
Q - Why did you sign your affidavit when this is not part of your statement?
A - Because I am innocent about it, sir;
Q - So you did not sleep in the house of Batoy Laplana?
A - No, sir, I did not;
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
Q - In paragraph 3 which I will read - Kinsa man di- ay ang nagpatay sa imong amahan, nasayud ka ba? or
translated Who therefore killed your father, did you know them?
A - He did not ask me sir, he only asked me Question No.4;
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-
Court - Atty. Coro, please read Question No. 4?(sic)
Atty. Coro:
Q - Guinsa man nimo pagkasayud nga kini sila maoy nagpatay sa imong amahan and your answer is this
niadtong fetcha 27 bulan sa Hunyo, 1988 sa may alas 7:30 ang takna sa gabi kapin kun kulang, gisugo ako
sa akong inahan sa pagpalupog kang Tatay (Bienvenido Oliver) na didto sa Barangay Bitoon, Del Carmen,
Surigao del Norte ug sa akong pagki-abut didto sa Bitoon, ako dayon guisultihan si tatay na itay, uli na
tagpauli ikaw ni nanay
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
A - That was asked and that was my answer, sir.
He denied that question and answer in no. 5 was not asked and answer was not his including question
and answer no.6 and nos. 9 and 10; that the cadaver of his father was first brought to the Bitoon Hall and
later to the ground floor of his Uncle Verianos house
He clarified on redirect stage that it was Silveriano Botona who held the sundangay or small sharp-pointed
bolo which was held by the left hand when his father was hugged; that the three other accused conspired
in hugging his father; that the four accused did not condole neither did they join the burial of his father.
MRS. ARSENIA BOTONA VDA. DE OLIVER, 47 years old , widow of victim, housekeeper-farmer, finished only
up to Grade I, a resident of Sta. Fe, Dapa, Surigao del Norte declared that she was in their farm in Sitio
Lobo when her husband was stabbed and spent actually P50,000.00 for his death; that her late husband
was a farmer and a tuba gatherer with 2- gallons produce daily at the price of P5.00 to P6.00 per gallon,
their farm produce of root crops usually gives them an income of P15.00 to P25.00 per kerosene can; that
the loss of her husband could not be valued as life is priceless.
When cross-examined, she revealed that the cadaver was not embalmed and the coffin was made by the
carpenters hired and paid for their services upon the suggestion of Silveriano Botona; that she spent for
nine (9) nightly prayers for food, viand and drinks a total of P900.00; that the body of her late husband
was laid in state under the house of Silveriano Botona, her elder brother, her further answers were;
Q - During the lifetime of your husband Bienvenido Oliver, did he have any grudge with your brothers
before the incident?
A - Yes, your Honor;
Q - What was the cause of that grudge?
A - (Regarding) our inherited land that when I tell my husband to go there, they do not want her husband
to enter the land;
Q - Who among your brothers do not want your husband to occupy the land?
A - Silveriano and Sofronio.
That Silveriano and Sofronio did not condole nor help her even as the cadaver was at the ground floor of
Silverianos house - they just passed by including Nicholas, her nephew; that Silveriano warned her husband
one time quote dont plow that portion of the field because if you will plow, it is up to you. the reply of her
husband was we plow that portion to maintain ourselves and the children of our brother; that Silveriano
one time throusted (sic) a stab blow which did not hit her husband who kneeled in his presence, the incident
happened in their old house; that she cried and pleaded with her brother Silveriano that time; that they
(Olivers) occupied said portion of the land on instruction of her younger sister Elma but Silveriano wanted
to possess/cultivate it that year; that said land is Elmas exclusive property because Elma bought said
portion, their other brothers were also given their corresponding shares.
DR. DOUGLAS SUBANG, a resident physician of Surigao District Hospital, Dapa, Surigao del Norte said that
he examined the cadaver of the victim at the place of the incident, the Post Mortem was correspondingly
authenticated by him; that the three (3) inches injury on the neck almost cut the esophagus and the
trachea which was a fatal injury; the second injury was also above the neck but a superficial and not a
fatal one; the third injury on the neck which also superficial; the fourth was at the left jaw which was also
superficial and skin-deep; the fifth was at the left thumb; the sixth was at the back part of the hand; that
the cause of death was due to massive hemorrhage due to stab wound on the neck; that a Certificate of
Death was correspondingly issued, the said documents were marked as Exhibits A and B.[6]

Accused-appellants Silveriano Botona and Nicolas Botona placed reliance on the defense of alibi. To
reinforce their evidence, they called on Benedicto Lubreo, Felix Comboy, Federico Antolin, Prudencio
Leyros and Diosdado Oposa to testify.
Accused Sofronio Botona, on the other hand, pointed to his brother Silveriano, and nephew Nicolas
Botona as the perpetrators of the crime. He theorized upon his alleged non-involvement in the
malefaction complained of.
Accused-appellant Silveriano Botona narrated that on June 27, 1988 there was gambling, playing of cards,
in his house as it was the day before the eve of the fiesta of Bitoon.[7] The upper floor of his house had a
living room and bedroom, while on its ground floor were the dining room and another bedroom.[8] On the
evening of June 27, 1988, he was at home.[9] On the following day, June 28, 1988, he woke up at 5:00 a.
m. to gather tuba. When he went home at about 8:00 oclock in the morning, he noticed the cadaver of
the victim in his house.[10] His sister, Arsenia, who is the wife of the victim, remarked you will be next to
which remark he replied jawa ra or the devil, after which he brought the tuba and scythe upstairs and
later on, went down to ask his sister what happened but she did not answer.[11] According to him, he paid
for the coffin Because it was placed in my house, I have to spend for it. The deceased was buried at around
3:00 p.m. to 4:00 oclock in the afternoon of the same day.[12] He stressed that if he was the one who killed
the victim, he would not have allowed the cadaver of the victim to be brought to his house. Being the
eldest in the family, he sometimes disciplined the victim and his sister because they were habitual
drunkards,[13] witness explained.
On cross examination, the same accused-appellant declared that he stayed on the upper floor of his house
after supper, and only peeped through its flooring to see if there were still people playing cards on the
ground floor but he did not see Junior Lingatong thereat.[14]
Accused-appellant Nicolas Botona recounted that in 1988 he was residing at Barangay Bitoon in the house
of his father Silveriano Botona. The victim, Bienvenido Oliver, was his uncle-in-law being the husband of
his aunt, Arsenia Botona-Oliver. On June 27, 1988, at about 7:00 p.m., he was already aslept with his
wife.[15] His father was then in their house as there were many gamblers on the ground floor. He and his
wife woke up at about 6:00 oclock the following morning and while taking breakfast, all of a sudden his
aunt Arsenia, Roldan, Boboy, and Beto placed the remains of the victim on the ground floor of their
house. He assisted in providing a bench on which to put the cadaver and he asked what happened to Tito
but his tita Arsenia merely said he is dead.[16] His father Silveriano was not yet in when the deceased was
brought to their house but arrived a few minutes later. The spot where the victim died was approximately
50 meters away from the house of his father and 100 meters from the house of Sofronio
Botona.[17] Witness also stated that the victim loved him,[18] and Junior Lingatong is his uncle being the son
of his grandmother.[19]
Cross-examined, witness stressed that his wife was three (3) months on the family way and said I was not
able to come out of the room because I am greedy with sex because I am newly married.[20]
Bernandito Lubreo testified that on June 27,1988, he went to visit Sofronio Botona in the latters house in
the Bitoon Poblacion, at around 7:00 p.m., to talk with him about their agreement to slaughter a carabao
for the fiesta and he stayed in the said house of Silveriano until 2:00 oclock the following morning as there
was a card game on the ground floor and he played cards from 9:00 oclock to 2:00 oclock the next
morning[21]; that Silveriano was witnessing the game and when it ended at 2:00 oclock, Silveriano Botona
was still there;[22] witness recalled.
On cross-examination, this witness disclosed that from 7:00 to 9:00 oclock in the evening, he and
Silveriano not only talked about the carabao to be slaughtered but also about the card games,[23] that
there were many who played cards, one of whom was Sofronio Botona[24] and that was the last time he
saw Silveriano, when they discussed about the carabao they were going to slaughter.[25]
Felix Comboy testified that on June 27, 1988, he was at the house of Silveriano Botona until 1:00 oclock
in the morning; that at around 10:00 oclock in the evening, he was downstairs gambling[26] and for the
entire duration of the card games, he was the banker[27]; that at around 12:00 oclock midnight and 2:30
a.m., he went upstairs to prepare coffee, at which time, Silveriano was already sleeping[28]; that at 11:00
in the evening, he again went upstairs to prepare coffee, and noticed that Nicolas Botona was sleeping in
his room[29] but did not notice the presence of Sofronio Botona that evening.[30]
Federico Antolin testified that at around 11:00 oclock in the evening of June 27, 1988, he was at the house
of Silveriano, gambling. Sofronio Botona was not with Silveriano Botona and Nicolas Botona because at
around 11:30 that evening Silveriano and Nicolas Botona were already sleeping, when he went upstairs
to eat;[31] witness added.
When asked by the trial court to identify Sofronio Botona from among those inside the court room,
however, Federico Antolin failed to do so because according to him, he was only eight (8)years old when
he last saw Sofronio.[32] Witness likewise declared that he went to court to testify on his own volition and
he and Silveriano Botona just casually met inside the jeep he took in going to court.[33]
Sofronio Botona testified that Silveriano Botona is his older brother while Nicolas Botona is his nephew;
that he knows Junior Lingatong because their parents are brothers and sisters while the deceased,
Bienvenido Oliver, was the husband of his Manding Arsenia Botona-Oliver[34]; that at midnight of June 27,
1988, he went to the house of Silveriano Botona to witness the card games and while there, he was invited
by Silveriano Botona to go somewhere and when they were already at the place he was invited to go to,
he was asked by Silveriano to walk briskly as they were trying to catch up with somebody; that Nicolas
Botona accompanied them[35]; that when he was invited by Silveriano, he did not know who they would
try to overtake;[36] that upon knowing that it was Bienvenido Oliver, he stopped them from killing him[37];
that the victims neck was cut by Silveriano and Nicolas Botona with a sharp-pointed bolo of Silveriano
while Nicolas was holding the victim; that he was told to hold the victim but he ran away, instead, because
he was threatened to be killed[38]; that Junior Lingatong was not there at the time the victim was killed[39];
that the son of his Manding was following them to the crime scene, at a distance of about 90 meters and
while running away from Sofronio and Nicolas Botona, he met Julieto Oliver but said nothing to him[40];
that when Silveriano asked him to go with them, he saw no bolo or any weapon with Silveriano, his brother
nor with Nicolas, his nephew, but he saw that the bolo used by his brother in killing Bienvenido Oliver was
nine (9) inches long.[41]
The defense also put on the witness stand Prudencio Leyros and Diosdado Oposa who gave a different
version of the incident under inquiry.
Prudencio Leyros testified that he was personally acquainted with all the accused but he did not know the
victim, Bienvenido Oliver; that on June 27, 1988, he passed the night at the house of Lalo (Diosdado
Oposa) a neighbor of his because he had no companion in their house; that at about midnight, while they
were sleeping at the sala, he was awakened by a voice saying Lalo, you wake up, we were (sic) here; that
when Diosdado Oposa opened the door, he saw Charlito and Marcial Gultian and Diosdado Oposa asked
Charlito and Marcial: Tiyo, where did you come from; that when the Gultians entered the house they sat
on a bench and he noticed that their shirts were stained with blood; that when Diosdado Oposa asked
them about the blood stains, they answered: Keep quite, do not tell anybody we have killed somebody at
Bitoon, still lying on the road and showed them the bolos stained with blood;[42] that they did not report
the matter to the police because the Gultians threatened to cut their necks if they would tell anybody
about what happened; that Charlito Gultian is already dead and Marcial Gultian is still in Ezperanza, Del
Carmen.[43]
Diosdado Oposa testified that prior to December, 1989, he was residing at Sitio Pangi Antipolo, Del
Carmen, Surigao del Norte; that he personally knew the accused Botonas as well as Prudencio Leyros; that
in the evening of June 27, 1988, Prudencio Leyros slept in their house because his family was in Surigao
City at the time[44]; that at around 1:00 oclock a.m., Marcial and Charlito Gultian called him from outside
saying Lalo, you wake up and he saw them bloodstained including their bolos; the Gultians (who are his
uncles) warned him and Prudencio Leyros not to reveal the killing incident because they would be next;
that they conversed about no other topic[45]; that they suddenly disappeared in the house at around 2:00
oclock at dawn and he did not know where they proceeded to; that they went back to sleep after the
Gultians left[46] and it was only the following morning when he learned that the victim was Bienvenido
Oliver.[47]
During the ocular inspection conducted on May 16, 1991, Julieto Oliver pointed to the Court where one
of the accused stood and where the others were seated[48] while his father was playing bakarat in the
house of Silveriano Botona. At the scene of the crime, Julieto Botona demonstrated[49], with the sheriff
acting as his father, how the accused ganged-up on his father; that while his father was walking ahead of
him, Silveriano Botona, with a weapon in hand, suddenly went out from behind a tree beside the road
and immediately hugged his father; that the three others also went out from behind the same tree when
Silveriano shouted tabang (or help). The court noted that during that fateful night when Bienvenido Oliver
was killed, the moon was bright as it was only three days before full moon in the June 1988
calendar.[50] Julieto Oliver also pointed to the ricefield where he hid for not more than a minute, which
was six-arms length away from where he left his father.[51] Proceeding to the vacant house of a certain
Batoy Laplana, where Julieto Oliver hid for about three hours, he squatted on the ground to show how he
hid in fear. Seven-arms length from where he was hiding, he pointed to the spot where he saw the three
accused washed themselves at the pumpwell while Nicolas Botona was pumping the well.[52]
As to why Arsenia Botona Oliver brought the body of the deceased to the house of Silveriano, knowing
that the latter was one of those who killed her husband, she said, because they were the ones who killed
him and they will be the one also to bury the dead.[53]
After evaluating what is on record, the trial court found the evidence for the prosecution enough to
convict. It concluded that the accused conspired to kill the victim, appreciated the qualifying circumstance
of treachery but ruled that the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation was absorbed by
treachery.

Accused-appellants contend that:


1. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT SINCE THE CONSPIRACY WAS NOT INDEPENDENTLY
PROVEN BY THE PROSECUTION AMONG THE ACCUSED SILVERIANO BOTONA, NICOLAS BOTONA, JUNIOR
LINGATONG and SOFRONIO BOTONA AND HIS SON, NICOLAS BOTONA SHOULD HAVE BEEN ACQUITTED;
2. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE TESTIMONIES OF BERNANDITO LUBREO,
PRUDENCIO LUBREO, PRUDENCIO LEYROS AND DIOSDADO OPOSA CREATED UNMISTAKABLY GRAVE
DOUBT AS TO THE CRIMINAL AUTHORSHIP OR LIABILITY OF ALL THE ACCUSED AND THEREFORE THE
PROSECUTION HAS NOT PROVEN THE GUILT OF ALL THE ACCUSED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
3. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING ALL THE ACCUSED THERE BEING NOT AN IOTA OF EVIDENCE
SHOWN THAT AN ACT WAS COMMITTED BY APPELLANTS SILVERIANO BOTONA AND NICOLAS BOTONA
THAT THEY PERSONALLY CAUSED THE SIX (6) MORTAL WOUNDS WHICH ALLEGEDLY CAUSED THE DEATH
OF THE VICTIM.

