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EN BANC

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, A.M. No. P-05-2004


Complainant, (Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 05-2086-P)

Present:
PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
CARPIO,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
LOURDES F. BERMEJO, COURT REYES, and
STENOGRAPHER II, MUNICIPAL TRIAL COURT LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.
IN CITIES, PUERTO PRINCESACITY,
Respondent. Promulgated:

March 14, 2008


x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before this Court is an administrative case for Dishonesty against Lourdes F. Bermejo, Court Stenographer II, stationed
at the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

On January 20, 2004, then Court Administrator Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. [1] received a letter from Consolacion C.
Santos, Director IV of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Regional Office No. 3, San Fernando, Pampanga, referring to the
Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) an undated letter from a concerned citizen accusing Bermejo of using another name in
taking her Civil Service Eligibility Examination, while another person took the same exam using Bermejos name. Attached to the
letter is a Memorandum dated August 14, 2003 of Nora S. Castro, Chief Personnel Specialist of the same CSC regional office,
reporting that upon verification of the pictures attached to the anonymous letter and that of the Picture Seat Plan used during the
exam, the person who purportedly impersonated Bermejo and the picture of the person in the seat plan using the name of
Bermejo was the same person. The letter also states that because of this impersonation, Bermejo passed the exam and was able to
use said eligibility to obtain a permanent appointment as a stenographer at the Puerto Princesa City MTCC. The
real Bermejo allegedly also took the same exam under a different name, but failed.

In an Indorsement dated March 15, 2004, Court Administrator Velasco referred the anonymous letter to Bermejo for
comment. In her handwritten Comment, Bermejo denied the allegations and said that she went through the proper process to
obtain her civil service eligibility. She alleged that the charges were the handiwork of her husbands mistress who had been
threatening to have her removed from the service. As regards the photographs attached to the letter, Bermejo said that she had
inquired into the identity of the person who allegedly used her name in the exam and found that she was a childhood friend of her
husband, but was currently serving sentence for adultery at the Correctional Institute for Women.
Bermejo also explained why she took the test in San Fernando, Pampanga. She allegedly applied to take the exam
in Manila since her appointment was set to expire on July 15, 1998. However, she was informed that the next exam was on June
16, 1998. Learning that there was an exam scheduled earlier in San Fernando, she went there to see if she could take the exam
there instead. And she did.

Subsequently, on July 16, 2004, Deputy Court Administrator Jose P. Perez directed Bermejo to explain the discrepancy
between the picture on her personnel file and the picture of the person who took the examination using her name. According to
DCA Perez, records of the OCA and of the CSC showed that Bermejo was not the same person who used Bermejos name and
took the sub-professional examination on May 27, 1998 in San Fernando, Pampanga.

In her reply, Bermejo alleged that she could not explain the discrepancy. She said that she personally took the exam and
attached proof of her travel from Palawan to Manila and from Manila to Pampanga, as well as her Application Receipt to take
the May 27, 2008 exam in San Fernando, with her name and picture appearing therein.

Bermejo stated that the person she suspected to be behind the case, her husbands mistress, had already passed away.
She maintained that she did not know the person in the picture and said she could not find the same person, as the place where the
latter allegedly lived had been razed by fire. She said that the only discrepancy she could own up to was that pertaining to her
birth date, listed in her Certificate of Eligibility as May 13, 1965, while her birth certificate indicated May 13, 1968.

After investigation, the OCA submitted its evaluation and recommendation, [2] stating thus:

EVALUATION: The focal issue here is factual i.e., whether or not another person actually took
the Civil Service Commission Sub-Professional eligibility test at San Fernando, Pampanga on 27 May 1998,
using the name Lourdes F. Bermejo. In the affirmative, the corollary legal issue proceeds i.e., whether or not
it constitutes dishonesty as would merit a finding of administrative liability on the part of respondent.

At bar is an anonymous complaint, which respondent suspects is the handiwork of her husbands
[]other woman[.] In evidence is a certified copy of the Seat Plan of the examination concerned. Said
document is of public record and indicates that it was duly checked and certified by the room examiner as
well as counter-checked by the supervising examiner. The same indubitably bears out a different person
appearing to take the exam using the name Lourdes F. Bermejo, whereas the real Lourdes F. Bermejo (whose
picture matches the respondents) is the one seated beside her. Respondent fails to overcome this evidence.
Aside from the presumption of regularity in the execution of official documents, respondent in her two letters
did not categorically deny the genuineness and due execution of the Seat Plan. Instead, she impliedly
admitted the same by her defense that she could not anymore locate the person appearing atop her name.

We note that it took more than five (5) years for the supposed concerned citizen to assail the
anomaly, and that the alleged motive imputed to complainant probably holds water. However, these, at best,
are merely persuasive, circumstantial, and do not suffice to discount an evidence which tend directly to prove
the fact in issue.

Coming to the next issue, it is our considered opinion that the circumstances constitute dishonesty,
given the following considerations:

1) Respondents insistent line is that she actually took the exam which is misleading since
she indeed took the same but she kept mum on that (sic) she let another person use her name in taking the
civil service examination;

2) Respondent asserts that the person who purportedly took the exam using the name
Lourdes F. Bermejo was her husbands childhood peer who is now allegedly serving sentence for adultery and
whose locality of origin was razed by fire. How she was able to figure out the details of said person, when
she only supposedly met her briefly during [the] exam that took place more than five years ago, at a far place
where respondent was a complete stranger, is suspect;
3) It should be stressed that as a matter of procedure, the room examiners assigned to
supervise the conduct of a Civil Service examination closely examine the pictures submitted and affixed on
the Picture Seat Plan (CSC Resolution No. 95-3964, Obedencio, Jaime A.). The examiners carefully compare
the appearance of each of the examinees with the person in the picture submitted and affixed on the Picture
Seat Plan. In cases where the examinee does not look like the person in the picture submitted and attached on
(sic) the PSP, the examiner will not allow the said person to take the examination (CSC Resolution No. 95-
5195, Taguinay, Ma. Theresa).

Hence, it is clear that somebody else took the CSC exam for respondent Lourdes F. Bermejo. For
her to deny it and actually reap the benefits of passing the same, when in fact somebody else took it for her,
constitutes dishonesty.

In similar cases, the Honorable Court is consistent in imposing the stern penalty of dismissal,
pursuant to Section 23, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292.
[Pls. see: CSC vs. Zenaida T. Sta. Ana, A.M. No. P-03-1696 (April 20, 2003); Cruz and Paitim vs. CSC, G.R.
No. 144464 (Nov. 27, 2001); Floria vs. Sunga A.M. No. CA-01-10-PI (Nov. 14, 2001)].

RECOMMENDATION: Respectfully submitted for consideration of the Honorable Court is our


recommendation that:

1. the instant complaint be docketed as a regular administrative matter; and

2. respondent Lourdes F. Bermejo, (sic) be found guilty of dishonesty and


accordingly DISMISSED as Court Stenographer II, MTCC, Puerto Princesa City, with forfeiture of all her
retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or
instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.

The OCAs recommendation is well-taken.

This Court has had occasion to rule on similar cases in the past. In Civil Service Commission v. Sta. Ana,[3] the Court
found, thus:

After a thorough review of the matter, the Court finds that respondent is indeed guilty of
dishonesty. An examination of respondents Personal Data Sheet reveals that her signature and picture on it
are different from those in her CAT Application and Picture Seat Plan. Respondent attributes such
discrepancy to unknown persons who may have been committing such anomaly and irregularity in the
examination procedure of the CSC. However, this Court agrees with the observation of the executive judge
that the irregularity should not be attributed to the CSC which had no motive in tampering with such
documents. Even if such irregularity was attributable to error or oversight, respondent did not present any
proof that it occurred during the examination and, thus, the CSC officials who supervised the exam enjoyed
the presumption of regularity in the performance of their official duty. Besides, for the CSC to commit such a
mistake - mixing up the pictures and signatures of examinees - was unlikely due to the strict procedures it
follows during civil service examinations. In a similar case, this Court approved the findings of the CSC
regarding procedures during examinations:

It should be stressed that as a matter of procedure, the room examiners assigned to supervise the
conduct of a Civil Service examination closely examine the pictures submitted and affixed on the Picture Seat
Plan (CSC Resolution No. 95-3694, Obedencio, Jaime A.). The examiners carefully compare the appearance
of each of the examinees with the person in the picture submitted and affixed on the PSP. In cases where the
examinee does not look like the person in the picture submitted and attached on the PSP, the examiner will
not allow the said person to take the examination (CSC Resolution No. 95-5195, Taguinay, Ma. Theresa).