Let us tackle first the third assigned error. Appellants claim that there is no evidence to show an act of
participation in the actual killing of the deceased.
The contention is untenable. That Julieto Oliver did not witness the actual killing of his father is of no
moment. Well-settled is the rule that direct evidence of the commission of the crime is not the only matrix
wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt.[54]
In the absence of direct evidence, circumstantial evidence may be resorted to. Circumstantial evidence
suffices to convict, if:
a) there is more than one circumstance;
b) the facts from where the inferences are derived are proven; and
c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.[55]
In People vs. Aaron Bionat[56], the Court upheld the conviction of the accused notwithstanding the absence
of an eyewitness. In the said case, the accused was positively identified as one of the persons who hog-
tied and took away the victim, threatening to shoot the witness if she would cry or shout. The next day,
the victim was found dead with stab wounds.
A judgment of conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be sustained only when the circumstances
proved form an unbroken chain which leads to a fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused,
to the exclusion of all others, as the culprit. The circumstances proved must be consistent with each other,
consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with any other
hypothesis except that of guilt.[57]
In the case under consideration, the prosecution established the following chain of circumstances:
1) The motive of the killing as testified on by Arsenia Botona, bereaved wife of the deceased, - that her
own brothers Silveriano and Sofronio Botona begrudged them, especially her late husband, because of
their inherited land which was plowed by the victim;[58]
2) that on another occasion, Silveriano Botona stabbed her husband but was unhurt because her husband
knelt before him;[59]
3) That on June 27, 1988, after eating supper, Julieto Botona, as instructed by his mother, went to Bitoon
Poblacion to fetch his father, Bienvenido Oliver, whom he found playing cards called bakarat in the house
of his Uncle Veriano (Silveriano); and that he was told by his father to Wait for a while as we will just go
home together;[60]
4) that all the accused were there in the house of Silveriano while the deceased was still playing cards;
that when the deceased and Julieto Oliver went home, the four accused were no longer seen by Julieto;[61]
5) that it was at about 11:00 oclock that evening, when Julieto Oliver and the deceased left the house of
Silveriano Botona;[62]
6) that on their way home, the deceased, Bienvenido Oliver, was walking ahead of Julieto; that a person
suddenly emerged from the roadside whom Julieto Oliver recognized as accused Silveriano Botona; that
Silveriano Botona immediately hugged his father; that said accused called for assistance and another set
of three (3) accused also emerged; that these persons were identified by Julieto Oliver to be Nicolas
Botona, Junior Lingatong, and Sofronio Botona who all hugged his father;[63]
7) that Silveriano Botona was holding the sundangay" or small sharp-pointed bolo when he hugged
Bienvenido Oliver;[64] that Julieto Oliver noticed the weapon because it sparked through the light;[65] that
it was only three days before fullmoon at that time;[66]
8) that Julieto Oliver saw his Uncle Silveriano hold the shoulder of his father and push him to the
ground;[67]
9) that Julieto Oliver did not witness what happened next because he ran away;[68]
10) that Julieto Oliver hid for about or more than one minute[69] in the ricefield six - arms length away
from where his father has fallen; that he proceeded under the house of Batoy Laplana where he hid for
about three hours;[70]
11) that after a while, Julieto Oliver saw, from where he was hiding, the four accused in the pumpwell of
the next house with Nicolas Botona pumping while the others were washing themselves;[71] and
12) that at about 4:00 a. m. the following dawn, Julieto Oliver went back to the place where he left his
father and found him dead in the same spot where the four (4) accused intercepted his father; that he
proceeded to their farm in Sitio Lobo and notified his mother that his father was already dead.[72]
From the aforementioned circumstances, it is decisively clear that the accused were identified by Julieto
Oliver as the persons last seen with the victim on June 27, 1988, at around 11:00 p. m. and at 4:00 oclock
in the morning of the next day, the lifeless victim was found on the same spot where his deceased father
was attacked by the four (4) accused. From the treacherous design in accosting the deceased, a land
dispute as background motive, a previous attempt to take the life of the victim, and the other antecedent
facts and circumstances aforestated, no conclusion can be drawn other than the guilt of appellants.
All told, the circumstantial evidence for the prosecution surmounted the constitutional presumption of
innocence.
The gamut of evidence upon which the trial court based its judgment of conviction came mainly from the
testimony of prosecution witness Julieto Oliver. It is thus imperative to delve into and scrutinize very well
the credibility of said witness.
Worthy to be cited with approval is the following observation below on this vital witness for the People:
x x x the court finds his demeanor during the hearings and during the ocular inspection far from being
coached and fabricated, hence, worthy of belief.[73]
Expounding on the issue of credibility of a witness, what the court said in the case of People vs.
Soberano[74] comes to the fore, to wit:
The constant rule in our jurisdiction is that this Court will accord great respect to the factual conclusions
drawn by the trial court, particularly on the matter of credibility of a witness since the trial judge had the
opportunity-which is denied to appellate courts - to observe the behavior and demeanor of witnesses while
testifying. The trial judge is thus able to form at first hand a judgment as to whether particular witnesses
were telling the truth or not.
A scrutiny of the candid and unwavering testimony of Julieto Oliver during the trial and ocular inspection
shows beyond cavil the correctness and reliability of the findings and conclusion arrived at by the trial
court.
As regards the affidavit of Julietio Oliver executed on July 4, 1988, which was not offered in evidence, the
court, in disregarding the inconsistencies theorized upon by the defense, ruled that subject
inconsistencies are minor and were fully explained by Julieto Oliver on the witness stand.
Understandably, the lower court must have been aware that discrepancies between the affidavit of a
witness and his testimony in court do not necessarily discredit him because it is a matter of judicial notice
and experience that affidavits taken ex parte are almost always incomplete and often inaccurate.[75]
In their attempt to impugn the prosecutions theory of conspiracy, appellants asseverate that it was
impossible for conspiracy to have been hatched in the absence of proof to show how the murder weapon
got into the picture. In so claiming, appellants relied on the testimony of Sofronio Botona that when he
was invited by Silveriano to go with him, he saw no bolo or any weapon brought by his brother, nor by
Nicolas, his nephew.[76] Appellants would like to impress upon the court that the murder weapon is
indispensable to the existence of conspiracy.
Whether or not Sofronio saw the murder weapon is neither important nor decisive. The belated testimony
of Sofronio who was not in good terms with Silveriano Botona because of the formers problem on his
bond was never made the basis of the theory of conspiracy. It may have on some points corroborated the
testimony of Julieto Oliver but lapses in the testimony of Sofronio do not in any way affect the untarnished
and straightforward testimony of Julieto Oliver that he saw Silveriano holding the weapon when the latter
and the three other accused ganged-up on his father.
For conspiracy to exist, proof of an actual planning of the perpetration of the crime is not a condition
precedent. Time and again, this court ruled that it is sufficient that at the time of the commission of the
offense, the accused had the same purpose and were united in its execution. Direct evidence of a previous
actual agreement to commit a crime is not necessary. It may be deduced from the mode and manner in
which the offense was perpetrated or inferred from the acts of the accused evincing a joint or common
purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest.[77]
In the case under scrutiny, the act of Silveriano Botona who suddenly appeared from the roadside, hugging
the victim with the murder weapon in his hand, was complemented by the act of the three other accused
ganging-up on the defenseless victim, when Silveriano called for their reinforcement. Verily, at the precise
moment of execution of the crime, the accused acted in concert to accomplish a common objective - to
take the life of Bienvenido Oliver.
This court is truly convinced of the findings by the trial court that conspiracy attended the perpetration of
the crime. Consequently, the act of one is the act of all regardless of the degree of participation of
each.[78] All the accused in the case are therefore equally liable for the death of Bienvenido Oliver.
There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against person, employing means and
methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution,
without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.[79] In appreciating
the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the trial court ruled that: The evidence of the people through
Julieto Oliver was clear and unwavering - that the attack was sudden and unexpected where the victim
was unable to defend himself. They all ganged-up the victim and thereafter pushed said victim to the
ground.
Thus, the court a quo properly considered the qualifying circumstance of treachery, as the attack on the
deceased was sudden, catching him unaware and giving him no opportunity to defend himself.[80]
Telling on the matter of aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation are the observations by the
Solicitor General, to wit:
Finally it was an error for the trial court to hold that evident premeditation is absorbed in treachery (RTC
Decision, p. 61). It is the direct proof of conspiracy that presupposes the existence of evident premeditation
(People vs. Timbang, 74 PHIL 295 [1943]); however, when conspiracy is only implied as in the case at bar,
evident premeditation may not be appreciated, in the absence of proof as to how and when the plan to kill
the victim was hatched or what had elapsed before it was carried out (People vs. Custudio, 97 PHIL 698,
704 [1995]); The Revised Penal Code, Reyes, Vol. 1, 1993 Edition)[81]
The court adopts the aforesaid observations by the Solicitor General. Considering that the conspiracy in
the present case is merely implied, evident premeditation must be clearly established, the elements of
which are as follows:
1) the time when the accused decided to commit the crime;
2) an overt act manifestly indicating that the accused had clung to his determination to commit the crime;
3) a sufficient lapse of time between the decision to commit the crime and the execution thereof to allow
the accused to reflect on the consequences of his act.[82]
Absent reliable substantiation of the aforestated elements, evident premeditation can not aggravate the
criminal liability of the accused. As no attempt was made to prove the requirements of evident
premeditation[83], the same cannot be appreciated.
Appellants interposed alibi, the weakest of defenses. The court has patiently reiterated the requisites for
alibi to prosper, that is, the accused was not at the locus delicti when the offense was committed and it
was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime at the approximate time of its
commission.[84]
The trial court found that the distance from the house of Silveriano Botona to the scene of the crime was
only less than a kilometer and all the accused could hike such distance in less than
thirty (30) minutes. Such being the case, the requirement of physical impossibility was not satisfied to
exculpate appellants from the murder of the victim. Moreover, the accused were positively identified by
Julieto Oliver as the persons who ganged-up his father at the scene of the crime. Against the said positive
identification, alibi can not prevail.
Anent the testimonies of Bernandito Lubreo, Prudencio Leyros, and Diosdado Oposa, not an iota of doubt
was engendered by their testimonies on the culpability of the accused. That such testimonies remain
unrebutted is of no moment. Nowhere in the testimony of Bernandino Lubreo can be detected any
statement that points to the culpability of the alleged perpetrators, Marcial and Nicholas Gultian. Contrary
to the claim of appellants, the testimony of Bernandino Lubreo did not show the guilt of the Gultians.
There is merit in the Comment by the prosecutor that the testimonies of Prudencio Leyros and Diosdado
Oposa appear contrary to ordinary human events. It should be noted that ordinarily, under the
circumstances, nobody would wake up another for the sole purpose of telling the latter that they killed
somebody, with a threat to kill the person so apprised if the matter told would be revealed to others.
Verily, the Gultians had nothing to gain by telling anybody about the crime. On the contrary, they would
just risk its discovery.
WHEREFORE, the appeal under consideration is hereby DISMISSED and the appealed decision, dated April
27, 1994, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, Dapa, Surigao del Norte, in Criminal Case No. 115693
AFFIRMED, with the modification that the award of P10,000.00 for moral and exemplary damages is
deleted for want of legal and factual basis. Costs against the appellants.
SO ORDERED
Romero (Chairman), Vitug, Panganiban, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
[G.R. No. 130872. March 25, 1999]

FRANCISCO M. LECAROZ and LENLIE LECAROZ, petitioners, vs. SANDIGANBAYAN and


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:

FRANCISCO M. LECAROZ and LENLIE LECAROZ, father and son, were convicted by the
Sandiganbayan of thirteen (13) counts of estafa through falsification of public documents.[1]They now seek
a review of their conviction as they insist on their innocence.
Petitioner Francisco M. Lecaroz was the Municipal Mayor of Santa Cruz, Marinduque, while his son,
his co-petitioner Lenlie Lecaroz, was the outgoing chairman of the Kabataang Barangay (KB) of Barangay
Bagong Silang, Municipality of Santa Cruz, and concurrently a member of its Sangguniang Bayan (SB)
representing the Federation of Kabataang Barangays.
In the 1985 election for the Kabataang Barangay Jowil Red[2] won as KB Chairman of Barangay
Matalaba, Santa Cruz. Parenthetically, Lenlie Lecaroz did not run as candidate in this electoral exercise as
he was no longer qualified for the position after having already passed the age limit fixed by law.
Sometime in November 1985 Red was appointed by then President Ferdinand Marcos as member of
the Sangguniang Bayan of Santa Cruz representing the KBs of the municipality. Imee Marcos-Manotoc,
then the National Chairperson of the organization, sent a telegram to Red confirming his appointment and
advising him further that copies of his appointment papers would be sent to him in due time through the
KB Regional Office.[3] Red received the telegram on 2 January 1986 and showed it immediately to Mayor
Francisco M. Lecaroz.
On 7 January 1986, armed with the telegram and intent on assuming the position of sectoral
representative of the KBs to the SB, Red attended the meeting of the Sanggunian upon the invitation of one
of its members, Kagawad Rogato Lumawig. In that meeting, Mayor Francisco M. Lecaroz informed Red
that he could not yet sit as member of the municipal council until his appointment had been cleared by the
Governor of Marinduque. Nonetheless, the telegram was included in the agenda as one of the subjects
discussed in the meeting.
Red finally received his appointment papers sometime in January 1986.[4] But it was only on 23 April
1986, when then President Corazon C. Aquino was already in power,[5] that he forwarded these documents
to Mayor Lecaroz. This notwithstanding, Red was still not allowed by the mayor to sit as sectoral
representative in the Sanggunian.
Meanwhile, Mayor Lecaroz prepared and approved on different dates the payment to Lenlie Lecaroz
of twenty-six (26) sets of payrolls for the twenty-six (26) quincenas covering the period 16 January 1986
to 30 January 1987. Lenlie Lecaroz signed the payroll for 1-15 January 1986 and then authorized someone
else to sign all the other payrolls for the succeeding quincenas and claim the corresponding salaries in his
behalf.
On 25 October 1989, or three (3) years and nine (9) months from the date he received his appointment
papers from President Marcos, Red was finally able to secure from the Aquino Administration a
confirmation of his appointment as KB Sectoral Representative to the Sanggunian Bayan of Santa Cruz.
Subsequently, Red filed with the Office of the Ombudsman several criminal complaints against Mayor
Francisco Lecaroz and Lenlie Lecaroz arising from the refusal of the two officials to let him assume the
position of KB sectoral representative. After preliminary investigation, the Ombudsman filed with the
Sandiganbayan thirteen (13) Informations for estafa through falsification of public documents against
petitioners, and one (1) Information for violation of Sec. 3, par. (e), of RA No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and
Corrupt Practices Act, against Mayor Lecaroz alone.
On 7 October 1994 the Sandiganbayan rendered a decision finding the two (2) accused guilty on all
counts of estafa through falsification of public documents and sentenced each of them to -
a) imprisonment for an indeterminate period ranging from a minimum of FIVE (5) YEARS,
ELEVEN (11) MONTHS AND ONE (1) DAY of prision correccional to a maximum of TEN
(10) YEARS AND ONE (1) DAY of prison mayor FOR EACH OF THE ABOVE CASES;
b) a fine in the amount of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000) FOR EACH OF THE ABOVE
CASES or a total of SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P65,000), and
c) perpetual special disqualification from public office in accordance with Art. 214 of the Revised
Penal Code.

x x x (and) to pay jointly and severally the amount of TWENTY-THREE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED
SEVENTY-FIVE PESOS (P23,675), the amount unlawfully obtained, to the Municipality of Sta. Cruz,
Marinduque in restitution.

The Sandiganbayan ruled that since Red was elected president of the KB and took his oath of office
sometime in 1985 before then Assemblywoman Carmencita O. Reyes his assumption of the KB presidency
upon the expiration of the term of accused Lenlie Lecaroz was valid. Conversely, the accused Lenlie
Lecaroz ceased to be a member of the KB on the last Sunday of November 1985 and, as such, was no longer
the legitimate representative of the youth sector in the municipal council of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque.
In convicting both accused on the falsification charges, the Sandiganbayan elucidated -

x x x x when, therefore, accused MAYOR FRANCISCO LECAROZ entered the name of his son, the
accused LENLIE LECAROZ, in the payroll of the municipality of Sta. Cruz for the payroll period starting
January 15, 1986, reinstating accused LENLIE LECAROZ to his position in the Sangguniang Bayan, he
was deliberately stating a falsity when he certified that LENLIE LECAROZ was a member of the
Sangguniang Bayan. The fact is that even accused LENLIE LECAROZ himself no longer attended the
sessions of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sta. Cruz, and starting with the payroll for January 16 to 31, 1986,
did not personally pick up his salaries anymore.

The accused MAYOR's acts would fall under Art. 171, par. 4, of The Revised Penal Code which reads:

Art. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee or notary or ecclesiastical minister. - The penalty of
prision mayor and a fine not to exceed 5,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any public officer, employee,
or notary public who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by committing
any of the following acts: x x x x 4. Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts.

xxxx

Clearly, falsification of public documents has been committed by accused MAYOR LECAROZ.

Likewise from these acts of falsification, his son, accused LENLIE LECAROZ, was able to draw salaries
from the municipality to which he was not entitled for services he had admittedly not rendered. This
constitutes Estafa x x x x the deceit being the falsification made, and the prejudice being that caused to
the municipality of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque for having paid salaries to LENLIE LECAROZ who was not
entitled thereto.
Conspiracy was alleged in the Informations herein, and the Court found the allegation sufficiently
substantiated by the evidence presented.

There is no justifiable reason why accused MAYOR LECAROZ should have reinstated his son LENLIE
in the municipal payrolls from January 16, 1986 to January 31, 1987, yet he did so. He could not have had
any other purpose than to enable his son LENLIE to draw salaries thereby. This conclusion is inescapable
considering that the very purpose of a payroll is precisely that -- to authorize the payment of salaries. And
LENLIE LECAROZ did his part by actually drawing the salaries during the periods covered, albeit
through another person whom he had authorized.

By the facts proven, there was conspiracy in the commission of Estafa between father and son.

However, with respect to the charge of violating Sec. 3, par. (e), of RA No. 3.019, the Sandiganbayan
acquitted Mayor Francisco Lecaroz. It found that Red was neither authorized to sit as member of the SB
because he was not properly appointed thereto nor had he shown to the mayor sufficient basis for his alleged
right to a seat in the municipal council. On this basis, the court a quo concluded that Mayor Lecaroz was
legally justified in not allowing Red to assume the position of Kagawad.
On 1 October 1994 the Sandiganbayan denied the motion for reconsideration of its decision filed by
the accused. This prompted herein petitioners to elevate their cause to us charging that the Sandiganbayan
erred:
First, in holding that Red had validly and effectively assumed the office of KB Federation President
by virtue of his oath taken before then Assemblywoman Carmencita Reyes on 27 September 1985, and in
concluding that the tenure of accused Lenlie Lecaroz as president of the KB and his coterminous term of
office as KB representative to the SB had accordingly expired;
Second, assuming arguendo that the term of office of the accused Lenlie Lecaroz as youth
representative to the SB had expired, in holding that accused Lenlie Lecaroz could no longer occupy the
office, even in a holdover capacity, despite the vacancy therein;
Third, granting arguendo that the tenure of the accused Lenlie Lecaroz as federation president had
expired, in holding that by reason thereof accused Lenlie Lecaroz became legally disqualified from
continuing in office as KB Sectoral Representative to the SB even in a holdover capacity;
Fourth, in not holding that under Sec. 2 of the Freedom Constitution and pursuant to the provisions of
the pertinent Ministry of Interior and Local Governments (MILG) interpretative circulars, accused Lenlie
Lecaroz was legally entitled and even mandated to continue in office in a holdover capacity;
Fifth, in holding that the accused had committed the crime of falsification within the contemplation of
Art. 171 of The Revised Penal Code, and in not holding that the crime of estafa of which they had been
convicted required criminal intent and malice as essential elements;
Sixth, assuming arguendo that the accused Lenlie Lecaroz was not legally entitled to hold over, still
the trial court erred in not holding - considering the difficult legal questions involved - that the accused
acted in good faith and committed merely an error of judgment, without malice and criminal intent; and,
Seventh, in convicting the accused for crimes committed in a manner different from that alleged in the
Information under which the accused were arraigned and tried.
The petition is meritorious. The basic propositions upon which the Sandiganbayan premised its
conviction of the accused are: (a) although Jowil Red was duly elected KB Chairman he could not validly
assume a seat in the Sanggunian as KB sectoral representative for failure to show a valid appointment; and,
(b) Lenlie Lecaroz who was the incumbent KB representative could not hold over after his term expired
because pertinent laws do not provide for holdover.
To resolve these issues, it is necessary to refer to the laws on the terms of office of KB youth sectoral
representatives to the SB and of the KB Federation Presidents. Section 7 of BP Blg. 51 and Sec. 1 of the
KB Constitution respectively provide -

Sec. 7. Term of Office. - Unless sooner removed for cause, all local elective officials hereinabove
mentioned shall hold office for a term of six (6) years, which shall commence on the first Monday of
March 1980.

In the case of the members of the sanggunian representing the association of barangay councils and the
president of the federation of kabataang barangay, their terms of office shall be coterminous with their
tenure is president of their respective association and federation .

xxxx

Sec 1. All incumbent officers of the Kabataang Barangay shall continue to hold office until the last
Sunday of November 1985 or such time that the newly elected officers shall have qualified and assumed
office in accordance with this Constitution.

The theory of petitioners is that Red failed to qualify as KB sectoral representative to the SB since he
did not present an authenticated copy of his appointment papers; neither did he take a valid oath of
office. Resultantly, this enabled petitioner Lenlie Lecaroz to continue as member of the SB although in a
holdover capacity since his term had already expired. The Sandiganbayan however rejected this postulate
declaring that the holdover provision under Sec. 1 quoted above pertains only to positions in the KB, clearly
implying that since no similar provision is found in Sec. 7 of B.P. Blg. 51, there can be no holdover with
respect to positions in the SB.
We disagree with the Sandiganbayan. The concept of holdover when applied to a public officer implies
that the office has a fixed term and the incumbent is holding onto the succeeding term.[6]It is usually
provided by law that officers elected or appointed for a fixed term shall remain in office not only for that
term but until their successors have been elected and qualified. Where this provision is found, the office
does not become vacant upon the expiration of the term if there is no successor elected and qualified to
assume it, but the present incumbent will carry over until his successor is elected and qualified, even though
it be beyond the term fixed by law.[7]
In the instant case, although BP Blg. 51 does not say that a Sanggunian member can continue to occupy
his post after the expiration of his term in case his successor fails to qualify, it does not also say that he is
proscribed from holding over. Absent an express or implied constitutional or statutory provision to the
contrary, an officer is entitled to stay in office until his successor is appointed or chosen and has
qualified.[8] The legislative intent of not allowing holdover must be clearly expressed or at least implied in
the legislative enactment,[9] otherwise it is reasonable to assume that the law-making body favors the same.
Indeed, the law abhors a vacuum in public offices,[10] and courts generally indulge in the strong
presumption against a legislative intent to create, by statute, a condition which may result in an executive
or administrative office becoming, for any period of time, wholly vacant or unoccupied by one lawfully
authorized to exercise its functions.[11] This is founded on obvious considerations of public policy, for the
principle of holdover is specifically intended to prevent public convenience from suffering because of a
vacancy[12] and to avoid a hiatus in the performance of government functions.[13]
The Sandiganbayan maintained that by taking his oath of office before Assemblywoman Reyes in
1985 Red validly assumed the presidency of the KB upon the expiration of the term of Lenlie Lecaroz. It
should be noted however that under the provisions of the Administrative Code then in force, specifically
Sec. 21, Art. VI thereof, members of the then Batasang Pambansa were not authorized to administer oaths. It
was only after the approval of RA No. 6733[14]on 25 July 1989 and its subsequent publication in a newspaper
of general circulation that members of both Houses of Congress were vested for the first time with the
general authority to administer oaths. Clearly, under this circumstance, the oath of office taken by Jowil
Red before a member of the Batasang Pambansa who had no authority to administer oaths, was invalid and
amounted to no oath at all.
To be sure, an oath of office is a qualifying requirement for a public office; a prerequisite to the full
investiture with the office.[15] Only when the public officer has satisfied the prerequisite of oath that his
right to enter into the position becomes plenary and complete. Until then, he has none at all. And for as long
as he has not qualified, the holdover officer is the rightful occupant. It is thus clear in the present case that
since Red never qualified for the post, petitioner Lenlie Lecaroz remained KB representative to the
Sanggunian, albeit in a carry over capacity, and was in every aspect a de jure officer,[16] or at least a de
facto officer[17] entitled to receive the salaries and all the emoluments appertaining to the position. As such,
he could not be considered an intruder and liable for encroachment of public office.[18]
On the issue of criminal liability of petitioners, clearly the offenses of which petitioners were
convicted, i.e., estafa through falsification of public documents under Art. 171, par. 4, of TheRevised Penal
Code, are intentional felonies for which liability attaches only when it is shown that the malefactors acted
with criminal intent or malice.[19] If what is proven is mere judgmental error on the part of the person
committing the act, no malice or criminal intent can be rightfully imputed to him. Was criminal intent then
demonstrated to justify petitioners' conviction? It does not so appear in the case at bar.
Ordinarily, evil intent must unite with an unlawful act for a crime to exist. Actus non facit reum, nisi
mens sit rea. There can be no crime when the criminal mind is wanting. As a general rule, ignorance or
mistake as to particular facts, honest and real, will exempt the doer from felonious responsibility. The
exception of course is neglect in the discharge of a duty or indifference to consequences, which is equivalent
to a criminal intent, for in this instance, the element of malicious intent is supplied by the element of
negligence and imprudence[20] In the instant case, there are clear manifestations of good faith and lack of
criminal intent on the part of petitioners.
First. When Jowil Red showed up at the meeting of the Sanggunian on 7 January 1986, what he
presented to Mayor Francisco Lecaroz was a mere telegram purportedly sent by Imee Marcos-Manotoc
informing him of his supposed appointment to the SB, together with a photocopy of a "Mass
Appointment." Without authenticated copies of the appointment papers, Red had no right to assume office
as KB representative to the Sanggunian, and petitioner Mayor Lecaroz had every right to withhold
recognition, as he did, of Red as a member of the Sanggunian.
Second. It appears from the records that although Red received his appointment papers signed by
President Marcos in January 1986, he forwarded the same to Mayor Francisco Lecaroz only on 23 April
1986 during which time President Marcos had already been deposed and President Aquino had already
taken over the helm of government. On 25 March 1986 the Freedom Constitution came into being providing
in Sec. 2 of Art. III thereof that -

Sec. 2. All elective and appointive officials and employees under the 1973 Constitution shall continue in
office until otherwise provided by. proclamation or executive order or upon the designation of their
successors if such appointment is made within a period of one (1) year from February 26,
1986 (underscoring supplied).

Duty bound to observe the constitutional mandate, petitioner Francisco Lecaroz through the provincial
governor forwarded the papers of Jowil Red to then Minister of Interior and Local Government Aquilino
Pimentel, Jr., requesting advice on the validity of the appointment signed by former President Marcos. The
response was the issuance of MILG Provincial Memorandum-Circular No. 86-02[21] and Memorandum-
Circular No. 86-17[22] stating that -

PROVINCIAL MEMORANDUM-CIRCULAR NO. 86-02


2. That newly elected KB Federation Presidents, without their respective authenticated appointments from
the president, cannot, in any way, represent their associations in any sangguniang bayan/sangguniang
panlalawigan, as the case may be, although they are still considered presidents of their federations by
virtue of the July 1985 elections.

MEMORANDUM CIRCULAR NO. 86-17

It is informed, however, that until replaced by the Office of the President or by this Ministry the
appointive members of the various Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlunsod, and the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan shall continue to hold office and to receive compensation due them under existing laws,
rules and regulations.

The pertinent provisions of the Freedom Constitution and the implementing MILG Circulars virtually
confirmed the right of incumbent KB Federation Presidents to hold and maintain their positions until duly
replaced either by the President herself or by the Interior Ministry. Explicit therein was the caveat that
newly elected KB Federation Presidents could not assume the right to represent their respective associations
in any Sanggunian unless their appointments were authenticated by then President Aquino herself. Truly,
prudence impelled Mayor Lecaroz to take the necessary steps to verify the legitimacy of Red's appointment
to the Sanggunian.
Third. Petitioners presented six (6) certified copies of opinions of the Secretaries of Justice of
Presidents Macapagal, Marcos and Aquino concerning the doctrine of holdover. This consistently
expressed the view espoused by the executive branch for more than thirty (30) years that the mere fixing of
the term of office in a statute without an express prohibition against holdover is not indicative of a legislative
intent to prohibit it, in light of the legal principle that just as nature abhors a vacuum so does the law abhor
a vacancy in the government.[23] Reliance by petitioners on these opinions, as well as on the pertinent
directives of the then Ministry of Interior and Local Government, provided them with an unassailable status
of good faith in holding over and acting on such basis; and,
Fourth. It is difficult to accept that a person, particularly one who is highly regarded and respected in
the community, would deliberately blemish his good name, and worse, involve his own son in a misconduct
for a measly sum of P23,675.00, such as this case before us. As aptly deduced by Justice Del Rosario[24]

If I were to commit a crime, would I involve my son in it? And if I were a town mayor, would I ruin my
name for the measly sum of P1,894.00 a month? My natural instinct as a father to protect my own son and
the desire, basic in every man, to preserve one's honor and reputation would suggest a resounding NO to
both questions. But the prosecution ventured to prove in these thirteen cases that precisely because they
were father and son and despite the relatively small amount involved, accused Mayor Francisco Lecaroz
conspired with Lenlie Lecaroz to falsify several municipal payrolls for the purpose of swindling their own
town of the amount of P1,894.00 a month, and the majority has found them guilty. I find discomfort with
this verdict basically for the reason that there was no criminal intent on their part to falsify any document
or to swindle the government.

The rule is that any mistake on a doubtful or difficult question of law may be the basis of good
faith.[25] In Cabungcal v. Cordova[26] we affirmed the doctrine that an erroneous interpretation of the
meaning of the provisions of an ordinance by a city mayor does not amount to bad faith that would entitle
an aggrieved party to damages against that official. We reiterated this principle in Mabutol v.
Pascual[27] which held that public officials may not be liable for damages in the discharge of their official
functions absent any bad faith. Sanders v. Veridiano II[28] expanded the concept by declaring that under the
law on public officers, acts done in the performance of official duty are protected by the presumption of
good faith.
In ascribing malice and bad faith to petitioner Mayor Lecaroz, the Sandiganbayan cited two (2)
circumstances which purportedly indicated criminal intent. It pointed out that the name of accused Lenlie
Lecaroz was not in the municipal payroll for the first quincena of 1986 which meant that his term had
finally ended, and that the reinstatement of Lenlie Lecaroz by Mayor Francisco Lecaroz in the payroll
periods from 15 January 1986 and thereafter for the next twelve and a half (12 -1/2) months was for no
other purpose than to enable him to draw salaries from the municipality.[29] There is however no evidence,
documentary or otherwise, that Mayor Francisco Lecaroz himself caused the name of Lenlie Lecaroz to be
dropped from the payroll for the first quincena of January 1986. On the contrary, it is significant that while
Lenlie Lecaroz' name did not appear in the payroll for the first quincena of January 1986, yet, in the payroll
for the next quincena accused Lenlie Lecaroz was paid for both the first and second quincenas, and not
merely for the second half of the month which would have been the case if he was actually "dropped" from
the payroll for the first fifteen (15) days and then "reinstated" in the succeeding payroll period, as held by
the court a quo.
From all indications, it is possible that the omission was due to the inadequate documentation of Red's
appointment to and assumption of office, or the result of a mere clerical error which was later rectified in
the succeeding payroll. This however cannot be confirmed by the evidence at hand. But since a doubt is
now created about the import of such omission, the principle of equipoise should properly apply. This rule
demands that all reasonable doubt intended to demonstrate error and not a crime should be resolved in favor
of the accused. If the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of
which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other with his guilt, then the evidence does
not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction.[30]
Petitioners have been convicted for falsification of public documents through an untruthful narration
of facts under Art. 171, par. 4, of The Revised Penal Code. For the offense to be established, the following
elements must concur: (a) the offender makes in a document statements in a narration of facts; (b) the
offender has a legal obligation to disclose the truth of the facts narrated; (c) the facts narrated by the offender
are absolutely false; and, (d) the perversion of truth in the narration of facts was made with the wrongful
intent of injuring a third person.
The first and third elements of the offense have not been established in this case. In approving the
payment of salaries to Lenlie Lecaroz, Mayor Francisco Lecaroz signed uniformly-worded certifications
thus -

I hereby certify on my official oath that the above payroll is correct, and that the services above stated
have been duly rendered. Payment for such services is also hereby approved from the appropriations
indicated.