Thus, the irregularity in respondents Personal Data Sheet, CAT Application and Picture Seat Plan
cannot be attributed to error on the CSCs part. It is clear that somebody else took the CSC exam for
respondent Sta. Ana.

For respondent to claim that she herself took the CSC exam when in fact somebody else took it for
her constitutes dishonesty.
On the other hand, in Donato v. Civil Service Commission Regional Office No. 1,[4] Alejandro Donato, Jr. was charged
with dishonesty and falsification of public documents for representing himself as Gil Arce and taking the civil service exam
under that name. The CSC and the Court of Appeals both found that the picture of Donato appeared on the Picture Seat Plan on
top of the name Gil Arce. On the other hand, Arce admitted that he might have mistakenly submitted Donatos picture during the
exam. The Court rejected Donatos claim that the case was merely the handiwork of his former principal who allegedly had an axe
to grind against him in the face of positive evidence against him and Arce. Accordingly, the Court upheld the dismissal of both
Arce and Donato.

In the case at bar, respondent Bermejo attributes the anonymous complaint to her husbands mistress and alleges that the
woman whose picture appears with her name on the Seat Plan is her husbands childhood friend. However, she fails to explain
how the two, who apparently also live in Palawan, were able to manipulate and influence the CSC personnel in San Fernando,
Pampanga in order to come up with the charges against her, or how they were able to coax another person allegedly her husbands
childhood friend into impersonating her to take the exam. Besides, it seems to us a little too convenient for respondent to pin the
blame on persons who are no longer around to defend themselves.

Respondent also fails to refute the documentary evidence against her. It is a settled rule in our jurisdiction that the duly
accomplished form of the Civil Service is an official document of the Commission, which, by its very nature, is considered in the
same category as that of a public document, admissible in evidence without need of further proof. As an official document, the
entries thereof made in the course of official duty are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.[5]

Instead, respondent tries to support her arguments with documents of her own. Unfortunately, the evidence she adduces
does not negate the veracity of the CSCs Picture Seat Plan. Worse, these documents even strengthen the case against her. The
picture in her passport is that of the person whose name in the Seat Plan is indicated as Julieta M. Padrones, who happens to be
seated beside the person purportedly named Lourdes F. Bermejo.

It is difficult to believe that respondent could not have noticed that her picture was put on top of a different name and
that her name was accompanied by the picture of another person. There was a space provided for the signature of the examinee.
Thus, respondent could not have missed that she was signing if indeed she was signing her own name the box with a different
picture. She proffers no sufficient explanation for this discrepancy.

In Donato, this Court quoted with approval the CSCs findings, to wit:

In the offense of impersonation, there are always two persons involved. The offense cannot prosper without
the active participation of both persons (CSC Resolution No. 94-6582). Further, by engaging or colluding
with another person to take the test in his behalf and thereafter by claiming the resultant passing rate as his,
clinches the case against him. In cases of impersonation, the Commission has consistently rejected claims of
good faith, for it is contrary to human nature that a person will do (impersonation) without the consent of the
person being impersonated. (CSC resolution No. 94-0826)[6]

Finally, respondents allegations fail to controvert the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties of
the CSC personnel. The Court has noted in previous cases the procedure followed during the conduct of the Civil Service Exams,
as quoted by the OCA in its evaluation.[7] Respondent does not even allege that the CSC Regional Office No. 3 personnel who
administered the exam departed from this established procedure or that any irregularity attended the conduct of the exam.
Dishonesty is defined as intentionally making a false statement on any material fact, or practicing or attempting to
practice any deception or fraud in securing his examination, appointment or registration. [8] Dishonesty is a serious offense which
reflects a persons character and exposes the moral decay which virtually destroys his honor, virtue and integrity. It is a
malevolent act that has no place in the judiciary, as no other office in the government service exacts a greater demand for moral
righteousness from an employee than a position in the judiciary. [9]

We conclude that there is substantial evidence to hold that respondent committed the act of dishonesty imputed to her.
Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,[10] dishonesty is classified as a grave offense punishable
by dismissal for the first offense.

WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, respondent LOURDES F. BERMEJO is found GUILTY of
dishonesty and DISMISSED from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with
prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled
corporations.

SO ORDERED.
Northwest Orient Airlines v. CA 241 SCRA 192 [1995]

FACTS
[In 1974, an International Passenger Sales Agency Agreement was entered into by plaintiff Northwest Orient Airlines
(Northwest) and defendant C.F. Sharp & Co. (Sharp), through its Japan branch, whereby Northwest authorized Sharp to sell the
former's airlines tickets.
Sharp failed to remit the proceeds of the ticket sales it made on behalf of Northwest under the agreement which led the latter to
sue in Tokyo for collection of the unremitted amount, with claim for damages.

The Tokyo District Court of Japan issued a writ of summons against Sharp at its office in Yokohama, Japan but the bailiff failed
twice to serve the writs. Finally, the Tokyo District Court decided to have the writs of summons served at Sharp's head office in
Manila. Sharp accepted the writs but despite such receipt, it failed to appear at the hearings. The District Court proceeded to hear
the complaint and rendered judgment ordering Sharp to pay Northwest the sum of 83,158,195 Yen plus damages. Sharp failed to
appeal and the judgment became final and executory.

Northwest failed to execute the decision in Japan, hence, it filed a suit for enforcement of the judgment before the Regional Trial
Court of Manila. Sharp filed its answer averring that the judgment of the Japanese court is null and void and unenforceable in this
jurisdiction having been rendered without due and proper notice to Sharp.

The case for enforcement of judgment was tried on the merits. Sharp filed a Motion for Judgment on a Demurrer to Evidence.
The trial court granted the demurrer motion, holding that the foreign judgment in the Japanese court sought to be enforced is null
and void for want of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. Northwest appealed but the Court of Appeals sustained the
trial court, holding that the process of the court has no extraterritorial effect and no jurisdiction was acquired over the person of
the defendant by serving him beyond the boundaries of the state. Hence, this appeal by Northwest.]

RULING
"A foreign judgment is presumed to be valid and binding in the country from which it comes, until the contrary is shown. It is
also proper to presume the regularity of the proceedings and the giving of due notice therein.

Under Section 50, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, a judgment in an action in personam of a tribunal of a foreign country having
jurisdiction to pronounce the same is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors-in-interest by a
subsequent title. The judgment may, however, be assailed by evidence of want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party,
collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. Also, under Section 3 of Rule 131, a court, whether of the Philippines or
elsewhere, enjoys the presumption that it was acting in the lawful exercise of jurisdiction and has regularly performed its official
duty.

Consequently, the party attacking a foreign judgment has the burden of overcoming the presumption of its validity. Being the
party challenging the judgment rendered by the Japanese court, SHARP had the duty to demonstrate the invalidity of such
judgment. In an attempt to discharge that burden, it contends that the extraterritorial service of summons effected as its home
office in the Philippines was not only ineffectual but also void, and the Japanese Court did not, therefore, acquire jurisdiction
over it.

It is settled that matters of remedy and procedure such as those relating to the service of process upon a defendant are governed
by the lex fori or the internal law of the forum. In this case, it is the procedural law of Japan where the judgment was rendered
that determines the validity of the extraterritorial service'of process on SHARP. As to what this law is is a question of fact, not of
law. It may not be taken judicial notice of and must be pleaded and proved like any other fact. Sections 24 and 25, Rule 132 of
the Rules of Court provide that it may be evidenced by an official publication or by a duly attested or authenticated copy thereof.
It was then incumbent upon SHARP to present evidence as to what that Japanese procedural law is and to show taat under it, the
assailed extraterritorial service is invalid. It did not. Accordingly, the presumption of validity and regularity of the service of
summons and the decision thereafter rendered by the Japanese court must stand.

Alternatively, in the light of the absence of proof regarding Japanese law, the presumption of identity or similarity or the so-
called processual presumpcion may be invoked. Applying it, the Japanese law on the matter is presumed to be similar with the
Philippine law on service of summons on a private foreign corporation doing business ir, the Philippines. Section 14 of the Rules
of Court provides that if the defendant is a foreign corporation doing business in the Philippines, service may be made: 1) on its
resident agent designated in accordance with law for that purpose, or 2) if there is no such resident agent, on the government
official designated by law to that effect, or 3) on any of its officers or agents within the Philippines.

If the foreign corporation has designated an agent to receive summons, the designation is exclusive, and service of summons is
without force and gives the court no jurisdiction unless made upon him.

Where the corporation has no such great agent, service shall be made on the government official designated by law, to wit: (a) the
Insurance Commissioner, in the case of a foreign insurance company; (b) the Superintendent of Banks, in the case of a foreign
banking corporation; and (c) the Securities and Exchange Commission, in the case of other foreign corporations duly licensed to
do business in the Philippines. Whenever service of process is so made, the government office or official served shall transmit by
mail a copy of the summons or other legal process to the corporation at its home or principal office. The sending of such copy is a
necessary part of the service.

Nowhere in its pleadings did SHARP profess to having had a resident agent authorized to receive court processes in Japan. This
silence could only mean, or at least create an impression, that it had none. Hence, service on the designated government official
or any of its officers or agents in Japan could be availed of.

As found by the Court of Appeals, it was the Tokyo District Court which ordered that summons for SHARP be served at its head
office in the Philippines after the two attempts of service had failed. The Tokyo District Court requested the Supreme Court of
Japan to cause the delivery of the summons and other legal documents to the Philippines. Acting on that request, the Supreme
Court of Japan sent the summons together with the other legal documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, which in
turn, forwarded the same to the Japanese Embassy in Manila. Thereafter, the court processes were delivered to the Ministry (now
Department) of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines then to the Executive Judge of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial
Court) of Manila, who forthwith ordered Deputy Sheriff Rolando Balingit to serve the same on SHARP at its principal office in
Manila. This service is equivalent to service on the proper government official under Section 14, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court,
in relation to Section 128 of the Corporation Code. Hence, SHARP's contention that such manner of service is not valid under
Philippine law holds no water.

Inasmuch as SHARP was admittedly doing business in Japan through its four registered branches at the time the collection suit
against it was filed, then in the light of the processual presumption, SHARP may be deemed a resident of JAPAN, and, as such,
was amenable to the jurisdiction of the courts therein and may be deemed to have assented to the said courts' lawful methods of
serving process.
Accordingly, the extraterritorial service of summons on it by the Japanese Court was valid not only under the processual
presumption but also because of the presumption of regularity of performance of official duty.
INTERPACIFIC TRANSIT, INC., petitioner,
vs.
RUFO AVILES and JOSEPHINE AVILES, respondents.
Balane, Barican, Cruz, Alampay Law Office for petitioner.
Francisco G. Mendoza private respondents.
G.R. No. 86062 June 6, 1990

Facts:

This case hinges on the proper interpretation and application of the rules on the admissibility of documentary
evidence and the viability of a civil action for damages arising from the same acts imputed to the defendant in a
criminal action.

The prosecution introduced photocopies of the airway bills supposedly received by the accused for which they had
not rendered proper accounting during the trial. The defense objected to their presentation, invoking the best
evidence rule. The prosecution said it would submit the original airway bills in due time. The trial court allowed the
marking of the said documents as Exhibits. The prosecution did not submit the original airway bills nor did it prove
their loss to justify their substitution with secondary evidence. Nevertheless, when the certified photocopies of the
said bills formally were offered, in evidence, the defense interposed no objection.

The Judge of the Regional Trial Court acquitted the accused and held that the relationship between the petitioner and
Rufo Aviles was that of creditor and debtor only. It is also declared that "Under such relationship the outstanding
account, if any, of the accused in favor of ITI would be in the nature of indebtedness, the non- payment of which does
not Constitute estafa."
The court held that the certified photocopies of the airway by were not admissible under the rule and that "there can be no evidence of a writing
the content of which is the subject of inquiry other' than the writing itself." However, the petitioner seeks to press the civil liability of the private
respondents, on the ground that the dismissal of the criminal action did not abate the civil claim for the recovery of the amount and the
evidence of the airways bills should not have been rejected so as to establish sufficiently the indebtedness of the private respondents.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court in toto, and declared that: Since no evidence of civil
liability was presented, no necessity existed on the part of the private respondents to present evidence of payment of
an obligation, which was not shown to exist.
Issue: Whether or not the accused has civil obligation to ITI on the basis of the admissibility in evidence of the xerox copies of the airway bills?

Ruling:

That the photocopies were secondary evidence and as such were not admissible unless there was ample proof of the
loss of the originals; and other exceptions allowed by the Rules. However, it is the rule that objection to documentary
evidence must be made at the time it is formally offered as an exhibit and not before. Objection prior to that time is
premature.
The first is done in the course of the trial and is accompanied by the marking of the evidence as an exhibit. The second is done only when the
party rests its case and not before. The mere fact that a particular document is identified and marked as an exhibit does not mean it will be or
has been offered as part of the evidence of the party.

The Identification of the document before it is marked as an exhibit does not constitute the formal offer of the
document as evidence for the party presenting it. Objection to the Identification and marking of the document is not
equivalent to objection to the document when it is formally offered in evidence. What really matters is the objection to
the document at the time it is formally offered as an exhibit.

In this case, the photocopies of the airway bills were objected to by the private respondents as secondary evidence
only when they were being identified for marking by the prosecution. The defense did not object when the exhibits as
previously marked were formally offered in evidence. The earlier objection should be considered a continuing
objection under Sec. 37 of Rule 132, for that provision refers to a single objection to a class of evidence (testimonial
or documentary) which when first offered is considered to encompass the rest of the evidence.
The rule is that evidence not objected to is deemed admitted and may be validly considered by the court in arriving at its judgment. As it is
universally accepted that when secondary or incompetent evidence is presented and accepted without any objection on the part of the other
party, the latter is bound thereby and the court is obliged to grant it the probatory value it deserves.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 140402. January 28, 2003]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ERASTO


ACOSTA, SR. alias ATTO, CARLO ACOSTA, RICHARD ACOSTA,
alias IMBO, SIGFREDO ACOSTA alias SIG (at large), ARNOLD
ACOSTA alias ANNOD, AVELINO ACOSTA alias AVEL,
ROSENDO TARA alias GANI aka DOYOG, AMBONG NARTE (at
large) and ERNESTO SALAZAR alias ERNING, accused,
ERASTO ACOSTA, SR. alias ATTO, CARLO ACOSTA, RICHARD
ACOSTA alias IMBO ARNOLD ACOSTA alias ANNOD, AVELINO
ACOSTA, alias AVEL and ROSENDO TARA, accused-appellants.

DECISION
CARPIO, J.:

The Case
Before this Court for automatic review[1] is the Decision[2] of Branch 46 of the
Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta City, in Criminal Case No. U-9788 promulgated on
August 27, 1999 finding appellants Erasto Acosta, Sr., Arnold Acosta, Carlo Acosta,
Avelino Acosta, Richard Acosta and Rosendo Tara (appellants for brevity) guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing them to suffer the death
penalty.

The Charge

The Information against appellants reads as follows:


That on or about June 14, 1998 in the evening at Brgy. Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta
City, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused
Erasto Atto Acosta, Sr., Carlo Acosta, Richard Acosta, Sigfredo Acosta, Arnold Acosta,
Avelino Acosta and Rosendo Tara, armed with a piece of wood (dos por dos) with
protruding nail, lead pipe, icepick and bamboo pole with intent to kill, treachery and
taking advantage of superior strength, conspiring with one another, did then and there
wilfully (sic), unlawfully and feloniously box, hit, stab and maul NESTOR ADAJAR
inflicting upon him the following:

* Body previously embalmed, in a moderate state of decomposition, with slight moldy


growth at the right side of the trunk.

* Pallor, nailbeds.

* Head, previously autopsied.

* Abrasions:

1.) 2.0 cms., x 1.0 cm., cheek, malar surface, left.

2.) Linear, 6.0 cms., chest, anterior, left, level of the 7th ICS.

3.) Linear, 8.0 cms., chest, lateral, left level of the 4th ICS.