When Mayor Lecaroz certified to the correctness of the payroll, he was making not a narration of facts
but a conclusion of law expressing his belief that Lenlie Lecaroz was legally holding over as member of
the Sanggunian and thus entitled to the emoluments attached to the position. This is an opinion undoubtedly
involving a legal matter, and any "misrepresentation" of this kind cannot constitute the crime of false
pretenses.[31] In People v. Yanza[32] we ruled -

Now then, considering that when defendant certified she was eligible for the position, she practically
wrote a conclusion of law which turned out to be inexact or erroneous - not entirely groundless - we are
all of the opinion that she may not be declared guilty of falsification, specially because the law which she
has allegedly violated (Art. 171, Revised Penal Code, in connection with other provisions), punishes the
making of untruthful statements in a narration of facts - emphasis on facts x x x x Unfortunately, she
made a mistake of judgment; but she could not be held thereby to have intentionally made a false
statement of fact in violation of Art. 171 above-mentioned.
The third element requiring that the narration of facts be absolutely false is not even adequately
satisfied as the belief of Mayor Francisco Lecaroz that Lenlie Lecaroz was a holdover member of the
Sanggunian was not entirely bereft of basis, anchored as it was on the universally accepted doctrine of
holdover. La mera inexactitude no es bastante para integrar este delito.[33] If the statements are not
altogether false, there being some colorable truth in them, the crime of falsification is deemed not to have
been committed.
Finally, contrary to the finding of the Sandiganbayan, we hold that conspiracy was not proved in this
case. The court a quo used as indication of conspiracy the fact that the accused Mayor certified the payrolls
authorizing payment of compensation to his son Lenlie Lecaroz and that as a consequence thereof the latter
collected his salaries. These are not legally acceptable indicia, for they are the very same acts alleged in the
Informations as constituting the crime of estafa through falsification. They cannot qualify as proof of
complicity or unity of criminal intent. Conspiracy must be established separately from the crime itself and
must meet the same degree of proof, i.e., proof beyond reasonable doubt. While conspiracy need not be
established by direct evidence, for it may be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during and
after the commission of the crime, all taken together however, the evidence must reasonably be strong
enough to show community of criminal design.[34]
Perhaps subliminally aware of the paucity of evidence to support it, and if only to buttress its finding
of conspiracy, the Sandiganbayan stressed that the two accused are father and son.Granting that this is not
even ad hominem, we are unaware of any presumption in law that a conspiracy exists simply because the
conspirators are father and son or related by blood.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of 7 October 1994 and Resolution
of 1 October 1997 of the Sandiganbayan are REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and petitioners FRANCISCO
M. LECAROZ and LENLIE LECAROZ are ACQUITTED of all the thirteen (13) counts of estafa through
falsification of public documents (Crim. Cases Nos. 13904-13916). The bail bonds posted for their
provisional liberty are cancelled and released. Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, Mendoza, Quisumbing, and Buena, JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-18792 February 28, 1964

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
GUILLERMO BELLO, defendant-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.


Ferdinand E. Marcos for defendant-appellant.

REYES, J.B.L., J.:

Appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Quezon in its Criminal Case No. 592-G,
for murder.

The information filed against the accused alleged four (4) aggravating circumstances, namely:
treachery, evident premeditation, nighttime, and superior strength. The trial court made a
finding of "treachery, evident premeditation and in cold blood and without any provocation";
however, the dispositive portion of the appealed decision states as follows:

... the Court finds the accused Guillermo Bello guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of murder defined an punished by Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code with the
aggravating circumstances of (1) nighttime, (2) abuse of confidence and obvious
ungratefulness, (3) superior strength offset only by his surrender to the authorities and
hereby sentence him to DIE by electrocution in the manner provided by law ordering his
heirs, after his death, to indemnify the heirs o the deceased Alicia Cervantes in the sum
of P3,000.00, wit costs.

The record bears out, the Office of the Solicitor General does not challenge, and the counsel de
oficio agree with, and adopts, the following findings of fact of the trial court:

From the evidence adduced at the hearing of the case, it has been established to the
satisfaction of the Court (1) that on September 17, 1954, the accused Guillermo Bello, a
widower who at that time was about 54 years of age, took a young peasant lady named
Alicia Cervantes, about 24 years old his common-law wife; (2) that from that day they
lived together apparently in blissful harmony as man and wife without the benefit of
marriage bearing, however, no child, ...; (3) that on May 15, 1958, the accused who had
no means of substantial livelihood except that of making "kaingin" and who apparently
was then in financial straits induced Alicia Cervantes to accept an employment as
entertainer in a bar and restaurant establishment known as Maring's Place situated the
corner of Aguinaldo and Bonifacio Streets, Gumaca, Quezon (4) that Alicia Cervantes
entered the service of Maring's Place on that day as a public hostess; (5) that the
accused being infatuated with his young bride used to watch her movements in
Maring's Place everyday; (6) that on May 16 he saw Alicia enter the Gumaca theater in
Gumaca with a man whom the accused found later was caressing his common-law wife
inside the movie house; (7) that being in love with her he took her out from the movie
and warned her to be more discreet in her personal conduct in Gumaca; (8) that Alicia
Cervantes continued to serve at Maring's Place as a public hostess; (9) that on May 20,
1958, at 3:00 p.m. the accused went to Maring's Place to ask for some money from
Alicia; (10) that Maring, the owner of the place, and Alicia refused to give money,
Maring telling him to forget Alicia completely because he was already an old man, an
invalid besides and should stop bothering Alicia; (11) that having failed to obtain
financial assistance from his paramour, accused left the place somewhat despondent
and went home passing Bonifacio Street; (12) that on his way home he met the brothers
Justo Marasigan and Luis Marasigan who greeted the accused, Luis saying to his brother
Justo the following: "So this is the man whose wife is being used by Maring for white
slave trade"; (13) that these remarks of Luis Marasigan naturally brought grief to the
accused, to drown which he sought Paty's place in Gumaca where he drank 5 glasses of
tuba; (14) that from Paty's place he went to Realistic Studio which is in front of Maring's
Place and from there watched the movements of Alicia; (15) that at about 9:00 o'clock
that night he entered Maring's Place and without much ado held Alicia from behind with
his left hand in the manner of a boa strangulating its prey and with his right hand
stabbed Alicia several times with a balisong; (16) that seeing Alicia fallen on the ground
and believing her to be mortally wounded, he fled and went to the municipal building
and there surrendered himself to the police of Gumaca.

Both the prosecution and the defense also agree that the crime committed is not murder but
only homicide, but they disagree in the qualifying or aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
The prosecution holds that the crime is homicide, aggravated by abuse of superior strength, but
offset by voluntary surrender. On the other hand, the defense maintains that the accused is
entitled to the additional mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation. The trial court
held a different conclusion, as earlier stated.

While it cannot be denied that Alicia was stabbed at the back, the wound was but a part and
continuation of the aggression. The four (4) stab wounds (the 3 others were in the breast,
hypogastric region, and in the left wrist as shown in the certificate of the Municipal Health
Officer) were inflicted indiscriminately, without regard as to which portion of her body was the
subject of attack. The trial court itself found that the stab in the back was inflicted as Alicia was
running away. For this reason, treachery cannot be imputed (People v. Caete, 44 Phil. 478).

Evident premeditation was, likewise, not established. The accused had been carrying
a balisong with him for a long time as a precaution against drunkards, and without any present
plan or intent to use it against his common-law wife. That he watched her movements daily
manifest his jealous character, but there is no evidence that from this jealousy sprouted a plan
to snuff out her life.1wph1.t
The evidence does not show, either, any superior strength on the part of the accused, and, not
possessing it, he could not take advantage of it. True that he was armed with a balisong, but he
was old and baldado (invalid), while Alicia was in the prime of her youth, and not infirm. The
facts are not sufficient to draw a comparison of their relative strength. Possession of
a balisong gives an aggressor a formidable advantage over the unarmed victim, but the
physique of the aggressor ought also to be considered. At any rate, taking into account the
emotional excitement of the accused, it is not clearly shown that there was "intencion
deliberada de prevalerse de la superioridad o aprovecharse intencionadamente de la misma"
(Sent. TS. 5 Oct. 1906), i.e., deliberate intent to take advantage of superior strength.

The crime was committed at nighttime, but the accused did not seek or take advantage of it the
better to accomplish his purpose. In fact, Maring's Place was bright and well-lighted; hence, the
circumstance did not aggravate the crime. (U.S. vs. Ramos, et al., 2 Phil. 434; U.S. vs. Bonete, 40
Phil. 958.)

We can not understand how the trial court came to couple the crime with the aggravating
circumstance of abuse of confidence and obvious ungratefulness. There is nothing to show that
the assailant and his common-law wife reposed in one another any special confidence that
could be abused, or any gratitude owed by one to the other that ought to be respected, and
which would bear any relation, or connection, with the crime committed. None is inferable
from the fact that the accused was much older than his victim, or that he was penniless while
she was able to earn a living and occasionally gave him money, since both lived together as
husband and wife. Neither is it shown that the accused took advantage of any such special
confidence in order to carry out the crime.

Since the aggravating circumstances of treachery, evident premeditation, and abuse of superior
strength, which could have qualified the crime as murder, were not present, and since the
generic aggravating circumstances of nighttime and abuse of confidence and obvious
ungratefulness have not been established, the accused can only be liable for homicide.

Both defense and prosecution agree that the accused-appellant is entitled to the benefit of the
mitigating circumstances of voluntary surrender to the authorities. The remaining area of
conflict is reduced to whether the accused may lay claim to a second mitigating circumstance,
that of having acted on a provocation sufficiently strong to cause passion and obfuscation. The
defense submits that accused is so entitled, because the deceased's flat rejection of petitioner's
entreaties for her to quit her calling as a hostess and return to their former relation, aggravated
by her sneering statement that the accused was penniless and invalid (baldado), provoked the
appellant, as he testified, into losing his head and stabbing the deceased. The state disputes the
claim primarily on the strength of the rule that passion and obfuscation can not be considered
when "arising from vicious, unworthy, and immoral passions" (U.S. vs. Hicks, 14 Phil. 217).

We are inclined to agree with the defense, having due regard to the circumstances disclosed by
the record. It will be recalled that the lower court found that the accused had previously
reproved the deceased for allowing herself to be caressed by a stranger. Her loose conduct was
forcibly driven home to the accused by Marasigan's remark on the very day of the crime that
the accused was the husband "whose wife was being used by Maring for purposes of
prostitution," a remark that so deeply wounded the appellant's feelings that he was driven to
consume a large amount of wine (tuba) before visiting Alicia (the deceased) to plead with her to
leave her work. Alicia's insulting refusal to renew her liaison with the accused, therefore, was
not motivated by any desire to lead a chaste life henceforth, but showed her determination to
pursue a lucrative profession that permitted her to distribute her favors indiscriminately. We
can not see how the accused's insistence that she live with him again, and his rage at her
rejection of the proposal, can be properly qualified as arising from immoral and unworthy
passions. Even without benefit of wedlock, a monogamous liaison appears morally of a higher
level than gainful promiscuity.

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision should be, and hereby is, modified. This Court finds the
accused-appellant, Guillermo Bello, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide,
attended by two (2) mitigating circumstances: (a) passion and obfuscation, and (b) voluntary
surrender, and, therefore, imposes upon him an indeterminate sentence ranging from a
minimum of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor to a maximum of ten (10) years
of prision mayor; orders him also to personally indemnify the heirs of Alicia Cervantes in the
amount of P6,000.00, and to pay the costs. So ordered.

Bengzon, C.J., Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Barrera, Paredes, Dizon, Regala
and Makalintal, JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 198452 February 19, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
VICENTE ROM, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

On appeal is the Decision1 dated 9 August 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
00579 affirming with modification the Decision2 dated 24 June 2002 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Cebu City, Branch 10, in Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062, CBU-55063 and CBU-55067,
finding herein appellant Vicente Rom guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Sections
153 (illegal sale of shabu), 15-A4 (maintenance of a drug den) and 165 (illegal possession of
shabu), Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, also known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as
amended by Republic Act No. 7659.6 In Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062 and CBU-55063, for
respectively violating Sections 15 and 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the
trial court imposed on the appellant the penalty of prision correccional in its medium period
ranging between two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day, as minimum, to four (4) years
and two (2) months, as maximum. While in Criminal Case No. CBU-55067, that is for violating
Section 15-A, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the trial court sentenced the
appellant to reclusion perpetua and he was likewise ordered to pay a fine of 500,000.00. The
Court of Appeals, however, modified and reduced the penalty in Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062
and CBU-55063 to an imprisonment of six (6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4)
years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum, after applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law.

In three separate Informations7 all dated 1 September 2000, the appellant was charged with
violation of Sections 15, 15-A and 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended. The
three Informations read:

Criminal Case No. CBU-55062

That on or about the 31st day of August 2000, at about 10:30 P.M. in the City of Cebu,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, [herein appellant], with
deliberate intent and without being authorized by law, did then and there sell, deliver or give
away to a poseur buyer one (1) heat sealed plastic packet of white crystalline substance
weighing 0.03 gram locally known as "shabu", containing Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a
regulated drug.8 (Emphasis and italics supplied).

Criminal Case No. CBU-55063

That on or about the 31st day of August 2000, at about 10:30 P.M., in the City of Cebu,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, [appellant], with deliberate
intent and without being authorized by law, did then and there have in [his] possession and
control or use the following:

Four (4) heat sealed plastic packets of white crystalline substance weighing 0.15 gram locally
known as "shabu", containing Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a regulated drug, without
the corresponding license or prescription.9(Emphasis and italics supplied).

Criminal Case No. CBU-55067

That on the 31s[t] day of August, 2000, at about 10:30 P.M., in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, [appellant], with deliberate intent, did then and
there knowingly maintain a den for regulated users along the interior portion of Barangay T.
Padilla in violation to (sic) the provision of Sec. 15-A of Art. III of RA 6425.10 (Emphasis supplied).

On arraignment, the appellant, with the assistance of counsel de parte, pleaded NOT
GUILTY11 to all the charges. A pre-trial conference was conducted on 2 April 2001, but no
stipulation or agreement was arrived at.12 The pre-trial conference was then terminated and
trial on the merits thereafter ensued.

The prosecution presented as witnesses Police Officer 2 Marvin Martinez (PO2 Martinez), the
designated poseur-buyer; PO3 Franco Mateo Yanson (PO3 Yanson); and Police Senior Inspector
Marvin Sanchez (P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez), the team leader of the buy-bust operation against the
appellant. They were all assigned at the Vice Control Section of the Cebu City Police Office (VCS-
CCPO). The testimony, however, of P/Sr. Insp. Mutchit G. Salinas (P/Sr. Insp. Salinas), the
forensic analyst, was dispensed13 with in view of the admission made by the defense as to the
authenticity and due existence of Chemistry Report No. D-1782-200014 dated 1 September 2000
and the expertise of the forensic analyst.

The prosecutions evidence established the following facts:

Two weeks prior to 31 August 2000, the VCS-CCPO received confidential information from their
informant that alias Dodong, who turned out later to be the appellant, whose real name is
Vicente Rom, was engaged in the illegal sale of shabu and also maintained a drug den at his
residence in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City. Thus, the VCS-CCPO, particularly PO2 Martinez,
conducted surveillance and monitoring operation.15

On 31 August 2000, at around 10:15 p.m., P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez, Chief of VCS-CCPO, formed a
team to conduct a buy-bust operation against the appellant. The buy-bust team was composed
of PO2 Martinez (poseur-buyer), Senior Police Officer 1 Jesus Elmer Fernandez (SPO1
Fernandez), PO3 Yanson, PO3 Benicer Tamboboy (PO3 Tamboboy), PO3 Jaime Otadoy (PO3
Otadoy) and P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez (team leader). Being the designated poseur-buyer, PO2
Martinez was provided with a 100.00 peso bill and a 10.00 peso bill buy-bust money bearing
Serial Nos. AD336230 and AM740786, respectively, and both were marked with the initials of
PO2 Martinez, i.e. "MM." The former amount would be used to buy shabu while the latter
amount would serve as payment for the use of the drug den.16

After the briefing, the buy-bust team proceeded to the target area and upon arrival there at
around 10:20 p.m., PO2 Martinez proceeded directly to the appellants house, which was
earlier pointed to by their informant, who was also with them during the buy-bust operation.
The rest of the buy-bust team strategically positioned themselves nearby. Once PO2 Martinez
reached the appellants house, he knocked on the door, which the appellant opened. PO2
Martinez subsequently told the appellant that he wanted to buy shabu worth 100.00. The
appellant looked around to check if PO2 Martinez had a companion. Seeing none, the appellant
took out his wallet from his pocket and got one heat-sealed plastic packet containing white
crystalline substance, later confirmed to be shabu, and gave it to PO2 Martinez. The latter, in
turn, gave the 100.00 peso bill marked money to the appellant. While this sale transaction was
going on, PO3 Yanson and P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez were only five to eight meters away from PO2
Martinez and the appellant. P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez clearly witnessed the sale transaction as it
happened right outside the door of the appellants house.17

Afterwards, PO2 Martinez told the appellant that he wanted to sniff the shabu, so the latter
required the former to pay an additional amount of 10.00 as rental fee for the use of his place.
After paying the said amount, the appellant allowed PO2 Martinez to enter his house. Once
inside the house, PO2 Martinez was directed by the appellant to proceed to the room located
at the right side of the sala. Upon entering the said room, PO2 Martinez saw three persons,
later identified to be Jose Delloso (Delloso), Danilo Empuerto (Empuerto) and Arnie Ogong
(Ogong), already sniffing shabu.18