4.) Linear, multiple, over an area of 32.0 cms. x 19.0 cms., trunk, left, lateral surface.

5.) 5.0 cms. x 1.5 cms., deltoid, right.

6.) 3.0 cms. x 1.5 cms., scapular area, right.

7.) Linear, 4.0 cms., hypochondriac area, left.


8.) Multiple, over an area 16.0 cms., x 11.0 cms., left hand, dorsal surface.

9.) Multiple, over an area of 11.0 cms. x 11.0 cms., right hand, dorsal surface.

* CONTUSION, 36.0 cms. x 20.0 cms., thigh, antero-lateral surface, right.

* LACERATIONS: All modified by suturing and embalming.

1) 6.0 cms., mid-frontal area extending to the left forehead.

2) 2.0 cms., forehead, left.

3) 3.0 cms., fronto-temporal area, left.

4) 3.0 cms., temporo-parietal area, left.

5) 4.0 cms., knee, left.

* PUNCTURE WOUNDS: two (2) in number, pinpoint, almost inconspicuous in


appearance, chest, lateral, left, level of the 4th and 5th ICS, posterior axillary line, both
penetrating the left thoracic cavity and both puncturing the lateral surface of the upper
lobe of the left lung, producing pinpoint hemorrhages, entering to an approximate
depth of 5.0 cms.

* SCALP HEMATOMA, MASSIVE, LEFT.

* FRACTURE, cuboidal in shape, with a punched-in hole at its inner table, Temporal
bone, left.

* FRACTURE, linear, frontal bone, left.

* Fracture, complete, 9th anterior rib, left.

* Sub-dural Hemorrhage, moderate (about 200 cc.), left temporal area.

* Hemothorax, moderate (about 250 cc.) left.

* The other visceral organs are pale.

which caused the instant death of said NESTOR ADAJAR and thereafter accused
Ambong Narte and Ernesto Erning Salazar well knowing of the commission of the
criminal act of the above-mentioned principal accused and without having participated
therein, with the intention of concealing or destroying the body of the crime or the
effects thereof in order to prevent its discovery carried and brought the dead body of
NESTOR ADAJAR and placed it on the pavement of the highway to give semblance
that the latter was a victim of a hit and run, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of
said Nestor Adajar.

CONTRARY to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659 in
relation with Art. 19, also of the Revised Penal Code. [3]

Arraignment and Plea

Upon arraignment, appellants Erasto, Sr., Arnold, Carlo, Avelino, Richard, all
surnamed Acosta, Rosendo Tara and Ernesto Salazar, assisted by counsel, pleaded
not guilty to the charge.[4] Sigfredo Acosta and Amboy Narte are at large.

The Trial

On February 8, 1999, trial on the merits commenced. On March 17, 1999, on


motion of the prosecution, the trial court issued an Order[5]dismissing the case against
Ernesto Salazar for insufficiency of evidence. Ernesto was presented as a witness for
the prosecution.

Version of the Prosecution

Dioquino Adajar testified that at around 6:00 p.m. of June 14, 1998, her husband
Nestor Adajar (Nestor for brevity) told her that he would visit his cousin Ernesto Salazar
in the latters house. Dioquino slept at past 8:00 p.m. that evening. She was awakened
by Civilian Volunteer Officer (CVO for brevity) Romeo Campos who informed her that
her husband Nestor was already dead. Dioquino and her cousin Sabina found Nestors
body lying on the side of the McArthur Highway at Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City. His
slippers were aligned near his body which bore injuries. Very little blood oozed from
Nestors body. Dioquino noticed shattered glasses on the road near Nestors body.[6]
Eyewitness Rodrigo dela Cruz, a carpenter and a resident of Pinmaludpod,
Urdaneta City, testified that at around 11:00 p.m. of June 14, 1998, he was resting at his
house. Rodrigo went outside to urinate and heard a commotion. He went near the place
of the commotion, which was about twenty (20) meters away from his house. He hid
himself and watched a fist fight among a group who had been drinking. He saw Arnold
Acosta, Richard Acosta, Erasto Acosta, Sr. and Carlo Acosta physically assaulting the
victim, Nestor. Arnold hit Nestor on the head with a piece of wood (dos por dos) with a
protruding nail on one end. Then, Avelino struck Nestor with a pipe hitting the left side of
his forehead. Nestor fell down. Rosendo Tara thrust an ice pick on the left side of
Nestors body. Sigfredo Acosta followed by hitting the left side of Nestors body with a
bamboo pole. Erasto, Sr. then uttered, Are you sure that he is dead? Erasto told his
sons to carry the victims body and bring it to the road. Carlo, Sigfredo and Arnold
carried the victims body to the road going to Dagupan City, in front of Rodrigos house.
Rodrigo knew the victim because Nestor was his neighbor.[7]
Ernesto Salazar, a farmer and a resident of Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City,
testified that at around 11:00 p.m. of June 14, 1998, he was watching television at his
house. Arnold Acosta invited Ernesto to drink at the back of Avelino Acostas house,
which was five (5) meters away from Ernestos house. Ernesto agreed and they drank
gin with Rosendo Tara, Sigfredo Acosta, Richard Acosta, Avelino Acosta, Carlo Acosta,
Erasto Acosta, Sr., Junior dela Cruz and two visitors. After drinking three shots, Ernesto
went home and watched television again. After thirty minutes, Ernesto heard a
commotion at the back of Avelinos house and so he went out. Ernesto heard people
shouting and he saw Arnold, Richard, Rosendo, Sigfredo, Avelino, Carlo and Erasto, Sr.
lifting the body of Nestor who was unconscious (nakalupaypay). Ernesto heard Erasto,
Sr. utter, Be sure he is dead. Then Ernesto went home. The following day, he heard that
Nestor was run over by a vehicle.[8]
Leonora Talvo, a resident of Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, testified that in the early
morning of July 15, 1998, she was awakened by the barking of dogs. Leonora noticed
three persons near her gate. She heard these words uttered, Are you sure that he is
already dead? Leonora remarked wa and they ran away. Then Leonora saw Ambong
Narte placing a trunk of seneguelas in the middle of the national road to Dagupan which
was lighted by a passing vehicle. She also saw Richard Acosta pulling a dead person to
the road. She called Ambong and asked him who they were pulling and Ambong
answered that Nestor was run over. Afterwards, Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian, the
parents of the victim and other people arrived at the road.[9]
On June 15, 1998, Dr. Ramon B. Gonzales, rural health physician, conducted the
autopsy of the victim and prepared this Autopsy Report:[10]

SIGNIFICANT EXTERNAL FINDINGS:

-Lacerated wound forehead, 6 cms. x 1 cm.

-Lacerated wound forehead, 1 cm. x cm.

-Lacerated wound forehead, 1.5 cm. x cm.

-Abrasion right malar region.

-Left anterior chest wall, anterior axillary line 4th intercoastal space.

-Left anterior chest wall anterior axillary line 7th intercoastal space.

-Left hypochondriac region.


-Left knee

-Left hand, dorsum

-Lacerated wound, left temporal region just above left ear 6 cms. x 1 cm.

SIGNIFICANT INTERNAL FINDINGS:

-Fracture temporal bone 1 cm. x cm. (rectangular in shape).

-Fracture frontal bone 1.5 cm. x cm.

-Cerebral hemorrhage and injury, frontal lobe and left temporal lobe,
brain.

CAUSE OF DEATH:

-Cerebral hemorrhage and injury, frontal lobe and left temporal lobe, brain
due to fracture, skull.

Upon the request of the victims wife, Dr. Ronald R. Bandonill, medico-legal officer of
the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI for brevity), Baguio City, conducted on June
24, 1998 a second autopsy of the victims body to determine whether his death was
caused by a vehicular accident or foul play.[11] Dr. Bandonill prepared Autopsy Report
No. 98-14-P[12] with the following findings:

POSTMORTEM FINDINGS

* Body previously embalmed, in a moderate state of decomposition, with slight moldy


growth at the right side of the trunk.

* Pallor, nailbeds.

* Head, previously autopsied.

* Abrasions:

1) 2.0 cms., x 1.0 cm., cheek, malar surface, left.

2) Linear, 6.0 cms., chest, anterior, left, level of the 7th ICS.

3) Linear, 8.0 cms., chest, lateral, left level of the 4th ICS.

4) Linear, multiple, over an area of 32.0 cms. x 19.0 cms., trunk, left, lateral surface.
5) 5.0 cms. x 1.5 cms., deltoid, right.

6) 3.0 cms. x 1.5 cms., scapular area, right.

7) Linear, 4.0 cms., hypochondriac area, left.

8) Multiple, over an area 16.0 cms., x 11.0 cms., left hand, dorsal surface.

9) Multiple, over an area of 11.0 cms. x 11.0 cms., right hand, dorsal surface.

* CONTUSION, 36.0 cms. x 20.0 cms., thigh, antero-lateral surface, right.

* LACERATIONS: All modified by suturing and embalming.

1) 6.0 cms., mid-frontal area extending to the left forehead.

2) 2.0 cms., forehead, left.

3) 3.0 cms., fronto-temporal area, left.

4) 3.0 cms., temporo-parietal area, left.

5) 4.0 cms., knee, left.

* PUNCTURE WOUNDS: two (2) in number, pinpoint, almost inconspicuous in


appearance, chest, lateral, left, level of the 4th and 5th ICS, posterior axillary line, both
penetrating the left thoracic cavity and both puncturing the lateral surface of the upper
lobe of the left lung, producing pinpoint hemorrhages, entering to an approximate
depth of 5.0 cms.

* SCALP HEMATOMA, MASIVE, LEFT.

* FRACTURE, cuboidal in shape, with a punched-in hole at its inner table, Temporal
bone, left.

* FRACTURE, linear, frontal bone, left.

* Fracture, complete, 9th anterior rib, left.

* Sub-dural Hemorrhage, moderate (about 200 cc.), left temporal area.

* Hemothorax, moderate (about 250 cc.) left.


* The other visceral organs are pale.

CAUSE OF DEATH:

* INTRACRANIAL HEMORRHAGE secondary to TRAUMATIC HEAD INJURY,


LEFT

* PUNCTURE WOUNDS, CHEST, LEFT, Contributory

The victims father, Jesus Adajar, testified that due to his sons death, he incurred
expenses totaling P74,000.00 broken down as follows: funeral, P17,000.00;
tomb, P6,000; video, P4,000.00; snacks for the wake, P15,000.00; candles, P2,000.00;
prayers (padasal), P10,000.00; and miscellaneous expenses, P20,000.00.[13] However,
Jesus failed to adduce in evidence the receipts to substantiate these expenses. [14]

Version of the Defense

Appellants denied killing Nestor and attributed his death to a vehicular accident (hit
and run) along Pinmaludpod road going to Dagupan City.
Appellant Erasto Acosta, Sr., 52 years old, a metal fabricator and a resident of
Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, testified that Avelino, Carlo, Arnold, Richard, all
surnamed Acosta, are his sons, while Rosendo Tara is his nephew. Erasto, Sr. knows
the victim Nestor who was his neighbor. In the evening of June 14, 1998, Erasto, Sr.
was in his house together with his wife and three grandchildren. At around 11:00 p.m.,
Erasto, Sr.s wife woke him up because of a knocking at their door. Erasto, Sr. opened
the door and Arnold came in. Erasto, Sr. slept again and woke up at 5:30 a.m. the
following day. Erasto, Sr. denied killing Nestor. On April 5, 1999, Erasto, Sr. voluntarily
surrendered to the PNP at Urdaneta City.[15] Erasto Sr.s wife, Susana Acosta,
corroborated his testimony.[16]
Appellant Carlo P. Acosta, 29 years old, a helper, mechanic and a resident of
Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, testified that from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. of June
14, 1998, he was working at the shop of Tito Abenajar in Laoac, Pangasinan where he
was a stay-in worker. In the evening of June 14, 1998 and the following day, June 15,
1998, he was also at the shop. On June 14, 1998, Carlo did not see his brothers
(Avelino, Richard, Arnold, Sigfredo), his father Erasto, his cousin Rosendo Tara,
Ambong Narte and Ernesto Salazar. Carlo denied killing Nestor and reiterated that on
the date of the incident, he was at Laoac, Pangasinan.[17]
Appellant Avelino Acosta, 32 years old, a welder and a resident of Barangay
Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, testified that on June 14, 1998, a Sunday, he was at his
house with his family the whole day, from morning until night. Avelino did not leave his
house. Avelino slept at past 8:00 p.m. and woke up the following day, June 15, 1998, at
5:00 a.m. Avelino denied killing Nestor. Avelino learned when he reported for work that
Nestor was a victim of a hit and run. Avelino executed a counter-affidavit[18] dated August
20, 1998.[19] Avelinos wife, Bonifacia Acosta, corroborated his testimony. [20]
Appellant Arnold Acosta, 19 years old, and a resident of Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta
City, Pangasinan, testified that at 7:00 p.m. of June 14, 1998, his uncle Ernesto Salazar
invited him to a drinking session. Later, Rodrigo dela Cruz arrived followed by two
visitors, Jay and Jeffrey. At around 9:00 p.m., Nestor arrived already drunk manifested
by the way he talked and walked. They finished drinking at past 11:00 p.m. and then
parted ways.Nestor and Ernesto left together. Arnold went home. Arnold denied the
allegation of prosecution witness Rodrigo dela Cruz that he was one of the assailants of
Nestor. Arnold executed a counter-affidavit.[21]
Appellant Richard Acosta, 21 years old, a window glass installer and a resident of
Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, testified that from 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight of
June 14, 1998, he was in the house of his friends Rizalina Mainis and Bernalie Mainis at
Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta, Pangasinan. On his way home, Richard came
across the dead body of Nestor lying on the road. Richard proceeded to the house of
his grandmother, Lourdes Pagaduan, and woke up his cousin Rosendo Tara. Richard
told Rosendo that Nestor was run over by a car. On their way to the house of Barangay
Kagawad Beatriz Abian to report the incident, they met Barangay Tanod Campos and
asked him to accompany them. They informed Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian that
Nestor was run over by a vehicle. Then they went to the house of Nestors parents to
inform them about the incident and proceeded to the location of Nestors body. Richard
assumed that Nestor was a victim of hit and run because he saw many broken glasses
near his body. Richard denied involvement in the killing of Nestor.[22]
Appellant Rosendo Tara, 19 years old, an assistant welder and a resident of
Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, testified that he lives in the house of his cousin,
Carlo Acosta. At past 12:00 midnight, Richard woke up Rosendo and told him that
Nestor was run over by a vehicle. They went out and Rosendo saw the body of Nestor
lying in the middle of the road. There were broken glasses near Nestors body so
Rosendo assumed that Nestor died due to a vehicular accident. Then Rosendo, Richard
and CVO Romeo Campos, whom they met along the way, went to the house of
Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian to inform the latter that Nestor died in a vehicular
accident. CVO Romeo Campos, Richard and Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian
proceeded to Nestors house while Rosendo went near Nestors body. Rosendo
executed a counter-affidavit.[23]
Beatriz Abian, Barangay Kagawad of Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City,
testified that about 1:00 a.m. of July 15, 1998, she was in her house talking with her
aunt Rosario Cresencia and four barangay CVOs. Then CVO Romeo Campos, with
Arnold Acosta and Rosendo Tara, arrived and told her that Nestor, a victim of hit and
run, was dead. Beatriz went to the house of the parents of Nestor and informed them
about their sons death.[24] She also reported the incident to the police of Urdaneta City
and executed a sworn statement.[25]
SPO1 Alfredo M. Eslava, member of the PNP, Urdaneta City, testified that in the
early morning of June 15, 1998, Desk Officer Danny Prado informed him that he
received a report of a hit and run incident from Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian of
Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City.SPO1 Eslava, with Chief Investigator SPO2
Ernesto Gancea and station driver Arellaga, immediately proceeded to the place of the
incident and found Nestors body. SPO1 Eslava made a rough sketch,[26] which showed
that the victims body was found lying in front of the house of Bonifacio Talvo at the
northern portion of the road, and there was bloodstain on the cemented pavement of the
highway. Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian told SPO1 Eslava that Nestor was a victim
of a hit and run, which was reflected in his spot report.[27] SPO1 Eslava did not notice a
seneguelas tree trunk in the middle of the road because it was dark then.[28]
SPO3 Ernesto Gancea corroborated the testimony of SPO1 Eslava. SPO3 Gancea
testified that he found broken glass debris at the place of the incident and also
bloodstain, both of which were about five (5) to six (6) meters away from the
victim. SPO3 Gancea found bloodstain on the victims head and right forearm. [29]