Thereupon, PO2 Martinez made a missed call to P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez, which was their pre-
arranged signal, to signify that the whole transaction was consummated. After the lapsed of
about 10 to 15 seconds, the rest of the team, who were just few meters away from the
appellants house, barged in and identified themselves as police officers. PO2 Martinez then
told PO3 Yanson to hold the appellant. PO3 Yanson grabbed the appellant and made a body
search on the latter that led to the recovery of four heat-sealed transparent plastic packets
containing white crystalline substance, which were inside the appellants brown wallet that was
tucked in his pocket; the buy-bust money consisting of 100.00 peso bill and 10.00 peso bill;
and 280.00 consisting of two 100.00 peso bills, one 50.00 peso bill and three 10.00 peso
bills believed to be the proceeds of the appellants illegal activities. The one heat-sealed plastic
packet of shabu bought by PO2 Martinez from the appellant remained in the possession of the
former.19

The appellant, Delloso, Empuerto and Ogong were informed of their constitutional rights and
were later brought by the buy-bust team to their office, together with the confiscated items,
for documentation. At the office of the buy-bust team, the confiscated items were given to
their investigator, SPO1 Fernandez, who marked the one heat-sealed plastic packet containing
white crystalline substance, which was the subject of the sale transaction, with VRR-8-31-2000-
01 (buy-bust) while the other four heat-sealed plastic packets containing white crystalline
substance, which were recovered from the appellant, were similarly marked with VRR-8-31-
2000-02 to VRR-8-31-2000-05. The "VRR" in the markings are the initials of the appellant, i.e.,
Vicente Ramonida Rom.20

Thereafter, all the five heat-sealed plastic packets containing white crystalline substance,
together with the Request for Laboratory Examination, were brought by PO3 Yanson to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for chemical analysis, which examination
yielded positive results for the presence of methylamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu,"21 as
evidenced by Chemistry Report No. D-1782-2000.22

For its part, the defense presented the appellant and Teresita Bitos, whose testimonies consist
of sheer denials. Their version of the 31 August 2000 incident is as follows:

At around 10:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. of 31 August 2000, the appellant was at the house of his
daughter, Lorena Cochera (Lorena), in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, as Lorena had asked her
father to get the monthly house rental fee from Teresita Bitos, whose nickname is "Nene."
While the appellant and Nene were talking, the police officers suddenly barged in. The
appellant noticed that PO2 Martinez proceeded to the inner portion of the house and opened
the door of the rooms. Nene stopped them but the police officers told her to just keep quiet.
The police officers went on opening the door of the two rooms, where they saw three male
persons. The police officers frisked the appellant and the three other men. The police officers
likewise took appellants wallet containing 360.00. The appellant then requested Nene to tell
his daughter that he was arrested. Thereafter, the police officers brought the appellant and the
three other men to the police station.23

The appellant denied that he sold shabu to PO2 Martinez. He also denied that he was
maintaining a drug den and that he allowed persons to sniff shabu inside the house in Barangay
T. Padilla, Cebu City, in exchange for a sum of money. The appellant likewise denied that he
knew the three other men who were arrested inside the room in the said house. The appellant
claimed instead that he knew PO2 Martinez prior to 31 August 2000 because the latter usually
stayed at the house to apprehend snatchers. Also, a week before 31 August 2000, he and PO2
Martinez had a conversation and he was asked to pinpoint the "fat fish," which is the code for
the big time pusher. When he said that he does not know of such pusher, PO2 Martinez got
angry. The appellant maintained that on 31 August 2000, he was no longer living in the house in
Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, as his daughter had already brought him to Minglanilla, Cebu, as
early as July 1999. On the said date, Nene was already occupying the house and had subleased
one of its rooms as his daughter Maya told him so. The appellant admitted that a year prior to
31 August 2000, and before he transferred to Minglanilla, he was apprehended for illegal
possession of shabu.24

The narration of the appellant was corroborated by Nene on all material points.
Testifying on rebuttal, PO2 Martinez denied that he knew the appellant prior to 31 August
2000. PO2 Martinez clarified that he came to know the appellant only on the night that they
conducted the buy-bust operation.25

Finding the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses to be credible, competent and convincing
as they were able to satisfactorily prove all the elements of the offenses charged against the
appellant, the trial court, in its Decision dated 24 June 2002, held the appellant guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violation of Sections 15, 15-A and 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as
amended. The trial court disposed of the case as follows:

IN THE LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING CIRCUMSTANCES, the Court finds the [herein appellant] for

1) Criminal Case No. CBU-55062, for violating Section 15, Article III, Republic Act No.
6425, as amended, GUILTY. There being no mitigating nor any aggravating circumstance
proven, the Court hereby imposes the penalty of PRISION CORRECCIONAL in the
MEDIUM PERIOD ranging between TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY,
as minimum[,] to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO (2) MONTHS, as maximum;

2) Criminal Case No. CBU-55063, for violating Section 16, Article III, Republic Act No.
6425, as amended, GUILTY. In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating
circumstance, the Court imposes the penalty of PRISION CORRECCIONAL in the MEDIUM
PERIOD ranging between TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY, as
minimum to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO (2) MONTHS, as maximum; and

3) Criminal Case No. CBU-55067, for violating Section 15-A, Article III, Republic Act No.
6425, as amended, GUILTY. The court hereby imposes upon the [appellant] the penalty
of RECLUSION PERPETUA and a FINE of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND (500,000.00)
PESOS.

The five (5) heat-sealed plastic packets of white crystalline substance containing
methylamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, are hereby CONFISCATED in favor
of the government and shall be destroyed in accordance with the law prohibiting said
drug.26 (Emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied).

The appellant appealed the trial courts Decision to this Court via Notice of Appeal. 27 However,
pursuant to this Courts decision in People v. Mateo,28 the case was transferred to the Court of
Appeals for intermediate review.

On 9 August 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered the now assailed Decision affirming with
modification the ruling of the trial court. Its decretal portion reads, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Decision of the RTC, Branch 10, Cebu City in
Criminal Cases No. CBU-55062, CBU-55063 and CBU-55067 is hereby AFFIRMED WITH
MODIFICATION concerning Criminal Cases No. CBU-55062 and CBU-55063, for which [the
herein appellant] is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment from six months of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to four years and two months of prision correccional, as maximum of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law.29

The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of the appellant on all the charges against him as
the prosecution was able to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt since all the essential
elements of illegal sale and possession of shabu were duly proven by the prosecution. As to the
charge of maintaining a drug den, the same was also established by the fact that PO2 Martinez
himself paid 10.00 to sniff the shabu in one of the rooms of the appellants house. The
appellants denial, therefore, cannot prevail over the evidence hurled against him.

The Court of Appeals, however, deemed it necessary to modify the penalty in Criminal Case
Nos. CBU-55062 and CBU-55063. It explained that the sale of less than 200 grams of shabu is
punishable with a penalty ranging from prision correccional to reclusion temporal, depending
on the quantity. In this case, the quantity of shabu illegally sold to the poseur-buyer by the
appellant was 0.03 gram. Pursuant to the second paragraph of Section 20,30 Article IV of
Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the proper penalty to be imposed for the illegal sale of
0.03 gram of shabu would be prision correccional. Also, in this case, the appellant had in his
possession 0.15 gram of shabu, which is punishable also with imprisonment of prision
correccional. Thus, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the appellant must be sentenced
to an imprisonment of six months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four years and two months
of prision correccional, as maximum, in Criminal Case No. CBU-55062, as well as in Criminal
Case No. CBU-55063.31

Still unsatisfied, the appellant appealed the Court of Appeals Decision to this Court via Notice
of Appeal.32

Both the appellant and the Office of the Solicitor General manifested 33 that they would no
longer file their respective supplemental briefs as the issues have already been fully discussed
in their respective appeal briefs34 with the Court of Appeals.

The appellants assignment of errors as stated in his Appellants Brief are as follows:

I. The Regional Trial Court erred in convicting the [herein appellant] notwithstanding the
inherent incredibility of evidence for the prosecution;

II. The Regional Trial Court gravely erred in allowing the evidence of the prosecution
despite the indubitable evidence that the [appellant] i[s] innocent of the crime[s]
charged; [and]

III. The Regional Trial Court erred in convicting the [appellant] in spite of the failure of
the prosecution to prove the guilt of the [appellant] beyond reasonable doubt. 35

The appellant avers that the testimony of the poseur-buyer was absurd, illogical, contrary to
reason and highly incredible for no person who is engaged in an illegal transaction would leave
the door of the house open after such transaction. Moreover, no person would sell shabu to a
buyer when he knew all along that the said buyer was a police officer as it was ridiculous to
expose oneself to the danger of being caught and arrested.

The appellant similarly holds that the entry in the house was illegal and there was certainly no
transaction that took place therein. The search and the seizure made in connection thereto
were also invalid. Thus, the pieces of evidence allegedly obtained by the police officers were
inadmissible for being the "fruit of a poisonous tree." The same cannot be used against him in
violation of his rights.

The appellant believes that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt as
their testimonies as to the facts and circumstances surrounding the case were contrary to
human conduct, especially with regard to the allegation that he knowingly maintained a drug
den, since he was no longer the owner of the house, which was the subject of the search, and
he did not live there anymore.

The appellants contentions are devoid of merit.

In essence, the issues in this case hinge on the credibility of the testimonies of the prosecution
witnesses.

It is a fundamental rule that findings of the trial court which are factual in nature and which
involve the credibility of witnesses are accorded with respect, more so, when no glaring errors,
gross misapprehension of facts, and speculative, arbitrary, and unsupported conclusions can be
gathered from such findings. The reason behind this rule is that the trial court is in a better
position to decide the credibility of witnesses having heard their testimonies and observed their
deportment and manner of testifying during the trial.36 The rule finds an even more stringent
application where the trial courts findings are sustained by the Court of Appeals.37

After a careful perusal of the records, this Court finds no cogent or compelling reason to
overturn the findings of both lower courts, which were adequately supported by the evidence
on record.

To secure a conviction for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the following essential
elements must be duly established: (1) identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and
consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. 38 Succinctly, the
delivery of the illicit drug to the poseur-buyer, as well as the receipt of the marked money by
the seller, successfully consummates the buy-bust transaction. Hence, what is material is the
proof that the transaction or sale transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the
corpus delicti as evidence.39

In the case at bench, the prosecution was able to establish the above-enumerated elements
beyond moral certainty. The prosecution witnesses adequately proved that a buy-bust
operation actually took place on which occasion the appellant was caught red-handed giving
one heat-sealed plastic packet containing white crystalline substance to PO2 Martinez, the
poseur-buyer, in exchange for 100.00. PO2 Martinez, being the poseur-buyer, positively
identified the appellant in open court to be the same person who sold to him the said one-heat
sealed plastic packet of white crystalline substance for a consideration of 100.00, 40 which
when examined was confirmed to be methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu per
Chemistry Report No. D-1782-2000 issued by P/Sr. Insp. Salinas, Head, Chemistry Branch, PNP
Regional Crime Laboratory Office 7. Upon presentation thereof in open court, PO2 Martinez
duly identified it to be the same object sold to him by the appellant as it had the marking "VRR-
8-31-2000 (buy-bust)," which SPO1 Fernandez had written thereon in their presence. 41 This
testimony of PO2 Martinez was corroborated by P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez, who was just five to eight
meters away from the former and the appellant during the sale transaction.42

Evidently, the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt the appellants guilt for
the offense of illegal sale of shabu in violation of Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425,
as amended.

We already had occasion to show the unacceptability of the contention of the appellant that
the testimony of the poseur-buyer was absurd, illogical, contrary to reason and highly
incredible for no person who is engaged in an illegal transaction would leave the door of the
house open after such transaction. In case after case, we observed that drug pushers sell their
prohibited articles to any prospective customer, be he a stranger or not, in private as well as in
public places, even in the daytime. Indeed, the drug pushers have become increasingly daring,
dangerous and, worse, openly defiant of the law. Hence, what matters is not the existing
familiarity between the buyer and the seller or the time and venue of the sale, but the fact of
agreement and the acts constituting the sale and the delivery of the prohibited drugs. 43

With regard to the offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the following
elements must be proven: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object that is identified
to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely
and consciously possesses the said drug.44 All these elements have been established in this
case.

On the occasion of the appellants arrest for having been caught in flagrante delicto selling
shabu, PO3 Yanson conducted a body search on the former resulting to the recovery of four
more heat-sealed plastic packets containing white crystalline substance inside his wallet that
was tucked in his pocket with an aggregate weight of 0.15 gram, which were later confirmed to
be methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. PO3 Yanson identified in open the court the
said four heat-sealed plastic packets of shabu with markings "VRR-8-31-2000-02" to "VRR-8-31-
2000-05" written thereon by SPO1 Fernandez to be the same objects recovered from the
appellant.45 PO2 Martinez, the poseur-buyer, corroborated this testimony of PO3 Yanson.46

Definitely, the records do not show that the appellant has the legal authority to possess the
four heat-sealed plastic packets of shabu. Settled is the rule that possession of dangerous drugs
constitutes prima facie evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an
accused in the absence of a satisfactory explanation of such possession. As such, the burden of
evidence is shifted to the accused to explain the absence of knowledge or animus
possidendi,47 which the appellant in this case miserably failed to do.
There is also no truth on the appellants claim that the entry in the house was illegal making the
search and the seizure in connection thereto invalid, rendering the pieces of evidence obtained
by the police officers inadmissible for being the "fruit of a poisonous tree."

This Court in Dimacuha v. People48 clearly states:

The Constitution enshrines in the Bill of Rights the right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever
nature and for any purpose. To give full protection to it, the Bill of Rights also ordains the
exclusionary principle that any evidence obtained in violation of said right is inadmissible for
any purpose in any proceeding.

In People v. Chua Ho San [citation omitted] we pointed out that the interdiction against
warrantless searches and seizures is not absolute and that warrantless searches and seizures
have long been deemed permissible by jurisprudence in the following instances: (1) search of
moving vehicles; (2) seizure in plain view; (3) customs searches; (4) waiver or consented
searches; (5) stop and frisk situations (Terry search); and (6) search incidental to a lawful arrest.
The last includes a valid warrantless search and seizure pursuant to an equally warrantless
arrest, for, while as a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with a valid warrant of
arrest, the Rules of Court recognizes permissible warrantless arrest, to wit: (1) arrest in
flagrante delicto; (2) arrest effected in hot pursuit; and (3) arrest of escaped prisoners.

Here, the petitioner was caught in flagrante delicto while in the act of delivering 1.15 grams and
in actual possession of another 10.78 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) as a
result of an entrapment operation conducted by the police on the basis of information received
from Benito Marcelo regarding petitioner's illegal drug trade. Petitioner's arrest, therefore, was
lawful and the subsequent seizure of a bag of shabu inserted inside the cover of her checkbook
was justified and legal in light of the prevailing rule that an officer making an arrest may take
from the person arrested any property found upon his person in order to find and seize things
connected with the crime. The seized regulated drug is, therefore, admissible in evidence, being
the fruit of the crime.49 (Emphasis supplied).

To repeat, the appellant, in this case, was caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu, thus, he was
lawfully arrested. Following Dimacuha, the subsequent seizure of four heat-sealed plastic
packets of shabu in the appellants wallet that was tucked in his pocket was justified and
admissible in evidence for being the fruit of the crime.

With the foregoing, this Court is fully convinced that the prosecution had likewise proved
beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt that the appellant is guilty of the offense of illegal
possession of shabu in violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended.

Going to the charge of maintaining a drug den in violation of Section 15-A, Article III of Republic
Act No. 6425, as amended, the prosecution had also established appellants guilt beyond
reasonable doubt.
A drug den is a lair or hideaway where prohibited or regulated drugs are used in any form or
are found. Its existence may be proved not only by direct evidence but may also be established
by proof of facts and circumstances, including evidence of the general reputation of the house,
or its general reputation among police officers.50 In this case, this fact was proven by none
other than the testimony of PO2 Martinez, the poseur-buyer, who after buying the shabu had
told the appellant that he wanted to sniff the same to which the latter responded by requiring
the former to pay a rental fee of 10.00. The appellant, thereafter, allowed PO2 Martinez to
enter his house and directed him to proceed to one of the rooms located at the right side of the
sala. Upon entering the said room, PO2 Martinez saw three other persons already sniffing
shabu.51 This testimony of PO2 Martinez was corroborated by PO3 Yanson and P/Sr. Insp.
Sanchez.52

Moreover, as aptly observed by the Court of Appeals, several peso bills were found in the
appellants wallet, including three 10.00 peso bills, which circumstances bolstered the
prosecutions assertion that the appellant has indeed allowed his house to be used as a drug
den for a fee of 10.00 per person.53

In his attempt to exonerate himself, the appellant vehemently asserts that he was no longer the
owner of the house in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, and he was no longer residing therein. The
defense also presented Teresita Bitos to corroborate this claim of the appellant.