The Trial Courts Ruling

The trial court ruled that the positive testimony of prosecution witness Rodrigo dela
Cruz prevailed over the denial and alibi of appellants. The trial court found that the
injuries sustained by the victim were consistent with the testimony of Rodrigo dela Cruz
and supported by the postmortem findings of Dr. Ronald Bandonill. The trial court noted
that all the accused fled from their respective homes after the killing of Nestor which is
an indication of guilt. The trial court found that conspiracy was present in the killing of
Nestor. The trial court appreciated treachery in the commission of the crime which
qualified the killing to murder. The trial court also appreciated the aggravating
circumstance of abuse of superior strength against the appellants to warrant the
imposition of the death penalty.
The trial court pronounced judgment thus:

WHEREFORE, JUDGMENT OF CONVICTION beyond reasonable doubt is hereby


rendered against ERASTO ACOSTA, SR., ARNOLD ACOSTA, CARLO ACOSTA,
AVELINO ACOSTA, RICHARD ACOSTA and ROSENDO TARA of the crime of
aggravated MURDER as charged in the Information and the Court hereby sentences
ERASTO ACOSTA, SR., ARNOLD ACOSTA, CARLO ACOSTA, AVELINO
ACOSTA, RICHARD ACOSTA and ROSENDO TARA to suffer the penalty of
DEATH to be implemented in the manner as provided for by law; to indemnify the
heirs of Nestor Adajar, jointly and solidarily, the sum of P74,000.00 as actual
damages; the further sum of P75,000.00 as moral damages and another sum
of P20,000.00 as exemplary damages and all accessory penalties of the law.

Sigfredo Acosta and Amboy Narte are still at-large.

The Branch Clerk of Court is hereby ordered to prepare the mittimus after fifteen days
from date of promulgation.
The Warden, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Urdaneta District
Jail, Urdaneta City, is hereby ordered to deliver the persons of ERASTO ACOSTA,
SR., ARNOLD ACOSTA, CARLO ACOSTA, AVELINO ACOSTA, RICHARD
ACOSTA and ROSENDO TARA to the National Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa City
after fifteen (15) days from receipt of this Decision.

SO ORDERED. [30]

Hence, this automatic review.

The Issues

Appellants ascribed to the trial court the following errors:


I

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE APPELLANTS


GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF MURDER
DESPITE INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE.
II

THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE APPELLANTS


CONSPIRED IN KILLING VICTIM NESTOR ADAJAR.
III

THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN ORDERING APELLANTS TO INDEMNIFY


THE HEIRS OF NESTOR ADAJAR, JOINTLY AND SOLIDARILY, THE SUM
OF P74,000.00 AS ACTUAL DAMAGES; THE FURTHER SUM OF P75,000.00
AS MORAL DAMAGES AND ANOTHER SUM OF P20,000.00 AS EXEMPLARY
DAMAGES AND ALL ACCESORY PENALTIES OF THE LAW. [31]

The Courts Ruling

The Court sustains the conviction of appellants for the crime of murder, but the
death penalty imposed by the trial court should be reduced to reclusion perpetua.

First Issue: credibility of witnesses and sufficiency of evidence.


Appellants contend that the trial court erred in finding them guilty beyond
reasonable doubt based on the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses whose
credibility they question because the prosecution witnesses allegedly made inconsistent
statements and omitted important details. Appellants pointed out that in his sworn
statement, prosecution eyewitness Rodrigo dela Cruz stated that he heard the
commotion while he was urinating, while he testified in court that he heard the
commotion while he was lying down.
As observed by the Solicitor General, there is no inconsistency on the precise time
when Rodrigo dela Cruz heard the commotion. A review of the transcript of
stenographic notes reveal that Rodrigo dela Cruz testified on direct examination that he
heard the commotion while he was already outside his house urinating, thus:
COURT:
While lying down, what happened?
A: I heard commotion outside, because I went out purposely to urinate, sir.
Q: Upon hearing this commotion outside, what did you do?
A: I went near the place where the commotion was, sir.[32]
During cross-examination, Rodrigo dela Cruz clarified this point:
Q: Which is now correct the one you heard the commotion while you were lying or the
one you heard the commotion while you were urinating?
A: The one I was urinating.[33]
Assuming that there is any inconsistency, the question of whether Rodrigo dela
Cruz heard the commotion while still in bed or outside the house urinating refers merely
to collateral matters. Such minor inconsistency does not touch upon the commission of
the crime itself or detract from the positive identification of appellants as the
assailants. Therefore, such minor inconsistency does not affect the substance of the
prosecution witness declarations, their veracity, or weight of his testimony. [34]
Moreover, appellants contend that Rodrigo dela Cruz stated in his sworn statement
that at the back of Avelino Acostas house, he saw Erasto Acosta, Sr., Avelino Acosta,
Carlo Acosta, Imbo Acosta, Arnold Acosta, Rosendo Tara, Ambong Narte, Ernesto
Salazar, Nestor and Jay-R dela Cruz.However, on direct examination, Rodrigo only
mentioned five names, omitting his son Jay-R dela Cruz.
Admittedly, Rodrigo dela Cruz mentioned in his sworn statement[35] that he saw the
following persons at the crime scene: Erasto Acosta, Sr., Carlo Acosta, Richard Acosta,
Sigfredo Acosta, Nestor, Arnold Acosta, Avelino Acosta, Rosendo Tara, Ambong Narte,
Ernesto Salazar and Jay-R de la Cruz. In his testimony before the trial court, Rodrigo
mentioned the same persons, except Ernesto Salazar and Jay-R dela Cruz, Rodrigos
son. The Solicitor General correctly opined that Rodrigos failure to mention Ernesto and
Jay-R in his testimony is insignificant to appellants cause considering that there is no
evidence showing that Ernesto and Jay-R participated in the killing of Nestor. The case
was dismissed against Ernesto because the witnesses for the prosecution failed to
identify him as one of the assailants of the victim.[36] No evidence was also adduced
implicating Jay-R in the commission of the crime. Rodrigo affirmed his sworn statement
in which he declared that Jay-R ran away when appellants started assaulting
Nestor,[37] clearly showing Jay-Rs non-concurrence with their criminal design. Moreover,
it is a settled rule that discrepancies between the statements of the affiant in his affidavit
and those made by him on the witness stand do not necessarily discredit him.[38]
Although the testimony of Rodrigo dela Cruz is uncorroborated by another
eyewitness, it is no less trustworthy. The Court has ruled in a number of cases that the
testimony of a single witness, if credible and positive, is sufficient for conviction because
truth is established not by the quantity, but by the quality of the evidence.[39]
Appellants insinuate that Rodrigo dela Cruz sought to protect his son, Jay-R, by
failing to disclose his name thus casting serious doubt on the credibility of
Rodrigo. However, the Solicitor General correctly stated that there is no law which
disqualifies a person from testifying in a criminal case in which his relative is involved if
the former was at the scene of the crime and witnessed the execution of the criminal
act.[40]
Moreover, appellants contend that prosecution witness Leonora Talvo testified that
she did not recognize the three persons who went near her gate. Leonora also testified
that Ambong Narte placed a trunk of seneguelas in the middle of the road. Appellants,
however, point out that SPO1 Alfredo Eslava, who investigated the incident, testified
that he did not notice a seneguelas trunk lying on the road.
Indeed, Leonora Talvo testified that she failed to recognize the three persons who
went near her gate in the early morning of July 15, 1998. However, Leonora recognized
appellant Richard Acosta as the person who dragged Nestors body to the side of the
road because the lights of passing vehicles illuminated the road.[41] Leonora Talvo and
Rodrigo dela Cruz know appellants being their neighbors and barangaymates. Hence,
identification became an easy task for them.[42] Leonora merely corroborated the
testimony of Rodrigo who positively identified appellants as the culprits. SPO1 Alfredo
Eslava testified that he did not notice the presence of the seneguelas trunk on the road
because it was dark. In any event, any discrepancy on these minor details and not on
the basic aspects of the crime does not impair the credibility of Leonora. [43]
Appellants also question the credibility of prosecution witness Ernesto Salazar by
pointing out the discrepancy between his testimony before the court and his version of
the incident in paragraph no. 2 of his affidavit,[44] thus:

2. That what really happened is this, to wit:

In the evening of June 14, 1998 before the hour of 9:00 p.m., I was with Arnold
Acosta, Jay-R (son of Rodrigo de la Cruz, witness in the case) and with two visitors at
the back of the house of Avelino Acosta having a drink. At about 9:00 p.m. of that
evening of June 14, 1998, Nestor Adajar arrived in the place joining the group but he
was already drunk upon arrival. At about 11:00 p.m. of that said evening of June 14,
1998, we finished drinking and so we dispersed. This Nestor Adajar, who happened to
be a cousin, said and asked me to accompany him and so I did but only up to the road
which is 100 meters from the place were we had a drink. The late Nestor Adajar told
me he will go home already and so I went home also. On the following morning of
June 15, 1998 at about 7:00 a.m. I learned that this Nestor Adajar was a victim of hit
and run vehicle.

On cross-examination, Ernesto clarified that his version of the incident in paragraph


no. 2 of his affidavit was not true because he was threatened by Erasto Acosta, Sr. who
went to his house on June 15, 1998 after the incident. [45] He also did not mention in his
affidavit that appellants were present when they were drinking at the back of Avelino
Acostas house because Erasto Acosta, Sr. told him that if he told the truth and included
Erasto Sr.s sons in his statement, they would kill him. [46] When he executed his affidavit
before Notary Public Juan A. Soliven, Erasto Acosta, Sr. was with him and he did not
have the chance to rectify his affidavit.[47] Significantly, Notary Public Juan A. Soliven
testified that indeed Erasto Acosta, Sr. accompanied Ernesto when the latter executed
his affidavit before him.[48]
Appellants insist that Nestor died due to a vehicular accident, which possibility the
NBI Medico-Legal Officer Dr. Ronald Bandonill did not completely rule out.
We disagree.
No one witnessed that Nestor was run over by a vehicle. It was appellants Richard
Acosta and Rosendo Tara, with CVO Romeo Campos (whom they met along the way),
who informed Barangay Kagawad Beatriz Abian that Nestor was a victim of a hit and
run. In turn, Barangay Kagawad Abian informed the police authorities, particularly SPO1
Alfredo Eslava, that Nestor was a victim of a hit and run. Hence, the victims wife
requested the NBI for a second autopsy to determine whether the victims death was
caused by a vehicular accident or foul play. We share the view of the Solicitor General
that the two separate autopsy reports submitted by Dr. Ramon Gonzales and Dr.
Ronald Bandonill support the testimony of eyewitness Rodrigo dela Cruz.
In his autopsy report,[49] Dr. Gonzales found three (3) lacerated wounds on the
victims forehead, one (1) lacerated wound on the left temporal region just above the left
ear, and five (5) abrasions on different parts of Nestors body. He opined that said
injuries could have been caused by a hard object.[50] He also found internal injuries on
the temporal bone, frontal bone, and cerebral hemorrhage and injury, frontal lobe and
left temporal lobe, brain.
On the other hand, Dr. Bandonill found nine (9) abrasions, a contusion, five (5)
laceration wounds, two (2) puncture wounds, scalp hematoma, and several fractures on
different parts of Nestors body.[51] Four of the laceration wounds were found on the
forehead and the left side of the head.[52]In part, Dr. Bandonill explained his findings,
thus:
WITNESS:
A My 7th entry is puncture wounds.
Q What is that all about?
A This (sic) puncture wounds were two in number, pinpoint, almost inconspicuous in
appearance, chest lateral, left, level of the 4th and 5th intercostal surface, posterior
axillary line, both penetrating the left thoracic cavity, and both puncturing the
lateral surface of the upper lobe of the left lung, producing pinpoint hemorrhages,
entering to an approximate depth of 5.0 cms.
Q Where is that?
A Here below the armpit, sir.
Q What could have caused the puncture wounds?
A This caused by sharp edged instrument inflicted on that area.
Q Example of sharp edged instrument?
A Piece of nail, or icepick.
Q These puncture wounds could caused (sic) death of a victim?
A No sir, and they are not even marked mortal wounds.
Q How about the 8th entry doctor?
A Scalp hematoma, massive, left.
Q What is that about?
A This means that there was a bukol or elevation of the left side of the head which was
on that side.
Q What could have caused that scalp injuries?
A Hard blunt instrument coming into contact with that area and caused massive
bleeding when inflicted with force.
Q Will you give example of hard blunt instrument?
A It could be a piece of wood, or stone or cement block.
Q How about your 9th findings?
A Fracture, cuboidal in shape, with a punched-in hole at its (sic) inner table, temporal
bone, left.
Q What do you mean by that?
A It mean (sic) that the left side of the temporal bone had been fractured like a cube
shape or square shape it was inward fracture going inside the head.
Q With that injury it will caused (sic) death to the victim?
A Yes, sir.
Q What caused that kind of injury?
A Sharp pointed instrument inflicted to the area with force.
Q Like what kind of sharp pointed instrument?
A Could be a piece of nail, icepick and sharp iron.
COURT:
Q Is that a mortal wound?
A Fatal wound, sir.
Q It will cause the death?
A Yes, sir.
PROS. TOMBOC:
Q How about your finding at the second page what is this doctor?
A Fracture, linear, frontal bone, left.
Q What injury is that?
A It mean (sic) that the front part of the left skull was fractured.
Q Is that injury fatal wound?
A It could be mortal.
Q What could have caused that injury?
A Hard blunt instrument inflicted to the area with force.
Q Like what kind of instrument?
A Piece of wood, stone and iron.
Q This second findings in the second page?
A Fracture, complete, 9th anterior rib, left.
Q What do you mean by that?
A I found out that the 9th rib at the front part of the left chest was completely fractured.
Q What part of the body is that?
A Here sir. (witness pointing at the left side below the breast)
Q How about your third findings?
A Sub-dural hemorrhage, moderate (about 200 cc) left temporal area.
Q What do you mean by that?
A It means that there was accumulation of blood at the left side of the brain.
Q How were you able to measure that accumulated blood?
A I collected all the blood clot inside the brain and placed inside the container and
estimated that amount.
Q What caused the injury?
A Caused by breaking of blood vessels inside the brain as a result of a traumatic injury
of the head.
Q Like example of what doctor?
A Hit on the head could caused (sic) the blood vessels of the brain burst and caused
massive bleeding.
Q How about your fourth findings doctor?
A Hemothax, moderate (about 250 cc), left.
Q What do you mean by that injury?
A It mean (sic) that there is accumulation of blood about 250 cc will admit at the left
chest cavity.
Q What caused by (sic) that?
A Caused by the bleeding of the left lung.
Q What caused the bleeding of the left lung?
A Caused by puncture wounds.
Q You mean the two puncture wounds?
A Yes, sir.
Q What caused the puncture wounds?
A Caused by sharp pointed instrument inflicted in that area.[53]
The foregoing shows that the location of the injuries sustained by the victim,
specifically on the head, left side of the forehead, left part of the body below the armpit
and chest, and the instruments that could have caused these injuries, jibe with the
testimony of eyewitness Rodrigo dela Cruz who narrated thus:
FISCAL TOMBOC:
Q What did you observe in that fist fight?
A I observed that Adajar was being boxed.
Q Who boxed Adajar?
A Carlo, Arnold, Sig, Erasto and Richard Acosta, sir.
Q When these five accused boxed the victim, what did they do next?
A He was clubbed with a 2 x 2 wooden club with protruding nail.
COURT:
Q You mean, Adajar was clubbed?
A Yes, sir.
FISCAL TOMBOC:
Q Who struck Adajar with that piece of wood?
A Arnold Acosta, sir.
Q Will you step down and point to the person of Arnold Acosta if he is present in the
courtroom now?
A (Witness steps down from the witness stand and pointed unto a person, who, when
his name was asked, answered Arnold Acosta).
Q Where was Adajar hit with that 2 x 2 piece of wood with protruding nail?
A On top of the head, sir.
Q What happened to Adajar when he was hit?
A He was about to fall down to the ground, sir.
COURT:
Q Did he fall?
A No, sir.
FISCAL TOMBOC:
Q After Adajar was hit with that wood, what happened next, Mr. Witness?
A He was again hit with a pipe on the forehead, left side, sir.
Q Who hit him?
A Avelino Acosta (Witness pointing to a person seated on a bench inside the
courtroom, who, when his name was asked, answered Avelino Acosta).
Q And what happened then to Adajar when he was hit with a pipe on his forehead?
A He fell down, sir.
Q After being hit by a pipe, what happened next to Adajar?
A Rosendo Tara thrusted an icepick at the left side of the body of Nestor Adajar.
Q If this Rosendo Tara is inside the court room, will you please point to him?
A (Witness pointed unto a person seated on the bench inside the courtroom, who,
when his name was asked, answered Rosendo Tara).
Q After that, what happened next?
A Sig Acosta thrusted a bamboo pole at the left side of the body of Adajar, sir.
Q Where is this Sig Acosta, Mr. Witness?
A He is not around, sir.
Q After the hitting by Sig Acosta with bamboo pole, what happened next?
A Erasto uttered, Are you sure that he is dead?
COURT:
Q To whom was it directed?
A To all of them, sir.
FISCAL TOMBOC:
Q Is this Erasto Acosta inside the courtroom now, Mr. Witness?
A No, sir.
Q After Erasto uttered these words, what else happened, Mr. Witness?
A He said you carry the body and bring it to the road.
COURT:
Q Who carried the body?
A They helped one another to carry the body, sir.
Q You specify?
A Carlo, Sig, and Arnold, sir.[54]
There is no evidence of improper motive on the part of the principal witnesses for
the prosecution, Rodrigo dela Cruz, Leonora Talvo and Ernesto Salazar. This strongly
supports the conclusion that their testimonies are worthy of full faith and credit.[55]
Further, it is a well-settled doctrine that findings of trial courts on the credibility of
witnesses deserve a high degree of respect. Such findings will not be disturbed on
appeal absent any clear showing that the trial court had overlooked, misunderstood or
misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could have
altered the conviction of appellants.[56] We have carefully reviewed the records of this
case and we have found no reason to disturb the findings of the trial court.