The testimony of Teresita Bitos corroborating the appellants testimony was not
credible.1wphi1 She herself admitted that the appellant requested her to testify in his favor. 54

Also, considering the seriousness of the charges against the appellant, he did not bother to
present his daughter, who is the alleged owner of the house in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, to
bolster his claim.

Time and again, this Court held that denial is an inherently weak defense and has always been
viewed upon with disfavor by the courts due to the ease with which it can be concocted.
Inherently weak, denial as a defense crumbles in the light of positive identification of the
appellant, as in this case. The defense of denial assumes significance only when the
prosecutions evidence is such that it does not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, which is
not the case here. Verily, mere denial, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is
negative self-serving evidence which cannot be given greater evidentiary weight than the
testimony of the prosecution witness who testified on affirmative matters.55 Moreover, there is
a presumption that public officers, including the arresting officers, regularly perform their
official duties.56 In this case, the defense failed to overcome this presumption by presenting
clear and convincing evidence. Furthermore, this Court finds no ill motive that could be
attributed to the police officers who had conducted the buy-bust operation. Even the allegation
of the appellant that PO2 Martinez got angry with him when he failed to pinpoint the big time
pusher cannot be considered as the ill motive in implicating the appellant on all the three
charges against him for this is self-serving and uncorroborated.
Given all the foregoing, this Court sustains the appellant's conviction on all the charges against
him.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
00579 dated 9 August 2010 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. No Costs.

SO ORDERED.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. ANTONIO COMADRE, GEORGE COMADRE and
DANILO LOZANO, appellants.

DECISION
PER CURIAM:

Appellants Antonio Comadre, George Comadre and Danilo Lozano were charged with
Murder with Multiple Frustrated Murder in an information which reads:

That on or about the 6th of August 1995, at Brgy. San Pedro, Lupao, Nueva Ecija, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill and by means of treachery
and evident premeditation, availing of nighttime to afford impunity, and with the use of an
explosive, did there and then willfully, unlawfully and feloniously lob a hand grenade that
landed and eventually exploded at the roof of the house of Jaime Agbanlog trajecting deadly
shrapnels that hit and killed one ROBERT AGBANLOG, per the death certificate, and causing
Jerry Bullanday, Jimmy Wabe, Lorenzo Eugenio, Rey Camat, Emelita Agbanlog and Elena
Agbanlog to suffer shrapnel wounds on their bodies, per the medical certificates; thus, to the
latter victims, the accused commenced all the acts of execution that would have produced the
crime of Multiple Murder as consequences thereof but nevertheless did not produce them by
reason of the timely and able medical and surgical interventions of physicians, to the damage
and prejudice of the deceaseds heirs and the other victims.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[1]

On arraignment, appellants pleaded not guilty.[2] Trial on the merits then ensued.
As culled from the records, at around 7:00 in the evening of August 6, 1995, Robert Agbanlog,
Jimmy Wabe, Gerry Bullanday,[3] Rey Camat and Lorenzo Eugenio were having a drinking spree
on the terrace of the house of Roberts father, Barangay Councilman Jaime Agbanlog, situated in
Barangay San Pedro, Lupao, Nueva Ecija. Jaime Agbanlog was seated on the banister of the
terrace listening to the conversation of the companions of his son.[4]
As the drinking session went on, Robert and the others noticed appellants Antonio Comadre,
George Comadre and Danilo Lozano walking. The three stopped in front of the house. While his
companions looked on, Antonio suddenly lobbed an object which fell on the roof of the
terrace. Appellants immediately fled by scaling the fence of a nearby school.[5]
The object, which turned out to be a hand grenade, exploded ripping a hole in the roof of
the house. Robert Agbanlog, Jimmy Wabe, Gerry Bullanday, Rey Camat and Lorenzo Eugenio
were hit by shrapnel and slumped unconscious on the floor. [6] They were all rushed to the San
Jose General Hospital in Lupao, Nueva Ecija for medical treatment. However, Robert Agbanlog
died before reaching the hospital.[7]
Dr. Tirso de los Santos, the medico-legal officer who conducted the autopsy on the cadaver
of Robert Agbanlog, certified that the wounds sustained by the victim were consistent with the
injuries inflicted by a grenade explosion and that the direct cause of death was hypovolemic
shock due to hand grenade explosion.[8] The surviving victims, Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat, Jaime
Agbanlog and Gerry Bullanday sustained shrapnel injuries.[9]
SPO3 John Barraceros of the Lupao Municipal Police Station, who investigated the scene of
the crime, recovered metallic fragments at the terrace of the Agbanlog house.These fragments
were forwarded to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Division in Camp Crame, Quezon City, where
SPO2 Jesus Q. Mamaril, a specialist in said division, identified them as shrapnel of an MK2 hand
grenade.[10]
Denying the charges against him, appellant Antonio Comadre claimed that on the night of
August 6, 1995, he was with his wife and children watching television in the house of his father,
Patricio, and his brother, Rogelio. He denied any participation in the incident and claimed that he
was surprised when three policemen from the Lupao Municipal Police Station went to his house
the following morning of August 7, 1995 and asked him to go with them to the police station,
where he has been detained since.[11]
Appellant George Comadre, for his part, testified that he is the brother of Antonio Comadre
and the brother-in-law of Danilo Lozano. He also denied any involvement in the grenade-
throwing incident, claiming that he was at home when it happened. He stated that he is a friend
of Rey Camat and Jimmy Wabe, and that he had no animosity towards them whatsoever.
Appellant also claimed to be in good terms with the Agbanlogs so he has no reason to cause them
any grief.[12]
Appellant Danilo Lozano similarly denied any complicity in the crime. He declared that he
was at home with his ten year-old son on the night of August 6, 1995. He added that he did not
see Antonio and George Comadre that night and has not seen them for quite sometime, either
before or after the incident. Like the two other appellants, Lozano denied having any
misunderstanding with Jaime Agbanlog, Robert Agbanlog and Jimmy Wabe.[13]
Antonios father, Patricio, and his wife, Lolita, corroborated his claim that he was at home
watching television with them during the night in question.[14] Josie Comadre, Georges wife,
testified that her husband could not have been among those who threw a hand grenade at the
house of the Agbanlogs because on the evening of August 6, 1995, they were resting inside their
house after working all day in the farm.[15]
After trial, the court a quo gave credence to the prosecutions evidence and convicted
appellants of the complex crime of Murder with Multiple Attempted Murder, [16] the dispositive
portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. Finding accused Antonio Comadre, George Comadre and Danilo Lozano GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of the complex crime of Murder with Multiple Attempted Murder
and sentencing them to suffer the imposable penalty of death;

2. Ordering Antonio Comadre, George Comadre and Danilo Lozano to pay jointly and
severally the heirs of Robert Agbanlog P50,000.00 as indemnification for his death,
P35,000.00 as compensatory damages and P20,000.00 as moral damages;
3. Ordering accused Antonio Comadre, George Comadre and Danilo Lozano to pay jointly
and severally Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat, Gerry Bullanday and Jaime Agbanlog
P30,000.00 as indemnity for their attempted murder.

Costs against the accused.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, this automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended. Appellants contend that the trial court erred: (1) when it did not correctly and
judiciously interpret and appreciate the evidence and thus, the miscarriage of justice was
obviously omnipresent; (2) when it imposed on the accused-appellants the supreme penalty of
death despite the evident lack of the quantum of evidence to convict them of the crime charged
beyond reasonable doubt; and (3) when it did not apply the law and jurisprudence for the
acquittal of the accused-appellants of the crime charged.[17]
Appellants point to the inconsistencies in the sworn statements of Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat,
Lorenzo Eugenio and Gerry Bullanday in identifying the perpetrators. Wabe, Camat and Eugenio
initially executed a Sinumpaang Salaysay on August 7, 1995 at the hospital wherein they did not
categorically state who the culprit was but merely named Antonio Comadre as a suspect. Gerry
Bullanday declared that he suspected Antonio Comadre as one of the culprits because he saw
the latters ten year-old son bring something in the nearby store before the explosion occurred.
On August 27, 1995, or twenty days later, they went to the police station to give a more
detailed account of the incident, this time identifying Antonio Comadre as the perpetrator
together with George Comadre and Danilo Lozano.
A closer scrutiny of the records shows that no contradiction actually exists, as all sworn
statements pointed to the same perpetrators, namely, Antonio Comadre, George Comadre and
Danilo Lozano. Moreover, it appears that the first statement was executed a day after the
incident, when Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat and Lorenzo Eugenio were still in the hospital for the
injuries they sustained. Coherence could not thus be expected in view of their condition. It is
therefore not surprising for the witnesses to come up with a more exhaustive account of the
incident after they have regained their equanimity. The lapse of twenty days between the two
statements is immaterial because said period even helped them recall some facts which they may
have initially overlooked.
Witnesses cannot be expected to remember all the details of the harrowing event which
unfolded before their eyes. Minor discrepancies might be found in their testimony, but they do
not damage the essential integrity of the evidence in its material whole, nor should they reflect
adversely on the witness credibility as they erase suspicion that the same was
perjured.[18] Honest inconsistencies on minor and trivial matters serve to strengthen rather than
destroy the credibility of a witness to a crime, especially so when, as in the instant case, the crime
is shocking to the conscience and numbing to the senses.[19]
Moreover, it was not shown that witnesses Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat, Lorenzo Eugenio and
Gerry Bullanday had any motive to testify falsely against appellants. Absent evidence showing
any reason or motive for prosecution witnesses to perjure, the logical conclusion is that no such
improper motive exists, and their testimony is thus worthy of full faith and credit.
The trial court is likewise correct in disregarding appellants defense of alibi and denial. For
the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place
at the time of the commission of the crime but also that it was physically impossible for him to
be at the locus delicti or within its immediate vicinity.[20]
Apart from testifying with respect to the distance of their houses from that of Jaime
Agbanlogs residence, appellants were unable to give any explanation and neither were they able
to show that it was physically impossible for them to be at the scene of the crime. Hence, the
positive identification of the appellants by eyewitnesses Jimmy Wabe, Jaime Agbanlog, Rey
Camat and Gerry Bullanday prevails over their defense of alibi and denial.[21]
It was established that prior to the grenade explosion, Rey Camat, Jaime Agbanlog, Jimmy
Wabe and Gerry Bullanday were able to identify the culprits, namely, appellants Antonio
Comadre, George Comadre and Danilo Lozano because there was a lamppost in front of the
house and the moon was bright.[22]
Appellants argument that Judge Bayani V. Vargas, the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial
Court of San Jose City, Branch 38 erred in rendering the decision because he was not the judge
who heard and tried the case is not well taken.
It is not unusual for a judge who did not try a case to decide it on the basis of the record for
the trial judge might have died, resigned, retired, transferred, and so forth.[23] As far back as the
case of Co Tao v. Court of Appeals[24] we have held: The fact that the judge who heard the
evidence is not the one who rendered the judgment and that for that reason the latter did not
have the opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses during the trial but merely relied
on the records of the case does not render the judgment erroneous. This rule had been followed
for quite a long time, and there is no reason to go against the principle now. [25]
However, the trial courts finding of conspiracy will have to be reassessed. The undisputed
facts show that when Antonio Comadre was in the act of throwing the hand grenade, George
Comadre and Danilo Lozano merely looked on without uttering a single word of encouragement
or performed any act to assist him. The trial court held that the mere presence of George
Comadre and Danilo Lozano provided encouragement and a sense of security to Antonio
Comadre, thus proving the existence of conspiracy.
We disagree.
Similar to the physical act constituting the crime itself, the elements of conspiracy must be
proven beyond reasonable doubt. Settled is the rule that to establish conspiracy, evidence of
actual cooperation rather than mere cognizance or approval of an illegal act is required.[26]
A conspiracy must be established by positive and conclusive evidence. It must be shown to
exist as clearly and convincingly as the commission of the crime itself. Mere presence of a person
at the scene of the crime does not make him a conspirator for conspiracy transcends
companionship.[27]
The evidence shows that George Comadre and Danilo Lozano did not have any participation
in the commission of the crime and must therefore be set free. Their mere presence at the scene
of the crime as well as their close relationship with Antonio are insufficient to establish conspiracy
considering that they performed no positive act in furtherance of the crime.
Neither was it proven that their act of running away with Antonio was an act of giving moral
assistance to his criminal act. The ratiocination of the trial court that their presence provided
encouragement and sense of security to Antonio, is devoid of any factual basis. Such finding is
not supported by the evidence on record and cannot therefore be a valid basis of a finding of
conspiracy.
Time and again we have been guided by the principle that it would be better to set free ten
men who might be probably guilty of the crime charged than to convict one innocent man for a
crime he did not commit.[28] There being no conspiracy, only Antonio Comadre must answer for
the crime.
Coming now to Antonios liability, we find that the trial court correctly ruled that treachery
attended the commission of the crime. For treachery to be appreciated two conditions must
concur: (1) the means, method and form of execution employed gave the person attacked no
opportunity to defend himself or retaliate; and (2) such means, methods and form of execution
was deliberately and consciously adopted by the accused. Its essence lies in the adoption of ways
to minimize or neutralize any resistance, which may be put up by the offended party.
Appellant lobbed a grenade which fell on the roof of the terrace where the unsuspecting
victims were having a drinking spree. The suddenness of the attack coupled with the
instantaneous combustion and the tremendous impact of the explosion did not afford the victims
sufficient time to scamper for safety, much less defend themselves; thus insuring the execution
of the crime without risk of reprisal or resistance on their part. Treachery therefore attended the
commission of the crime.
It is significant to note that aside from treachery, the information also alleges the use of an
explosive[29] as an aggravating circumstance. Since both attendant circumstances can qualify the
killing to murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code,[30] we should determine which of
the two circumstances will qualify the killing in this case.
When the killing is perpetrated with treachery and by means of explosives, the latter shall
be considered as a qualifying circumstance. Not only does jurisprudence[31] support this view but
also, since the use of explosives is the principal mode of attack, reason dictates that this
attendant circumstance should qualify the offense instead of treachery which will then be
relegated merely as a generic aggravating circumstance.[32]
Incidentally, with the enactment on June 6, 1997 of Republic Act No. 8294 [33] which also
considers the use of explosives as an aggravating circumstance, there is a need to make the
necessary clarification insofar as the legal implications of the said amendatory law vis--vis the
qualifying circumstance of by means of explosion under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code
are concerned. Corollary thereto is the issue of which law should be applied in the instant case.
R.A. No. 8294 was a reaction to the onerous and anachronistic penalties imposed under the
old illegal possession of firearms law, P.D. 1866, which prevailed during the tumultuous years of
the Marcos dictatorship. The amendatory law was enacted, not to decriminalize illegal possession
of firearms and explosives, but to lower their penalties in order to rationalize them into more
acceptable and realistic levels.[34]
This legislative intent is conspicuously reflected in the reduction of the corresponding
penalties for illegal possession of firearms, or ammunitions and other related crimes under the
amendatory law. Under Section 2 of the said law, the penalties for unlawful possession of
explosives are also lowered. Specifically, when the illegally possessed explosives are used to
commit any of the crimes under the Revised Penal Code, which result in the death of a person,
the penalty is no longer death, unlike in P.D. No. 1866, but it shall be considered only as an
aggravating circumstance. Section 3 of P.D. No. 1866 as amended by Section 2 of R.A. 8294 now
reads:

Section 2. Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended, is hereby further amended to
read as follows:

Section 3. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Explosives. The


penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal and a fine of not less than
Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully
manufacture, assemble, deal in, acquire, dispose or possess hand grenade(s), rifle grenade(s),
and other explosives, including but not limited to pillbox, molotov cocktail bombs, fire bombs,
or other incendiary devices capable of producing destructive effect on contiguous objects or
causing injury or death to any person.

When a person commits any of the crimes defined in the Revised Penal Code or special law
with the use of the aforementioned explosives, detonation agents or incendiary devises,
which results in the death of any person or persons, the use of such explosives, detonation
agents or incendiary devices shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance. (shall be
punished with the penalty of death is DELETED.)

x x x x x x x x x.

With the removal of death as a penalty and the insertion of the term xxx as an aggravating
circumstance, the unmistakable import is to downgrade the penalty for illegal possession of
explosives and consider its use merely as an aggravating circumstance.
Clearly, Congress intended R.A. No. 8294 to reduce the penalty for illegal possession of
firearms and explosives. Also, Congress clearly intended RA No. 8294 to consider as aggravating
circumstance, instead of a separate offense, illegal possession of firearms and explosives when
such possession is used to commit other crimes under the Revised Penal Code.
It must be made clear, however, that RA No. 8294 did not amend the definition of murder
under Article 248, but merely made the use of explosives an aggravating circumstance when
resorted to in committing any of the crimes defined in the Revised Penal Code. The legislative
purpose is to do away with the use of explosives as a separate crime and to make such use merely
an aggravating circumstance in the commission of any crime already defined in the Revised Penal
Code. Thus, RA No. 8294 merely added the use of unlicensed explosives as one of the aggravating
circumstances specified in Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code. Like the aggravating
circumstance of explosion in paragraph 12, evident premeditation in paragraph 13, or treachery
in paragraph 16 of Article 14, the new aggravating circumstance added by RA No. 8294 does not
change the definition of murder in Article 248.
Nonetheless, even if favorable to the appellant, R.A. No. 8294 still cannot be made applicable
in this case. Before the use of unlawfully possessed explosives can be properly appreciated as an
aggravating circumstance, it must be adequately established that the possession was illegal or
unlawful, i.e., the accused is without the corresponding authority or permit to possess. This
follows the same requisites in the prosecution of crimes involving illegal possession of
firearm[35] which is a kindred or related offense under P.D. 1866, as amended. This proof does
not obtain in the present case. Not only was it not alleged in the information, but no evidence
was adduced by the prosecution to show that the possession by appellant of the explosive was
unlawful.
It is worthy to note that the above requirement of illegality is borne out by the provisions of
the law itself, in conjunction with the pertinent tenets of legal hermeneutics.
A reading of the title[36] of R.A. No. 8294 will show that the qualifier illegal/unlawful
...possession is followed by of firearms, ammunition, or explosives or instruments... Although the
term ammunition is separated from explosives by the disjunctive word or, it does not mean that
explosives are no longer included in the items which can be illegally/unlawfully possessed. In this
context, the disjunctive word or is not used to separate but to signify a succession or to conjoin
the enumerated items together.[37] Moreover, Section 2 of R.A. 8294,[38] subtitled: Section
3. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Explosives, clearly refers
to the unlawful manufacture, sale, or possession of explosives.
What the law emphasizes is the acts lack of authority. Thus, when the second paragraph of
Section 3, P.D. No. 1866, as amended by RA No. 8294 speaks of the use of the aforementioned
explosives, etc. as an aggravating circumstance in the commission of crimes, it refers to those
explosives, etc. unlawfully manufactured, assembled, dealt in, acquired, disposed or possessed
mentioned in the first paragraph of the same section. What is per se aggravating is the use of
unlawfully manufactured or possessed explosives.The mere use of explosives is not.
The information in this case does not allege that appellant Antonio Comadre had unlawfully
possessed or that he had no authority to possess the grenade that he used in the killing and
attempted killings. Even if it were alleged, its presence was not proven by the prosecution beyond
reasonable doubt. Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure requires the
averment of aggravating circumstances for their application.[39]
The inapplicability of R.A. 8294 having been made manifest, the crime committed is Murder
committed by means of explosion in accordance with Article 248 (3) of the Revised Penal
Code. The same, having been alleged in the Information, may be properly considered as appellant
was sufficiently informed of the nature of the accusation against him. [40]
The trial court found appellant guilty of the complex crime of murder with multiple
attempted murder under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:
Art. 48. Penalty for complex crimes. When a single act constitutes two or more grave or less
grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means of committing the other, the penalty
for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period.

The underlying philosophy of complex crimes in the Revised Penal Code, which follows
the pro reo principle, is intended to favor the accused by imposing a single penalty irrespective
of the crimes committed. The rationale being, that the accused who commits two crimes with
single criminal impulse demonstrates lesser perversity than when the crimes are committed by
different acts and several criminal resolutions.
The single act by appellant of detonating a hand grenade may quantitatively constitute a
cluster of several separate and distinct offenses, yet these component criminal offenses should
be considered only as a single crime in law on which a single penalty is imposed because the
offender was impelled by a single criminal impulse which shows his lesser degree of perversity.[41]
Under the aforecited article, when a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave
felonies the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its
maximum period irrespective of the presence of modifying circumstances, including the generic
aggravating circumstance of treachery in this case.[42] Applying the aforesaid provision of law, the
maximum penalty for the most serious crime (murder) is death. The trial court, therefore,
correctly imposed the death penalty.
Three justices of the Court, however, continue to maintain the unconstitutionality of R.A.
7659 insofar as it prescribes the death penalty. Nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the
majority to the effect that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty can be lawfully
imposed in the case at bar.
Finally, the trial court awarded to the parents of the victim Robert Agbanlog civil indemnity
in the amount of P50,000.00, P35,000.00 as compensatory damages and P20,000.00 as moral
damages. Pursuant to existing jurisprudence[43] the award of civil indemnity is proper. However,
the actual damages awarded to the heirs of Robert Agbanlog should be modified, considering
that the prosecution was able to substantiate only the amount of P18,000.00 as funeral
expenses.[44]
The award of moral damages is appropriate there being evidence to show emotional
suffering on the part of the heirs of the deceased, but the same must be increased to P50,000.00
in accordance with prevailing judicial policy.[45]
With respect to the surviving victims Jaime Agbanlog, Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat and Gerry
Bullanday, the trial court awarded P30,000.00 each for the injuries they sustained. We find this
award inappropriate because they were not able to present a single receipt to substantiate their
claims. Nonetheless, since it appears that they are entitled to actual damages although the
amount thereof cannot be determined, they should be awarded temperate damages of
P25,000.00 each.[46]
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the appealed decision of the Regional Trial Court
of San Jose City, Branch 39 in Criminal Case No. L-16(95) is AFFIRMED insofar as appellant Antonio
Comadre is convicted of the complex crime of Murder with Multiple Attempted Murder and
sentenced to suffer the penalty of death. He is ordered to pay the heirs of the victim the amount
of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and P18,000.00 as actual damages
and likewise ordered to pay the surviving victims, Jaime Agbanlog, Jimmy Wabe, Rey Camat and
Gerry Bullanday, P25,000.00 each as temperate damages for the injuries they sustained.
Appellants Gregorio Comadre and Danilo Lozano are ACQUITTED for lack of evidence to establish
conspiracy, and they are hereby ordered immediately RELEASED from confinement unless they
are lawfully held in custody for another cause. Costs de oficio.
In accordance with Section 25 of Republic Act 7659 amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal
Code, upon finality of this Decision, let the records of this case be forwarded to the Office of the
President for possible exercise of pardoning power.
SO ORDERED.
People vs. De Chavez

G.R. No. 188105

Plaintiff-appellee: PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Accused-appellants: MONICO DE CHAVEZ y PERLAS, JUANITO MIN ON y RODRIGUEZ, and


ASUNCION MERCADO y MARCIANO

FACTS:

This is a criminal case charging the accused-appellants Juanito Min on y Rodriguez (Juanito) and
Asuncion Mercado y Marciano (Asuncion) together with Monico De Chavez y Perlas (Monico)
and Joselito Lanip y Genebraldo (Joselito) with the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom as defined
and penalized under Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended.

Paolo Earvin C. Alonzo (Paolo), the victim, testified that on August 14, 1998 at around 3pm he
was at his school in Los Banos when he was called to the door of his classroom where Asuncion,
claiming to be someone from Zamboanga, told him that his grandfather had met an accident and
wanted to talk to him. Paolo voluntarily went with the woman who brought him to a Ford Fiera
where he saw three men, two of whom were Monico and Juanito. After several hours of travel,
he was brought inside a house. According to Corazon Marquez Alonzo (Corazon), grandmother
of the victim, Paolo captors demanded a ransom amounting to Php4 million. He was held captive
for 11 days until he was rescued at dawn on August 25, 1998.
Chf. Insp. Cabula testified as to what happened from August 14, 1998 onwards on how the team
conducted surveillance activities, on how they tailed Joselito to a small house at 114 Brias St.,
Brgy. 2, Nasugbu, Batangas where they rescued Paolo.
On the other hand, the defense presented testimonies of 13 individuals.
Both Asuncion and Juanito, corroborating each other, attested that they have been misled and
intimidated into committing the crime by Monico, who they similarly pointed to as the
mastermind of the kidnapping; and that they were merely prevailed upon and compelled to
follow Monico under pain of death
Danilo de Mesa Valencia attested that he was together with Joselito and Monico in the afternoon
of August 22, 1998 when they attended a meeting of the Samahang Pantubig in Purok 3 of Brgy.
Putho, Tuntungin, Los Baos, Laguna. Sonny Atole testified playing cards with Monico at the store
of Gloria Penales the whole day of August 22, 1998 except the period when Monico went with
Joselito and Danilo de Mesa for the meeting. Gloria Penales, storekeeper, corroborated Sonny
Atole, that Monico was playing with Sonny Atole in her store practically the whole day of August
22, 1998.
Defense counsel Atty. Conrado Manicad testified that it was impossible for Chf. Insp. Cabula to
tail Joselito from the latters residence to the residence of Monico using 16 men, eight cars and
four motorcycles for the width of the alley they have to traverse can only accommodate one
person at a time.
RTC rendered a Decision, affirmed by the CA, convicting Monico, Asuncion and Juanito while
acquitting Joselito.

ISSUES:
1. Whether or not Juanito and Asuncion conspired with Monico in the perpetration of the
crime;
2. Whether or not an exempting or justifying circumstance is present and applicable in their
favor.
HELD:
1. No.There is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the
commission of a crime and decide to commit it. Conspiracy requires the same degree of
proof required to establish the crimeproof beyond reasonable doubt. The
ascertained facts of the kidnapping and the proven demand for ransom of PhP 4M
established beyond reasonable doubt the commission of the crime of kidnapping for
ransom. Monicos guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Evidently, Juanito
and Asuncion acted in concert with Monico on a common plan to kidnap Paolo and hold
him for ransom. Asuncion lured Paolo to accompany her. Juanito blindfolded Paolo when
they were transporting him to Nasugbu, Batangas. Moreover, for 11 days, Juanito and
Asuncion guarded Paolo inside the small house at 114 Brias St., Brgy. 2, Nasugbu,
Batangas. Foregoing facts taken together, without a doubt, shows conspiracy between
Monico, Juanito and Asuncion in committing kidnapping for ransom.
2. No. Their testimonies and protestations, they were only compelled by threat of bodily
harm by Monico is not proof of an exempting or justifying circumstance. Firstly, no other
corroborative evidence was shown to prove the existence of either circumstance.
Secondly, appellants have not shown that the house where they kept Paolo was well
guarded or that an armed person was posted therein aside from their mere testimony
that the people outside the house with Monico. This belies their theory of compulsion by
an exempting circumstance either of irresistible force or uncontrollable fear under
Art. 12, par. 5 and 6 of the RPC sufficient to exculpate them. If they indeed labored under
such compulsion, there was nothing keeping them from running to the authorities or
escaping with Paolo; but they did not. A review of the records would indicate that neither
Monico nor Joselito was constantly guarding the house. Moreover, during the PAOCTF
rescue operation at dawn of August 25, 1998, only Juanito and Asuncion were guarding
Paolo in the house in Nasugbu, Batangas. The lack of the alleged compulsion is thus clear,
and that Asuncion and Juanito indeed actively participated in the commission of the crime
charged.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 181430 March 9, 2010

FELIPE RONQUILLO y GUILLERMO and GILBERT TORRES y


NATALIA, Petitioners,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Herein appellants Felipe Ronquillo (Ronquillo) and Gilbert Torres (Torres) were charged
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Ballesteros, Cagayan of homicide under an
Information reading

xxxx

That on or about June 23, 2001 in the [M]unicipality of Ballesteros, [P]rovince of


Cagayan and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, Felipe
Ronquillo y Guillermo and Gilber[t] Torres y Natal[i]a, armed with shovel and bamboo,
conspiring together and helpin[g] each other, with intent to kill, did then and there
wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and hit with the said shovel and
bamboo one Edgar Ronquillo y Paranaque, inflicting upon him wounds on his head
which caused his death.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

x x x x1

The following facts are established.

On June 23, 2001 at 5:30 p.m., while appellants, together with Alejandro Rivera
(Rivera), were drinking near the store of Henry Ugale, Edgar Ronquillo (the victim), a
first cousin of appellant Ronquillo, passed by as he repaired to the store to buy
cigarettes. As Ronquillo followed the victim at the store, a heated argument ensued
between them during which the two boxed each other. Ronquillo thereafter twice kicked
the victim who drew out his knife which hit Ronquillo at his left thigh.2
Torres joined the fray and struck the victim on the nape with a shovel. As the victim lay
unconscious on the ground, Ronquillo repeatedly hit him with a bamboo pole on the
head and on different parts of his body.3 The victim died the following day.4

The death certificate5 of the victim showed the following:

xxxx

CAUSES OF DEATH

Immediate cause a. Brain herniation

Antecedent cause b. Intracranial hemorrhage

Underlying cause c. Mauling

Other significant conditions Closed fracture M/3rd humerus


contributing (L)
to death

x x x x (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Ronquillo and Torres, interposing self-defense, gave the following version:

A heated argument arose when the victim called Ronquillos father a "wicked
witch."6 With a knife, the victim chased Ronquillo for about ten minutes around the
stores premises,7 after which the victim turned towards Torres to attack him, hence,
Torres repaired to a parked truck where he got a shovel which he used to hit the victim
on the nape.8Unaffected by the blow, the victim again ran after Ronquillo who was trying
to pull a bamboo peg beside the road. At that instant, the victim stabbed the left thigh of
Ronquillo9 who retaliated by striking the victim with the bamboo pole.

Ruling out self-defense, the trial court held, quoted verbatim:

The testimony of the two accused is not credible. If the victim chased Gilbert with a
knife, [the victim] could have inflicted injuries on [Gilbert]. If it is true that Gilbert
struck [the victim] at the napewhy did the victim still go to Felipe who is away
from him and stabbed him on his thigh. [The victim] could have stabbed Gilbert
first because he was the one who clubbed him. The testimony of the accused is
unnatural. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

By Decision of June 30, 2005,10 the trial court thus convicted petitioners of homicide,
disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered[,] the prosecution having proven the guilt of the
accused Felipe Ronquillo and Gilbert Torres beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
charged, the Court sentences the accused Felipe Ronquillo and Gilbert Torres to suffer
a penalty of eight (8) years and four (4) months to fourteen (14) years and eight (8)
months and to pay the heirs of the victim solidarily in the amount of Fifty Thousand
Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil [indemnity] due to the death of the victim, Fifty Thousand
Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages, Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as actual
damages and to pay the cost.

The accused are entitled in full of their preventive imprisonment.

SO ORDERED.

By Decision of July 27, 2007,11 the Court of Appeals affirmed the findings of the trial
court but modified the penalty and ordered the payment of temperate damages in lieu of
actual damages. Thus the appellate court disposed:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 33, Ballesteros, Cagayan, in Criminal Case No. 33-483-2001 is hereby
AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused-appellants Felipe Ronquillo y Guillermo and
Gilbert Torres y Natalia are hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to fourteen (14)
years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as
maximum. Accused-appellants are also hereby ordered to pay, jointly and severally,
the heirs of the victim Edgar Ronquillo, the amount of P25,000.00 as temperate
damages in lieu of actual damages which is hereby DELETED. The appealed Decision
is AFFIRMED in all other respects. The damages awarded herein and those affirmed in
the appealed judgment are to be paid, jointly and severally, by both accused-appellants.

SO ORDERED. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Hence, the present petition for review.

Justifying their actions, petitioners assert that unlawful aggression emanated from the
victim who was armed with a knife; that the means adopted by them were reasonably
necessary to repel the victims aggression; and that they did not provoke the victim
whom they merely invited for a drink.12

And petitioners contend that there was no sufficient, direct and clear evidence to
establish conspiracy in the killing of the victim.13

The petition fails.

As did the trial and appellate courts, the Court finds that petitioners failed to discharge
the burden of proving the circumstances to justify their actions.