Alibi as defense

Appellants defense of alibi is the weakest of all defenses for it is easy to contrive
and difficult to prove.[57] For alibi to prosper, one must not only prove that he was
somewhere else when the crime was committed but must also show that it was
physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime. [58] In this case,
appellants Avelino Acosta, Richard Acosta, Arnold Acosta, Erasto Acosta, Sr. and
Rosendo Tara were barangaymates of the victim Nestor in Barangay Pinmaludpod,
Urdaneta City where the incident happened. Richard declared that at the time of the
incident, he was at his friends residence within the barangay from 7:00 p.m. to 12:00
midnight. Avelino, Erasto, Sr. and Rosendo testified that they were in their homes at the
time Nestor was killed. Arnold claimed that on that fateful day, he was drinking with
Ernesto Salazar, Rodrigo dela Cruz, two visitors and Nestor from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00
p.m. after which they parted ways and he went home. Since these appellants were just
within Barangay Pinmaludpod when the incident happened, they failed to show that it
was physically impossible for them to have been at the scene of the crime. On the other
hand, appellant Carlo Acosta testified that at the time of the incident he was in Laoac,
Pangasinan. Considering the available means of transportation that could easily take
Carlo to Barangay Pinmaludpod, Urdaneta City, which is still part of Pangasinan, there
was no physical impossibility for him to be also at the crime scene. Like the defense of
alibi, appellants denial is inherently weak and crumbles considering the positive
declarations of truthful witnesses who testified on affirmative matters that appellants
were at the scene of the incident and they were the ones who killed the victim. [59] Positive
identification prevails over denial and alibi.[60]
Flight evidences guilt

Moreover, after the incident, the appellants fled from their respective residences. In
January 1999, Avelino Acosta, Carlo Acosta, Richard Acosta, Rosendo Tara and Arnold
Acosta were arrested by the police in Tarlac.[61] As found by the trial court, Erasto
Acosta, Sr. did not voluntarily surrender but was apprehended by SPO3 Rodolfo
Mamaba on a bus going to Dagupan City on April 15, 1999.[62] Sigfredo Acosta and
Ambong Narte are still at large. Flight evidences guilt and a guilty conscience:[63] the
wicked flee, even when no man pursues, but the righteous stand fast as bold as a lion. [64]

Second Issue: Conspiracy

Appellants contend that the trial court erred in finding that they conspired in killing
the Nestor.
Appellants contention is without merit.
The trial court correctly ruled that conspiracy was present in the instant case.
Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement and decide on the
commission of a felony.[65] While direct evidence is not necessary, conspiracy may be
inferred from and proven by the acts of the accused themselves when the acts point to
a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest. [66] In this case,
prosecution witness Rodrigo dela Cruz saw appellants Arnold Acosta, Richard Acosta,
Erasto Acosta, Sr. and Carlo Acosta physically assaulting Nestor. Arnold struck Nestor
on the head with a piece of wood, then Avelino hit him with a pipe on the left side of his
forehead. When Nestor fell down, Rosendo thrust an icepick on the left side of his
body. Sigfredo Acosta also hit the left side of Nestors body with a bamboo pole. Then
Erasto, Sr. uttered, Are you sure that he is dead? Erasto, Sr. told his sons to bring the
victims body to the road. Clearly, the appellants were united in the execution of a
common criminal design showing the presence of conspiracy. Where conspiracy is
established, the act of one is the act of all.[67] All the conspirators are liable as co-
principals.[68]

Treachery and Abuse of superior strength

The trial court also correctly held that treachery was present in the commission of
the crime. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against
persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend
directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from the
defense which the offended party might make.[69] In this case, appellants concerted and
successive attack on Nestor, who was unarmed, ensured his death without giving him
an opportunity to defend himself. The attendant circumstance of treachery thus qualified
the killing to murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code:
Art. 248. Murder.Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246
shall kill another, shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion
perpetua to death, if committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:

1. With treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid of


armed men, or employing means to weaken the defense, or of means or
persons to insure or afford impunity; x x x.

However, as pointed out by the Solicitor General, the attendant aggravating


circumstance of abuse of superior strength is necessarily included in
treachery.[70] Hence, the trial court erred in still appreciating abuse of superior strength
apart from treachery, which warranted the imposition of the death penalty.
Consequently, there being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the
commission of the crime, the death penalty imposed by the trial court should be reduced
to reclusion perpetua under Section 63 (2)[71] of the Revised Penal Code.

Third Issue: Damages

The trial court erred in awarding Nestors heirs actual damages [72] of P74,000.00
considering that the prosecution failed to present the receipts to substantiate the same.
The trial court can only grant actual damages if supported by receipts.[73] Nevertheless,
instead of actual damages, temperate damages under Article 2224 [74] of the Civil Code
may be recovered as it has been shown that the victims family suffered some pecuniary
loss but the amount thereof cannot be proved with certainty. [75] An award of P15,000.00
as temperate damages should suffice.[76]
The trial court correctly awarded moral damages for the anguish suffered by the
victims wife because of the victims death.[77] However, the amount of P75,000.00 should
be reduced to P50,000.00 following prevailing jurisprudence.[78] The purpose for making
such award is not to enrich the heirs of the victim but to compensate them for injuries to
their feelings.[79]
The trial court erred in awarding exemplary damages of P20,000.00. In criminal
offenses, exemplary damages as part of the civil liability may be imposed when the
crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. [80] In this case, no
aggravating circumstances attended the commission of the crime. Hence, the award of
exemplary damages should be deleted.
Further, the heirs of the victim are entitled to civil indemnity of P50,000.00, which
needs no proof other than the commission of the crime.[81]
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta City,
Branch 46, in Criminal Case No. U-9788, finding appellants Erasto Acosta, Sr., Arnold
Acosta, Carlo Acosta, Avelino Acosta, Richard Acosta and Rosendo
Tara GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder
is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. The death penalty imposed is reduced to reclusion
perpetua, and appellants are jointly and severally ordered to pay the heirs of the victim,
Nestor Adajar, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P15,000.00 as temperate damages,
and P50,000.00 as moral damages. Actual damages of P74,000.00 and exemplary
damages of P20,000.00 awarded by the trial court to the victims heirs are deleted.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales,
Callejo, Sr. and Azcuna, JJ., concur.