It is a statutory and doctrinal requirement that the presence of unlawful aggression is a


condition sine qua non for self-defense to be warranted.14
The testimony of the lone prosecution witness Rivera that the aggression emanated not
from the victim but from petitioner Ronquillo himself impresses the Court. Consider his
following testimony, quoted verbatim:

Q: Now when Felipe Ronquillo followed Edgar Ronquillo infront of the store of
Henry Ugale, what happened next, if any?

A: I was surprised, sir because it was the start of their quarrel.

Q: What do you mean quarrel?

A: They started boxing each other, sir.

Q: And when they started boxing each other, what happened next if any?

A: Felipe Ronquillo kicked Edgar Ronquillo.

Q: And after Felipe Ronquillo kicked Edgar Ronquillo what happened next if any?

A: Edgar Ronquillo drew his knife, sir.

Q: And after Edgar Ronquillo drew his knife what happened next if any?

A: When Felipe Ronquillo kicked him for the second time, it was then that
Edgar Ronquillo used his knife to parry the kick of Felipe Ronquillo who
was hurt at the thigh.

Q: After Felipe Ronquillo was injured because of use of the knife which Edgar
Ronquillo used to parry his kick what happened next?

A: Edgar Ronquillo went to the edge of the road and Felipe Ronquillo
followed him again, sir.

Q: Now when Edgar Ronquillo went to the side of the street and he was followed
by Felipe Ronquillo again what happened next if any?

A: When they were already face to face it was at that moment . . . Gilbert
Torres clubbed Edgar Ronquillo with a shovel, sir.

Q: Where did Gilbert Torres come from when he struck Edgar Ronquillo with a
shovel?

A: From the back, sir.

xxxx
Q: Now when Gilbert Torres struck Edgar Ronquillo with a shovel what did Felipe
Ronquillo do if any?

A: Edgar Ronquillo fell down unconscious and that the time that Felipe Ronquillo
used a piece of bamboo to club him many times.15 (emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

Unlawful aggression presupposes an actual and imminent peril.16 The victims mere
possession of a knife would not suffice to impute unlawful aggression on him as
petitioners have not even established that their lives had been actually threatened on
account thereof. The victim in fact drew out his knife after he was twice kicked by
Ronquillo.

That the injury Ronquillo sustained was not serious or severe dovetails with the
narration of prosecution witness Rivera that the victim used his knife to parry the second
kick of Ronquillo.

In stark contrast, the victim sustained severe head injuries that resulted in hernia and
hemorrhage, and a fracture on his humerus or upper arm. The gravity, location, and
number of injuries he sustained undoubtedly negate self-defense on petitioners part.

Further denting Ronquillos defense is his admission that he had been harboring a
grudge against the victim.

Q: In what occasion then did Edgar Ronquillo called [sic] your father a witch?

A: The first time he told me that my father is a witch was when we had a
drinking spree at the same place [in] Cabaritan, Sir.

Q: Not on that incident?

A: Yes Sir.

Q: Therefore, when you saw Edgar Ronquillo at the time of the incident, Edgar
Ronquillo has already called your father a witch?

A: At that time I asked him why he told me that my father is a witch so we had a
heated argument, Sir.

Q: You are then harboring an ill feeling against Edgar Ronquillo because of
his statement?

A: Yes Sir, a little.17 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Respecting Torres claim that he was attacked by the victim, the testimony of the
prosecution witness who has not been shown to be a biased witness belies the same:
Q: And Gilbert Torres only went to get the shovel after he was attacked by Edgar,
am I correct?

A: No sir, Edgar never attacked Gilbert Torres.

Q: At any rate, Gilbert Torres went to the aid of Felipe Ronquillo[?]

A: Yes sir.18 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

But even assuming arguendo that unlawful aggression initially came from the victim, the
aggression ceased when the victim already lay prostate on the ground at which time
there was no longer any need to further inflict injuries on him. For there was no longer
any imminent risk to petitioners lives or personal safety.

Besides, petitioners had the opportunity to run away from the victim as, by their claim,
he was even walking "groggily" due to drunkenness.19 Particularly with respect to
Ronquillo, since he claimed that the victim chased him for about ten minutes around the
store and then turned his attention to Torres, he could have run away. But he did
not.1avvphi1

It bears noting that petitioners enjoyed superiority in number (two) over the victim. And
the means they used was out of proportion to the means of defense available to the
victim.

The Court finds then that unlawful aggression was not present on the victims part.
Discussion of the rest of the elements of self-defense is thus rendered
unnecessary.1avvphil

On the issue of conspiracy, the Court finds well-taken the appellate courts appreciation
of the presence thereof, viz:

x x x Considering that herein [petitioners] already admitted the killing of Edgar


Ronquillo, the issue therefore of conspiracy is irrelevant simply because the
participation of the [petitioners] in the killing of Edgar Ronquillo has already been
established. For even if conspiracy was not proven, the fact that the two accused each
inflicted a serious wound which contributed to the death of the victim makes them co-
principals.20 (underscoring supplied)

Finally, since petitioners invoke justifying circumstances to exonerate themselves, any


discussion on conspiracy is extraneous as these two concepts are incompatible with
each other. For conspiracy presupposes a community of criminal intent, 21 while
invocation of justifying circumstances presupposes lack of criminal intent such that there
is no crime and no criminal to speak of.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED.

Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 103119 October 21, 1992

SULPICIO INTOD, petitioner,


vs.
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

CAMPOS, JR., J.:

Petitioner, Sulpicio Intod, filed this petition for review of the decision of the Court of
Appeals 1 affirming in toto the judgment of the Regional Trial Court, Branch XIV, Oroquieta City,
finding him guilty of the crime of attempted murder.

From the records, we gathered the following facts.

In the morning of February 4, 1979, Sulpicio Intod, Jorge Pangasian, Santos Tubio and Avelino
Daligdig went to Salvador Mandaya's house in Katugasan, Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental and
asked him to go with them to the house of Bernardina Palangpangan. Thereafter, Mandaya and
Intod, Pangasian, Tubio and Daligdig had a meeting with Aniceto Dumalagan. He told Mandaya
that he wanted Palangpangan to be killed because of a land dispute between them and that
Mandaya should accompany the four (4) men, otherwise, he would also be killed.

At about 10:00 o'clock in the evening of the same day, Petitioner, Mandaya, Pangasian, Tubio
and Daligdig, all armed with firearms, arrived at Palangpangan's house in Katugasan, Lopez
Jaena, Misamis Occidental. At the instance of his companions, Mandaya pointed the location of
Palangpangan's bedroom. Thereafter, Petitioner, Pangasian, Tubio and Daligdig fired at said
room. It turned out, however, that Palangpangan was in another City and her home was then
occupied by her son-in-law and his family. No one was in the room when the accused fired the
shots. No one was hit by the gun fire.

Petitioner and his companions were positively identified by witnesses. One witness testified
that before the five men left the premises, they shouted: "We will kill you (the witness) and
especially Bernardina Palangpangan and we will come back if (sic) you were not injured". 2

After trial, the Regional Trial Court convicted Intod of attempted murder. The court (RTC), as
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, holding that Petitioner was guilty of attempted murder.
Petitioner seeks from this Court a modification of the judgment by holding him liable only for
an impossible crime, citing Article 4(2) of the Revised Penal Code which provides:

Art. 4(2). CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY. Criminal Responsibility shall be incurred:

xxx xxx xxx

2. By any person performing an act which would be an offense against persons


or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or on
account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means.

Petitioner contends that, Palangpangan's absence from her room on the night he and
his companions riddled it with bullets made the crime inherently impossible.

On the other hand, Respondent People of the Philippines argues that the crime was not
impossible. Instead, the facts were sufficient to constitute an attempt and to convict Intod for
attempted murder. Respondent alleged that there was intent. Further, in its Comment to the
Petition, respondent pointed out that:

. . . The crime of murder was not consummated, not because of the inherent
impossibility of its accomplishment (Art. 4(2), Revised Penal Code), but due to a
cause or accident other than petitioner's and his accused's own spontaneous
desistance (Art. 3., Ibid.) Palangpangan did not sleep at her house at that time.
Had it not been for this fact, the crime is possible, not impossible. 3

Article 4, paragraph 2 is an innovation 4 of the Revised Penal Code. This seeks to remedy the
void in the Old Penal Code where:

. . . it was necessary that the execution of the act has been commenced, that the
person conceiving the idea should have set about doing the deed, employing
appropriate means in order that his intent might become a reality, and finally,
that the result or end contemplated shall have been physically possible. So long
as these conditions were not present, the law and the courts did not hold him
criminally liable. 5

This legal doctrine left social interests entirely unprotected. 6 The Revised Penal Code, inspired
by the Positivist School, recognizes in the offender his formidability, 7 and now penalizes an act
which were it not aimed at something quite impossible or carried out with means which prove
inadequate, would constitute a felony against person or against property. 8 The rationale of
Article 4(2) is to punish such criminal tendencies. 9

Under this article, the act performed by the offender cannot produce an offense against person
or property because: (1) the commission of the offense is inherently impossible of
accomplishment: or (2) the means employed is either (a) inadequate or (b) ineffectual. 10
That the offense cannot be produced because the commission of the offense is inherently
impossible of accomplishment is the focus of this petition. To be impossible under this clause,
the act intended by the offender must be by its nature one impossible of
accomplishment. 11 There must be either impossibility of accomplishing the intended act 12 in
order to qualify the act an impossible crime.

Legal impossibility occurs where the intended acts, even if completed, would not amount to a
crime. 13 Thus:

Legal impossibility would apply to those circumstances where (1) the motive,
desire and expectation is to perform an act in violation of the law; (2) there is
intention to perform the physical act; (3) there is a performance of the intended
physical act; and (4) the consequence resulting from the intended act does not
amount to a crime. 14

The impossibility of killing a person already dead 15 falls in this category.

On the other hand, factual impossibility occurs when extraneous circumstances unknown to the
actor or beyond his control prevent the consummation of the intended crime. 16 One example
is the man who puts his hand in the coat pocket of another with the intention to steal the
latter's wallet and finds the pocket empty. 17

The case at bar belongs to this category. Petitioner shoots the place where he thought his
victim would be, although in reality, the victim was not present in said place and thus, the
petitioner failed to accomplish his end.

One American case had facts almost exactly the same as this one. In People vs. Lee Kong, 18 the
accused, with intent to kill, aimed and fired at the spot where he thought the police officer
would be. It turned out, however, that the latter was in a different place. The accused failed to
hit him and to achieve his intent. The Court convicted the accused of an attempt to kill. It held
that:

The fact that the officer was not at the spot where the attacking party imagined
where he was, and where the bullet pierced the roof, renders it no less an
attempt to kill. It is well settled principle of criminal law in this country that
where the criminal result of an attempt is not accomplished simply because of an
obstruction in the way of the thing to be operated upon, and these facts are
unknown to the aggressor at the time, the criminal attempt is committed.

In the case of Strokes vs. State, 19 where the accused failed to accomplish his intent to kill the
victim because the latter did not pass by the place where he was lying-in wait, the court held
him liable for attempted murder. The court explained that:

It was no fault of Strokes that the crime was not committed. . . . It only became
impossible by reason of the extraneous circumstance that Lane did not go that
way; and further, that he was arrested and prevented from committing the
murder. This rule of the law has application only where it is inherently
impossible to commit the crime. It has no application to a case where it becomes
impossible for the crime to be committed, either by outside interference or
because of miscalculation as to a supposed opportunity to commit the crime
which fails to materialize; in short it has no application to the case when the
impossibility grows out of extraneous acts not within the control of the party.

In the case of Clark vs. State, 20 the court held defendant liable for attempted robbery even if
there was nothing to rob. In disposing of the case, the court quoted Mr. Justice Bishop, to wit:

It being an accepted truth that defendant deserves punishment by reason of his


criminal intent, no one can seriously doubt that the protection of the public
requires the punishment to be administered, equally whether in the unseen
depths of the pocket, etc., what was supposed to exist was really present or not.
The community suffers from the mere alarm of crime. Again: Where the thing
intended (attempted) as a crime and what is done is a sort to create alarm, in
other words, excite apprehension that the evil; intention will be carried out, the
incipient act which the law of attempt takes cognizance of is in reason
committed.

In State vs. Mitchell, 21 defendant, with intent to kill, fired at the window of victim's room
thinking that the latter was inside. However, at that moment, the victim was in another part of
the house. The court convicted the accused of attempted murder.

The aforecited cases are the same cases which have been relied upon by Respondent to make
this Court sustain the judgment of attempted murder against Petitioner. However, we cannot
rely upon these decisions to resolve the issue at hand. There is a difference between the
Philippine and the American laws regarding the concept and appreciation of impossible crimes.

In the Philippines, the Revised Penal Code, in Article 4(2), expressly provided for impossible
crimes and made the punishable. Whereas, in the United States, the Code of Crimes and
Criminal Procedure is silent regarding this matter. What it provided for were attempts of the
crimes enumerated in the said Code. Furthermore, in said jurisdiction, the impossibility of
committing the offense is merely a defense to an attempt charge. In this regard, commentators
and the cases generally divide the impossibility defense into two categories: legal versus factual
impossibility. 22 In U.S. vs. Wilson 23 the Court held that:

. . . factual impossibility of the commission of the crime is not a defense. If the


crime could have been committed had the circumstances been as the defendant
believed them to be, it is no defense that in reality the crime was impossible of
commission.

Legal impossibility, on the other hand, is a defense which can be invoked to avoid criminal
liability for an attempt. In U.S. vs. Berrigan, 24 the accused was indicated for attempting to
smuggle letters into and out of prison. The law governing the matter made the act criminal if
done without knowledge and consent of the warden. In this case, the offender intended to
send a letter without the latter's knowledge and consent and the act was performed. However,
unknown to him, the transmittal was achieved with the warden's knowledge and consent. The
lower court held the accused liable for attempt but the appellate court reversed. It held
unacceptable the contention of the state that "elimination of impossibility as a defense to a
charge of criminal attempt, as suggested by the Model Penal Code and the proposed federal
legislation, is consistent with the overwhelming modern view". In disposing of this contention,
the Court held that the federal statutes did not contain such provision, and thus, following the
principle of legality, no person could be criminally liable for an act which was not made criminal
by law. Further, it said:

Congress has not yet enacted a law that provides that intent plus act plus
conduct constitutes the offense of attempt irrespective of legal impossibility
until such time as such legislative changes in the law take place, this court will
not fashion a new non-statutory law of criminal attempt.

To restate, in the United States, where the offense sought to be committed is factually
impossible or accomplishment, the offender cannot escape criminal liability. He can be
convicted of an attempt to commit the substantive crime where the elements of attempt are
satisfied. It appears, therefore, that the act is penalized, not as an impossible crime, but as an
attempt to commit a crime. On the other hand, where the offense is legally impossible of
accomplishment, the actor cannot be held liable for any crime neither for an attempt not for
an impossible crime. The only reason for this is that in American law, there is no such thing as
an impossible crime. Instead, it only recognizes impossibility as a defense to a crime charge
that is, attempt.

This is not true in the Philippines. In our jurisdiction, impossible crimes are recognized. The
impossibility of accomplishing the criminal intent is not merely a defense, but an act penalized
by itself. Furthermore, the phrase "inherent impossibility" that is found in Article 4(2) of the
Revised Penal Code makes no distinction between factual or physical impossibility and legal
impossibility. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemos.

The factual situation in the case at bar present a physical impossibility which rendered the
intended crime impossible of accomplishment. And under Article 4, paragraph 2 of the Revised
Penal Code, such is sufficient to make the act an impossible crime.

To uphold the contention of respondent that the offense was Attempted Murder because the
absence of Palangpangan was a supervening cause independent of the actor's will, will render
useless the provision in Article 4, which makes a person criminally liable for an act "which
would be an offense against persons or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its
accomplishment . . ." In that case all circumstances which prevented the consummation of the
offense will be treated as an accident independent of the actor's will which is an element of
attempted and frustrated felonies.
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED. the petition is hereby GRANTED, the decision of
respondent Court of Appeals holding Petitioner guilty of Attempted Murder is hereby
MODIFIED. We hereby hold Petitioner guilty of an impossible crime as defined and penalized in
Articles 4, paragraph 2, and 59 of the Revised Penal Code, respectively. Having in mind the
social danger and degree of criminality shown by Petitioner, this Court sentences him to suffer
the penalty of six (6) months of arresto mayor, together with the accessory penalties provided
by the law, and to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.